Rail Trail – Chester to Goat Lake

So I thought I was brave doing this trail on Boxing Day when it was 6  but today in January it was a few degrees below zero and little sun due to angles of the low sun and another nearby trail was full of people old and young despite the icy conditions.  There were more people out than I saw back in July so it just goes to show.  Get out there when the weather is half decent.  Walk hard and you will become warm and refreshed.  It feels better than sweating in the summer.  I just read about a South Floridian enjoying not sweating while living through his first winter experience in Cape Breton which is generally worse than where I report from.  Going out and walking now you will be revived  and feel hot when you return home.  You will also enjoy taking a hot shower afterwards.

But this post is about a few weeks ago when on Boxing Day I decided to walk off some Christmas turkey  and do my annual Turkey Walk.

I forced myself out of the isolation we can get into during the holidays when everything is closed and not much is happening.

I was glad I did as the weather was nice and I was motivated by a pre-storm day the same as today  when I feel I should take advantage of the trail before the next snow makes walking more difficult though I have heard much about snowshoeing lately and am tempted.  I had no idea I would  be out there for four hours but this time I had a lunch so I was set.

I started at the old Chester train station which is visitor information centre in the summer.

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The day after I was there it would be shown in the news as the Christmas decorations were  ransacked by young guys on a rampage doing destruction from there to the Hubbards mall.  My lovely photo was the same one on the news the next day.  I remember seeing signs about security cameras there so I hope this was what led to them being caught.

Chester is a cute town that attracts many including rich Americans.  It has a golf course and yacht club as well as nice cafes, a fancy restaurant and the Chester Playhouse which has interesting plays, musicals and concerts that I have been to.

There are a few pubs too but I favour The Foc’sle  which is the oldest pub in Nova Scotia.  I really like the chicken wings.  Here are a few things I have had there.  I have also had a burger on burger night.  There is also a pasta night among others.  Notice the draft below is two tone with dark stout on top.  Black and tan on the menu below.

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The wings are breaded and wonderful with the Thai Chili sauce on the side among others.  Somehow I don’t have a picture of them.   I must have dived into them(no pun intended) before I had a chance to take a picture.  Wing night is on Thursday as is often the case in Nova Scotia.

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It’s also one of the smallest washrooms ever with rather suggestive doors.

 

 

 

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The map is a bit shaded but I went from “You are here” to the fourth lake bridge.

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Meanwhile back on the trail I was thinking this strip was almost too urban as I was seeing too many houses and hearing countless barking dogs in kennels not to mention passing various cemeteries.  There was a cool ranch like property and then finally it got a bit away from humans and I saw fungi and rock structures.

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It was timely to pass three perfect Christmas trees.

You would think this time of year would be boring but not so as the fallen leaves revealed abandoned nests.

Not long after passing a property  full of rusting buses and cars and things I came across a lovely lake that really made the walk worthwhile.

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I thought I saw beaver dams too in two of the next three pictures.  This looks like an area they would like.  I saw one crossing a highway several months ago.  Their back legs seem to be better suited for swimming as they drag along.  They have been known to bite if you ever get too close to them.

There were trees not quite swamped yet as if this lake was expanding still.

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I ate my lunch here and enjoyed the sun. A pita wrap with turkey, apple, spinach and old cheddar mixed with mayo and dijon mustard.  I left some pita for the birds but I checked hours later and they still hadn’t found it.

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6 degrees in the sun walking briskly is divine.  I had briefly misread the signs and headed back until a reread made me realize I had almost made Goat Lake again from the other side and so I had to drive back to the point I had left off.  This led to me finding another cool vantage point on this lake.  It looks like it is still expanding over the land.

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I saw five trees in one and then a rooty area.  After that was an installation I called wasted apples.

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Then I carried on past a boring section until in the mid afternoon December shade I was once again coming on to Goat Lake which had somehow originally attracted me.

 

The  view through the trees showed a nice hillside area.  Next I saw some ducks on the edge of the lake but it wasn’t long until I found the grand prize.   Look hard at this picture before moving on.  Do you see it?

