Forillon National Park, a review by soundscape: pebbles, birds, children, RV washing (what?) and silence

I wish I could record the soundscapes for this park. First among the recordings would be the sound of walking on the pebbles of Grande-Grave beach. Pebbles is not quite the right word. It is more like a vast natural collection of flat, grey stones. Take the sound you remember as you walked along a pebble beach and add ethereal percussion.  The pebbles, wind and ocean is why Europeans came to this part of the Gaspé beginning in the 16th century. It was ideal for laying out cod to dry on the beach. A great fishing industry built up which was managed by a kind of fish mafia from the Jersey islands. They laid claim to the world’s “best” cod, although I know some Newfoundlanders who might dispute that. Sadly, over fishing means that cod is now the “white rhino” of the edible sea. The Park does an excellent job of animating this history with Hymans and Sons General Store. There is also a fisherman’s house, the Blanchette homestead. I thought I knew a lot about cod fishing, but there was still a great deal to learn in the well laid-out display upstairs in the General Store.



The second sound I would record is the that of birds. There were so many that I could not identify. It is encouraging. I wondered if the Park is experiencing the same horrific downturn in bird population as the rest of the world. I also wondered what kind of bird sounds the Mi’kmaq heard as they occupied, used and respected the land for over 8,000 years. A sound I could not record if I wanted to is that of mosquitos. This was a nice surprise, reprieve even. You learn to live with the constant whining of mosquitos where I come from.

The camp grounds are laid out in a let of 5 (A, B, C, D, E).  Four are all grouped together in kind of a skinny-leaved four-leaf clover. There is also a group campground. We were in one of the new 31 semi-serviced campsites (running water, electricity).  I was impressed that the Trudeau government was doing what they said they would do – investing in our National Parks after a decade of cuts by the other guys.


Home at Forillon National Park

The third sound I would record is that of children. When we arrived almost every other site was occupied by massive motorhomeswho were part of an American tour group. This meant that they took off together in the little cars they towed for trips during the day, then retreated into their palaces on wheels when they got back. The only time we saw them was when they washed their motor homes which happened with a surprising frequency considering the motor homes never moved. All of the occupants were seniors who seemed terrified and/or suspicious when we said hello.  I really missed the sound of children’s voices so when I jogged in the mornings would choose a route through the other tenting campground areas. When the big motorhomes moved out en masse one morning, they were replaced that by families with children, Boomers in smaller motorhomes and just few Big Rig Seniors. They all had dogs. Children’s voices and dog barking vitalized our campscape. Thank God.

This Park infrastructure is prepared for children and families. There are modest playgrounds. There were a couple of offerings a day, often in French (as is appropriate since French is the first language of Québec). These too seemed more oriented toward adult experience. The shower areas are combined with recreation places that have a couple of wood stoves and several wooden tables suitable for board-game playing and family dinners. There is also a place to do supper dishes for Tenters. Much family conversation, negotiation and bonding happens when doing those dishes. I would sometimes linger, being the inveterate people-watcher I am.


Lovely comfort centres are part of the shower and bathroom buildings

Another sound that I might record is that of Yates’ pounding on doors. The biggest interpretive centre is L’Anse-au-Griffon Visitor Centre. We really wanted to visit this on our way out. We arrived at 8:30am but were dismayed to find out the Centres all open at 10am. Almost all of the animated display centres also did not open until 10am or 11am. Mid-morning seems a strange time to open, but perhaps they found campers did not get themselves together until then.

The final soundscape would consist of a total lack of sound. The great asset of the Park is the combination of different eco-systems that can be explored. There are unique beaches, ancient human habitations, wooded trails, mountainous trails and cliff-walking. In a world of light pollution, the Forillon Park night sky is very dark, for those who like to explore the heavens. If you settle in your chair by the crumbling ashes of the fire and tip your head back you can imagine yourself in the depths of space, where there is no sound. At all.


Vistor’s Guide to Forrillon National Park:

“Located at the northeastern tip of the Gaspé Peninsula, Forillon National Park safeguards an are that is representative of a terrestrial natural region, the Notre_Dam and Mégantic mountain ranges, and of some elements of two marine natural regions, the Laurentian Channel and the Magdalen Shallows. In other words, it protects a segment of the Applachians and the adjacent waters as well as the fauna and flora inhabiting this area.”







