Backyard Critters

….or Doo Doo Doo Lookin’ Out My Back Door.

That’s an exaggeration of course; no elephants or tangerines in our backyard. Or was it tambourines? (Is this a mondegreen;  a case of misunderstood song lyrics?)  Here are two of the most recent visitors to our back yard.

Buteo Lineatus

 

He/she’s been by to see us twice now.  Well, maybe not so much as to see us but rather to salivate over the plethora of plump acorn-fed squirrels which frequent our yard. Did you know that a group of squirrels is called a scurrie? Do birds salivate?

 

Red Shouldered Hawk

 

Speaking of elephants, in identifying this turtle, who is actually a tortoise, I was to look for hind legs which were “elephant-like.”

I don’t know where turtles got their reputation for being extraordinarily slow. This fellow booted it across the backyard like it was four o’clock on payday.

Gopher turtle. A threatened species in Florida.

 

Also called gopher tortoise. A turtle is always a tortoise but a tortoise is not always a turtle.

 

Proper name of Gopherus Polyphemus. Back view (as if you couldn’t tell that)

 

Did you know that Gus the turtle at the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History is a gopher turtle from Florida? And that he is 94 years old? Yup. No, he didn’t make it all that way on his own. A fellow bought him for five dollars in Florida in 1942 and he’s been entertaining NS school children ever since. Probably wouldn’t allow him across the border these days.

© Judy Parsons 2017.

Comment from Jon: 

To be pedantic. your shelled critter is actually a tortoise.

I am sooooo envious of your exposure to wildlife down there. To think these critters are right in your yard!
Jon
Reply from Judy: Thanks Jon. Yes, he is a tortoise but turtle is so much easier to say don’t you think.  He was big – the shell about a foot long. I hear they don’t travel too far from their nests so hopefully we will meet again. Re: wildlife envy – they don’t call it the nature coast for nothing. I’m still on the fence about meeting a gator though. And I’ve met the fire ants first hand. Oh the burning, Mommy, oh the burning.
BTW never sure what to do about the he/she thing when talking about animals. I tend to go by the sex of the person they remind me of.
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Deconstructing Thanksgiving Dinner

…or what I learned in 2 hours at Food Foto School.

In which I correct my own homework AND get to recycle my Second Thanksgiving dinner photos.

On the table:

Exhibit number 1.

I recently attended a seminar in Halifax called Blogjam – a convention for Bloggers. (I capitalize that because we Bloggers are so important) By far the most superior workshop was the one on plating and photographing food. I learned tons. Sadly it is not evident in my recent posting of Thanksgiving food pics so, being a fan of life-long learning and sharing, please indulge me in this autogenous critique of the above opening photograph.

  • There are too many round things. A picture needs a variety of shapes and sizes for balance.
  • The bird should be the biggest object in the pic but it is dwarfed by being next to the wine glass full of cran/raspberry jelly salad. That’s not an error in placement or scale; it is because that is the MOTHER of all big wineglasses. Also, it is a chicken, not a turkey. For you non-poultry eating folk, chickens are smaller than turkeys.
  • The gravy boat doesn’t match the plates. It is vintage, but not as vintage as the plate and it’s a different colour. Mmm, good reason to go Thrift store shopping there.
  • The focal point, or hero of the shot as it were, should be obvious or should have other objects creating a path towards it. Hmph. My hero, the chicken, is buried behind the doughboys, which is likely some kind of parapraxis on my part because doughboys ROCK.

Exhibit number 2

This is not much better even though they told me that food is best photographed from above unless the plate itself holds food in layers. I’m not so sure I agree. Also

  • It has too many plates.
  • The tablecloth doesn’t fit the table.
  • The plates are too small for the portions. I should have used smaller plates.
  • The jelly salad gets lost against the background.
  • The gravy boat still doesn’t work on that plate.
  • There is no clear focal point.

