1988 Vacation in Nova Scotia by Carol Rist

Carol Rist

September 23, 1988

Dear Carl, Lisa, and Andy,

We are finally getting settled back into the old routine after two weeks of a totally different existence. I am enclosing a map which I copied from the atlas, on which I have marked our trip. I’m sorry that you can hardly tell land from water on the map, but I think you’ll get the picture. We flew via Air Canada to Halifax, where we picked up a rental car, a nice little Chevrolet Celebrity which handled beautifully. We noticed right away that our sweaters and jackets would come in handy during our stay. Our first stop after leaving Halifax was the Grand Pre National Historic Park. The community of Grand Pre was destroyed by the English (which then included the 13 colonies) in 1750, after they had evicted the Acadians. I was glad that we had read Evangeline before leaving home, because Evangeline was very much present in Grand Pre, even though Longfellow’s poem is fiction. There are areas in Nova Scotia which have a large French-speaking population, but the area around Grand Pre is inhabited by the descendents of the Loyalists who moved there because they didn’t agree with the American revolution.

That afternoon it was so beautiful that we decided to take a hike. We drove up to Cape Split, which sticks out into the Bay of Fundy, and hiked 8 miles to a breathtaking spot. We stood on the cliffs and marveled at the calm water below, which was nevertheless moving by quickly because of the enormous tides of the Bay of Fundy. We then drove down the Annapolis River valley, a lovely farming area, to Annapolis Royal, where we spent the night. nnapolis Royal is the oldest settlement in Canada, having been founded in 1605 by the French, (who called it Port Royal). The fort there changed hands repeatedly between 1~13 and 1713. We visited the Historic Park there and learned more about the struggle between the French and English for dominance in Acadia. Annapolis Royal is a charming little town, and I told Dad that I wanted to retire there. He told me to visit the town in February and then make up my mind.

Our next stop was Digby, another charming little town, where we caught the ferry for Saint John, New Brunswick. The Bay of Fundy is big enough that you lose sight of land during the trip. Our first stop in Saint John was the “Reversing Falls.” It is a spot where there are falls when the tide is low, but which disappear when the tide (which is 28 1/2 feet) comes up. The river was flowing out when we got there so we watched it for a while and then set our watches to return to be there when the river stopped going out and the seawater started going upstream. The Saint John River is a very long river, which has been important in the development of New Brunswick, and yet the only time boat traffic can move through the reversing falls is at slack tide. We had our anniversary dinner at a very nice restaurant overlooking the falls,

