Summer Feels and Seasonal Amnesia

We are deep into the lazy, hazy days of summer now; watching helplessly as July slips quickly behind us and we round the corner on August.

Hopefully you’ve been spending at least some of these impossibly long days exploring and enjoying all that the Maritimes has to offer.

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Lunenburg waterfront
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Cape Split, NS

It always strikes me that when you’re sweating out the summer months, even though you know that winter is most definitely coming, you still can’t fully comprehend of how cold and miserable it’s really going to be.  And when you’re deep in the dark depths of January and February, it feels like you’ll never feel the warmth of the sun again.  It’s like we develop some sort of seasonal amnesia in order to cope (is this already a thing?).

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Winter Wonderland, long forgotten

The really good news is that we’re currently in the sweatin’ and forgettin’ stage of our seasonal amnesia.  That glorious stage when blizzards are but distant memory and storm chips have been replaced by campfire chips.


But beware, my dear fair-weather friends, the clock is indeed ticking.  I can feel the days getting shorter by the moment.  Those stunning summer sunsets and glorious beach days are numbered.

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So, get out there and enjoy every second of it!  Have drinks at the boardwalk, explore a place you’ve never been, take a sailing lesson or hike that peak you’ve always wanted to tackle.  Because seasonal amnesia is real (or not) and winter is coming.

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That Hammock Life

On Top of the Maritimes: Our Mount Carleton Trek

Mount Carleton, located in the north of New Brunswick, is the highest peak in the Maritimes, at 820m (2,690ft).  The mountain is located within the Mount Carleton Provincial Park, where there are 4 peaks and more than 42,000 acres of wilderness to explore.  Mount Carleton is the highest peak, followed by Mount Head at 792m, Mount Sagamook at 777m and Mount Bailey at 564m.

On Saturday, Joel and I got up with the sun and headed for Mount Carleton, an almost 5 hour drive from our home in Saint John.

We arrived at the park just after noon.  We would have loved to be able to hike some of the other peaks but we only had a few hours and we definitely wanted to bag the highest peak in the Maritimes so we headed straight for the Mount Carleton trail.

The trail is a roughly 10km loop.  Park staff suggest doing the hike in a clockwise fashion, up the left side of the trail and back down the shorter, right side of the trail.

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The trail is considered moderately difficult, but we found that it was a steady uphill climb until you get to the last kilometer or so, where you can split one of two ways: one a more gentle roundabout climb and another that takes you right along the cliff edge, with a lot more boulders to climb over.  We took the more exposed side as we wanted the better views.

The trail up the mountain is a pretty one, following a babbling brook for part of the way. Headwaters campground is on this side as well, if you’re looking to camp overnight.  Once you hit the fork in the trail marking the last kilometer, you very quickly begin to climb out of the tree line, revealing some amazing views of northern New Brunswick.  It truly is spectacular.

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It is said that on a clear day, you can see more than 10 million trees from the top of Mount Carleton.  Standing at the summit on Saturday, I definitely felt like I could see that many trees.

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You are truly in the wilderness, unplugged from the grind of life, and connected to your immediate surroundings.  This is what I love about hiking.  It gives you a goal to achieve, it’s a great workout, and it allows you a chance to connect with yourself and the quiet solitude of nature.  Joel remarked afterward that there were a few moments of the trail of absolute silence, and how peaceful he found it.

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There are so few moments of silence in our everyday lives.  So much information coming at us at once, from all angles.  We must make time to unplug from our lives, and to make time for silence.


After we were finished hiking, we headed back to the pretty town of Perth-Andover and The Castle Inn.  The Inn was first built in 1932 as the private residence of Bill and Pauline Lewis.  The structure has a Norman Chateau facade and features many local river rocks collected by the couple themselves.

Castle Inn (2)

 

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The building suffered a fire in the 1940’s and when the structure was rebuilt, the tower was added, along with a stunning, spiral staircase.

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After his parents passed away, Lance Lewis planned to turn the home into a Bed and Breakfast but died unexpectedly and was not able to achieve his goal.  The building is now owned by Peter Dunlop, who began building on to the existing structure in 2004 and turned it into the charming Inn we stayed at on Saturday night.

The food was great, the service warm and the rooms were lovely and well appointed.  There is a great spa area with pool, hot tub, gym and saunas.  It was fun to wander around the Inn and examine the beautiful woodwork and rounded doorways original to the house.

We had fun hanging out with the castle cat, Smoky, who comes and goes as he pleases and can often be found curled up on a comfy seat near the front desk.

