canada

Kootenay National Park

We actually went to Kootenay National Park before my parents met us to visit Banff and Jasper, but we went back for a quick visit with Mom and Dad so I decided to write about it last in my series of posts about our time in the Canadian Rockies.

Prior to heading to Banff we stayed at Redstreak Campground in Radium Hot Springs, British Columbia. This campground is part of Kootenay National Park. The campsites were huge and Jesse was excited that we had trees where we could set up the slack line kit.

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The campground is set up high above the town of Radium Hot Springs and the views of the town below were beautiful.

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There were also big horn sheep frequently hanging out at the campground.

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We hiked to Dog Lake one evening. It started pouring when we arrived at the trailhead, but quickly stopped so we were able to hike, but the hike was super muddy. There were a couple of suspension bridges over the Kootenay River, then the rest of the hike was through the woods until you get to Dog Lake. The total hike was 3.2 miles out and back.

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Kootenay River

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The kids thought the bridge was pretty cool, but the muddy hike, not so much. Jesse complained most of the way. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Dog Lake

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On the way back to the campground we stopped at this beautiful viewpoint!

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Kootenay Valley Viewpoint

Kootenay River is such a brilliant shade of turquoise blue, especially on a sunny day.

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Kootenay River

When we went back to visit Kootenay with my parents we first stopped at the Continental Divide. At this point the rivers on the east side flow towards the Atlantic and the rivers on the west side flow towards the Pacific. This point was also the province line between Alberta and British Columbia, and the line that separates the 2 nationals parks, Banff and Kootenay.

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Continental Divide

Then we did a short, easy 1.2 mile out and back hike to the Paint Pots which were basically mud pots that look like paint.

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Paint Pots

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Paint Pots

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More gorgeous views along the hike.

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That wraps up my posts about our time in the Canadian Rockies. I was sad to see that come to an end. It’s hard to describe in words just how amazing that part of the world is. How can we ever top that adventure?

 

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Icefields Parkway and Jasper National Park

We left the RV at the campground in Banff, and took a couple of days to drive up the Icefields Parkway and see Jasper National Park. This is yet another thing that you might want to add to your bucket list. The Icefields Parkway is 230 kilometers (or as Americans would say 140 miles), but there are so many amazing places to see along the way that you should really plan to spend an entire day making the drive between Banff and Jasper.

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Our first stop was a quick stop to see Herbert Lake

Then we made another quick stop to see Bow Lake.

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Bow Lake

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Bow Lake

The next stop needed more time and involved a fairly short hike to Peyto Lake. Definitely do this hike and spend some time admiring this breathtaking beauty.

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Peyto Lake

The hike to the main viewpoint is 1.7 miles out and back. It’s uphill the entire way there so be prepared for that. The viewpoint is ridiculously crowded, so based on a tip from some other hikers, we ventured up the trail to the left of the viewpoint. You don’t have to walk very far to find some spectacular views away from the crowds.

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(A side note for anyone who may be visiting this area for the rest of 2019, unfortunately you won’t be able to see Peyto Lake. The parking area and hiking trails are closed for the rest of the year, but will re-open next year).

After Peyto Lake we continued on up the Icefields Parkway and stopped for lunch at a picnic area at the Saskatchewan River Crossing.

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Saskatchewan River Crossing

Next we splurged on a really cool adventure. We went on the Columbia Icefields Adventure to tour and walk on the Athabasca Glacier and the Skywalk. This was definitely the highlight of our trip up the parkway.

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View of the glaciers from the Columbia Icefields Center — Athabasca Glacier is on the right

To get on the glacier, you ride in an Ice Explorer. We had an excellent tour guide named Bruce.

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Ice Explorer

More ice explorers on the glacier.

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Once you get on the glacier, you get to spend about 25-30 minutes walking around, taking pictures and even trying a drink of the ice cold glacier water. They had country flags from several countries around the world for pictures.

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Americans representing on the Athabasca Glacier

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Dad is originally from Nova Scotia, proudly displaying the Canadian flag

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Chris filled a cup with glacier water for us to try

After the glacier tour, the Ice Explorer returns you to a shuttle bus which takes you to the second part of the tour, the Skywalk.

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Glacier Skywalk

Views from the Skywalk:

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After the glacier tour we were all pretty worn out from all the excitement of the day, so we decided to leave some other explorations on the Icefields Parkway for the drive back to Banff. We drove to our hotel in Jasper National Park and enjoyed a delicious dinner at Jasper Brewing Company.

