Caribou-Munroes Island Provincial Park

Hike #3-

Sunday, September 30th, 2018

I have never been to Pictou.  People talk about the beautiful Northumberland Strait, the warm water, the proximity to Prince Edward Island, but to be frank, I have never been drawn to the area.  For me, it has remained yet another charming Nova Scotia seaside locale amidst the many.  Today however, I have a hike to do.

This trail, according to Haynes, is “a wonderful stroll for a lazy Sunday”.  Well it’s Sunday, and I am definitely feeling lazy today.  Rated a 2 for difficulty, it requires 2+ hours to complete.  Granted, I have yet to complete a trail in under one-and-a-half times that allotted by Mr. Haynes, but even accounting for that adjusted time frame, Caribou-Munroes Island seems like a charming way to spend a Sunday morning. So charming and carefree in fact, that I decide before leaving the house to tag on another hike in the vicinity, Trenton Park, itself a mere difficulty 1 level and one hour+ to hike.  Why not?  Might as well make three housr of driving well worth it. I am out the door by 7:30am and happily rolling down the highway towards Pictou.  Even with the drive, I anticipate being home in the early afternoon to write my blog and work on the mandala. Perfect.

The park is relatively easy to find- literally right around the corner (OK, a country corner) from where the PEI ferry docks.  I park, speak with the nice woman working in the park office and head for the beach.  The hike follows the shoreline and I have hit the horse shoes jackpot- the tide was at its lowest at 8am and is slow to come in; I should have a relaxed and easy hike.

The spot is stunning.  As I meander along, I am awestruck by the varied colours and textures, not to mention the pristine beach and glorious sky.  Before me I can see PEI.  I am not exactly sure which of the three landmasses in front of me is PEI, but it’s there.  Michael Haynes says so. If only I knew how to read the compass Jamie packed along with the amazing array of emergency gear he has  set me up with for my hikes, I would be able to say definitively which way is north and thus, where PEI is.  But it is out there and it is a beautiful day, and I am simply going to enjoy it all rather then worry about the details.  How very mature of me.

I have upgraded my backpack from the one I wore last hike, which belonged to my daughter when she was in grade 7… and grade 8… and grade 9.  When I returned from Hike #2 my neck, shoulders and back were screaming at me to get some better kit, so I did.  Last night I raided Scarlet’s backpack stash and found a 32L pack that can easily hold all of my great gear.  You can never be too prepared when heading out into the unknown and I feel ready to face whatever comes my way.

I am about 3km into the hike when I see it- a Tim Horton’s coffee cup.  In short order I am cursing myself for having forgotten a garbage bag.  I even told myself before leaving this morning to pack an extra.  So without a bag, I place the cup up on the bank and promise myself to collect it on the way back.  I have yet to see much that’s washed up, so presume that despite my forgetfulness, all will be fine.

And just as I am walking along, berating myself for forgetting the bag, I find one amidst the grasses.  Bright green, good size, with only one smallish hole towards the top.  Oh, happy day!  I tie the bag to the pack and decide to keep taking photos as I walk, swapping out garbage collecting for photography on the return.  All is good with the world again.

Lovely walk, though walking the sandy/rocky shoreline makes it feel somewhat longer then 5km.  I take many photos, as I try out the camera on the new phone I got yesterday.  There is no one else on this trail except for me, the plovers and a kayaker who doesn’t acknowledge me, despite my friendly waves.  I eat lunch while I watch the ferry unload and notice an empty peanut butter jar nearby.  Something else to add to my bag when I return.  Am feeling rather pleased with myself for my benevolent, earth-loving attitude and my garbage bag-finding eagle eye.

Another 200m or so and it is time to turn around and retrace my steps.  Little do I know, but this point marks a serious turn in my hike.  As I come to the point of return, I cross over into the emotional point of no return.  Ominously, awaiting me on the very spot to start back, is a Tim’s coffee cup.  I put my phone in my pack, retrieve the garbage bag and throw it in.  As I am bent over to pick it up I notice a Pepsi can in the tall grass.

Listen up Pepsi Generation- What are you people doing?!  I find more Pepsi cans then any other container on the walk back, leading me to believe that you either don’t care about littering… or, to give you the benefit of the doubt, you just don’t think about it.  Seriously, people.  And you Bud Light drinkers are only vaguely better, so don’t act smug.  Really?  Is this what we have devolved to?  Between the cans and the plastics I find, not to mention global warming, we are in serious trouble.

