Dan Loses His Mind While his World is Shaken, Rattled, and Rolled (part 6 of 6)

Prelude:  Many people have approached me in the three weeks since my temporary amnesia/aphasia event saying something like “It must have been scary.”  It was scary in 2002.  At that time, with similar symptoms, I had no idea what the future held.  It scared the sh%$ out of me.

Since it happened before, this time wasn’t so scary.   For the first hour in 2017, I had no idea what was happening.  Why would I be scared if I had no idea what was going on!

During the second hour I could sense I was remembering more and speaking a little more clearly.  I was not scared; I was encouraged, especially since I remembered that previously in 2002 I came out the other end just fine.

If it happened again in the coming year, now that would be scary!

So, what do we know with any certainty?   Not much.

Fact #1: On June 27, 2017, I had a temporary episode of amnesia (I didn’t remember squat) and aphasia (gibberish flowed from my mouth).

TIA or TEA are acronyms being thrown around as possible diagnoses.

TIA stands for a transient ischemic attack (ischemic relating to the heart).

Hitch D and H with paddles

Re: TIA.  My echocardiogram and carotid artery tests suggest that my ticker is doing just fine.  No surprise, my parents lived healthy lives into their 90s.  To cover all bases, the neurologist wants me to start taking baby aspirin daily, just in caseAspirin prevents blood clots from forming in the arteries. It can help certain people lower their risk of a heart attack or stroke.

I have no limit on my physical activity; pickleball, ping pong, and working out at the gym top my agenda.

Next week, the neurologist wants me to wear a Holter monitor for 48 hours, which will continuously record my heart’s activity as I go about my daily activities.  I’ll keep you updated.

But a TIA is not the neurologist’s first choice.

It’s the TEA.   TEA stands for transient epileptiform amnesia (which in my case might apply since the neurologist couldn’t rule out some form of epilepsy after reading my EEG (electroencephalogram).  So, there’s no certainty, but it’s the leading choice in the clubhouse.

YH bases

To cover all bases again, I have been put on a low dose (500 mg twice a day) of Keppra to prevent seizures, if some form of epilepsy is what I have.

The bottom line is that the neurologist doesn’t know what caused my temporary amnesia/aphasia.

YH safety net

So, a reasonably wide net has been thrown to cover a host of possibilities.  I get that and am thankful for the caution.

After such an event, by law I am not allowed to drive for three months.   I get that caution, too.  Not driving will be inconvenient but hardly a sacrifice.  I am retired.  Hannah and I regularly play pickleball and go to the gym together.   I have a modest social life (read: limited).

So, for three months, we err on the side of caution despite an uncertain diagnosis and no explanation for a cause.

YH dehydration

I wonder whether dehydration due to caffeine consumption and not drinking enough water (2002) and not drinking enough water (2017) might have triggered the temporary amnesia/aphasia.  The medical professionals never suggest such a connection.  And why this time, when I have been dehydrated many times before?

Without any explanation for the cause of my two events (2002 and 2017), I still wonder.

Takeaways:

YH water

Whether dehydration had anything to do with my temporary amnesia/aphasia, I have become a zealot for drinking water daily.  Each morning when I awake, I drink two eight-ounce glasses of water.  Three more follow: mid-morning, before lunch, and with lunch.  Dehydration will not be the cause of any future such event.

I live in a town on the coast of Maine with a great community hospital and in a country with excellent Medicare health coverage for seniors.  I’d recommend York Hospital for its effective loving kindness health care.

YH David and Dan

David Stoloff, my department chair at Eastern, stopped by to check on me.

Since posting of these blogs, I have appreciated many people contacting me and wishing me well.

I heard from a childhood friend who referred to me as Brother Dan in his email of support.

Thank you, Brother Tom.

Dan and Hannah are Stunned re: Shingles!

Shingles is such a benign name for this nasty, painful skin disease.  If you have a strong stomach, Google “shingles” to see images of the unpleasant rashes that occur most anywhere on one’s body.  In her position as activities director at a local nursing home, Hannah cringed at the debilitating pain and suffering from shingles in her elderly population.

