Tuesday, April 19, 2011

God's Country

I took an unexpected trip to the Annapolis Valley Sunday afternoon. The rain was blowing in sideways and it was trying to convince the car to follow suit. Thankfully, it was unsuccessful in its attempt.  Although a wet, blustery day, I could not help but think how fortunate I was to live in such a beautiful place.
The closer I got to The Valley, the more certain I became that we were sliding down the backside of winter, (giving it a good swift kick on its way out) toward the warming embrace of summer.  I headed downhill along the drizzly highway 101, past the panorama of Blomidon, with its seemingly purple painted cliffs and turned off at exit 10 toward my final destination. This time of year, green is my favorite colour and there was plenty to be found just off the Harvest Highway. I have to say, I have a soft spot for Wolfville , as it is a beautiful little town, and in spring, when the tulips have forced themselves up through the fertile earth and the grass refuses to wait to show its true colours, raining or not, I can’t help but smile.  

I’m not saying that Wolfville is the single most beautiful place in Nova Scotia, far from it. I have travelled from one end of this province to the other, and have often said, “I could live here.” Since most of my travelling has been during the warmer months, with winter and its harsh climate nothing more than a repressed memory, I can only attest to their summertime appeal.
As far as cities go, to me, Halifax is the perfect size and provides many great amenities.  Museums, shopping, cruising on the harbour, walking along the waterfront or through Point Pleasant Park, an evening of fine dining and live theatre, whatever your fancy, you can find it in Halifax. But as much as I enjoy visiting the city, my heart belongs to the rural shoreline.
The Bay of Fundy is fabulous and unique. Twice a day its powerful tidal waters slowly blanket its bare mud-flat bottom and climb the rugged fossil cliffs, only to descend back down the escarpment to expose its secret past.  One of my favorite places is Five Islands Provincial Park. The drive just to get there is beautiful, and my anticipation escalates until those mountain cliffs come into sight. It never fails to bring an awe-inspired smile to my face. Once out on the mud-flats It’s almost a reversion to childhood as you feel the mud squish up between your toes while walking along the ocean bottom, and squealing with delight as the water squirts up into your face as you step next to a clam hole or sink past your ankle in the mud.  And after the bay fills, another completely new vista presents itself for your awe and admiration. (As a side note, tidal river rafting is something not to be missed.)
But with all that the Bay has to offer, nothing draws me in like a swimming beach. I could never understand how anyone could sit on a beach all day and never set foot in the water.  It’s not a day at the beach unless you have “pruned” up. My goal is to eventually stick my feet into the surf of every beach on this little peninsula.  I’ve made quite a dent in the list to date, but I still have plenty to go.
 Melmerby Beach, just outside of New Glasgow is my closest beach of choice. If you get to “The Merb” at just the right time, the waves are perfect for body surfing. However, If you have small children Caribou/ Monroes Island outside of Pictou, or Rushtons down the road from Tatamagouche  might be more suitable. There have been moments swimming at Caribou when the water has been so calm that it seemed as though I was gliding through glass, and the marshlands around Rushtons are great for birdwatching. The Amherst shore is also close enough for a wonderful day trip.
Travelling a little farther from home, the South shore has many beautiful, sandy swimming spots. Martinique Beach near Musquodobit Harbour and Bayswater Beach in Blandford are two beaches that I frequent often. Rissers Beach near Bridgewater is also a gorgeous area. Keep in mind that I rate swimming beaches according to surf and sand quality.
Due to the restriction of time, most other spots that I have visited have been a onetime deal, but if I have to pick a favorite beach from each end of the province, the two that immediately come to mind are Port Maitland Beach outside of Yarmouth and Black Brook Beach on the Cabot Trail. Although Port Maitland is a bit on the chilly side, it is one of the most gorgeous beaches I’ve ever seen and Black Brook’s great waves are fun for boogie boarding or body surfing.
As the warm weather draws ever closer, and the trees start budding, I find my beach bag has begun beckoning to me. It will soon be time to stow it in the trunk – you never know when a swimming opportunity may present itself. I wonder what new cove or harbour awaits me this summer….

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