A Hot July Day in the Valley

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It was an occasion so we drove to the valley.  It started with a small hike in some kind of bird sanctuary near Kentville.  It was just past the Evergreen Home for the Aged believe it or not but there were no signs.  I checked the map and made a quick right. There was  big pond supposedly to relax the old folks and first I turned in there but felt it was wrong. I hoped I didn’t disrupt them.  Eventually I turned down the next unmarked road which was thin and dirt ridden and dusty.  It seemed to lead to nowhere but eventually I was rewarded with the sighting of a bird sign if I craned my neck down the  trail made for bikes which used to be for trains where I saw a sign for a bird sanctuary.  I didn’t see any place that could be a sanctuary but I saw a guy with a camera walking along.  I also saw and heard vehicles digging dirt out for some reason which may have explained the lack of wildlife.  Man messing around with nature for his own purposes.

I had to cross a scary wooden bridge to get there with upraised tracks for tires which were scary in case you missed them.  I guess you wouldn’t have tipped but it seemed like maybe you would have.  I got out and headed in these unknown woods and this time the bugs were rampant.  After the fact I bought repellent and batteries for the camera I had borrowed since mine went down.

This trail was flat an easy but nice to just walk alone in the woods except for the bugs.  I was alone with my thoughts going deeper into to the unknown which I love.  I passed a tree house if sorts which seemed to be unoccupied.  Sometimes you hear about hermits who live in the woods which sounds so interesting.  Living on your own and fighting the elements in a place that must not have thick walls and definitely not central heating.

The idea of being able to survive by your  wits with little money is appealing although I’d rather do it in winterless place but more kudos to those that make it through our cold climate.  To be self sufficient is a wonderful thing.

After that it was lunch at the Port Pub and Bistro.  It was not our original intention as it had seemed to slide on its original reputation.  Good food became so-so and overpriced.  Service was often snooty.    Why had we come back?  Well they had great lobster poutine and that had been my original intention but I had a stamp card for chowder so I got that instead and was not disappointed.  Good creamy taste and a decent amount of real seafood as some skimp on lobster, large enough shrimp or scallops often filling it with potatoes and other vegetables and no real cream.  Firs time I got a mussel shell in my mug.  This one delivered.  They are also very small and pricey if you get the cup.  Too much richness if you get the bowl.  We often overdo it when more of a teasing taste would do rather than a bombarding barrage .  Can that apply to other areas of our lives?  A second stamp in my Chowder Trail Passport if you are counting.  One more to a prize.  My mom loved her mushroom soup of the day shown below.

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So as if to smack me in the face, a couple sat down across from me who I overheard had come an hour from Halifax, no doubt for the poutine as both ordered it quickly and easily swallowed gulped it down with red wine and a cocktail – not my first choice for a drink with fries.  I suffered in silence ruing my choice though it was tasty and I got a second stamp on my Chowder Trail Passport (you only need three to qualify for a prize).  It looked good.  “I must come back”, I thought.  I remembered how tasty it was when I had it once before.  We were told that most of the kitchen staff had changed and that is why the place seemed better.  As well the  serving staff had gotten younger and the scary black-haired girl was not glaring at us or at least not on this day.

It was warm enough to sit outside as no wind was up.  I love al fresco dining when I can get it which can be rare in these parts.

From there it was on to dessert at the Evangeline Inn Cafe via a produce run at Noggins Corner where we usually grab something though it probably isn’t the cheapest place.  Things are local and fresh at any rate.  It’s nice to see what is in season rather than grabbing whatever the supermarket has.  I have enjoyed their corn maze numerous times though it is not always easy and I haven’t done the last few years.    They even have local bread or honey, meat and cider for example.  That said, supermarkets have become much better lately at providing locally farmed fruit and veggies and people are loving it. People write into the local paper about how they love the fresh strawberries and they will be buying them until they run out.  Corn is another big one which will be coming in August along with blueberries.