Shingles image

Let me back up.  Our primary care physician at Kittery Family Practice (Maine) suggested we get the new, improved two-shot series of shingles vaccinations.  Six years ago we got the original shingles shot, which turned out to be only 50% effective.  The new series ramps up the success rate to 90%.  If two out of three ain’t bad (Meatloaf standard), I’m all in on nine out of ten!

Shingles syringe

So, in early October 2019 Hannah and I received the first round of our shingle shots administered by the pharmacist at the local Hannaford Supermarket and were surprised it cost $172 each.  Okay, it’s an important vaccination so we pony up, thinking surely that covers both the first and second shot, which we must get in two to six months.

Nooooo.  Today I have the second shot for another $124.  As a couple nearly 72, we wondered if our Medicare covered shingles shots.  That’s a big N-O.  See Appendix A below for why not.

To updated you on shingles, here’s a brief description from the Mayo Clinic website.  Click here for the full story.

Shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful rash…shingles can occur anywhere on your body.  It is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox.  After you’ve had chickenpox, the virus lies inactive in nerve tissue near your spinal cord and brain.  Years later, the virus may reactivate as shingles.  If one is 60 or older, there is a significant increase in the risk of complications.

Shingles syringe 2

$296 each seems like a small price to pay to prevent such misery.  And it is…

…for the upper middle class.  Hannah and I can each pay for these injections without missing a beat, but…

…but what about those in the middle class, working class, let alone in the poorer half of Americans?   The cost means many will just go without this preventive measure.  I can only imagine that the cost of treating the disease in clinics and hospitals will be far more than $300 for shingles shots.  Let alone the pain!

There’s got to be a better way to insure the health of the American public!

Shingles United

Appendix A for those on Medicare – The AARP United Health Care site states that unlike some common vaccines, like those for the flu, hepatitis B and pneumonia, shingles shots are not covered under Medicare Part B, the component of original Medicare that includes doctor visits and outpatient services. Part A, which deals with hospital costs, doesn’t cover shingles shots either.

Dan and Hannah Hike to Melrose Falls in North Carolina

When Hannah and I travel, we look to hit the trifecta – sunshine hiking, competitive pickleball with folks who don’t take themselves too seriously, and evening wine with good company.  Today in Tryon, NC on the South Carolina border, we have ourselves a Meatloaf Day (and by that, I mean, two out of three ain’t bad).

Melrose yonah mt to tryon

Having played pickleball the three previous days this late October with our sisters and brothers of Yonah Mountain, Georgia, today we check the boxes of good company (our sister-in-law Becky and her guy Derek) as well as hiking with them into the Carolina mountains in search of Melrose Falls.

Chauffeuring us through their hometown of Tryon, NC and out route 176 on the way to Saluda, Becky and Derek take us to the trailhead in a mere fifteen minutes.  Though there’s parking for only two vehicles there, we safely park on the far side of route 176.

Melrose start of trail D, B, H

Becky, Hannah Banana, and Derek as the trail begins

Passing by the trailhead boulders and around the metal gate, we ascend quickly into the mountains.  Hiking on conservation land administered by Conserving Carolina, we pass the turn to the trail to the falls for a looksee assent to the abandoned Southern Pacific railroad tracks above the falls.  Stepping carefully on the railroad ties, we soon find our path engulfed by kudzu – the dreaded Asian vine that is overwhelming the American South.  Watch our path on the tracks disappear over the next four photos.

Melrose 1A tracks

Melrose 1B H on tracks

Melrose 1C kudzu tracks

Kudzu is winning.

Melrose 1D more kudzu on tracks

Kudzu wins!

Kudzu is a plague on the hillsides and lives of Southerners.  Nasty for the ecosystems it invades, it smothers other plants and trees under a blanket of leaves, dominating all the sunlight and keeping other species in its shade.  Introduced from Japan into the United States, kudzu was initially planted to stop soil erosion.  Since kudzu can grow up to 60 feet per season, or about one foot per day, the best way to fight it seems to be with Billy and Betty – goats that is.  Currently there aren’t enough goats on God’s green earth to handle the tsunami of kudzu.

Melrose kudzu image

Kudzu and more kudzu

Melrose kudzu map

Smothered by kudzu, the railroad ties beneath our feet are camouflaged and footing is uncertain; we U-turn back to the initial trail to the falls.

