Fall Hikes

Let the record show…I did some hiking in 2015…

September 5,  Taylor Head Full Meal Deal

This was a challenging hike. The pace Jim set was just short of a run and it had rained in the morning so all of the exposed tree roots were slippery as heck! From the map: http://www.novascotiaparks.ca/brochures/TaylorHeadTrail.pdf the total distance is about 17.3km. We did the loop sections in a figure eight pattern., stopped for lunch, and went to a pub afterwards for dinner. It was a great day. These are the hikes I love!

September 12,  Memory Lane

Memory Lane Heritage Village is an award winning living history museum depicting coastal rural life in Nova Scotia during the 1940s, including life during and after the Second World War.

Costumed animators greet you, happy to share stories and knowledge of life in the 1940s. In the Webber House you can sit in the parlour, listening to the wartime broadcast. There’s an icehouse, and great photo opportunities in the barn and wood & metal workshop. Live chickens, sheep and cats were on the loose. 

Unfortunately, I arrived with a 4G card in my Nikon…that filled up pretty quick. Rookie mistake. I resorted to taking pictures on my iPhone.

September 20, Crowbar Lake Trails


Meh! Not too bad at all…I did manage to get a few pictures but they were an afterthought and it shows.

October 3,  Mystery Hike

This was another of Susan’s hikes. Always interesting. We started out at the Farmer’s Market in Wolfville, did a short hike at the Agricultural Center, back to a church in Wolfville for an African Drumming lesson, off to Blomidon Winery and finally to the beach.

October 10 Cape Split Fall Colors

A 17k hike on a beautiful Saturday afternoon…and on my way to Yarmouth…How could I resist?

October 24, Ladies Only Trail Build

This one was a lot of work…I was on the axe all day.

November 1, Polly Cove Ocean Hike

A great ocean hike between West Dover & Peggy’s Cove. Trails, rock walking, some steep rocky climbs, and some really cool caves.

November 11, Remembrance Day Hike at Cape Split

This was a great way to commemorate Remembrance Day. We had 2 minutes of silence just as we started out at 11am and lunch on the bluff.



OK. It’s been awhile. But there’s no time like the present to get caught up. Right?

I spent the summer of ’15 hiking, camping, cottaging, and generally enjoying the blessings of being from the east coast of Canada.  Trails Nova Scotia provides maps and details on over 200 trails in the province…and I’ve been to SO many places I didn’t know existed!

Everytime I ‘discovered’ a new hike or beach, I felt a little panicked that there was no way I was going to keep all these places sorted out. Thus…my personal inventory of the places I’ve been and places I want to visit again…In case my my memory fails me before my knees do…

Colpitt Lake Trail

An early May hike around Colpitt Lake with some wonderful water views as well as some  city landscapes. You don’t have to go far from the city to get back to nature…exposed bedrock, rough glacial terrain, a little bush whacking…a little more bush whacking..

Do It Like Moses..Walking on the ocean floor in the Bay of Fundy

Hiking along the Bay of Fundy from Soley Cove to Five Islands Park.  We started the hike about two hours after high tide, giving us plenty of time to explore the bottom of the bay.  This is much the same route followed by runners in the “Not Since Moses” event. http://www.notsincemoses.com/ About 8 km of amazing shoreline that is covered by up to 45 ft. of water at high tide!

Purcell’s Cove

On Canada Day we took on steep hills, water crossings, and rough trails in the Purcell’s Cove backlands; hiked to a lookoff, touched on Colpitt and Flat Lakes before heading back down to Teabag Lake for a swim.

The Western Shore

This Western Shore day wasn’t so much of a hike as an adventure. We started out with an Intro to Rock Hounding session presented by the President of Scotian Lapidary at the Lookoff Family Campground, in Canning. Once we knew what to look for we moved on to Scot’s Beach (where rocks find their way down from Amethyst Cove) for some rock hounding and then to Halls Harbour, a very picturesque village outside Canning. Finally, we headed to  Blue Beach (a beach full of fossils) for an early evening bonfire. The step count wasn’t really up there, but I had just visited four places I didn’t know existed. Score!


