Sunday, June 23, 2024

The most Dreadful Day of My Trip to Alberta...Going Home

And finally that day came and I wasn't looking forward to it.  The day I had to leave the serenity of the mountains of Kananaskis Country and return to the bustling city airport in Calgary to catch a flight home to Cape Breton. 

I tried to sleep in that morning because I knew I would be awake for a while attempting to get home but that didn't happen.  I was up at the crack of dawn.  The plan was to drive my sister to work, pick her up at 3:30, come home and eat and head to Calgary right after so we could get there in enough time to check into a hotel near the airport and relax and get a bit of sleep so I could catch my early flight and my sister could be rested enough to drive to work the next morning.  Little did I know that that plan would go out the window by mid-day.

I had the news on in the car while doing my normal morning coffee run and the news out of Calgary that day wasn't good.  A major water line break was wreaking havoc on the city.  Traffic delays and water restrictions were quickly becoming an issue.  We decided it was best to wait until later in the evening to head out just before dark to avoid the city's rush hour traffic. 

I spent that afternoon packing and enjoying the peaceful mountain environment.  After supper, we watched a movie and relaxed before setting out for the city.  We didn't get checked into the hotel until after 10 PM. By time we grabbed something to eat and got ready for bed, it was near midnight.  

I barely managed to get a mere three hours sleep before my alarm sounded.  I was up and ready to go by 3:45.  Fortunately, flight check-in was right across the street and my gate was not far from there so 15 minutes was plenty to make it through security two hours before my flight. 

I'd like to say the trip home went smoothly but if I said that, I would be lying because it was anything but smooth.  Long story short: my ticket was wrong.  It said it would take 24 hours to get from Calgary to Montreal.  I had issues finding someone to help me.  It took so long to find someone that I missed the opportunity to get breakfast and ended up having no food, except for the tiny bag of pretzels Air Canada so generously includes in the $1300.00 ticket price, we were delayed 1.5 hours on the tarmac with a equipment malfunction and delayed again in Sydney when there was no one available to assist on the ground. 

I walked off that plane exhausted, hungry, thirsty and cranky and to make matters worse, my ears popped so bad, they didn't pop back to normal upon landing so I was also deaf. It was nice to be home but I was already missing the Rocky Mountains. 








The Wildlife of Kananaskis Country

While visiting with my sister and seeing her new-to-me place was a priority during my trip to Alberta, the mountains and scenery were a welcome bonus!  But there was something else that drew me to the remote area of Kananaskis and that's the wildlife.  "There are deer, elk, bears and bighorn sheep everywhere" was all I heard from anyone who was familiar with the region and I certainly wasn't disappointed on this trip when it came to the abundance of wildlife. 

As soon as we turned off the Trans Canada onto the Kananaskis Trail, we saw three deer and several bighorn sheep.  While unpacking, I heard stories from my sister and her partner about animal encounters in the area.  A neighbor's dog was injured in a cougar attack, a grizzly bear wandered through the backyard in broad daylight and black bears raided some nearby campsites. 

The second day I was there, I saw three black bears.  One mamma bear and her cub eating in someone's backyard and a huge black bear walking down a remote road. Later that same day as we watched from on top of a hill overlooking the golf course, a very large grizzly bear walked around an area where several golfers were teeing off nearby. I don't think they had any idea that the bear was in the area and the bear didn't seem to be bothered by the activity nearby. 

I was a little afraid to drive by myself after my sister went back to work.  There were so many animals wandering onto the road at all hours of the day, I was scared I would hit one and damage her car or one of the sheep would turn and attack the car as I tried to get by them.  Those bighorn sheep like to block traffic and honking, waving and yelling does nothing to get them to move any quicker or budge an inch so you can get by.  They move when they feel like it.  Sometimes they move and several others will run out of the woods from the other side and sometimes they turn around and look like they are going to start kicking or head bunting the car. 

Here at home, the whitetail deer either run out in front of cars or stand in the middle of the road.  They are constantly getting hit!  But in Kananaskis, the deer just stayed in the ditch nibbling on grass.  I didn't see any on the road at all.  

Grey squirrels are certainly plentiful in Kananaskis but it was there strange behavior that caught my attention.  In the mornings, the little squirrels were lined up along the highway on their hind legs and facing the sun.  Not sure why they were doing this but it was definitely a cute and funny thing to see.