The garbage bag fills up quickly.  The pristine beach was pretty sweet for 2/3 of the walk there, but the sea at the far tip of Munroes Island brings with it lots of debris.  The lobster rubber bands are completely out of control and shortly after the first Pepsi can I find myself picking up hundreds of them.  20 minutes and less then 5meters of progress later, and I am overcome by the sheer number of bands lying on the beach.  There could very well be thousands of them washed up on shore.  Did a ship full of lobstering supplies run aground in this area?  I finally have to stop and move on, or I will never make it back before the park closes.  Garbage bag in-hand, I walk back, adding to my collection as I go.  Within a kilometer the bag is full, heavy and difficult to carry.  And I still have 4km to walk, over a rocky shore and a beach shrinking to the rising tide. 

I’ll be frank and say that the walk back isn’t fun.  Actually, it is pretty disheartening.  I finally have to start leaving the garbage I meet behind, as there is no more room in the bag.  I am feeling defeated and depressed, like I should be doing more.  Every passed piece of broken buoy is a testament to what I am not doing, as is every rubber band and every chunk of Styrofoam.  I do however, collect every last Pepsi bottle and can I see; those feel like an argument I am determined to win.

As I climb the steps from the beach back to the parking lot, placing my bag next to the garbage can (no recycling container to be found), I am tired, sore and deflated.  I am also pretty wet. In an attempt to revive my inner happy hiker, I set-up an artsy shot of my garbage bag, to remind myself that I had done something positive today. Unfortunately, the tide came rushing in faster then I had anticipated; I either had to fall into the drink to retrieve the bag or leave my garbage to the mercies of the sea.  After more then 3km of schlepping the loaded bag of refuse, there was no choice as to what to do.

Sadly, I never did find the original Tim’s coffee cup on my way back.  I like to think that someone else came along later and threw it in the trash.

One Garbage Bag’s Worth Cleaner (Short One Tim’s Cup)

Wisdom From the Trail-

  • It is easy to become overwhelmed when focused on the negative minutia.  Sometimes we have to take a step back to find perspective and appreciate the big picture.
  • No one person can do everything.  There are times when we simply have to accept that our best is better then nothing.  Progress, not perfection.
  • This place we call “home” is truly stunning.  We are so very fortunate to be here, now.

Taylors Head Trail

Hike # 2-

Saturday, September 15th, 2018

A week later and I am back on the road, heading for another trail.  This time, my goal isn’t to tackle it and check it off, it is to experience and document it.  I leave the house early and alone.  This one is going to be all mine.

Despite the heavy fog, and I mean a THICK wall of white, the drive along the Eastern Shore is exciting.  The road is full of twists and as I pass Clam Harbour, I am highly aware that I am now venturing farther southeast in Nova Scotia then I have ever been before.  It feels like just past the mist an amazing view is waiting.  And while the sun keeps peeking out, the fog keeps rolling in, thwarting all attempts to appreciate.  Probably just as well- I might drive off the road if I had anything other then mist to check out.

An hour and a half from home and I pull into the parking lot, excited.  Am grateful for the nicely appointed outhouse nearby, as the multiple cups of coffee have taken effect.  Then strap on my pack and head out.  This truly feels like a momentous step and a commitment to this project.  Am alone and have only myself to rely on.

So, within a couple of hundred meters I take a wrong turn, and after what I estimate to be a kilometer and a half, I find myself back at the car!  I start again and take the left rather then the right path at the bench, and head into the woods, the ocean peaking through the trees on my left.  Am just starting to channel my inner tree spirit when the trail takes me to the shore, with Mushaboom Bay ahead of me.  OK, shift gears. I walk the rocky shoreline, scrambling, unbalanced, and restraining myself from filing my pockets-  have always been a sucker for a nice rock.

And then the beach runs out.  The small cliff ahead of me juts out into the water and I am left with three choices- swim, go back or head up.  Hating the idea of another re-start, I decide to climb towards the forest and where the path must surely be.  So let’s just picture this- out of shape, asthmatic, middle-aged woman, wearing her daughter’s neon backpack from Grade 7 and a pair of ill-fitting pants (note to self: buy pants that can accommodate a belt!),  hauling herself up a muddy, crumbling hill.  This is not exactly a feat of athletic prowess. Thank goodness for healthy tree roots, old pants and stubbornness; I unceremoniously haul myself up the small cliff, to the trail I somehow lost along the way.  And I start walking again.

To summarize the trail:

Trees, quiet places of cover through the woods, small bridges, SNAKE (my arch nemesis), beautiful ferns, more rocky beach, serious bushwhacking (the trail disappears in several spots, consumed by overgrowth), complete solitude, many spiders and webs, stunning views, long stretches of trail without markers, sweat (another scorching day), soaked pants from dew that keep slipping downwards, too many stops for photos, and the decision to create a blog around this experience.