The ¾ of a mile rocky trail goes up and down the mountainside to the falls.  For the final 300’, the path drops steeply toward Melrose Falls which has us been descending on all fours.  Never perilous, though slow-going, we arrive at the boulders above the falls.  We are serenaded by nature’s watery chorus.

Dan and Hannah Hike the Palmetto Trail (South Carolina)

September and October are golden months in Maine – daytime highs in the 70s in September, 50s/60s in October with the dark and cold of winter seeming like Stephen King fiction.  (Sounds like somebody is ready for some Vitamin C [that is Vitamin California!])

But this year in late October we are traveling; we have our Wedding of the Year in Asheville, North Carolina.  You see, my college roommate Big Steve and his wife Amelia’s older son, the stunningly handsome Brandon is marrying the breathtaking Ashley.

Ah, the American South in October.  With many opportunities to hike and play pickleball, the fall has none of the heat and humidity of its summer.   Here come the Mainers.

Landing at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta, Hannah and I drive northeast for three days of pickling and card playing with our Yonah Mountain brethren and sistren (sistren is an actual word).  After Laurie, Linda, Pat, and Clarissa once again take us in as pickleball family, we motor two hours north to the North Carolina/South Carolina border to hang out with our sister-in-law Becky and her guy Derek.

Palmetto Illusions

Becky married Hannah’s brother Doug in 1982; he farmed buffalo, make that bison, and she taught piano in central New York.  Unbelievably seventeen years ago, Doug, as fit as anyone we knew, died in a matter of weeks of glioblastoma (brain cancer).

At his memorial service, among many others, I eulogized him with this quote from Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach – Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished; If you’re alive, it isn’t.  Doug profoundly touched many people and his work was done at 56.

Moving to Portland, Maine from New York, Becky lived 45 minutes north of us in York, which allowed us to have monthly sleepovers, either at her place or ours.

Palmetto portland to tryon

After Maine, Becky moved to the little liberal burg of Tryon, NC with her guy Derek to make a life together.  So when Brandon and Ashley scheduled their wedding an hour north of Tryon in Asheville, we had one more reason to renew our kinship with Becky – and more sleepovers.

Palmetto B and H at love your neighbor sign

Hannah and Becky in front of the Tryon Congregational Church.  Do I hear an Amen?

On our first morning together, Becky takes us to the Palmetto Trail, ten minutes from their home, a trail that crosses South Carolina from northwest to southeast ending on the coast near Charleston.

Palmetto trail map

Driving around Lake Lanier, we park at a trailhead on a Thursday morning in late October for a walk in the woods, past a waterfall, and into the mountains.  Let these pictures and iPhone video illuminate this magnificent trail with our magnificent Becky.

Palmetto 2A trail sign in woods

Palmetto 2B more trail

 

Palmetto 2D colorful foliage

 

 

By the way, a palmetto is just what you think it would be – a smaller version of a palm tree.

Palmetto tree itself

Dan and Hannah Hike Mount Major (NH) with Nancy and Maryn

Hannah and I go way back with our dear friend Nancy Turley – it all began pre-Molly, Robyn, and Will in the 1970s while we planted, watered, and grew our marriage in Tempe, Arizona.  Being from the Northeast, Hannah and I had never met real-life Latter Day Saints; Nancy and her husband Wayne gave us safe passage into their hearts.  By the way, they taught us our family’s favorite card game, “Mormon Bridge” – a game we’ve spread from sea to shining sea.

During the summer of 1992 trip to the Rocky Mountain states, we five Rothermels towed our home-made trailer behind our four-cylinder Subaru Wagon.  Later we learned this pipsqueak Subaru was never meant to tow anything.  Time and again, we struggled up the northern Rockies at five miles per hour!  Once, we had to go north into Montana because we turned back since the Little Engine That Couldn’t was unable to climb to the 9000′ pass through the Bighorn Mountains coming out of Sheridan, Wyoming on our way to Yellowstone National Park.

