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So now you're back on the bike...how's it feel? Day 12

Home for the night: Edna and Mark Boon's yard

Distance: 56.7 km

Weather: overcast, misty and drizzly in the morning, clearing to sunshine and a pleasant breeze after lunch time

B: the last of the crumpets, toasted. Applesauce and oatmeal supreme. Lots of coffee!

L: tuna from a pouch on pitas, trail mix, granola bar, dried fruit

D: fresh garden corn, vegetable rice soup and tea

 

misty morning ghost

a monster has come to dine

chomp, chomp, clomp, clomp.......FART!

 

Something was in my gear, scratching around and grunting. I bolted upright, heart pounding because whatever it was that was wrecking my panniers was BIG. I reached for the tent zipper, my hand meeting nothing but air. Confused and disoriented, I squinted into the dim morning light and rememebered....oh right!!! I'm INSIDE!!!


Thinking I had only been dreaming, but my pulse was still racing I sunk back down into my cozy queen sized bed. What luxury!! Then the rose bush right outside my open window moved, the branch smacking into the side of the cottage as it was released with the sound of ripping leaves. Something VERY big was definitely outside and I was not dreaming!


Stealthily, I slid out of bed and peered out the window. A chestnut coloured cow with her yearling in tow gazed serenely at me with rose hips hanging out of her mouth. As a proper good morning, she raised her tail and farted right at me. Who needs coffee when the sweet smell of bovine is on offer!? I laughed and laughed and laughed....my giggling startling the youngster who skittered out onto the driveway for a moment.


As I woke up further, the sounds and smells of other cows became known. Out of the mist they appeared slowly, moving along the gravelly roadway behind the sea wall. All shapes, sizes and colours...all definitely not where they were supposed to be, but they looked to be having a grand time. I watched them for a moment, pretending they were a sighting of horses on Sable or Chinconteague Island. Wild horses seem so much more romantic than a bunch of loose cows. Still, it was a great way to start the day, far better than arm wrestling a bear for my precious chocolate bar.


Onwards!! With the comfort of a sofa (aka back support!!) I wrote emails, continued catching up on blog posts, made some phone calls and planned my day. I even listened to MUSIC! I was excited to get back on the road and with check out fast approaching I gathered all my worldly possessions and said goodbye to Harish and Monica. They are such sweet and lovely people, Monica even insisted on giving me a colourful, gauzy shirt from India. I believe it is meant for the beach....but the multi coloured sequins and faint zebra print make it far more appealing for cycling!!! I truly hope to return to their little oasis before they sell it for retirement and move back to Ontario. Check them out!


I felt rested and most of the aches and pains from Chignecto had faded. Fortunately, muscles are used in very different ways between hiking and cycling, so as Barb who gave me water on my first night back in Summerville said "a rest is as good as a change!" I had had both and felt ready for anything.


From here on out I would be in very unfamiliar territory, having never traveled most of the following section of my route. It wouldn't be until I arrived back in Digby, NS off the St. John ferry that I would have any memories or knowledge. Even still, the world is very different from the seat of a bike vs a car.


Gentle rolling hills and a sparse population of houses eased me into a deeply meditative state. I reflected on the beauty of Chignecto, how intact the forest is and what a testament to the natural recovery that is possible, even after all of the human activity in the area. Despite logging in the past, the landscape is well on its way to becoming a stronghold of a healthy, life-sustaining ecosystem.

Glimpses of the New Brunswick shore I am bound for soon!

As I rolled along, the houses disappeared, or were in the final stages of disappearing back into the earth. All signs of modern human activity, other than the paved road vanished. Eventually it was just me, the trees and the plants. Even the shoulders of the road were overgrown and creeping out onto the pavement lending the whole area a wild, forgotten and remote feeling. It wasn't what I had expected. Spotty/no cell service and empty roads for much of the past several days of cycling reminded me that there are still outposts of uninhabited land. I had flashbacks of cycling on the Labrador highway and parts of northern New Brunswick there were so few, if any cars.


While lost in thought I caught the scent of something far less appealing than cow farts. Clear cuts. Everywhere. Absolutely everywhere. A scant, traumatized border of small trees had been left all along the roadside to conceal what lay beyond. Maybe for a motorist the facade would work....but not for me. The smell of a freshly decimated forest is something truly unique. It is the smell of green, splintered wood and exposed mineral earth, the vital, organic surface layer disturbed and turned over. It smells like loss and grief.