Although I had seen a grizzly on the golf course, it was so far away, I couldn't get a decent picture.  I kept hoping to see another one from a safe but closer distance and I finally did get that chance.  I dropped my sister off at work and drove to the entrance of Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.  I noticed a car pulled over to the side of the road and two people with cameras looking in a grassy area.  I scanned the area looking for whatever it was that caught their attention and there it was; a large grizzly bear calmly eating some grass and making it's way across the field to a little stream. 


 

An afternoon of Fly-fishing in Kananaskis Country

For several years now, I've listened to my sister talk about her and her partner's fly-fishing adventures in the Kananaskis back-country and have admired her photos from afar on social media.  When she came home for a visit last year, I got a chance to go fishing with her but one of the things I knew I wanted to do during my visit to Alberta was to go fly-fishing in one of her favorite spots in the mountains. 

On my third day in Kananaskis Country, I got to do that.  We got up early, packed up some gear and headed to a nearby trail where one of her favorite fishing spots was located.  I, unfortunately, ended up with a bad cold and was sick as a dog that day but after popping some Advil Cold and Flu, I felt ready to hike the relatively short distance to this fishing hole. 

We hiked for about 40 minutes through thick forest with stunning views of the river and surrounding mountains.  It was a relaxing hike except for when the thought of grizzly bears crossed my mind.  At home, I don't have to worry about anything eating me while I'm hiking but in Alberta, you have cougars, wolves, black bears and grizzly bears to worry about.  I had seen a number of bears in the area the previous day so, naturally, I was checking behind me more frequently than normal. 

When we reached our destination, I stood in awe at the view and knew immediately why my sister had chosen this spot as one of her favorites.  I could sit there all day just taking in that fresh mountain air.  There were no other people around, the only sound was the sound of the leaves rustling in the trees and the river flowing.  My kind of place. 

I tried a little bit of fishing but was mostly content to just sit on a nearby rock and watch my sister do her thing.  We didn't get any bites that day but neither of us cared.  We just wanted to get away in the wilderness and enjoy the peace and quiet of the natural surroundings. 


There's Nothing like a Morning Drive Through the Mountains

I knew my time with my sister would be limited as she had to return to work while I was still there. She allowed me to use her car while she was gone as long as I drove her to work in the morning and picked her up again in the afternoon.  I didn't mind that at all!  It was an excuse for me to go for a drive through the mountains with my morning coffee. 

Although I was sick with a cold, I still managed to get up at 6 AM, take some cold medicine and get an early start to the adventures of the day.  For three mornings, we left the house at 7:30, I dropped her off at work and than kept driving towards the Trans Canada Highway.  I didn't turn off onto the highway but instead pulled into the Gas Station / Tim Hortons that was located right before it.  I grabbed my breakfast and some coffee, gassed up and headed back the way I came from.  Instead of going back to homebase, I kept driving to Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.  After June 15th, you can keep driving further into the backcountry but that section of highway was closed during my visit so that was as far as I could go. 

Every morning, I'd see so much wildlife along the road.  Black bears, deer, bighorn sheep.  It wasn't until the second day that I finally saw what I had wanting to see since I got there; a grizzly bear.

I saw a grizzly on the Kananaskis Golf Course a few days earlier but it was so far away, I couldn't even get a picture of it.  This bear on this day was so close, I didn't feel safe wandering any more than a foot away from my car.  And I made sure to leave the door open too!  

The bear was wandering in a field close to the entrance of the provincial park.  Several other people were already stopped to take pictures.  The bear looked calm and content as it sniffed the ground and inched towards some trees at the edge of the field. For a few seconds, the bear sprinted and I had a chance to see just how fast these huge, powerful animals can run.  I was glad I met him like this and not on a remote trail in the forest.  

I made this drive every morning for three days but I stopped at different points-of-interest every day.  Once I stopped at Barrier Lake to sit by the water and drink my coffee, another time I drove up a road to see where it went and another time I just sat and admired the beauty of the area.  I always made it back to homebase by noon where I spent the afternoons relaxing in the backyard hammock or catching up on emails.  At 3 PM, I left to pick up my sister and from there we would head home to have supper and relax for the evening.  


