Now I know some bloggers write a blog almost every day, but for me, fifty is a satisfying number and maybe that’s why I like the colour of the fifty-dollar bill. I might like the colour of the one hundred-dollar bill, but I’ve never spotted one. Maybe they're extinct.
We parked our vehicles next to a brand new emergency station. This little building has a land-line phone, a wood stove, a bench or two and a goodly amount of firewood. I have, at other times in my life, attempted to get trapped in one of these emergency mountain accommodations, just so my partner and I would be forced to share the hut overnight with only a little food, a large bottle of champagne and some big ideas.
But first, we had to pass a little washroom. Which always causes us to stop for a few seconds of silence. For it was here some hikers came upon a woman lying on the ground, bleeding and very close to death. Standing on her was a coyote. The hikers had shouted and thrown all kinds of things at the coyote while the coyote remained reluctant to flee his or her takeout. He did scram off eventually, but, sadly, left the woman critically injured. Apparently she was able to whisper her name before she died. A sad tragedy and a clear warning to never take wildlife for granted.
One of the characteristics of the Skyline trail is that a hiker has about an eighty percent chance of seeing a moose or two. One hiker with us had never been on this trail and he was looking forward to seeing a moose. He was hoping to get a photo of one.
Well, not too far in, we all saw a moose run across the trail in front of us. None of us was camera ready, but we all did see the moose and we all laughed and joked about how nobody had their camera or cell phone ready for the ‘BIG MOOSE PICTURE’.
About halfway down the trail is a huge, fenced-in area with two gigantic gates. This barrier protects acres and acres of land where they plan on planting about 50,000 trees. The moose have devastated the forest in this part of the highlands.
We entered through a tall gate and walked to the other end, where we exited by another tall gate. It felt like being in Jurassic Park, so I stopped snowshoeing for a brief time, and imagined feeling the vibrations of gigantic moose dinosaur feet stomping outside our fenced-in refuge. I have a vivid imagination.
At the look-out we couldn’t look out. There was nothing to see but gray snow-filled emptiness. So, as the wind attempted to gain entry to our bare skin and we bundled up tighter than ever, we ate a quick snack. Eventually, it got so blizzardy we could hardly see twenty feet in front of us. So we headed back. The snow settled down once we got into the forest.
Out by the singing rill,
Out to the edge of mystery
And the land beyond the hill.
Henry Holcomb Bennett, Adventure
The goggle wearer likes to do the selfie photo thing. This is now a very big fad. He took out his cell phone and pointed it at his face while we all stood behind him. As he took a picture of his own face, which he probably sees a lot of in the mirror, a moose chose to cross the road.
Why did the moose cross the road anyway? So he could get to the other side and give the chicken a pointer or two.
What a laugh! What a hoot! Wally getting a picture of the wrong face! But, this is what happens on these hikes and makes them so much fun.
More interesting still, if you look carefully at the picture, which I have included, you might see a strange reflection in the fella’s goggles. Doesn’t it look like a moose?
Now, I should note that I didn't group hike often when I was in Ontario, but because I’m not as familiar with Cape Breton trails and because there are a plenty of big critters around here and the terrain is much rougher than where I used to hike, I now often go on group hikes.
And, as if to remind me that it wasn’t a bad idea to be with other hikers, a coyote crossed the road in front of us as we drove to the trail head. Let me tell you, this was one healthy looking coyote. I’ve seen coyotes in Ontario and they’re not as big as this one. He was more the size of a wolf and I’ve been told these coyotes run in packs, the same as wolves. I believe they call these Cape Breton canines, coy-wolves.
Last summer I met a fella on his favourite bridge over a section of the Middle River. He told me he’d had to fight a coyote off. The coyote had been quite determined and had tried different tactics to get himself a finger-licking good meal. Luckily, this fella won the battle or he’d not have been around to tell his tale.
Anyway, there were about fifteen hikers assembling at the trailhead while four dogs excitedly scampered amongst our pack of humans as we prepared to head up the mountain. They obviously couldn’t wait for the hike to begin.
But alas, on the porch, was a poor, sad, large German shepherd type of dog. He, apparently, wasn’t allowed to go on the hike. He was howling and crying and barking and tearing back and forth across his verandah jail cell. Poor dog. Poor, poor dog and that’s what everyone was thinking. And partway up the mountain, we could still hear his sad cries of abandonment.
Speaking of up the mountain, it was up the mountain that the THING happened. The event happened. The whatever you want to call it happened. Things happen to me. It’s my tagline.
I was climbing up a fairly steep grade. I was at the tail end of the lead group, but behind me, quite far behind me, were the slowpokes.
Up, up and away I went, until, at some point, I looked down at my right foot, and lo and behold, I saw there was no snowshoe to behold.
I dropped to the ground and started digging in the snow with my ski pole. I dug and dug, as if I was looking for an avalanche victim, while the hiking party ahead of me disappeared into the forest. I dug some more and there was still no snowshoe to be found. I was a little embarrassed, because the THING had happened to me and nobody else.
I surmised that it might have come off further down the mountain. Hadn’t I realized that my snowshoe had fallen off? Apparently not. This is what other hikers and folks to whom I’ve told this tale have asked me. “Didn’t you realize your snowshoe was missing?”
“No sir. No ma'am. It was the THING that came with me and I never know where the hell it’ll show up. This incident happened and I didn’t know it happened until when it became a THING.”
I think this part of the blog might confuse you and my editor, bless her heart.
(Note from Ed: "No surprise to me!")
Anyway, I stopped and looked down the mountain. Oh god, how far down had it fallen off my footsie without my noticing it? Then suddenly I hearkened to the sound of a voice. A voice further down the mountain. The voice said, “Surely they’ll miss it eventually?”
The eventually had arrived. I shouted that it was I who had lost his snowshoe. Ha, ha, ha. And as they were all filled with mirth and laughter, guess who blew by me, sans snowshoes, and as happy as a flea on a grizzly bear? The German shepherd escapee. He was making up for lost time.
Near the end of the hike, as I walked along the Cabot Trail, snowshoes in hand, I saw a small barn. In front of the barn was a horse. I wasn’t going to take a photo of the horse until who should pop his head out of the barn entrance, but a small goat.
Now this goat had personality and even from the fair distance I was standing from the barn I could tell he was the boss. Why, it looked like the goat was saying, “Horse, what are you gawking at? Do you know that fella with the bushy beard? Do you have some business with him? Stand back, I’ll deal with it.”
I just had to take their picture. So I did.
Now isn’t that interesting?
I will sign off now and wait for the THING. It’s the THING that has helped me write fifty blogs. He or she is a rather speculative fella so I’m not evicting the THING any time soon. Not even if I could, because I have a thing for the THING.
My modus operandi this--
To take no heed of what’s amiss
And not a bad one:
Because as Shakespeare used to say
A merry heart goes twice the way
That tires a sad one.
Ellen Thorneycroft Fowler, The Wisdom Of Folly