Around the World... One Journey at a Time. Around the World... One Journey at a Time.

Eastern Canada: Cape Vincent, NY

by Kathy 5. November 2012 17:20

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Cape Vincent, NY

Our journey through eastern Canada began and ended on the U.S. side of the border. Our final destination was the sleepy town of Cape Vincent in northwestern New York—far removed in location and mindset from the skyscrapers that dominate the southeastern corner of the state.

What enticed us here was the opportunity to sleep in a former lighthouse keeper’s home—our 3rd hostel on this trip. Tibbett’s Point Lighthouse Hostel exuded charm, at least from the outside:

The lighthouse was on a point of land that jutted out into the water where Lake Ontario flowed into the St. Lawrence River.

It is also listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The land had been deeded to the U.S. Government for a lighthouse in 1827, and the current lighthouse was built in 1854. The U.S. Coast Guard took over the lighthouse duties in 1939, but left the premises in 1981 when the light became automated, and a keeper was no longer required. The keeper’s quarters opened as a Youth Hostel in 1984.

The hostel was only open from 5 p.m. until 9:00 a.m., for overnight stays. Getting a reservation took some perseverance on my part, with unanswered emails and evening telephone calls that merely reached a recorded message. It was as if the hostel didn’t want any business. We ultimately scored, however, and reserved a “family room” on the 2nd floor—the window with the light on, to the left of the lighthouse below:

The reservation process should have given us warning that something wasn’t quite right here. We arrived just after 5 p.m. to find the hostel door still locked. As we stood on the front porch wondering what to do, a sweaty man walked up and, barely glancing at us, began unlocking the door. I greeted him and said that we had a reservation. He looked at us and said slowly, “Oh. You’re the family.” Then he opened the door, went inside, and closed the door behind him.

We were left looking at each other with raised eyebrows. Was he coming back out? Should we follow him inside? We chose to wait. About five minutes later, the man came back out wearing different clothes. He said that he had gone for a run earlier. Speaking very little, he walked us to a second building where he checked us in. The bits and pieces of weirdness just kept adding up. First, there was apparently only one key to our room, and the man said that we couldn’t have it because he needed to keep it. (Okay. No biggie. This just meant that we had to keep our belongings in our car until we retired for the night and could lock the door from the inside.) When we asked whether there was WiFi, the man paused and then said slowly, “Yeah, but I have to give you the password.” But he made no effort to give us one, so we had to expressly ask, “Can we have the password please?”  He also showed us a large living room that he called the “common area”; however, it looked like it had someone’s personal belongings stacked here and there, and when Ben asked if we could hang out there to check email, the man indicated that we might not want to and trailed off mid-sentence. He also forgot to give us towels, and he didn’t mention anything about coffee or use of the kitchen in the morning.

Given the man’s slow speech, his tendency to not answer questions or even finish sentences, we thought he might have some social skill challenges or even mental difficulties. But then we arrived back at the hostel after dinner to find him in the kitchen area talking up a storm, laughing, and joking with a woman who turned out to be a Hostel International representative who had shown up unexpectedly to inspect the hostel facilities. His Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde behavior will remain a mystery.

In any event, our room was basic, as we had anticipated. However, the beds had such a range of firmness that we joked about sleeping in a room from Goldilocks and the Three Bears. In the photo below, I am taking the picture from the striped Papa Bear’s bed (so hard that Ben laid down and immediately moved over to share the bunk beds with Sebastian); Genevieve is in Mama Bear’s bed (squishy soft, like a marshmallow); and Ben and Sebastian are on Baby Bear’s bunk beds (not perfect, but pretty good when compared to the others):

The best part about the hostel was the beautiful setting next to a functioning lighthouse.

Occasionally, a cluster of tourists would arrive and wander around the property. Although the door to the lighthouse was open, the interior locked gate barred visitors from climbing the spiral stairs to the top.

As the sunlight faded, we sat in the wooden chairs and discovered dinosaur heads and other figures in the clouds:

The hostel was also less than 5 minutes from Cape Vincent, down a 2-lane street lined with large historic homes.

The Stone House was built in 1815 and purportedly sheltered Canadian rebels during the Patriot War in 1839, when some Canadians rebelled against British rule but were defeated.

The Maple Grove house was built in 1838 by a French officer in Napoleon’s army:

The General’s Mansion was built in 1872:

Other homes:

Cape Vincent became a popular tourist destination in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s when wealthy families began flocking to the Thousand Islands area every summer. Although we were there during August, which would seem to be prime vacation time, the downtown businesses seemed pretty deserted.

