As you can see I am embracing winter this year. Well it’s not going away anytime soon.  It hasn’t been too bad as most storms seem to come at night.  

Last night was the same. We were awaiting a Nor’easter which is a storm that may strike fear in the heart of those living in the area from North Carolina to Newfoundland.  Or it may excite you if you’re a storm lover. 

I tend to fall in the latter category. It can be fun to witness the power of nature unleashed. I like to get stocked up and take a window seat.  

Apparently storm chips are now a thing. They even have a hashtag. I saw a four pack yesterday when I was stocking up on storm drinks. It seemed I wasn’t the only one.  

A New Brunswick company called Covered Bridge makes a chip pack with BBQ, salt and vinegar, ketchup ( very Canadian ) and one more I can’t read on the pic I googled.  They had boxes at the liquor store. This is new. 

Speaking of storm drinks I found out there is a Nor’easter cocktail made of lime, bourbon, maple syrup and ginger beer. It could be more of an NY thing. I like the idea but it needs more Northern ingredients. The storm does affect the north after all. 

Anyway as you can see despite some media’s claims (especially some Toronto news outlets with ridiculous reports that always make TO look better than the rest) it didn’t really leave much snow behind. I moved out of the parking lot so it could be cleared but there was nothing much except a few drifts and the plow didn’t even come. 

It was a lot bluster causing drifts on the right and left but ultimately doing not much.  When you looked at the streetlights you saw white stuff going in both directions and getting nowhere.  In the end it amounted to not much. 

You were very astute if you realized the above was a political analogy. 

Somehow school was cancelled and other things delayed though it was mostly a nighttime event. Fear is easily stirred up. 

I finally researched Nor’easters even though I’ve heard about them my whole life.  It’s like a cyclone I was surprised to find out except a cyclone feeds on warm  air and a Nor’easter on cold air.  There was an early morning moon set though hard to see. 

This storm happens when cold, dry air from the north meets warm, wet air from the south. A pre – Valentine’s warning that maybe opposites don’t attract.   They just make a mess of things. 

The name tells you the direction of this storm and it actually hangs out for weeks further north so we shouldn’t complain. I always wondered where storms go to die. 

They turn counterclockwise so they are a bit rebellious. Going against the grain.   They tend to spin out from November to March so they are almost over as this month flies by.

They are generally a mix of wind and either rain or snow or something in between. 

In my post storm walk today it was empty and quiet as even waterfalls and streams were frozen or buried.      There was rock art. 

People were scared off by the media.  When I was young we walked around in all kinds of weather free from the media’s over protection.   We did just fine and the weather was worse then. 

Winter is a time for reflection and planning for springing into a new beginning.  Tonight is the full moon.  

PS: Another one is coming on Monday. 


In the Starkness and the Darkness 

It’s time to celebrate winter in all of its many forms. 

This year I really saw it as a sort of living death. You sometimes feel you walk through apocalyptic zones but there is a certain beauty in austerity.    Every time I walked by this tree but one there was a single crow sitting on a branch. 

I think of the salt flats in Bolivia which I loved for their silence (if there weren’t three Frenchmen talking).

On a recent walk I found things pared down to the bare necessities. Sometimes it’s dim and grim but it makes you reflect on life. 

You will notice the hardy plants which are the last men standing  and take strength from these brave soldiers. 

There is always the water which can vary from water to ice or both. Sometimes it is nonexistent and other times it gushes after a heavy rain seeking its release. 

There will always be change and you can always find something good in any situation. Large flakes in your  face can be invigorating. 

On a recent walk on a cool and cloudy  prestorm morning I focused on sound in the calm before…

I heard some roofers hammering and one sang “Roxanne”.   

A man gave me a hearty “Good morning .”

I heard the pitty pats of runners numerous times with heavy breathing. 

There was the rubber to ashphalt sound of cyclists and no other warnings of their approach. 

Sounds of chickadees and other unknowns. Ducks flew close overhead flapping their wings in a race against the impending storm. 

The rest was frozen still. The strong yet silent ones finally got their due. They would survive another day. 