I should have used smaller plates. Or heaped the sprouts around the chicken. The jelly could have been in a small ivory dish to make it stand out against the cloth. The gravy boat should not be on a plate. Well, it should be for the sake of saving the tablecloth from gravy stains, but not for the photo. It’s hard to understand why I used a gigantic wine glass for the jelly. I vaguely recall it being because the gigantic martini glass wouldn’t fit in the fridge for it to set.

Here’s how our extraordinary and likable instructor, Michelle Doucette, did it:

Wonder how she’d treat a chicken dinner.

Now for the same dinner on the plate:

Exhibit number 3.

What works? The food is a nice variety of colours. What doesn’t:

  • The tablecloth is all wrong and doesn’t fill the frame.
  • There is no path for the eye to follow.
  • Everything is the same height.
  • Too many doughboys. One would have sufficed. (Once again the doughboys come first. You have to understand, I would have starved as a child if it weren’t for doughboys. Not because there wasn’t other food, just so few other things I considered worth eating)
  • It’s essentially just one big blob of food.
  • The blue pattern on the plate would have looked better over between the chicken leg and the jelly.
  • The pecans on the jellied salad look like some kind of growth. Should probably have flipped it so there was a cranberry or two showing.

On the other hand, the glistening on the gravy looks pretty good. Guaranteed natural, and unretouched that gravy is. No spray shellac in my food photos.

Here’s how the marvelous and likable chef from Gio, Halifax, presented his food. Sorry, don’t recall his name, I was too distracted by the culinary delights he was “plating” as he called it.

Plating.

Plated.

 

And now for dessert:

 

Exhibit number 4. Bad.

My first dessert photo earns a definite F grade. This is a slice of crustless key lime pie. It was delicious with the texture of a panna cotta and the zingy tang of fresh squeezed limes. Why does it look so terrible? Here’s a better shot but it still could use some improvement.

Exhibit number 5.

  • The plate is waaaay too big.
  • The plate colour and pattern do not compliment the food.
  • It is bland in colour. It would benefit from being placed on a nice dark sauce. Okay folks, get out your colour wheels here. I think a purply swirl of blackberry coulis would be just the ticket to bring out the green of the lime peel, don’t you?
  • The lime twist garnish I believe is nice, but it should have been a little smaller as it overwhelms the dessert. And add a single plump blackberry. Then again, why not just make the serving larger. Much larger with heaps more whipped cream. Bring it on. But hold the blackberry. I refuse to pay six dollars for a small package when I only need two berries. Maybe I should get some decorative glass ones. What’s the chance someone would try and eat one? Like those plastic safety pins I once put on the icing of some baby shower cupcakes that every second person thought was candy and tried to eat. Guess that’s why garnishes are usually real food. I digress.

So what I really learned from all of this is: if you want to photograph food don’t do it as you are serving it. Don’t break out the camera while your poor husband is already seated at the table with carving knife and fork poised and ready to strike. Or when he has licked the residual gravy off his fork and is holding it in his hand in anticipation of dessert. That is cruel and unusual punishment. Make yourself a practice meal a few days before, just for pictures. It falls under the category of artistic licence I believe. Not only will your photos be better planned, you will get to double the number of celebratory meals you get to have in any given year. Mmmmm, left-overs.

© Judy Parsons 2017.

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Second Thanksgiving

..or So Much to Be Thankful For.

So much that it seems silly to specify and I’m not just saying that because I am too stuffed to sit upright.

Roast chicken and savoury onion doughboys with cran-raspberry jelly salad. Mmm-mmm.

Wonder if there’s another country out there about to celebrate Thanksgiving. But I suppose three Thanksgiving dinners would really be pushing the limit. Guess I’ll just have to hold out until Christmas. Christmas. Aargh.

© Judy Parsons 2017

Happy Thanksgiving

…or Seasonally confused.

It's fall and snow birds are driving to southern homes.

Here’s a cookie cutter clue as to what I’m up to right now.

