Hike to Quarry Rock

One of the big advantages of living in (or visiting) North Vancouver is the fact that you’re only minutes away from a wide array of beautiful backcountry hiking trails. Our grandsons didn’t have school today due to a teacher professional development day and though it poured rain overnight this morning’s weather looked suitable for an outdoor adventure.

Quarry Rock is a large rocky outcrop overlooking Indian Arm at scenic Deep Cove. Clouds hung low over the cove as we set off on our hike.

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The 3.8 km round trip trail, which is also part of the easternmost section of the much longer Baden Powell Trail, begins with a long stair climb that quickly informed me that after a long winter, during which the treadmill in our basement mostly gathered dust, my legs and my cardiac conditioning are somewhat out of shape. It didn’t help that in my eagerness to get out and onto the trail, I’d forgotten to have my morning cup of tea! Fortunately, the fresh air, the enthusiasm of our young hiking partners, and the wonderful smell of the damp forest were invigorating.

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The overall elevation gain on this trail is approximately 100 metres, but there are lots of ups and downs along the way. In addition to many flights of wooden steps, boardwalks and small bridges, much of the trail is a maze of tree roots.

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The terrain is typical of North Shore hikes with the trail wending it’s way through densely wooded areas of Douglas fir and hemlock. Morning mist hung in the trees as we set off, but before long the sun began to peek through and we soon started removing layers of clothing.

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Along the trail, many small creeks filled with spring runoff from the mountains tumble down the hillside in their rush to reach the ocean.

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Eventually the trail climbed up onto solid rock and we walked out onto the bluff where the views were spectacular.

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This trail is clearly a popular one. Even on a cool Monday morning, there were lots of hikers out and when we reached Quarry Rock, it was so crowded with people that it was difficult to get good unobstructed photos!

 

Meat Cove… at the end of the road

When I was young, my father’s desire to get away from it all often led us to the end of little out of the way roads in our home province of British Columbia. As a child, I didn’t always appreciate those trips to nowhere, but they eventually bred in me a yearning to take the road less traveled and see what’s at its end.

On our first weekend in Halifax, a gentleman told us that if we were going to drive the Cabot Trail, we should go into Cape North and then take the little side road to Meat Cove. Looking at the map, I discovered that Meat Cove is the northernmost community in Nova Scotia. A lone gravel road leads to a tiny dot on the map surrounded by nothing but blank space. Of course, we’d have to go!

As is often the case, the journey was as interesting as the destination. Along the way, we missed a turn and first ended up at another small fishing village, picturesque Cape St Lawrence.

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Back on the right road, the views were spectacular.

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Meat Cove, with a population of 65 people, is a remote fishing village. Apparently, it takes it’s unusual name from the fact that in days gone by, boats would stop there to reload with wild meat. There isn’t actually a lot there; just a dozen or so houses scattered around the area, a guest lodge, a tiny campground clinging to the cliff top high above the cove itself and a small community centre that also serves as a restaurant and an internet access site.

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As I looked down on the crystal clear water, I was glad that we’d taken the time to drive to the end of the road and when I called my 93 year old father to tell him about it, I could hear the pride in his voice!

Colourful Cabot Trail

Nova Scotia’s Cabot Trail is a scenic roadway measuring 298 km in length that forms a loop around the northern part of Cape Breton Island and passes through Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Prior to this trip, we had driven the Cabot Trail twice before, both times doing the entire loop in one day.

The first time was in 1991. We were traveling with our young children and had the privilege of doing the drive with a colleague who is a native Cape Breton Islander. He was home on summer vacation and acted as our guide for the day. It was bright and sunny and we were awed by the beauty that surrounded us. Stops along the way to enjoy the views, eat a picnic lunch and take a swim made it a long, but very memorable day.

Our second trip around the trail seven years ago was somewhat disappointing. It poured rain much of the way and we crossed the northern highlands in dense fog barely able to see the road let alone anything else! We made very few stops.

This time we spent three days on the trail! We stopped at many viewpoints, or lookoffs as they’re known in Nova Scotia, to soak in the beauty and take a multitude of photos.

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That’s the little Hyundai Accent rental that’s been our wheels for this entire trip.

We enjoyed a traditional community breakfast with the locals at the Southwest Margaree Parish Hall and spent a couple of evening hours listening to local musicians in a Cheticamp pub.

We walked rocky beaches

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and sandy ones.

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We hiked the Skyline Trail and explored out of the way places like this one near Cheticamp where we stopped to find a geocache.

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We took side roads to places like Mary Ann Falls

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and everywhere we went, we marvelled at the amazing colours.

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Yes, the Cabot Trail is beautiful anytime of year, but in autumn it’s absolutely spectacular!

