Chapter 11. Nova Scotia
© Bert & Shari Frenz, 2000 All rights reserved.
(Shari) I made a list and checked it twice and did everything on it. I had read about certain attractions in Halifax that I wanted to see. This morning Bert and I take the car to downtown Halifax, park in the Atlantic Superstore parking lot at one end of the harbor, ignoring the signs that say, "Parking is for Customers Only." We intend to buy some groceries before we go home - if our car has not been towed away as warned. I have a walking tour that I cut out from a tour magazine and we start on it. Our first stop on our to-do list is the Alexander Keith Brewery Tour. This is the best brewery tour I have ever been on. Actors greet us in period costumes of the early 19th century and explain and entertain us through out the brewing process. At the end of the tour we are taken into a pub of the day and entertained by a parlor maid and poker shark while we sip our two mugs of beer each. After lunch we tour the Maritime museum on the wharf where some of the Titanic artifacts are kept. I'm not too impressed with this museum and we spend little time there and enjoy the free entertainment outside on the wharf. At least three stages in different areas have amateur performers ranging from acrobats to drumming and fiddle playing. Walking up the hill to the Citadel, a garrison built to guard the city since 1749, we enjoy a tour of its exhibits and find the view from atop commanding. By now it is 6 PM and we have been on our feet for the past eight hours. It is time to go home, grab a sandwich and hit the sack.
(Bert) Halifax certainly is a city with a history. During an exhausting, if not exhaustive, walking tour today we visit Dalhousie University (craft fair), the Old Burying Ground (1749-1844), the Alexander Keith brewery, the Taj Mahal Restaurant, the Maritime Museum (Titanic exhibits), a harbor festival (trampoline entertainment), the 1803 town clock (still ticking), and the Citadel (250 years of military history). Even though we've gone on countless brewery, winery and distillery tours, the Alexander Keith visit stands out. Dressed in period costumes, actors play the role of brewery workers and pub entertainers of the mid 1800s. Even when we ask them questions, they maintain their role. Adding to this the recreations of the brewery rooms and equipment and the Halifax pub, its like stepping into their world. An amazing claim and one of the reasons Mr. Keith located his brewery in Halifax is that each soldier - there were many in Halifax - was allotted one gallon of beer per day. (From our subsequent tour of the Citadel, it would seem that the soldiers' visit to the town pubs would be the highlight of an otherwise miserable existence). One of the secrets Mr. Keith brings with him from England is the recipe for India Pale Ale. Apparently, the one-gallon allotment was worldwide and especially enjoyed by the British soldiers in India. But the state of the art in the early 1800s resulted in a product that could not survive the long trip from England to India, so a new beer was developed with a longer shelf life. Mr. Keith built his brewery opposite Dalhousie College and next to the harbor where he received his supplies from England. And that's the location where we enjoy a couple mugs of brew while being entertained by a Scottish song, amusing tales and a 19th century version of poker.
(Bert) Peggy's Cove ranks high in the list of the prettiest coves in the Maritimes. Worked over by glaciers 10,000 years ago, the rough-hewn landscape abounds in huge boulders and rocky shelves on which foamy waves break into turquoise and white. Yellow brown algae clings to partially submerged rocks; sphagnum moss and alpine angiosperms find cleavage in the crevices between dry boulders. At the point, the red-capped white lighthouse of a million photos stands proudly on a solid rock foundation. With the warm summer sun over my shoulder, the refreshing sea breeze in my face and the soothing sounds of breaking waves, sitting on a smooth boulder is a tranquil place to enjoy the morning. Later we follow the coastline to Lunenburg and check out an annual musical festival, now in its 15th year. While sitting at a restaurant table overlooking the harbor, we try to recall if we have visited this town before. I know we saw the Bluenose II, a replica of the famous racing ship of the 1920s to 40s that was built in this town and is still here today, but the details of the scenery evade our memories. Of course, much changed since August 1981 when we were last along this coastline. Recently it has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its 250-year history as a fishing village and the harbor and many 19th Century homes have been beautifully restored. With a long tradition in seafaring, the village has erected a monument to those lost at sea. I find it stunning to see the list of names engraved on the marble posts: no year is without a name; some years have more than a dozen names; many last names appear multiple times, especially the Tanners with 18 entries. Given the small size of this community, dying at sea must have been commonplace, yet undoubtedly shocking nonetheless.