Duncan’s Cove

Duncan’s Cove is about 20 min outside of Halifax. It’s a very scenic 7 Km hike that takes about two hours unless you’re hiking with a group of photographers in which case you should book off four or five hours…There’s lots to take photos of…


Taylor Head Provincial Park

Taylor Head Provincial Park is located southwest of Sheet Harbour and occupies a rugged wind swept peninsula that juts 6 km into the Atlantic Ocean. Taylor Head offers three different hikes so you can hike 2, 9, or 17 kl. I love the 17 kilometers along the ocean. This one I’ll do again…


Brule Shore

Looking at my pictures, it looks like our week at the Brule shore was all about the sunsets. They were spectacular, but we also made it to the Seafoam Lavender Farm, the Lismore Sheep Farm,  the Tatamagouche Butter Trail, had back yard bonfires, and played ladder golf…Where are those pictures?? Anyway…the sunsets were like this…

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Off we went to another round of Big Dam Frozen Ocean canoeing. Last year we did this loop in a weekend and this year we promised ourselves we’d  take more time, more pictures, more swimming…As luck would have it we picked that week in August that saw temperatures hitting 40 degrees in the city…What a week to be in the backcountry…

Micous Island

Micous Island is a 22-acre tidal island located near the eastern shore of St. Margarets Bay. The island is accessible by a sandbar at low tide. In 2007, the island was purchased through a community fundraising campaign and is now being cared for jointly by the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources and the St. Margarets Bay Stewardship Association.

We got a guided tour of the island from Mike Lancaster with some history and lots of tree theory (He’s a Forestry grad…)

So…that was summer 2015! Nova Scotia has 7600 kilometers of coastline and over 200 mapped hiking trails; I suspect there are still a few good hikes I’ve yet to discover. I was definitely struck by how may beaches there are  and how each one is different….It seems I’m not the first person to notice this…


I’ve been back in Canada for four weeks and I finally had a chance to put together a slideshow of my time in Vietnam (10 months in 3 minutes!). It was fun to review my pictures and select from them a variety that I hope show..

  • I had a great time.
  • There was a significant amount of work involved.
  • I got to see and experience places and events I’ll never forget.
  • I loved the people I got to work with.
  • I made friends that I hope will be in my life forever.
  • Vietnam is BEAUTIFUL.

Short Days?…Short Months?…Must be Winter

December went by in a blur here in Vietnam. I started the month in the City of Phan Thiết at Bình Thuận Community College. My first thought on arriving after a six hour drive from Saigon was…”Crap…Why did I insist one week would be enough time here?!” BTCC is across the street from the beach and ten minutes away from the awesome resort area of Mui Ne where I spent a leisurely long weekend after the a week of presentations and classes…



Leaving Mui Ne we toured a Sapa Valley Wine Castle on the outskirts of town before heading to the airport. Yep…that would be Sapa Valley as in California, USA…at least that what all the labels said. Obviously, international trade has made the world a very small place…

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Back in Hanoi there were Christmas celebrations and going away dinners. Although international schools closed for the holidays and many embassies hosted holiday functions… 


Christmas Day  was a regular work day for most Vietnamese…Here the big seasonal celebration is the ‘real’ New Year (according to the lunar calendar) on January 31st . This is Tet Holiday and it is BIG…every bit as big as a western Christmas with all the same themes: family, gifts, food, parties, prayer.  January 1st may not be the official start to 2014 in Vietnam but that didn’t stop anyone from enjoying New Year’s Eve western style..er…I mean…Gangnam style!

Kien Giang Economic and Technology College


I am just finishing up two weeks working at Kien Giang Economic and Technology College. It’s amazing what you can fit into two weeks! There has been a lot of work accomplished. I taught IT classes, worked with various faculty, and we translated our way through several presentations and workshops.