The next day it rained most of the day, so unfortunately we didn’t get to explore very much of Jasper. The only thing we did was the Valley of Five Lakes hike, and we did that in the rain. I know there is so much more to see in Jasper, so that just means we have to go back again someday.

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One of the 5 lakes at the Valley of Five Lakes

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Another one of the 5 lakes

The next day we headed back to Banff down the parkway again, visiting some other spots along the way. We stopped at the Athabasca Falls which was beautiful!

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Athabasca Falls

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Athabasca Falls

We did another challenging uphill hike to Parker Ridge, a 3.2 mile up and back hike. The climb was worth the beautiful views at the top! Are my parents amazing or what?! Both of them in their 70s and still joining us for hikes like this. ๐Ÿ™‚

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At the top of Parker Ridge

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Saskatchewan Glacier

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Beautiful views along the hike

One of the most exciting things we saw on the parkway was bears! We’re always on the lookout for bears, from a safe distance of course. But, it’s very rare that we see them. We saw several on the Icefields Parkway, and were able to get pictures of some of them on the side of the road.

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Adorable cubs following Mama Bear off the road!

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Mama Bear making sure her cubs made it safely off the road.

The drive along the Icefields Parkway was quite the adventure, I’m only sorry we didn’t have enough time to explore more of Jasper. So it just goes on my never-ending list of places to return to someday.

I have one more post about our time in the Canadian Rockies about Kootenay National Park which I’ll write about next.

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Banff National Park

Have you ever been to Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies? If not, you may want to put it on your bucket list. It is literally the most beautiful place I have ever seen. So much so that I don’t know how we’ll ever top that trip!

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Lake Louise

Each summer my parents like to pick a place on our travel route to meet up with us, and this year they chose to fly to Calgary in Alberta to meet up with us to visit Banff and Jasper National Parks. I must say that was an excellent choice! This just may be the most amazing place we’ve ever been.

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We stayed at Tunnel Mountain Trailer Court right in the super cute town of Banff.

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Our campsite was very nice and spacious

One day we were treated to some special guests at our site.

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Elk relaxing at the campsite

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The scenic town of Banff is surrounded by mountains

Besides being the most amazing park we have ever been to, it’s also the most crowded. I guess we’re not the only ones who wanted to see this incredible gem on God’s beautiful Creation.

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The parking lots at Banff fill up so early, and just barely clear out in the evenings. Chris worked most days, so we ventured out for hikes and exploring in the evenings. But even then, it was challenging to find parking. The night we went to Lake Louise (which is very likely the most popular area at Banff), we took some pictures at the lake and then ventured out for a hike to Lake Agnes. The hike is 4.7 miles out and back. It’s a challenging hike uphill then back down after you reach the lake. Uphill hikes always challenge me with getting out of breath, but I sometimes think going back down is more difficult. It’s harder on the knees, and also you have to try not to slip and fall going down if the trail has loose gravel.

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Lake Agnes

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Lake Agnes Tea House

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My parents admiring the beautiful views along the hike

Another evening we went to Moraine Lake. I think this lake was even more incredible than Lake Louise. The parking there is even more limited though, and there are park rangers blocking the entrance to the road. They only let people through when others have left the parking lot. Since we got there around 6:30 in the evening we didn’t have to wait too long, and it’s worth it for this view!

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Moraine Lake

If you visit Moraine Lake, be sure to hike up the 1/2 mile Rockpile trail. It’s made of rock steps and other than the climb, it’s not too difficult. You can see Moraine Lake from down at the shoreline, but the best views are from the top of the trail.

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From there we hiked to Consolation Lakes. This hike was 3.6 miles out and back. It was not difficult, but mostly through the woods on a dirt trail. I had read that there are frequent bear sightings on this trail, and sometimes it’s required to hike in groups and carry bear spray. We had that covered, but we didn’t see any bears. Once you get to Consolation Lakes there is a lot of rock scrambling to actually get to the lake shore. Of course, our kids love that part.

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Consolation Lakes

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Johnston Canyon was another fabulous place to visit. The hike to the Lower Falls is an easy 1.5 miles out and back. But, you can also hike further to see the Upper Falls making it 3.1 miles round trip. The trail is well maintained and paved. There is a 3rd option to hike to the Ink Pots making the total hike 7.3 miles, but we did not go that far.

