Inland

There are not many options for cyclists travelling from Halifax to Cape Breton Island. We studied our maps before and during our trip and had decided that the best way to go was Route 7 along the coast, and then turning inland for a mix of paved and dirt roads. It took us three days to reach the Island. The first of these three was spent getting out of Dartmouth in the rain. This was mostly done on busy parkway and highways, with one short spell on a rough rail trail that resulted in our first flat tire.DSC_0257We planned to ride one hundred miles, but the wind, water, and traffic ate away our ambition and at one o’clock in the afternoon, with only 36 miles under our wheels, we found ourselves dripping dirty water onto the lobby floor of Jeddore Lodge and Cabins. We booked ourselves a one room cabin, cranked up the heat, hung our wet clothes in every possible place, ate dinner in bed, and watched an X-men marathon.DSC_0260


The stormy weather cleared overnight and we hit the road dry and refreshed on June 10th. We followed route 7 along the coast until Sheet Harbour, where we turned north on route 374 and stopped at a Lochaber Mines Provincial Boat Launch for a meal, bike maintenance, and a good cool foot soak.
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In the afternoon, we turned east on Cameron Settlement Road. This was clearly an active logging road, the type of which I had stated we would not ride on, but fortunately, it was a Saturday and there were no logging trucks about.20170610_153354.jpg
In fact, it seemed that we had these roads all to ourselves until, suddenly, several miles from anywhere, there were two older men sitting by the side of the road. They got up when they heard us coming, hoping, as it turned out, that we were a car. The two men had been fishing on a small lake off of a side road for four days. When they went to drive home, they found their car battery dead. With no cell phone signal and several hour’s walk to the nearest town road, they were feeling a bit down on their luck. Of course, we could do nothing for their car, but we chatted for a few minutes – swatting at a sudden abundance of black flies the whole time – and promised to try and send help as soon as we came across a vehicle. Then off we went down the road. Half an hour later, we came to a paved street, and were able to flag down the driver of an SUV. The couple in the car were on their way to a meeting in town, but they directed us to a white and red house just down the way, and told us that the man there knew all the trout fishing lakes and he would know where the stranded fellows were and be able to help them out. There are many places in the world where it would be difficult to convince a stranger to drive miles on a dirt road to possibly find other strangers and jump their car. But in this isolated section of Nova Scotia, we never doubted that the folks in this white and red house would help. And help they did. We knocked on the door, and a man answered right away. He invited us in without even knowing our business. We told him our story and he got out a detailed, annotated map of all the lakes in the area. His wife offered us cold drinks, and the fisherman showed us his fishing diary. He had caught 88 trout in May. Then he and his hound were off in their truck to find the two men and help them get home to their own families. We thanked him, and he said simply. “Well, you never know when it might be you that needs help out there.”

 

 

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Halifax

The rail trail from west of Halifax was in fair conditions and we enjoyed our morning ride. The rhodora was in peak bloom and we couldn’t have asked for better weather. DSC_0182DSC_0194As we approached the city, the trail turned into a paved path with dozens of pedestrians and cyclists out for a bit of exercise. We hoped that this path would continue into the city center, but of course, it ended and we were shot out onto the sidewalk along a busy parkway. From there, the ride into the city was stressful, and we took a few wrong turns despite receiving unsolicited directions from “helpful” strangers. By the time that we were nearing downtown, we were both hungry and irritable. Thank goodness for the Split Crow Pub, the first restaurant with outdoor seating that we passed on our way to the Barrington Street hostel. G and I sat outside, ate too many french fries, drank beer, and were cooked by the sun. DSC_0204Following this experience, I was in desperate need of a nap. We treated ourselves to a private room where I lay down and slept soundly for an unknown amount of time. In the evening, we had planned to go out for a nice dinner but chose instead to walk the citadel until close to 9 PM and then eat mediocre burritos in the hostel kitchen. No regrets.


On June 8th, we left Leonid behind to relax at the hostel and headed out to explore Halifax by foot. Our first stop was the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History. As G has worked at a few nature preserves with interpretive centers, he always pays attention to good natural history displays. At this museum, he was especially impressed by the indoor honey bee hive, and I loved the larger-than-life trailing arbutus sculpture. I was also interested in the display on Sable Island, as I had been reading The Nymph and the Lamp by Thomas Raddall, a novel set on said island in the years following WWI. DSC_0207DSC_0213The museum includes a display on the craftwomanship of the M’kmaw people. I took dozens of dark through-glass photos of the motifs on the clothing samples and the detailed porcupine quill boxes, which I hope will serve as inspiration for future textile projects.

At lunchtime, we walked through the city’s botanical gardens to touristy Spring Garden Road where we finally found much-needed delicious ice cream and also bought a load of souvenirs.

