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Shouldn't you be asleep by now?! Day Four

Home for the night: Five Islands Provincial Park

Distance: 62.7 kms plus 4.5 kms hiking

Weather: sunny, glorious, absolutely perfect another shocking moonrise

B: oatmeal with an apple, coffee,

L: fresh green beans, two smooshed cheese wraps, cashew bar, trail mix

D: some variety of cheesy noodle sidekick fiddle faddle in a pouch with a half can of smoked mussels thrown in (it was actually damn good!) Wonderbar, tea

BONUS: apple juice and a Klondike bar, the Reese's peanut butter cup version. I had no idea these even existed. Amaaaaaazing


Change is our constant

Throughout time we all connect

Never forgotten


This will be very short as the day has been very long...and somehow it's already tomorrow? I'll explain in the morning.

All is well.

Today was marked by beautiful sights on a perfect cycling day. Also heartfelt conversations and an educational and moving walk in the forest Mi'kmawey Debert. Roadside memorials of those lost. Lots of tears, mine and those of others. Sunshine, ice cream, BIG ASS HILLS, all capped off with unexpected reconnection with someone I haven't seen in 13 years!

The moon is lighting my campsite and the fire is warming my toes. Time to crawl into my little peanut of a tent and rest.

Hug the ones you love and be grateful to be at the helm of a life that can be beautifully lived.

Good morning! Day four's entry continued with a solid sleep and a few sips of coffee in the tank:

The morning was so clear I took the opportunity to stretch and journal in the sun of the meadow I was camped out on. Being able to be barefoot is a real treat for toes that live in sneakers all day! There were still some parts of my gear set up that needed tweaking, especially the new handlebar bag and today was the day to figure it out. It takes time to become fine tuned and every trip is a little different. My bike is no different than my house, there's a kitchen, pantry, closet, junk drawer, bedroom and bathroom....all stuffed into varying compartments. 45 minutes later I was pleased with my changes, especially removing and re-orienting the buckles on my new bag to make it way easier to put on/remove.

Not exactly an early start, it was close to noon by the time I wheeled out of the bushes, headed for the garbage can in the park. An older fellow was taking in the scene and we exchanged hellos. Danny it turns out races and breeds standardbred horses in Truro. Contemplating retirement, he shared that he realized that he had only set out in life to work and not done anything wild and free (pointing to me on the bike) and now, he was witnessing friends retire and without their 40 year rhythm and routine they suddenly were purposeless and faded away. I've heard this before. There are so many reasons to work. We all have varying responsibilities and commitments...and each one of us is the only one who can decide where and how much of our energy we put into different parts of our life. Some of us require more money. Some of us require more time or space. The ratio changes throughout life too I believe.

Danny gently expressed his concern and admiration for me, as a solo travelling woman. He said he wasn't nearly as brave as me. I'm not so sure it's about bravery....I don't actually know what it is. Trust? Intuition? Belief in myself to have the smarts and skills to navigate everything I encounter? He referenced the mass shooting in April as an example. We agreed that crazy things happen everywhere and a life lived in fear isn't much of a life at all.

His first hand accounts of what he saw as the killings unfolded from Portapique to Enfield were unnerving. From his home he heard shots and could see burning cars. Friends of his son's were at the gas station where the shooter was apprehended. It is all still so fresh and the whole region is traumatized. I had anticipated conversations about the shooting...and my route directly travels the path of the shooter. Danny mentioned that times have changed, I added that they always do. We heartily wished each other well and I shoved off into the day.

Bound for Debert, to find the Mi'kmawey Interpretive trail I rode through a busy, loud and truck-filled industrial area. Thank goodness the road was wide, but it's always a struggle to keep one's cool when everything around you is moving fast and very dangerous if you're the one on the bike.

Finding the trailhead was easy, the concern was that it was now almost 1:30 and I hadn't covered much of my daily distance. I wandered down the trail a little ways and bumped into two folks returning from the loop. Their words of encouragement and how great the energy was in the forest was enough to make my decision for me.

It was well worth the side trip. The stark contrast of the noisy trucks and Tim Horton's litter and the peace of native forest was exactly what I needed. The thing I have always struggled the most with cycling is that the same roads that any of us get to bike down also are filled with vehicles. Which means you're not really in the wilderness, even if you travel the remote gravel route up into northern Quebec and Labrador as I did years ago. There's always noise. There's always grime. You can't just drink the ditch water.

As I moved through the forest admiring the plant communities and interpretive panels I found myself thinking of change and my conversation with Danny. This land, Mi'kmaki, has seen so much change. Where semi-nomadic (moved when necessary) families and communities once lived, there are now giant steel buildings with razor wire fences. Some of the most important historical evidence of the peoples in this region were found right here, in Debert! One sign spoke to connection of the peoples through the ages....not in the archeological sense that divides groups of humans through time based on their tools and technology. Everyone is connected, even through time. Everything changes.

