Monday, January 4, 2016

Spotted on my Morning Walk

A Bald Eagle perched on the bridge at Dominion Beach.  I see this guy almost every morning during my walk along the sandbar and sometimes there are two or three of them hanging around.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Story Behind my Renowned Hiking Stick

I do a lot of hiking and love it. In fact, I think I'm addicted to the thrill of finding new trails to explore. Despite my love of hiking, surprisingly, I'm not a gear hoarder. I have the basics - comfortable hiking boots, comfortable clothes, a few rain items, some first aid and emergency items for long hikes, a trusty backpack and my coyote stick. Yes you read that right. My coyote stick. It's a walking stick that doubles as a weapon should a pack of hungry coyotes surround me. No I don't go around beating coyotes with sticks. I love all animals. I would only ever hurt an animal if it were to defend my life.
Now, to you, this stick might simply sound like a regular old walking stick. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is no ordinary walking stick. This walking stick has a history, a story. So since my coyote stick is such a big part of my hikes that I write about on this blog, I thought I would officially introduce it to my readers and tell the world the story about how it came to be.

I can't remember exactly when I acquired my renowned walking stick but I think it's safe to guess it was around 2010 because it was after I moved back to Cape Breton from Newfoundland. It was given to me by my father and it was given to my father by beavers. Yes, that's right. Beavers. Well, they didn't actually give the stick to my father; he took it from them. There were several sticks involved in the infamous beaver damn stick heist but no beavers were harmed and no beaver dams were damaged during this heist. I doubt the beavers even noticed a few missing sticks out of the thousands strewn over their property.
Me and my cherished Coyote Stick getting ready to head out for a weekend of Camping
I assume you are at least vaguely familiar with beavers and their extraordinary carpentry skills. To put it into perspective for you, the world's largest beaver dam (which was only discovered fairly recently in Northern Alberta) is 850 meters long and can be seen from space. My dad was fishing in the Framboise area of Cape Breton when he stumbled across a much smaller (but still fairly big) beaver dam that was under construction. To us humans, we think of a beaver dam as just a pile of sticks haphazardly piled together to stop water flowage. To beavers, dams are more than just homes, they're fortresses. There were hundreds of perfectly sanded down sticks sitting near the bank of the river the day my dad stumbled upon that beaver dam. The beavers "sand" these sticks with their teeth, not sand paper. (Thought I should clarify that just in case.) Dad picked up one of these freshly-sanded sticks and instantly thought "what a good walking stick this would make". Not often does one stumble across hundreds of perfectly-made walking sticks in the middle of nowhere that look and feel better than most of the ones you find in stores...and cheaper too! So he grabbed one for me as well. All that was needed before the stick was ready to be used was a coat of varnish to spruce it up and a few decorative touches to personalize it. With these final touches complete, dad presented the walking stick to me. It comes with me on every hike and also protects me against coyotes while walking up my long, rural driveway and protects me in my car in the unlikely event of an attempted carjacking or robbery. I have no doubt this stick would do some major damage if it ever had to come to that!

A number of years later, my coyote stick is still going strong and I consider it to be one of my most prized possessions. Other people are intrigued by it too. I've had a number of folks stop me on the trails to comment on what a nice walking stick I have and to enquire as to where they can buy one. Just recently, I overheard a little boy ask his father "did you see that cool walking stick that girl had" as I hiked passed them. I tell people the truth when they ask me where I bought it. I tell them it was made by beavers. And they look at me like I have ten heads. I joke around with dad that he should start a beaver sweat shop and sell the sticks for profit. Judging by the number of people interested in my walking stick, he'd be rich in no time!

Monday, December 28, 2015

My Winter Travel Plans..or Lack Thereof

Overall, it's been a good year but one thing really disappointed me; I didn't get to go on my annual vacation. You know, that trip I take every year to a foreign land that I've never been to before? Yeah that one.