In short- Challenging and magical.

And after all of that, I descend a small set of stairs, emerge from the woods and come upon Taylor Head Beach.  It is stunning! Sand that extends well into the water, a peaceful spot and essentially deserted.  Determined to walk the exact trail the Michael Haynes laid out, I keep walking past the beach (have decided to lunch there on my return) and promptly get lost again!  By the time I get rerouted and find the prescribed trail (which includes a much needed outhouse), I have added an estimated kilometer or two to my hike.  Whatever.  I am on a glorious stretch of beach, there is food in my pack and I am ready for a break.  Not planned for today… the water is calling.

Confession- I haven’t put on a bathing suit in several years.  My fragile aging ego simply hasn’t been able to face it. It’s funny how attitude can change when your sense of self has been shifted, even slightly.  So here I am on this almost deserted beach, the weather is 30+ degrees in mid-September (again!), I am hot and sticky and feeling invigorated at having made it to the turnaround point of this hike, all by myself.  No bathing suit?  No problem!  Who needs a bathing suit?!

I strip down to my skivvies, throw on the extra large man’s shirt I have with me and go for a swim.  I even take my slice of pizza in with me and eat lunch with just my head bobbing above the water.  For the first time in years, I truly feel liberated.

And then I retrace my steps back, getting lost again, of course.  This time however, I am able to recognise landmarks… and not recognise landmarks… before I end up too far off of the trail.

As I approach the car I am exhausted and proud.  I have decided to start this blog, have found a deeper meaning behind this challenge for myself, and am dreaming about the next hike.  What a great day.  And there wasn’t a single moment of boredom 🙂

Wisdom From the Trail-

  • You can get just as lost heading home as you can adventuring out.  You might as well risk “The New”.
  • There are times when the trail beneath your feet disappears or can’t be seen.  The secret to moving forward isn’t only stepping on the ground you know, but taking risks and trusting that when and if you fall, you are strong enough to get up and keep going.  It is often impossible to avoid the fall.  Falling however, builds resiliency.
  • You can’t plan for everything (like finding a glorious beach!).  You do get to decided however, what you do with what life gives you.

Sometimes you have to dive in

Welcome to Trailing Spirit!

Hike #1-

Monday, September 3rd, 2018

Time to take the first steps.  My bag is packed with snacks, a whistle and my phone, today’s trail has been chosen and we are off. The closest trail to home, this feels more like an easy step rather then a leap of faith.  Am imagining great views, deep contemplation and a soul-altering connection to Mother Earth.  Not quite.

The first hike, despite the beautiful weather and excellent company, was a bit of a bust; all I could focus on were the seemingly endless steps, the hunger in my belly and how my prescription glasses kept sliding down my sweaty nose. What’s with 30+ degrees in mid-September in Nova Scotia? 

Along the way, Jamie did teach me a few vital tips to help me find my way along a trail.  Shockingly, I had no idea that there were trail markers on the trees, marking the path specifically to help folks like me not get completely lost.  I learned that standing at a marker I should be able to see the next one, so that they pointed out the direction in which I should head.  Smart.  If only life was that easy 🙂   The result of me trying to put this following the markers  technique into place however, was that I was no longer fixated on staring at the ground beneath me so as not to trip (good), but rather started flinging my head from ground to sky as I tried to both stay on the path and not get lost (bad); the resulting headache and self-induced whiplash left me dizzy and stumbling, and looking far from the outdoorsy goddess I had imagined I would be when planning this challenge.  Obviously, I had some trail hiking practice ahead of me, preferably without witnesses.

It was a nice trail- quite lovely in fact- but I simply couldn’t cease the chatter in my mind, stay comfortably on the trail and enjoy what was in front of me.  Even the time alone with my husband wasn’t enough of a lure to draw me into the experience. Along the way I found myself actually saying that I was bored, and coming out of Nine Mile River Trail I was left thinking, “There’s got to be more to this hiking thing than that!”  Hike #1 made it clear that I had to shift my attitude and approach to this goal, or it was going to be a very long- and probably unsuccessful- year on the trails.


Wisdom from the Trail:

~ Even when you have set the stage for an awesome experience, not showing up (spiritually) means an opportunity missed.

~ Sometimes those who go ahead lay the ground work, making it an easier trek for those of us who follow.  Don’t forget to appreciate how ground breakers make our paths easier.