Wednesday, October 11, 2017

All this Change (Jangling 'round in my Pocket)

This was a non-hiking weekend:  #1 because my knees were still a little sore and #2 because it was my birthday weekend. I ALWAYS have a whole weekend rather than the traditional 1 day birthday. I'm an adult -- I can do what I want!

Friday, I went thrifting in a little town 45 min away and scored some great deals. Saturday, 2 girlfriends and I went to an awesome yard sale and had coffee and treats afterwards. Then we dog walked for almost an hour and a half. Sunday, I had an amazing prime rib dinner with my Dad and brother. Because we'd done a turkey dinner just 3 weeks ago for my Dad's birthday, he and I decided against having a family Thanksgiving dinner. I'd have had to do all the work anyway, so I reasoned that I wouldn't miss it at all. 

But come Monday when I was home alone watching the rain and seeing FB posts of golden turkeys (the people and the fowl!), I was sad. I longed to be sitting with a large, happy, grateful group, overeating traditional Thanksgiving fare, comparing stuffing notes and setting up for a game of Skip-Bo afterwards. But I remind myself that this was MY traditional Thanksgiving get-together; it is NOT my NL family's traditional Thanksgiving get-together. (There's much more cussing and snarling at my NL family's traditional Thanksgiving get-together!)

It's mostly on holidays that I find myself torn: torn between being happy that I'm home in NL with my family and yet desperately missing the wonderful traditions I had built-up with my extended family in Nova Scotia. I miss knowing what to expect. I miss the familiar. I miss the closeness.

The jury is still out on whether moving home was a good choice. The transition is very difficult -- for me as well as for my family,  I would imagine! During my 41 years in NS finding my own way, my family were here in NL chipping away a comfortable spot to function in it's disfunction; then I come home with my Norman Rockwell ideals and all these wonderful ways of how we can love each other more and get along better! How dare I disturb the status quo!

(Many of my prayers are for acceptance and perserverance and the wisdom to know when each is needed.)

Yes, the jury may still be out, but I made a choice to move home a year ago. And although I will allow myself the sadness that comes with the occasional nostalgic memory, and I will not waste my time focusing on what I miss about NS. 

I will focus on all the great things that are to be had here with family and old friends. I will focus on how fortunate I am to have this opportunity to connect once again and the beauty that can come from change. 

PS - I got to eat Thanksgiving leftovers yesterday with my dear friends Ed and Judy. It was delicious!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Coppermine Mountain Trail

Autumn has not only reached us here in western Newfoundland, we are experiencing quite cold mornings and evenings; so the leaves are changing color rapidly. It sure is getting pretty(ier) outside. 

This weekend's hike was up another mountain; and apparently 3.5 km straight up the side of a mountain on a narrow, root 'n rock filled muddy path is it! My limit, I mean. This hike was a killer! 
We hiked the red line.
Now, don't get me wrong: I loved it! But I'm sure if you were anywhere near me on the last leg of the climb you could hear my brain repeating my climbing mantra: "Just one foot in front of the other, Sandy. Just one more foot." We started the morning early in roughly 4 deg C (about 39 deg F) temperatures with the vague threat of a shower in the afternoon. There were plenty of rest stops and lookouts to take advantage of. And as is usual here in NL, we went from forest to bracken to barrens until we finally reached the top. 

We've reached the top, right?

What do you mean, no?

We have to cross that other field of bracken and climb the hill to the top of THAT mountain? 

"One foot in front of the other, Sandy. One in front of the other!"

On one side of us was the mouth of the Bay of Islands looking out to the Atlantic Ocean. And the other three sides were hills and trees and mountain and ponds: it was spectacular, even in the overcast weather. We did experience intermittent misty showers; and when we finally reached the cairn at the top of Copper Mine Mountain, we were tired and hungry, ready for our lunch rest.

But man! It was cold up there! Probably only about 2 deg C. And as we huddled behind the cairn munching on our sandwiches (and dreaming of hot tea), tiny flakes of white stuff fell momentarily from the sky and landed on my backpack!

The return 3.5 km took just as long as climbing up did because it was so steep, muddy, rocky/rooty and narrow. But oh what bliss to finally reach the bottom and exchange my hiking boots for sneakers.

When I finally got back home, extra time was given to my aftercare; lots of stretching and a huge mug of warm tea in my fragrant scented epsom salts bath. I spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening relaxing and napping. I need to regain my strength!

Hmmmm? I wonder where we'll hike next weekend?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Hey! My feet hurt!

Yes. Tis' the cry of the aging hiker: "My feet hurt!" But what a great time I'm having doing it. 

