Dan and Hannah Hike Cape George in Nova Scotia, Canada

Cape G 1 H and NS sign

Hannah and I have come to Nova Scotia to revisit the greatest physical challenge we have ever faced.  You might be thinking, Dan, you and Hannah have hiked the Pacific coast of Big Sur, the Tetons in the Rockies, and in each of the fourteen states of the Appalachian Trail.  Greatest challenge, really?  Oh, indeed it is!  Biking the 300 kilometres (190 miles) of the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia over the course of 3 ½ days took us out to lunch, made us pay, and then wiped the floor with us.  It’s also so true that I am really good at humble bragging!

Cape G map

Leaving friends Bill and Karen after an overnight in Fredericton, New Brunswick, we take the Trans-Canada Highway through New Brunswick into Nova Scotia.

Cape G map to cape g

Stopping at the Visitor Center, we learn from Caitlin of trails high above the north coast of Nova Scotia near Cape George that will satisfy our desire to both  hike and break up our day’s 400-mile drive to Cape Breton.

With well-marked signs, route 337 (Sunrise Highway) leads us to ample trailhead parking a half mile from the local lighthouse.  Always enamored with lighthouses, before hitting the trail, we check out Cape George Point.

Cape G 1A at lighthouse

Cape G 1B D at CG sign

Returning to the trailhead we find a grass trail through a meadow by the roadside.  It’s stunningly pleasant on our feet as if tended by royal groundskeepers with royal weed whackers.  Crossing the highway, we meander along this grassy path guided by orange circles spray-painted on the trees through the forest.

Cape G 2 grassy trail

Cape G 2A grassy trail and planks

Coming upon a rutted driveway to a newly-built home, we lose our way.  Clueless, as is often the case, we follow the rutted driveway back to the highway to no avail.  Retracing our steps, we climb back up the hill to finally see the saddest excuse for a signpost – a metal pole that displays but the slightest hint of orange.   You be the judge.

Cape G 3 driveway

Sidetracked on this so un-trail-like driveway

 

Cape G3A orange pull

Really!  You call that a decent trail marker!

Thankful to have found the trail once again, we return to our grassy path that gently caresses our feet as we hike the ridge line above the coast of Nova Scotia, pristine and bucolic.   Other than that one misstep, the trail is made for families and international, getaway lovers (i.e. Hannah and Dan).

Cape G 4A D at top better

Cape G 4B top

Retracing our steps after an hour, we return to the trailhead ready to drive the final two hours to our overnight in Baddeck, Nova Scotia.   Once there, we are lovingly embraced by Laverne Macrae, the B&B innkeeper who took us in five years ago.  At the time, we had no idea what challenges lay ahead for us biking the Cabot Trail.
Cape G map Cape G to Baddeck

Cape G 5 H and Laverne

Hannah and Laverne at her Baddeck Riverside B&B

Tomorrow, we’ll drive the entire Cabot Trail in one day.

Cape G map of CT

The Cabot Trail

Dan and Hannah Hike Mount Major with their Grandson Owen

MM Owen map

In less than an hour

In central New Hampshire, Mount Major is our go-to mountain for people who visit us from Away.  Why just last year my Arizona State buddies, Rich from Jersey and Gale, a Michigander, climbed this very mountain overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee to celebrate 49 years of friendship.

To celebrate Owen’s seventh birthday, Hannah and I with his parents, our daughter Molly and her husband Tip, will climb with Owen to the mountaintop.

MM Owen Rattlesnake

Tip, Molly, Owen, Max, and Hannah on the Rattlesnake Canyon Trail

Owen has a history of trail hiking.  Two and a half years ago (2017) when his Omi (Hannah) fell down the cliffside in San Ysidro Canyon in Montecito, California, it was he and his mom who hurriedly hiked back, ahead of a seriously injured Hannah, for one and a half miles to alert the paramedics and have the ambulance in the go position.  Just this past February (2019), Owen hiked for three plus hours with us, his brother Max and parents up and down Rattlesnake Canyon in Santa Barbara, California.

MM Owen 1A at breakfast

Early Saturday morning breakfast at the Farmer’s Kitchen

Whenever possible, all good Dan and Hannah hikes begin with breakfast out.  Today our diner of choice is the fabulous Farmer’s Kitchen in Farmington, NH.  With huge portions of eggs, home fries, toast, kielbasa, and pancakes, we are fully satisfied and ready to rock and roll.

