Canada

Percé Rock, Gaspé

The drive from Gaspesie National Park to the Gaspé peninsula and the Percé rock was absolutely stunning. Every bend in the road revealed the glory of fall in all its splendour - yellows, oranges, reds and greens.

We arrived in Gaspé in the late afternoon and after checking into our hotel headed to town for dinner and to view the famous Percé rock with its large natural arch. Early the next morning, only two of us managed to roll out of our warm, comfortable beds to head out in the misty drizzle to see the sun rise over the Atlantic. Unfortunately, we missed the sun as it peeked out for a handful of seconds as it rose over the horizon but we soaked up the quiet, gray atmosphere as we explored to peninsula - together, alone - while the rest of the town slept.

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Peggy's Cove and Swissair Flight 111 Memorial, Nova Scotia

When flipping through Nova Scotia travel magazines or browsing their tourism website you are sure to come across an image or two of the Peggy's Cove lighthouse.  This picturesque landmark is iconic and instantly recognizable.  In the summer months, the rocks and village are crowded with tourists but in the winter it is quiet and peaceful. The sun shone bright as we explored the area and catnapped in a warm, secluded and wind-free batch of rocks.

About a kilometre down the road from Peggy's Cove is the Swissair Flight 111 memorial, which was erected in memory of the 229 people who died when the flight crashed into the ocean 8km from shore. The three notches on the stone monument represent the flight numbers.  Another stone monument was placed in memory of all the volunteers who worked tirelessly after the disaster during the recovery effort.

Gaff Point at Hirtle's Beach, Nova Scotia

The south shore of Nova Scotia is a fantastic place to visit for outdoor enthusiasts - even in the winter months.  There are so many different places to visit and spend time outdoors - beaches, hiking trails, historic sites and parks.

One of our favourite places is Hirtle's Beach, which is also the start and end point of the Gaff Point Trail, a seven kilometre trail that meanders along the beach and through forests along Hartling Bay.

Hiking in the winter is always an adventure. You never know what the trail conditions will throw at you.  Our hike began along the rocky shoreline, accompanied by sunshine and the sound of crashing waves. Once in the forest, many sections were covered in deep snow, some of it firm and easy to walk on but in areas where the sunshine had warmed the surface, it was wet and soft and easy to sink in thigh deep.  I'm certain I fell through and down more times on that hike than in the rest of my years combined. The snow, at least, was a soft cushion.

The views, as you can see below, were spectacular.  Old man's beard hung from the trees in the forest and and a thick carpet of red covered the ground in exposed areas.  Icicles dripped from rock faces and ribbons of shale stood exposed to the elements, evidence of the prehistoric.

No hike at Gaff Point would be complete without a pastry and hot drink from LaHave Bakery on the way home.

Photo credit: Lillian

Photo credit: Lillian

Photo credit: Lillian

Photo credit: Lillian

Photo credit: Lillian

The beauty and destruction of ice storms

As a child, I remember playing outside after an ice storm only a few times.  Maybe it's just my poor memory but it seems like ice storms are occurring more frequently in recent years. If you've never experienced an ice storm, this phenomenon usually occurs when the temperature hovers around the zero degree mark and rain, well, freezing rain, falls, encasing every surface in a layer of ice. 

The landscape is transformed, especially when the sun peaks out from behind the clouds and the earth begins to sparkle with light as though a million tiny diamonds started glowing from within.  It's a transfixing sight. Magical.

But it's also quite destructive and can be dangerous. The ice creates a layer of crust over the snow, on which kids can walk and slide. But if you fall through, your ankles and calves can get pretty scraped up. Trees and power lines are toppled by the weight of the ice, leaving many households without heat and electricity during the coldest months of the year.  Walkways and roadways become skating rinks. Walking becomes a hilarious exercise in trying to stay upright.

The answer, I expect, is to prepare ahead of time where possible and enjoy the beauty of the storm while it lasts. Because the temperature always warms up and the ice melts. The clean up begins and normal life resumes. But for a moment we were able to experience a glittering, shining world of ice and snow.

Pond hockey - a Canadian tradition

Pond hockey is as Canadian as maple syrup. In truth, any form of hockey is as Canadian as it gets. Like sledding, it's a great way to spend time outdoors during the freezing winter months.

Hockey in our family tends to be a last-minute, pick-up, all ages invited type of affair.  When the suggestions is made, everyone scrambles to find gear and clothing thick enough for the -25 temperatures - it doesn't matter what it looks like so long as it keeps you warm and dry. For readers living in warmer climes, it seems that the bluer the sky and the brighter the sun on a winter's day then the colder the temperature.

Fingers freeze as you awkwardly tie your skates in a standing position - the snow is too cold and wet to sit on for such a task. The first job is to clean off the snow - although there's only been a sprinkling since the last game so it doesn't take too long. In fact, the rest of the pond is a great place for the little ones to learn how to stay upright on skates - there's nothing to run into, plenty of space to move about and enough snow for a soft landing.

A heated game ensues. Goals are celebrated. The older boys show up to show the little ones how it's done. And when everyone is no longer able to move their fingers and toes and cheeks are a bit frost-bitten then it's time to enjoy some hot chocolate and fresh pizza. Good times!

Christmas Day Hike

Christmas 2016 was as different from the previous Christmas as it was possible to be...white, overcast and chilly as compared to green, sunny and warm in 2015.  It was a Christmas to match a tough year, a day spent huddled on the bathroom floor, miserably clutching a bucket, while listening to the sounds of laughter and joy from the rest of the house. All I can say is I'm so happy it's 2017!

The big move south in 2016, starting a new job and the general hustle and bustle of the holiday season resulted in no new posts over the last few months.  The goal for the new year is to get back on track, editing photos and posting regularly. 

The first post of the year is a throwback to Christmas Day 2015 - a sunny and warm winter day, a day perfect for a hike around the new property. Enjoy!

P.S. I find it amusing that we all seem to walk like little ducklings in a row!