Turley mesa to show low

While spending three days with our Turleys at their home in the Valley of the Sun, Wayne found a mechanic who fixed our radiator, which we learned was running at 25% capacity; hence the major reason why we couldn’t get up those towering mountains.  As we prepared to head for home in Maine, Wayne and Nancy offered to hitch our boxy 3’ x 4’ x 6’ trailer to their Chevy Suburban and haul it from their home in Mesa at 1100’ to Show Low at 8000’ as we followed behind.  Road weary, we thanked our lucky stars high above the Mogollon Rim that the Universe brought our families together.

Turley york to panguitch

We learned so much from their parenting – to value experiences over things, making family time a priority, and the importance of traveling to all parts of the USA to broaden our perspective and increase our gratitude and empathy.  Twice we drove from Maine and they from Arizona to pitch tents at the KOA (Kampground of America) in Panguitch, Utah to explore Bryce Canyon with their family of eight and ours of five.  By the way, despite the spelling, KOA has nothing to do with the Klan.

Turley 4 going up the mountain

Hannah, Maryn, Nancy, and dear ole Dan

And now 40 years later, we come together with Nancy and her equally delightful 24 year old daughter Maryn at our home on the coast of Maine.  Wayne died two years previous, which made our first time together a celebration of his influence on us all, our longtime friendships, and the time we did have with Wayne and Nancy.

Turley 3 start of trail

Nancy, Maryn, and Hannah Banana

Turley york to mt major

To continue our celebration with Nancy and Maryn, we drive 45 minutes into New Hampshire to breakfast out at the Farmer’s Kitchen in Farmington.  Fully fueled, twenty minutes later we pull into the trailhead of Mount Major along the banks of Lake Winnipesaukee.

Turley 5B M and N atop

High on a mountain top in central New Hampshire

Pairing off in conversation up the rocky 1.5 mile  trail to the top  for the next hour, we four catch up on each other’s lives (Maryn’s upcoming choice of law schools, Nancy’s desire to go on a mission to New Zealand, Hannah’s welcoming her sister Leni to Maine, and my upcoming spring trip with Hannah to visit Nancy in Utah).

Turley 5A all of us atop

Atop Mount Major with Lake Winnipesaukee in the background

Once atop this 2800’ mountain of granite in New Hampshire, we had the opportunity to honor our forty year friendship with the Family Turley.

Dan and Hannah Have Someone for you to Meet – Marianne Williamson

I’ve never been so moved by anyone! Hannah looks at me with tears in her eyes.  Inspired by Marianne Williamson myself, I ask her, Anyone?  It’s a resounding Anyone!   No hyperbole, Marianne gives us hope for 2020.

Marriane map from york to ports

Living across the Piscataqua River from New Hampshire in Maine, Hannah and I have access to the current Democratic candidates running for president.  Having donated to Marianne’s campaign, I get daily emails about her positions and appearances.  Not many people know that she is actually running for president since she is polling at 1%.

Marianne politics of love

With such low numbers, she has not been invited to the latest television debates; or just this past weekend in Iowa was not allowed on the stage because she couldn’t pony up the required $160,000.  Yet she comes to towns throughout New Hampshire, as she did November 3, 2019 when we saw her at South Church (UU) in Portsmouth, to speak her piece (It’s not peace, I checked.) with a plan to be the president of these United States.

Now, we have friends who think she has no chance; perhaps, they wonder why we waste our money or why we are so naive.  Think about it, how long of a long shot was the current president!

Marianne Jimmy Carter

And what about JC!  Last week, Hannah and I were in the American South and spent time at the Carter Center (museum and library) in Atlanta.  When Jimmy Carter announced for president, the leading newspaper in the state had this headline – Jimmy Who is Running for What!?

As a spiritual leader whom we’ve known through our association with Unity (spiritual movement), Marianne has written extensively on personal transformation and growth.

Here are five nuggets from our Sunday with Marianne that might spark you to give her a look.  Click here for her full platform.

Marianne on FAF

One, she speaks to a subject close to my heart – teachers.  She says, each time we see a teacher we should be thanking them for their service as we rightfully do our military.   It’s immoral that public education is funded by property taxes, giving the upper middle class (like our three kids) 21st century schools, and the poor decrepit ones.

Two, she values conversation over the demonization of the other side.

Three, she unconditionally supports the full rights, freedom, and safety of our LGBT+ Americans.

Four, she wants a referendum for all 18-26 year-olds to determine their support for mandatory national service. If this generation is for it, she would implement it at the government level.