Yesterday I heard Christmas music playing in the stores while I was out shopping for Thanksgiving dinner stuff. What ever happened to the idea that to every thing there is a season? Wait, didn’t I already do Thanksgiving? Sure I did, back in October, when I was putting up the Halloween decorations. And packing up Christmas in a box to be delivered and held til December 25th. (Just a reminder my darlings: NO PEEKING. In the meantime I really can’t explain why I was knitting Easter chicks. If I start soon, why maybe I can have next Christmas packed up in a box and ready to roll before the spring birthday season starts. Why not rent a storage unit and get ahead for the next five Christmases. I can load up the stockings with left-over Halloween treats and Thanksgiving chocolate. What do you mean there is no such thing as Thanksgiving chocolate? How have the candy companies not latched onto that yet? Aaah, I see, it is in the clutches of the pumpkin spice people. It’s no wonder I’m confused.

Seasonally confused.

Thanksgiving was nowhere near done when the Halloween decor went up.

 

And they said Halloween treats were fattening.

Halloween was not even done done when the Christmas stuff started to appear….

 

Warming up for the festivities.

…and the Christmas decor started up long before the snow flew. At least the leaves are off the trees.

 

Oh me nerves, who let Easter in here???

 

But I really must get cracking with Thanksgiving Dinner number 2, American version. I’m doing an eclectic  North/South fusion of stuff : roast chicken (no dry old turkey for me thank you very much) with savoury flavoured doughboys instead of stuffing (choose your starches folks, shrink those love handles to the size of bucket handles) with gravy and brussels sprouts.  And cranberry jelly salad because it is pretty on the plate and makes chicken sandwiches taste oh so good the next day. Don’t worry, my red dye #2 reaction will only last til Christmas. Christmas. Aaaargh!!!!

© Judy Parsons 2017

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New Work

…or Painter Barbie Presents

the latest J. Parsons canvas. I say canvas but it is actually paper and conté crayon (a type of compressed chalk in a small squared stick). It started out as a rough sketch in preparation for an acrylic but once I got going with that pleather jacket I couldn’t stop. The piece is roughly 16 x 20. Inches.

Marie

Aunt Marie was a going concern in the 70’s when our family used to visit on holidays. We often said that we never saw her sit down. Perch maybe, for a split second until she was interrupted by a knock at the door and a small voice asking “Can somebody go out in ‘da shop?” and she would throw her apron over the back of a chair, grab her keys and disappear for a bit, in which time Uncle Gerald would entertain us with wisecracks. By the time she got there, there might be several customers, perhaps clutching small crumpled notes from their mothers: half a pound of bolognie cut thick, a pack of du Mauriers (cigarettes – I could do a whole blog post on du Mauriers), a bag of onions, and a pack of jamjams etc. Then she’d reappear, keys jangling, her wide smile making her look mildly surprised. To me, Aunt Marie was about as cool as a rural Newfoundland shopkeeper could get. She smoked, she kept her eyebrows tamed, she wore lipstick, and always high heels when she dressed up. She knew everybody and never said a bad word about any of them. If I close my eyes to imagine her now I see her standing at the stove, leaning back to avoid the hot steam of a giant pot of Jigg’s dinner, one hand holding the pot lid, the other desperately fanning her face. Because Aunt Marie was always hot in more ways than one. I think the vinyl jacket, polyester palazzo pants and the avocado phone captures the era nicely. We miss you Aunt Marie and oh, by the way, I’m sorry I ran off with your tweezers that time.

© Judy Parsons 2017

Avian Action on the Mersey

…or Have You Ever Seen an Eagle Swim?

The regulars.

I have. But I don’t have a picture. That’s kind of like telling about the size of the trout that got away, I know, but if I had left the window to get my camera I would have missed the action. But first some housekeeping. At the end of all my posts I give an email address for comments. That’s because if you try and use the little link box or the Comment command on the web-page you will find it does not work. I have been trying for eons to fix it to no avail. Just so’s you knows. Now, more about the raptors.

Eagles like to perch in the crag across the river from our house where they stalk ducks, eels and small pets.

An adolescent eagle is very well camouflaged and hard to spot but you can always hear it. Looks like this young one is getting in with the wrong crowd.