Tucked away off of the main road was a large children’s playground, which had lots of nooks and crannies and was obviously designed by someone who is a child at heart:

In the morning, we left our hostel (not to be confused with “hostile”) and stopped in town for some great coffee and muffins that were served with a smile at Taste of Design, a tiny café and interior design shop combination:

A flier advertised that the business was for sale, along with a large apartment. The price was very inexpensive compared to Santa Cruz, California housing, and the apartment looked lovely. As I often do when traveling, I took a moment and visualized what my life would be like if our family lived here. But there just wasn’t a heart connection to this place. Our hearts, at least for the immediate future, had settled into a nice groove in California.

After a long drive to the Pittsburgh airport, we were homeward bound.

Our journey through eastern Canada had revealed parts of the country that had surprised and thrilled us—the drenching spray from Niagara Falls, the height of the CN Tower in Toronto, the multi-cultural neighborhoods in Montreal, the flour and wool mills on Isle-aux-Coudres and in the Eastern townships, the tight-rope adventure over Canyon Sainte Anne, the best-chocolate-dipped-cones-ever in Quebec City, the British roots so evident in Ottawa, and the single-island homes built within the Thousand Islands area. Those memories, and so many more, we carried home with us.


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Map of Our Journeys

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Our travel map

Places We’ve Been, w/Quick Links

   Bumthang Valley
   Gom Kora
   Paro Valley
   Punakha Dzong
   Sangdrup Jongkhar
   Wangdi Phrodrang

   Janko Marca
   La Paz
   Laguna Colorada
   Laguna Verde
   Salar de Coipasa
   Salar de Uyuni
   San Pablo
   Santa Rosa
   Sud Lipez
   World’s Most Dangerous Road

   Banff National Park
   Battle Hill Nat'l Hist. Site
   Boya Lake Prov. Park, BC
   Burns Lake Bike Park
   Canyon Sainte-Anne
   Dawson Creek
   Eastern Townships
   Fort Nelson
   Jasper National Park
   Kluane Lake, YK
   'Ksan Historical Village
   Lake Louise
   Liard Hot Springs
   Niagara Falls
   Quebec City
   Thousand Islands
   Vancouver Island
   Watson Lake

   Forbidden City
   Great Wall at Mutianyu
   Hong Kong
   Summer Palace
   Terracotta Warriors
   Tiananmen Square
   Yungang Caves

Costa Rica
   Arenal Volcano
   Finca Corsicana
   Hanging Bridges
   Manuel Antonio
   Poas Volcano
   Proyecto Asis
   Sky Trek Zip Lining
   Venado Caves


   Amazon Rainforest
   Chaquiñan Bicycle Trail
   La Mitad del Mundo
   Napo Wildlife Center
   Papallacta Hot Springs
   Proyecto DCR
   Yasuní National Park


   Baja California
   Frida Kahlo Museum
   Hierve el Agua
   Marietas Islands
   Mexico City
   Monte Alban
   Oaxaca City
   Puerto Angel
   Puerto Escondido
   Puerto Vallarta
   San Agustin
   San Martin Tilcajete
   Santa Fe de la Laguna
   Santa María el Tule
   Studio of Jacobo Angeles
   Teotitlán del Valle

   Dead Vlei
   Elondo Village
   Etosha Nat'l Park
   Hippo Pools Camp
   Hoba Meteorite
   Khowarib Camp
   Moose McGregor's Bakery
   Mowani Camp
   Ngepi Camp
   Nkasa Lupala
   n'Kwzi Camp
   River Dance Lodge
   Seisriem Camp
   Treesleeper Camp

   Cañón del Pato
   Cerro de Pasco
   La Oroya
   Machu Picchu
   Nuevo Jaén
   Tingo Maria
   Yungay Memorial


South Africa

   Rock of Gibraltar
   Santillana del Mar

United States National Parks
   Arches National Park, UT
   Badlands National Park, SD
   Bandelier National Monument, NM
   Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
   Cahokia Mounds (UNESCO site), IL
   Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
   Canyon de Chelly Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Cape Hatteras National Shoreline, NC
   Capitol Reef National Park, UT
   Civil Rights Memorial, AL
   Death Valley National Park, CA
   Denali National Park, AK
   Devil’s Tower National Monument, WY
   El Morro National Monument, NM
   Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.
   Glacier National Park, MT
   Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
   Grand Tetons National Park, WY
   Great Basin National Park, NV
   Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI
   Joshua Tree National Park, CA
   Kaloko-Honokohau Nat'l Hist. Park, HI
   Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks, NM
   King's Canyon National Park, CA
   Martin Luther King Jr. Nat'l Hist. Site, GA
   Mesa Verde National Park, CO
   Montezuma's Castle Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Monticello, VA
   Mount Rushmore National Memorial, SD
   Mt. Rainier National Park, WA
   Olympic National Park, WA
   Petrified Wood National Park, AZ
   Pinnacles National Monument, CA
   Pu'uhonua o Honaunau Nat'l Hist Pk, HI
   Pu'ukohola Heiau Nat'l Historic Site, HI
   San Antonio Missions Nat'l Hist. Park, TX
   Tuzigoot National Monument, AZ
   Walnut Canyon National Monument, AZ
   Washington Monument
   White Sands National Monument, NM
   Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, AK
   Wright Brothers National Memorial in NC
   Yellowstone National Park, WY
   Yosemite National Park, CA