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Johnston Canyon Lower Falls

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Johnston Canyon Upper Falls

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Hiking along Johnston Canyon

Lake Minnewanka is gorgeous! We had fun just walking along the shoreline, while Chris & Jesse played frisbee.

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Lake Minnewanka

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Chris & Jesse playing frisbee on Lake Minnewanka

More pictures of Lake Minnewanka:

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We also drove up Mount Norquay where you can see a beautiful view of the town of Banff down below.

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I love this adorable picture of Jake & Jesse at Mount Norquay. I can’t believe how quickly they are growing up, and it seems rare to get a good picture of them together like this anymore. Sometimes they like each other! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Lastly we went to Vermillion Lakes, yet another beautiful place to see at Banff.

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Vermillion Lakes

We explored a few other areas as well, including a hike to the Hoodoos from the campground and another hike in the town of Canmore. The hiking opportunities in and around Banff are endless!

I cannot even describe how incredible it is to visit a place like Banff National Park, and my pictures really do not do it justice.

But there’s more! The trip up to Jasper National Park involves an incredibly scenic drive along the Icefields Parkway. Stay tuned for that next.

 

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Prince Edward Island

We love books and I like to try to have family story time in the evenings as often as possible. Several months ago we began reading Anne of Green Gables which is based on the fictional town of Avonlea on Prince Edward Island. The real name of the town is Cavendish and if you visit that town you will have the pleasure of seeing many attractions all based on the book.

Naturally we went to visit the Green Gables house.

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If you are familiar with the story you might recognize the names of these walking trails around the house: Haunted Wood and Lover’s Lane.

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Haunted Wood

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They even had characters from the book dressed up in costume walking around playing their parts.

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Anne, Gilbert Blythe and Diana

We also went to visit the cute little Avonlea Village.

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Cow’s Creamery has been voted the best ice cream in Canada. Of course we had to try it out to make sure, and we all agreed it’s quite good, maybe it really is the best in Canada.

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While in PEI we stayed at a beautiful VRBO vacation rental. It was right on the water and had an amazing deck!

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We all loved hanging out on this deck and enjoying the view. Jake enjoyed some Raspberry Cordial (another treat based on Anne of Green Gables).

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That wraps up my posts about our visit to Canada.

Soon I hope to post an update on the RV situation. We’re still dealing with that 3 months later. Sigh!

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Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia

A long time friend of my parents has a home on Cape Breton Island that he only uses part time. When he heard about our RV situation and having to cancel all of our campground reservations, he graciously offered us the use of his home for a few days while we visited Cape Breton with my parents. We are so grateful for his kindness and generosity!

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The highlight of our time on Cape Breton was driving along the Cabot Trail and stopping at several of the beautiful view points.

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What a gorgeous drive! If you go there be aware that it is a very long drive around the entire Cabot Trail. It took us several hours to make the complete loop. It was stunningly beautiful and definitely worth the trip, but kids tend to get a little bored on long drives like that. Don’t ask me how I know this. ๐Ÿ˜‰

The next day we went to the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site where we traveled back in time to the 1700s to tour the fort and reconstructed French town.

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The house where we stayed had no cellular signal at all which in a way was kind of nice. It gave us a chance to unplug in the evenings and play games. Sometimes it’s nice to get away from the distractions of smartphones and computers.

This wraps up my posts about our time in Nova Scotia. Next up I’ll write about our visit to Prince Edward Island.

 

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Learning Family History in Nova Scotia

My Dad is from Nova Scotia so we had a great opportunity to learn some family history on his side of the family while we were there.

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Dad has a very interesting history that makes me think about how if certain events hadn’t happened in his past, my sister and I wouldn’t exist and therefore neither would Jake and Jesse. It’s kind of mind boggling when you think about how past events determine what today looks like.

My grandfather was a coal miner in Springhill, Nova Scotia. He was one of the survivors of the 1958 Bump. My sister wrote a really good book about it if you are interested in the story: Song of Springhill. This is actually a 2-book set, one is the non-fiction historical account and the other is a fictionalized story.

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After surviving the bump, my grandfather (known as Dado to us grandkids) decided he was done with coal mining so he moved with my grandmother and father to Boston, MA. If he hadn’t moved to Boston my dad would not have met my mom and I wouldn’t exist. Isn’t it weird to think of stuff like that? We had a great time showing the kids the Springhill Miners Museum and the plaque honoring their great-grandfather.