 


A Rocky Mountain Road Trip - Camore, Banff and onto Field, British Columbia

My sister works full time just a few minutes down the road from her house but she was able to get several days off to spend with me.  On her last day off, we decided to take a drive to the British Colombia border and spend time in the little town of Field British Columbia.  

Along the way, we stopped in Canmore Alberta to admire the stunning mountain town known for its beautiful alpine architecture and stunning scenery. 

Next, it was on to Banff Alberta.  I wanted to stop there because I enjoyed wandering around the little mountain town the last time I visited.  My sister gave me a weird look when I suggested we go there.  "Why would you want to go there?  It's overrun with tourists.  trust me, it's nothing like you remember it !"  I shrugged off her comment and said I still wanted to go and check out some cafes and shops.  I was there five minutes and begged her to leave.  While it's still a beautiful mountain town, it's no longer a place I wish to spend any time in.  The older I get, the less I like crowds and the more I want to be away from as many people as possible.  In Banff, there are people and cars everywhere!  

Since we were in the area, I asked my sister is we could check out Moraine Lake and Lake Louise.  Once again, I got the same strange look but she agreed to check them out. We arrived at the road to Lake Louise to learn that you can no longer drive up to the lake and the only way to get there is to get a shuttle from a parking lot where the fee to park is 35 dollars.  I said "no thanks" and we hightailed it out of the area and back onto the Trans Canada Highway towards B.C. I had already experienced Lake Louise and Moraine Lake the last time I was in Alberta so there was really no need to see it again.  Besides, the lakes of Kananaskis Country are just as beautiful but without the crowds.  

A little ways up the highway near the border between Alberta and British Columbia we stopped at what looked like a rest stop.  We got out to stretch our legs and take in some of the pretty scenery and noticed that it was actually a historical site called Spiral Tunnels dedicated to the history of the train tunnels that dotted the side of the nearby mountains.  As luck would have it, a train happened to be passing by and we were able to witness it passing through one of these distant tunnels as if it were driving right into the mountain!

Upon arrival in Field, we planned to hike to nearby Takakkaw Falls British Columbia
which is the second tallest waterfall in Canada.  I was looking forward to the short hike to this beautiful natural wonder but we arrived to discover that the road leading to the trail to the falls was closed until June 15th. 


I was just a little over a week too early. 

We decided that since we drove that far, we would make the most out of it and see what we could of the area. We parked the car on a dead end street and began walking when I noticed that a small crowd of people gathered on the grass and taking pictures of something in a backyard. I scanned the area and stopped on a small black mass.  It was moving but it wasn't until a passerby said "did you see the little bear?  Mother is over there behind the tree." A mother bear and her cub were feeding so close to people seemingly unbothered by the paparazzi that gathered to admire them. Even if this was all I got to see that day, that long drive would have been worth it!


 

We drove around the area randomly and happened upon a little park at the end of a road.  The sign indicated that it was an area where two different colors of freshwater converged.  Seemed interesting enough to check out so we climbed down a little embankment to the riverbank and witnessed more stunning scenery.  Of course, this area of the country has no shortage of such views but it's always nice to accidentally find these hidden places where there are no crowds.  



 

On the way back to Kananaskis, we stopped in Lake Louise to eat at the Station Restaurant.  My sister ate there years before and said it was good and sometimes the trains pass by while you're eating.  No trains passed during our meal but the food was very good and the atmosphere was peaceful unlike many of the other restaurants in the area. 


 

We arrived home quite late and sat outside watching the forest for wildlife.  The squirrels and birds were busy and a deer passed by in the distance.  That night I noticed something peculiar that I hadn't noticed the previous night; the sky stays bright very late in Alberta.  At 10:00, it was still light out!  Now that was something that took some getting used to!



 




Saturday, June 22, 2024

My first Full Day in Beautiful Kananaskis Country

I awoke fairly early on that first morning in Kananaskis Country despite having not slept for so long in the days previously. We had some breakfast and retreated to the backyard where there were some benches, hammocks and a fire pit.  I couldn't believe how calm and quiet it was!  All I could hear was a light wind rustling the treetops, some birds chirping and a ground squirrel nibbling on an acorn. My sister kept complaining about how cold it was but to me, it was just right.  I just came from Atlantic Canada where the air was damp, heavy and chill to the bone.  The dry mountain air was a welcoming relief. 