Forillon National Park of Canada: a variety of ways of getting there

A couple of years ago I presided at a wedding in New Richmond, QC.  (more about that in a later post). We were gobsmacked by the beauty of the land and the spirited hospitality of the peoples. Due to the short travel deadline due to the wedding, we did not have much opportunity to explore the area, so we vowed to return. This summer was the year of return. We dedicated the better part of a week to exploring Forillon National Park.

We travelled through Campbellton and made our way along the eastern shore of the Gaspe (Québec Coté Mer) on the 132 East. With the ocean to the right of us and lovely, distinctive Québecois houses, farms and fishing villages to the left of us, we thoroughly enjoyed the travel. However, it was slow. The highway moves right through working communities that are filled with tourists at this time of year. Children, dogs and the like dash onto the road and the camper does not stop very quickly. We had to creep at times. There were some impressive rock formations such as Percé Rock, a mini-Gibraltar that kind of rises out of the ocean with a colour and


textural distinction all of its own (see image). It is one of the world’s largest naturally occurring arches in water. The touristy nature of that particular area meant that the entire length of coast-line with the best view of the giant outcrop was taken up with cottages, hotels, restaurants, food stands, tourist shops and so on. It was difficult to meditate upon the wonder of this remarkable geological formation while trying not to run over the pedestrians staring at their phones as they meandered the road. It was also problematic to stop to view the magnificent hunk of limestone, as parking was at a premium.

We expected as we moved northward that the houses and settlements would become less frequent. We were wrong. The area is well populated. Do we sound cranky? We were not. The view, the drive and the people watching all had their inspirational moments. It is a well-known fishing area so you might want to stop to pick up some seafood. Lobsters are usually reasonably priced if you can get them in season. Stores sometimes carry delicacies like pickled fiddlehead ferns, pickled clams, whelks and cohaugs. Of course, anywhere in Québec you may come across a Fromagerie (cheese store). Do stop if you like cheese. The fresh curds are to die for. At the risk of annoying my own home province of Nova Scotia I must declare that no one makes cheese like Québec cheese-makers. As I am addicted to cheese, I am not to be trusted in one of these stores.

If you exclusively speak English, don’t worry about the language differential. At all of our stops we struggled to use our high school French, but were usually rescued from our butchery of that beautiful language by anyone we spoke to as they took mercy upon us and replied to us in English.  There was a fairly hilarious incident at a Canadian Tire which I will blog about later. In essence, an entire line-up of French speaking people at the cash register got together to help the sales clerk understand what I wanted.

We took the 132 West when we left the Park this year to go to Montréal. It was surprising how different the geology is. The tail end of the Appalachian Mountain Range creates craggy shorelines. You would be forgiven if you thought some giant race of tricksters had taken colossal buckets of white paint and just sloshed it randomly all over the various sizes of beach rocks. He-who-knows-geological-things says these are quartz veins. There were many tiny communities to be driven through who had seen better tourist days, shuttered motels and so on. Most of these small communities had a welcoming sign and a picnic area. Take a hoodie though, the temperature is often quite cool with prevailing winds a little brisk. We noticed that no one swam on the beaches due to both the chill and the lofty waves. We had real worries about some of the people venturing out in small, seemingly- perilously bobbing tourist boats. The volunteer medical responder in me found it difficult to look away!

gaspe mathieu dupuis

photo by Mathieu Dupuis (

We were determined to see the valley area of Gaspé Peninsula so on our way back from Montreal we turned south at Mont-Joli and took the 132 South. (I guess this could be called our 132 trip). We had driven quickly through this area in our previous trip and wanted to really take our time to let the exquisiteness of the area sink in. The area is part of the Appalachian mountain range. Following mountain ascents there were sometimes descents into verdant, green valleys sculpted, with some struggle no doubt, into farmland. We felt there was something around virtually every corner to admire. Close to the Campbellton area the mountain vegetation begins to change with the steepness and the road follows a rocky-bottomed river that is frequented by salmon fisherman. Carl, a skilled salmon fisherman himself, was driving and would slow to count them and to see if anyone had caught anything. My nerves. I should have driven through that part. If you are coming from Montreal to go to Forillon you might want to take this route and then take the 132 East at Campbellton. It is well worth the effort and time if you like mountains, valleys, rivers and quaint towns. Toward Campbellton there are several fishing and outback kinds of tour possibilities.


