Thursday, August 9, 2012

Hello City

I awoke this morning to the dulcet tones of some horrible bird-rodent shrieking in a tree above my tent. This was followed shortly by what I thought was a raccoon stealing the sealed screw-top bowl of Gordo food I’d accidentally left on the picnic table. Much to my surprise, when I peeked out to see how many of the diseased monsters were working on this half ounce of dry dog food, I instead saw a chipmunk trying to drag the bowl up a tree. You know, the way an ant would drag something, if it didn’t have that super ant strength. Rather than throwing my shoes on an chasing it away (I knew from Bryce Canyon trail mix experience that he’d only come back with reinforcements), I feebly tried clapping once to scare it off, and went back to bed. I figured that if it was able to get something larger and heavier than itself up a tree, it deserved the dog food. An hour later, I was a little disappointed to find the bowl still on the ground, but twisted open and emptied of its contents. I’m still not sure how many dozen of these creatures lacking in opposable thumbs it took to open it.

Too lazy to cook breakfast, I quickly packed up camp, had a box of cereal, and was off for my one real destination within Fundy National Park. Dickson Falls is located (almost) literally a stone’s throw from the road, and the pictures I’d found online definitely made it worth the walk. As I discovered, the trail to the falls was just as rewarding. A steep canyon cut into an old growth forest, it reminded me of that spot where Frodo hid under the road when the Black Riders came looking for him in the first movie. Too bad I used up the Lord of the Rings quote yesterday.
A little while later we reached the falls.

I figured that Gordo, having walked all the way down and up this trail, would be too tired to bark when I made a stop in the gift shop before leaving the park. Silly me, I should have known that Gordo is never too tired to bark in the car! So far it’s been cool enough that I’ve been able to just roll up the windows and spare the rest of Canada the 5 minutes of yapping (although they have nothing on me. Once he realizes I’m stopping the car to get out, he turns and starts barking as loudly as he can directly into my ear.)

Anyway, next it was on to the morning’s destination (which in reality was pretty much the day’s destination) – Hopewell Rocks. Apparently the most famous provincial symbol of New Brunswick (shows how well I know my provincial trivia), the “flower pot rocks” are so named because the ridiculous Fundy tides have eroded them into sea stacks that are far narrower at the bottom than at the boreal tops. I can see how the trees on top became separated into these little colonies through erosion, I just can’t figure out how the trees can grow out of solid rock in the first place.

The Hopewell Rocks park features a long series of these formations along the coast for what seems like over a mile. At high tide, the water comes up high enough for people to comfortably kayak between them, and they look like the rocks that famously lie offshore in the Pacific Northwest. At low tide, they look like this:

I’d read a description of low tide in the Bay of Fundy as “the ocean just isn’t there,” which sounds like a decent description of any low tide. But after seeing it in person, I see what they meant. Reminiscent of one of those disaster movies where the sea recedes hundreds of feet right before a giant tsunami, my entire walk along this “beach” (sea floor would be a more apt description), came with an ominous sense that this was not how the world was supposed to be working and that something cataclysmic was definitely about to happen.

Well, if it did I didn’t stay long enough to find out. I tried to hang around until the tide came in a considerable amount so I could get “before” and “after” pictures, but after stalling until about 3:00, I realized I couldn’t wait around any longer if I wanted to get to my next destination before sunset. If I got my tide charts right, I should be able to see a full tide cycle around my last night here.

The aforementioned next destination was Peggy’s Cove. Specifically, the lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove. The journey there took me over the border into Nova Scotia, the interior of which didn’t really impress me as much as New Brunswick. But I guess Nova Scotia is all about the coastline anyway. I’m not worried. Plus, the Trans-Canada Highway is finished in this province, and since apparently no one lives here and no one commutes beyond a 10-mile radius from Halifax (more on her later), the road was basically empty. This, I decided was the time to immerse myself in the full Canadian experience and set the iPod to play all my Barenaked Ladies on shuffle (all 325 songs’ worth). Except that doesn’t really work. Rolling hills, tranquil forests, bucolic farms, and a general feeling of peace doesn’t really fit with Tyler Stewart clomping away on the drums in a way that you can almost picture the ridiculous faces he’s making as he plays. As great of a driving playlist as it is, and as much as I enjoy Be My Yoko Ono, 128 beats per minute doesn’t really work. This isn’t to say there weren’t some moments (Just A Toy, Pinch Me, and especially the live duet with Alanis Morissette on Call and Answer – launching the whole thing into Canadian overdrive), but I think I’ll have to find something else for tomorrow.

Anyway, as I left the highway and traveled the last 400km (I assume it was something like that, I’m not good with metric) on surface roads, a scene not unlike the Maine seacoast unfolded in front of me. Unmanicured blue collar fishermen’s homes laid along winding roads that don’t really change the longer you drive them. It remained like that all the way until the “Welcome to Peggy’s Cove” sign. Peggy’s Cove is clearly different. From the town limits, there’s a buffer zone of over a mile where all you see are the road, trees, and the glimpse of a distant rocky town. Unlike the sprawling surrounding towns, this one seems almost to be huddling together out on the edge of the rocky shoreline. As you descend into town, the first thing you see is the lighthouse standing proudly all the way at the end of those rocks. It was here that I dug in for the evening’s festivities.

Since I got there a little early, I had time to walk (read: scramble) all the way around the lighthouse, looking for the best sunset vantage point. Eventually I found a relatively comfortable spot (as comfortable as giant granite slabs can be) where the sun would set between the lighthouse and a series of hills far across the water. The only downside to this location was the fact that everyone in Nova Scotia had apparently also decided to spend the evening here. So, until I erase them from existence in Photoshop, the lighthouse has company in my pictures.

Before I made my way to the hotel on the other side of Halifax, I found a promising spot to try and add to my collection of night city skyline pictures (God bless that little yellow man in Google Maps). While it wasn’t in Halifax itself, it was still just as sketchy as I imagined the real city to be. The truth, to be fair, (only very cool people will get that reference) is that most of my opinions about Halifax come from the BNL song for which this entry is named, with lines like “Hello city, you’ve found an enemy in me,” and “Clamped down 3 flights, to the street lights, and the bar fights. We’re just taking in the sights.” Apparently the guys had kind of a bad time here in the late 80’s, and now it’s how uncultured Americans growing up in the late 90’s envision the largest city in Nova Scotia. And nothing about this trip is going to change that perception, because all I plan to do (and which I’ve already done) are drive through Halifax and take these pictures:

 But, hey, I did get a hotel room out of the deal. So there’s that.

Tomorrow begins my real exploration of Nova Scotia, with a journey up to Cape Breton Island for what should be the real highlight of this trip.

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