Canadian cuisine is not exactly world renowned but here’s the thing, you just need fresh local things boiled or grilled or baked most of the time.  Too simple to make a restaurant special except certain things like chowder and lobster poutine for example.  Tonight I had boiled potatoes and beets.  All you need is salt and butter generally.  More can be done if you must like my beet salad last night that had maple syrup in the vinaigrette.  Pan-fried haddock or boiled lobster are also simple and tasty for example.  The main non-Canadian element needed would be lemon.  Simple, subtly elegant and self-sufficient.  That describes the best of Canada and our food.   Easily recreated by the tourist in a cottage.

Today I bought a wine that said “Elegance starts within” even though it’s beyond my usual price point.   I liked the tagline.  It was Argentinian which is my fave but this  is a post about Canada.  I was told that most vineyards there are unsprayed as they just don’t have so many bugs in that area.  I hope that that is true.  There are organic wines in various places.

Back to the Evangeline Inn Cafe.  We ordered strawberry rhubarb pie and tea.  Nothing really special.  I wish she’d asked if I wanted it heated.  They are known for their pies.  Not bad but not rushbackworthy.  Sometimes the ones you buy at Noggins Corner can be.  It’s farm country.  There are those with great pie recipes and the fresh fruit at their disposal.

At the Kentville Tourist Bureau which was open on this trip (though only 10 – 3) I had fortuitously picked up a brochure for Grand Pre.  I had been in the area before but had passed on the famous church as being too expensive for a local tourist.  Maybe one day.  What I didn’t know until recently is that the area has gotten the Unesco magic fairy wand touch.  I have visited this area previously in a previous post about a vineyard in the area.

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On this heated, sultry day I explored further afield and even reached the beach.  While not spectacular for a beach it did offer up ice cream cones in what looked like a 50’s style dance hall which I’m told was once popular back in the day.  I thought of Dirty Dancing.  The view of Cape Blomidon was spectacular as usual.  I recently saw this beauty in the movie Amelia standing in for Ireland.

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The beach was reddish and rocky but a few people went in.  It was definitely beach weather.  Hot bordering on humid and not a breath of air to be had which felt odd as often I have been in the area and it has been extremely breezy as if the Bay of Fundy funnels in the excesses of the North Atlantic.  The Atlantic is notoriously windy.  I have experienced it from Nova Scotia to Argentina and Portugal to Morocco.

At this beach I read how it is a lifesaver for the semipalmated sandpiper where it gorges on small shrimp en route to its migration grounds.  It’s pretty neat how nature sets things up.  A beefing up to help on the long flight. How do they know?  How did they ever know?  Some would cite spiritual reasons here.  Who knows how it all works and that is one of the joys of exploring nature.   In fact this lovely viewpoint sums it all up.  There are some Red Chair destinations throughout Nova Scotia but this is the first one I have encountered.  How wonderful is this view with the church steeple and Cape Blomidon in the background signifying religion backed by nature as viewed by humans with their creations (as seen above).

Birds that migrate long distances never cease to amaze me.  Not something humans could do on their own.  Going back to Amelia.  Twice she landed in the wrong countries.  Guess she didn’t have a very good radar system.

Returning back I saw the dyke system though it must have been modernized since the Acadians were there.  It was so calm and quiet as I looked out over the blue water and distant green land.  A few people were fishing and families were frolicking.  An older man went walkabout with his camera.  I love quiet, contemplative areas and with the lack of wind this was feeling just about perfect if a bit too hot.

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Traversing the flat dykelands again back towards the secondary road led to another location recommended on the pamphlet.  It was necessary to pass a farm with signs warning of children so we had to drive slowly.  The dirt road finally ended again at the water’s edge which was the point of the forced deportation of the Acadians which was marked by this beautiful cross unlike any I had seen before with a message written on one side in French and the other in English.  I inhaled the temporarily humid serenity as I looked out to the wonderful coast and island.  It was hard to believe that a sad event had happened here.  A haze lifted in the sea making everything seem as if in a dream.  Birds rose and fell in the distance while creating a distant sound of protest.

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There were signs detailing the events of the past.  History can seem hard to reach and remember but we should try to learn about things as there is often a lesson that we need to learn.  Things can change but let’s hope that the peace of North America ensues and that it comes back to those who have temporarily lost it in other parts of the world.

