Take a ride on the wild side of P.E.I.
Prince Edward Island is perhaps best known for the Anne of Green Gables series of books by L. M. Montgomery. Joanna and I brought the tandem bicycle there two weeks ago to ride its Confederation Trail. Although the provincial government doesn’t bill it as such, P.E.I.’s Confederation Trail is a Rail-to-Trail which was completed in 2000 after some savvy folks realized the potential of the railbed which had been abandoned by the Canadian National in 1989. The trail comprises a total of 357 kilometers but its main artery, which passes through the center of the island, runs 279 kilometers (173 miles) from Elmira in the East to Tignish in the West. My time on the island was spent exploring in the best way possible, up-close-and-personal on two wheels, and I learned that what I thought I knew about the place was wrong. Although we did see evidences of commercial lobster and crab fisheries along the bit of coastline at St. Peter’s and Charlottetown, I don’t know why I had expected the entire island to be awash in fishing villages and cobble stoned streets populated by fishmongers and their fishwives, but I did. Where I got this nineteenth-century view of the place I do not know. More than forty percent of the island’s 1.4 million acres are dedicated to agriculture and its primary cash crop is potatoes which account for nearly 89,000 acres of land in production. The recently planted fields along a large part of the trail were an amazement to us … long, very long and uninterrupted furrows with not a stone to be seen. That’s just a bit of an exaggeration, a single corner of almost every cultivated field was occupied by a handful (by Pennsylvania standards) of stone dredged by the plow. We made the decision to visit the island in early June to avoid the influx of vacationers which predictably commences later in the month. As such, and although some was still to be worked, most ground had been planted and some was even showing green. We saw a good number of both dairy and beef animals but P.E.I.’s fruit crops are second only to its potato production. We peddled past acres of lowbush blueberries, a cranberry bog or two, and several vineyards. In addition, the island is known for its strawberries, apples, and raspberries. Joanna observed that the trail itself was lined by wild strawberry in full bloom (and, sadly, not yet in fruit). I have concluded that its low population density, commercial focus on agriculture, and natural beauty, combine to make P.E.I. a place I could easily get very, very, used to. Click the image to view a larger, higher resolution, version.