Anyhow, on this particular day, I heard a ruckus. The local eagles have been making a lot of fuss this fall; it seems to be more common when there is an adolescent around. (You mothers of teenagers can surely relate)  There was some mighty hysterical squawking going on  and I flew to the window to see what was a matter (now what well known Christmas poem does that line remind you of?) where I saw a huge mature eagle dive-bombing another eagle that was perched on a river rock. It struck, feathers flew, and the harrassed bird took flight but was still low and it ended up up in the river. Then I saw, for the first time in my life, an eagle swim. It was pretty impressive; like a butterfly stroke with its head out of the water. It made its way back to the rock where it was joined by its aggressor briefly before they flew off to perch on opposite sides of the river to lick their wounds.

On the rocks. A bit of a risky spot for those ducks to be, don’t you think?  (photo by Lance)

 

The blows have ceased but the quarrel is not over.

 

Taking off. (photo by Lance)

 

Eagle #1 retreats to the west side of the Mersey to nurse its wing.

 

That’s a bit of carnage stuck to its beak!

 

Eagle #2 retreats to the east side to dry its wings and nurse its wounds.

 

 (photo by Lance)

 

And hide its face in shame.

 

“No photos please” 

 

Now eagles look pretty contrary at the best of times but after this conflagration this pair looked downright outraged and indignant..

 

Looks a little roughed up there.

 

By morning’s end they were back on the same crag but not talking and still keeping their distance. They are the epitome of “Angry Birds.”

 

 “I just can’t look at you right now”

 

If this keeps up I am going to have to get a fancier camera and wear it all day.

Email comments to JGParsons@judypstickletrunk.com and I will paste them in. Click on any image for a larger view. Sign up above right to receive notifications of new blog posts.

© Judy Parsons 2017

Hiking Gear Review

…..or Backpacker Barbie says:

Backpacker Barbie

“If you have any doubts about any of your gear, don’t take it.” You’ll wish you’d heeded her later when your bootlaces are snapped and your flapping hikers, tied up with strands of sweet grass, are flopping on and off your feet trying to peel the skin off your goose egg blisters. You’ll wish you’d listened when you snap at your hike-mate right after the top of your pack bangs into the back of your head for the ten thousandth time so you hurl your pack in the river only to have it land on the shoreline on the slippery rocks which you can no longer navigate because your ankles are sore from walking sideways so that your blackened toenails don’t ram into the front of your shoes. You’ll wish you’d appreciated Barbie’s wisdom when you are trying to light a gas stove with wet matches in a wind storm. Thanks to the internet, I didn’t have to learn this stuff the hard way. By the way Backpacker Barbie (B.B.) also advises that you not balk at high prices for good gear but try and save on stuff that doesn’t really matter. For example I was just as happy with my Mr. Noodles and Bulk Barn cheese sauce as I would have been with a ten dollar entree from the outfitting store but I am glad I shelled out for a good pack. Here’s a review of my gear. I should qualify this by saying I have only done three hikes over 11 km and two solo over-nighters so I still have lots to learn and I wouldn’t use these reviews to plan a month on the Appalachian Trail. Just so’s you knows.

Me boots and socks.

My boots are Keen Logans. (I like this because a ‘logan’ in Newfoundland is a durable rubber boot meant to take a good beating) I got them on  eBay for half the price of new ones. This is always a risk, foot fungus and no returns and all, but at this point I thought I might only use them once. I used them all summer and will get many more seasons out of them. They appeared to be waterproof as long as you don’t go over the tops of course. There was tons of room in the toe box and, because I bought them a half size larger, my toes didn’t jam into the fronts when I did long downhill stretches. This also accommodated some swelling after a full day on my feet. Indeed, I hiked two long treks with untrained soft, and occasionally soggy feet and got no sign of a blister. My only issue would have been with any mid-height boot: I am a little bowlegged (thanks Granny for that gene) and my ankles rubbed on the outer side of the boot upper. On the inner side there was a large gap which filled up with all manner of stuff; rain water, lichen, sticks, burrs, cookie crumbs, and I swear to God, there might have been a chipmunk in there for a few minutes. I either need higher boots or spats.