(Shari) Another to-do when visiting Halifax is a trip to Peggy's Cove and Lunenburg. We join the hordes of tourists at the most famous, and certainly most photographed, fishing village in North America. Built on a foundation of rocks, its colorful buildings, wharfs and lighthouse, just shout to be etched on film. Lunenburg too is extremely quaint. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, its buildings of many colors reflect in its picturesque bay. Today the town is having its 15th Annual Folk Fest and numerous stages are set up through out town. All day long various people perform their music to appreciative audiences. Bert and I eat our lunch at an outdoor restaurant overlooking the water while listening to a number of acts played on the wharf. I find the shops in town to be very interesting while Bert is entertained with other musicians playing at the bandstand on the hill. The entertainment is over all too soon and it is time to make our way home. Don, Jean, Elaine and Rich have dinner ready for us and we plan our next week's activities eating the delicious fish Don and Rich caught this morning.
(Bert) The organist stops in mid verse, she rests her hands on the keyboard and turns around to glare at the six of us as we continue singing heartily. We go right on to the end of the verse. Five of the six of us are choir members and Don sings as loudly as the rest of us. Together we more than overpower the rest of the Anglican congregation, since only six others attend the 8:30 service in the small wooden church. We were following the notes as printed in the hymnal and we blasted right on through the unwritten rest bar that the young organist - the pastor's daughter - wanted to impose on the score. Resigning, she proceeds to playing the next verse, more as accompanist than leader. Pastor's sermon is exceedingly brief. He announces to us guests that this is his last Sunday with this congregation, which he has served for ten years. In his sermon he includes an unorthodox claim that could be the meat for an interesting presentation, but he leaves us hanging by saying he does not have time to give us the Biblical references from which he reached the conclusion. More incidents impair the service and after an hour I am left with the feeling we intruded on a family feud. Probably untrue, but the service certainly provided more questions than answers. After switching campsites to one in Bridgewater, we return to the musical festival in Lunenburg. I spend almost the whole afternoon resting on the soft green lawn overlooking the old octagonal bandstand and the array of performers with an interesting variety of musical styles. Although most are adults, it's the younger performers that leave the strongest memories. A brightly red-haired girl surprises us with her lyrical voice, especially when she sings a tribute to those who died in the Swiss Air 101 flight that crashed very close to Lunenburg. And her story of the Bluenose, the best sailing ship in the world, is a magical mixture of storytelling and hauntingly beautiful music. Late in the afternoon, two other red-haired young ladies perform - sisters, one in high school, the other starting college this fall. They play duets on their violins while keeping time to the music with tap-dancing shoes. Then one plays a Scottish tune while the other step dances. But most memorable is their finale. Together, they play a fast fiddle tune and tap dance at the same time - both acts performed without missing a beat.
(Shari) We Lutherans like to sing. And sing lustily. Especially when it is a song we know. Our six doubles the size of the small Anglican congregation at St. Nicholas and when we sing it is noticed. Unfortunately we are singing to the beat written by the notes in the hymnal and the way we usually sing the song. Since five of the six of us are choir members, we really get into it with voices loud and clear. All of a sudden the young organist stops in mid song and we are forced to sing acappella. Apparently she puts a long rest between verses and the Alleluia chorus, but we do not. Oops! The next five verses we sing softer and listen to our leader, but she is still a little miffed, as I see her huffily take a seat next to her mom for the sermon. This is Pastor Randy's last day here and he gives a farewell sermon to the seven members present and to the six of us. Strange, so few are in attendance and two of the seven are his family. After church we move to Pine Hills Campground in Bridgewater, where the owner with the personality of a wet noodle, limply leads us to our site in this rather unkempt park. Jean and her sister want to see Lunenburg and we do not mind. The folk festival is still on and I just love listening to the performers. Bert and I spend most of the afternoon sitting on the hill above the bandstand listening and watching the music. This festival would be worth an admission price, but we get it all for free.
(Shari) Moving inland about 50 miles, we stop at Kejimkujik National Park. Tourists often overlook this national jewel because it is not on the ocean shore. However, the park protects 381 square kilometers of inland lakes and forests and its gently rolling landscape makes it a delightful place to bike ride. As soon as we set up and eat our lunch, Bert and I grab our bikes and pedal along the shore of the lake to the starting location of our ranger walk. For the next two hours, Jean, a Mi'kmaq Indian, tells us the history of her people which once numbered over 100,000, dipped to about 1000 and now are in the range of 25,000. In the early 1900s the government required all native children to attend school. Sometimes the children were boarded for years in dormitories away from home, unable to practice their native language, thereby loosing much of their culture. Today, the Anglican Church is fighting a lawsuit about the treatment of those children. Continuing our walk along the shore, we enter a restricted area where we are shown petroglyphs etched onto the soft rock outcroppings. Here we remove our shoes so as not to scratch the drawings underfoot. As she wets each drawing with water to bring out its image, I can just picture a canoe full of Mi'kmaq teenagers leaving their mark on the rocks. Our last stop is a burial ground where varying ceremonies are performed yet today. Our guide tells us she was married this past June, having a traditional ceremony complete with a certified medicine man and adorned in homemade white leather garments. Our 4.5-mi. return bike trip is more relaxing since we do not have a time deadline; we stop at the lookout tower and other interpretative signs along the way. The path winds its way up a hill, over a floating bridge, through woods and marshes, over boardwalks and between trees set close to the path. It is well-traveled and not really wide enough for two bicyclists to pass side by side and I often get off to let another pass. I use my brakes going down the hills afraid of meeting another cyclist on the path or hitting a tree and careening off the side of the steep cliff. After all that exercise, it is a well-deserved pudgie pie night, as we initiate Elaine and Rich into our favorite campfire meal.
