Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Summer Goes by Quick when It's a Good One

The weather on Cape Breton Island, where I'm enjoying my staycation this summer, is still quite nice after the prolonged and record-breaking heat wave of mid-July to late August.  Everyone around me complained non-stop about the heat but it didn't stop me.  While many took to spending hot afternoons in air-conditioned malls and supermarkets, I continued to do what I love to do best during the summer months...enjoying summer!  We have long winters and summer is a long time coming when we are in the midst of winter.  When the snow melts and the temperatures rise, I take advantage of every moment I can to get outside and enjoy nature.

I planned to do some traveling this summer with possible trips to Alberta and Iceland but I was having such a good summer here in Cape Breton that I decided to stay put and put the bigger trips on hold until maybe the late fall or perhaps next year.  So far, I've done some new things this year.  I recently purchased a bike rack for the car and took my bike on a journey further away than usual.  I drove to the old rail-bed in the Gardiner where some windmills now take up some space in some woods there.  A road is there now and bikers have been using it. It wasn't very long but it was a very peaceful journey through a wooded area that is surprisingly quiet despite being close to a highway.  I peddled right to the end where the brook is and stopped for a break.

Before the weather turned unbearably hot for hiking, I did get out for one hike along the beaches of Forchu with a few friends.  It was a long hike but the air was cool and a refreshing ocean mist dusted my face for much of the day.  We went so far and reached a raging brook.  After contemplating the tides and weighing the pros and cons, we took our shoes off and crossed.  Not my first choice when dealing with tides but I later found out that the option to take another trail back to the highway was available if it came to that.

As we walked, I noticed some seabirds growing agitated.  Their agitation grew the further we went but I couldn't figure out why. When we walked onto a little rock causeway that led to an island that appears during low tide, the birds became frantic and that's when it occurred to me that there were nests in the area.  Sure enough, I looked only a few feet away from where I stood frozen after my realization.  Three little eggs were nestled into some grass and there were more all over the area.  We quickly and carefully left the area and they stopped following us.

We crossed over the banks of the beach onto the river side and took out a couple of beers to enjoy in the cool breeze.   A relaxing hour of just sitting and staring at the water, sky and trees mixed with a rock-skipping competition and walking-stick-balancing competition.  After the long walk back to the car, a late lunch and hot tea was enjoyed at a look-off in Forchu.  I couldn't believe I had not known of that look-off before but it looked like many people were aware of it; a tattered Cape Breton Flag lay balancing on some rocks and someone had made some little ornaments to line the top of the driveway.

I stuck around home the next evening and took in the fireworks for Coal Dust Days in New Waterford.  I desperately wanted to master the art of photographing fireworks (just one of many things I want to master taking pictures of...lightning, full moons and waterfalls are some others) and I think I finally got it!

More adventures came not long after that lovely hike in Framboise but this time I got to enjoy them with my sister who has not been home from Calgary since the summer of 2016.  A drive to Louisbourg was the first thing she wanted to do after a much-needed rest after her flight.  Of course she wanted to visit all the usual spots around the town; the lighthouse, wharf area and Fortress entrance area to get a view of the stately site.

The next day brought a trip to Nyanza to spend a few hours at the Big Spruce Brewery. I had no idea what to order as I am no expert at craft beer but when I saw someone in line ahead of me order a pink beer, I knew I had to inquire. The Silver Tart, as it's called, is a sour raspberry wheat beer and, as I soon found out, it's delicious.  The skies opened up as we sat under our giant umbrella near the edge of the forest.  But we didn't care while we sipped our refreshing beverages and listened to a talented young man sing and play guitar for us and about a dozen other patrons. On the way home that evening, we stopped in Baddeck to have a look at the boats and yachts in the harbour.  A very large super-yacht took up much of the wharf and had a familiar name on it; Casino Royale.  A google search revealed that it was a charter/rental and it could be mine for $225,000 a week.

The very next day, I had a day trip planned with a friend of mine to go swimming and taking pictures in the western part of the island near Inverness, Margaree and Cheticamp. That morning, the weather forecast didn't look too promising with some rain and possible thunderstorms predicted for that region of the island.  We went anyway.  When we arrived at Margaree Harbour, the clouds looked to be over Cheticamp and slowly heading toward Inverness.  So we headed to Inverness first.  My logic was to beat the rain and get a swim in at Inverness Beach and than by the time we headed back toward Cheticamp, the rain would be headed toward Margaree.  my plan almost worked.

Upon arrival to Inverness Beach, I changed into my swimsuit and raced toward the surf to get a swim in before the sky opened.  I swam for close to an hour before the rain drops started.  I kept swimming.  The raindrops got bigger and bigger and heavier and than, all of a sudden, we were in a monsoon.  I didn't even bother racing back to the car.  There was no chance that I or my belongings would be dry again that day. The good thing was the rain kept going the other way and by the time we made it to Cheticamp, the sun was coming out and the clouds were moving west.  After some picture-taking at Grande Falaise (where I think I finally mastered spider webs), we stopped at Wabo's Pizza for slices and deep-fried cheesecake.  We ate outside since the weather had turned nice again but I didn't realize I didn't have napkins until I was half-way through the messy cheesecake.  My friend had quite the laugh watching me quite literally get the gooey stuff all over me and my face!

That evening turned out much better than expected after the adverse weather of earlier in the day; It turned warm, calm and there was a most spectacular sunset.  The earlier part of the evening was spent with our feet in the water at Chimney Corner, taking pictures of the clear water and rippling sand.  When the flies became too much, we drove ten minutes to Margaree Harbour Beach and took some pictures of the setting sun.