It wasn't the first time in my life I have cried over forests...and it certainly wasn't the first time I had cried over loss on this trip. Loss is loss, grief is grief, no matter why they happen. Perhaps the contrast of Chignecto to what now stretched on for kms ahead and behind me was what made it so shocking. Perhaps not. I tree planted in northern BC yeara ago and remember how horrified I was to see what humans and their machines can do to a forest. In a matter of hours even. It makes me grateful that the efforts of many before me have protected places like Chignecto and wildlife refuges around the world. The resiliency of the natural world left to its own devices without interference gives me hope....even if it's shakey sometimes.


Land conservation is never simple. Politics, economy, management, access, population dynamics, species succession, adjacent landowners, optics, intentions, etc make it a daunting process...and I only know a small amount of the scope. What I do know, is that us wee humans have no sweet clue how to actually restore the land and its habitats that have formed for centuries. If we did, we would be as powerful and wise as nature. We are a part of nature, but our impact is far outweighing our understanding of the millions of micro/macroscopic interactions that are ecosystem stability and resiliency. We don't even know what we don't know.


Being a plant person, my mind runs towards invasive species that will now be able to colonize the disturbed tracts of land, out competing the native plants as they struggle to recover. I also think to those who make a living in the forestry industry...I grew up in Maine, land of the historic log drives and boom/bust cycle of logging, milling and pulp production. There is no simple answer...and I, like everyone else use toilet paper. Gratefully. My journal is filled with sheets of paper and the maps that I love to study are printed on trees harvested somewhere, from some forest that was once intact.


Heavy stuff. But it is the reality of travelling with open eyes. It's easy to put on the blinders and go to the pretty places and experience the "must sees" that are promoted by tourism and word of mouth. It's the hard edges, the ugly underbelly and truth of a place that deepens our understanding of what we are actually witnessing in the present moment. And sometimes it's a hard pill to swallow.


Eventually power lines came back into sight and the peaks of housetops ahead signalled an arrival to somewhere. Nearing Joggins I turned my focus to finding the UNESCO World Heritage Site Fossil Centre I have been wanting to go to ever since it opened in 2008. Having driven by 1000 times on the highway I was never able to carve out the time to pay a visit to a very special place. A sign on the way into town read "Welcome to Joggins, our backyard is 350,000,000 years old!" That's 350 MILLION years in case you thought it was a typo :) Very easy to locate, I arrived 20 minutes before closing. Joyce greeted me very happily, filled my water bladder, recommended where I could sneakily camp and informed me that the next guided tour was at 11 the next morning. Perfect!!



The fossil centre!!

I was given permission to wander the grounds and go to the beach after hours, they're always open! The tide was high, covering much of the magical landscape that I was so eager to learn about. It still being early, and the stealth camper knows it is wise to not make camp too early, I wandered about and went to take in the view on a nearby dead end road. What a place to put a tent...wondering if I would offend anyone if I moved in for the evening, I biked back up the hill looking for a door to knock on or a person outside in their yard.


There, on the back deck of a long, rambling old house wearing a magnificent sun hat was a woman snoozing with a wine glass in her hand. I cautiously said hello and almost as if she was expecting me she lifted the brim of her hat, said hello and invited me to sit down with her to tell her my story. This, was Edna. Her presence was palpable and with hummingbirds, house plants and golden afternoon light surrounding her I was transfixed. I've never felt so compelled to take a photo of a stranger before, she truly was a vision and I told her so. I framed her with my fingers and took a mental snapshot of the moment.


We chatted, her husband Mark appeared and I was offered a place to stay on their property, food for the evening and an absolutely magical evening of cosmic coincidence and connection. I had seen their house when wandering a small path at the fossil centre. Several sailboats, a greenhouse and sculptures in the yard gave me the hunch that interesting and vibrant people lived there. Now, proven beyond a shadow of a doubt I gratefully became their newest addition to their yard. The universe never ceases to amaze me and I'll continue this story in my next posting.


Thanks for reading! Take care and be well.





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