Lots of things came together to make 2015 the year of the Staycation. Technically I did travel to an international destination when I flew to Barbados at the last minute in December but it's getting so close to a year since I got on a plane that for the sake of rounding things off, we'll just say I haven't traveled this year...because it has been slightly more than 365 days since I left Canada.

I planned to travel to Newfoundland in the spring but was called to work from June to October. Having a set-in-stone date for the end of work meant I could plan to go anywhere I wanted for however long I wanted and I had 4 months to think about where to go and plan an amazing trip. I thought about it a lot. First, I thought of doing a multi-country tour of Europe. That was soon replaced with the idea of going to just Greece. That idea faded fast when the Syrian refugee crisis reached its peak and it looked like traveling anywhere in that region might be a bad idea. Hawaii also crossed my mind around that time but it was New Zealand that I finally settled on as my travel destination for the fall of 2015. I made the decision to visit the North Island and planned to do a semi-guided tour with GAdventures. I looked at flights and set up flight alerts to keep track of prices. I did tons of research on the Island. And it didn't happen. None of it fell through. It's the end of December, just days away from 2016 and my renewed eligibility to be recalled to work and I'm here writing about how I didn't take that trip to New Zealand instead of writing about my experience in the place that has been at the top of my bucket list since I was a child. Yeah it's a bummer alright.

The downward spiral leading to the demise of my most recent travel plans started with a dull ache in the right side of my head that turned out to be a toothache. A trip to the dentist revealed a severely decayed wisdom tooth in desperate need of either a costly root canal or an almost as costly extraction. I made the appointment to have it taken out the following week and continued to make plans for the upcoming trip that I already told everyone I was going on, much to the envy of my friends and co-workers. Meanwhile, I discovered that the house I'm living in is to be sold next spring and I have to find another place to live which will double my cost of living. My car started to act up around this time too. The brakes were grinding, the engine light came on, a loud squealing started under the hood and something was rattling under the front end. I dropped it off at the garage one morning and 4 hours and almost fifteen-hundred dollars later, my car was returned to me only to be parked in the yard for emergency use only as I was no longer able to afford to put gas in it. And to top it off, the dentist called only two days before my scheduled appointment and informed me that they were unable to do the extraction as it was more suited to a dental surgeon who specializes in more complicated extractions like mine. That appointment ended up being a month away - during the time I would be traveling. So with all that having happened over a short period of time and the fact that I suddenly became short on both time and money, I cancelled my trip. And yes it broke my heart. No I am not being my typical sarcastic self, it really broke my heart.

Some excitement started to stir right before Christmas when rumours started to spread that some people may be called back to work in January. At first I hoped I wouldn't be because I hated the thought of driving to work every day in blustery, winter conditions. But the idea of having the summer off started to appeal to me and I hoped they would call. They didn't...yet...and with January quickly approaching, I don't suspect they will. Either way, I've started making plans to travel as soon as time allows me to do so. I have three options for the near future: 1) If I get called back in January, I will travel to a climate that is warm around the time I get laid off again which will be May or June. I'm thinking Western Europe...England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. 2) If I don't get called back in January, I know I'm safe until at least April when call backs start again so I'm thinking I will use some of my Airmiles that are soon expiring and head somewhere warm in South America or the Caribbean. Argentina is a destination I am seriously considering. 3) I am also considering the option of not going anywhere until the fall of 2016 and saving up to go to New Zealand. Three great plans of attack, one tough decision. I think the best way to tackle this whole scenario is to do minimal planning until almost the last minute so I don't face disappointment again and just play it by ear and see how things transpire.