Rail Trail – Chester to Chester Basin

I realized it had been six months somehow since I’d made any progress on my goal to hike the rail trail from Hubbards to at least Mahone Bay.  I had cycled it from Halifax to Hubbards.  But hiking it gave me much more time to savour things en route as long as those things weren’t insects which so far this summer haven’t been an issue.  It’s been pure bliss with interesting sightings mixed with just trees but time to think.  This section had some rocky sections which were tiring as my sneakers are thinly soled.  I came home exhausted this day though I had done over four hours and it was quite hot and months since my  last long hike.  I have already made Lunenburg though the last stretch was done by bike which was so fast with few photos.  I may do a bit more if I have time but I have covered a lot of ground recently.  It’s easy to do.

Here are some highlights from this section of the trail in late June.



Duck  family.


This looks like an alien.


Lady  Slippers.  I saw many.  I haven’t seen them much for years.  Relative of orchids and supposedly don’t grow back for seven years if you pick them or so I was told as a child after I picked one.  Oh the shame.

P1040477Bridge over calm water.



Look for the noisy guy who gave himself away.  There were a few but I only found this one.


Loving the lupine takeover.  Everything has its time in the sun.





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.



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.


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.


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





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



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.



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.


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.




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.


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.



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



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?



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.























Rail Trail – East River in Search of Goat Lake

Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.

W.H. Auden



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.


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.



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?


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.



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.


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.


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



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.



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.


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.




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.


Is that the devil’s pitchfork?P1030772


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.


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.


A dead tree in a boggish area pointing the way.


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



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.

Water also caused foam in some areas.  This is a cool sight.  The power of water.P1030833.JPG


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.






Rail Trail – Hubbards to East River


“To dwellers in a wood, almost every species of tree has its voice as well as its feature.”
Thomas Hardy, Under the Greenwood Tree

This post is an ode to wood.  I love trees and living in Canada there are so many everywhere.  Wood can be used for houses and furniture and books and toothpicks.

It is a Christmas tree and while on my way to the second half of this trail I saw a truck loaded with them and the driver was standing beside it in late November in tank top.  Not something you usually see but it was quite a warm late fall.  While on the trail and walking quickly I did take off a layer or two.  Nova Scotia exports Christmas trees to the US and beyond.

Trees contribute to our air quality and they provide shade for us and cover for plants and animals.  They are beauty and solitude to trail hikers.  Places with few trees are worse off.   They are too dry and not fertile and people suffer in heat and without the sense of serenity  they provide.  Trees ground us to our planet.  They also provide warmth when we burn them  and coolness when we stand under their shade.

There are many trails throughout Nova Scotia that used to be the old railway.  On the South shore it was finally finished around 1904 but only 65 years later the death knell was sounded after all the work and investment done by those who thought it so necessary.  Times changed and other routes were more viable and businesses and social conditions changed  making rail not such a great option.

This is a pity as I have enjoyed rail travel in many countries I have travelled in.  That said it is not generally the mode of travel in most of the Americas.  The road tends to rule here.


I first set out on this trail from Hubbards to part way to East River on a sunny mid-July day.   This trail is accessed at Exit 6 on highway 103 and I will eventually get to Exit 7 and finish it from the opposite direction.

I hiked a lot and please give me extra points for having to endure these weird bugs that kept going for my head and led me to having to put up my hoodie and flail my hand often.  Luckily I had a hoodie with me  as I have never needed to do that before.  One girl trotted through with only a dog and a tank top somehow.  These damn thing were buzzing at my head for hours but I was determined to make tracks and good thing as it was quite rainy for the remainder of July after my hike.



I saw a rabbit and a deer but a cyclist ruined my camera shot by coming around at the worst time just as the deer and I had a nice stare down from a distance.P1020387

I had lunch at one of the picnic tables that is distributed on the trail.  As usual I was walking to a point that would be easily marked and that was a bridge  so that I could finish it later.





I saw many interesting sights like bogs and forests and rivers and other bodies of water.  It was a good four hours of walking as I covered a lot of the trail.  Looks like a beaver dam below.