It is important to have good socks. I wore Merino wool Darn Tough hiker cushion quarter height socks. You might think wool silly in the heat of August but they wicked the sweat away from my feet and offered great padding for the constant impact of the brutal march. Later I added a thin cotton sock to snug up the boot a little. They were costly socks but sometimes you can find merino socks discounted at Winners-type places. B.B. also says to address your laces long before you think you really need to. It doesn’t take very long to work up a blister. She also recommends you bring light weight camp shoes. Mine were slip on Adidas plastic outfits which were a little squishy not great on rough terrain. I will replace them with something more snug before next season.

Me pack and me travelin’ canes.

This was my most expensive purchase and I didn’t regret it. It is very difficult to get a pack to sit right on the gnome shaped figure. This Deuter Futura Vario 45 + 10 is especially designed for women and can be adjusted for torso length. Once it is set up for your own size and shape the straps are easily adjusted for donning and doffing. Another great feature is the little netted rigid frame that holds the backpack clear of your body to reduce sweat. Bring on the hot flashes! The pack has a built in rain cover which I got to try and approve, and convenient little pockets on the hip strap where I kept my camera, fly dope, and a few candy. My only complaint was that I could not reach my water bottle without removing the pack but that would likely be case with any backpack. On the first trip out I packed it too high and with every second step it bumped, ever so gently, the back of my head. This can grow on you after the eight hundredth time. I repacked and it was not an issue, leaving me lots undistracted time to admire the flora and fauna. B.B. says to research and follow the guidelines on how to load your pack. If the weight is poorly distributed it can cause some real misery and there are some things you are going to want to get at easily. My hiking poles were from Costco, don’t recall the brand and don’t wish to trek to the car to find out, but will if you ask. They were a real Godsend on the slopes and for narrow tricky passages. They can be adjusted quickly and easily and hold their position under pressure. I won’t go again without them.

Me stove.

I probably shouldn’t be giving advice on stoves because I know next to nothing about them.  I got my  ultralite stove online from some random Chinese online store which also sold lingerie and kooky t-shirts. It looked a lot like the one in the above link (the stove not the store). I deleted the receipt and the store from my life because they started sending really annoying ads. The stove was only  seven dollars and it packs up really small. I didn’t have to set it up in the wind because my camp-sites all had fireplaces so I can’t pass juudgemant on its behavoiur in all conditions. I did have an issue with the unfolded rack. As soon as my small copper bottom pot started to get hot it would shimmy off the rack. I learned several new swear words and lost two pots of water this way. Should be okay if you don’t turn your back on the pot – no biggy as it boiled pretty quickly. The flame is adjustable. I know nothing about the cans of gas other than that they add weight and are not real cheap. That’s an experiment for next season.

Me tent.

I have a love-hate relationship with my Hennessy Hammock tent. What I love about it: being off the ground. The small amount of weight it adds to my pack and the limited space it occupies. Not having to fuss with poles. The built-in mosquito netting. Being able to see out to a limited extent. What I don’t like: the velcro. Can I say that louder? THE VELCRO! If you are in the deep dark woods alone I suppose it doesn’t matter much but if at a campground or out with friends it really really inhibits you getting out of the tent. At the Keji camping site I almost lost a kidney from holding my pee so I wouldn’t wake all my neighbours with that horrible scritchy sound of velcro being unpeeled. I swear something about the tent amplified it like a 1980’s boombox would. As well, I had a devil of a time getting in and out of the sleeping bag. My last trip I got twisted so badly in my bag that I couldn’t pull it up past my waist and the temperature dropped to 8 that night. Bring on the hot flashes. Please. Thankfully I had thought to bring a stocking cap. Getting out of the velcroed slit of the tent I felt like a calf being delivered. Or, maybe more like a fish egg being spawned.  Did I mention I despise the sound of velcro? I see that you can buy them with zippers but I will stick to what I have for now. I will solve the sleeping bag problem by investing in a sleeping quilt which packs up just as well and is much easier to adjust. I should add that I have never used the Hennessy Hammock in heavy rain, and nor do I wish to do so. B.B. recommends some kind of insulation to go between you and the hammock for warmth. I have used both a foam sleeping pad and one of those reflector things you put in your car’s windshield as a sun shield. They both work.