(Bert) Driving inland from the coast, the distance to Kejimkujik (pronounced Ke-jim-koo-jick) National Park is short, but the broken road extends the time to two hours. Uniquely, this area combines a national park and a Canada historical site, recognized for its many artifacts of the Mi'kmaq aborigines. In early afternoon, Shari and I bicycle along a wooded trail to the starting point for a ranger-lead hike; the other four of our group drive the park road to the same point. We are the last to arrive, puffing heavily when we pull in. Jean, our national park guide, is a biologist by training and a Mi'kmaq Indian by birth. The name of her people used to be pronounced incorrectly as "Mick-mack", a word we've heard throughout our travels in the Maritime Provinces, but now is be corrected to "Mig-ma". Jean has an interesting style to her presentation on the Mi'kmaq history. Just before hiking to another vantage point along the trial, she poses a question. Who was here first? How do we know? How did we get here? Is there a written history? When we arrive at the next stop, she asks for answers and provides her answer as well. Three cultural groups, defined by their technology, have lived in Nova Scotia prior to the arrival of Europeans. Starting 5000 years ago, the Archaic group (stone tools) continued here for 2700 years. Next, the Woodland group (clay pottery) remained for 1500 years and finally the Mi'kmaq (lightweight materials such as birch bark) have been here for the balance, 800 years. Undoubtedly the most interesting part of Jean's tour is our stop at the petroglyphs. After ample explanation of the difficulty of preserving the historic carvings, she asks us to take off our shoes before we walk out on some large, flattened boulders stretching toward the shoreline. At first all we see is graffiti, often dated as recently as the mid 90s. She says these markings have not yet faded, but will in time. She dips her hand in water and gently rubs the rock surface where the most glaring graffiti stands out. Miraculously, the aborigine petroglyphs underlying the graffiti come to light. She shows us one petroglyph after another: hand prints, stick people, faces, ships, hunting scenes, hats, an early French priest - fragments of the past 300-500 years of Mi'kmaq history. In 90 min. we have learned a lot about the people who first lived here in Kejimkujik.
(Bert) Rain brings renewed life to the thick forests of Kejimkujik. Most delightfully, I find the mushrooms that have sprung up everywhere. Many years ago, Shari bought me a field guide on mushrooms, but I've always found identification a difficult experience. This morning, with so many varieties in front of me, I try again. The brightly colored ones like Yellow Patches, Emetic Russula and Cinnabar Cort are the easiest to identify, but the off-white veiled mushrooms with free gills all seem to look much alike and I'm not confident of my labels for Eastern Flat-topped Agaricus and Dirty Trich. (Don't mushrooms have unusual names?) I'm often asked if I know which mushrooms can be eaten safely. The answer is yes and no. If I can identify them to species, my book tells me if they are edible. But so often, the ones I find most are white gilled mushrooms and I usually narrow down the species to two possibilities: one edible and one poisonous. In about two hours I manage to put names to eight mushrooms, but then return to our campsite to bid farewell to Don and Jean and to Rich and Elaine. They are starting their trip to Wisconsin while we intend to stay longer in the Maritimes. In the afternoon, Shari and I again bicycle along the wooded paths, this time stopping at the dock to rent a canoe. The lake is glass flat and includes meandering streams, marshes and islands - a perfect location for canoeing. Lining the stream are purple flowers of Pickerelweed atop stalks with large heart-shaped leaves; the flower gets its name from its shared environment with the pickerel, although no one seems to be fishing here today. In the middle of a bay, we rest our paddles and listen. Mostly silence reaches our ears, but off in the distance we can hear sounds far away: automobile tires, an airplane engine, a chickadee singing and, the closest sound, people talking quietly in a canoe a quarter mile away. We paddle to an island and pull up on its shore. Shari finds Black Huckleberries and starts picking, while I discover Virginia Meadow Beauty and a couple Green Frogs, the first frogs I've seen on this trip. On the way back we see Eastern Painted Turtles resting on rocks and we remain motionless while the canoe glides past them so closely we could almost grab one. Their bright yellow facial stripes, the strong outlines on the scute seams of the carapace and the red notches along its border are vividly clear at this close perspective. After two hours of canoeing, we return to the dock and ride our bicycles back to camp. But Shari again beats me back, since I stop to investigate more wildlife, this time including an endangered flower, the Water Pennywort, easy to find since the park rangers roped off the spot where they grow. In the evening I'm glad Shari picked the huckleberries because they sure taste good over vanilla ice cream.
