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.

Potatopost

21 thoughts on “Take a ride on the wild side of P.E.I.

  1. A beautiful picture – interesting contrast between the irregular tree branch and the regularity of the field. It’s weird that you mention your 19th-century-style expectations. Due to whatever reason – from Googling quickly or from your previous post – I had something similar in mind.

  2. I never would have guess potatoes were a major crop there! Sorry the mosquitoes were so bad, but looks like you guys still had a great time, and you managed to capture some beautiful shots even though you said you were moving quickly …

  3. For anyone who likes a more urban experience, Charlottetown, the province’s capital, is a great city to visit. Although it is small by most city standards (~34,000 inhabitants). We found the city lovely with a great mix of maritime Canada coastal living and small city flare. We highly recommend a stop!

    • Hey there. We spent our third night on the island in Charlottetown and managed to see a bit of it (mostly pubs) before hot showers. We were happy to get back on the trail (and away from asphalt) the next morning however. When were you on P.E.I. … was that the East Coast trip after the westward-thing? D

      • We were on PEI on our tour of the Maritime Provinces (summer 2010). We saw an awesome show in Charlottetown. The city projected a movie telling the history of the island onto the facade of the capitol building. It was totally crazy, informative and just a great evening. We too experienced the pub culture and shopped. We were only in Charlottetown for one day and one night. Then it was on to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

  4. Hi Dave and Joanna, it’s great to hear you enjoyed your time here on The Island spending time with our overly friendly black flies and mosquitoes. I hope you allow some time on your next trip to visit some of our beaches. Your photography is amazing I shall spend the next few evenings enjoying your images.

    • Hey Wayne! You found us. Who told you about the blog? Joanna tells me that she wrote you last evening … please forgive me for not dropping you my own notes of thanks. Getting the farm back up and running after our absence has taken most of my time since our return – and it looks like the weather will be good for the hay harvest next week. Please accept my many thanks for all of your help during our week on P.E.I. – your careful attentions certainly made the logistics much easier. And please do keep an eye on the blog for more island pictures. If you are ever passing through our part of Pennsylvania please do not hesitate to let us know. D

      • Joanna and I spoke and she mentioned your Blog as you were running through the fields for a picture of the lighthouse at Naufrage Harbour after our meal at Shipwreck Point Cafe. My only regret with your visit to our Island is that you couldn’t allot more time as there are many out of the way spots I think you guys would have really enjoyed.

        • We’ll catch some of those locations next time we’re there … but only if you’re willing to be our guide! Joanna and I are determined to bike the thing west to east next time. We were out on our local rail-trail this afternoon without paniers, without a headwind, and on the flat … 16 miles in about 75 minutes … lots faster than what we were going on P.E.I.! D

  5. Love this vantage point, especially with the branch above. Did you shoot this on your knees? PEI looks a bit too deserted for me! 🙂

    • No … it was shot standing. There were lots and lots of mosquitoes on the trail so one couldn’t take too much time composing. It was … off the bike, grab the camera, set up the shot, trip the shutter, and get back on the bike FAST. We spent our breaks walking up and down the trail (while consuming CLIFF bars and water) just fast enough to keep ahead of the little devils – then it was back on the bike! Sounds like just your kind of vacation – what say you?

  6. I am really enjoying your blog! And your lovely daughter, Molly, who I am fortunate to work with.

    • It’s ‘Molly’s Cynthia.’ Nice to meet you. Joanna and I were in NH visiting last weekend, I am sorry our paths did not cross – we would have had lots to talk about. We had a wonderful time climbing Mt. Cardigan on Sunday when the weather was fine. Stay tuned to the blog … I hope to post an image from there tomorrow! Thanks for checking in. Molly’s Dad (Dave)

  7. It is a lovely place. Here are two tidbits:
    – It’s the only Canadian province where 100% of the land is developed, and
    – Having hosted the Charlottetown conference in 1864, it has every right to claim rights to being the birthplace of modern-day Canada. :>)

    • My wife reminds me that my ‘coastal village’ expectation was probably influenced by a trip to Martha’s Vineyard of more than 30 years ago! Because she has been a long-time fan of the ‘Anne’ books Joanna reports that her island expectations were not too far off from what we actually saw (mostly rural farmland). Thanks for the ‘thumbs up’ on the image. D

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