The next morning we drove down to Black’s Harbour where we caught the ferry for Grand Manan Island. (Manan rhymes with sedan,) Grand Manan is an absolutely delightful island. There are just enough tourists for the residents recognize the economic value of tourists, but not enough to ruin the place. And the residents intend to keep it that way. Doors are ever locked on Grand Manan, and no one puts a fence around his house. A New Yorker came and bought a house there a few years ago and insisted on putting up a fence, despite the protests of his neighbors, Not long afterward the house was hit by lightning and burned down. The New Yorker sold the property to a man who tore down the fence and rebuilt the house. Now anyone who wants to build a fence is reminded about the New Yorker. We stayed at a bed and breakfast place in a village named Seal Cove. Seal Cove is actually on the Encyclopedia Britannica Atlas map, even though it is a tiny settlement. Our landlord took us down to look at the sheds where the herring are smoked, and to watch workers boning and skinning the smoked herring and boxing the fillets in l0-pound boxes. We spent one morning at a place named Dark Harbour, where salmon is raised in pens (aquaculture) but where the major industry is collecting a seaweed named dulse, which some people love as a snack. We had to find out what dulse tastes like, so when we saw a hand-lettered sign which said, “Dulse for sale – last house on the left up the road,” we decided to get some. The lady who answered the door said, “You’ve come for dulse?” and we assured her we had. “How many bags do you want?” she asked, and showed us grocery bags full of the stuff, Then we had to admit that we didn’t know how much we wanted because we didn’t even know if we would like it. So she pulled out some dulse and offered it to us. She said it was even better heated up and proceeded to put some on the burner of her stove and set it on fire. The dulse which didn’t burn up was not bad kind of like a corn chip. We learned that we were talking to Angle Flagg, who along with her husband markets most of the dulse harvested at Dark Harbour. She told us she is a newcomer to Grand Manan, having moved there only 30 years ago from Cape Breton Island. But her husband’s family has been on the island for generations. When we asked to buy the smallest amount of dulse she would sell us, Angle refused to sell us any, but gave us a small baggie full and told us to take it back to Florida and tell the people in Florida that on Grand Manan people make a living harvesting dulse. Herring swim around the coast of Grand Manan and are trapped in large weirs which are designed so that the herring swim in and can’t figure out how to get out. We were invited to go out on a fishing boat and watch the fishermen seine the weir. They put their nets around the weir and draw in the nets until they have the fish all in one mass. Then they put in a large hose and suck up the fish. With all those fish rubbing against each other and all the water washing over them, the scales wash off with the water and are trapped to be sold for use in cosmetics! The fish are pumped into the carrier boat, which belongs to the company that buys the fish. Only on a laid back island like Grand Manan would fishermen take tourists out just to be nice! We do intend to send a box of citrus fruit to our host after the citrus harvest has begun. Grand Manan also has trails all over the island. We spent a lot of time hiking around and enjoying the wild raspberries, blueberries and blackberries, as well as the breathtaking scenery.

We took the ferry back to Black’s Harbour, drove back through Saint John, and up the coast the Fundy National Park. From our “chalet” (little cabin) in the park we had a beautiful view of the Bay of Fundy, but the first morning the notorious Fundy fog kept us from seeing more than a few feet ahead of us. But we enjoyed hiking to an abandoned copper mine and walking on the beach at low tide, The tide is 13 meters so there is a lot of beach exposed at low tide. The next morning was bright and clear. We hiked to the tallest falls in the park, which were really beautiful in the morning sun.

It isn’t far from the Fundy National Park to the small town of Shediac, but there is quite a contrast between the two areas. On the Bay of Fundy you see almost no pleasure boats. The water is too cold, and the currents caused by the tides are dangerous. Shediac is on the Northumberland Strait, where the tides seem to be no higher than in Florida, and where the water is much warmer than in the Bay of Fundy. There were sailboats everywhere, While walking on the beach we met some local women who live in Shediac for 8 months of the year and go to Inverness, near Tampa, for the winter months. They think they have the perfect life. Most of the people in Shediac are French speaking. The schools are conducted in French. If you want to go to a school where English is spoken, you have to be bused to Moncton. French speaking Catholics go to Catholic churches where French is spoken, and English speaking Catholics to to churches where English is spoken. New Brunswick is the only officially bilingual province, so everything is written in both languages. But I got the impression that the lives of the French speaking and English speaking people of New Brunswick are as separate as the lives of Blacks and whites in Miami.

The next day we had to be in Moncton at precisely ll:47AM, The reason we had to be in Moncton is that it is a place where the tide has so much force behind it that it comes in as a wall of water, and they say that you can set your watch by the incoming tide, which is called a tidal bore. (Shediac and Moncton are only about 20 miles apart, and no high ridge is between them, but the ridge is high enough, because in Moncton you are at the head of the Bay of Fundy, and in Shediac you are on the Strait of Northumberland,) We arrived about five minutes early and found a crowd of mostly retired tourists with cameras poised to record the event. (Traveling in September makes us feel young. People with families have gone back home so the kids can go to school, and tourist attractions are filled with retirees, many of them traveling in camper caravans.) 11:47 came and went. We kept watching the bend in the river with our binoculars so that we could see the tidal bore the minute it came around the bend. We stood around there for 45 minutes! Then we noticed that the birds were restless way up at the bend in the river. And then the tardy bore arrived, all three inches of it. You could actually see the place where the tide stopped going out and started coming in, but it was not spectacular. Then I reread the sign which said that the bore can be from a few inches to six feet. No wonder the landlady at the B&B in Shediac was amused when I had told her that we were rushing off the Moncton to see the tidal bore.

