Friday, 23 September 2016

Dartmouth, Halifax and Home by Susan L

  In all of my travels around mainland Nova Scotia, I was never much more that two hours from Halifax. My last day had plenty of time to fill so I decided to check out the neighbourhood where I had lived from age five to eleven. The GPS lady lead me through an unrecognizable neighbourhood to the house my dad built forty-six years ago.
  Only one of the illicitly gotten birch trees was still standing. The house had been painted cream and green instead of it's original white with black shutters. Or maybe the shutters were yellow...I'm not quite sure about that.
  Yes, the hill is smaller although it is a long, slow slope that would be tough riding a bike up for anyone.
  After cruising around the neighbourhood where the memories of childhood bubbled up, I headed for my old school. Brookhouse Elementary. It, too, stirred many a memory. It hadn't changed except for the security. I'd wondered about taking a tour of the school and had to be buzzed in the front door. No tour because the kids were present. Different times for sure.
  I headed for the Micmac Mall and on the way there crossed the bridge where a family of ducks had held up traffic for a long time as a momma duck tried to get her three wayward children across the road. That memory is as clear as a bell and made me smile.
  When the mall had first opened with fifty stores it was massive! It's even bigger and has the same stores as every other shopping mall.
  After dropping off the car, I was treated to a Nova Scotia fish fry except there wasn't any fried fish because the host had been told to cut back on the amount of food. Well, there was enough lobster, muscles, shrimp, bacon wrapped scallops, pasta and potato salad to feed a small army. The sea food had been picked up that morning right off the boat and was the best I'd ever eaten!
  The next morning, my daughter, her fiancĂ©e and I went to downtown Halifax to ride the Harbour Hopper tour. It's a Vietnam war era amphibious vehicle so the tour consisted of driving around town and a short sail along the harbour front.
  There's a lot of construction downtown. New buildings are being built, old ones are being restored. It's a wonderful juxtaposition of old and new. I tried to remember which building my dad had worked in but, like the hill, the one I thought it might have been looked a whole lot smaller. Or maybe it's because there's been many changes to the downtown since I'd last been there.
  We did a bit of shopping then returned home for the afternoon before heading out to the Eastern Shore for a haddock and chips meal. There was a boardwalk near the restaurant so we went for a walk and waited for the sun to go down. It was the perfect end to a perfect holiday.

  "Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you. And heal the sick there, and say to them, "The kingdom of God has come near to you."" Lk 10:8-9

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Bay of Fundy by Susan L.

 I arrived at the motel around supper time after stopping for a stretch in Annapolis Royal. Grand Pre, where I was staying, is a land of dykes and farmland thirty meters below the ocean. It's recognized as an important historical sight.
  The heavens opened the moment I drove up. I raced to the office only to find it was closed! Doing my panic thing, I asked another new guest if there was a phone in their room so I could call the owner. He smiled and informed me that there was a list taped to the office door with names and rooms, the rooms were open, the key on the table. The owner would connect in the morning.
  It was aptly called the Beach Breeze Motel. The wind howled that night, rocking the building so hard the bed shook!! I was glad I was tucked in safe and warm! Dawn came bright, sunny and a bit cooler. Other than that, it was a blessedly quiet area. Human noise didn't reach the isolated site of the motel.
  Early the next morning, I headed to Blomidon Provincial Park about an hour away. The Cape Breton guide had suggested doing the Jhodrey trail, accessible from a parking lot just outside the main gates. Once again taking the back roads let me come across one of the Bay's iconic sights: fishing boats on the ground waiting for the tide to come in.
  I packed a lunch for the hike, gathered my art supplies and eagerly went to the trail entrance. There were two signs. One had a long list of what to do in the eventuality of running into coyotes and a phone number to call if they are unusually aggressive. The other suggested that hikers wear orange when the park was closed because of hunters. Gulp. The park was closed for the season. Then I read that the trail went from thirty feet above sea level to over 3800 feet.
  There weren't very many people there that early. The climbing trail had some treacherous footing like these tree root steps. The signs made me nervous since I was all alone up there. A slip or a fall could be disastrous so, feeling wise, I turned around and went to a place where there was a picnic table to have an early lunch and do some sketching.
  After visiting Scot's Bay, a small fishing village with a cobblestone beach and by going back to the hotel a different way, I came across "The Lookout" that I'd seen signs for. It provided a tremendous view without having to do the hard slogging of the trail.
  This area is decidedly picturesque. The endless tidal flats that stretch for miles contrasts with the rich agriculture. It's a winery district as well as being able to grow apples and other produce.
  As the sun set, I walked the beach that stretched for miles. Not just in either direction but out towards the water as well. It was hard to see exactly where it was being so far out and coloured red by the silt it carried to the sea. Only a few patches of sea grass and algae confirmed I wasn't walking a Martian landscape!
  I walked out quite a ways but the heavy clay soon coated my hiking boots. There were also billions of mud snails that were hard to avoid stepping on. After that, I simply walked the sandy beach, taking pictures of the setting sun, before heading in for the night.
  Final stop, Dartmouth and Halifax.
  "But He said to them, "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?" Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm. So the men marveled, saying, "Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?" Mat 8:26-27

