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ravenoaks | profile | all galleries >> Galleries >> TRAVELING UP THE EVANGELINE TRAIL-COUNTRY ACADIE' tree view | thumbnails | slideshow



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How would you like to get so close to a 40 ton humpback whale that you are sprayed by the blowhole and engulfed by its bad breath? Or sample such local delicacies as a Moose Muffle (nose) Soup, Jigg’s Dinner with Figgy Duff or Rappie’s Pie? What about touring a cemetery on a full moon night to see the oldest grave stone in North America by lantern light? Or looking over an ocean cove filled with 30 feet of water, only to be walking on its sea floor 12 hours later? How about a personal tour of dragger from the famous Digby Nova Scotia scallop fleet including the wheel house and engine room by the captain? Would you be interested in touring the one of the first tide powered electric generating power plant in North America? How about exploring Kejimkujik National Park to view the petroglyphs which are part of the largest collection of Aboriginal rock carvings in northeastern North America? Or at Grande Pre’,you can stand on a dike over nine miles long built by hand by the Acadians over 200 years ago to create over 3,000 acres of farm land, all below sea level. These were just a few of the adventures Sara and I experienced while we stayed in the wonderful Annapolis Valley bordering the Eastern shore of Fundy Bay.

We decided that before we left Canada, the Evangeline Trail running from Yarmouth on the southern tip of Nova Scotia up the inner shore of the Fundy bay to Truro was a must see. The trail is named for that famous poem by Longfellow which describes the tragic “Le Grande Derangement” of the Acadians from the shores of this Annapolis Valley in the heart of the trail. This forced removal of 10,000 Acadians was the British “final solution”. The action scattered Acadians to all parts of the globe and each year thousands flock to the Evangeline Trail or their beloved “Acadie” (act ah dee) to honor their fore bearers and the many that perished.

Our first adventure and probably the most memorable was a whale watch off Brier Island on the tip of a long finger called the Digby neck. The trip to the whale watch required two ferry crossings over a highway that passed through several small fishing villages. On the way we stopped to view the many rearing weirs where Atlantic salmon are raised to market size in large net like enclosures. With the decline in the cod fishing, these aqua farms have been a needed boast to the local economy.

We stopped at a local fish shop and marveled at the size of the famous Digby scallops, a no-no for Don due to allergic reactions of the most disgusting nature. But there was lobster, clams, haddock, cod, oysters, salmon and crab to choose from. Everything in the case was fresh from the nearby sea. Sara looked over future grandchildren clothes with little whales on them but prudently decided to wait.

We arrived at Brier’s Island and boarded the boat with about 20 others for the 45 minute trip out to the “whale ledges”. Our guide explained that when the warm waters of the Fundy Bay hit ledges far out in the ocean, millions of tons of the small plants and animals are thrust up over a hundred feet from the ocean floor. This creates a literal “dining room table” for several species of whales and that is where we were headed. Not everyone enjoyed the trip, as a few of our fellow travelers got sea sick, but Sara and I had our sea legs and were on the watch for whales. During the trip our guide pointed out several sea birds, including the red phalarope, much to the delight of Sara as her life list now tops 120 birds. Then we saw our first fin break the water’s surface and from then on it was incredible.

These 40 ton monsters, humpbacks, would approach the boat so close that we could smell their rather fishy breath and were showered with spray from their blow holes each time they exhaled. It made a thunderous sound and three humps talked to each other in squeaks and whistles as if to say, “Let’s have some fun and get these people wet.” And that they did. There was some tail slapping and fin flipping, all to delight of the crowd
Even those who were sea sick seemed to perk up. The whales approached the boat several times, once getting so close we could have reached out and touched their slick, shiny, dark skin. We decided to not risk the long reach over the side of boat, much to the relief of our guide, and we were sad to see the group head out toward the open sea. We have been on whale watches before, but even the guide said this was one of the best. Back at the dock, the tide had dropped over 25 ft making for a steep climb out of the boat and we marveled at boats sitting on the ocean floor when just a few hours before they had been floating free.

We based our adventures on the Evangeline Trail from a RV park near the historic village of Annapolis Royal, founded in 1680 and was the capital of Nova Scotia long before Halifax even existed. The village changed hands no less than nine times between the French and the British, and it the site of Fort Anne, some of the most fought over real estate known to man. Originally named Port Royal by the French, its present name Annapolis (Anne in honor of Queen Anne of England and polis meaning city) reflects British control for the past two centuries. Annapolis does, however retain much of its French Acadian influence and culture. The bed and breakfasts in many of the old Victorian mansions are breath taking, both in architecture and price.