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Goat Lake had given me the best sighting of all of my travels in recent months.  I had been drawn there and I knew not why.  Something to think about for the future.  This was something I had never expected to see though many wish to.  Chances are better at night but if you look hard you can be lucky as they like to sit still and hope no one sees them.  On a recent nature show someone said the same.  That you could pass by numerous times and not even notice but this time the shape was unmistakable and it caught my eye.  I got my pictures.  Even seeing it again in pictures it still seems surreal.

I knew that I had seen my first owl.  It was mystical and unexpected and unbelievable.  At first it looked gray in the shade but my pictures revealed brown stripes so I think it was a barred owl which is common here and there are even tours in March to see them at night when they are nesting and getting ready to make babies.  There should be plenty of hooting and hollering.

It was a bit scary the way it sat and stared at me as most animals choose flight when faced with humans.  The only other option is fight and there are stories of owls attacking people.   See this.

It can be good luck or bad luck to see one.  I’ll go for good luck.  It was a bit scary  as it just stared at me and I think it even spun its head 180 degrees as its face disappeared.  I’m glad it didn’t find me a threat.  They are known as familiars of witches and I did see a witch-like woman later on cleaning up dog dirt she told me.  Times have changed.  I have seen it too and also the guilty owners smiling at me as they thought they’d get away with it.

I was only worried about certain bad males in the woods.  Do I need to worry about other predators?  If they don’t go away quickly they could attack.  Fight or flight.  You decide.  There could even be bears though this time of year probably not.

My final delight was to relish the shush shish of this mossy, happy flowing stream to the lake.  I was alone and just one person in nature feeling its power and emptiness and yet everything was right in this one brief moment.  The possibly attacking yet wildly intriguing owl was forgotten and no humans were nearby at that time.  I deeply enjoyed this one spot until I quickly decided it was getting late and I should return home.  Back to reality once again.  Goat Lake had not disappointed.

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Rail Trail – East River in Search of Goat Lake

Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.

W.H. Auden

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It was a very warm day for nearly mid December and so I had to continue on the trail from the last post.  I wasn’t going to miss this chance.  Shoes were laced and the map at the entrance was checked.  A woman and her dog happened out at that moment and I asked her how long to Goat Lake.  She looked taken aback so I figured she had never walked that far.  “At least an hour”, she said.  I figured on at least an hour and a half  one way as I checked the map  which showed a big upward loop and her perplexed face.  I was closer to right.

I had wanted to see Goat Lake up close and personal especially since  from the highway it looks heart-shaped.  That makes it seem special and I was determined to see it face to face.

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Three hours is a good maximum, I find though it can be closer to four with pictures and lunch stops and looking at things.  There is never enough time but one day I hope there will be.

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This time I had started early enough not to worry about faltering light and coolness.  It was not too long after 11 but I hadn’t brought any lunch thinking I would be out of there in two hours but of course that didn’t happen.  Will I never learn?

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This trail has a big upward loop up as if to avoid some land formations.  I saw a minor hill and maybe a bit of bog.

 

This post I want to focus on water as there was much on this trail and I find it really makes landscapes more interesting.  The sound and sight touches the soul and causes pause for thought.

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Trees are relaxing and there will always be fascinating flora and fauna but my heart goes all thumpity thump when I hear rivers and waterfalls or it relaxes when I stare at still water.  Nature has me in the palm of her hand and I couldn’t be happier.  I will continue to let this goddess rule over me in her fair, balanced and peaceful way.

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Water is my drink of choice all day long.  When co-workers hit the pop machine in the lunch room I will be sucking back my tap or cooler water in a bottle.  I love it.  It is the first thing I drink in the morning and the last thing at night.  In between will be coffee, tea and perhaps beer and wine.   We usually need it to clean and cook our food.

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It is necessary to wash body, clothes and dishes.  I often think about it when there are power outages and it could become scarce.  I also think of it when in foreign lands and I must always buy it by the bottle.