Enjoy some of the world’s best lobster. So good you should, in the words of his people (Newfoundland) “Get your face and hands into it!”


Québec has an excellent website outlining all of the possible ways you can explore the Gaspé Peninsula Check it out before you go to Forillon Park.


Next post: Forillon National Park – The Park


Dollar Lake: Acknowledging the Territory

Dollar Lake Provincial Park: Acknowledging the Territory

Dollar Lake Provincial Park is on on lands that are, by law, the land of the Mi’kmaq. One of the closest First Nations is near Shubenacadie.

Wikipedia states:

“The Shubenacadie Nation is composed of four Mi’kmaq First Nation reserves located in Nova Scotia. AS of 2012, the Mikmaq population is 1,195 on-Reserve and approximately 1,190 off-Reserve. The First Nation includes Indian Brook 14, Nova Scotia, near Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia. The Shubenacadie Nation is now known as Sipekne’katik Band.”

Sipekne’katic is composed of Indian Brook 14, New Ross 20, Pennal 19 and Shubenacadie 13.

Nearby also is the Millbrook First Nation. You can see the Millbrook Power Centre as you head south from Truro (or north from Halifax). The Power Centre is a powerful model of self-determination. Lawrence Paul, a leader, says “The model for the Power Centre is to attract businesses who want to partner with us for long-term sustainability. We work with them to structure a jointly beneficial arrangement at the outset…and then let the company focus on running the operation – to do what they have expertise in doing.” (

At the Power Centre is the wonderful Millbrook Cultural and Heritage Centre. There you will find accurate history and a celebration of indigenous creativity, art and resilience. Tours are available.

If you are non-indigenous and come at a time of year when powwow is taking place take time to attend those events open to the public. These are meaning-filled celebrations of strength, history and culture. You will learn, be moved and, hopefully just a little bit transformed.





Dollar Lake: Testing our choice of truck camper (by Carl)

Dollar Lake: Test of our Choice of Truck Camper

When Linda and I first became interested in recreational vehicles [RVs] while living in the Musquodoboit Valley, we wanted the flexibility to go off road without too much planning.  As a result, we purchased our first truck camper in 2002; a light weight pop-up that fit into a short bed half ton pickup.  We had many adventures including a trip to Red Bay Labrador where the Basques whalers made their presence  well before Cabot; they were smart to not tell anyone where they were going!

After selling our camper and moving to the City in 2005, we often got away on vacations to national parks where we would enjoy the ease of a rented cabin; Fundy Highlands Chalets in Fundy National Park being one of our favorite places to visit to replenish our souls.  We enjoyed this for some time but decided it was time to get back to the mobility and enjoyment of an RV.  At this stage our family was growing with both of our boys married and the potential for grandchildren which meant a search for an RV that would fit us all.  We bought a 29 foot Cougar Lite fifth wheel trailer in 2014 that could be towed by a half ton pickup  truck with no problem.  Although we had many enjoyable trips with the fifth wheel including a family outing in the summer of 2016 [a trip to Fundy National Park] where we were joined by our boys and their spouses [Shane and Enrique, Matthew and Sarah, and our grandchild Ellie], there were limitations.  A fifth wheel adventure requires a flight plan [your brain should always be fifteen minutes ahead of your destination] and getting off the beaten path was not easy.  The only practical approach was to find a decent campground as a base of operation and then unhitch and conduct day trips or excursions in the pickup truck.  Something was missing.  The ability to do spur of the moment and off road trips was limited.cropped-img_20160914_142632.jpg