Last weekend, our hike was 10.5 km (6.5 mi) return and one of the most popular hikes in Gros Morne National Park because of it's variety and beauty. We began across from The Tablelands, a majestic flat-topped mountain range where you are actually walking on the earth's mantle (normally found under the earth's crust)! (Haven't done that one yet as they recommend a guide. $$$) But we were walking towards the ocean; so our walk progressed quickly from the earth's mantle to scrubland. 

We were walking on a steady descent, through scrubland to forest, over barrens, down wooden "steps" and footpaths full of tree roots, with the occasional break of flat surface.

Finally, we could see the water! Through more forest, down more "steps", and then we reached our destination at Green Gardens  overlooking the Gulf of St Lawrence.  The sea was full of wonderful rock formation. There was also a motorized dory in the water which we were all curious about as there are no fish that close to shore.

We had to walk down that staircase (75 steps total) to reach the beach below where we had lunch. It had warmed up considerably by then; and the sound of the surf was magnificant!

This is the reason the hike is called Green Gardens. At the top of the cliff beyond the beach area there are several connected fields, green and lush. We were told that farmers still graze sheep here in the summer; and indeed, the evidence was underfoot!

Remember that dory we saw in the Gulf? Well, while we were in the last field, we heard the tinkle of little bells and 2 young men came through the back of the field with half a dozen sheep. They herded the sheep to the steps ..... led those sheep down those 75 steps!!! ...... then along the beach to the very end where they carried the sheep into the dory and off they went .... out to sea and onto (I assume) the farm where they belong! What a sight to see! 

That last green field was the end of the path unfortunately. What is actually an 18 km hike is cut in half because of erosion which has happened on the seaside trail. So, being now fed, watered and rested, it was time to begin our uphill return journey.

These are the "steps" I mentioned: 4x4s filled with dirt and rocks; and you really need to high-step it to get from one to the other. The foliage is beginning to change already here in NL; and you can see the amazing orange colors from the dying ferns. 

The Pitcher Plant is a
carnarvous plant
As we walked, we passed lots of mushrooms, ate juniper berries right off the branch (bitter with a peppery-medicinal taste but very beneficial to one's immune system), saw bunnies (but no moose), went through clouds of black flies and saw lots of NLs provincial flower, the Pitcher Plant.

The return trip required lots of rests and water breaks. But we finally made it back to our cars; and then continued to enjoy one another's company at dinner in Rocky Harbour again. 

While the rest of Canada and the U.S. are enjoying very high temperatures, the weather here in Newfoundland is seasonal. And as we have a very short summer season, the leaves are changing already and mornings and nights are actually cold. The group hopes to hike at least until the end of October. And if the weather cooperates, that will make for some spectacular hikes.

Let me at those mountains!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Was this your last summer "Hurrah" Newfoundland?

Last week, my friends and I took a mid-week day off work and drove the 6 hr return trip to one of the ONLY sandy beaches on the west coast of Newfoundland. We have miles and miles and miles of rocky coastline; my childhood swims always included wearing a pair of worn sneakers to walk into the water. So sandy beaches are much revered.  

We travelled to Burgeo. First you're on the highway, then you're driving through the forest; but the last third of the trip takes you through the barrens which are quite beautiful; every corner brought a new, magnificant vista --- mountains and hills, fjords and ponds, boulders and meadows; and so many shades of green!

When we reached the village of Burgeo, we headed straight for the beach which is part of Sandbanks Provincial Park. The map showed 6 separate beaches divided by rocks, dunes and an interwoven 7 km trail: we visited 3 of these beaches. 

It was a lovely day; sunny, with temps around the 22 C (72 F) mark. I was reminded of beach walks in Nova Scotia with my international students. I didn't realize how much I missed that until I saw the long expanse of sand and heard the waves. I must confess, I did tear up a little. I miss my second home. :( 

Off came our sandals and into the cold north Atlantic went our feet as we waded through the waves.  We walked and walked and walked. At one point, I just lay down on the sand and let the warmth of the sun and the sound of the ocean envelop me. Heaven! 

Up and over dunes; climbing the rocks was a little more difficult, especially coming down. But we did it rather than climb the wooden stairs. I felt like a kid again. The bay was full of rocks and islands; you can actually take a ferry to one of the larger islands, Ramea, where people still live. And because it was a mid-week September, the area was almost entirely ours. 

We drove around this pretty little village and found a steep, high set of steps leading to a lookoff where you can get a 360 view of Burgeo. Spectacular view!

By this time, the day was getting late. We found a little restaurant and ate a relaxing dinner of fish 'n' chips (local cod, so fresh, I almost slapped it!) Yum yum!

Then we headed back to Corner Brook, tired and satiated.  On the return trip, we saw a moose eating dinner in one of the bogs; we saw an eagle in flight; then we met this little guy. 
We slowed the car and pulled over. Mr Fox walked to our car and said (Yes, I'm sure I heard him): "Please sir! I want more!" 