Mini-trips, or Staycations as some people like to call them, are always in the works but I don't really count any trip made within Canada as a "real"trip which is defined by the use of a passport and the crossing of at least one border. I have quite a few WestJet dollars and I'm thinking I may use them for a trip Out West to see my sisters in Alberta.
Although I didn't get the chance to travel to a far-flung destination this year, I still managed to explore some new places closer to home and enjoy some relaxing time spent in some of my favourite places around Cape Breton. I'm rarely idle, I'm always itching to go somewhere and if that somewhere happens to be to places closer to home, then so be it. There are more than enough places to explore around here. So many beaches and trails that I have yet to lay eyes on. That being said, my itchy feet won't allow me to stay put for too long. Only time will tell when and where my next international adventure will take place. I can only hope it will be sooner than later!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

A Late Fall Hike to Grand River Falls

A hike to Grand River Falls was in the making for over a year before it finally happened this Fall. Something always got in the way every time I tried to plan this hike. Weather, last minute appointments, a busy work schedule and last minute car repairs are just some of the things that got in the way. However, it is often said that things happen for a reason. I believe the reason so many things got in the way of the hike being done months ago had to do with the powers-that-be working their magic to align everything just perfectly...because everything was perfect that day including the weather which was perfect with no precipitation or wind. This is a rare event in late fall anywhere in Nova Scotia, especially in Cape Breton.
Grand River Falls
Grand River Falls is located in an area of the island that I'm just starting to really get to know. I call this entire area Framboise but it is actually a number of small communities spread out over a fairly large area. The Trail is about a half hour from the town of St. Peters. The area is quite remote with few houses and few people so I was pretty much guaranteed to get some much needed one-on-one time with nature.

I found the trail entrance without any trouble and it looked surprisingly well-maintained. I parked my car near the main road as I didn't want to chance bringing it onto a poorly-maintained backroad in the middle of nowhere but the trail actually did look good enough to drive on! I put on my hunters orange vest and toque (it was still deer hunting season when I did this hike, so better safe than sorry) and grabbed my sturdy walking stick.

It was easy walking along that old wood road. I had no idea how long it would take me to get to the falls but I figured it would be a while since I couldn't hear any water running. I'm guessing it was about 30 minutes into my walk that I started to hear the roar of water rushing downward and I reached the falls about ten minutes after that.
The falls were nothing like I expected. I had no idea what they were going to look like but I imagined them in a different way. For starters, I didn't think there would be so much water and I didn't think they would be so easily accessible.
The most unique feature about the area around the falls is the salmon ladder that runs alongside the falls. In early summer, salmon can be seen using the ladder which has been in place since the late 1800's and to this day serves the purpose of aiding in the maintenance of the salmon population. I didn't see any salmon on this day but it was still interesting to see it and get an idea of how it works. I later heard that bald eagles are often spotted fishing for their lunch when the salmon arrive so I made a mental note to myself to go back there in the summer.
the salmon ladder
I wandered around taking pictures and familiarizing myself with the area before finding a spot that overlooked the cascading falls and river. I always carefully choose my resting/picnicking spots based on the following criteria:
1) Comfort
2) Scenery
3) Safety
4) Shelter
The spot I picked as my resting place to have my tea and egg salad sandwich fit all my criteria perfectly. It was comfortable, it was surrounded by beautiful, natural scenery, it was safe and it was nicely sheltered out of the wind.
I stayed there for some time taking in that invigorating, fresh air. Winters are long and harsh in Cape Breton and the fall is usually not much better with cold, north-easterly winds and lots of rain so I was very lucky to have been graced with such a warm, sunny day. I let my senses take over. I let my eyes take in the sight before me - trees dancing in a gentle breeze and fresh, clean water cascading downriver through a valley of red, gold and orange fall foliage. I let my nose take in the smell of damp moss and slowly dying forest. I let my hands feel the last remnants of summer around me knowing full well that soon it would be covered in a thick white blanket of snow and ice. I let my ears hear the singing of the birds and rustling of the leaves that would soon fall silent.
I tried to stretch out the hike back to the car for as long as I could, stopping every so often to engage my senses in those tranquil surroundings but, alas, I spotted a glimmer of late afternoon sun hitting the hood of my car in the distance and in a few seconds my late-fall hike, the last real hike of the season, came to an end.
If you've been reading this blog for some time now, you probably know me fairly well or at least well enough to know that just because a hike is completed that doesn't mean my day is completed. I spent the early evening driving around the country back roads of the Framboise area looking for deer and other wildlife. I did see one deer darting across the road but fortunately I didn't see any of those bears that have recently been spotted in the area. I drove around some more admiring the old abandoned country houses that dot many of grown-over fields before driving through L'Ardoise and onto St. Peter's to grab a coffee and make the long drive home along Route 4 and the Bras d'or Lakes. Another trail knocked off that list!
An old Abandoned House







Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Hike Along the Remote and Rocky Shores of Fourchu - A Colourful Beach and a Deserted Island

I do a bit of hiking in the Summer but , for the most part, the weather is too hot or I'm just too busy to do any long trails. The fall is when I try to do the bulk of my hiking throughout the year. It's not too hot, it's not too cold and my schedule tends to be less hectic.

One of the first real hikes I did this fall was in Forchu along the southern coast of Cape Breton Island. It was a bit cold, windy and damp the day I set out on this trail but I dressed warm and headed out, determined to complete it from start to finish without letting the weather deter me. I often hike alone, especially since I moved back to Cape Breton but I've been meeting more people who have the same interests as me and more often than not lately, I have company on the trails as I did on this day.
I'd been to the Forchu area many times before but never hiked in the area so the idea of hiking a new trail was exciting for me....except this trail wasn't exactly a trail; It was a rugged coastal path that wasn't worn in enough to be able to actually see any path. Fortunately, we had someone with us who knew the area well and was able to guide us safely along the rugged coastline.


The hike started out easy and got a bit more difficult as we moved further along the beach and remote area of coastline. The air was chilly and windy but in a refreshing way. With all the hard walking I was doing, that chilly air combined with a light spray coming off the cold Atlantic provided welcome relief.

The first thing I noticed about that beach was how colourful it was. I'm referring to the rocks. Millions of rocks each one different. yes, I know most beaches have millions of unique rocks but there was something more rich and vibrant about the rocks on this beach that made it stick out from any other rocky beach I'd ever seen.


We were walking for quite a while when I decided to inquire exactly how long of a hike we were embarking on. The only person familiar with it pointed ahead and said "see that point. It's well beyond that". That point looked like it was a hundred miles away! Not that I minded. I love long hikes, especially coastal ones with scenery like this one. There was so much to look at. Seals bobbing in the rough surf, boats passing by on the distant horizon, deep forest lining the shoreline, various beach "treasures" that were washed ashore in storms. There was a smell too. A smell that is common along the seashore in fall. Rotting seaweed. Yes, to some, that may sound like the most unappealing smell in the world but I know I'm close to the sea when that smell fills my nostrils and as long as I'm by the sea, I don't care if the seaweed smells bad.
We walked for quite a long time before we reached that bend and I was finally able to see exactly how far we were going to go....and it was far. There was a possibility if the tide had been too high, we would have to turn back but since it was low, we pressed on toward our goal - the small island attached to the beach by a causeway that is fully exposed during low tide but submerged underwater during high tide.
As we inched closer to that island, the wind picked up ever so slightly and the ocean spray began to sting my face a little. I started to walk with my head tilted more towards the ground and that is when I noticed there was a lot of dog footprints in the sand. I wondered why a dog would be all the way out here on this remote beach and there were no human footprints accompanying the prints. And that is when it dawned on me that these weren't dog footprints at all, they were coyote prints. Good thing I brought my big walking stick and bear spray with me because these prints looked fresh.