An impromptu trip around the Cabot Trail happened the day before my sister was due to head back out west.  It was a quick trip around but a good one.  We got to take in some views, went on a little hike and I now know where the trail-head to Pollett's Cove is.

This summer was a bit different for me because I stayed closer to home more often than I usually do and that wasn't a bad thing.  Watching a meteor shower at Dominion Beach, following newly-hatched, endangered piping plovers while they got big and learned to fly, enjoying a beer in the evenings on my back step while listening to relaxing music (mostly from the CD I recently bought and love - Buena Vista Social Club - a band from Cuba etc), fireworks, Bayside ice creams, sunsets at the lighthouse....I didn't travel far this summer but it was, no doubt, an eventful one.  I can't say I was bored for a second. 

I always try to make it to Baddeck a few times every summer and this year, I planned my main trip to the pretty village around Festiville Baddeck which is a festival held the first Monday of July and August.  I left home early to get there in time to take a little side trip to Kidston Island where I swam and hiked for a few hours before heading to the main street to check out the vendors and enjoy some live music.  Before heading home, I sat and enjoyed a sample serving of Spruce Beer.

Just as quickly as the hot weather arrived, it turned cold again but only for a few days before the heat made it's return.  Ipersonally loved the hot weather we had.  I spent more time swimming this year than any other because the water was absolutely beautiful.  I haven't been doing as much camping lately as I usually do so when the weather turned hot again, I jumped on the opportunity to book a campsite at my home-away-from-home at Broad Cove Campground near Ingonish.  I've been booking lot 87 for many years (almost 20 now that I think about it!) but this year was the first year it wasn't available.  Someone else had it booked during the dates I wanted.  I booked lot 91 instead.  It looked nice in the pictures online and when I arrived, I was quite pleased with the site.  It was very large, it had enough trees to hang my clothesline and solar lights and there was plenty of grass to put my tent on. I booked two nights and other than a little sprinkle of rain the first day, the weather was fantastic.  I didn't do a whole lot of hiking or swimming; my intention for that trip was to relax.  I spent a lot of time walking the beaches, watching the sunset at The Point with my evening coffee from the Bean Barn, reading under candlelight and enjoying a beer in the evenings while watching the night sky. 

When the muggy, hot days turned cold, I had a hard time adjusting as I must have been used to the extreme heat.  Dominion Beach turned bad too for a few days.  Lots of seaweed, crabs and even lobsters crawling around in shallow water.  I thought swimming was done for the season but than, just like that, it cleared up and the beach was back better than it was before.  The beach was quite crowded right up to the day before the local newspaper ran an article about how a tagged Great White Shark named "Hilton" was spotted not far off the coast of Point Michaud.  The very next day, the beach was deserted. This did not deter me from continuing to swim very day until the third week of September.  

Every Labour Day weekend I head to Margaree.  Actually, it's Cap Lemoine but I call it Margaree because it's close enough.  This Labour Day weekend was no exception.  I packed up my car and headed to the Western part of the island hoping for sunshine and warm enough weather to get a late season swim in. That first day was perfect.  Warm air plus warm water at Chimney Corner and Inverness Beach meant I got a lot of swimming in that afternoon.  That evening, I enjoyed supper at a new-to-me restaurant in Cheticamp.  The restaurant has been there for years but because the word "seafood" is in the title, I never gave it a second look.  Seafood Stop is situated right before you enter the main part of the town.  It's fairly small but nice inside.  I was anxious to see the menu because I wasn't sure what I would order if only seafood dishes were available.  Fortunately, there were many non-fish options available.  I played it healthy and ordered a Caesar salad and garlic bread.  It was delicious.  I had no idea what I was missing all these years .  The only complaint I had was it was too cold because the air-conditioning was on high despite it being cool outside that evening.

The next day, supper was had at a more familiar place; Wabo's.  I had my usual, the Lasagna.  However, I skipped the deep-fried cheesecake.  It's something I try to only have once a year at most.  I was awake very early the next morning to drive my friend to catch a bus to Halifax.  An early-morning stop at the Dancing Goat was part of that early-morning journey.  I stopped in Baddeck for breakfast and a short walk around the pretty little town before heading home. 

I camped during the first week of September (and froze) and again the second week (which was surprisingly warmer).  I camped in Baddeck with a friend in her pop-up trailer.  We chose Baddeck Cabot Trail Campground.  I stayed there at as child when it was the KOA.  I don't remember what it was like back than but it's pretty nice now!  Heated pool, a cozy lodge and grassy lots.  I enjoyed my first campfire of the season that night and I was also was spooked by a large animal as I walked in a wooded area after dark.  Not sure what it was.  Left the area quickly before I could find out. 

The very next week, I got another night of camping in.  I love sleeping in a tent and try to do so as much as possible when the weather allows.  This time, I roughed it in a remote area of Richmond County instead of staying on a campground.  My dad and I had been planning a trip like this for a while and finally got it together this year and set up camp at the bottom of Ferguson Road near Framboise.  It was a the perfect spot right on the beach surrounded by rugged coastline and forest.  After a couple of beer around a campfire, I stared at the night sky filled with stars and fell asleep to the sound of waves pounding ashore and coyotes howling nearby.  Despite it being late in the season, the temperature was just right; not too hot nor too cold.  A long hike along Ferguson Beach and a trip to St. Peter's for coffee and sightseeing completed the trip.

Summer is now gone for another year.  Swimming and camping season may be ending but hiking, biking and kayaking season is in full force!

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