After our 2016 summer camping was over, we decided to take another hard look at truck campers to capture the flexibility we were looking for.  As the quest continued, we decided we wanted a large camper that could accommodate both of us, two dogs and facilitate a sleepover with a grandchild.  Our search continued until we stumbled upon the Livin’ Lite Camplite series which seemed to have a good track record and the specs we were looking for; light weight, spacious and durable.  We settled on the 11.0 model which comes in at 20 feet long, 3400 lbs dry weight and features a dinette slide.  The dinette slide was important because I like to cook and I didn’t want to be bumping into things as I prepared a meal.  It also gave a nice open feel to the camper.  The deal was made with Jerry’s RV in New Minas with the trade of the fifth wheel included.  Now, as you can appreciate, a half ton truck cannot carry 3400 lbs so we also traded the Dodge Ram 1500 for a Dodge Ram 3500 to ensure we had payload capacity.  We picked up the camper in September, 2016.  When I drove away, all appeared to be in order.  Unfortunately, it was immediately evident that there was a problem.  One of the tie down anchor plates at the rear of the camper was fastened by ordinary screws and not the proper structural bolts.  The local dealer also recognized this shortfall and contacted me to make things right.  During the repair procedure, it became evident that the quality assurance program at the manufacturer’s plant was woefully lacking as this defect had to be noticed in the factory and sent along the assembly line anyway.  Although a gallant effort was made to realign the anchor plate and install the proper bolts, the repairs were not successful and another visit to the shop was scheduled for April, ahead of the 2017 camping season.  In addition, we received a recall notice from the manufacturer about the propane tubing in the stovetop burner which also needed replacement.

After getting all the defects fixed inApril, we were ready to go and booked our first outing at Dollar Lake provincial park for the Canada Day weekend on July 1st.  We chose Dollar Lake as it is a good park and the closet to home; Linda had to preach that weekend.  Although the original defects were repaired in good order, we discovered a new problem with a leaking hot water tap on the outside shower connection and made arrangements to get that fixed.  The good news is the camper does not leak from the external elements as we found out during the July 1st weekend as the rain was extensive and drove most of the campers home.  Although the rain came down hard, it did not dampen our spirits; we enjoyed the comfort of the camper and managed to get a hike in on Saturday afternoon with dogs in tow.  Hopefully, we will get things straightened out with the outside tap so we can get back to our first love of truck camping adventure. We intend to visit three national parks this summer, compliments of a free Discovery Pass from our federal government.


Rain, rain, go away

Canada Day 150: no need to choose between joy and lament, a maturing country does both

(The weekend of our Dollar Lake Camping trial was on the Canada Day weekend.  I left the campsite to lead worship at a Combined Musquodoboit Valley service in Meagher’s Grant. It struck me that our 150th Canada Day celebrations had a strange bipolar kind of feel to them compared to our 100th anniversary celebrations. This is the heart of the message I gave that day)

Do any of you remember the 1967 Canada Day celebrations?  I first became aware something consequential was happening that year when a funny little sign went on the mailbox of the rural farmhouse my Grandmother was renting.  I asked why it was there. She explained that the house was one of the early farm houses in the Port Robinson, Ontario area which earned it the designation of a “Century Home.” I was 8.

Later that year we started learning about Canada’s one-hundredth anniversary in school. There was even a song we were all expected to learn, “Expo 67 – Canada,” by Bobby Gimby. You can still find it on YouTube. Some of my classmates went to Expo. We could not afford such a venture since my Dad was only a corporal in the Air Force. Nonetheless, we took in the fire-works and attended all the local events that tiny Brighton, Ontario had to offer.

This 150th year celebration has a completely different feel. People are a lot crankier. Many are confused. There is a strange wondering about what it is we need to be celebrating and how we should do it.

At about the same time we celebrated Canada’s 100th anniversary, I learned there was no Santa Claus. To make matters more traumatic, the Tooth Fairy similarly became extinct. Horror and sadness ensued. When you believe in Santa Claus there is an irreplaceable naive kind of wonder and excitement on Christmas Eve. Heck, the excitement began in September when the Sears Wishbook catalogue came to the house and you had to very carefully think about what you could reasonably ask Santa to bring without seeming greedy enough to be put on the “naughty” list. When you find out that Santa does not exist, not only does Christmas Eve seem different, your parents, the season and your relationship with both seems irrevocably changed. Christmas means something totally different than you thought it did.

Then, you go deeper. You begin to think about the meaning at the heart of the Season. You begin to wonder about family connections, feasting and community. You begin to think about your responsibility to give presents to others, instead of just receiving them from large man’s magic red bag.  You discover the joy of gifting. None is possible unless you give up the fantasy of flying reindeer and the man in the suit. Still, every time a child learns there is no Santa Claus, you feel some pain as you watch their fantasy burst and you remember a little of your own confusion. You wish for a moment you could go back. That is how those of us who are non-Indigenous Canadians feel on this 150th anniversary of Confederation.

