Sunday, February 12, 2012


In a previous blog I mentioned that we often visit places that we quickly learn to love.  Never having sufficient time, we leave with a determination to return – and yet seldom do.  Occasionally, however, we do go back.  Such was our trip to Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada –my third trip there and the second one for Karen and me together – but definitely one with some new twists, new experiences and new terrain.  When I first visited Nova Scotia in (I believe) 1990, I was impressed by the wildflowers, the French and British history, its lush and verdant country sides, and the rugged and spectacular coastlines, which spoke of a maritime history and boasted of one of the premier drives in North America – the Cape Breton highway. 
On this trip, we enjoyed some of the beautiful coast and sleepy fishing villages again, we got better acquainted with the provincial capital of Halifax and, of course, we ran a half-marathon – which was the impetus for the trip and our third Canadian Province.  The race was in Halifax – the Bluenose Marathon and Half-Marathon.  We quite enjoyed it.  The route started at the impressive citadel in the city center, went through hospital and university areas, some older residential areas and then along the water’s edge to a park on the southern peninsula which reached into the Bay and the Atlantic beyond.  It was a very pretty park – although also the area where the route was most difficult as we ran a couple of trails that ascended some pretty steep hills.  However, we were rewarded with some great views and a very impressive residential area before finishing the race back near the Citadel.
The race was well-supported, there were decent crowds along the way, the weather was cooperative and the race expo was good – at least after we finally found it!  Initially, we couldn’t find it when we went to pick up race packets and since it was raining steadily, we weren’t thrilled to be looking all over for it.  Signs were not posted, people weren’t seen coming and going with the trademark race bags, and none of the civic center entrances appeared to be open.  Eventually, we found it through a virtually unmarked basement door, but it was an inauspicious beginning.  Fortunately, once inside it was dry and warm with some interesting vendors.  On race day, the weather was much better and the pace was great!  Since we were going to be running another race a week later, I wasn’t sure I wanted to try and run both races at maximum tempo, so I decided I would run Boston hard and run with Karen in Halifax.  Karen was skeptical it would end well (since she doesn’t like to feel pushed), but we actually ran the entire race together and managed to finish still friends!  I don’t remember much about the post-race food – so it must not have been overly memorable – but the race (and the company) was good.
The most memorable part of the trip was the new experience in an area none of us had ever visited, namely Newfoundland.  After the race, we spent a couple of hours in the very picturesque area of Peggy’s Cove and then headed east for the 4-5 hour drive to Sydney on the eastern shore of Nova Scotia. 
We caught an overnight ferry and landed in Channel Port aux Basques, Newfoundland the next morning.  The next four days we explored a tiny fraction of a very beautiful place, as we traversed the southwestern section of the island.
 The scenery was stunning.  The mountains were unique, the coastlines rugged, the geology fantastic, the waterfalls plentiful and impressive, the fjords beautiful and the lakes and forests picturesque and vast.  We had some great hiking to waterfalls, lakes, the coast and a peak - particularly enjoying our two days in Gros Morne National Park.
As it turns out, we visited a bit early in the season so weren’t able to do the hike to the top of Gros Morne Mountain or take the boat ride into the Western Brook Pond (Fjord), but just the views  were well worth it.  I’ve sailed in the Norwegian and New Zealand fjords – and these were not far behind in their stunning beauty.  However, they were also different – and this speaks of the area geology.  Whereas you picture fjords as going inland from the ocean, in Newfoundland they were INLAND fjords, with a river flowing out of the fjord to the ocean.  Similarly, the mountains were sort of upside down from how you would normally picture them – to include some areas where the visible rock on the surface is the type of rock you would normally expect to find thousands of feet down into the earth.  They had a different feel and look.
These were not the jagged peaks of the Tetons, but rather the uplifted escarpments.  We were really torn in our visit between wanting to spend time in the mountains and along the coast – and exploring the Viking sites and iceberg alleys further north.  As it turns out, we decided to travel less and see more of a smaller area.  We don’t regret that decision – but it has put another location on our list of places we really want to return to.
All in all, it was another great trip – with a race thrown in to justify it!  We enjoyed meeting new people and found them universally friendly – albeit with a brogue that was a bit difficult to understand at times!
So, if you aren’t completely certain where Newfoundland is, pull out your atlas and trace a line east and a bit north of Maine (we were actually only about as far north as Vancouver BC, although much more remote).  Mark the spot and we suggest you consider it for inclusion in your travel bucket list.  You won’t be disappointed – and there are some great things to see and do in Nova Scotia while you are getting there.


princess jen said...

Those are very beautiful pictures!
Glad you had such a great time. Rachel is a lucky girl. Let's hope she remembers all these great places!

Super Daysh said...

Sounds like a good race and the pictures were gorgeous! Aren't you glad you guys have the money to travel to all these places? I would run half marathons too in every state if I could afford it! ;) Okay, not really, but, y'know. What was the picture with the little white beds and Rachel on the top bunk? Did you stay there?

Rachel's Mommy said...

Good job on the post--it was a great trip!

Thoughtful Runner said...

The room with the white beds is our room on the ferry from Sydney Nova Scotia to Newfoundland. The picture was actually supposed to be adjacent to the ferry picture, but it wouldn't stay there! Pretty nice accommodations, all things considered.