Kien Giang is the Province; Rach Gia is the city. It is remote. It took us three hours to drive here from Can Tho airport, which is itself 170km south of Saigon. I’m not the only Westerner in town, but I haven’t met the other two.  People are sometimes surprised that I will travel alone to really remote areas to work. But, the truth is that when you work as an international volunteer, you are never alone. You are picked up at the airport, delivered to your accommodations, escorted to breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You are given guided tours of the area; you are provided with a full-time translator…and you always get to hang out with the brightest and most personable people. My working visit to KGTec did not disappoint.


Rach Gia is a seaside city; fishing is the main industry and very fresh seafood of all types is on every menu.(I tried jellyfish for the first time!) 

The city also has its share of history and temples and character..



I got to enjoy my first National Teacher’s Day..TeachersDay8TeachersDay4 VID00020 

On the weekend, I  traveled with several staff members to the tourist district of Ha Tien. It is at the western end of the Mekong Delta close to the Cambodian border. Although a tourist spot, it doesn’t see many western visitors due to its remoteness. 049

We bought fresh crabs and had the seaside restaurant cook them for us and swam in the Gulf of Thailand…


On the way we stopped at two mountains where stunning natural caves are used as temples.  At Da Dung Mountain a path goes around the mountain (a great up and down workout!) and there are several caves which serve as “cave temples”. It’s definitely a very special place and I’m so glad I got to visit..

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On Tuesday evening I was a judge for the First Annual Canadian- American Cultural Challenge. That was fun!..



And on my last day at KGTec, I enjoyed a review meeting and a farewell dinner to which I wore my new áo dài…(What a fantastic gift!)

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Lots of new friends and lots of memories!

Meanwhile, in the south…

009So I’m off tomorrow to Kien Giang. Had I known I would be travelling to the very south of Vietnam to work at a Community College there, I may not have decided to fly to Phu Quoc Island last weekend on a 4-day vacation. But, I had planned this getaway with a friend long before my schedule of work visits in the south were set and before Typhoon Haiyan threatened to wreak havoc in central and northern Vietnam. And that’s why I got to spend last weekend on the beach.

Phu Quoc Island is, in four words: beaches, fish, pepper, and pearls. They also have a National Park where we went kayaking and hiking, and while we had a lovely day, at the end of it our consensus was “It’s hard to impress a Canadian with lakes and forests…” Now, back to the beaches, food, and pearls…

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Watch out for low hanging bananas!


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I finally did it! I jumped into Hanoi traffic on a bike…and survived! Okay, I cheated a bit, because I chose a day-trip to Middle Island where there are no roads, no cars, no trucks, and only a handful of motorbikes…But I had to navigate Xuan Dieu and cross Au Co at Yen Phu to get there and these are some of THE worst streets in Hanoi…(I’d tell you why, except I’d insult a whole bunch of expats.)  I can’t emphasize enough what a big step this was for me. Suffice to say, I left my neighbor with specific instructions about where my passport and medical coverage documents were…just in case.

MiddleislandSo, within only a few nerve-jangling kilometers my friends and I found ourselves on the extraordinary Middle Island. Extraordinary because it is a stretch of farmland in the middle of the Red River, in the middle of Hanoi. I’m not an expert on cities (realizing THAT more and more…) but as I understand it, not many of them have urban farms where produce can be transported to markets…by motorbike of course!..within an hour.producebikePatMiddleIslandOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The pathways that run up and down Middle  Island meander through fields of corn, cabbage, sweet potato, thyme (…Oh, you should smell the thyme!) and banana palms…Bunches of bananas hanging over pathways at face level were definitely the main biking hazard. 