It was great to cross something off my 2016 goal list this past weekend and to discover some new places in my own province.  Now, on to the next adventure!

Canada’s Symbol: The Maple Leaf, A Photo Exploration

As Canada Day 2016 approached and I was in my backyard practicing photography in the evening light, I started wondering about the maple leaf and how exactly it became the most widely recognized symbol of this country.

In 1834, at the inaugural meeting of the Societe Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Montreal’s first mayor, Jacques Viger, called the maple leaf, “The king of our forest;…the symbol of the Canadian people”.

After this, the maple leaf slowly became used more and more as a symbol of Canada. The golden leaf was often used to represent Ontario, and the green leaf was often used to represent Quebec.

It wasn’t until the maple leaf was incorporated into the national flag in 1965, that it was officially cemented as the central national symbol.  The maple leaf represented on the national flag is a generic, stylized version, with 11 points and does not to represent any specific type of maple tree, of which 10 species grow naturally in Canada.

As I examined the trees around my neighbourhood, I saw several types of maple trees, including red, silver and Norway maple.  I noticed that no two maple leaves were exactly alike.  The choice of the maple leaf as a national symbol seems therefore rather appropriate, given our rich history as a country of immigrants.  Just as no two maple leaves are the same, no two Canadians are the same, either.  We are all as unique as the symbol that represents us.

Here is my photo exploration of the maple leaf, as a symbol of our Canadian culture.

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No two maple leaves are the same
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Not the classic 11-point leaf, but a maple leaf all the same
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Layers of maple leaves
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Sun soaked maple leaves
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Canada Day festivities on the Saint John boardwalk.  The maple leaf is everywhere.
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Take a leaf
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The leaf flys proudly at Market Square
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Canada Day parade.  This is Canada.  We all wear the leaf.
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Carrying the leaf
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Even Spider-Man carries the maple leaf.
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Draped in the maple leaf.
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Boardwalk maple leaf
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Streetscape maple leaf
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The leaf flys at Fort Howe
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The classic 11-point leaf

Tourist At Home: Nova Scotia Road Trip ’16

The Smith’s are back from a whirlwind 6-day road trip of the western half of Nova Scotia!

What I love about vacationing at home is that it usually costs significantly less due to the decreased travel costs and you get to discover some really cool places in your own backyard that you might not have known were even there.  In my case, I wanted to hit all the spots I’ve heard about and wanted to visit for years, but had just not gotten around to.

The first leg of our journey took us across the Bay of Fundy from Saint John, NB to Digby, NS.  It was fun as neither me or my husband had ever traveled to or from Saint John by boat, and this offered a cool perspective of the city and the harbour.

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Later, Saint John!
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Views of Partridge Island on the sail out of the harbour
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Leaving New Brunswick behind

The Fundy Rose is very well appointed and fast!  We arrived in Digby is just under 2 hours.

Observation deck
Nice lounge and cafe on the Fundy Rose
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Checking out the views on the approach to Digby
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We’re in Nova Scotia!

Our first adventure in Nova Scotia was an overnight backpacking trip to Cape Split, a provincial park reserve that juts into the Bay of Fundy and features dramatic cliffs and incredible scenery.  The drive was to the park was lovely and we stopped to take some photos at a lookout along the way.

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The Annapolis Valley

When we arrived at the parking lot of Cape Split, our spirits fell a little to see it packed with cars – there were so many people!  Undeterred, we set off with our backpacks, sure that many hikers would not be staying overnight and that we would soon have the place to ourselves. The hike is about 6km long and is easy to moderate with gentle uphill slopes.  The trail is well marked; it would be very difficult to get lost along the way.   It was extremely windy at the cliff edge when we arrived!  I was afraid to get too close in case I lost my balance.  It’s a long way down!

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Checking out the views
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The famous Cape Split rocks
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The gulls love this place!

After setting up camp, we hiked down to a rocky beach where we sat on the rocks and took in the beauty of the Bay of Fundy.  And our camping buddies got engaged!  Congrats, Mahshid and Jason!

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The happy couple
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A rock that rivals Cape Split itself!

After spending a lovely evening on the cape, we parted ways with our friends who were heading back to Saint John and set out for Yarmouth.  We were pretty tired after the backpacking trip and it was raining (a theme we would encounter for the rest of our trip) so we didn’t make many stops along the way.  Once reaching Yarmouth, we had much-needed showers, strolled through the lovely Frost Park, had dinner and went back to the hotel to crash early.