(Shari) There is nothing like sitting in a canoe in the middle of a lake and listening to nature. The soft ripple of the water patting the side of the boat, the lonely cry of a loon, the splash of a turtle as it scurries off its rock when we get too close, the soft breeze of the air as it blows past my face, but mostly the quiet peacefulness of it all. Bert and I retrace our bike path of yesterday to Jake's Landing to rent a canoe. We are given life jackets, paddles, and a plastic bag that says "Open only in emergency." In the bag are a whistle and a rope. I know what to do with the whistle, but not the rope. If I capsize the boat it will be too late to tie a rope on it. We paddle - yes, Woody, Bert says I do paddle - down river past and sometimes through water lilies. We decide to cut across the lake to a small island and beach our canoe there. My seat is telling me it needs a stretch. We get out of the canoe and I find tons of huckleberries to pick. After 15 minutes I have two cups of the berries, enough for some sauce I think. I also find a 3-legged green frog scared to death of me as I watch it from above and a tiny brown toad that hops away under a rock. We paddle towards shore and see a big area barricaded with logs that we surmise is one of the Mi'kmaq petroglyph sites. Paddling some more we watch five turtles taking a sunbath until we get too close and they dive off their rocks into the protection of the water. Too soon our rental time is up and we head back. On our way home, Bert stops to identify a flower and misses the deer along the path. I stop and watch it for a few minutes until a group of other bikers scares it away. Tonight Bert and I are all alone. The rest of our little group left this morning, anxious to get back to Wisconsin for a reunion. We may meet them again tomorrow in Digby, if they decide there is enough to do there for two nights.
(Shari) Not finding Don and Jean at Fundy Spray Campground, we move 1.5 miles up the road to Smith's Cove Tent and Trailer Park because it has an ocean view. The campground has many sites but ocean view sites are short and uneven. By driving in at an angle, Bert gets us a nice spot facing the ocean. From our front window we can watch the personality of the sea as it changes minute by minute. When we arrive, the sun is peaking out from under the clouds and the air is sticky. While eating lunch it starts to rain for a few minutes. Then the rain stops and the fog creeps around the bend, but soon the sun is trying to show its face again. Meanwhile the tide is on its way out. I drive four miles to the Digby turnoff and find an Atlantic Superstore, my favorite grocery store here in the Maritimes. Across the street is a fish market where I purchase lobster for supper. We have not had lobster in Nova Scotia yet, you know. Since lobster season ended a couple of weeks ago, lobster prices have been inching upward. I have to pay US $6 per pound now! After packing away the groceries, I notice we have more beaches in front of us than we did when we arrived. Our cell phone works for e-mail here and we have tons of messages to read. Soon it is time for the lobster. I had intended to eat it on the picnic table outside but it is drizzling again. Lobster is delicious whether eaten inside or out. After dinner, the whole bay in front of us is exposed and the water level is about ¼ mile away. We decide to explore the sea bottom. We find thousands, no gazillions, of mussels and soon we are gathering them for tomorrow's dinner. No wonder they are so cheap in the store; they are so easy to gather. I gather two pounds, while standing in one spot, before Bert even comes back with bags to put them in. I grab the mussel and pull on it to break the threads that hold it onto the rock. Within 20 minutes we have two big plastic grocery sacks full of mussels. I tell Bert we should quit gathering since we cannot eat all these at one time and we want to keep them fresh. But it is hard to resist picking up more when they are so readily attainable. Tune in tomorrow to see how we liked our mussels.
