Sunday, May 15, 2016

A Spring Hike, A Foggy Beach and Lots of Old Houses

Spring may have started a while ago but Spring-like weather only came about fairly recently here on Cape Breton Island.  That means hiking season is just around the corner but it officially started for me with a hike in Framboise on a foggy but warmish April spring day.

I awoke that morning to the sun splitting rocks and abnormally high temps for the time of year.  The drive to the coast was nice until I actually reached the coast where everything was engulfed in a thick fog and the temperatures were about ten degrees cooler than they were inland.

Ferguson Road was my first stop.  I drove all the way down to the beach and than back to the half-way point in the road to take a rest and a little stroll along an old wood road that ran along a long-ago abandoned property.  It was so quiet there and all I could hear was the soft breeze in the trees and a few birds chirping.  Much quieter than the racket I'm exposed to at home where all I can hear 24-7 is the loud hum of a nearby power generating station.

I walked a piece up the gravel road towards the main highway taking in more of those nature sounds and felt at ease and more relaxed than I had in weeks.  It was like all my stress was lifted off my shoulders and tossed into the brush where I hoped it would stay.  Alas, upon returning to the real world, those stresses always come back but they are easier to manage after a long spell in the woods.

After my little leg-stretcher on Ferguson Road, I drove back to the main road and down a piece until I found a partially grown-in driveway to park in while I hiked in an area I had heard about.  I followed an old beaten path through a wooded area that led toward the ocean.  I expected to see some nice scenery but what I didn't expect to see was a few old houses. I love walking around the old, abandoned houses in that area.  I like to imagine the families that once lived in them and what their lives were like.  However, upon closer inspection of this particular house, I realized it was  still in use and was in the process of being renovated.  The American flag in the window gave away some clues to the ownership. And what a spot it is to renovate an old country farmhouse and turn it into a summer retreat that no one even knows is there...unless they venture on foot into the woods as I did.

Fog was rolling in as I broke through the trees and approached the coastal area.  I could faintly make out the rocky coastline and hear the waves crashing onshore but everything beyond that was a haze. I spotted an interesting-looking grassy area atop a giant rock and climbed to the top of it to get a better view of the ocean.  A couple of seals bobbed in the waves but I couldn't see very far. I took a seat in an area that was sheltered against the cool wind and ate my usual lunch - an egg sandwich, a muffin, an energy bar and some tea -  and walked some more along that rugged coastline until I came to a grassy area with a semi-beaten trail on it.  I followed it to see where it went....and, due to my curious nature, kept following it until I came to another clearing with some more old-weather-beaten houses.  These ones were most certainly abandoned and had been for some time.  A light mist was beginning to fill the air and I thought I could hear the faint yelp of coyotes in the distance as I headed back to my car but my day wasn't over yet.
A short drive took me to my next stop on Frank MacDonald Road near Grand River. It was getting later in the evening and the crickets were starting their nightly chorale.  I parked my car next to the gently flowing river and crossed the deserted road to walk up an old wood road towards the tree line.  I heard there used to be some old houses on that road and I wanted to check them out.  To my disappointed, the old houses that were said to be there were replaced by new ones.  I'm sure these homeowners weren't a bit disappointed when they laid eyes on that beautiful piece of land and decided to make their home there. I didn't linger too long on that land that was obviously private property and heard some more coyotes off in the distance as I walked back to the car.

Just up the road a bit was another old wood road...or at least the faded remnants of an old wood road.  There was a clearly defined ditch to the sides and a power line but the old road itself was all grown in.  I knew there had to be something in there - a house or business - as the power line led somewhere or at least it did at one time.  Alas, I hiked into that brush until it started to get dark and out of fear I might get lost or approached by a prowling coyote, I turned back towards the car having not found whatever it was the power line hooked up to.

There was still enough light left in the sky when I drove passed an old house on the side of the road that looked like it had been abandoned for many decades and was about to fall in on itself.  Of, course, as you probably already guessed, I got out of the car to explore a little.  The property was quite large as was the house and when I closed my eyes, I could almost hear the children who once played in the yard and the adults having tea on the back patio.  I imagined what it must have been like to live in such a remote place so many years ago, how hard the winters must have been but how peaceful it must have been in the warmer months surrounded by all that nature.  I could tell that it was once a very stately property and it pained me to think that somewhere out there there are grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the people who once lived here who have no idea their ancestors once stately home still stands with some of the furniture inside still intact.  And there I was admiring it and thinking how they would love to know about the place.  Who knows what other treasures are held in the confines of the walls, old dressers and floorboards.  

It was almost dark when I returned to the car for the last time that day and started back the way I came - over the dark, lonely country road through Framboise, Forchu, Gabarus and Mira - and met an abnormal amount of traffic when I hit Marion Bridge.  I soon realized that these carloads of people were headed back to their country homes after spending the evening Chasing the Ace in Sydney.  For anyone who is not familiar with the Chase the Ace Phenomenon that has hit Cape Breton, it's a charity/lottery event with a huge jackpot that draws tens of thousands of millionaire wannabes from all over the Maritimes.  It's not for me.  I'd rather spend a day in the woods or along the seashore any day over waiting in line for two hours to play a lottery.  To each their own I suppose but for the last few Saturdays, it meant more room on the beaches and trails for me!

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