It's hard to believe that the wide causeway leading out to the island had been submerged under a few feet of water only hours before. We were able to walk straight out to the island and climb right to the very top and look out at the wonderful view around us. Of course, because it was a deserted island in the middle of nowhere surrounded by beautiful scenery, it was also the perfect place to have a picnic. A small field on the side that was sheltered and out of the wind did the trick.
The walk back was much colder as we were walking into the wind. It seemed to take forever to get back to the car. Not that I like to rush my hikes but my hands were so cold, I couldn't feel them! But like always, they regained their colour soon after I reached the car and I was able to move them enough to grasp the cold steering wheel to begin the long drive home along that country road that by that time was encompassed in the soft glow of a setting sun and impending twilight. Another day, another trail knocked off that list.
Me at the very top of the little island...what a view!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Celtic Colours International Festival 2015

My favourite time of year has come and gone; Celtic Colours. For those of you who are new to this blog or don't have any idea what Celtic Colours is, it's an international festival held every year on Cape Breton Island in October. The festival started in 1997 and it's since only gotten bigger and better. Every year since I moved back home to Cape Breton from Newfoundland, I try to attend as many of the festival events as possible. This year I didn't manage to do as much as I usually do but I did get out and participate in a few events.

As if on queue, the leaves around Cape Breton seem to change simultaneously with the start of the festival. You know when festival fever hits because lots of unfamiliar faces begin appearing around town and they like to stop locals to ask for directions to concert venues or simply dig for information about the island and its people. They come from all over - China, The United Kingdom, The United States - and they are here for one reason; to indulge in world-renowned Celtic music and culture.

The thing that peaked my interest the most on this year's itinerary was the guided hike of the watershed in New Waterford, or The Summit as it's known to locals and this is the first event I attended during the festival. The reason it peaked my interest so much is because I'm from New Waterford and I had never done that trail before. I thought this hike would interest my dad as he lives in the area so he agreed to meet me at the trailhead that damp, foggy, rainy afternoon. Without thinking, I wore my regular, everyday walking sneakers and this proved to be a big mistake as the trail was full of very deep and muddy puddles.
About a dozen people showed up to do the hike and our guides were very informative and familiar with the area. We learned about the different wildlife and plant life that called the area home, we learned about the negative effects that everyday human activities are having on the watershed and we learned what steps are being taken to protect it and to educate the public on what they can do to protect it. When we stopped at the lake for snacks and pictures, we also learned about one another. Only a couple of the people there were from the New Waterford area while everyone else was from various places including one couple who came all the way from England. I enjoyed the watershed hike even though my feet got soaking wet. When the weather warms up, I think I'll do it again but this time take the other paths that went off into other directions that we didn't do that day due to a lack of time.

I didn't take in many other events this year but I did go to a few markets around Sydney and Baddeck. One event I always attend is the final concert of the festival and this year was no exception. Ricky's Rattlin Roarin' Roots took place at Centre 200 in Sydney and I was fortunate enough to be invited to watch the event from a private sky booth that also came with complimentary pizza and snacks. The concert was phenomenal just like every other one I've ever attended and featured an electric ensemble of both local and international talent. J. P. Cormier opened the show followed by the The Barra MacNeils and headliner Ricky Skaggs. Such a diverse mix of traditional sounds that came together for one great night at the end of one great festival!


Saturday, November 21, 2015

So This is What I was up to All Summer

Another summer has come and gone. Unlike the summers of my childhood that seemed to linger forever, summers come and go at a quicker rate every year since my early twenties. This summer was particularly fast because we didn't really have one; it was cold and rainy for much of it and I worked though most of it.

But cold, rain and work aside, it was still as good a summer as any other! It started off a bit slow with most weekends being too wet and cold to do the regular summer stuff like hiking and going to the beach. That weather continued for pretty much the whole summer but fortunately, as it got later into July, it seemed to be concentrated during the weeks when I was at work anyway. Most of the weekends from then on were sunny and warm, much to my liking.