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During this trip we passed various roadside tables set up with women selling strawberries.  In the end we stopped at one and got a red hot sweet deal (no pun intended).

Liverpool – Privateer Days

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God damn them all! 
I was told we'd cruise the seas for American gold 
We'd fire no guns-shed no tears 
Now I'm a broken man on a Halifax pier 
The last of Barrett's Privateers.

Barrett's Privateers - song by Stan Rogers

So it was I found myself at the end of June heading to Privateer Days.  I had heard of it but I had never been there.  In recent years I had taken a fancy to Liverpool and Queens County where it is located.  Next to Kings County in the Annapolis Valley, it was my favorite.  Long live the King and Queen.  Where Kings County has farmland, vineyards, rivers and red cliffs on a bay, Queens County has white sand beaches, lighthouses, quiet rivers and windy coastal towns with lots of seafaring history.  Lunenburg County is next door and also nice.  I’ve had more luck with sun there but it could just be chance.

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I had heard of privateers but didn’t even know what they were.  They appear to wear cool outfits.  They seem to be government approved pirates I found out.  I wondered if the governments would also wash their hands of them if they got into too much trouble.  In today’s social media I imagine they would spin negative brown yarn to positive shining gold threads if they could.  They would spin it in a way to make the government look good.  If not they’d become scapegoats in a hurry.

If they could get away with things it was fine, the government would take the plunder and give the privateers their cut.  If they were found out by the general populace the politicians of the day would call them pirates and claim no connection.  I wonder what the modern day equivalent of a privateer is.

Often when I used to go out to Halifax pubs I would hear the song Barretts’ Privateers by Stan Rogers.  It was like a provincial anthem and many knew the lyrics to it.  It was just a song you would expect to hear sometimes when you were out.  Again I was never sure what a privateer was.  Now I know and I found out that Simeon Perkins was a hero too.  Previously I had been to his house there.  Liverpool has a rich history involving the British and Americans.  It was an important port once.

Liverpool is an area of waxing and waning fortunes.  Although strategically located in the past it doesn’t have much to bolster it at the moment.  It is a nice little place with some great old houses and a central park with a main street that has a theatre and shops and restaurants.  There are some museums and a river along with an old lighthouse.  I have often thought it would be the perfect location for a university or college.  It needs something lasting to keep it going.

The more I look into its history the more interesting it is.  I’m not sure what the modern Privateer Days has to do with the past.  Besides the Privateer fire hydrant I found across the street from the event (see above) there was not much more indication of anything of that era.  Perhaps some skull and crossbones jewellery was supposed to evoke it but I’m not sure.

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A wander around the park showed me hand woven baskets, T-shirts, batik type dresses, iron decorative items in various shapes.  Privateers are glamorized pirates.  It’s all in the uniform.  I had to like the wooden furniture in mushroom shapes and rectangular or square things that looked like they would have been used in the Flintstones future wood episodes if they had happened.  There were a lot “pet rocks” which were just painted rocks.  I saw multi-colored knit purses and painted postcards.  One person was selling old vinyl and video games next to 3 D animal pictures jumping out at me.  It was a retro style fair.  Perhaps there were mood rings but I may not have seen them.  There were in fact dream catchers perhaps made by Indians from say Bear River I’m guessing.  I don’t always ask too many questions of vendors for fear of being roped in though at these events they are usually low key.

Luckily I don’t need one of these at the moment.  From time to time I have shocking dreams that wake me in the deep dark but usually they are stupid and predictable from the day’s events and I awake thinking “Spare me.  I’m going back to sleep now.  Is that the best you can do?”  I hardly ever get the 3am terrors.

Meanwhile they were selling doughnuts, fish and chips, coffee and beaver tails had just pulled up.  I have never had one but they look fun for the calorie carefree crowd.  A beaver tail shaped piece of dough full of all kinds of ooey gooey stuff.  Then there were the 75 flavours of an ice drink.  Dill pickle looks fun as well as well as Tiger’s Blood and Pimp Juice.