That first day, we went for a hike to troll falls.  I am used to long hikes but after a day of traveling, this relatively short and easy hike was perfect for my first full day in The Rockies. The first leg of the trail snaked through some dense forest with towering trees and thick canopy to keep the hot sun out.  

It didn't take too long to reach the picturesque waterfall.  There were signs everywhere telling people to avoid certain areas due to erosion and rock slides but the area immediately behind the waterfall looked safe so I took my chances.  I wandered behind the falls while the cool water sprayed my face.  It was like the walk that takes you behind Niagara Falls, but without the dense crowds.  

We climbed up another steep part of the trail to reach another little waterfall called Marmot Falls. The climb down to the main part of the trail was easier then the climb up and when we reached the fork in the trail, we took a different way back to the parking lot.  This time, we passed through an open meadow on the edge of the forest. The views of the mountains bordering the area were spectacular. I am used to walking fast at home because I am usually walking to work or walking for exercise.  Here, there was no reason to walk fast.  I wasn't in a hurry to get anywhere.  I enjoyed the slow pace while just enjoying the views and the fresh mountain air. 


 


 




The Journey From the Atlantic Coast to the Stunning Rocky Mountains of Alberta

I am one of very few Cape Bretoners who never lived or worked in Alberta Canada but both of my sisters and many of my extended family members and friends either have or still do live there.  That means I have a strong connection to the province.  Currently, it's the Calgary Alberta region that has the strongest connection to me as my sister and her partner currently live and work about an hour from there in a remote area of the Canadian Rockies known as Kananaskis Country.  This is where I recently went on a week-long vacation and loved it so much that I think I'll make Alberta travel a priority.  I've been longing to get back there to see the mountains again.  After all, it had been nearly 16 years!  I felt 2024 was a good time to return.

 I searched and searched for flight deals but found nothing.  I was surprised at the prices as they were so much higher than the last time I traveled to Alberta. I booked my flight about a month in advance with the rest of my Airmiles.  It was my first time flying in six years.  I was used to going on vacation somewhere far at least once a year but due to various things (work, Covid) I didn't go anywhere for a really long time. I was a little anxious because I didn't know what to expect.  All I heard from others who traveled recently and from the news was stories about flight delays, cancellations and other travel-related issues.  Fortunately, the flight to Calgary was mostly fine.  My flight was from Toronto to Calgary was cancelled but swiftly rebooked about 45 minutes later than the original flight.  Not a huge deal. 

My sister was waiting for me when I arrived and we immediately headed for the Trans Canada Highway and left the big city behind.  I saw the city skyline as we drove towards the Rocky Mountains.  That was enough for me.  Urban sprawl was the last thing on my mind; I couldn't wait to get to the remote tranquility of Kananaskis Country in the midst of some of the most beautiful scenery in the entire country. 

I wanted to sleep during the drive since I hadn't slept in over 24 hours by that poin but I was so excited to see the Rocky Mountains getting bigger and bigger as we drove towards them that I was unable to close my eyes.  The first time I drove that stretch of highway many years earlier, I was so struck by the beauty of those towering peaks that tears welled in my eyes.  

Once we found our way out of the city, the drive took about an hour.  I was looking forward to seeing my sister's current living arrangements as I'd only seen pictures.  I knew we had arrived when I saw the sign for Mt. Kidd RV Park.  Off to the side of the park was a small community of people who worked in the area and were able to live a cozy little neighborhood surrounded by snow-capped mountain peaks and thick forest. 

I instantly fell in love with her place.  So many memories of her and her partner's outdoor adventures were plastered all over the cozy dwelling.  Pictures, maps, souvenirs and knick knacks made it almost museum-like.  I spent much of the first while there just looking around and feeling happy that my sister had found someone to share these incredible adventures with. 

I knew I needed rest but I also thought it better to try and maintain a normal schedule.  That meant going to sleep around my normal time. 

After a tour of her home, some unpacking and a quick bite to eat, we took a drive around the Kananaskis region to get me familiar with it.  I was awestruck by the beauty but even more awestruck by that fact that there was hardly any people around!  I knew instantly that this was my kind of place; Serene natural surroundings to enjoy mostly all to myself!