Another friend on the trail who didn’t run away too quickly was this guy who looks like a groundhog.


Fast forward more than four months when I have stopped doing longer distance trips so I am focusing on shorter trips with hikes and I finally decide to finish this trail but I was busy actually writing the last post and it was getting late and I wanted to take advantage of the unseasonably warm temperatures at the end of November so after my first failure in the early afternoon of a bike tire blowing out, I got a drive back home and quickly started out by car to the other end of the trail so I could walk it to the point I had left off before.  I was determined despite the lateness of the afternoon in November.  The sun was quickly fading and lowering as I started out at 2:44.  I rarely start this late even in summer.

P1030475 P1030481

The tower with the Canadian colors are from a factory called Canexel and this will be my guiding force coming back as light fails and cold comes on.  When at last I see this I know the end of the trail has come and I will not be stuck in the dark alone.  In later research I find out that Canexel which I have driven past many times, makes cool products that improve our lifestyle.  Nice wood siding that is nicer than metal and plastic.  Natural style on the outside of your house is more appealing.  Stone or brick are also nice.

There are things out there and here are their tracks.  Will I see anything this time?

P1030486 P1030488

I was under the gun to get in and out before darkness fell.  So I entered at East River and walked back quickly.   I found many cool things to take a picture of despite it being late November.  It was different but just as interesting.  It made me think of the Japanese concept of wabi sabi.  One can find beauty in desolation and solitude.  Recognizing the fading and changing of things as we do in autumn is an esoteric practice that fulfills us.


There are apples still hanging in trees that look finished for the season.





It was this warm that the caterpillars came out.  I also saw flies.P1030492

I was surprised how interesting the trail still looked in late fall though it was warmer than usual.  Fall can show up neat things as well as summer.  Hint: these are the two best seasons here.


The road travelled.  With so many evergreens summer and fall can seem the same minus the bugs and some birds.


Look at the nice ripples in the pond from this struggling moth.  There is a philosophical message here somewhere.


A distant view of the ocean.  I didn’t have time but you can go downhill to a nice beach from here.P1030518

A distant view of the ocean.  I didn’t have time but you can go downhill to a nice beach from here.


These fall bullrushes look like afghan hound heads.

A foamy bit and an interesting plant.


It looks like snow but it is only moss.

Someone made a cairn.  Nice.

Finally I made it to the bridge I went to in July and just in the nick of time as the light was fading and it would be cold and dark soon.

This is everything in this moment of nature.  If you are in a nature moment please savour it.  Today I heard a girl say she couldn’t go three hours without her phone.  I am so happy I don’t understand that concept.  I am here and now in these woods alone needing nothing and no one.


Adam and Eve beware.  The apple is hanging in a tempting way.



Back to the wood for Canexel’s siding.  I made it back before dark at a fast clip.  It was still warmish.  I was safe.  Canadian wood.  I am home.

Some people have  a limited concept of what is beautiful and meaningful.  It is far more than sun and palm trees.  Many places on the planet can cause you to pause and think.  Besides verdant forests or balmy beaches, I find myself loving empty spaces such as dry deserts or quiet salt plains.  Trails with just me in them better yet.  Rivers and mosses and lakes and waterfalls get me excited not to mention dried up plants and out of place insects.

A few weeks after this hike I also went to East River for a church fundraiser where you could have a turkey or lobster dinner.  The lobster dinner was work and there were only crackers and not scissors  to cut or picks to pull things out with.  It had been a while since I cracked into one but I got most of the meat out.  Beware the spiny sides of the claws.  Later that week a work celebration included the same three salads-macaroni, potato and coleslaw.  Also a pickle and bun but with cold cuts.


Lobster is in season in December and May though always available.  Right now I see them outside my house pulling up their traps and throwing out the smaller ones.   Today in the early orangeish sky the fisherman were out in the distance checking traps.  It was quite cold then but very pretty.  We don’t always think of the conditions they must endure to get their catch.  December is a time to enjoy seafood.  Merry Christmas and beyond!