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.
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.