Me water system.

I like my Source water bag. It is a convenient size, fills easily (the whole bottom opens) and best of all, it stands on its own. I only used it at the site; I carried my hiking water in bottles. For purification I used liquid drops. B.B. says don’t buy your purification system at the Thrift Store. Like I did. I was following the instructions for use and read “Do NOT use if expired.” The expiry date below was 2014. Crap. I used it anyway, the colours changed as they were supposed to and I don’t appear to have any weird parasites. That I know of. I will buy tablets for next season. I am not keen on carrying liquids in my bag anyway. B.B. reminds you to dry your water bag thoroughly before you stow it away for the winter.

Me oilskins.

Speaking of gnomes!! This was a “Bluefield backpack covering raincoat” I purchased online. Possibly from Amazon.com. The piece which covers the pack zips down when not needed. It worked well the two times I had to use it. I like that it is very loose so I could breath under it. That might be an issue in high winds. I’m not sure how durable it is either or if the zipper will hold up but it is a risk I am willing to take and I will just replace it if need be. I saw the price of Goretex. The first time I used it it rained torrentially all day and I wasn’t bothered. Lynn helped me don it. The second time I was solo and I used every darned Yoga pose I know trying to get the thing on and over my pack. Human arms just don’t work that way, folks. In the end I found that it was easier to dress the pack first, put it on my back, and then pull the raincoat down over. Worth the $22 it cost. B.B. reminds you to bring a ball cap with a solid peak to keep the hood in position. Not a red one. You know who has sucked the fun out wearing a red ball cap.

Other random gear I was glad I had: a blue tarp (you can’t bring your pack into your hammock tent.) My rigging knife. Extra line like paracord. Individually wrapped wet wipes. A few extra baggies. In a later entry I will talk about food. Just for now; everything tastes better in the woods but some stuff still tastes better than others.

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© Judy Parsons 2017

Today’s Costume: Backpacker

…or Getting Right Back on That Horse

Backpacker Barbie

After my Cape Chignecto hiking debacle I was feeling a little less than competent. I asked myself “What was the real cause of my failure? Was it lack of aerobic training or muscle strength, the heat of the day, or, heaven forbid, a cardiac issue?” There was only one way to find out. No, not get a physical like Sensible Sally would do. I had to do it the Parsons way: get right back on that horse. So I called up the Keji office and booked myself a backwoods site that required a good long walk in with my camping gear on my back. This would challenge my endurance without the complication of the steep hills. Campsite 17 looked like a good challenge; a 5 km trek from the Big Dam parking lot should be a good distance to ease back into things. I paid my money, I took my chances.

I donned my trusty new backpack and, to the accompaniment of the sloshing of my water bottle and the slight swish of my backpack, I headed down the trail.  It was, I discovered, one of the lesser traveled trails with the fern growing right over it in places. The little angel on my right shoulder had said “Is this sensible? If you do have a cardiac problem no one is going to get in here with the paddles before the coyotes get you. If your legs give out from fatigue you will have to lie down in that bog. What if you get so tired you have to travel in dark or dim light? You might lose your way.” The little devil on my left shoulder said “Come on, you know there’s nothing wrong with you. If you bail now you’ll probably never go again and you spent a small fortune on gear” and “Yooou’re a hypooo-condriaaac” in a singsong voice. The angel rebutted “It could be days before you see another human on this trail” (not likely true in a busy summer season but sometimes exaggeration is necessary to make a point) The angel won, and About 1.5 km in I turned and doubled back out the trail. I didn’t abandon the hike however. Instead I picked up a loop on a much more populated trail. So I got the full benefit of hiking 11km with my gear but no backwoods camping. I had already paid for a site so I picked up one in the general campground. After I made camp I then did another 2km to the ice cream stand and back. I felt I needed to reward my efforts. I felt entirely vindicated and decided it was the heat and lack of training which led to my previous failure. That, and rickety knees.

