Sunday, August 21, 2011

Ponds, Lakes and Fjords

The first house my wife and I ever bought was near Monkton Pond in Monkton Vermont back in 2001. What is interesting about Monkton Pond is that it is sometimes a pond and sometimes a lake. It is my understanding that the difference between a pond and a lake is not the size of the body of water although most lakes are bigger. The difference is that a pond is fed by an underground source while a lake is overground. A good part of the year, Monkton Pond is fed by over ground source like streams but when the water is low, they don't exist. The name of the pond changes as well based on who you talk to. If you ask a local, the pond's name is Monkton Pond. If you ask a realtor, it is called Cedar Lake. Apparently, Cedar Lake sounds nicer on brochures and websites.

One of the great advantages of living in Vermont is that we live just a short drive away from one of the most vast and beautiful countries on the planet, Canada. You could say that the US is as beautiful as Canada but there are much fewer people in Canada. It makes it so much more accessible. Our national parks have traffic jams of RV's and campgrounds that are at capacity. While theirs have little traffic and many camp sites available to you. We honeymooned in Jasper National Park in Alberta in 1998 and were in a campground, "Wapiti," that must have been 90% empty. Why would anyone deal with the American RV traffic when the Canadian alternative is available?

Our latest trip to Canada was a road trip from our home, a six and half hour drive to the Saguenay, Quebec (same as our recent road trip to Philadelphia). If you look at a globe you can see how Quebec City and Montreal are connected by the St. Lawrence River. North of Quebec City the St. Lawrence widens becomes a seaway (aka a sound). It is basically salt water at this point. In 2002 we drove on the east side of the St. Lawrence seaway up to the Gaspe Pennisula where it reaches the Atlantic Ocean. We camped in Forillon National Park with a view of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. This year we drove up the west side of the seaway, not as far north and rented a cabin in Petit Saguenay. The attraction? the Fjord.

A fjord is a long, narrow inlet with steep cliffs along its sides that were carved by glacial activity. The picture I embedded was taken from one of the bays entering the fjord. I could not go any further with my kayak because the weather in the fjord is rough and unpredictable. I don't have a sea kayak either so I turned back because I don't have a death wish. The cliffs in this fjord get higher and steeper. They are spectacular.

The area where the fjord meets the seaway makes for excellent whale watching in late July and the month of August. We saw many minke and finn whales and possibly a blue whale. There are two blue whales in the region. We may have seen one in the distance, but the conditions were not clear enough to verify. It is also a good area to view beluga whales, but the weather conditions prevented us from seeing them. We did see a lot of grey seals. This picture is of a minke whale.

I have heard a number of Americans complain about Quebec saying the people there are rude. I cannot say this is my experience at all. I have been visiting Quebec since I was a kid and I haven't had any problems with rudeness or attitude. I do hate the way they drive up there, a driving style that makes Boston drivers seem sane and polite. Once they leave the confines of their cars, the Quebecois have been nothing but polite in my experience. I do not speak French well. I start each interaction with a polite "parlez vous Anglais" (do you speak English). The further north you go, the more likely the answer will be "non," but most service employees (waiters, hotel or tourism workers) are bi-lingual. To me, the challenge of the foreign language is all a part of the adventure.

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