The Trails of Our Lives

My Nova Scotia Trail

By the time I found the first trail that really meant something to my life, I had graduated from college and was living in an old farm house on the shore of the Bay of Fundy. Behind the house was a large field which sloped upwards to a spruce forest. At the top of the field there was a trail that wound through the woods. As much as I loved the rocky shore that was part of the property, the trail at the head of the field seemed to be more personal.

My two Labrador Retrievers, Tok and Fundy, often accompanied me on my hikes. There was nothing spectacular about much of the trail but it finally opened into a clearing that actually was on my neighbor Joe’s property. The view from the clearing was spectacular. I was living in the Village of St. Croix Cove and you could see the actual St. Croix Cove. I loved the view so much that I eventually traded some land for it.

There were times that I thought that Nova Scotia was the greenest place that I had ever seen. We sometimes were able to find baskets of chanterelle mushrooms just off the trail. No mushrooms since then have ever tasted like those.

With the trail being inNova Scotia, it sometimes took on a winter look and often stayed that way for a month or two. While it was hard to walk up the hill, getting up to the trail on cross country skis was even more challenging.

With each move, we managed to find new trails, some of them memorable.

 I eventually got some snow shoes but the snow and and my schedule never managed to really coordinate before we moved off to New Brunswick which was the land of real snow as opposed to rain, snow, rain, and more snow like Nova Scotia.

Still the Nova Scotia trail was beautiful when it did snow.  It was a little challenge skiing through the trees without getting covered with snow but that was just part of the charm.  That and freezing your tail off were just part of cross country skiing in Nova Scotia in its normal thirty mile per hour breeze.

When we finally moved to New Brunswick, it snowed a lot and we eventually got a tractor-mounted snow blower which coincidentally allowed me to groom a very nice cross country ski trail. Obviously, my wife breaking trail on snowshoes like she did the first winter was not a sustainable solution especially once we had three children.

That first winter on snowshoes helped me to find my next favorite trail which was about a mile and a half and took me to a ridge at the back of our home farm. At the top of the ridge you seemed to surrounded by endless woods. It felt like true wilderness.

The next ten years were spent farming and there was scant time for pleasure hiking. Every trip to the top of the ridge was precious. I did spend lots of time leading cows through the woods from summer to fall pasture and making the long walk to the barn during calving season.

If we fast forward about twenty years, we have moved from New Brunswick to Halifax and back to the states, first finding some temporary roots in Columbia, Maryland. While Columbia, a planned community, was full of trails, none of them were wild enough for me. Barely two years after getting to Maryland, we moved south to Virginia and found a wonderful place on the side of the foothills of Twelve O’Clock Knob Mountain. Up on the mountain behind our home there was nothing for miles. It was a good place for the next trail that provided a respite from the pressures of civilization.

In the early nineties while still living on the mountain, we went to look at a Labrador puppy.  It was no surprise that we came home with Chester.  Chester, a wonderful pal, like all Labradors grew quickly and needed lots of exercise.

One winter Chester and I were doing our normal two to three mile hike around our subdivision and we saw an old woods road. We walked up it and managed to find our way home through the woods. It was not too long afterwards that I ran into the owner and got his permission to work on the trail.

It was a beginning of a decade of walking that trail, but it took a lot of work to make the trail usable during the summer.  The old logging road had filled up with poison ivy. It took me months of work and spraying to kill the poison ivy so Chester and I could enjoy the trail together.  Then we often spent Saturdays doing trail maintenance. Chester sleeping in a shady spot while I worked.

The trail rose high above all the houses and looked down on the city of Roanoke. Once on the trail, you felt like civilization was far away. Eventually I discovered an old homestead and the grave of a confederate soldier. It was easy to imagine living on the ridge and trying to scratch out a life from the small fields on the mountainside. A couple of times I made it to parts of the mountain where I found an old road that was knee deep in pine needles. It appeared the road had been unused for decades.  At the very top of the ridge even the type trees started to change from hardwoods to firs. It was not unusual to hike the trail in the morning and the evening. We all loved it. We kept a kiddie pool so Chester could cool off after his hikes. Only when Chester began to get old did the trail fall into disuse.

It was always Chester’s Trail to us even as we moved from Roanoke in 2006 two years after he passed away. It was perhaps time to go because the old road that I cleared had been graded and paved.  Someone from the valley had bought the land along the ridge and was building a home near the old homestead.

After moving from the mountains, we spent almost sixteen years at the beach. I found a favorite trail on the beach to the end of the Point at Emerald Isle. It was a wonderful hike and once again it was easy to feel like civilization had slipped away. Still it was not the same since I had to share it with lots of others in the summer and people could even get to the end of the trail by boat. I did fall in love with the salt marshes where you could lose the pretense of civilization a lot easier than on the beaches.

Now we are back in the hardwood hills not far where I grew up playing in the deep woods. I think that I might have found another trail that looks like it will be a big part of my life. It runs through what can only be called a cathedral of leaves.  The beauty of their colors have left me speechless at times. I am happy to have found it early enough in life to still be able to enjoy walking it.

Author: ocracokewaves

An escapee from the world of selling technology, now living on North Carolina's Southern Outer Banks where life revolves around sun, sand, and water. I work at WideOpen Networks helping communities get fiber to their homes. In my spare time I am a photographer, writer, boater, fisherman, kayaker, swimmer, and walker of the beaches.

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