Gaspereau River Trail – Annapolis Valley

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The obstacle is the path.  – Zen Proverb

It was a day off and I had planned to take advantage of it as you need to do here.  A positive weather forecast means get up and go before it changes.  On the other hand, bad forecasts have been known to not happen as the cloud and rain gods suddenly changed course at the last moment opening up the beauty of a blue sky.

Sometimes you just have to go on intuition.  The initial sky didn’t even look like spring with weird shadows and ominous premonitions of bad things to come.  All of that changed as the day went on and a hot day rolled in.  Going from the South Shore to the Annapolis Valley can affect lovely changes in only one hour as the rough Atlantic can often take a bite out of the temperature, breathing wind and fog into the atmosphere like an invisible cold-breathing dragon.

So I headed out regardless with a light zip up on but no jacket.  There was some wind at first that permeated my clothes and I quickly regretted my choice but soon after it was hot and I was down to a T-shirt.  Such is life in Nova Scotia.

I live and work on the South Shore and Halifax and both have their perks but I always feel more relaxed and at peace in the valley.  There is something about softly sloping valley green mixed with mellow people and the fertile, nurturing land that makes one feel that everything will be all right.  Add to this vineyards and magnificent cliffs, red coasts and old houses interspersed with plentiful fields or quiet parks and you have it all.

Every time I go there I feel calmer and better.  There are vistas over hill and vale that I feel I should have spent much more money to get to.  One person I know says this is the best place they have ever been to.  I would say it is up there in my top ten and I don’t even know what the other nine even are.

I had another split lunch at the Old Orchard Inn with a view of the best place in Nova Scotia which is Cape Blomidon . P1010821 P1010822 P1010824

It was a bit pricey but it was a place I had heard about for years.  It had one of the best views of any restaurant in the area.  The pulled pork was not bad and the fries were better than average.  According to one server it was because they were hot and they used good oil.  They were not made on the premises as another server said.P1010840 P1010842 P1010845 P1010849

All but one wine was from Nova Scotia.  That is becoming more the trend here and in fact if I see the opposite case I am not impressed.  Local food with local wine or beer is the best case scenario.

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Cape Blomidon is like Canada’s Uluru Rock as far as I am concerned.  it is a large reddish jutting piece of land that seems to exude mystical powers and you will be hearing about it in future posts for sure.

In the parking lot I found out you could take hot air balloon trips over the area even though I had never seen any.P1010856

After that it was on to the highlight of the trip – a hike along the Gaspereau River which I had read about in Hiking Trails of Nova Scotia.  Many moons ago I was lucky enough to go tubing down this river with a friend whose grandmother lived on the river and had inner tubes for us all.  This is another thing that can be arranged for tourists I believe.  Update:  Today I overheard a server saying she rented a tube for $5 for the day and started at Lumsden Dam which may be where I parked for this walk.

Somehow I turned out ill prepared for this hike.  I had no backpack but used a cloth bag over my shoulder for the basics which were whittled down to  my camera, cellphone and a small water bottle.  I thought about if I was on a deserted island and could only take one item….So in this case Item X (the must have) would have been the camera.  The cellphone turned out to be useless beyond the parking lot.  On the island I may have found a water source so throw that out.  The camera would be most necessary for the selfies and the blog post you would write after you were rescued.  Maybe some would have picked matches or something else.  Hmm?  What good would they be if you survived but came back with a pictureless blog post I ask you?  (Bloggers’ joke)

It wasn’t that hot as there was plenty of shade so the water wasn’t so necessary.  What I didn’t have and realized might be a necessity on a shaded trail next to a river, was insect repellent.  It was June after all and those little critters begin to run rampant.  I began to feel like the dumbest hiker in the world although truth is I often get away without much repellent somehow.  But often I am by the ocean and the wind takes care of things.

While traveling at home I  tend to have travel mates who dislike hiking so I was going this one alone.  One gym going friend reckons it’s like regular exercise but with extra hassles.  She doesn’t get it.

There were two large trucks in the parking lot which made me wonder who I might encounter on the trail.  The sense of going solo down an unknown track conjures up images of fairy tales or Game of Thrones.  You never know what will happen in the wild but I am always more concerned about the human animals than the other kind. I was on the look out during this hike.  My ears were as perked as a doe’s would be.

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Meanwhile I was going photo crazy here in a frantic state I rarely find myself in (you’ve been warned).  I was taking nonstop photos barely checking my footing.  I could have easily have fallen on the roots and rocks, tumbled into the rivulets and muck.  Luckily I didn’t.

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What I liked about this trail were the obstacles and barriers, the need for quick-footedness, the skill of picking a path through wet zones and well-planned detours up the slope or over root systems.  You had to think out your moves like a chess game.  And what worked in one direction may have needed tweaking on the way back.