Here’s a few pics of the flora and fauna I saw that day. I will review my hiking/camping gear in an upcoming blog post.

The chlorophyll free, parasitic monotropa uniflora. Also known as Indian pipe.

 

Cornus canadesis, or bunchberries. We called them crackerberries in Nfld.

 

Coffee Cuppicus Timotheos. Hey, what ignorant barbarian left that out here? And where did they even buy it??

 

The Great Canadian Beaver.

 

 

As usual, once tired I began seeing faces in everything. Or is this just a gnome home?

And so I survived to tell this tale. I went on to do a longer over-nighter a couple of weeks later. I am so far behind on blog posts it will take me a while to get to it. It was a grand summer with lots of adventures to report.

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© Judy Parsons 2017

Bridges of the Medway

….or ♪ ♪ Sous Les Ponts ♫………..

Just a few snaps I took of the lower Medway River and its bridges while out paddling last week.

Looking down-river:

This is the old train trestle bridge, now part of a multi-use trail. 

 

Heading up-river towards Mill Village:

The Medway River bridge on Highway 103.

 

A small bridge on a side road off Old Highway 3. Surprisingly, there was quite a strong tidal current under here.

 

Approaching the Old Highway 3 bridge in Mill Village.

 

On the upper side of the Mill Village Bridge past the store. This is as far as we went as it got shallow and rocky here.

 

The Riverbank General Store in Mill Village. We might have tried to land here had we not brought a picnic.

Next time we will explore the mouth of the Medway below the trestle bridge.

© Judy Parsons 2017

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Today’s Costume: Backpacker

….or A Cape Chignecto Caper

  I got back yesterday from my annual physically challenging adventure with my friend Lynn. I was  supposed to get back tomorrow. C’est la vie – more on that later. We had decided that after five years of running Not Since Moses it was time for a new adventure. My knees aren’t getting any younger and running in mud or over a slippery ocean floor is just asking for trouble. Lynn suggested hiking the Cape Chignecto coastal trail which a friend of hers had done and enjoyed. The rest, as they say, is history. The plan: rent the park cabins. Arch Gulch first night, Big Bald Rock second night, and then back to the Gulch for the final night then back to the car. Here’s a little of how it played out:

The trail started at Red Rocks for 1.5 km along the beach. It was a great beach worthy of a visit in itself; bountiful in driftwood and flotsam but no garbage. Of course it was a lot more beach once the Fundy tide dropped the usual thirty feet.

Then up a flight of 60 steps which we laughed at thinking then we were at the top of the hill. But there came more stairs. Then no stairs but more up. Then more up and up and up and up. The up was relentless. I was puffing and blowing and running out of steam. Did I mention it was a very hot sunny day? We mostly traveled in the shade. I think I would have died of heat stroke were we in full sun. We went up some more. Down was only a relief for a short time. It made my old knees sing a song of woe. Down was also relentless but did not take away the breath. And then it switched again and there was even more up than before. My knees rejoiced, my lungs were outraged.

I took no photos. The effort required to get my camera from my pocket would have risked using the last bit of energy I had left. (here’s a link to another blog with lots of great photos) I was almost apoplectic. I developed a pattern: 25 steps then stop for for 2 full breaths. It was quickly reduced to 12 steps. I noticed a look of concern on Lynn’s face when I got down to 6 steps followed by 10 breaths. Baby steps at that. We stopped for a long rest. I was the colour of a lobster boiled in beet juice and couldn’t cool down. Every pore was pouring. I considered licking my limbs to get back the precious electrolytes I was losing. I spared my water along.  And then I got up and we went up some more. And then some. We were unsure of how far it was to the cabin. And then the blessed level ground. And then the cabin. “I could just cry” I said on seeing it. Well, actually the outhouse was what we were looking at. Pleased to say that it was not the kind of outhouse that could make you cry. Relief was in sight. No more up-hill. No more down-hill. Today.