Emerging from the forest with much to noodle on while riding I had lunch before pushing off by yes, 3:30.....53 kms of ground to cover before dark. Not far up the road, a few kms or so a colourful, fluttering mass caught my eye. Bruce, from Hub Cycle had mentioned there were memorials to two of the women murdered in April. I pulled over. Flowers, teddy bears, poems, candles. A heart shaped flower bed had been planted with pansies and a bird feeder hung in the middle. Despite my presence, the local chipmunks and chickadees continued their joyful feasting of the bounty. So much life in the face of so much death. This memorial was in honour of Kristen Beaton and her unborn child...and an inscription saying "in loving memory of a life beautifully lived" captured everything. Hot tears poured down my cheeks, as I thought about how precious life is and how it can change in an instant, whether by our own doing or by someone else's. A car pulled into the area behind me. When I felt I could safely ride my bike after the wave of emotions I pushed off. I heard the car door open only once I was on the road...another person come to pay their respects.

A life beautifully lived. That's the point. Every squished snake and dead dragonfly on the road was a further reminder of what I was feeling. Life happens and then it ends. If everything can change and always does, why shouldn't we all just try to make the most of our precious, sacred little life? My tears slowed with the spinning of my tires, eventually leaving nothing but salty lines behind.

There's a saying: the cure to everything is salt water; sweat, tears or the sea. This trip offers all three.

I had come quite a bit inland to visit Debert and I felt relieved as the Minas Basin came back into sight. A familiar face, if you will. Beautiful, gentle cycling through little towns and gorgeous late afternoon light made the kms soar by.

Eventually, the sign welcoming me to Portapique appeared and soon the mass memorial for all victims of the shooting appeared. It was incredible. So many people have come to offer anything they can think of. Messages of condolences from communities all around the province. And the nation. We are all so universally the same in our human experience of shock and grief, across cultures, nations and time. It's a heartbreaking way to feel connected to the rest of humanity, but kind of comforting too.

The same goes for the we all are, around the globe struggling with new regulations, fatigue from all the considerations and nothing but questions. Interestingly, something I learned on my hike today was that this is not the first time the people of this area had been connected to those 1000s of kms away. Fluted spear heads found in Debert are of the same construction and material as ones found in MEXICO. Archeologists believe they may be even be part of the record further south than that. Another example of connection throughout distance and time.

Working my way west, thoughts and emotions being processed over all the hills I suddenly found myself clawing my way up Economy Mountain. I always giggle about "mountain" being used in mainland Nova Scotia, but frig....maybe I just need to bike up all the "hills" to get it. Boy do I ever get it! I was rewarded at the top with a spectacular setting sun, shining mudflats and a peaceful, green valley stretching away to the northeast. So beautiful, I almost missed the turnoff to the Provincial park!

Registering at the park, the friendly woman helping me asked if I had ever been in the area before. I said yes, one summer I lived in Five Islands while tagging striped bass and sturgeon in a fish weir. Trish, with her incredible memory KNEW she recognized me as one of the biologists who had come to her dad, Tony's weir. Holy $@!?! Seriously?! What are the chances?!?! She was about to go on vacation for five days and we would have missed each other completely. How she recognized me with a mask on is so beyond me.

We had a lovely chat about her life, my life and her dad's health. I have such fond memories of being in the weir at all hours of the day and night waiting to see what came into the nets. I was always so honoured that not only did Tony welcome me in, but truly enjoyed having myself and the revolving door of assistants show up to work. He taught me as much, if not more than many of my degree courses.

Over the course of several months I became so tuned to the tides that I would wake up from a dead sleep with enough time to grab my sampling box, drive to the weir exactly on time to walk 1 km on the ocean floor out to the weir pools...with no alarm needed. It became my life. It has been Tony's life too as soon as he could walk. The weir licenses are handed down by generation, a deeply traditional and low impact way of fishing, if done the way Tony's weir is set up. Trish only half jokingly mentioned that the only change her dad has made to the weir is the use of an ATV and trailer rather than a horse and cart. I remember the photo on the wall of the fish shop in the area of Tony's relatives in the same weir, in the same mud, in the same place.

And what of the future? Tony's son likely won't take over the weir. The ocean temperatures have changed enough that the fish migration and local traveling patterns don't match the legislated seasons anymore. The restrictions make it harder and harder to do anything with what comes into the net in the first place...and from first hand experience, the weir fisherman works as hard as anyone I've ever met. Trish is worried her dad will work himself into the mud, despite health concerns, a body aging from a life of labour and that it's not necessarily practical to run the weir anymore. For a man who upolds tradition, not unlike Danny from this morning, the letting go of his purpose is daunting. Not only for himself, but as the end of the line for a way of life for generations.

Everything changes. That is guaranteed. The tide comes in, the tide goes out, and we as small, but mighty humans must go with the flow.

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1 Comment

Definitely a beautiful, epic journey. But you began this a long time before this particular trip yes? I particularly like your descriptive accounting of your inner impressions during your outer encounters during a significant time in our Nova Scotian history. Thank you for sharing your trek! G.

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