Five, she promotes doable tax increases to pay for infrastructure, addressing the climate crises, universal health (not health care!), a Department of Peace, a Department of Children and Youth, tuition-free state colleges and universities, and a $15/hr. minimum wage.  Aligning with billionaire Warren Buffet who believes he pays too little in taxes, she would repeal the 2017 tax cuts and have those making over a billion pay an additional 3% tax.  Those over $50,000,000 2% more.  Would they even notice?

Marianne campaign sign

In front of our place on Chases Pond Road

So where do Hannah and I begin?  We donate.  We display our Marianne sign on our busy country road.  I post this blog.  Hannah tells everyone she meets how Marianne has affected her.

Marianne Williamson just might be worth a second look.  And yeah, Matt Santos was a long shot, too!

Dan and Hannah Hike the Uisge Ban Falls Trail in Cape Breton au Canada

Cape G map

How’s your Gaelic?  Take a crack at pronouncing the name of these falls.  See below.  I’m buying coffee all around when you nail this one.

With a sendoff breakfast of oatmeal, cut up fruit, and an introduction to the ugly stick, Hannah and I leave the loving embrace of Laverne and Gordon of the Baddeck Riverside B&B in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

Uisge 1B G, L, and D

Gordon, Laverne, and the Bomber

Uisge 1C H and L with fish

Laverne and Hannah in August in Cape Breton

What is an ugly stick, you ask?  The ugly stick is a traditional musical instrument from Newfoundland made out of household items and those from tool sheds such as a mop handle, bottle caps, tin cans, small bells, and other noise makers.

Before we drive the 370 miles from Baddeck, Nova Scotia back to our friends Bill and Karen in Fredericton, New Brunswick for the overnight, we hit the trail one more time with waterfalls being gentle on our mind. (homage to the late great Glen Campbell)

Uisge map to falls

Uisge 2 UB sign

Uisge 2B map of trail

Following Gordon’s hand-drawn map to the park, we take to country road along the Baddeck River to the left turn for Uisge Ban Falls Provincial Park.  With only one other car in the lot, we’ll have a peace and love experience on the along the brook on this early August Wednesday.

Uisge 3B H on trail

Uisge 3C D on trail

Uisge 3D H on trail

Immediately this tree-covered level trail hugs a stream strewn with rocks and promises that will soon propel our getaway drive in the next hour.  Unfortunately, the trail bridge over the creek is out so we don’t have the Baddeck River view part of the trail.  Another good reason to return to Cape Breton.

Uisge 3A trail closed

Washed out trail bridge

Uisge 3E H on trail

Within 20 minutes we arrive at the end of the boulder-y trail to the sweet sound of crashing water.  Enjoy the video.

Uisge 4A falls again

 

(Please forgive the misspelling of Uisge in the video title)  Returning to the trailhead, we have hit the jackpot in our Cape Breton holiday.  We know that we’ll be back, and back soon; to drive the 700 miles from York to Cape Breton and then take the seven-hour ferry from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland to explore its trails and toast its sunsets and perhaps get our own ugly stick!

Uisge map of newfie

Pronunciation of Uisge Ban Falls – ISH-KA-ban.  I’m buying you coffee anyway.  Just text me when’s a good time.

Dan and Hannah Hike the Middle Head Trail in Cape Breton au Canada

Leaving the northern reaches of the National Park, we drive by the hamlet of Cape North, where five years ago we spent the second of our three nights while biking the 300 kilometre Cabot Trail.  That third morning we awoke to light rain but had no choice but to pedal on.  Here is an excerpt from Day 3 on the Cabot Trail with pictures.

01_05_03_CapeBrtHighNP

Cape Breton Highlands National Park

[After six hours of biking], I dismount and walk to the door of the church with my right knee cramping and barking with the ferocity of an angry bulldog.  No one is about, and I hobble back to my bike and painfully remount.  Little do I know that I will pay for having dismounted.  The pain shoots up and down my right leg and sets up camp in my knee; I say to Hannah, “Go ahead.  I can’t go on.”  She suggests I get back on the bike and see what happens.  I say, “Please ride ahead and have Pamela [owner of the B&B where we will stay tonight] come back to get me.”