Sunday, May 12, 2024

Chasing the Northern Lights in Cape Breton

It was a chilly fall night about 25 years ago.  Myself and some friends were driving on the dark, lonely highway towards Main-a-dieu on Cape Breton Island when something in the sky caught my eye.  Without thinking, I hit the brake and stared wide-eyed in fear at the strange dancing lights in the night sky ahead of me.  Silence fell over us until a voice from the back seat yelled "let's get the hell out of here".  He didn't have to tell me twice.  I turned around and with tires squealing, I sped in the opposite direction. We were convinced it was some kind of alien invasion or otherworldly catastrophic event.

Having never seen anything like that before, it was only natural that fear would be the initial reaction.  Now I know what I saw that night and when an opportunity arises to experience that again, I race towards it, not away from it.  

I now know what I saw that night all those years ago; I witnessed the incredible Northern Lights, otherwise known as the Aurora Borealis. 

Being a rare occurrence this far south, my sightings of the Northern Lights were limited to Instagram photos and tourism brochures for far-flung destinations.  I always wanted to go to Iceland or Northern Canada to see the lights and often looked up information about these destinations.  Those brochures always came with plenty of awe-inspiring images. Until recently, I never witnessed them again in the night skies above Cape Breton Island. 

It was just over a year ago that I discovered a Facebook page and associated app that was tracking sightings of the Northern Lights over Nova Scotia. Of course, I started to follow the alerts closely.  Every now and then, excited group members would post that the levels were alleviated and conditions were ideal for sightings.  Almost every time I saw these alerts, I'd get my camera gear ready and head out to a dark place to watch...and watch. Usually, it was too cloudy or there was just nothing there to see.  Sometimes I'd see members posting pictures of their sightings and realize that they'd been out earlier or later than me.  

Finally, I got my chance on May 10th.  The alerts came as usual but they came with the added alerts from local, national and even international news that the Northern Lights would be visible in many places that are normally too south to see them.  A solar storm was brewing and it was set to ignite the skies with a spectacular show that would be seen in many places all over the world.  Cape Breton was highlighted on the map as one of those places that had a high chance of witnessing this show. 

I got my camera gear ready, dressed warm and headed to a dark spot to wait and watch.  My first stop was Dominion Beach.  For a while, I saw nothing.  I wasn't sure if it was my eyes playing tricks on me but the sky started to turn a funny color.  I snapped a picture and posted it to the group; they were convinced it was the Northern Lights.  It wasn't quite dark enough to know for sure if that was what I was seeing.  I left and drove to Victoria Mines and set up in my Dad's backyard. I focused on the sky to the North. And there it was. The distinct green, purple and pink streaks flowing through the night sky.  I stood there in awe taking in the beautiful spectacle in front of me.  

My excitement was overwhelming which many people would find strange.  "It's just some lights" some would say.  But for a person like myself who thrives on new experiences and has deep a connection to the natural world, this was something that could not be taken for granted.  I get overly-excited over the littlest things.  Well, they're big things to me even if they are mundane to everyone else.  That's just who I am. 

A text alert on my phone snapped me out of sky -viewing mode.  A friend had seen the alert I posted earlier that day on Facebook reminding everyone to look north and she was wondering if I had seen the lights.  I sent her some of my pictures and she excitedly decided to head out to see them too.  I know I have a true match in a friendship when someone gets this excited about these little things that excite me.  It was 11:30 PM, close to my usual bedtime.  But in case you don't know me by now, my motto in life is "plenty of time to sleep when I'm dead....the time to live is now".  I never turn down an opportunity. I jumped in the car and met my friend in River Ryan where we got the Grand Finale of the Northern Lights show.  The green and purple lights danced over Lingan Bay for several minutes before stopping altogether.  Another example of how life often takes unexpected turns; for a day that started in the most mundane of ways, it ended as an unforgettable night.










Monday, April 8, 2024

The Great Solar Eclipse of 2024

I first heard that there would be a solar eclipse a few months ago.  At first, I didn't think it was a big deal since most times, these celestial events can't be viewed from my region of the world anyway so I just tossed it aside as something I would miss or, at the very least, see on TV. 

When I heard Cape Breton would be in the path of totality, that really caught my attention! I started researching the event and soon, I was all onboard. I bought a few pairs of those funny-looking eclipse glasses and some camera phone filters, dug out some filters and tripods for my Canon and put in a request at work for a vacation day.