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Kejimkujik National Park by Susan L.

   Because I was further south along the eastern shore than originally planned, I took a different route to get across the province. Even so, it was still only a couple hours to get from Bridgewater to the Bay of Fundy. To be honest, the previous day's drive and stops had been enough of genteel and brightly coloured civilization. The trees and mountains of Cape Breton had filled me with a hunger for the natural world.
  So I decided to stop at Keji, as the locals call it, for a hike since it was now on the route across. Before getting there, the road cut through a massive area of charred forest, so fresh, it still smelled of charcoal. Nova Scotia, like Ontario, had an unusually dry summer so everything was tinder dry. The fire had happened only days before I arrived in the area.
  Because I only had time to sample the park, I asked the woman at the entrance kiosk which was the nicest trail. She suggested I do the "Hardwoods and Hemlocks" trail after stopping by to check out the waterfall near the entrance. The waterfall was beautiful albeit small due to the drought. My timing meant there was a tour bus full of passengers checking out the scenery as well. I didn't stay long before heading for the trail entrance.
  The trail was deep inside the park. I startled a doe walking up the gravel road. She startled me as she slipped into the woods. She immediately started grazing so I was able to watch her for a few moments. Deer are so beautiful and she seemed extra dainty after seeing the moose in Cape Breton.
  The loop trail was fairly easy rolling hills and about five K long. The boardwalk was built to protect the Hemlock tree roots. It was so refreshing to be away from any sound of civilization. The library quiet, with the exception of a few twittering birds, was refreshing.
  There was a section of towering white pines. The information plaque said that even though they were big, they were second growth and only about eighty years old. The pines could live to more than three times that age.
  Like the ancient woods of Cape Breton, there was little to no undergrowth only this time it was caused by the acidic nature of Hemlocks. They poison the soil so no other tree can grow where they are. Eventually, they take over nearby mixed forests as their branches spread and their offspring move in.
  It was a lovely hike. No sign of bears even though they are in the park. I'd been assured that they were more scared of me.
  The deer had moved off but a family of beautiful white and gray birds flitted along side the road. They would be a new addition to my life, bird watching list only I didn't know what they were.
  There were picnic tables along the main park road offering views of the river. I made a sandwich, and munched some carrot and celery sticks dipped in hummus before pulling out to continue my trip west.
  I decided to stop at the visitor centre before leaving the park to purchase a park badge. It's something I've been doing for each park visited when they are available. It was important for me to identify the birds I'd seen as well while their appearance was fresh in my mind. Turns out they were Gray Jays. A shy bird but a stealthy campsite pilferer. It seems I was "lucky" to have seen them.
  Pulling into the parking lot, a ranger and several people were scouring the area. A nest of baby snapping turtles had just hatched but they had to cross the parking lot to get to the water. A few had already been killed by cars pulling in so they were desperate to save as many as they could.
  While I was inside, the ranger came in with this little fellow. She patiently waited for me to run to the car to get my camera. The woman at the check out put down the toonie to give some idea of how tiny he was. After the monster snapper I'd seen earlier this summer, it's hard to believe this little one will reach that size!
  The couple of hours spent in the park was a refreshing break and full of sights I would not have otherwise seen. I'd gladly revisit it to do some camping and visit some of the other trails.
  Next stop: the Bay of Fundy.
  "I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety." Ps 4:8