When I thought about the trip I am on ahead of time, I thought of it as a “reach” both in terms of how far I could reach east and north via land, and, more importantly, as “an individual part of a progression or journey” which is among the Merriam Webster definitions of a reach. While both are applicable, I’ve come to realize with each trip, that I am indeed on some sort of progression, some night by night, place by place, method of arriving at something. Of what, I am not certain, but the additive process of disconnecting and absorbing life in different and varied places in a very basic, raw way, is definitely a journey that heals and influences me. Stripped down to a place to sleep and a basic shelter, amidst wonders both simple and astounding, I feel different. And, I think, if I can carry some little bit of each reach forward, I will be different. And better. Of course that is up to me, but everyone should, I think, find a reach or series of reaches of their own design that help them.
Driving across the causeway onto Cape Breton and feeling the wind off the Bay of St. Lawrence press against the truck as whitecaps smashed against the rock wall of the jetty, it seemed like this reach was going to be worth it. Was going to stick with me. Gone were the last minute hustling and bustling of tests and traffic and re-routing. Gone were the worries of what might or might not happen and what I did or did not need. Cape Breton stretched north and eastward completely unknown to me and completely unconcerned with anything I might carry with me.
Getting to Cape Breton was sort of a prologue for all that. A mise en place of remarkable geology and landscape to help make the final dish easier to absorb and appreciate. We started along the western shore of the Bay of Fundy, hard along the red rock cliffs that dipped periodically into tight little harbors where lobster boats sat upright on the mud, their keels dug in and props protected, awaiting the incoming tide. It is as odd a thing to see a boat tied to a dock with no water under it as I can think of. Nothing about the visual is normal. But of course here, in this context, with these people, it is completely normal.
The part of Fundy with the single biggest tidal change among all the spots in the bay with the overall biggest tidal change, is Hopewell Rocks. You can go there and take a nice hike down to the edge of the rocks where the Province has been kind enough to build 111 steps between the rocks to the floor of the ocean in the Bay of Fundy. From half tide to low tide and back to half tide, you can go down and walk around amidst the kelp and rock and red sand knowing that in a few hours it will all be under water again. The incoming tide moves forward a linear foot every four minutes. By hide tide, the popular “Lovers Rock” a rock with a hole some 20-25 feet in diameter in the middle of it, will look just like a normal rock — the water will cover the hole. So over the course of 12 hours, a place that you think you recognize will be so utterly different you could look right past it. Its not at all like high and low tide at a beach where the very same beach just grows wider or narrower. It is a different world all together, where 40-50 foot boats loaded with lobster pots go from useless to productive, and landmarks in the shoreline go from photogenic to invisible. It is, to put it mildly, humbling.
And today all of it, the trip up along Fundy and the crossing over to Cape Breton, marked a sort of crossing over for me — to the reach, that individual part of progression of a journey I’ve been waiting for. I believe the next several days way up here on Cape Breton are going to be excellent. Tonight, we cooked sausages on a coal fire and watched a bald eagle hunt the estuary we are overlooking, and listened as the steady breeze rattled aspen leaves around our campsite. Not much else happened. And that is really the point.