Well, the day has arrived.  With my vacation day approved only days ago, my equipment ready by the door the night before and a promising forecast of clear skies and decent temperatures, I headed off into the afternoon sunlight to wait the darkness.

I choose Dominion Beach as my final destination.  While my area of Cape Breton wasn't directly in the path of totality, it was close.  Many people headed to Meat Cove at the Northern Tip of the island which was in the direct path.  If it was summer and there wasn't a concern about adverse weather, heavy traffic and crowds, I would have gone there too but Northern Cape Breton is not always a nice place to be this time of year!

I parked my car near the gate of the Dominion Beach Provincial Park and walked about a kilometer to a flat, high area where I would get the perfect view of the entire event. I set up my cameras and got everything else ready and by the time I put my glasses on for the first time, a little sliver of the sun was already gone. 

All that effort to set up cameras and dig out filters and tripods for them wasn't all that worth it.  Not because the eclipse wasn't as expected because it was fabulous!  It was because I didn't have the right settings and it was too damn cold to start playing around with buttons and dials.  I tried for a bit and gave up.  As much as I wanted to capture some great shots, I also wanted to just sit and enjoy the show. 

The best picture I could get. It was just too cold to figure out the settings on my camera, so I just focused on actually enjoying the show instead. 
 

And enjoy I did.  I watched as it got darker and darker and the crows got all messed up and set off to roost in their favorite spot on the Sydney waterfront. I stayed right to the end despite not being able to feel my hands mid-way through. 

I gathered my things and made the long journey back to the car and as the sun grew bright again, a bittersweet thought came to mind; how lucky I was to have experienced it and how I may not experience another one in my lifetime.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

I'm Really Making the Most out of all this Snow!

Cape Breton is known for it's harsh winters especially when it comes to those raging blizzards in February and March.  However, the last few years, we haven't had a good ol' fashioned blizzard with a lot of snow and that meant no snowshoing these past 2 years.  

As much as I cursed the huge dumping of fresh snow we received here last weekend, I learned to embrace it and make the most out of it.  After the shoveling was done, I set my eyes on finding some fresh snow to snowshoe and I did find the perfect spot...and the very next day, I was able to go snowshoeing again in another perfect spot.  Imagine!  Snowshoeing twice in a row after a two-year hiatus!

As the temperatures climbed all morning and into the afternoon, I decided to head to Dominion Beach to try out the snow there.  It was 6 degrees and sunny when I arrived and I was afraid the snow had already melted or wouldn't be suitable for snowshoeing.  I parked at the main gate and all I saw was seaweed and sand but no snow.  I was assured by a friend that there was, indeed, plenty of snow once I got passed the bridge and sure enough, after trekking over rocks and mud, I was able to put my snowshoes on and trudge down the middle of the sandbar. 

I made it right to the end of the beach without having to remove my snowshoes and it was perfect!  I had the beach all to myself and was able to enjoy the warm sun until it sunk into the horizon to produce a spectacular sunset.  All the while, I enjoyed the soothing sound of the waves rolling ashore and seagulls flying overhead.  Geese gathered in the bay and made for pretty pictures and I spent some time studying the various animal tracks in the snow.  Hard to believe deer cross this sandbar because I never see them but their footprints are there!

It was almost dark when I got back to my car.  To be honest, I didn't want to leave at all.  I could have stayed out there all night!  Another storm is predicted to hit mid-week.  I'm hoping it doesn't impact us like the last one but I also hope we get enough of it so those of us who love being outdoors in the winter can enjoy it a little longer.



Saturday, February 10, 2024

The Calm After the Big Storm

Well, much can be said about the last week but I'll sum it up with this: SNOWMAGEDDON Cape Breton version.  If you watch the news at all, you likely heard of the monster snowfall we received here over a period of 3 days.  160 centimetres. Record-breaking, in fact.  It made the national news and I think it even made international news.  Long story short, it took me three days to dig out (at one point I couldn't even find my car as it was completely buried!) and some people are still trying to clear their driveways as of me writing this. I had entire week off work due to the state of local emergency we found ourselves in. Nothing like a surprise, paid winter vacation!  Too bad I can barely move my arms from all the shoveling. 

As with everything bad, something positive always comes out of it, and this monster storm was no exception.  Once I was able to get my car out of my driveway and safely navigate the streets, I set out to finding a place to finally enjoy my snowshoes after two winters with barely enough snow to use them. When mother nature makes snow, I make fun! 