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What else can be so useful for body and soul?  I need it all the time for living but when I am around it in nature my soul is nourished in ways that trees just can’t accomplish.  Beaches are also amazing with their pulsing sound, eternal feel and salty smell.  They are the human and animal life blood personified on land.

Water is also necessary to wildlife as more than just a thirst quencher as I will find out on a future trail which leads to some unique findings.

So I see lovely ponds and rivers and on this trail I get to pass under the highway.  How weird to have 18 wheelers going over your head as you walk along.

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I passed another lake which later would have two men on ATV’s sitting there when I came back.  I was a bit disconcerted as they were smoking and drinking but I was friendly yet brisk and was looking at my phone just in case.  Like the city you need your survival strategies.

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One woman told me she was more worried about animals.  I feel humans could be worse but on the next trail (Chester to Goat Lake) I saw something possibly violent which made me think differently.  I have never seen a bear but they are a possibility.  I always forget what you should do except not run with your back to them I think.

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There was so much peace inspiring and soul calming water and silence on this trail.  Some would find it fear inducing as I have heard European travellers do as they are not used to it.  I am happy to become more accustomed to this.

I found it to be one of the most beautiful yet until I hit a dull tree only stretch not long after venturing into the woods to see a mystical mossy area where fallen logs made bridges by chance.  It felt weird going off trail as maybe things lived there in the dark, mossy area where humans never went.  It felt untouched and almost magical

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P1030730.JPGSo I was eventually running out of steam in my search for Goat Lake.  There was a bog which was interesting and a chickadee seemed out of place in the woods.  They like human inhabited areas.

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Just as I was about to turn back prematurely I heard the highway and knew that Goat Lake must be nearby.   And then I saw this and knew I was close.

I was finally almost at Goat Lake.  I had to remember I needed energy to reverse my tracks back.   I remember by chance I encountered a talk in a bookstore in York, England and wished I had stayed longer.  I always remember the speaker talking about climbing a mountain and he said that younger people would often surge ahead and not conserve energy and food or water for the downward trek.  This was a flat trek but similar rules applied I thought.  I have to walk back as far as I walked in.

This is another travel lesson I try to apply to life whenever necessary.  All I had on this trek was a granola bar and water.  See my granola bars of choice below.

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When I finally got to Goat Lake it looked more like a spade than a heart.  I wonder what the means.  Maybe things are often better at distance.  At least I made it.

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I was nearly the only one on the trail though there were a few on ATVs this time which I hadn’t seen lately.  They seemed friendly but they do temporarily ruin the peace.  In the summer on the Hubbards to East River trail they were stirring up dust and going faster than the trail guide recommended.

Made it to my goal.

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More amazing water still looking good in late fall.

Still so far to go but I will make it nearly four hours.  So much to see and the silence and solitude are regenerating.  I can do this alone in the middle of nowhere.

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A former bird home in this tree I think.

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You’d think coming back on the same trail there would be little to take pictures of but there are always different views on the way back.

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A dead tree in a boggish area pointing the way.

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I took a side trail and found that water had caused it to become impassable for some reason.

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Water made this trail very relaxing and beautiful.  My desire to get to the water of Goat Lake had made me continue on beyond my initial point of tiredness which I love doing.   Push yourself past where you thought you could go.

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P1030827.JPGThis picture belongs in the last post about wood and trees.  Here you see a birch tree with the paper coming off.  This is how messages were originally written.

In the next section I will write about how water attracted or housed various creatures.  One I had never seen before and it was pretty cool yet a bit scary.

At times especially with the ATV men I was reminded of the book/movie Wild.  A woman alone on a trail except this one is flat and graded and I do it just by day without needing to camp on it.  There are potential dangers mixed in with the beauty.  Still I feel compelled to keep following it and the next post will document the other half of this section which is Chester to Goat Lake as I park at one end and do half and then come back  and always see different things on the return trip while trying to relive what I saw on the way in and this time of year the low sun can change things quite quickly on every step of the way.