So, I gave him the leftover pieces of fish to take home to his family as I'm sure they needed it much more than I did. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

A View from the Top

Saturday was another wonderful hike with my group when we hiked South Head Lighthouse, a 7 km return hike which ascends 330 meters into the mountain range behind Lark Harbour. 

We started the hike at the parking lot by the beach and began a gradual climb through the forest. It was cool and fragrant in the shade of the trees; we stopped for pictures at the waterfall. But shortly after that, we came to the real killer ...
... this meadow!

By the time we reached the meadow, the sun was directly overhead and at it's hottest; and there was nowhere to hide for the rest of the climb. We followed a zig zag line up between the 2 mountains with occasional stops to rest our weary legs and lungs and to let other hikers pass.

Here's the view looking down. You can see the parking lot and the beach in the far, far distance. Wow! And luckily, I found a great walking stick to help me. 

The dogberry trees were once again heavily laden with berries. And once we reached the top of the meadow and began the last leg of our journey over the mountain top, there were blueberries everwhere! They were small and a little tart. (Kind of like me as a teenager!)

What a spectacular view at the top! We sat and ate lunch together and enjoyed the beautiful sunshine and the ocean/island(s) view. 

Corner Brook is at the end of a very long bay known as the Bay of Islands. Wee Ball (which you see here) is one of the largest islands therein.

Here's a panoramic view of where we all dined:

On my left is a slightly different way to meet up with the return path. And directly in front of me was, of course, WeeBall and the Atlantic.

If I turned my head to the right, I follow this mountain top to the valley below where we spotted 3 moose also eating lunch. Everyone was hungry, I guess! 

This has been my favorite hike to date. The view at the top is just so magnificant! The area around Lark Harbour has 6+ trails of all sizes and range of difficulty. I hope we do more before the cold temperatures set in. 

Into the vehicles and just a short jaunt down the road to our next hiking stop, Marlene's Tidewater Cafe and Crafts. What a joy it was to sit outside with a coffee and lemon square, resting my feet in front of this view.

I live in a beautiful province. 

(And when I'm buried in snow and ice from December to May, I shall repeat this mantra!)

Monday, August 28, 2017

"Havin' a Toime" at the Cabin

This past weekend (an extra long one for me) was chock full of fun. So much so, that I need to rest and live a totally boring life for at least a week! I'm not as young as I used to be! Let me tell you about my time at "the cabin".

Newfoundlanders love their weekend retreats - cabins, cottages, sheds, whatever. Lots of people go the usual route: buy a piece of land on a lake, build a cabin, fill it full of hand-me-downs and go there every weekend with the family and friends. But even the poor can have a "cabin" here in NL. If you've got a dwelling, a tent to pitch or a vehicle that has enough room for you to sleep in, then you've got a ready made "cabin". Just take practically any of the many woods or logging roads, find a spot (where there's preferably at least there's one other human), and there ya go! Set up your camp! If the logging companies don't want you on that particular piece of land, they'll not only let you know you aren't allowed, but they'll also show you where you can pitch your tent! Amazing huh, that there are still places like this in the world.

Anyway, my sister's "cabin" is an old travel trailer that's not roadworthy any longer but has certainly got lots of dry, weather-proof life left in her. We packed some food, drink and both cool and warm clothing, and off we went shortly after supper. 10 km off the highway -- past I don't know how many other side logging roads -- we finally reached our home for the next 2 nights. 

The logging companies clear cut areas in NL, leaving the birch trees and the brush where they are. This leaves the area looking like some sort of alien landscape or post-apocalyptic scene. It's quite sad really while at the same time quite beautiful in it's starkness. 

Important things first: make a fire in the pit outside, put the fresh corn on to boil, and make our beds. Then the fun could begin. 

The nights are chilly here in NL. But Linda always has extra hats and woods jackets on hand. We wouldn't win any best-dressed titles, but we were warm, watered and fed, the fire was crackling, the ancient radio was doing the same, and we danced in front of the flames. (Well, maybe that was only me.)

The next day dawned bright, sunny and warm. We took a drive to Pinchgut Lake for ice cream and a short walk round. We drove down several alien roads looking for moose which are usually plentiful. And on our return trip, we chased a caribou. Well, actually we were following him as he had to wait for the right spot to get off the road onto the scrub land and he refused to "pull over" and let us pass. Poor little guy!

Some favorite Newfie sayings.
Friday evening round the fire was cut somewhat short because of rain. But white wine, cheesies and a good book were just fine in the trailer.  We were home before 1 pm Sat afternoon; and even though I had a wonderful time, how good it is to sleep in one's own bed, huh!