(Bert) We move from the interior of Nova Scotia to the northwestern shore. Stopping at Digby we are at the base of a very long and narrow peninsula separating the Bay of Fundy from St. Mary's Bay. From our campsite the water is only a stone's throw away. But as the afternoon expires, the water recedes until the edge is a quarter mile away and we are left with a gravel beach. After yet another lobster dinner, we walk along the gravel and look for shells. To my surprise I see a cluster of Blue Mussels sticking up vertically from the previously submerged bay. Looking further ahead, we can see thousands of mussels. I head back for a couple of plastic bags and within a few minutes we collect five pounds for tomorrow's dinner. The blue-black mussels are 2 to 2½ in. long and attach themselves to stones and rocks with tough threads. Each one I pick up brings along a collection of stones that detach by yanking apart the threads. When I have my bag full, I carry it to the water's edge and wade in to about 5 inches of water where I clean the lot. By the time I'm done cleaning the mussels, the water level has increased to over a foot high and I'm now twice the distance from the shoreline. It's easy to see how someone could be caught unprepared for the fast tidal rise.
(Bert) I wish I could lasso some of our weather and send it to my friends in Texas. Ours is rain at night and early morning, then cool overcast skies followed by pleasantly cool and sunny skies in the afternoon. Theirs has been 100+ days for at least a month and rarely a sign of precipitation. Taking advantage of the good weather we drive from Digby to nearly Yarmouth on the coastal trail following St. Mary's Bay. In the bay outside Digby we see large metal frame rings covered with wire mesh that form floating cages. A boat filled with feedbags is throwing food into the cages and through binoculars we can see 2-ft. long Atlantic Salmon jumping in a feeding frenzy. So this is how they raise the salmon we have found in the fish markets! A small rowboat with three fishermen is nearby. They cast their lines just outside the cages and we later learn that this is a good spot to catch mackerel feeding on the food that drifts from the cages. At the Digby harbor, while Shari checks on fishing charters, I inspect the hundreds of gulls resting on the roofs of the fishing shanties and warehouses, looking for an exception to the two most common gulls. I spot one that is different: lighter backed and larger than Herring Gulls, with a bright yellow eye, but still retaining the dark wing tips. This oddity is a cross between a Glaucous Gull and a Herring Gull, an interesting find. Hours later, we stop at Mavillette Beach Provincial Park and walk along the wide sandy beach. I find Beach Peas are in pod, each holding generous sized peas and I sample two. Then I suggest to Shari that we gather some. But before doing so, I check my book and read, "The seeds are poisonous." Ah-oh! I hope two peas aren't a harmful dose. Next I find Yarrow and the book states, "A tea used by the Indians to cure stomach disorders was made by steeping the leaves." I wonder if the medicine man found this as the cure for too many Beach Peas. Back at R-TENT in the evening, Shari cleans the mussels we caught yesterday. I weigh a pound of these and count 21. By the time Shari finishes we have 11 lbs. We dine on half of these tonight, a great meal. Shari freezes the rest and we decide to gather some more while there is still enough light to see them in the gravel beds. Now we've got another 224 for future meals.
(Shari) The Evangeline Trail runs around the western shore of Nova Scotia through small French Acadian villages and pastoral farmland. In Digby, we stop at the ferry dock to inquire about prices to St. John, New Brunswick. It is way too expensive and we decide to drive around the Bay of Fundy. At the wharf we wait for the Basin Charter Sport Fishing boat to come in. If participants on the boat did "catching as well as fishing" we will charter it tomorrow. Just as Don and Rich found at Peggy's Cove, not much fishing occurred here either. Guess we can save our CN $40 each on that one. Eating lunch at Savary Picnic Park, we sit on a picnic table overlooking the bay and see the sun try to peak out from its cover of clouds. Finally at 2 the sun shows its whole face and Bert says, "See, another fine day up here." We see an impressive church of granite, with seating for 1000, take a barefoot stroll along a warm sandy beach, drive to a closed candy factory and a stop at a bustling port where fleets of herring seines, scallop draggers and lobster boats anchor. Back home, we steam our mussels and eat our fill. They are so delicious that we grab our pails to get more just as the sun sets over our bent bodies at low tide.
(Shari) One of those million dollar days that are so rare up here, we actually wake up to full sunshine and it stays with us all day. Again packing a lunch, we take the scenic drive to Brier Island, crossing Long Island, with the use of two short ferries. Nineteen years ago we also made this trip, but in the fog. At that time almost every house was adorned with two or more wooden butterflies with 3-ft. wingspans. Sadly, only one house along the way now sports butterflies. I thought they made great presents and wanted to buy some like I did years ago. Our butterflies, although a bit faded, were still on our house when we sold it 18 months ago. We take a walk through a forest and down a steep bank (176 steps) to a viewing deck over basalt rocks formed into short columns. One column looks like it is balancing on another and of course we take pictures. It reminds me of the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland that Bert liked so much. We drive just about every road, gravel and paved, on Brier Island. At the end of one road we walk the cliffs and see more fantastic basalt columns and ocean scenery. At the end of two other roads are lighthouses with more scenery. Each view is unique and I ponder God's vast imagination for such varied beauty in our world. Dinner tonight is at the Fundy Restaurant in Digby, overlooking the colorful harbor from the protection of their sunroom. My meal of Digby scallops is good but does not warrant the price. With tip, our two meals cost CN $58, the most we have paid on the trip so far. After dinner, Bert indulges me and we stop at a few gift shops along the street. He is into bird beanies and is as delighted as I am to find the third in the series of owls. The newest one is called Wisest. We already have Wise and Wiser, so Wisest fits nicely into the collection. I wonder what they will call the fourth one, if they make it?