Hannah pedals on and I decide to give it a shot and put my feet in my toe clips and let the left leg carry the load.  Fortunately, I find it easier to bike than walk.  The rain having stopped, I decide to pedal as far as I can until I can go no more.  The faster I go the less painful my right knee is.  So I go for it.

Middle H past D and H ready to ride

Middle H past H chilly at brook

Middle H past H at Smokey Mt

Smokey Mountain

Middle H past D ready to ride

Middle H past H with rain gear

Today as we drive where we previously biked, we can’t believe how tediously long today’s 70 miles of paved road seems.  Trees, streams, and small houses of Cape Breton are iconic but lose their charm after all day in the bike saddle.

We motor through Ingonish, Ingonish Center up the long climb of Smokey Mountain; we are in awe of what we accomplished on the third day of our biking adventure five years ago.

A little after 5P this afternoon, we turn off the Cabot Trail, snake our way for two kilometres by the Keltic Lodge to the trailhead for our third modest hike of the day (see map above).  Choosing the rocky and rooted trail to the south, we hike through the woods, with the occasional view through the pines to the cliffs above the Atlantic.

Middle H 1 trail out

Middle H 3 rocky trail out

Middle H 4 cove

The trail back is level and pleasing to the feet, but we are hiking-and-driving-weary at 630 PM, yet grateful for another hour of wilderness hiking 700 miles from home.

Middle H 7 D on trail back

With an hour drive back to Laverne and Gordon at their Baddeck Riverside B&B, we are coming home.  Pulling in at 730P, we are greeted by Laverne mowing the lawn who says that we’ve been waiting for you (with a “so glad you are here” vibe), shower if you’d like, and we’ll sit on the front porch with wine before dinner.

We relax high above the Baddeck Riviere.

Cleanse Beddeck River

Click here for the full account of Day 3 of our biking the Cabot Trail five years ago and click here for the final Day 4.

Dan and Hannah Hike to the Waterfalls of the Macintosh Brook Trail in Cape Breton

After hiking to the cliffs above the Gulf of St Lawrence on the Skyline Trail in the Cape Breton Highlands Provincial National Park earlier in the morning, midday we take to the park road reminiscing of biking adventures past on the Cabot Trail.  How five years ago we barely pedaled up MacKenzie Mountain and later had to walk our hybrid bikes up the final half mile of the granddaddy of them all, North Mountain.

01_05_03_CapeBrtHighNP

Cape Breton Highlands National Park – Five years we spent our first night in Cheticamp, our second night in Cape North, and our third night in St. Ann’s.

MacKenzie was a four kilometre climb at an 11% grade that five years ago had Hannah and me in our lowest gear pedaling successfully to the summit.  Enjoy the excerpt and pictures from our bike climb that day.

I don’t sleep well.  With the serious mountains of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park looming, Hannah and I wake before five AM as dawn streams in around the shades this third of June.  Uncertainty lies before us.  We have no idea what to expect and have little choice but to pedal on into the mountains as our Hyundai Elantra is 60 miles back in Baddeck.  We like to think we are resourceful in the face of such physical challenges.  Well, let’s just see if we can walk the walk?

Sky CT along the cliffs

Sky H biking up

Sky D at steep signs

Sky H with panniers

Today, after passing the marina at Pleasant Bay, we remember the unrelenting climb to North Mountain, our personal Waterloo.  After a kilometre of effort, we said no mas and could bike no more.  Dismounting but not defeated, we pushed our bikes to the mountaintop knowing that successfully biking up two out of three these bad boy mountains ain’t bad (homage to Meatloaf).

Midday, we have no such drama as our perky Prius takes the mountains as you might expect a car would do on paved road!  After lunching at a picnic table at the trailhead of the Macintosh Brook trail, we enter the forest for the second of our three hikes this day.

Mac B brook itself

 

Mac B D on trail by brookA mere twenty minutes to the falls, the level trail along the brook is rocky and rooted, but not challenging in the least.  Tree-covered the entire way, the wide path takes us to a waterfalls fifty feet away.  Our grandsons Owen and Max would romp to these falls in half the time.  Enjoy the video.