We wined, we dined, we enjoyed the scenery when it wasn’t obscured by fog. I finally cooled down.

We sat on the steps and watched the daylight fade.

I was more than a little concerned that I was having difficulty just doing the three cabin stairs, knowing that the leg to Big Bald Rock the next day was twice as far with more ups and downs. We read the guest book and commiserated with the writers. I was pleased to see an entry by my friend Jim.  He got out alive, I thought, surely I can too. My hips cracked and groaned. My knees creaked and moaned. We took the party inside.

The cabin was cozy and spacious and a wall between us muted my snores. It took a long time to get to sleep; I fussed with my teeny tiny pillow. I rolled on my side, on my back, on my other side, all the time grateful that I wasn’t going up-hill. I dreamed about an East Indian dinner party. I woke at four in the morning shivering. Oh my God, I’ve got cat scratch fever! I thought with alarm. I’m going to lose a limb before they can get me out of here. (I had sustained a deepish cat scratch on my arm a few days ago) I went back to sleep and dreamed about a circus strong man named The Great Recaldo.

We rolled up our bedding and made the decision not to go on to Big Bald Rock but to turn back. I knew my knees would not tolerate another two days of those inclines even with all the Advil in my pack. I rationalized. “We’re not quitting, we’re just cutting it short”. “There’s no point in getting an injury just so’s I can say I didn’t quit.” “We can blame it on the rain.” I got a little emotional when I called the park office to say we no longer needed the cabins. I could sense that the staff person thought I was calling for a rescue when I said “I’m afraid the trail is way too much for us” and could hear the sigh of relief when I said “We’re coming out.” I don’t for a second regret the decision. I have to get at least another thirty-five years out of these knees and if the shortness of breath were something other than just being winded it would be a heck of a place to stage a rescue. There is always some shame in returning home via the hospital after the ride in the basket of a helicopter. Leaving Lynn to walk out on her own. With both our packs.

The walk out was easier than the walk in. I paced myself. I took a load of Advil. I used my poles to full advantage. It poured rain even though they had forecast 30% chance of showers and only 1 to 2 mm. I laughed, I sang, I had zen mind. The scenery was just as beautiful in the rain but the trail slightly more tricky being wet. Every flat stone looked like a piece of glass, broken sticks looked like small flashlights, wet rocks looked like buttons. The green of the hardwood section which was carpeted with fern was never so green. We were so cheery under our bright ponchos.

 

 

Runner 3

 

By the time I was walking back up the beach I knew that cutting the hike short was the right decision. It was only half the distance that I would have had to go if we went as planned and I was almost all in. I craved Advil and dry socks. So what did I learn from this experience? Believe it when they say “Very challenging”. Train. There is no shame in a change of plans. What worked? Our gear. We packed appropriately. What Advice can I give? Read Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild”. Buy good gear. My new pack was never a burden. It may have added to my weight of course, but I was rarely conscious of it. Get shoes with a roomy toe-box. Your toenails will appreciate it when you are going down hill. Get proper hiking socks. They prevent blisters and wick away sweat. Enjoy every moment, up or down-hill, rain or shine – nature is the world’s best entertainment.

By the way, I looked up in my dream dictionary what it means to dream about a strong man. It said “A strong man is a sure sign that you are setting your sights too high.”

Comments: 

Judy,

I truly enjoyed your story about hiking Chignecto.  I wanted to be right there with you and yet my knees were aching just reading about it!

Cheryl

Thanks Cheryl, you would have been good company. We could have commiserated about our joints while Lynn went for help. Whenever my body makes me change my plans I am reminded of that classic picture of the old sailor with his cane standing bowlegged on the end of the dock looking out to sea. I’m not there yet but I definitely need to readjust my expectations. So much of the world yet to enjoy. – Judy

© Judy Parsons 2017

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