Sunday, June 22, 2014

Apparently I have a lot of Favorite Places...Here are some more of them!

North River Falls – I always wanted to hike to North River Falls, the tallest waterfalls in Nova Scotia, but the 20-kilometer return hike had me procrastinating for years. I finally decided to do that hike a couple of years ago and it was worth the hike. After dodging fallen trees, dilapidated foot bridges, washed out paths and numerous other obstacles, I finally made it to the falls and what a sight to behold! A raging, cascading waterfall falling into a crystal clear pool surrounded by nothing but forest and wilderness…and I had that all to myself because not many people are willing to do that long, hard hike!
That “spot” in the Grand Canyon that hardly Anyone gets to see – The Grand Canyon has always been close to the top of my bucket list and I finally had the chance to see it in the spring of 2009. Nothing prepared me for the surprise that awaited me during the guided tour I took to the Canyon. I usually hate guided tours but, since it was my first time traveling in the area, I thought it would be fitting to go with someone who knew their way around. The tour left early in the morning and made the typical stops at attractions along the way; the Hoover Dam, Joshua Tree National Park, Lake Mead. While at the Grand Canyon, I embarked on a helicopter ride to the bottom and a pontoon boat ride along the Colorado River. While these aspects of the tour were amazing, it was what came next that really made me happy I took that tour. When the group met back at the bus, our tour guide gave us two options to pick from; we could pay an extra 30 dollars and do the touristy skywalk or we could get back in the bus and go somewhere that only a few tour operators were allowed to go, a place that was gated off and in a secluded area of the park. Fortunately for me, because I had no interest in waiting in line to do the skywalk, everyone voted for the second option. Remote, quiet, wild, lonely, incredible, out-of –this-world…that is just some of the words that can be used to describe that place and that view.
The Drive Along the North Shore – Just knowing that I will going to Ingonish is enough to make me happy but I also look forward to the nice drive there, in particular the section of the route that passes along an area known as the North Shore which runs from the Englishtown Ferry to Cape Smokey Mountain. The windy and often deserted road passes through an area that is home to old farmhouses surrounded by forest, large fields, distant mountains and ocean. The drive takes about 40 minutes and along the way, I like to stop at the various resting places to admire the view, have lunch or just relax in the peaceful surroundings. I often see wildlife in the early morning or evening hours and the night sky is so visible on clear nights because there are no lights to obscure it.

Mira Gut Beach – As a child, my parents took me to this beach almost every weekend in the summer. We left early in the morning and stayed until the sun went down. We swam, we sunbathed, we had picnics and we had bonfires. We were even asked to be in a music video that was being filmed on the beach one day! There are two sections of the beach; a long sandy one with less crowds and a more crowded smaller area on the other side of the breakwater. A bridge separates the gut from the opening of the Mira River and on the other side of that bridge, there is a swimming area as well. We spent most of our days on the long, sandy beach area and migrated to the river bank at night to have a fire. When I got older, I spent a lot of time on the other side of the breakwater where, over the years due to people moving away for work, the crowds got smaller and a bald eagle perched on the edge of the breakwater every evening.

Freshwater Lake – Ingonish Beach is one of the most popular beaches on Cape Breton Island and one of the reasons it is so popular is because there is so much to do there. There is a long, sandy beach, a freshwater lake and a hiking trail to name a few things. Freshwater Lake, in particular, is one of my favorite places on the whole island. When I am staying in Ingonish, I wake up early, grab a coffee at the Bean Barn and drive to the lake area. I take my place in the sand or on a nearby picnic table and watch the sun come up over Cape Smokey Mountain. It is so quiet there first thing in the morning and the sounds of the ocean on one side and the deep woods on the other make for a great start to the day.

That Sandwich bar at Pearson International Airport – Almost every trip I take via plane includes a long layover at Pearson International and I hate that place with a passion. Long lineups, poor signage, rude employees who hate giving directions…and the list goes on and on. However, amidst the chaos that is Pearson, I once found a little sanctuary that I now retreat to every time I am there. It is a little sandwich bar (I can never seem to remember the name of it) with a quiet and relaxing ambiance and the best veggies sandwiches I have ever eaten!

My bike route along the shore – I have a bike and although I don’t really have the time these days to ride it much, I do, from time to time, go for a ride on warm summer mornings or afternoons on the weekends. And I always take the same route from my house in Lingan along the shore to the lighthouse in New Victoria. I love this route especially in the summer when the sounds of children playing and softball games at the field I drive by and the smell of barbecues fill the air. I try to stick to the roads that are close to the shoreline so I can watch the sea with all the ferries and fishing boats coming and going.
The Rocky Beach in the Little Village where my Mom Grew up – At the end of a road at the edge of Cheticamp in Northern Cape Breton is a long, rocky beach. I first went there as a child when my mom took me there every summer to spend time in the place where she grew up. She always told me stories about how she used to play on that beach as a child. Now that she is gone, that place means so much more to me. I feel like her spirit lingers in that area she cherished so much. Whenever I’m in Cheticamp, I take my coffee to the parking lot above the beach and sit for hours, just watching the waves roll in and imagining my mom there as a child. Sometimes I walk the beach and I am always the only person there which makes it even better.

The Lonely roads of Mira at night – One of my favorite places to drive at night is Mira. Those lonely, deserted, dark roads through dense forest areas and small villages are almost spooky at night. The stars are always brightest out there where there is no light pollution and the foxes, deer and raccoons are on the prowl. If it is nice enough, I stop at Mira Gut and sit on the beach and watch the night sky for a while before continuing on my way.

Squeaker’s Hole – At the far end of the parking lot at Black Beach near the village of Ingonish in the Cape Breton Highlands is the entrance to a short walking trail. This walking trail leads hikers to a place called Squeaker’s Hole and a place where I spent much of my time over the years. The trail snakes off into two directions at one point; one trail leads to the bottom of Sqeaker’s Hole and the other leads to the top. Some days I will hike to the bottom where I can swim out to a rock in the middle of the little cove and watch the rough seas churn around me. Other days, I will hike to the top where I can sit on the side of the cliffs and sunbathe, read a book or just relax to the sounds of the birds, the sea and the other natural sounds around me.

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