I set out with my father on a sunny, warm day and hit the trail in the nearby community of Lingan. It was so warm, I had to remove my jacket and gloves!  Such a relief after the fury we experienced for those three days earlier in the week.  

The trail started out good with heavy, untouched snow and a smooth passage onto the pathway through the forest.  It didn't stay that way, though.  I had not taken this trail since before hurricane Fiona came through last year.  I should have known there would be windfalls and debris.  Let me tell you, navigating fallen trees in snowshoes is quite the challenge.

We made it to the clearing where several wind turbines and an old fort are and took in the white landscape set against the deep blue sea.  The Newfoundland ferry was going by and it made a nice picture but as I was lining up my shot, Dad noticed something at the cliff edge.  "It looks like a deer" I heard him say in a whisper as he crept a little to the right and forward to get a better look.  Sure enough, it was a deer and although it noticed us, it didn't seem bothered by our presence.  We took a few pictures and pressed ahead toward the old fort.  

Once inside, dad went to one of the windows to get a better view of the deer.  "Come here, there are three more deer on the slope just below the other one!".  I crept closer to get a better look and accidentally stepped on some gravel and glass that made a loud crunching sound under my snowshoes and off they went!  "One, two, five, six, eight....nine deer" dad proclaimed.  Luckily, I had my camera set on video ready to take a scenic video of the area and I hit "play" as they took off across the field.  

The trail might have been a bit difficult that day but it was worth the effort just for that sighting! 









Friday, February 2, 2024

Hiking Along Cape Breton's Coal Town Trail

I've hiked many trails around Cape Breton, mostly in the Highlands National Park and around Victoria County but in recent years, I've made a point of trying out some of the trails closer to home, namely the ones close to my hometown of New Waterford and around the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. 

I've posted many times about my hiking adventures on the turbine road in The Gardiner and recently I crossed Gardiner Road and ventured alone the trail that leads to The Sandbar Restaurant in Dominion.  Yesterday, I decided to pick up on that trail where I left off and see how far I get along the Coal Town Trail on the leg that travels from that restaurant and into the other nearby communities of Bridgeport and Glace Bay. 

I went to work as usual and when my request for half a personal day was approved, I headed out at noon to pick up a friend and parked the car near the trailhead. I was excited at the fact that I had no idea what to expect along the way.  This is what I love about hiking new trails!

There was no wind but it wasn't a warm day by any means.  Below zero but comfortable with the sun peaking out here and there and our warm weather gear keeping us warm.  We hadn't walked far at all when we spotted out first nature sighting.  We heard it before we saw it.  High up in a tree was a woodpecker pecking away at a tree trunk! 

The trail started off in a kind of woodsy area but eventually opened up into a more urban landscape.  Sure there were fields, trees and streams but the backs of houses were only feet away from the trail in some spots.  Despite this, it was surprisingly calm and quiet except for the odd dog barking as we passed a little too close.  There were horses too and some fantastic ocean views from the higher elevations. 

We walked and walked and walked.  We crossed main roads and walked along quaint neighborhoods that I didn't even know existed.  After we walked for about two hours, we pondered turning around but curiosity got the better of us and we kept going around another bend to see what was next.  And than another bend and another....until we reached a dog park and a large pond with some benches.  We stopped for a rest and when the wind shifted and the air started to cool as the sun started to set, we turned back and made the long journey back to the car.  

It was dark and cold when we got back but also energized from all the fresh air and exercise.  It was decided right than and there that I would take another early day soon but next day we would park by that pond where we ended our hike and start up again there as the trail keeps going beyond that point.  I never leave a trail unfinished and this one will be no exception!



Friday, November 24, 2023

A Late Autumn Hike to Uisge Ban Falls

There's something about late fall hikes.  The cool air, the light snow flurries, the intermittent sun peaking behind those heavy, fluffy fall clouds and the lack of flies and other annoying insects.  I mean, yes, you have to bundle up and trek through some mud and slippery fallen leaves, but the air is crisp and light with temperatures that aren't so hot that you walk at a snail's pace and not so cold that you're too stiff to move. 