We spent the afternoon near the water at the Museum of the Maritimes, where we learned more about two tragedies – the sinking of the Titanic and The Halifax Explosion of 1917. G and I were both surprised that we didn’t know more about the Halifax Explosion before coming to Nova Scotia. The catastrophe occurred in the Halifax Harbour during WWI when a Belgian relief ship collided with a Canadian vessel loaded with explosives. A fire began and less than half an hour later, the Canadian ship exploded. It was the largest explosion in the world before the atom bomb. Thousands of people were killed or injured and entire neighborhoods were leveled. The exhibit on this event was moving, and I was particularly struck by the last transmission sent out by the Halifax train dispatcher, Vince Coleman:

“Hold up the train. Ammunition ship afire in harbor making for Pier 6 and will explode. Guess this will be my last message. Good-bye boys.”

He remained at his post sending this message to trains as far away as Truro until his was killed by the force of the explosion. Coleman’s message was heeded and hundreds of people were kept safely away from the disaster zone.

In the evening, we treated ourselves to a special meal at Edna’s. This hip restaurant has gotten abundant positive reviews online and in Halifax magazines, and it lived up to our expectations. Sorry, no photos of our artistic entrees. After dinner, we took the ferry to Halifax’s sister city of Dartmouth. Dartmouth is outrageously hilly, but we pushed our way up to an Air BnB for a sound sleep.

 

Lunenberg

Lunenberg is one of the best-known towns in Nova Scotia, having received UNESCO world heritage site status in 2012. The town is exceptional because it represents one of the only examples of a planned town in British colonial America. 289 years after it was founded, Lunenberg still boasts small wooden clapboard houses, a strong sense of local pride, and surprisingly steep roads.

We rode to Lunenberg from Rissers Provincial Park via route 331 and the LaHave cable ferry – a first for both of us. It was cold and wet and the ferry operator allowed us to warm up in the staff cabin. DSC_0163Unfortunately, we reached the ferry before the LaHave Bakery opened for the morning, but this put us in a good position to patronize Lunenberg’s #9 café. We also, later, had one of our best meals of the trip at The Salt Shaker.

Lunenberg is an artistic town and we spent most of our day in the independent book stores, gift shops, and art galleries. In the Lunenberg Bound book shop, we bought three large and heavy tomes entitled Flora of Northeast United States and Adjacent Canada Volumes I, II, and III. I have since weighed them and they total 6 lbs 8 oz.

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Later that night, looking skeptical about the wisdom of our purchase.

We did also stop into the Mariner’s Daughter, the local knitting shop, but there was no wool yarn that met my particular requirements.

A must-see in the town of Lunenberg is the Musuem of Fisheries. We began our tour of the museum on the ground floor aquarium, which ranked as the most depressing aquarium I have ever seen. Many of the tanks were drained and empty. The tanks that were inhabited were dark with scattered stones and a few sad fish or crustaceans. Fortunately, the other exhibits in the museum were more educational and enjoyable. We learned about the evolution of cod fishing, the life cycle of lobsters, the interactions of north Atlantic currents, and more. There was even a bit of fisherman’s knitwear on display!

We left the museum in late afternoon and it was time to head out of town. We detoured by The Bluenose – Nova Scotia’s pride and joy- and the small grocery store, and then we were back on the path and heading toward Graves Provincial Park for the night.DSC_0170


Graves Provincial Park is located on an island in Schnare Cove. It is connected to the mainland by a short causeway. We stayed in one of the walk-in sites and had the area to ourselves.DSC_0178DSC_0181

A Day of Wildflowers

G and I woke up early on the foggy morning on June 5th. We cooked oatmeal, lay our tent to dry in the sun, and admired the wild bleeding hearts growing in next to the picnic table.
DSC_0097DSC_0096DSC_0095These bright pink beauties hearts were just the start of the day’s wildflowers. The route from Louis Head, West Sable Road, was lined with lady slippers, mayflower, and starflower. We even found blooming blue-bead lilies and bluets along the fringe of route 103.DSC_0100DSC_0104

Lunch was a fried food feast at Seaside Seafood in Liverpool. After we indulged, G took a power nap right in his seat.
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Late in the afternoon, we came to Petite Riviere and the town’s well-stocked general store. It was here that we each bought a delicious beverage for the evening and were even ID’d, though neither of us have looked 18 in some time.

From there it was a short ride to our home for the night, Rissers Provincial Park. The wind was blowing off the ocean and there were few other campers around. We set up our tent in view of the water and then made our way across the beach to the Rissers Beach Boardwalk. The sand was soft and appealing, but it was far too cold for a swim. Beautiful seaweeds were scattered across the shore and I thought about “color stories” and stranded colorwork as we strolled.