(Bert) How much can you recall from a trip 19 years ago? A few months ago I read an article in Time Magazine about how our mind works and the biological way we store information. Unless reinforced in some way, most of what we experience disappears from our memory rather quickly. Today's drive is a duplicate of one we made in 1981. If I had written journals of the type we write now, I'm sure I'd remember more details. As it is I recall a half dozen events, the first being that the road ends on the long Digby Neck peninsula and that we take a ferry to Long Island. In 19 years that hasn't changed. Water rushes through this separation in land and the ferry must compensate. Even though the two docks are almost across from each other, the ferryboat heads upstream and crosses the channel sideways. The force of the water is great enough that it's forward progress is slow, but once it shuffles across the main stream it is able to point toward the island and complete the trip. On Long Island we stop to visit Balanced Rock, an opportunity I'm sure wasn't here last trip. A half-mile hike through a bog and woods leads us to the pristine edge of the island. From a pedestal perched a dozen feet above the shore we watch waves crash against the rocks. But this rock formation is special: remnants of lava beds from the dinosaur age, the basalt is hardened into tall columns which water has eroded. Balanced Rock is an incredible example of a thin basalt column eroded on all sides except for a small base that holds the needle upright. It has the appearance of defying gravity. When we move across Long Island and take a ferry to Brier Island, we see more examples of the play between lava and water. Here the columns are shorter and denser. Just the tops are visible, but they have eroded at different levels, giving a stair step appearance. The formations are very much like what we saw at Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland, but here on a much smaller scale. On one stair step, a large flock of migrating sandpipers and plovers rest. Dozens of eiders float close to shore and hundreds of gulls are everywhere. The majority of the Herring Gulls are almost totally black, the feathering of juveniles that hatched this season. They are the same size as their gray-backed white parents, but during their first winter their feathering will only lighten to an overall brown color, not reaching adult colors for four years. I wonder what our society would be like if skin color was characteristic of age and not geographic origin. We visit lighthouses on opposite ends of the small island and search unsuccessfully for berries in the bogs nearby. Under bright sunny skies, the seaside scenery is music to my eyes, a symphony of variations in land and water, the interplay of light on crashing surf, the infinite variety in the lines of rocks and waves. This has been a perfect day to revisit one of my favorite islands.
(Bert) The weatherman is wrong; today turns into another warm sunny day. We move R-TENT further northeast along the Bay of Fundy and park briefly along the side of the road at Annapolis Royal. This weekend happens to be "Paint the Town" festival and artists are scattered around downtown with easels displayed, painting festival events and historic scenes. Craft sales, food and music complete the scene. At Fort Anne we pick up a bit of the history of this place. Founded in 1605 by the French, the area was already an important locality for the Mi'kmaq. Through the years this strategic location served as the French capital of Acadia and the English colonial capital of Nova Scotia, changing hands frequently. In R-TENT we continue northeast along the valley separating two ranges of hills. Here fall harvest cannot be far away, for we see fields of golden grain, ripe corn and mature soybeans. Hayfields are already green with a second crop. We haven't seen much farmland in Nova Scotia and, even here, the fields soon give way to more aspen/spruce forests. We stop at Grand Pre at a campground that opens to Minas Basin, a large body of water that remotely connects to the Bay of Fundy. The commercial campground is packed with young families on weekend retreat. A swimming pool is swarming with kids, and adults are gathered everywhere in small groups. But this isn't tent camping. Almost all sites have semi permanent trailers positioned in rows that inhibit one moving without disrupting the others. Space is tight and the overall effect is more ghetto than parkland. We are amazed that so many people like this arrangement, since we've seen this type of campground throughout the Maritimes. It's not our type of camping, but the full hookups will be welcome for a couple of days.