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It’s a tradition whenever we’re in Springhill… someone has to sit on the Liars’ Bench

Going back a little further in history we visited the town of Pictou, the birthplace of New Scotland. We toured the museum of the Hector which is the ship that sailed from Scotland to what is now called Nova Scotia. One of my great great (not sure how many greats) grandfathers sailed over on that ship.

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Jake is pointing out one of the passengers whose last name was MacKay. At some point the family name was changed to McKay.

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While visiting this area we stayed with my Aunt Joyce and Uncle Gerald at their beach cottage.

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We had our own private bunk house!

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Fat Cat liked chasing the birds.

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The beach and sunsets were beautiful!

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My parents kissing in front of the sunset

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Skipping rocks at high tide

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We had a great time hanging out with Joyce & Gerald and relaxing at the beach. Chris misses his early morning coffee talks with Joyce and I’m missing our evening happy hours.

This last picture was not taken in Nova Scotia, but I just don’t know where else to include it. This is my cousin Janet and her husband Steve. While we were stranded in Calais, ME we drove up to visit them one evening in New Brunswick. They showed us such wonderful hospitality and gave us a much needed break from the stress we were dealing with in Maine with the RV. I was hoping to see them again while we were in Nova Scotia but it didn’t work out. I’m glad we were able to at least have this time with them.

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Nova Scotia: Peggy’s Cove

We visited so many places in Nova Scotia that I will have to split up my posts so they are not too long. We started in the town of Tantallon near Peggy’s Cove. While we were stranded in Maine with RV troubles I knew we needed to get to Canada before my parent’s planned arrival so I began searching for hotels to stay near Peggy’s Cove. I reserved a pet-friendly hotel online only to have the owner call me 30 minutes later to let me know we could not stay there with a cat. However, she was the most helpful and friendly hotel owner ever! She told me she thought we would be happier in a house than a hotel room and she told me she would find me a vacation rental home for us to stay in with a cat. The next morning, true to her word, she got me in touch with a property manager who had a VRBO home we could stay in. I was so amazed by this woman’s generous and helpful spirit! And the property manager was just like her, he was so nice and accommodating and was so excited for us to stay in this rental home that they had just finished renovating.

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Our VRBO home in Tantallon, Nova Scotia

This rental home was so cute and we loved our stay there! Considering we live in an RV this was way too much space for us. There was a 3rd bedroom that we did not even use. The property manager was so nice to us and called me a few times while we were on our way there, asking how our trip was going. He also wanted to let me know the house is ready and he left us a bowl of fresh fruit. The next day he came by and gave us lots of advice about local places to visit and he brought us a bag full of mussels twice during our stay! In addition, the property owner (not the same guy as the property manager) who makes his own wine brought me several bottles of wine during our stay. He was a true Italian and just loved Chris since he’s Italian as well. I could not believe the excellent hospitality we experienced while we were there.

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Our back yard!

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Next door was a church and cemetery. Chris thought that was creepy but I thought it was so interesting. I enjoyed walking around reading the gravestones and imagining the life stories of each person buried there.

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The reason I mention so much about how kind and generous people were to us is because it seemed we were experiencing the most unusual “above and beyond” customer service. Since we were going through a very difficult time with the loss of our RV home and the uncertainty of our future travels, I was in a very emotional state. I mean the littlest thing could set me off to crying. I felt like God was placing just the right people into our lives at just the right time to bless us and show us that He is still there and He is taking care of us. The kindness and generosity of strangers during this time just meant so much to me.

Peggy’s Cove was a place I really wanted to visit and it sure was beautiful! First we drove a little past Peggy’s Cove and parked by a trailhead on the side of the road. We followed this trail to a rocky coastline and enjoyed the views and climbing on the rocks.

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This hiking trail was so gorgeous and uncrowded. After that we drove to the Peggy’s Cove lighthouse where most of the crowds go. We were there in the evening so it wasn’t too bad.

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We met a super nice couple there who offered to take a family picture for us. They were so sweet and I wish we could have spent more time with them.

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Once my parents flew into Halifax, they stayed with my cousin Peter and his wife Cindy. They came out to see us the next day and we all visited the cute little town of Lunenburg.

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Afterward they all came back to our place and Chris made everyone a delicious dinner. We loved our time in that cute little rental cottage and so appreciated the excellent customer service we received there.

Next we moved onto my aunt and uncle’s place on the beach in Port Howe. I’ll write about that next.

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