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From the guidebook I was prepared for quagmires and steep slopes but I’m not sure I got far enough for the steep slopes.  I found muck and puddles and I had to detour up the slope sometimes but not too high up.  There were many places where you had to walk on rocks and boards or branches.  The day before it had rained heavily but actually most of the trail was surprisingly dry.  I had many challenges and I think that a lot of this trail is wet no matter when you go as water flows through it in regular intervals.  I saw small waterfalls and mini streams coming down from the high slope next to river.

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There were hardwoods and softwoods which felt almost as different as being in the tropics as I am used to maples and evergreens in many areas I frequent.  There were areas with slate pieces which was also very different.  One area looked almost as if it had been once used for an Indian ritual at some point.  The layers of thin stone were not something I had seen often.

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From time to time there were fallen trees to be negotiated.  Some created freaky forest sculptures.

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The ducks were so calm when I came upon them.  They didn’t move when others would have at such a close proximity.  Butterflies nearly flew in my face making this feel like virgin territory that had hardly encountered humans.  The icing on the cake were the light blue forget-me-nots and purple flowers by the riverside.

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In the end there were not enough boards or other life rafts over this patch of mud and water and after much thought and study I decided I had to turn back.  I reluctantly gave up.  I saw footprints filled with water and knew it was hopeless.  There were two choices and both looked risky and dirty.  I would love to come back though either after a long dry spell or with old sneakers I could muck up.

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There were no scary men luckily.  When I returned  one was putting his boat on his truck and he looked harmless.  He had been on a different part of the river.  Just another nature lover enjoying the river.  I had had the place all to myself as it turned out. I had mostly felt peaceful and alone but there was an underlying current.  Two girls were dosing up with repellent and hit the trail just as I drove out.  I wondered how far they would get and was curious as to what guidebook they were carrying.

So in the end I had not encountered any scary guys nor even much interaction with tiny buzzing and biting foes.  My muck factor wasn’t even too bad considering the landscape and the previous day’s rainfall.

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I had made it past the obstacles and challenges and came out renewed and happy.  This state was reflected back to me back at the beginning when I stopped to take one last look at the unmoving looking glass that stared back at me challenging me to think about why I had gone in there in the first place.  What did I see or feel?

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It was my lone self making it through a challenging path alone using my wits and instincts.  I felt a bit of fear and trepidation about what I may encounter  but I continued anyway.  Would I trip or meet a stranger on the path?  Would I be bitten or stuck in unseen mud?  In the end I knew when it was time to give up and turn back but I enjoyed the wonder I saw and felt while on the path.  The new sights surrounded me and overtook all of my senses.  The air was filled with the myriad bird songs mixed with a back beat of river or side streams or even a waterfall.  I was never truly alone.  Perhaps I will try to go further another time.  I hope to see what lies beyond the impasse.  I want to make it to the end.

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Kentville – Loop Town

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It’s the circle of life, and it moves us all through despair and hope, through faith and love.  Till we find our place on the path unwinding.
– The Lion King

It was another fine day in Kentville.  More than seven months since the sun warmed my skin and things were soft, green and alive.  The last time I was there I discovered a lovely park a short walk from the downtown with ducks in an over sized pond and a nice circular path through tall grasses.

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Nearby I discovered the main free parking area  was hosting a farmers’ market midweek with produce, French pastries and even Korean food in a small town in the valley.  I discovered the market only because I heard a band playing while walking with the dogs and ducks.  In travel one should follow their ears or nose as much as possible so as to be led into serendipitous situations.

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I had just come from a temporary exhibit at the museum which featured many Japanese items brought back by a woman who had been living there for over a decade.  She had collected kimonos, dolls and various other curios and I wondered how she would adapt to life back in a small town in the midst of farming country.  She had enough items to fill the museum space so she had obviously spent lots of time there and had gathered many cherished mementos.

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Although this was only a temporary exhibit  there were also displays of olden times in Nova Scotia.

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Go forward seven months and my attempt to get information at the tourist bureau led only to futile attempts at pulling on a locked door while looking in at a girl unloading this year’s brochures.  It was a lovely day and past Victoria Day which is thought to be the start of the tourist season for some.  The weather can behave or not at this time.  It’s chancey for the next few weeks but can be rewarding if you hit the right days.

I was lucky on this occasion.  I had lost last year’s collected brochures and since the tourist information place was closed I had to go on hazy memory mixed with shaky intuition.  I love how great things can often come from this combination.  Sometimes you just cruise along or float down a path to something nice with only a vague inclination that you would even find it.  The fortuitous find is far more exciting than the planned one.

