Black Hole Falls is as scary as it sounds

When one of Anna’s friends invited us to accompany him and his parents on a trip to a secluded beach yesterday, I said sure. What better way to spend a sunny March afternoon than rock hounding in the fresh air, right? Wrong. As it turns out, there are LOTS of better ways to spend a sunny March afternoon when the route to the beach is actually a mountainous death trap.

Yes, a death trap, I tell you, and nothing – not even the way everyone else was bounding over fallen logs and leaping from wet, mossy rock to wet, mossy rock like a bunch of mountain goats – will convince me otherwise. The problem, you see, is that my knees are not made of bone and cartilage and ligaments like yours, but rather cracked toothpicks and dried gum and bits of half-rotten string. That’s a fact.

Anna’s lovely young friend and his wonderful parents couldn’t possibly know this, of course, but I bet they’ll ask for x-rays and a complete physical before ever inviting anyone on a trip with them in the future. Spending three hours with a red-faced, grunting, wincing, limping mess (that would be me) oughta do it.

The first two minutes were promising enough, but then Anna’s friend suggested we take a short detour to see a waterfall and that’s where it all went downhill. Like literally down a really steep hill. I stood at the top and watched all the others scamper down fearlessly and thought something along the lines of, ‘oh poopy.’ With my first tentative step down, my right knee made a horrible popping noise accompanied by a knifelike pain below my kneecap and I started to sweat because that’s my good knee.

It was a rough trip to the bottom – not because I fell, although I did consider hurling myself down the hill more than once, just to be done with it. My shaken confidence and inability to stand upright for more than two seconds helps explain the quality of my photo of the waterfall:

Water, trees, ice, beauty, yeah whatever – I’m dying.

But I didn’t die, happily or unhappily (it depends on how you feel about me) and after the kids failed to drown in the frigid water below the waterfall – not from lack of trying to fall in through foolhardy behaviour – we crossed that stream raging river you see in the foreground not once but twice. Everyone else had perfect balance, naturally, and the ability to leap from the tip of one icy, jagged rock to the next across the water while I, crippled and embarrassed by my lack of athletic ability, did not.

When we finally made it to the beach, I rejoiced and wondered if it would be possible for me to live there permanently, partly for the lovely scenery and partly because I didn’t know how on earth I would ever make it back out. The Bay of Fundy shore (along this part of Nova Scotia, at least) is rocky. Really rocky:

 Those rocks are a good twelve feet high, I’d say, and we had to cross them to get to the beach beyond.

 That’s everyone else charging on ahead while I tried (and failed) to keep up. At least no one could hear my whimpering back there.

 This is Charlotte climbing out of a cave. “Come in, Mommy, you have to see this,” she yelled. “It’s really neat.” Without a jet pack to propel me up there, I had to regretfully decline.

 See what I mean by rocky? I lived for those flat, pebbly areas.

 The red speck in the centre is Foster coming down the sheer face of a giant rock as if he were hopping from the top of a bunk bed.

 They’re fit, fearless explorers, as you can see. They get that from me.

Ha.

To celebrate making it out alive, we stopped at The Look-Off on the way home for my kind of sightseeing: drive up, park, stand on level ground, take pictures, repeat.

 Here, Foster, Anna and Charlotte commiserate over their failure to have lost me in the woods. Try harder, suckers! (Actually, don’t.)

insert your own snow pun

Although yesterday’s predicted snowpocalypse wasn’t as exciting as I’d hoped, I’m not going to be one of those people who sneer, “Duh, it’s Canada. It snows. Get over it,” because I understand the advance buzz about these storms makes life a little more exciting and I’m all for that.

We weren’t buried alive in snow, but we did receive a fair amount – I’d guess between a foot and a foot and a half or whatever that is in metric. (Must remember to study up on the metric system soon because I “teach” it to the kids next month. Maybe they’ll know it and can teach me.) Anyway, I can’t gauge exactly how much snow fell because I’m doing all my guesstimating from inside where it’s warm and dry and requires slightly less shovelling.