Frost Park in downtown Yarmouth
Frost Park in downtown Yarmouth

The next morning after a quick breakfast in Yarmouth, we headed out to discover the South Shore.  It’s a long but beautiful drive along this rugged coastline.  We made a stop in Cape Sable Island to see The Hawk Beach, the most southerly point of Nova Scotia.  The beach here is a stunning grey/white sand and is home to the tallest lighthouse in Nova Scotia, at 101 feet.  The lighthouse is some distance from the beach so we couldn’t get up close but the stop was well worth it with the beautiful views it offers of the Atlantic Ocean.

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Cape Sable Island
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The tallest lighthouse in Nova Scotia in the distance

By early afternoon we arrived at our next destination, Lunenburg, a picturesque port town and home to the Bluenose II.  We quickly discovered that Lunenburg is a major tourist destination; the place was swarming with visitors, just like us, gawking at the brilliantly coloured buildings and snapping photos along the way.  We were lucky that the sun decided to make a rare appearance, just as we were exploring the downtown area.

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Colourful shops in downtown Lunenburg
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Bluenose II
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Pretty waterfront
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More colourful buildings

We quickly discovered Ironworks Distillery, a local company that makes spirits inside an former blacksmith’s shop.  We sampled many of their delicious products and learned a little about the process, leaving with several bottles to take home.  I would definitely recommend a stop here if you are in town.

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The old blacksmith’s shop, now Ironworks Distillery
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Beautiful wood fired still

We stayed the night at the Rum Runner Inn, a lovely spot right in downtown Lunenburg, which serves a gluten free fish and chips, so I was in heaven!

The next morning was gloomy and after a quick and delicious breakfast at The Savvy Sailor, we headed out for the small community of Blue Rocks, just a few moments from Lunenburg.

This might be my favourite place we saw along the way.  It had true Maritime charm, even with the light drizzle and moody skies.  This community is famous for the slate rocks that give it its ‘blue’ name.

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The gloomy morning didn’t diminish the beauty of Blue Rocks, NS
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Fishing huts at The Point
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The famous blue rocks

After Blue Rocks, we headed for Halifax, where we visited with friends and did some shopping.  We had a fantastic meal at The Bicycle Thief and did as much sight seeing on the waterfront as the rain would allow (not much, as it turned out).

Red bicycles at The Bicycle Thief
Love this art installation on the Halifax wayerfront
Georges Island views


The next morning we set out for my home county of Cumberland, stopping in Truro to check out Victoria Park.  I had wanted to visit this park for some time, after seeing photos of the waterfalls and the daunting Jacob’s Ladder and it did not disappoint.  I wish we’d had more time to explore more trails but we had to get on the road and the weather was pretty chilly (we’ll have to come back!).

That’s a lot of steps!
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Joe Howe Falls
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Witches Cauldron
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Cool tree roots

The discoveries continued with my parents when we took a drive to the historic mining town of Londonderry.  Once a bustling community of almost 5000 people, it’s now a collection of just a few homes.  The town square is still well maintained though, where a few artifacts of the mine are preserved for visitors to see.  It’s a reminder of what once was, and what is not likely to be again.

Londonderry Memorial Square
Fly Wheel used from 1903-1910
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Boiler used from 1849-1908, and an abandoned bike
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Country bridge

And that pretty much wrapped up our tour of the western half of Nova Scotia.  We look forward to exploring the eastern half and Cape Breton later this year.

I would encourage everyone to be tourists at home, and to explore spaces in your own backyards.  You never know what you might find.

Spring in the Maritimes: Colour has Returned!

It’s the Victoria Day long weekend and it’s sunny and 20+ degrees outside!  It’s the unofficial start to summer, meaning: BBQs, camping, and lazy days at the beach.

Summer doesn’t officially arrive for another month, and really, it feels like spring is just getting started.  The grass is green now (we mowed ours for the first time last night), the leaves are popping out on the trees and bright blooms can be seen on every corner.  In short, colour has come back to our world.

I’ve been playing around with a new camera I bought myself for birthday recently (happy birthday to me!).  It’s my first DSLR so I’m still learning my way around it (there’s so many buttons!).