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I enjoyed music in the tent ranging from country to jazz while I was there.  It was free by day.  I left the jazz a bit early because the weather was a bit windy and I had left my coat in the car ( Lesson #1 bring layers, Lesson#2 don’t leave layers in the car)  but also I wanted to go to the Farmer’s market across the street and get fresh strawberries before they sold out though it turned out they were prepared for the demand.  What a nice change from frozen bagged unsweet ones or the hard, tasteless things that generally come all the way from California bred for the long journey and often on the verge of mold by the time they arrive here.  These were soft and sweet.  They yielded to my tongue and dripped their sweet red juices at my touch.  I also got radishes and beet greens.

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Across the street I found the Hell Bay Brewing Co. which is owned by four young people.  One I spoke to said he had to this shore six years ago yet he seemed to have lost his British accent.  I said that Brits should know about beer.P1020062P1020065

I wondered about the name as my map indicated a Hell Bay near Cherry Hill which I had just came from.  He said that is where it started and I mentioned seeing a “Brewery” sign on a barn over there and he said that was where it used to be.  Near that was Voglers Cove which had an old General Store and a few other buildings along with  dark islands on a scenic grassy coast.  It was the kind of place where I had to wait for tractor on the main road and the lake had a beaver’s dam in it.

I had gone to Cherry Hill to see the beach that I read about in a new book I bought called Beaches of Lunenburg Queens by Vernon Oickle.  I have explored this coast a lot but I had never heard of this beach.  As I started out on this journey in late June with summer only just starting I felt on a high with the sun rising in the blue sky and me at the wheel cruising the open road on a day off.  I got to this beach and read about the plovers.  These are cute birds with not the skills to nest out of harm’s way so they depend on human help for their survival.  I would love to see one and when I saw the signs indicating their nests my five year old self wanted to go look but my much older self reigned her in.

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No doubt the babies would be young now (or still in their shells) and it reminded me of tales of people finding a nest and touching the baby birds or eggs and tainting them for the mother.  With plovers (rhymes with lovers) you apparently just need to come near and scare them off and that is enough.  So I didn’t.  But the sign said that off leash dogs were doing damage.  I hope people read and learn.

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So just as I got to this beach the brilliant sun ducked under cover of some perilous dark clouds but I continued my walk down the curve of the crescent of light sand empty of anyone life except birds and prints of humans and dogs.  There were seagulls and other birds like swallows that flew low and seemed like they were trying divert me from their nest. They were either overly friendly or trying to lead me astray.  I heard cheeps and chirps.  Of course there were some waves but the tide was low and it looked a long way out to get fully wet.  I walked in and thought that perhaps I could stand getting completely covered.  It would be refreshing on a hot day but of course there were clouds and wind here.  After so many months cloistered inside with the worst winter in recent memory it was nice to feel the warm, massaging sand beneath my feet that were craving some contact with nature.P1020027

Down the beach I spied something odd that spurred me on to walk nearly the full length of the beach.  What was it?  With the darkening clouds as I walked closer and the emptiness of the beach I felt trepidation with each step yet felt compelled to continue on.  Seeing something oddly placed in nature makes one think of things like alien pods.  There once were sightings further down the coast.  Or perhaps I would get to a large shell that would have a large flying lobster jump out at me.  I didn’t know what it could be.  Onward I went only to find that it was a large plastic container.  Probably something from a boat that holds their catch.  Yet the incongruity mixed with the dark cloud sky still scared me.  Nature is nurturing but signs of man once again cause me fear.  It was a beautiful beach and at the end by the parking lot once again I only saw women.  Men seemed to be out fishing.  This was similar to my Gaspereau experience.  On the way out I saw beautiful irises in the boggish water.

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Finding a beautiful empty beach in Nova Scotia seems to happen often.