I know the weather is getting nicer when I move my morning walks from the horse track in town to Dominion Beach. Each sunny, dry morning, as rare as they were at the beginning, saw me driving to the beach and walking the whole sandbar. This usually takes about 45 minutes to do with no interruptions but during my first walk of the season, there were many interruptions. First it was the two bald eagles that made their appearance on the boggy side of the sandbar. Then there were the foxes who were prowling around looking for handouts and their their new babies who could be spotted peaking out of the few dens that are visible in the sand dunes. How could I not stop and admire them?
A Family of little foxes at Dominion Beach
The boardwalk at Port Hood Provincial Park and Beach
Of course, as you all know by now, my summers are not complete without at least a dozen trips around the Cabot Trail...and that is just what I did almost every weekend. While everyone else all over Cape Breton was busy Chasing the Ace in Inverness (Chase the Ace was a charitable/lottery event that gained a lot of popularity in Cape Breton), I was busy avoiding the area and enjoying the near-empty beaches and trails. I did spend some time in the town when the event wasn't going on but large crowds and gambling just aren't my cup of tea so I stayed away during the height of the event.
Mid-summer saw my sister home from Calgary and, of course, a trip around the trail was planned and we also decided to do a whale tour. While discussing which whale tour company to go out with, we agreed that the tour had to leave from an area where we had never gone whale cruising before. We chose to leave from Pleasant Bay on a Zodiac tour offered by Captain Marks Whale and Sea Cruises.

I headed to Ingonish on my own the day before so I could enjoy the beach and relax on my day off. There were hardly any hotel rooms or cabins left when I made my booking for a night at The Seabreeze It wasn't exactly what I was looking for but it did the trick. I would have preferred a cabin but my room at this hotel was cosy, clean, quiet and close to everything so it suited me just fine for one night.
My room at The Seabreeze Motel in Ingonish
The family met me the next morning and we headed to Pleasant Bay. If you don't know what a Zodiac is, the best way I can describe it is it's a motorized rubber dinghy...and that is what we set out in towards the great big ocean. The water wasn't too rough that day. I personally prefer rougher waters on a zodiac but dad's bad back wouldn't have fared well with that.
After a quick safety demonstration, we suited up and headed out to the open sea. It was as smooth-sailing as one would expect on a motorized rubber dinghy in the North Atlantic. The weather was great and our captain informed us that dozens of whales had been spotted in the area we were headed for. It was interesting to see the land from the open sea. Pleasant Bay is beautiful from all angles including this one and it was particularly interesting to see Pollett's Cove so close for the first time. I heard about that place many times before but never got the chance to do the long hike that takes you to an open field where there are horses and a spectacular view of the ocean and surrounding mountains. Before that that, I'd only seen it in pictures.
Pollett's Cove
More whale watchers searching for whales in the bay
And we did see whales. Lot of whales...and seabirds, seals and tuna! It seemed like we were out there longer than any other whale tour I'd been on and we took our time going back to shore along the cliffs where we saw interesting rock formations and beautiful country landscapes that can't be seen from the road.
The View from the Zodiak
Back onshore, we discussed what else to do with the rest of the day and decided to hike the Skyline Trail. But first we turned off on Red River Rd. in Pleasant Bay to drive along the scenic route that leads to Gampo Abbey Monastery.
The Skyline was busy as it usually is in the summer months. I forgot to bring my hiking boots and ended up wearing flats so it's a good thing the trail is well-maintained and not difficult. We didn't see any moose or other wildlife going in or coming out which is strange on this trail. I usually see at least one moose. The trailhead was very windy as usual but we stayed there for a while admiring that amazing view and looking for whales in the bay below.
The Skyline Trail
Later in the summer, I finally got a chance to spend some time in Inverness when Chase the Ace took a break. A co-worker had told me about a beach at a place called Broad Cove near MacLeod's Campground just outside the town. I went searching for it and found it fairly easily and couldn't believe that I didn't know such a beautiful beach existed! And here I thought I knew every inch of this island. Over the summer, there were a few impromptu, random adventures like this. I'd be sitting around the house procrastinating doing chores while and watching the sun shining outside when suddenly, I'd grab the keys and just go...to Baddeck, to Port Morien, to Louisbourg...anywhere but home!