When I started this blog, it was mostly about wanting to write.  I didn’t realize how much I would fall in love with photography.  There is something wonderful about telling stories through pictures, and no better way to share the beauty of this place.  And I guess the principles of writing and photography are really the same when you boil it down: it’s about noticing things.  Like noticing the way the evening light hits a flower, creating delicate shadows from the stamen on the petals.  It’s about exploring too, and seeing things through fresh eyes.  I would encourage you to take an exploration with your camera or phone, and try to see what you can notice around you.  I promise, it will open up a world of wonder.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to recently.  I’ve got my new Canon Rebel T5 and I’ve been zooming around Saint John taking shots of pretty much everything.  I love the way the DSLR can get you so much closer than the iPhone, which is what I’ve been taking all my photos on.  I thought I’d share a few spring shots with you today.

I hope you all have a fantastic long weekend and enjoy the sunshine while it’s here!

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Irving Nature Park salt marshes
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Saints Rest Beach, Irving Nature Park
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Looking across Saints Rest Beach to the Bay of Fundy and beyond.
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Reversing Falls bridge and the city of Saint John in the pretty evening light.
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Adventures in backyard photography
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Love those little raindrops
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Fresh new maple leaves through soft evening light
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I can’t get enough of that light!
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Here’s those lovely shadows I was talking about.  At Saint John Public Gardens.
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Lily Lake, Rockwood Park
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No swimming yet!
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Forsythia in bloom
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From Fort Howe to the Coast Guard station, SJ is stunning.

Maritime Love for Fort McMurray

Most of you will know by now that wildfire swept through Fort McMurray, Alberta yesterday, forcing the evacuation of the entire city.  Many people escaped just in time and with only the clothes on their backs.

The fires within the city have been put out for now, but the wildfire still looms threateningly nearby.  Some 1600 structures have been lost to the fire; entire neighbourhoods are gone.

I know I speak for many when I say that we grieve for you, Fort McMurray.

The Maritimes has always had strong ties to Alberta, and Fort Mac in particular. Every Maritimer has a family member or friend working in the area.  We keep you in our thoughts; we pray for a speedy and safe resolution to this nightmare you find yourselves unable to wake up from.

If you would like to help, you can donate to the Canadian Red Cross Alberta Fires Appeal here or by texting ‘REDCROSS’ to 30333.

If you are still trying to locate family or friends in the area, you can contact the Red Cross, or Facebook has activated its safety check feature.

Fort Mac
THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Michael De Adder

 

A Little Bit of Summer in April: A Day on the Nerepis River

This past week we got a little taste of summer in April, and it was glorious.  After trudging through a cold and grey couple of weeks, we welcomed some unseasonably warm temperatures with childlike abandon: people played hooky from work, the shorts and flip flops were quickly dug out from deep within closets and patios sprang up overnight in the city.

One of the things I love about living in Canada is that we appreciate nice weather.  I mean, we really appreciate it.  Because you just never know when you’re going to get another +22 degree, cloudless day.  It could be weeks, even months from now.  So, you’ve got to get outside and enjoy it while you can.

That’s what we did on Thursday.  We called a couple friends and loaded a couple canoes on the trailer and headed for the hills – of Welsford, New Brunswick – and the Nerepis River.

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Checking out the water level at Blagdon first, the lowest point in the river.  Looks good!

The Nerepis meanders along gently, with topography that ranges from sandy banks to grassy meadows and a golf course, to tree lined cliffs.  There is plenty of wildlife: we saw several eagles (one huge mother!), lots of geese and other birds, and a turtle sunning itself on an old tree stump.

All set to go!  Just waiting on our companions to launch their canoe.
Gorgeous day for a paddle.

 

This is the life!
Lots of pretty S-curves and clear blue skies.

There were quite a few trees across the river and unfortunately my paddling skills were pretty rusty and one of the ‘sweepers’ – what paddlers call overhanging obstacles such as tree limbs and branches – took us out pretty early on and Joel and I ended up soaked from the waist down.

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Peter and Chris approaching the ‘sweeper’ that took I us out.  They did fine.
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We did not fair so well.  Joel managed to keep his cigar lit, though!

Luckily it was already close to 20 degrees by that time and we were able to dry off in the sun fairly quickly.  My feet, however, were wet for the rest of the day.

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Lunch time at the beach.  Time to dry off!
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Hills in the distance.
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Turtle tracks in the sand.

It was a great day.  I love the smell of summer on the skin.  It’s a mixture of sunscreen, sweat and fresh air.  It makes all of the bitterly cold days of winter worth it.

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A very pretty river.
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We saw a lot of eagles in this section.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t get my camera out fast enough to capture them.

They say the weather has shifted and that temperatures will be cooler for the next while, but that’s ok.  We know that summer is on the way.  For now we can be thankful for this little taste of summer in April.