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After the beach and before Liverpool we made our way to Mill Village which is a small place situated on a lively river.  The main draw seems to be the general store and restaurant.  It was quite busy and we just had tea and a cookie but the food looked good and people seemed to be happy with it.  I plan to come back.  It is a lovely spot on a rolling river near a bridge.  One time in the past I took a long road in, next to the river which was nice but time consuming.  This time I took a shorter route coming across the highway directly from the Voglers Cove road.  They had the panninis that looked good and came with some sweet potato fries.   I heard someone order cheesecake.  The washroom came with a view of the river though  I don’t think anyone could see me from across the river.  It would have been only a side view.  I do love a washroom with a view.

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That would be a theme on this trip.  For lunch I went to Lane’s Privateer Inn which was my usual stop in Liverpool.  I split a wrap once again but had the chowder which had a tang and very small bits of seafood mixed in with potatoes.  Some are creamy and you can really sink into lobster or shrimp or scallops.  I’m not sure what was in this but it was tasty enough.  I earned my first stamp in my Chowder Trail passport.  For the first time I noticed that besides the chairs and couches there are also pews here.  I asked a server and she said that they came from a church in New Brunswick that was being demolished.

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The same happened when I purchased some ale at the Hell Bay Brewing Co.  I got a stamp on the Nova Scotia Good Cheer Trail Passport.   On both passports you only need three stamps for a chance at winning something.

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I had consumed their cream ale in a pub previously(review upcoming) so I got the English ale which had a craft brew bite that I’m not used to.  It reminded me of Propeller Ale.  I tend to prefer Garrison.  Still anything is nice once and it was not too bad for this light beer drinker.  After a few sips I warmed up to it like you would to a person who seems obnoxious at first but becomes better after some banter or is it just be the brew’s effects that make that person seem more palatable?  Yes there were notes of citrus too.  That bitterness that masquerades as almost sweetness.

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After more music at Privateer Days and walk through a moveable museum of Canada’s involvement in development around the world I went to see old pictures of the city at the Astor Theatre Building.  There are many nice houses and buildings from their former rich times as privateers or even rum runners.  Times can change places from rich to poor and back again.  Many things that were made or done there are now obsolete or done elsewhere. There are interesting museums and old homes here.  Again I found a windowed washroom.  This time I think I must have flashed the building across the street.  Well they wouldn’t know who it was if so.  It is interesting to have washrooms with a view I must say, even if that view is of you.

Driving back I came into the sun and the light again.  I had left the sunny county for the cloudy one but it was a fun and enlightening trip nonetheless.  One day I will hit the beaches of that area with the sun shining upon me, I’m sure.  I’ve been there before when the cold downer fog has lifted and everything changed  The light shone upon me and I almost felt like it happened just because I arrived.  Other times rain in other places will hold off until I get home  It’s part of the challenge and game here.  At the end of June you will see the roadside garnished with lupins in purple, pink and off white.  They are the best roadside garden of all that will come.  It is early days and there are more good things to come.  The lupins herald the beginning of the good.  Fruit and vegetables, plants and festivals, they will all come on schedule though I still have the memory of the worst winter ever in my mind and I still can’t believe things have come up mostly on time.P1020103

Meanwhile cloudy days tend to make for better pictures.  I met some cute and friendly people and besides the time warp of seeing pet rocks and old records’ I even saw a woman in an aging poorly lit supermarket with curlers in her hair.   You don’t see that every day.  Another had a scarf pinned on like you do when you haven’t washed your hair in a while.  A trip can take you to many places all at once if you just pay attention.

Cape Chignecto Trip Report – June 2015

The joys of the Nova Scotia coastline.

Misadventures In The Wild

Backpacking June 6-9, 2015, 3 nights, 53.8km

This trip was our “warmup for the Whites”.  We had a few days free before heading to New Hampshire for some hiking in the White Mountains and wanted to try out a few new gear setups and get a few hills under our belt before the big trip. Cape Chignecto Provincial Park is primarily a wilderness park located near Advocate Harbour, NS, with a trail circuit that includes dozens of kilometers of coastline along the Bay of Fundy. The Bay of Fundy is considered one of Canada’s National Wonders, with the highest tides in the world and spectacular shoreline views of both Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The trails in the park are quite hilly (for Nova Scotia), with trails rising up and down from water crossings at sea level to the tops of cliffs 180m over the ocean. With seven campsites…

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