For the last two weeks in November I’m travelling to the much quieter Kien Giang Province…(Yeah, I know…lucky me!) and I do believe I’ll be renting a bike…

Saigon Polytechnic College and Cu Chi

2W9B6407aI have been working at Saigon Polytechnic for the past ten days. I continue to be impressed by the VACC member colleges. Again, I have arrived at a college where the administration and the staff are highly qualified, enthusiastic, and engaged. With the credentials of the faculty (many have Master degrees and a few have, or are working on, PHDs)  this could easily be a University but they have embraced the Community College model and they are focused on service to students and the community. Translated, that means the College has full classes seven days a week from 7:30am to 9:00pm to accommodate students who happen to be working. They even have an arrangement with one of the local employers for a bus to bring students, who are also employees, to and from the College.

Saigon Polytechnic is only four years old and I am the first international visitor. They have a great apartment on campus and they stocked it with coffee, crackers, treats…They also gave me my own fully equipped office…

The campus is actually located outside of Ho Chi Minh City in Cu Chi District. I knew of Cu Chi because it is where the famous Cu Chi tunnels are located. Two hundred and fifty kilometers of tunnels connecting six villages that served as headquarters for the Vietcong in South Vietnam during the war. How much nerve and ingenuity was required to live (to survive!) just 35K away from the American/South Vietnam Saigon headquarters throughout that war?  I have learned a lot about the Vietnam (American) War in the past five months but I must say the perspective from Cu Chi is much different.  While there are some fascinating stories and the war certainly set the economy back, Vietnam is a country that is looking ahead and glad to be united.

For now I’ll post some pictures of our day at the tunnels because I can hear that the volleyball game between SPC and the team from the Local Authority is starting and I must go cheer for the College!

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Pho…say that five times fast

I now understand why Vietnamese speakers, and probably more broadly Asian speakers, sound to us as if they clip some of their words short and constantly seem to drop and rise their speaking tone randomly. It’s not random…The same word can have five or six different (sometimes VERY different) meanings depending on the “tone” …flat…up…down…way down…clipped…up and down (kinda  like a question).

The key to knowing which tone to use are the tone marks…For example…

pho = rice noodle soup
phơ = euphoria
phô = city
pho’ = cheese
phố = street

I live on Phố Đuc Chinh ….As you can imagine, I have NO idea how to pronounce that correctly.

Be Where You Are…


Today I visited the Old Quarter of Hanoi for the first time in months. I needed to buy a new pair of sun glasses and I knew a street in the quarter where I could select from Dolce & Gabbana, Channel, or Ray Ban for $10 a pair. That errand done, I wandered down to Hoam Kiem Lake cursing the traffic and the crowds along the way. I was thinking about my upcoming trip to Saigon, the workshop I had to give on Wednesday, tropical storm Gabriel in Nova Scotia…

As I entered the park at the lake and walked past the Ngoc Son Temple a voice in my head, (Oh, come on! We all have them…) said,…”Be where you are.” Blame it on reading too much about Buddhism or just getting weird in my old age, but, I’ve started listening more to those voices…and I looked up…The Ngoc Son Temple  (Temple of Jade Mountain) is stunning. It was built in the 18th Century on Jade Island.  Jade Island is connected to the shore of Hoan Kiem Lake by the red, wooden The Huc (Morning Sunlight) Bridge.  I’ve included pictures of the temple and the bridge to show you just how beautiful they are. Without that voice in my head, I would have walked past…head down…negotiating with locals and tourists and vendors and motorbikes for sidewalk space. Instead I sat on a bench and watched a couple having wedding photos taken, watched tourists take pictures from the bridge, watched a group of old (old!) men practicing tie chi, and became mindful of where I was.
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Mindfulness is not a strong suite of mine. No matter where I am, my mind is usually somewhere else.

And speaking of somewhere else…
Last week I was cleaning up my photos and came across several I had taken while hiking at Sugar Moon Farm in Nova Scotia last fall… I wonder where I was thinking about that day at Sugar Moon…

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