Exhibit A: snow drift on the deck, taken during the storm yesterday afternoon –

 The table on the right that’s almost covered in snow is quite a tall table, so I’d guess the drift is a good two and a half feet, maybe three feet there. No, I will not go measure it.

Exhibit B – snow drift at front door, taken this morning –

Note the impression of the door panels in the compressed snow. Very classy.

Exhibit C: Murray met by wall of snow at back door, taken this morning –

Poor guy. Nowhere to look but up.

Winter Nature

Winter Nature by Merritt Gibson and Soren Bondrup-Nielsen. Illustrated by Twila Robar-DeCoste. From the back cover: “Though often associated with hibernation – for bears and humans alike – winter can in fact be a time of observation and discovery in the outdoors. Winter Nature provides the interested walker, skier or snowshoer with a guide to the mammals, birds, trees and shrubs found in the Maritime provinces during the winter months.”

I liked this book a lot. For one thing, it’s beautifully made, as are all books produced by Gaspereau Press. For another, I love nature guidebooks since they help me feel like slightly less of an ignoramus when I’m out and about and am able to identify the odd thing here and there. Even better, it’s a guide to local animals, birds and trees  – things I have a chance of actually seeing. The best part, of course, is the amazing range of knowledge on the part of the co-authors. It’s amazing. I can’t imagine ever knowing that much about anything. About anything useful, anyway.

The one thing I didn’t love about the book was the illustrations. Robar-DeCoste is incredibly talented and the drawings are amazingly detailed and accurate, but I find I need colour photography when it comes to distinguishing between different types of sparrows, say, or the dormant branches of trees. It’s still a good resource, just not quite as useful as it might have been with photos. Just my opinion.

Anyone else share my love of nature guides?

the storm with no name

Well well well, that was quite the blast we received on Monday night. It probably does not reflect well on Environment Canada that they’ll spend a week inciting panic in anticipation of a monster hurricane that turns out to be an hour of drizzle and a stiff breeze, yet no one I’ve spoken to had any idea this storm was coming. It was about the worst I’ve ever experienced and while we had minor property damage (our chimney fell off the roof and our composter blew away, believe it or not), we were very lucky compared to many of our neighbours.

Our next door neighbours lost a whole bunch of shingles, a chunk of their shed’s roof and several big trees, but at least a power line didn’t fall on their house, as it did further down the street. And thank goodness one of those big old trees didn’t slice through their house, as happened in New Minas, a town not far from here. Our particular little neighbourhood was also lucky in that our power and telephone service were restored after only 15 hours; my parents (who live five minutes away) went without for 43 hours.

This is an example of what an awful lot of trees around here look like now:

 Or they look like this one, just down the street:

Here’s a shot of the telephone poles along our street:

Between our house and the area in this shot, the poles snapped the other way and the live wires were lying on the road. I was tempted to stop and whip out the camera, but thought the Mountie sitting there might not approve.

Oh, and the super-mailboxes (are they still called that?) were toppled:

Here’s another one of leaning poles, not far from my parents’ house:

And the traffic light at the intersection was gone. Note the dangling wires. I wonder whose window it crashed through.

Look carefully and behind the trees you’ll see a collapsed barn:

Church Street was blocked by a fallen tree:

And further up Middle Dyke Road, the metal roofing of a barn was peeled back like a tin of sardines:

Tree meets wires:

And road sign meets ground:

These shots, from our immediate area, are a fraction of the local damage. In New Minas, the golf course reportedly lost about a hundred big trees and a trailer park had to be evacuated mid-storm because the roofs were being blown off and/or being crushed by falling trees. The roof of a funeral parlour in Kentville was blown away and a young man was almost crushed in his car by a falling tree in Windsor. In our own village, the roof was torn off an unoccupied building, causing so much damage the whole thing was bulldozed on Tuesday.

The worst part is this storm didn’t even have a name. In Nova Scotia, everything is Hurricane Juan this and Hurricane Juan that, but here in the Valley, we have nothing. It’s “that thing on Monday night.” Or “wow, that was a hell of a whatever-it-was, wasn’t it?” How will we reminisce with something so unwieldy? Without a snappy name everyone recognizes? I demand satisfaction, Environment Canada.