Mac B H at falls

Though modest, the trail gives us forty minutes of exercise and a few thousand more steps on our Fitbits.  We are living the vacation hikers dream on this island paradise that seems within sight of Greenland (a much coveted land mass these days).

Click here for the Day 2 blog of our biking the Cabot Trail.

Dan and Hannah Hike the Skyline Trail in Cape Breton au Canada

Coffee blueberry pancakes

As we did five years ago, this morning we feast on Laverne’s blueberry pancakes and cut-up fruit bowl of cantaloupe, strawberries, grapes, and peaches at her Baddeck (Nova Scotia) Riverside B&B.  Unlike 2014 when we set out on our hybrid bicycles for four days pedaling on the 190-mile paved Cabot Trail, today we are going to mellow out and drive the entire trail by sunset.  Soft?  You could make a case for that.

Cape G map of CT

Five years ago, it took til mid-afternoon for us to bike the 55 miles from Baddeck to Cheticamp along the Atlantic Ocean.   Today by 11A we have arrived.

Here’s an excerpt with pictures from the blog of our first day biking the Cabot Trail five years ago.

 

 

Within the first hour we have our first climb to the top of Hunter Mountain.  It’s a 5% grade for two kilometres which requires steady pedaling in lower gears. It turns out to be very doable and our confidence builds.  Zipping down the far side, Hannah leans over her handlebars and rockets down the hill.  A little less steady and less confident, I sit tall in the bike saddle to let the wind resistance slow my rapid descent.

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Cape Breton Highlands National Park

Sky day 1 h and b and bikes

Ready to ride (2014) in front of the Baddeck Riverside B&B with the Baddeck River in the distance

Sky day 1A h with bike

Sky day 1B D with bike

Approaching Cheticamp

Sky day 1C Cheticamp sign

Today, driving 10 miles north of Cheticamp, we pull into the Visitor Center of the Cape Breton Highlands Provincial Park, each pay $6.80 Canadian for admission, and ask Liam, a park ranger, what’s the signature hike in the park.

Sky 1 CT sign

August 2019

Sky 1B D and H on cliffs before Cheticamp

Approaching Cheticamp (2019)

Without hesitation, he offers up the Skyline Trail.  That will take us past French Mountain, our first seriously steep, give-it-our-all, low gear climb in the park five years ago.  Open from mid-May through the end of October, the Skyline Trail is rated easy as it is a gently sloping two miles to the headland cliff with a modest 400’ of elevation gain back to the trailhead.

Due its modest challenge, the Skyline Trail has lots of folks during this first week of August.  For the most part, they so Canadian.  And by that I mean, they are polite, upbeat, and amazingly tolerant of their entitled American neighbors to the south.

Digging life among happy vacationers of all body types, Hannah and I walk side-by-side on a trail of crushed gravel that rarely gets our heart pumping.  The trail is a delightfully pleasant walk to the west coast of Cape Breton.

Sky 2 the sky trail begins

Sky 2C D on boardwalk trail

Sky 2D more trail

Passing through a moose enclosure (sans moose!), we learn that botanists are researching what plants and trees coexist with hungry moose.  Beyond the enclosure, we see trees with healthy branches near the ground, middle ones chomped away by Bullwinkle and his friends, and then branches above that the moose can’t dine on.

Sky 2B gate of enclosure

Leaving the moose enclosure with the Gulf of St. Lawrence in the distance

Sky 5 moose trees

Sky 5B moose trees

Once above the cliffs we are greeted (metaphorically) by a wooden boardwalk staircase down the cliffside.  At midday, the crowds are plentiful, as many are resting and lunching after their three kilometre trek.  The boardwalk was built after hikers had trampled this headland, which in turn denuded the vegetation that led to the exposed soil being strewn across the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Sky 3A CT from Sky trail

Sky 3D boardwalk of sky

An easy 45 minutes back to the trailhead gives us the two hour morning workout to satisfy our desire (by that I mean need) to get the first of our 10,000 Fitbit steps.

Back in our yupster Toyota Prius, we drive up the even steeper Mackenzie Mountain and North Mountain on our way to the Macintosh Brook trail with its Liam-promised waterfalls.  I have waterfalls for you in next week’s blog.

Click here for the full blog from Day 1 of our biking the Cabot Trail in 2014.