The day my friend and I took a hike to Uisge Ban Falls near Baddeck, we experienced such a day.  A perfect day we'll call it.  There was hardly anyone else hiking that day so that was an added bonus.  I like being in the woods without crowds of people to disrupt the peace and quiet so I can hear the trees rustling, the birds chirping and the raging waters of the river and waterfall. 

The trail isn't all that long but we stretched it out for two hours, stopping to take photos and admire the views along the way.  We reached those beautiful falls and just hung around there for a while taking in the sights and sounds of nature before heading back to civilization. 

Our hike was followed by a walk around of the nature campground that I never noticed was in this park before and a delicious lunch at a cafe along the highway.  Winter is approaching fast and I'm hoping to get as many days in like this as possible before we are snowed in!

Monday, October 9, 2023

A Delightful Summer-like Fall Day in Southeast Cape Breton

What a fall we are having here in Cape Breton.  A fall that seems like a late summer!  And you know it's great weather when even the southeast coast of the island is warm, sunny and without the usual fog and wind.  

I took advantage of a lovely day with temperatures predicted to reach 23 degrees with sun and light winds.  I headed to the Framboise area for some hiking and beachcombing. 

I love this area of the island because it's remote and there's never anyone around so it's the perfect place to unwind and get away from it all.  I started the day with a scenic drive all the way to Grand River and backtracked to the long, narrow gravel road that leads to Blue Lake and a pristine ocean coastline that I knew I'd have all to myself. 

I walked along the ocean in the sand until it became to hard too walk and crossed the dunes to walk along the lake.  I intended to walk as far as I could see, switching back and forth between ocean beach and lakeside beach but I found a lovely little beach along the lake where the dunes were high enough to block the wind coming off the ocean.  This is where I sat for a rest.  

Well, that rest ended up taking 3 hours!  That place was so relaxing, quiet and scenic that I couldn't get myself to leave.  I sipped on a cold beer and skipped some rocks in the lake but mostly just laid in the sand watching the eagles soar above and the white fluffy clouds go by.  

When I finally decided to get going, the sun was low in the sky and it was too late to keep hiking in the direction I had been going if I wanted to be back to my car before dark. I instead drove to St. Peter's for a coffee before heading home along the Bras d'Or lakes...grateful to have been able to enjoy another summer-like day this late in the year. 



A Day Trip to Jersey Cove with some Detours to Ingonish, Wreck Cove and Tarbotvale

It's well into October and the weather is still beautiful here in Cape Breton! I certainly picked a good week to use up some of that vacation time I have left and I've been using that time wisely.  Swimming in the ocean, enjoying sunsets and moon rises and embarking on mini road trips whenever I can.  I went on one such fall road trip the other day. 

Jersey Cove is only about an hour away from home which means I get a nice drive to the country without spending a lot of time to get there.  However, when I arrived, my friend who has her trailer set up there for the summer had other things in mind when I stopped in for a visit. "Get in my car.  We are going for a drive to Ingonish". As I'm sure you know by now if you've been reading this blog for a while, I'm not one to turn down a drive anywhere let alone one to one of my favourite places in the whole world!

We did eventually make it to Ingonish but not before making a few stops along the way.  Some coffee and delicious crepes at the Dancing Moose Cafe and a visit to a new-to-me remote beach  in Wreck Cove.  I love exploring places I've never been to and it amazes me how many places I have yet to explore on this little island!

In Ingonish, we hit all the usual stops; Ingonish Beach, The Point, Broad Cove Campground (I was interested in seeing how many tenters were still around in case I wanted to embark on one last solo camping mission before winter) and a drive around the grounds of the Keltic Lodge.  

On the way home, we made a last-minute detour before arriving back at the trailer.  Instead of going straight to the campground, we turned right towards St. Anne's and then made another right onto the gravel road to Tarbotvale.  Years ago, as I was exploring the back roads of Cape Breton, I drove up an old wood road and found some amazing scenery but was never able to find the road again.  After searching all summer for that road, I had a feeling it might be this one so we took a chance and drove up it.  I immediately recognized the views and knew that this was the road I had taken years ago.  A sense of nostalgia came over me but also relief as I had often wondered over the years if I dreamed about finding that place or if I simply couldn't remember where it was. 

It was almost dark when I headed home across the channel on the little car ferry, over Kelly's mountain, across the Seal Island Bridge and along that long stretch of highway that led me home again. 


  

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