One of the last weekends of summer saw me attend a writer's workshop in Gabarus. The Salt Swept Writing Workshop Adventure took place near the lighthouse in the village and combined two of my favourite things - adventure and writing. And it turned out to be the perfect day for it too! Sunny with high temperatures and hardly any wind. Instructions were given for several phases of the workshop and we set out individually to explore the area and allow it to inspire our writings. I walked the rocky shoreline admiring the sparkling blue waters, rugged shoreline and country landscape and found the perfect place to lay down in the grass and complete the task at hand. Light meals were provided at the old lighthouse which has been transformed into a very intriguing home and another nearby home that was generously offered to us for the day. A barbecue and some delicious home-made dessert, a nice sunset and some interesting conversations with like-minded folks made for a perfect ending to the day.
I've heard people talking about the Coxheath Mountain Trails since I was a child but, for some reason, I never attempted them...that is until late this summer. I didn't do the longer version but the short version was quite long...and quite the workout. I heard the start of the trail was steep but it was a tad steeper than I thought it would be. All in all, it was a very nice hike with nice views and a cozy cabin at the top. I'll have to do the longer version of the hike when the weather gets nicer again.
Gabarus Lighthouse
Early on in the summer, my sister who had been working in British Columbia returned home for what I thought was permanently. Towards the end of the summer, I received a text on my way to work. She decided to head back out west, this time to Jasper, Alberta, to take a job at a resort there. A final farewell camping trip was promptly planned for the following weekend. It was my only camping trip of the summer and it turned out to be a good one. The weather was perfect, our favourite campsite was available, we got a huge campfire going and enjoyed a bottle of wine while talking about everything under a clear, star-filled sky. It might have been my only camping trip this year but it was so amazing to be more than enough. At least I got to stay in a tent for one night. And anyone who knows me knows that any night spent in a tent under a clear sky and surrounded by nature is a good night! :)

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Long Walk, A Deep-Sea Swim and a Journey to one of the Most Remote Islands in the World - These are my Top 3 Bucket List Destinations

Almost everyone has a bucket list- a list of places they want to visit and things they want to experience. While some people only dream of making seeing their list realized, I have been slowly but surely making my way through mine...and it's lengthy. It was hard to narrow that list down to my top three destinations and experiences but I did it, I put it to paper, edited it and posted it for all of you to see. Now I just have to work on making them a reality!

The Camino de Santiago

I've recently taken an interest in the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. Traditionally, it was a religious pilgrimage but it seems that, today, thousands of people each year are doing this long trek for various reasons both religious and non-religious. I personally would love to set out on this pilgrimage for a number of reasons.
1) Endurance and accomplishment. I must say, I would be quite proud of myself if I could complete a 791-kilometre trek through all kinds of weather and terrain. Throwing myself into an unfamiliar place and walking into the unknown would be the ultimate mental and physical test.
2) The experience. I'm imagining the interesting places where I would spend the night, the people from all over the world I would meet, the stories I would hear, the things I would see, the languages I would try to converse in, the things I would learn, the new foods I would eat...
3) The memories. Completing such a trek would be something I'd never forget as long as I live and it would provide me with endless things to write about and share with others.
4) The escape. What better way to escape the mundane. I'd be immersing myself into a new adventure that would provide me with a complete change of scenery for an extended period of time and allow me to see life from a new perspective.
5) A way to clear my head and start out fresh. Some people head to their local pub and slam back a few dozen beers, some people change careers and some people do a walkabout in the Australian Outback. One day, I will trek the Camino de Santiago. I've taken in a lot the last few years. I lost my mom, I lost a job I loved, I made a big move to another location away from a place I loved, I had to readjust to a lot of new things and frankly, at times, it was hard. I need to regroup, think long and hard about the next step, rediscover myself and set some new goals...a long walk should do the trick!

Swimming with Whale Sharks

I can't think of a better way to become one with the natural world than to share such a close encounter with one of the largest creatures on the planet. They look so peaceful and graceful despite their size and it would be an honor to share the same space with them for even a short time. I love to swim, I love the ocean, I love animals and I love a good one-of-a-kind adventure. Since whale sharks are not a threat to humans like some of their other more dangerous cousins, I think a trip to the Caribbean Coast of Mexico is in order for the near future!