Hiking the Highlands

Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Highlands National Park boasts more than 20 trails ranging from short easy walks to spectacular hiking expeditions. We chose one of the most popular, the dramatic Skyline Trail on the western side of the Cabot Trail, for Wednesday’s hike.

As we approached the trailhead, we could see the tiny silhouettes of hikers against the skyline on the ridge high above us. Soon we would join them!

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The Skyline Trail offers two options. Many choose to stay on the well groomed path that takes them directly out to the headland cliff overlooking the Gulf of St. Lawrence. This out and back route is 7.5 km long. We chose the longer 9.2 km loop.

The back side of the loop, the road less traveled, crosses a high plateau. The trail is rougher and some sections were muddy as a result of the horrendous storm that swept across Cape Breton two days earlier.

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Once we reached the far side of the plateau, the views were gorgeous.

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Sometimes we just had to sit and soak them in.

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Nothing prepared us for the spectacular views from the headland, however! There, a wooden boardwalk and a series of steps took us down the middle of the cliff. The open ocean was far below to our right and a deep ravine to our left. We watched eagles soar below us and vehicles winding their way along the Cabot Trail looked minuscule.

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Strategically placed by Parks Canada so that it isn’t visible from the highway below, the boardwalk protects the fragile headland plants from trampling and also gave me a sense of security as I crossed the ridge.

Once we tore ourselves away from the the amazing vistas spread out before us, the most used and best maintained portion of the trail took us back to the parking lot. There was a small change in elevation along this portion, but it was very gradual.

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Is it any wonder that I’m overwhelmed by the beauty of Nova Scotia?

Hiking Kejimkujik Seaside

Nova Scotia’s Kejimkujik National Park is actually one park divided into two completely separate areas. Thankfully, locals refer to it as Keji because I’ve had a terrible time getting my tongue around that name! The meaning of the Mi’kmaq name is uncertain, but the park’s official stance is that it means “tired muscles”. Yesterday, we spent several hours hiking the beautiful Seaside portion of the park; 10.7 km in all and I’m proud to say that my muscles are just fine today!

The hiking trails ramble through coastal barrens and bogs, around rocky headlands and along cobbled and sandy beaches offering views that are breathtaking. The trails are well maintained and there’s very little change in elevation, but if you go, you’ll definitely want good footwear for the rocky sections.

Come along on a virtual hike with me.

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In the past, sheep were grazed on the barrens. Here are the remains of the shepherd’s home; definitely a room with a view!

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Wildlife share the park with hikers. A sign at the entrance warned that bears have been sighted. Thankfully, we didn’t see any, but there was plenty of scat along the trail. The only wildlife we saw was birds, a squirrel and this harbour seal sunning itself!

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Colourful Lunenburg

Old Town Lunenburg, Nova Scotia is one of only two urban communities in North America to have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s also considered to be the best surviving planned British colonial town in North America. Its harbour-side streets are lined with well preserved and colourfully painted historic buildings.

This colourful section of King Street is known as the UNESCO Fresco!

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Canada’s Maritime provinces are dotted with old wooden churches, none more beautiful than St. John’s Anglican Church in Lunenburg.

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Visible for miles around, Lunenburg Academy, built in 1895, dominates the hilltop. Imagine going to school there!

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This stately giant stand nearby.

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Though we’d visited before, we thoroughly enjoyed wandering the streets and busy harbour front again.

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I loved the name on this fishing boat!

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Searching for colour and finding history

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We knew from our previous visit with Ronnie and Myrna, the dear pen pal that I inherited from my mother-in-law, that they enjoy sightseeing drives through the lovely countryside around Mahone Bay. Like my own father, however, Ronnie has macular degeneration and is legally blind. He still has some sight, but not enough to drive. When we suggested taking them for a drive to look at the fall colours that Nova Scotia is famous for at this time of year, they jumped at the opportunity and off we went!

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With Richard behind the wheel and Myrna navigating, we headed inland toward New Ross. Sure enough, though many of the trees were still green, others were aflame. For those of you who are accustomed to the wide range of reds, oranges and golds of autumn, our delight might seem odd, but where we live in Alberta, we don’t experience the same array of colours in the fall. Most of our trees just turn shades of yellow.

We saw much more than trees, however. Soon Myrna was pointing out the house where she grew up. It was here that she wrote the first letters to my mom-in-law over 75 years ago! Obviously well cared for, it has new shutters, windows and front door since the last time she saw it.

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Along the same road, saw her uncle’s old horse barn

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and the one room schoolhouse that she attended.

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At 16 years of age, with a grade 11 education, Myrna became a teacher in a similar school! She taught for five years before she and Ronnie married.

Nova Scotia has been changing before our very eyes with more colour every day. Here are just a few more sights from that day’s drive.

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