We do live in a wonderful country. Millions from all over the world want to come here. We also live in a Nation that has made mistakes, some of them horrific.  The country and its peoples are living through the continued healing of those mistakes. Our scripture reading today says that whenever someone offers welcome and cup of water to a thirsty person it is the same as offering Christ likewise. Since the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, we now know there have been times when expulsion was given instead of welcome. Indeed, expulsion of those who initially did the welcoming is part of the Nation’s heritage. Cups of water were stolen instead of being given to slake thirst. We cannot un-know. We cannot go back to naiveté and neither should we. For non-Indigenous peoples, accepting truth and working toward reconciliation, makes us deeper, more whole, faithful people. Ultimately, we become more capable of joy when we remember both Canadas: the parts of being Canadian that are worthy of celebrating as well as the parts that require lament.

I am the child of an immigrant who left the Netherlands after the devastation of the Second World War and 5 years of brutal German occupation. I grew up with the influence of those dreadful years and the story of being released from them. However, as anyone who has loved someone who lived through war, release is never total.

My father loved Canada. After he and his sisters arrived, wooden shoes and all, they settled into farming in Prince Edward County. His sisters married and moved into their own versions of Canadian life. Fate was not kind to his parents in their new land. His mother contracted Parkinson’s. At 16, my father did not feel called to be a farmer. His parents decided to go back to the Netherlands where extended family was handy. My father refused to go back. After his parents left, he made his way by working in factories and living in rooming houses. At 18 he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force, which he said was the making of him. He loved this new country. He was and is Canadian. I have always seen the country a little through his borrowed eyes.

My Dad perpetually wanted to do all things “Canadian.” When I was 8, Dad was transferred to Trenton, Ontario. My parents purchased their first home, a tiny farmhouse. No one, I mean NO ONE in Brighton, Ontario hunted moose. He did. He would go to Northern Ontario with some Airforce buddies and live for two weeks without washing. He always came back with a moose which was butchered and stored in a rented freezer locker. It lasted us the whole winter. I dreaded that anyone would find out in my class. We lived in Brighton for three years before we moved again and I thought I had safely navigated that secret. One day, a few short months before we moved, my teacher asked me to bring in some of my mother’s moose soup for “Pioneer Days.” She did it in front of the class which consisted of surprised farmer’s kids. The teasing was relentless. It was only when I moved to Newfoundland where moose hunting is an important cultural and culinary right that this memory was rehabilitated for me.

Our Dad dragged us all out to camp, hike and fish. My mother, who had spent much of her growing up years in serious poverty could not understand the point of camping. Dad took us on cross-Canada car camping trips. It was our responsibility, he insisted, to see and appreciate the land. I grew up with a hope for fresh-eyed appreciation. In these last couple of years have I begun to hear stories of confusion and wonder about his encounters as a member of the Armed Forces with Indigenous communities.

The Truth and Reconciliation process has made us all painfully aware of the terrible treatment of those of us who are Indigenous by those of us who are Non-Indigenous.  We feel weird about this particular 150th anniversary because of this awareness.  We feel conflicted because of the peculiar dichotomy of celebrating 150 years of history while pondering the treatment of those peoples who continuously respectfully lived on the land for over 10,000 years. We cannot forget this and we cannot un-know it. It even makes some of us really angry if it is mentioned on Canada Day.

Yet, we are a maturing people. We can do both. We can be joyfully appreciative and we can lament, seek reconciliation and work toward righting wrongs. That is what mature, healthy, spiritually whole people do. No one said it would be easy. It is easy to lie in your bed and wait for Santa to come and fill your stocking from the big, red magic bag. It is more difficult think of what people need in terms of gifts. It is much more taxing to plan a family celebration where all are truly welcomed. It is difficult to say you are sorry to relatives you know you have hurt and whom you must reconcile with in order for Christmas Day to be truly meaningful. Writing a wish list to a man in a red suit is simple. It is much more difficult to wonder how the bills will be paid and take responsibility for that.  Those Christmas times are the best of times where all the important, difficult things happen; people are fed, loved ones are reconciled and fiscal pain leads to simplicity. These become the deepest of times because thoughtful, loving people have cared enough to do the perplexing, arduous work. That is where we are with Canada Day. We are not celebrating the fantasy of 1967 with wild abandon again because that bubble has been thankfully burst. Instead we are expressing gratitude, wonder and also sometimes lament, pain and disquieting concern. Welcome to the post-fantasy Canada. Welcome to this wonderful, amazing, disturbing, unfinished Nation.