 

The Rissers Beach Boardwalk fits in the landscape as though it grew there. It runs along one side of the Petite Riviere estuary with its calm salt marsh. Lichen-covered spruce grow on the upland side of the boardwalk and shelter visitors from the open ocean winds. We lingered for the golden hour before twilight and then made our way slowly back to dinner, drinks, and a campfire.DSC_0138DSC_0143DSC_0150DSC_0141

South Shore

The second day of our bicycle tour around Nova Scotia started with strong black tea brewed in a Royal Albert china teapot graced with white trillium flowers, homemade strawberry jam on toast, and well wishes from our host. An auspicious start.

We rode from Tusket to Barrington along the Yarmouth County Rail Trail. The trail in this section is well maintained and lined with vistas.
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Our ride went a little less smoothly when we turned onto Oak Park Road. Our map called this out as suitable for cars with 2-wheel drive, and this was true at the start.
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This became decidedly Not True as we progressed.20170604_130855Deep puddles with soft sediment proved challenging. We even took our first, and so far only, tandem tumble, and then were forced us to walk Leonid for a few short stretches.

All our struggles were worthwhile because the municipality of Barrington hosts a must-see for the knitter-tourist: The Barrington Woolen Mill Museum.DSC_0054

Thanks to the knowledgeable and skilled staff, this small museum was a treat. It is full of the original equipment and even displays wool in multiple stages of processing from when the mill was operation, though this all looked more than a bit dusty.

The museum also houses a beautiful tapestry and embroidery made by the women of the area. The entire piece is made of hand-spun and hand-dyed wool.

The tapestry was meant to show Nova Scotia first three groups of settlers: the Acadians, the Loyalists, and the Scottish. We appreciated this, but also couldn’t help but think, “And where are the M’kmaw?”


Leaving Barrington, we met another bicycle tourist. Our new pal told us that he was headed to the Boxing Rock brewery in Shelburne. This sounded too good to pass by, and we worked our little legs non-stop until we reached the beer. There is simply nothing as satisfying as a good beer and a nice meal after riding all day.

Acadian

After driving from Buffalo, New York to Portland, Maine and then taking the ferry from Portland, G and I arrived in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia just as the sun was setting. There was a chill in the air, but we were warm with excitement. Our destination for the night was a bed in the neighboring town of Tusket.

Our route followed the Yarmouth County Rail Trail for 15 km/9 mi to the center of town. The trail was soft with loose gravel and we were still unaccustomed to our tandem, so we rode slowly. To our either side, the silhouettes of spruce and fir were dark against the sun’s twilight glow and we could just make out the bright white blooms of apple trees. Spring peepers were singing.

Passing by the oldest standing court house in Canada, we arrived tired but energized.

We took no photos during our ride, but here is our view from the ferry.

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I have already knit a memory piece for this night – a tribute to the Acadian Forest, my favorite ecoregion. It is now carefully blocking.

Mental Maps

DSC00301.JPGI am interesting in how people come to know a place. This is something that I have been thinking about for a long time, but has been on the forefront of my mind since reading Barry Lopez’s Arctic Dreams (1986) at the turn of the year. Arctic Dreams is a cross-genre work centered on exploration of the Arctic landscape. In the seventh chapter, The Country of the Mind, Lopez talks about the cartography and the affect of maps on people’s perceptions of a place. He convincingly argues that geography is a subjective science, influenced by preconceived notions and personal interpretations and defines mental maps as “…landscapes that exist in the human mind.” Lopez says that mental maps are personal. “The mental maps of urban dwellers and Eskimo may correspond poorly in spatial terms with maps of the same areas prepared with survey tools and cartographic instruments. But they are proven, accurate guides of the landscape. They are living conceptions, idiosyncratically created, stripped of the superfluous, instantly adaptable. Their validity is not susceptible of contradiction.”

G and I have very different mental maps of the same places. I navigate by overall view, by feeling, by general sense of where I am in relation to where I need to go. In my own neighborhood, I still get confused about the which street name belongs to which street, but I know the color the each house and the types of trees in each yard and I don’t get lost. If I have been somewhere before, I often trust that I will be able to find my way again. G’s mental maps seem to be very quantitative. He focuses on street names and compass directions. He finds my sense of direction confusing and sometimes infuriating.

Over the past month, I am have spent a lot of time looking at Google map’s images of Nova Scotia. The peninsula and Cape Breton Island are situated at a specific angle, and I see Nova Scotia in this position in my mind. When we are riding, I will picture our location as a moving dot on this specific map even though I have also looked at others where Nova Scotia sits at different angle on my screen. As G will also be studying Google maps and Map My Ride, I hope that our mental maps will align. But before our ride begins, I am also trying to fill my mind with other landscape stories. How is the bedrock laid down, what is the range of red spruce, which directions do the winds blow, where are the Mi’kmaw canoe routes, what are the colors of each region?

As I consider how to map a landscape in my mind, I continually return to posts by Lori Graham (@loritimesfive), who shares her place-specific journals. I am also grateful for this specific post by Kate Davies.

 

The photo above was taken on Whiteface Mountain in the Adirondacks in 2015. A place I never tire of exploring.