Sunday, December 27, 2015

A Late Fall Hike to Grand River Falls

A hike to Grand River Falls was in the making for over a year before it finally happened this Fall. Something always got in the way every time I tried to plan this hike. Weather, last minute appointments, a busy work schedule and last minute car repairs are just some of the things that got in the way. However, it is often said that things happen for a reason. I believe the reason so many things got in the way of the hike being done months ago had to do with the powers-that-be working their magic to align everything just perfectly...because everything was perfect that day including the weather which was perfect with no precipitation or wind. This is a rare event in late fall anywhere in Nova Scotia, especially in Cape Breton.
Grand River Falls
Grand River Falls is located in an area of the island that I'm just starting to really get to know. I call this entire area Framboise but it is actually a number of small communities spread out over a fairly large area. The Trail is about a half hour from the town of St. Peters. The area is quite remote with few houses and few people so I was pretty much guaranteed to get some much needed one-on-one time with nature.

I found the trail entrance without any trouble and it looked surprisingly well-maintained. I parked my car near the main road as I didn't want to chance bringing it onto a poorly-maintained backroad in the middle of nowhere but the trail actually did look good enough to drive on! I put on my hunters orange vest and toque (it was still deer hunting season when I did this hike, so better safe than sorry) and grabbed my sturdy walking stick.

It was easy walking along that old wood road. I had no idea how long it would take me to get to the falls but I figured it would be a while since I couldn't hear any water running. I'm guessing it was about 30 minutes into my walk that I started to hear the roar of water rushing downward and I reached the falls about ten minutes after that.
The falls were nothing like I expected. I had no idea what they were going to look like but I imagined them in a different way. For starters, I didn't think there would be so much water and I didn't think they would be so easily accessible.
The most unique feature about the area around the falls is the salmon ladder that runs alongside the falls. In early summer, salmon can be seen using the ladder which has been in place since the late 1800's and to this day serves the purpose of aiding in the maintenance of the salmon population. I didn't see any salmon on this day but it was still interesting to see it and get an idea of how it works. I later heard that bald eagles are often spotted fishing for their lunch when the salmon arrive so I made a mental note to myself to go back there in the summer.
the salmon ladder
I wandered around taking pictures and familiarizing myself with the area before finding a spot that overlooked the cascading falls and river. I always carefully choose my resting/picnicking spots based on the following criteria:
1) Comfort
2) Scenery
3) Safety
4) Shelter
The spot I picked as my resting place to have my tea and egg salad sandwich fit all my criteria perfectly. It was comfortable, it was surrounded by beautiful, natural scenery, it was safe and it was nicely sheltered out of the wind.
I stayed there for some time taking in that invigorating, fresh air. Winters are long and harsh in Cape Breton and the fall is usually not much better with cold, north-easterly winds and lots of rain so I was very lucky to have been graced with such a warm, sunny day. I let my senses take over. I let my eyes take in the sight before me - trees dancing in a gentle breeze and fresh, clean water cascading downriver through a valley of red, gold and orange fall foliage. I let my nose take in the smell of damp moss and slowly dying forest. I let my hands feel the last remnants of summer around me knowing full well that soon it would be covered in a thick white blanket of snow and ice. I let my ears hear the singing of the birds and rustling of the leaves that would soon fall silent.
I tried to stretch out the hike back to the car for as long as I could, stopping every so often to engage my senses in those tranquil surroundings but, alas, I spotted a glimmer of late afternoon sun hitting the hood of my car in the distance and in a few seconds my late-fall hike, the last real hike of the season, came to an end.
If you've been reading this blog for some time now, you probably know me fairly well or at least well enough to know that just because a hike is completed that doesn't mean my day is completed. I spent the early evening driving around the country back roads of the Framboise area looking for deer and other wildlife. I did see one deer darting across the road but fortunately I didn't see any of those bears that have recently been spotted in the area. I drove around some more admiring the old abandoned country houses that dot many of grown-over fields before driving through L'Ardoise and onto St. Peter's to grab a coffee and make the long drive home along Route 4 and the Bras d'or Lakes. Another trail knocked off that list!
An old Abandoned House

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