United States, Cities and Places
   The Alamo, TX
   Alaska Wildlife Conservation Cntr.
   Alpine Loop in CO
   Anchorage, AK
   Antares Junction, AZ
   Arctic Circle, AK
   Barrel Oak Winery in VA
   Biloxi, MS
   Bottle Tree Farm in CA
   Calico Ghost Town, CA
   Canfield Mountain Trail System, ID
   Cape St. Vincent, NY
   Carson City, NV
   Carter Caves State Park in KY
   Chappie-Shasta OHV Area, CA
   Child's Glacier, AK
   Circle B Chuckwagon Show in SD
   City Museum in MO
   Cody, WY
   Corn Palace in SD
   Crazy Horse Memorial in SD
   Custer State Park, SD
   Dalton Highway, AK
   Dinosaur Tracks in AZ
   Discovery Place in Charlotte, NC
   Dry Falls (Sun Lakes-Dry Falls), WA
   Fairbanks, AK
   Front Royal, VA
   Gallup, NM
   Goffs, CA
   Grand Canyon Caves, AZ
   Grand Canyon Skywalk, AZ
   Grave Digger Monster Truck in NC
   Great Salt Lake, UT
   Hackberry General Store in AZ
   Hannibal, MO
   Hatteras Island, NC
   Hawaii (Big Island)
   Hickison Petroglyphs, NV
   Holbrook, AZ
   Hole in the Rock, UT
   Homer, AK
   Honey Island Swamp Tour in LA
   Hoover Dam, NV
   Hyder, AK
   Jim Gray’s Petrified Wood Co. in AZ
   John’s Peak OHV Area, OR
   Kailua-Kona, HI
   Keepers of the Wild Nature Park in AZ
   Kennecott, AK
   Kennecott Copper Mine in UT
   Kingman, AZ
   Lake Havasu, AZ
   Lake Tahoe, NV
   Las Vegas, NV (winter 2010)
   Little Brown Church in IA
   London Bridge in AZ
   Loneliest Road in America, Hwy. 50, NV
   Los Angeles, CA
   Lost Colony Show on Roanoke Isl., NC
   Lowe’s Speedway in NC
   Mardi Gras World in LA
   Mark Twain Museum in MO
   Meteor Crater, AZ
   Million Dollar Highway, CO
   Minnesota Zoo
   Mitchell, SD
   Moab, UT
   Moab, UT (dirt biking)
   Montgomery, AL
   Montpelier, ID
   Navajo Nation, AZ
   Needles, CA
   Nevada Beach, NV
   Newberry Springs, CA
   New River Gorge, WV
   New Orleans, LA
   Niagara Falls 
   North Pole, AK
   Oatman, AZ
   Old Faithful Geyser in WY
   Omak Stampede, WA
   Painted Desert, AZ
   Park City, UT (summer)
   Plymouth, NC
   Portage Valley, AK
   Portland, OR
   Prospect OHV Trail System, OR
   Resaca, GA
   Riverside State Park, WA
   Rock City in TN
   Rosa Parks Library and Museum in AL
   Roswell, NM
   Russian River, AK
   Salt Lake City, UT
   San Antonio, TX
   San Diego, CA
   San Juan Islands, WA
   San Francisco, CA
   Santa Catalina Island, CA
   Seattle, WA
   Sedona, AZ
   Shoe Tree in CA
   Shoe Tree in NV
   Silverton, CO
   Sonora, TX
   St. Louis, MO
   St. Paul, MN
   Talkeetna, AK
   Telluride, CO
   Route 66
   Twin Knobs Recreation Area in KY
   Virginia Beach, VA
   Washington D.C.
   Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park in IL
   Williamsburg, VA
   Winom Frazier OHV Area, OR
   Winslow, AZ
   Zion National Park, UT

Planning Our Adventures

For us, each journey begins with the initial heart pangs to venture to a certain part of the world. Then the ideas start coming together . . . ahh, the possibilities . . . and the dream evolves gradually into an actual plan. But, oh, the joy of the dream!  Click here to learn more about how we plan and prepare for our journeys.

Where Are We Now?

Click here to discover where we are now, as well as our uncoming travel plans.

Words for the Heart

“. . . and then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Anais Nin