August 2006: Prince Edward Island National Park


Prince Edward Island

Lucy Maud Montgomery introduced the world to the Cavendish region of Prince Edward Island in her much-beloved coming-of-age tale, Anne of Green Gables. Montgomery waxed rhapsodic over the Cavendish shoreline on the Gulf of St. Lawrence, calling the sandy beaches framed in red sandstone the prettiest in the world. Many visitors since the book's publication in 1908 have agreed with her.
Canada established Prince Edward Island National Park in 1937, preserving forever 25 miles of the island's north shore. In addition to protecting salt marshes, sandstone cliffs, dune-fringed beaches and Acadian woodlands, the park service oversees the original Green Gables House of Montgomery's childhood. She came here at the age of 21 months to live with her grandparents.
Further east, a separate section of the park was established on the western tip of Greenwich, a peninsula that separates St. Peters Bay from the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Here, a rare parabolic sand dune sweeps along the coast inundating forests and leaving blanched, skeletal remains in its wake.

There are 11 trails at Prince Edward Island National Park, ten of which welcome dogs. Dogs can also visit park beaches but must wait until the off-season starts on October 15. All of the hiking on these trails is easy going - the elevation in the park tops out at 160 feet.
The longest of the walks at PEI is Homestead, kicking off just outside the campground. It is a stacked loop of either 3.4 miles or 5 miles that plunges into woodlands before emerging on open paths along New London Bay. Driving across the island the urge to stop the car and romp across the impossibly green fields will grow steadily and this trail will satiate that yearning.
Most of this land was cleared by 1900 for farms, stripping the original Acadian forest mix of hardwood and softwood species. Trails through the regenerating forests can be enjoyed in the Brackley section of the park. Also here is a quiet trip along the Reeds and Rushes Trail into the heart of a vibrant salt water marsh community. Dogs are barred from the main Greenwich Dunes Trail but you can get a brief feel of the power of the shifting sands in a parabolic dune on the adjacent Tlagatik Loop. Out in the warm waters of St. Peters Bay you can see the oyster lines of aquafarmers.

SIDETRIP-Black Marsh Nature Trail (at very end of Route 12 on North Cape):
The Black Marsh Nature Trail moseys along the top of North America's longest natural rock reef, making ten interpretive stops, including a fragile sub-arctic bog. The route incorporates the North Cape Wind Farm, where eight gigantic windmills generate 3% of Prince Edward Island's energy. Offshore is the "meeting of the waters" as the waves of the Gulf of St. Lawrence break against the waters of the Northumberland Strait.

Along the northern side of Prince Edward Island, the segmented park can be reached from six entrances off of highways 6, 13, 15 and 25.