As part of my commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation Report, we will acknowledge the territory of every National Park we visit. There will be a separate “category” for it so it is easily found on the blog.


Dollar Lake: “Dune,” Extended family and teen wrangling

camping-tent-1-1427722You really have to love camping to be willing to do it with two unwilling teenagers, aged 13 and 15. When my sister Suzan and her husband Joe decided they wanted travel from Ontario to go tent-camping with us, I was a little worried about how they would survive being confined on a campsite with all of us. They were bringing their young son Luke and a new corgi puppy, Cruz. We had our own newly adopted rescue Jack Russell Terrier whom we had named “Jack.” He was only 10 pounds but was determined to be king of the planet. When Suzan arrived, Jack felt job one was to teach Cruz. It was not always pretty to observe and difficult to control.  A camping weekend sounded like chaos to me. Suzan was determined. We agreed to go not too far from home, which meant Dollar Lake Campground. Much moaning ensued. Since it is so close, there was always the risk that the boys may be seen by their friends and their lives would be, if not over, then seriously burdened with embarrassing peer-observed moments. Added to that was the trauma of being torn away from video games and various other screens. “Bring books,” Carl and I said to a wall of sighs and eye-rolling.

My sister and I have similar ways of talking. We are direct, ironic and have a peculiar way of talking LOUD ON STRANGE parts of SENTENCES. It is almost an accent. I blame it on being moved all over the country as Airforce brats. Bits and pieces of various geographical accents stuck. At any rate, our way of talking seemed to be incredibly annoying to pubescent sons. (Later, when Luke was 17, I had supper at their house. Suzan started to go into full throttle story-telling mode. Luke glanced at me in an apologetic way, patted her hand and said, “Volume, Mom. Volume. Breathe!”) It would not be easy for my boys to pass under the radar on Dollar Lake beach as Suzan and I got into full guffaws, story-telling and shouts at dogs.

On Friday night we put up our tents, cooked supper, then gathered around the picnic table. Shane played cribbage with Carl, Suzan and I took out our books. Joe put Luke to bed in their tent. Matthew took out his multiply-read, fraying copy of Dune by Frank Herbert. Suzan glanced up from her book and said, “Oh, you are reading Dune. Great series. Very provocative.”

Shocked, he met her eyes. “What, you have read Dune? You?”

I knew at that moment that I could not save him. The moment she realized that he was surprised and perhaps appalled, he was not going to hear the end of it. She laughed.

“What, you think I am not SMART ENOUGH?”

“No,” he stammered, “it’s not that, it’s just…”

“Oh, I get it. I am not IRONIC enough. I am not part of your TRIBE.”

Still, he puzzled out, “Are you sure you have read it?”

“The whole THING. Yes, Matt, I am a CONVERT, I tell you!  Look,” her voice went to a whisper as she grabbed the Tupperware container of cinnamon, “SPICE, Matt,” she hissed, “SPICE!”Dune-Frank_Herbert_(1965)_First_edition

He gawped at her, his face a little pale now in the Coleman lantern light. It was dawning on him, the enormity of his error.

“Matt!” she shouted waiving a small plastic disposable knife in the air, “Wait a minute here while I cut my pear WITH MY CRYSKNIFE!”

In the morning Suzan pointed to the French language portion of the bottle of hot sauce, “Matt! Matt! MELANGE. See, MELANGE!” He wearily raised his eyes.

My sister is a redhead and melanoma creeps about in our family, so she covers up. Later that afternoon we decided to go to the lovely Dollar Lake beach. Attired in white, voluminous cotton, slathered in sunscreen, carrying various bags and topped with a wide-brimmed hat, she moved 50 feet ahead of us. She was determined to get a good spot on the beach. Abruptly she stopped mid-stride. Pointing to a track of plowed ground about 20 feet in length, she shouted back to us, “Matt! Matt! Look, sandworm TRACKS!”

“Mom,” he pleaded, “can’t you make her stop?”

“Not likely,” I sympathetically responded, “you will have to ride this one out.”

Her husband Joe came alongside and patted Matt on the back. “It does end, son, I promise.”