Easter Island

I once thought this island was just a rock in the middle of the ocean with a bunch of ancient statues on it. It still intrigued me but once I learned more about it, I became more intrigued and now I want to go there more than anything! The remoteness of the island, the isolation of the people and their almost untouched culture and way of life, the history behind the Moai statues...all of it is so intriguing to me. I'm picturing myself venturing out to explore the island and its mysteries. I would hear stories passed down from generation to generation, I would sleep under the stars, I would visit remote and almost untouched beaches, I would sit in silence with my eyes closed in the fresh, clean air and try to picture what it was like hundreds of years ago. To me, traveling to Easter Island would be the trip to end all trips...well not really. I will never stop traveling but it would be hard to top off a trip to one of the world's most remote places and one that has so much culture and history despite the fact that only 5700 people live there.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Dreaming of the Warmer Days Ahead

Wishing I was here right now looking over that spectacular view of the Pacific!  No snow, no wind, no rain, no sub-zero temperatures...just me in this hammock I was relaxing in two years ago on this date just after my arrival at Anamaya Yoga Retreat in Montezuma, Costa Rica.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Lucky Breaks: Win a trip for two to Florence worth $8,000


HERE'S WHAT YOU COULD WIN: A Trip for two to Florence - Includes roundtrip airfare, $3,000+ in shopping sprees, and more!
HERE'S HOW YOU GIVE BACK: For every 1,000 people that sign up within 24 hours, donations will be made to Good Shepard Women's Shelters*.
You and a lucky friend will get a three-night retreat at the gloriously historical Il Salviatino Hotel. Spectacular views of Florence surround the 15th-century restored villa, where you'll enjoy dinner for two alfresco and luxury spa treatments in the Tuscan gardens.
We're making this dream vacation extra memorable with:
  • $2,000 shopping spree at Luisa Via Roma. Based in Florence, the high-fashion haven offers collections from Kenzo, ChloĆ©, Givenchy and more.
  • $1,000 shopping spree at travel bag line Floto. The collection features leather duffels, messengers and wallets—all crafted by Italian artisans—that only get better with time.
  • An HP Stream 8 Tablet worth $179: Sleek and lightweight enough to take with you everywhere; just try to resist checking your e-mail every hour.
  • Round-trip airfare for two, courtesy of RetailMeNot.
No purchase necessary.
See the official rules and enter the contest at http://bit.ly/18MNHzr

*The Cause: Good Shepherd is a worldwide women's shelter that takes a holistic approach to ending violence against women. Good Shepherd is a 501c(3) operating across the US and abroad.
Their mission: Ending Violence - Reclaiming Lives.
Their Story: Good Shepherd is dedicated to offering the best approach to ENDING the GENERATIONAL cycle of violence. It is unique in that it is the only shelter with separate family apartment units, full schooling for the children, an Adult Learning Center, therapeutic services and legal advocacy— all on site.
The Give: The women at Good Shepherd need everything from legal counsel, to new clothes, to care for their children and so much more. Klickly will make a donation of $500 for every 1000 people that sign up within 24 hours!
See the official rules and enter the contest at http://bit.ly/18MNHzr


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Inspiring Graffiti

A couple of years ago while making my way around the Cabot Trail, I noticed that someone (or perhaps a number of people) penned the words "Happy Trails" in various places.  I spotted these same words on a hand dryer in a washroom at the Englishtown Ferry, on a picnic table on top of Cape Smokey Mountain and in this location on a handrail leading to the bottom of Maryanne Falls in Ingonish.  From that day onward, I always made a point to stop at these places to glance at those words.  The person who wrote them probably thought nothing of it but to me, this is probably some of the most inspiring graffiti I've ever come across :)  Who knows, maybe the person who wrote them will see this and the mystery will be solved once and for all!  

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Long, Deserted Highway through the Mojave Desert

I spent three days driving aimlessly around parts of the Mojave Desert in Nevada and loved every second I spent on that lonely, open road! 

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