Did I say we woke at 5A to leave York, Maine by 6A so we could breakfast at this popular cafe at 645A to beat the crowds?  I didn’t think so.  When we leave the Farmer’s Kitchen at 730A this early Saturday in August, there is already a line of people waiting for a table.

MM Owen 2AAA trailhead with sign

Tip, Molly, Owen, Hannah B, and the Ithaca Bomber

And speaking of crowds, Mount Major is monstrously popular such that when we finished the hike, the trailhead parking lot for 50 vehicles is full and cars line route 11 for a quarter of a mile in each direction.

MM Owen 2CC O and O on rock

Being early birds, we secure a primo parking spot at 815A and select the 1.5 mile blue blaze trail to the top.  Immediately we are greeted by a wide trail of rocks and more rocks that rises steadily to the summit.  Rocks and seven-year-olds are like spaghetti and meatballs.  While the four adults follow the trail, Owen scoots up and over any large boulder on or near the trail as if he’s been given a personal invitation by each one.

The blue blaze trail then levels off for a Bill Bryson-like walk in the woods before turning left for our assault of the mountaintop.  Full of spunk and joyfulness, Owen weaves in and out of the adults as he climbs up and over the stony trail as well as scampering up on all fours when the rock faces pose a challenge.

MM Owen 2AA trail map

We take the Main Trail to the top and return by way of the Boulder Loop Trail

MM Owen 2BB holding hands with Owen

MM Owen 2D Owen on rocky trail

MM Owen 3 rocky trail with exuberance

MM Owen 2C rocky trail

MM Owen 3 M, T, and Omi

Within an hour we have summited, looking out to Lake Winnipesaukee to our east.

MM Owen 4A all five at top

MM Owen 4 at the top

Choosing the orange blaze trail for our descent, we have 1.6 miles that seems less steep, though there are stony-sides that require careful stepping.

MM Owen 5A rocky trail down

MM Owen 5 O and O on orange blaze trail

Owen is a joy on the trail and in our lives with his positive exuberance.  Grandparents around the world know how fortunate Hannah and I are to have Owen (and his five-year-old brother Max) in our lives on a regular basis.

MM Owen O with H and M

Dan Triumphantly Completes His 30-Day Cleanse – Reflection and Wine (12 of 12)

After thirty days with no alcohol, I was hoping for some dramatic changes.  Just not in the cards.  I now realize that to go from one glass of wine per day to none, which I basically did, is not likely to yield much of a change as would be, say, going from a six pack or four scotches per day to none.  Let’s recap.

My liver? Probably happier, though we haven’t talked recently.

Cleanse - Hannah

Hannah on the Skyline Trail in Cape Breton Highlands Provincial Park (Day 27 of my alcohol-free experiment)

Hannah?  She is definitely happier not having to drink a glass of wine alone each evening.

My sleep?  Little difference.  The usual pleasing combination of mostly good nights with some okay nights.  I’ve learned that if I have a few margaritas (the impetus for this 30-day experiment), I’ll lower my expectations for a good night’s sleep and revel in the evening I just had!

My energy?  Good before the experiment, good during it.  No obvious change.

My weight?  About the same.  I never did weigh myself before or after, so who really knows?  That said, I still use the same belt hole as before to keep my pants up.

My sense of satisfaction?  Yeah, it’s been cool.  I always thought that I could go without alcohol.  Fact is, the alcohol fast did become a little tedious after Day 20 since I realized there were no big changes in the offing.  That said, it wasn’t hard to complete my mission, just another 30 days at the office.

Cleanse Beddeck River

From Laverne and Gordon’s front porch overlooking the Baddeck Riviere in Cape Breton, Canada

There were a few times when a beer, some wine, or a margarita would have hit the spot.  One was a brew after an afternoon playing ping pong with George Derby (Day 8), another was wine with Laverne and Gordon on their front porch in Cape Breton, Canada (Day 27) and finally margaritas at Ruby’s in York with Molly and Tip (Day 30).  Even so, to complete and learn from this experiment was not a sacrifice.

My Big Takeaway!  I realized that when I sit with Hannah each evening, it’s a time for us to reflect: reflect on our day, reflect on the people we dealt with, and reflect on our days ahead.  I know I could sit in reflection without wine, but for me, wine and reflection go hand in hand.

For those keeping score, on the first day after, I had veggies and humus rather than a glass of red wine with Hannah.  The second day I had wine with Hannah!  And the next day, too, and on this past Thursday a fine Tributary craft beer with my ping pong playing buddy George.