Later Saturday night, Suzan challenged him to a game of cribbage. Perhaps eager to reframe their conversation in another direction, any direction, he accepted.  I read my book and listened. Their conversation inevitably drifted toward Dune because she asked him, very slyly, some open-ended questions. She intently listened to him. As the plastic pegs hiked their way around the wooden track, I heard Matt talk about the prophetic nature of Frank Herbert’s writing. He related it to authoritarianism in our time and the resistance of indigenous people to corporate mining. My sister talked about oil cartels and how “spice” was meant to be symbolize oil, that rich and horrifyingly power-filled resource that everyone was fighting over. I must confess, I did not know my kid was that deep or that my sister was so skilled in teen-wrangling. I realized that she simply took time to “see” him and meet him where he was. He saw in her an interesting person who was interested in him. They laughed a lot while they played.cribbage-2-1422672

I pondered by the firelight that this is a great gift of camping. It reveals the necessity of extended family. I don’t know if it takes a village to raise a child, but it sure does help to have extended family when you are raising teens. Aunts and uncles can see you in ways that your parents just don’t. They augment parental love. I sighed with gratitude and closed my eyes. For a millisecond peace prevailed. Then,
“Jeez! Linda! LINDA! Your DOG is prison-mounting my dog!  Get him OFF!”





Dollar Lake Provincial Park: The Park

Dollar Lake Park has been a favourite of ours since the boys were very little. It is close to Halifax which meant it was also close to our home should the need arise to flee for various toddler-emergency related reasons. For tourists and other visitors, this proximity means the great cultural life of the city is within a 40-minute drive. The Park is about a 20-minute drive from the Airport and Highway 102, which is part of the TransCanada. You can also quite easily go to Truro, the Annapolis Valley via that route. Alternatively, you take Highway 357 South and explore the Eastern Shore. (Travel Tip: you should gas up at the Irving by the airport or at Parker’s in Middle Musquodoboit if you are running low. There is no gas station within a thirty-minute drive).


A view as you enter Dollar Lake Park

The Park has a really great small beach, with just enough sand on its shores and on the bottom of the lake to make play, swimming and general water-lounging quite comfortable. Grassy areas under shade trees are available for those who are land-loungers. There is a life-guard on duty during the summer months. Picnic tables are not plentiful, therefore if you plan to spend a meal-time there and need one, come early in the morning to grab one. The public change rooms and washrooms are kept clean by diligent staff (although toilet paper frequently runs out on very busy days) and if you get hungry at the beach there is a canteen run by the non-profit Heartwood.

Dollar Lake.beach

(photo: nils) Dollar Lake beach

There are enough water taps near each campsite. However, the two nearest ours did not work. We had to walk a little farther to fill up our jugs. As I walked, I remembered when Dollar Lake used to be a party destination until the alcohol restrictions were imposed. It could get quite rowdy. Once, when Matt was about 5 or so, we went to fill up our water container at the nearest tap. A young man was attempting to add some water to a large pot with Kraft dinner remnants. He looked up at us, turned green, dropped the pot and ran into the woods. Orangey noodles littered the base of the tap. We picked our way around them. As we filled the plastic jug, Matt asked what happened to the man. I was about to explain what a hangover was, then thought better of it. Matthew happily mused that the raccoons would have a great KD feast that night. Thankfully, the Park is much more peaceful these days. The occasional whiff of marijuana will waft over you as you walk. I have never heard of weed-smokers starting riots as drunk people are wont to do, so we don’t worry about it.


Our campsite: “The Lakes”

The 119 campsites are organized around 4 loops, A, B, C, D. By the time we figured out we both had enough time off to book the Canada Day Weekend for camping, we got the second last available site, C4. On this weekend of rain-deluge we affectionately called our site, “The Lakes.” When I complained after stepping out of the camper into 2 inches of water on Saturday morning, Carl reminded me that there was a worse site. He had checked it out. It would have been the last campsite to go, which means people taking bookings are doing their best to put people into the best ones first. That’s a good thing. On that note, we walked around the loops. It should be said that all the campsites are of ample size. There are some stunning ones. Several on loop A overlook the lake and have beautiful views with the sound of loons during the day and owls at night.  Some of those are potential toddler-danglers, so take care. Loop D has a couple of sites that are spectacular. One is surrounded by rock formation. Last year, some ridiculously self-absorbed people spray painted on these rocks that their family had been gathering there for over 2 decades. I was glad to see this was painted over. Another D site has a kind of driveway and is placed deep within a wooded lot. When D loop was developed some obvious care was taken with site design.