On this occasion after giving up on getting the information I needed I hit the road in the general direction of somewhere until I felt the need to turn left perhaps slightly remembering the map I studied last year.   I passed some apartments and then arrived at the entrance to a park.  This was it.  Something I was looking for though I didn’t know even what I would find there.

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I got out and after a brief peruse of the map I headed up the slightly inclining loop with the sun massaging my shoulders, getting warmer with each step, ears primed for sounds of innocent or dangerous intruders into my quiet, isolated space.  It was created for mountain bikers and would have been a challenge as walking up was a bit of work not to mention cycling.  Then it was downhill and I had to brace my thighs for the descent.  I tripped over a random root poking up from nowhere.

Then I spied some side paths bathed in sporadic light beckoning me off the beaten path.  I quickly obeyed the call of the wild.  The place was so empty that any encounter with a bike would have been almost hazardous on the narrow side routes and most certainly unpleasant to a relaxing stroll in an isolated area.

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I happily enjoyed the sun dappled roller coaster dirt paths heading down into the mystery of the darkened gorge while carefully stepping over tree roots on paths that were almost precipitous ledges leading me across bridges through what looked like perfectly planted forests with random rebellious curvy or leaning trees trying hard to alter the grid plan.  At times it was very tricky to stay upright on these thin up and down bumpy trails.  I can’t imagine biking on them but they would be a nice challenge for those with a certain skill level.  Otherwise stick to the main loop.  See below for a sign warning of a drop off for cross country skiers.  This is not something I have seen before.  Enjoy but beware of dangers.  The best kind of fun.

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Upon my return I heard there was a lone biker who had arrived but luckily our paths didn’t cross and I was able to meander alone in this pristine space.  There is always a slight sense of danger in these  situations of female alone in an isolated location but it tends to be muted by the joy of the sheer power of nature surrounding one.  The sense of making your way on a path alone feeling far from anyone or anything you know.  The lure of the trail to something you have never seen before.

Then it was time for food and drink.  I had a nice coffee at T.A.N. Coffee.  Then I had lunch at the Kings Arms Pub.  The staff was friendly and the food was tasty and quick to arrive with a reasonable price tag.   What more can you ask for?  I split the wrap(not as pictured as this one has been cut and bitten into) and salad or soup combo and was filled, happy and not feeling ripped off for once.  Splitting this combo or even having it to yourself is a decent price which doesn’t always happen.

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Notice the trough sink in the bathroom.  Sometimes  bathrooms are showpieces.  I often visit them just to see if they are interesting in some way.  Outdoor seating looks nice too.  It was warm this day while in the park but a coolness set in later.IMGP4478

I looked in the Designer Cafe across the street which had a nice decor and was very busy but a bit pricey.  It seemed very pannini and salady.  It looked like a fun place to eat and I may try it one day.  I only got pictures of the outside.  Clicking on and enlarging this photo shows an interesting reflection and more details.

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It was easy to find free parking here. The only tricky thing is the one way street system leading you in a counter clockwise loop that seems a bit much for such a small place.  From parks to driving around downtown you will constantly find your self going in circles in this town.  Perhaps they don’t want you to leave.

NS. Red – Wine Review

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“Accept what life offers you and try to drink from every cup. All wines should be tasted; some should only be sipped, but with others, drink the whole bottle.” – Paulo Coelho, Brida

You know how we often think the grass is greener somewhere else or perhaps the wine is redder there too.  Well I decided to try out the local wine of Nova Scotia today after often thinking about it but generally snobbing it by drinking something from somewhere else.

Being this far north, this area is not renowned for reds as whites do better here but I tried the NS.Red from Domaine de Grand Pre in the Annapolis valley which is an area of lush farmland that creates a bounty of fresh produce and wonderful wine intertwined with lovely people and sweet views encompassed within a relaxed vibe.  This is the area dramatically described by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his epic poem Evangeline about the expulsion of the Acadians to Louisiana.

This wine describes itself as being a “medium body red wind with spicy, rustic notes and flavours of blackcurrant and blackberry.  It offers light, elegant tannins with a long finish of black cherry and dark chocolate.”

I may have vaguely tasted the dark chocolate but there definitely were berries.  Overall I felt the soft taste of red velvet massaging my tongue mixed with liquefied red candy but not in a sweet, syrupy way.  It is very easy to drink.  I would have it with light meats and maybe salmon.  It didn’t go so well with dark chocolate which I generally like to have with wine.  It would be overpowered by spices.

It is so light you could drink it while lying in a field of dandelions watching the clouds shape shift in the azure sky and not even notice you had finished the whole bottle even if you are normally more of a beer drinker.  It is only 12%.  There is a type of wine for every situation.  Take time to explore as many as possible.

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