(Shari) We no sooner get started than, to my surprise, Bert parks R-TENT at the side of the road and we get out to attend a festival in Annapolis Royal. Contrary to the weatherman, the day is gorgeous and we walk down the idyllic Main Street of this old town on the bay. Lined with shops and restaurants, it begs for exploration. At an open area across from the wharf we find the festival, full of booths with vendors displaying their wares. We can taste brown sugar fudge, cherries and smoked salmon. We can buy foodstuffs galore and various artisans are also showing their works. At the end of two hours we have bags full of fresh corn on the cob, cherries, yellow beans, green onions, maple syrup and smoked salmon. We eat a lunch of spicy sausage with sauerkraut and for desert we choose fried dumplings dipped in sugar. Passing the King's Theater we notice Hamlet is playing tonight and we consider staying over to attend, but in the end decide to move on. Fort Anne is just as I remembered it 19 years ago with its cannons sitting on top of the fort's hills, pointed out towards the water. I have at least four loads of wash to do and tonight we must find a place with full hook-ups. We decide to stop at Land of Evangeline Campground Resort, a site not living up to its name, near Grand Pre. Full of seasonal campers, we are directed to a field in the back and join one other overnighter on the grassy area. Here we learn of the Atlantic Theater Festival and inquire about its performance. Amadeus is opening tonight, but at $37.50 per ticket, no meal included, we pass on that opportunity. Instead we eat more of our free mussels while watching TV.
(Shari) Even before entering the recreation hall here at the campground, I knew I was headed in the right direction. Church music, played on a keyboard, reaches my ears through the screen door of the 1970 vintage hall. We find two seats in the third row and two musicians are introduced as big treats for the bigger than average audience this morning. The style of music on the keyboard is reminiscent of "Tiny Bubbles" with a flourish of extra notes at the end of phrases seemingly to give it additional emphasis. I hesitate to categorize things, but this is your stereotypical Gospel Sing, complete with a long-winded preacher and testimonials of the musicians. Forty-five minutes into the service, the minister says that after another set of five songs, he will give the message. I lean over to Bert and ask what was the 10 minute homily concerning God's people not being weeds, but part of a bouquet. Bert tries to shush me. Ninety minutes after we started, the preacher ends with a sudden flourish, "You're dismissed." No one greets us; no one even looks at us as we walk back to R-TENT. After a lazy lunch, we drive a short distance to Grand-Pre National Historic Site. Here I finally understand the role of the French Acadians and how they fit into the whole picture. In the 17th century 500 French Europeans came to Acadia, a region along the Atlantic Coast including Maine, to establish a colony. Caught in the middle of the many battles between the British and the French, they just wanted to be left alone. This was not to be, and during the English rule in 1755, some 10,000 of them were deported to various British colonies as far south as Georgia. Some of us know of this story, through Longfellow's poem, Evangeline. It was here that the poem has its setting. Grand Pre was one of the colonies of Acadians, settled in 1680, and by the mid 18th century was the largest. This historic site is not a recreation as much as a commemoration of the people who made it. Paintings depicting the deportation, with words from the poem written underneath, are housed in a small church. A bust of Longfellow and a full statue of Evangeline adorn the well-kept gardens. Later we drive through Wolfville, another cute town bordering the sea. Stopping at a farm market, we pick up more corn, beans, peaches and peas. This area is still a farming community and its fresh produce abundant. Three thousand acres of land are below sea level, but salt water is kept at bay by a series of dykes just like those used by the Acadians so long ago.
(Bert) Attending church this morning is especially convenient since the Rec Hall at the campground offers services. Today is special since they have two "Southern Country Gospel" singers performing. Bob and Roger - one on guitar, both vocalists - provide us with entertainment as well as a Gospel-centered message in their songs. Then Neil, a former missionary to Senegal, West Africa, gives a short sermon about how appearances aren't as they appear, i.e., someone can really be hurting inside and yet appear fine outside. With beautiful weather again today, contrary to the weatherman, I sit outside under the awning and soak up the good air while I read an old Isaac Asimov novel. I'm curious how he predicts the future a few thousand years from now from his perspective of 1950 when he wrote the book. He predicts videoconferencing, space travel and hyperspace (a la Star Trek), but he over anticipates the effects of G-forces on space travelers. In late afternoon, we head a mile down the road to the Grand Pre historical site for Acadia. Made famous by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem about the tragic love affair of Evangeline and Gabriel, Grand Pre is the home from which they and the other Acadians were expelled. A chapel erected by later Acadian descendents houses some of the history of their expulsion. Anticipating a war against France, the English grew concerned about the neutral Acadians living in Nova Scotia, thinking they may side with the French. So in 1755 the British kicked the Acadians off their homelands and confiscated their properties. Nearly 10,000 Acadians were dispersed, forced to wander for a place that would accept French Catholics. From 1756-1816, a span of two generations, they continued to scatter to Quebec, St. Pierre et Miquelon, New England, the West Indies, French Guiana, England, France and even the Falkland Islands. Over 3100 ended up in Louisiana, where many of their descendents are yet today. Others eventually returned to the Maritimes, but others stayed in New England and France. Between the chapel and our campsite are some of the lands they once farmed. A sign states that 3013 acres are below sea level: marshes converted into farmlands through a system of dykes erected by the Acadians to drain off the water. Back at camp, it rains while we eat dinner and, just as we finish, so does the rain and we see a brilliantly colored double rainbow over R-TENT.