Do it again?  Nope.  Been there, done that!

Dan Attempts a 30-Day Cleanse – Days 29-30 – Crossing the Finish Line (11 of 12)

August 8 Day 29 – It’s a travel/pickleball day as I am ready for the checkered flag.  Leaving Fredericton, New Brunswick in light rain at 530A, Hannah and I have 360 miles to our home on Chases Pond Road.  Midway, we break for two hours of pickleball at the Armstrong Tennis Center in Bangor.

Once home, we get a mid-afternoon call from Carolyn to play even more pickleball here in York Harbor.  Jumping at the chance to whack the yellow wiffle ball with Milt and Bob, we play for ninety minutes more.

After showering, I sit with Hannah on our front deck in what has become our routine for the last month – red wine for Hannah and air-popped popcorn for me.  Believe it or not, it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice.   Of course, Day 1 of What’s Next is just two days away!

August 9 – Day 30 – If you don’t think the Universe has a sense of humor, you haven’t been paying attention.

Cleanse - Ruby's

Pickleballers (Molly, Tip, Hannah, Water Drinker) celebrating at Ruby’s

Six weeks ago, before any of this 30-day experiment stuff, Hannah and I set up a Friday afternoon of pickleball with our daughter Molly and her husband Tip, followed by happy hour half-priced margaritas and dinner at Ruby’s, a local pub.

Being my final day, I sip water while Hannah and Molly have a margarita.  It’s one final test.

I passed.

 

Note bene.  Next Saturday, I’ll post what I learned and what the future holds.

Dan Attempts a 30-Day Cleanse – Days 27-28 – Coming Around the Far Turn (10 of 12)

August 6 Day 27 – Stunningly distracted by hiking in the Cape Breton Highlands Provincial Park in Nova Scotia with Hannah, 800 miles from home in York, Maine, I think little of the grape or the malt. After three hikes today, we return to our friend Laverne’s B&B for evening wine, no wine, and dinner.

Cleanse Beddeck River

Looking to the Baddeck River from the deck of Laverne’s Baddeck Riverside B&B

You know, it’d be nice to celebrate our return to Cape Breton with a glass of wine with Hannah, Laverne, and her husband Gordon.  But I’m so close to my goal, so I enjoy their company and sip my water happily.  Funny, within five minutes of sitting together, I forget about their wine and enjoy our evening on their front deck above the Riviere Baddeck.

August 7 – Day 28 – On our last day in Nova Scotia, I wake before Hannah after seven hours of uninterrupted sleep.  Hold the presses!  Could it be the no alcohol regimen is having an effect?  Perhaps, it’s yesterday’s exhausting day of hiking in Cape Breton?  Maybe it’s the comfortable B&B bed with Hannah?  Probably a muddle of all three.

You tell me if this would be a legitimate variation on my 30 days without wine. And did I blow it by not invoking this option?

Cleanse Beddeck H, Laverne, Gordon

Here’s the set up.  Arriving this late afternoon back in Fredericton, NB after a 400 mile drive from Cape Breton, NS, we are again offered wine by friends Bill and Karen.  In fact, this is the fifth night in a row where we are/would be sharing wine with rarely-seen friends from Au Canada.  (You see, we meet up with Bill and Karen once every two years and haven’t seen Laverne and husband Gordon in five!)

What if I had taken a five-day break in my 30 days of no alcohol to celebrate evenings with long lost friends and then picked up the challenge upon our return to York?  Make it a 35-day challenge with a five day friendship hiatus?  Though that’s not technically a 30-consecutive-day experiment, these are unusual circumstances, yes?

What do you think?

Dan Attempts a 30-Day Cleanse – Days 23-26 – Au Canada (9 of 12)

Cleanse veggies on the deck

Veggies and humus on our front deck

August 2 Day 23 – Hannah and I leave early tomorrow for Au Canada.  It’ll be Canada Dry for me (You see what I did there?)

This evening it’s Just another day at the office -veggies instead of red wine.

August 3 – Day 24 – When on the road, opportunities abound to celebrate with a beer or a glass of wine.  Looking for reasons to celebrate can become a way of life.

Cleanse -PB bangor.jpg

For example, on our way to Canada, we pickle at the Armstrong Tennis Center in Bangor, Maine.  By early afternoon, we arrive at the visitor center in Houlton, Maine, the Gateway to the Maritime Provinces of Canada.  Later, breaking for lunch, we usually have a beer with our Subway subs.  Today, Hannah carries on the tradition while I celebrate with my sparkly water.  Party on, Dan, party on!