A large wooded site on D loop


Another wooded site on D loop


A beautiful campsite amongst rock formations

We have hiked some of the trails. They are not lengthy and one of them has poison ivy so you will need to be careful. We did not hike this weekend because we would have been knee deep in mud.SAM_1180

The shower and bathrooms at Dollar Lake are clean. Staff are very careful about keeping them clean. I have special inside knowledge in this matter as our oldest son had a summer job at Dollar Lake many years ago. One of his main duties was to go into these to clean the toilets, wipe sinks and hose every inch of floor down. He is now a Mechanical Engineer and works in shipbuilding. Whenever I go into shower/bathrooms I think of him doing this work and the work he is doing now with care and precision. I feel a little proud. That’s not weird, right? In terms of facilities, the Park appears to be fraying at the edges. The playground equipment is rusting. There is a slide next to one of the showers that looks like it might fall apart at any minute. Two of the water camps next to our site did not produce water.  I suspect this is due to successive years of provincial cutbacks. This is shortsighted and a little strange given that the governments also declare tourism as one of the pillars of economic growth.

Nonetheless, we appreciated our time at this beautiful little campground.

Website link:

2017 Season Dates: June 9 to October 9
Park contact number: (902) 384-2770
Civic address: 5265 Old Guysborough Road, Wyses Corner, NS

Next Blog Post: Dollar Lake: Dune, teen-wrangling and extended family




Dollar Lake Park: blue water and blue language


A warm welcome


Just 30 minutes from Halifax


Rain, rain, go away


Pax looks wistfully into the cab of the truck.

As we might say in the Maritimes, we got the bugs out of ‘er on the Canada Day weekend. It was our first use of the truck camper. We were prevented from using it last year because of structural problems with the camper itself.

Carl talks to himself. He is an off the scale extravert so he processes his thoughts externally. Some days almost all of them, it would seem. He is a brilliant and kind man so clearly this works for him. It used to be a problem when we were first married. I come from a home in which people are silent a great deal of the time. When anyone looked up from a book or television screen to say something, it was very important to listen. It could be a momentous, even life-changing announcement. Not so much in Carl’s family. Carl’s day often takes the form of a running external narrative which I felt I had to listen to and respond to at all times. It was exhausting and, in the beginning, very aggravating. After a time, we worked out a system whereby he would tell me when he wanted to converse, after which I look up from my book or computer screen, listen and respond.

The rain poured on this first inaugural trip to Dollar Lake.  We hope someday this camper will be our home for a year or so. There is a lot at stake in it being comfortable and serviceable enough to house us all.  Nova Scotia can have some pretty substantial deluges, but this was a sustained tempted-to-build-an-ark kind of rain. There was water pooling everywhere. Unwanted, pooling water, it would turn out, was a theme for our Canada Day weekend adventure.

On Friday night Carl was making his final evening campsite rounds with the rain-phobic dogs. He was talking to himself, which was not unusual. I presumed the self-conversation concerned the puzzling problem of the intermittent but continuous running of the water pump. Then the language turned blue. That made me sit up and take notice. He doesn’t often do that. Let me just say at this point, that no one can creatively curse as flamboyantly and enthusiastically as a Newfoundlander. There were the usual words everyone is familiar with and then appeared the ancient Newfoundland Elizabethan English curse words. The problem must be substantial, I thought. There was some jiggling of outer kinds of gear and more cursing.   When he came in he revealed that the camper outdoor shower hot water faucet was seriously leaking. This is a disappointment since we could not camp all last summer because of a construction error. It also meant we had to shut the whole hot water system down.

Carl removed some panels below the sink. No blue language was involved, perhaps because indoor problem-solving external narrative is different. He rummaged around with tools and various things and managed to shut off some valves. The camper will go back, yet again, to the dealer for repairs before we take off for the Gaspe. We went old-school by heating up the water on the stove. We had heat, food, drinking water, dogs and each other. Camping is all about getting away from computers, cell-phone screens and getting back to basics. I guess running hot water is not a basic need after all. We had a fine time.

Next post: About Dollar Lake Campground