Dan and Hannah Bike the Confederation Trail in Prince Edward Island and Meet a Fox

Days on our PEI “holiday” begin with an hour walking the boardwalk along the harbor of Summerside before our Green Willow Farm B and B breakfast.  In mid-June, the tourist season has not begun and we’ve the boardwalk to ourselves.

Harbor scene from Baywalk

With the same crew at breakfast (mother and daughter from Alberta, Canada and a retired couple from the States), we gab like old friends on this second morning together, mainly because Hannah greases the pan for it all to happen.  Invite her to any small gathering; Hannah’s lively, quick witted, and warms to her role as facilitator.
This morning’s bike ride is heading north on the Confederation Trail from Summerside to Kensington.  (Doesn’t that sound like we are in merry old England?)  We’ll bike ten kilometres (6 miles-ish) each way on the former railway (closed in 1989) (a similar initiative to Rails to Trails in the States) with its red crushed gravel, raised bed between fields of potatoes or grain.
Newly planted potato field
Gates alert us to cross roads and slow us down for our safety.
Safety gates on the Confederation Trail
And if those Canadians aren’t nice enough already, they will 99 out of 100 times stop in the road, even on the high speed Route 2 that goes through the heart of the Province to let us pass.   Soon we come upon three pairs of all-female crews cutting the brush on the side of the trail, mowing a breakdown lane of grass, and weedwacking the high grass.  Surprised that we see no males, we ask why female teams?   No reason, but it’s easy to see the Province is an equal opportunity employer.  Their Provincial tax (16%) pays for the necessary infrastructure, let alone health care for all.  I was surprised when I paid nearly $2 tax on a $12.50 pizza.  Beer is $14 for a six pack.  Helmets are required of all bicyclists.  Will the Socialists stop at nothing!  But I digress. 
On this windy day with no humidity, laundry blows on the backyard lines out of some early 20th century Anne of Green Gables scene.
As we ride, Hannah and I talk of how going away gives us the discipline to read and write and dream and plan in ways the routines and have-tos of life at home don’t.  There are always “necessary” responsibilities keeping us from the business of self-reflection and growth.  It’s easy to run in place tending to life’s “to do” list.
Going to Kensington on the Confederation Trail
It’s a light 50 minutes of level pedaling to Kensington.   Returning to Summerside, we see a few bicyclists who are invariably smiling and polite.  Off to the East some three hundred yards past the potato fields we see Route 2 with its traffic of commerce, and yet it’s quiet and peaceful on the trail.
Confederation Trail
As we bike for home, an idea grows.  What if we bike the entire 273 kms (about 170 miles) of the Confederation Trail from the North Cape near Tisdale to Elmira on the East Cape?  With panniers (bags attached to bikes) on our bikes we could carry all we need.   We’d start out after an early June night at a B and B and bike 60-70 kilometres per day.  That sort of mileage or kilometage would allow us to visit new PEI towns in the off season and complete the trail in four days.  It would be our own mini-thru bike (a la the Appalachian Trail) with the added benefits of a short duration (four days), not sleeping with snoring fellow travelers in a shelter, a bed! and private bathroom, and ending each day with a fine glass of wine and a hearty breakfast the next morning.  This is an idea that won’t be denied.
Potato field just off the Confederation Trail
Lunch, nap, and reading rejuvenate us for our afternoon of golf.
Green Willow Farm B & B hayfield the day before it rained
On a whim, I had packed three clubs and a putter, six balls, tees, golf glove, and golf shoes in the trunk of our Hyundai on the chance that I’d find a nine-hole course.  I had no idea that across the street from our B and B is a nine-hole par 3 course at the Summerside Quality Inn.  And for $7 to boot!  Hannah jumps at the chance to play, too, and we have an afternoon twosome.
Quality Inn Golf course
The holes range from 70 to 120 yards so it’s short iron stuff for golfers.  The greens are just more shaved versions of the fairways with weeds here and there on the putting surface.  The Masters it is not.  The score card says; please hold up on swing at #9 as there are people in the pool.  Oh, that’s not a lawsuit waiting to happen.  But no matter.  Hannah has not played in 30 years since we golfed in Arizona.  But she’s a Phys. Ed. major from the division 3 sports powerhouse, the College of Wooster in Ohio (look it up!) and is up for most any athletic challenge.  You all may remember her willingness to climb Angel’s Landing in Zion National Parkfor a second time when the rest of the family said, “No mas.”
We get to the first tee and I exchange my sandals for golf shoes.  It’s 96 yards long with pine trees sprinkled throughout what must have been an old hay field.  We play two balls each for the practice, as our games are rusty and there is no one else on the course.  After hitting her first seven iron, Hannah sees a cute red fox approach.  How PEI!
The red fox moves in
The fox slithers over and stands above Hannah’s Titleist.  Before we know it, he grabs the golf ball in his mouth and skitters off into the brush.  Stunned, Hannah is incensed.  She runs toward the fox with her 7 iron, but the fox is too sly and too quick (You all remember The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog from high school typing class which contains all the letters in the alphabet.  That’s truer than I realized.)  In a flash, we are down one Titleist.  Given fair warning, we are ready to go mano y mano (or animale) with this PEI fox.   For the second hole, I walk half way down the fairway (some 50 yards) and wait for Hannah to hit, prepared to wave my wedge at the offending fox when he reemerges from the woods.  This strategy seems to work but doesn’t discourage the fox from trying.
Hannah and her Seven Iron
At the third hole 79 yards, the fox lurks. Bold as can be, she comes within ten feet.  Hannah jumps into action.  Grabbing the flag stick from the third hole, she starts down the fairway waving the pole with its red flag chasing the fox.  The fox wants no part of this highly motivated athletic woman and scoots into the underbrush.  On the fourth hole he’s back.  At this point, the fourth hole flag stick will be in our hands at all times.  I go down the fairway, wait for Hannah to hit and then return to the tee box and hit my shot.  We repeat this dance for each hole.
Hannah with flag stick in hand
We yell and wave the red flag when he reappears.  Fact is, Hannah plays well.  She’s an athletic talent of the first order.   She hits through the ball and follows through nicely.
Dan looking to hole a birdie putt
We each hit some good shots and enjoy the ninety minutes on a sunny 70 degree day without losing another ball.  Returning to the hotel desk, we mention the fox.  And the receptionist, clearly not a golfer, says, That happens all the time.  She is smiling and oh so Canadian.  She adds in a perky way, Sometimes people have to stop playing because they run out of balls.  “Perhaps, you might have mentioned the fox before we went out to the first tee!” we think.
That night we get takeout pizza for dinner.  As we walk back Hannah steers me across the street to this sign below at a local Wilson’s gas stop on the main drag.
I wish you Hannahs in your life.
Our take away – We’ll be back to bike the entire Confederation Trail next June and be ready for the quick red fox.
A June 2013 return to the Confederation Trail
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