Arriving at the home of longtime friends Bill and Karen in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, we usually toast our friendship with a glass of wine or two.  You know where I am going with this, don’t you?   I’m so close to my 30-day goal with no alcohol, it’s not hard to sip my sparkly water while the others enjoy the grape.

Cleanse - daring greatly

August 4 – Day 25 – Chilling on a day in Fredericton, the provincial capital of New Brunswick, we walk, sit over conversation, and read.  Finishing reading of Daring Greatly (2012) by Brene Brown on the power of vulnerability to make us all more compassionate, connected, and have a sense of belonging, I find the excerpt below by Teddy Roosevelt with which she opens the book speaks to me.

It is not the critic that counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles; or where the doer of deeds could have done better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred with dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs; who comes up short again and again.

There is no effort without error and shortcoming; who knows if he fails, he at least fails while daring greatly.

In my modest way, I step into this arena of a month of no alcohol.  Still going strong, with no certainty that I’ll prevail over Demon Rum (metaphorically speaking).

Cleanse - Hannah and Laverne

Hannah and Laverne in Cape Breton

August 5 – Day 26 – On the north coast of Nova Scotia prior to our hike at Cape George on the Northumberland Strait, we lunch on Subway subs, sipping, as I have for the last 3+ weeks, a cool fresh sparkly water.  Not feeling tempted by the Red Hook brew of Hannah’s, I can see the finish line at midnight on August 9.  Then later I reminded of the place for friendship and wine in Cape Breton.

Arriving at the Baddeck (Nova Scotia) Riverside B&B where Hannah and I stayed five years prior to biking the 190 miles Cabot Trail, we are offered wine before dinner by our friend/innkeeper Laverne Macrae.  I do miss toasting the bond of our friendship with their red wine.  Thankfully I have Hannah, ever the trooper, who for five more days will be drinking for two!  Someone’s got to do it!

Dan Attempts a 30-Day Cleanse – Days 19-22 – Proper Mindset (8 of 12)

July 29Day 19 – Checking out links online regarding 30-day experiments, I see one titled, The Pitfalls of 30 Day Alcohol Free Challenges.   Hmmm.  Just might have a tip or two for me.

Cleanse - Mindset

And it does.  Look at the positive.  Enter this with what you’re going to gain, not what you’re going to give up.  Mindset is the probably single biggest predictor of your success.  I think the biggest mistake people make is that they go into this thinking about what they are giving up…

I’m so on board with this mindset thing.  Going into this experiment as a learner, I am curious what I might discover about myself and alcohol.  At no time has this lab experiment seemed like a sacrifice or a burden.  Stay tuned.

July 30 – Day 20 – The ritual of an evening glass of wine is deeply rooted in me. Later in life, my parents had a cocktail in the evening.  Their focus was more than just having a drink, it was a time to connect with each other.  As I look back on it, it was a time to pause, listen, reflect, and be heard.  Hannah and I carry on that tradition.

Cleanse two glasses of wine

No doubt, my early evening ritual of wine with Hannah nurtures our relationship and reminds us that we must pay attention to it so it continues to flourish.  But do we really need the grape to make it happen?

July 31 – Day 21 –   With ten days to go, I’m ready to put the 30-day experiment behind me.  No need to panic for those of you pulling for me to make all 30 days.  I am ready to wrap up, not to have a drink on Day 31, but to begin the next phase of my choices with alcohol.

Cleanse - Beaudoins and Sue

Pickleballers

August 1 – Day 22 – Today was one of those moments with a beer that I won’t pass up once this experiment is finito.

On a warm, muggy morning here in York, Hannah and I play pickleball with skilled players, Fran, his brothers Ray and John, and Sue.  All soaked with sweat after two plus hours of good play, we return to our front porch for celebratory Pabst Blue Ribbons.  If you were here, you would have seen five beer drinkers and one sparkly water hold out in a blue shirt and orange baseball cap.  Really, it wasn’t hard, but sharing a brew with friends is an experience I’ll relish down the road.

With eight more days to go, I am not concerned with the light at the end of tunnel.  I believe that I’ll finish the 30 days without any drama.  Pretty cocky, you might think.  Time will tell if my confidence is misplaced or not.  Don’t touch that dial.