(Bert) Midway through our drive this morning we intersect a road labeled, "Back Rd". This could aptly describe our whole morning's drive as we meander east along Minas Basin, finally ending up at Maitland. Along the way I'm surprised at seeing Ring-necked Pheasants three times, including two with almost grown chicks. As they have been for the past two weeks, the fields and roadsides are clothed in the broad white blooms of Queen Anne's Lace, sprinkled with the harvest yellow colors of Canada Goldenrod. Some the blooms of the Queen Anne's have curled up into the feathery bird's nests indicative of autumn. During this time of day, Minas Basin could more aptly be called Minas Mudhole. For miles, all we see is red mud formed into mud gullies, mud rivers, mud hills and a vast mud plain. It's hard to believe that in a few hours this will all be covered and become a blue lake. After lunch, we drive to the starting point for one of the raft trips that ride the bore tide. Looking like strange astronauts in their bulky red and yellow head-to-foot raingear, the participants trudge across the mud to the thin stream where the rubber raft is held. They board the raft and sit along the inflated sides. The driver starts his 60 hp outboard and away they go toward the narrow inland end of the Shubenacadle River. I don't know if I should call this direction upstream or downstream. It seems to depend on the time of day. Right now the tide is coming in and we can see the turbulent bore wave as it heads inland. But we can see the boaters no longer, so we get back into the car and drive to Truro that is at the head of another river affected by the bore tide. Arriving there too soon, we spend some time in Victoria Park. Here a romantic series of small waterfalls drops through a dense forest and the setting could easily be the proto type for a Disney theme park. Massive wooden stairs and railings connect at various levels overlooking the waterfalls and give me the feeling of an adult's version of a tree house. It's time to head to the bore tide, so we drive back through Truro and take Bore Tide Rd. to the river. Near here the world's highest tide - over 50 ft. - has been measured. An interpretation center runs a film that gives a good description of the bore. When we observe an ordinary tide we can't mark its progress minute by minute; the buildup period is too long and the distance along the shore is too short. But here the breadth of the Atlantic Ocean is forced into the funnel of the Bay of Fundy and then further narrowed successively by Minas Channel, then Minas Basin, then Cobequid Bay, until finally this huge volume of water is forced into a narrow stream. Now the water moves quickly, faster than I would be able to run on the mud and almost as fast as I could run if it were a track field. The leading edge, called the bore, is six inches high by my estimate, higher by Shari's. When the sun and moon are properly aligned, as they will be this weekend, the bore tide can be as much as a meter high.
(Shari) Before I left Texas, high on my wish list was a ride on the rapids of the bore tide in the Bay of Fundy. Today we drive to Maitland, the headquarters of three outfitters that each claim to be the best. Millpond Campground ranks as one of the nicest on our trip, only two miles from one of the outfitters. So we drive to a park overlooking the river, just at the time today's group departs. Twenty-one passengers sit on the sides of three rafts powered by 60 hp motors and we watch them take off in their yellow and orange rain gear and life jackets. I see the bore tide, where the ocean tide meets the conflicting river, causing a wave and rapids. We watch the rafts turn the bend but think it is rather lame. Perhaps further up river we can see more. We drive all the way to Truro, visit Victoria Park and its falls, before the incoming tide hits the view spot at 5:24. About 100 people all line up along the banks, each with his/her own anticipation level. Of all the trips we have been on, one of the greatest disappointments was the bore tide in Alaska, so we do not expect much. Soon we see the wave: about 6-10 in. high coming down the river. We are standing on a bank, only 10 ft. from the water, so we can hear the rush of the rapids as it swiftly flows past us. Today's tidal bore certainly is not the highest - those happen at full and new moon when the sun's gravitation pull is aligned with the moon's. The highest tides are to occur seven days from today. I was hoping against all hope that the ride tomorrow would be thrilling but after seeing the bore tide, I think not. Now we have a decision to make: do we stick around here for a week, go someplace else and come back next week or forget the ride this trip. We both do not want to take it unless the bore is at its greatest, and that is certainly not today, tomorrow or the next day. Hindsight tells us we should have planned this better. We could have stopped in this area three weeks ago, when the tide was higher. I'll let you know tomorrow what we decide.
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