We left New Brunswick and proceeded along the picturesque north coast of Nova Scotia. We especially enjoyed the town of Pictou (pronounced “pick toe”) and the little fishing village of Arisaig, where Dad just kept taking pictures. We crossed over the causeway to Cape Breton Island and made our way up to Cheticamp, a predominantly French-speaking fishing village at the entrance to Cape Breton Highlands National Park. We decided to spend our day in the park hiking from the road down to the site of a former fishing village, named Fishing Cove. It was a windy day, and the waves smashing against the rocks in Fishing Cove were spectacular. The vegetation at Cape Breton Highlands National Park is like the vegetation in the Colorado mountains. And the brooks rush over rocks like mountain streams. When you didn’t look at the water you would swear you were in Colorado. Then you would look at the white capped water and think you were looking at a Winslow Homer painting. I once saw a great blue heron standing on some rocks in a rushing stream and it looked absolutely incongruous, but of course he was only 200 yards from the ocean.

We drove past more breathtaking scenery on our way to the industrial region of Cape Breton Island, around Sydney. Coal has been mined in this area since 1720, when the French dug into the deposits accessible from the beach for use at their fortress at Louisbourg. We went to the miners museum at Glace Bay and learned about the history of mining on Cape Breton. The government owns the only mines which are still producing.

At Louisbourg the government has done a beautiful job of reconstructing part of the fortress built by the French starting in 1713, when Louisbourg was founded to be the capital of what was left of the French colonies in the Canadian maritime provinces. Everything has been restored to reflect the year 1744. The clothing of the people, the animals in the pens, the vegetables in the garden, the way food is prepared, everything is as it would have been in 1744. We had a delicious lunch in an inn. I hope the food was that good in 1744. We didn’t have enough time to see all that we would have liked to see at Louisbourg. If you ever go there, give yourself a full day, We made our way back to Halifax, the city founded in 1749 to counter the French presence at Louisbourg. But whereas Louisbourg, which was leveled by the British after they captured it, reverted to farm land, Halifax became an important harbor.

We couldn’t leave Canada without taking some more pictures of picturesque fishing villages, so Sunday morning we drove down to Peggy’s Cove, one of the most photographed spots in Nova Scotia. It was a little bit too much, with more tourists than residents, but it was charming. We visited the neighboring village of Prospect and found it to be almost as picturesque, but lacking in tourist buses.

Curtis, Julie and hot, moist air were waiting for us at the airport. We knew we were home. Curtis and Julie had watched our house during our absence, and had learned something about our burglar alarm system. Curtis came in the front door because it was almost impossible to access the door from the garage to the house due to the presence of two cars and the boat in the garage. That is when Curtis found that the front door is not on a 45 minute delay. Luckily Honeywell called here before calling the police.

Thank you, Carl and Lisa, for the anniversary card, which was waiting for us when we picked up our mail. We are eager to hear the rest of the story about Jeff’s personal situation, but are happy to hear that you will be in Florida for the Christmas week. We’re really looking forward to Christmas. And thanks for the pictures. Until I read the letter, I thought that the picture of the street was of Buena! I remember that the Bank of Alpena was closed when Dad and I were there twenty years ago. It appears to be in good shape in the picture. Is it open for business now? We suspect that you paid someone to stand in front of a picture of Mt. Ranier in that picture with the Baumans. From our experience Mt. Ranier is always up in the clouds!

Thanks for the clipping from the Yakima paper about Habitat. It sounds as if you are really accomplishing something. You must feel good about that.

I’m sure that this letter has been long enough to put you to sleep, so, Good Night,

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