Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Guest Post: Fall Colours

Thanks to Jeff Doran for his guest post and photos...enjoy!

I took the round-about way to the Oktoberfest turkey dinner at the Forties community centre, but it was worth the wait and worth the drive.

I loaded my old VW van with camping gear and set out in search of fall colours inland, following the La Have River to New Germany, continuing on Rt. 10 with a stop at the Shannon River Canoe Access Park. The highway was in rough shape the rest of the way to Middleton and I made a mental note to return by a different route.

The forecast was clear but cold, so I planned to enjoy the luxuries of a serviced site at one of the many campgrounds in the Annapolis Valley where I could run my electric heater and even connect my laptop by wireless Internet for on-location Skyping. The only problem was that campgrounds advertising those amenities also offered karaoke, putt-putt and Greco pizza, not exactly suiting my peaceful and meditative mood.

The weather was so good I decided to venture to the Fundy Coast in hopes of finding a secluded spot in which to tuck the van for the night. I had two sleeping bags for warmth and a hand-crank rechargeable flashlight for entertainment.

At this point my directions must remain veiled in secrecy because I discovered the perfect spot and I want it to stay that way. Suffice it to say I landed on a dead-end road right at the water's edge. The wind was stiff and waves were spraying onto the road, but it was snug inside the van. I made chili watching sunset through the windshield.

Fundy Coast

Red sun at night... who made up that nonsense? I fell asleep to the sound of surf and woke to the howling of a gale through the weatherstripping. Wind was rocking the van like a street mob. The windshield was scummy with salt. I was pretty sure there was no hurricane in the forecast so I settled back to be rocked to sleep. A burst of light through the side curtains woke me this time. At first I thought my hide-away had been spotted by the authorities. Then I heard the thunder. By my count the lightning storm was far away. I fell asleep counting.

Then the rain hit. It came with the sound of a jet take-off. Pellets drilled the fibreglass roof. Maybe it was hail, I don't know. I didn't go out to check. I told myself some people like the sound of rain on a roof when they are sleeping.

I slept fitfully. I thought about surrendering and seeking shelter inland, but that would mean crossing North Mountain. I resigned myself to a long, sleepless night.

Sometime after 3:30 a.m. (the last time I checked my watch) the storm must have passed, because the next thing I knew it was 7:00 and I was awake and cold. I had looked forward to morning sun warming up the cab while I had a leisurely coffee. I had forgotten I was in the shadow of the mountain, so even though the sky was clear, I huddled in the dark, warming my hands around the butane stove, watching the shadow diminish with maddening slowness across the Bay of Fundy. It was high tide and the waves were higher than ever. Big flakes of scud blew like an explosion in a laundromat. When the sun did come up, though, it came right in my back window and warmed the back of my neck as I had my second cup of coffee.

I had a light breakfast because I was saving myself for Thanksgiving dinner which began at 11:00 a.m. When I left the shore, some locals were coming down to look at the waves. They must have wondered how I got there first.

Back on the Evangeline Trail I stopped at a farm market for Honey Crisp, Old Fashioned Cortland, Gravenstein, Jona Gold, Red Cortland and pears at a third of the price in Bridgewater. I kept a litre of sweet apple cider at hand to swig on my drive down the Dalhousie Road.

Lahave River

The colours had me saying "Wow!" and "Whoa!" at every turn. These were not the garish reds of calendar art. These were burnished golds and bronzes against a backdrop of evergreen. One hillside had me searching my memory for a Crayola box of names for yellow. The pavement went from good to bad to worse, but the worst of it was better than the best of Rt. 10.

At the turn to the Forties I started keeping a sharp eye out for the community hall. Still, I almost missed it because I mistook the crowd of cars in front of an abandoned convenience store for a used car lot.

The hall was hidden in back. I saw people coming out with sated expressions. It was noon. I worried I was too late for white meat.

But there was plenty of everything for $10. The room was barely half full, decorated in harvest colours. I had the works plus pecan pie.

I've had my share of Thanksgiving dinners at a variety of homes on both Thanksgivings in North America, and the Forties dinner put them to the test. My table-mates complained of the lack of squash, but then, they agreed, it was hard to make for a large crowd.

I left with no plan except to avoid Rt. 10 and find a warm place in the sun to lie down and digest. I took Rt. 12 and the Lighthouse Route to Mahone Bay where I parked facing the water with the sun over my shoulder, cracked open the cider, fired up the laptop on a whim, found three wireless sites within range (thanks, unsecured site -- you know who you are), Skyped my brother in Pennsylvania and used up all of my two-hours of battery power. He was planning his fall colour trip.

Then I went home and lay down. I heard on the news it had snowed in Antigonish.

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