On the grounds of Fort Anne, Sara and I participated in a full moon tour of the oldest English cemetery in North America, carrying candle lit lanterns. It was led by a delightful Acadian, Alan Melanson, who was also the president of the local historical society, one of the oldest in all of Canada. The people of Annapolis Royal are very serious about their historical roots and have gone to extra ordinary lengths to preserve them. Dressed in full undertaker garb, complete with top hat and funeral sash, our guide, with a crisp Acadian accent that betrayed his heritage, described life at the fort for the soldiers. He then took us to the oldest grave stone in all of North America, of Bathian Douglass wife of Samuel who died in 1720 at 37. Due to a misspelling of the name Duglass by the engraver, the o is jammed in the stone almost as an afterthought.

Our guide blended stories of some of the more infamous residents of the Annapolis Royal interned at the cemetery with information on gravestone art, care of the aging stones, local landmarks, history and traditions in a patchwork of commentary, all under a full moon that left his audience in awe. At the end, there was a standing ovation, well, we were all standing anyway, but the applause was a testimony to the skills of this colorful “master of the graveyard.”

One of the stories shared on our cemetery tour related how a local innkeeper became famous for her Moose Nose Soup, a delicacy that to this day is enjoyed by the rural peoples of Nova Scotia. Fascinated, I explored the subject further only to find the recipe. A moose muffle is the nose and the pendulous, overhanging upper lip of the moose, eaten boiled, baked, or fried as a delicacy. It was prized among the Cree who boiled it and cut the muzzle into very thin slices. In 1754, Anthony Henday, exploring for the Hudson ’s Bay Company, wrote in his diary: “I dressed a lame man’s leg. He gave me a Moose nose, which is a delicate dish, for my trouble.” Moose nose makes a delicious broth and can be used for soup stock or eaten on the spot. Take one or two noses of moose and put them in the fire to burn off the nose hairs. Then carefully rub with snow if there is no water available to clean them. Drop in boiling water; drop in two fair sized onions (if tame onions are not available use sage, marjoram or squaw vine leaves.) You should carry some salt with you on the trail along with a little pepper for seasoning. You will find it makes a delicious broth if you can forget what you are eating. Moose Muffle is not recommended for trophy hunters as it louses up the head for mounting and taxidermists are dead set against Moose Muffle. A local game warden was quoted as saying that in cases of “moose hit and runs” the road side carcass is often found sans nose, a testimony to their popularity and relatively rare availability. While Sara and I didn’t have the privilege of tasting moose nose soup, presumably due to a seasonal shortage of noses, we did get the opportunity to sample two other local delicacies; Jake’s Dinner and Rappie’s Pie.

Jake’s Dinner has its origins in New Foundland and is similar to corn beef and cabbage in the States. It is usually reserved for "Sunday" or "Jiggs" dinner. This meal is not very healthy but you have to try it. It is chicken or turkey with potatoes, carrots, turnips, greens, cabbage, sweet potatoes and the famous salt beef unique to the Maritimes with dressing and gravy. Included is a yellow paste-like substance made with peas which is delicious. It is also common to have a lot of different puddings with cranberry sauce. Some examples of puddings include bread pudding, raisin pudding, blood pudding, scal pudding, molasses pudding, blackberry, partridgeberry and there are many more! It is an awesome meal and you have to try it if you every visit the Maritimes. Jake’s Dinners are a favorite of church and community groups and people drive for miles around to share in this traditional fare.

But of all the local cuisine we tried, Rappie’s Pie (Rapture) was our absolute favorite. We first sampled the store bought variety much to the chagrin of the check out clerk who pointed out the home make variety was so much better and that she was willing to share her recipe. We like the pie so much we got a recipe and made this favorite Acadian dish in the RV. We added a lot more chicken meat to the recipe than our first pie and it was so good. The ingredients include one 5-6 lb. chicken, 8 large white potatoes, and 2 medium onions, salt and pepper, 10 strips of bacon or salt pork, fried to a crisp.

Cut fowl in pieces, cover with water and cook. Add finely chopped onions, salt and pepper. Peel, wash and grate potatoes, noting how much you have in your pan. Squeeze potatoes in colander, about 2 cups at a time, until quite dry. Pack into bowl. When potatoes are all squeezed, loosen them up in a large pan. Add boiling broth from the chicken, gradually, stirring slowly with a wooden spoon. If there is not enough broth, add boiling water until you have as much potato mixture as before they were squeezed. The consistency is right when the spoon is just about able to stand in the mixture. Salt and pepper to taste. Grease 17 x 12 pan. Spread half the potatoes, distribute the chicken evenly over this. Cover with the other half of the potato mixture. Top with bacon strips and brush lightly with bacon fat to create a golden brown top. Bake at 400 degrees for 2 hours. Will be brown and crusty. It is said you will either love or hate Rappie’s Pie. We loved it!!!!

During our stay at Annapolis Royal we wandered down the Main St past the wharf only to find a small farmer’s market. We purchased apples and home made cookies and bread. I crossed the street to a dock with my basket of apples only to see a large scallop trawler or dragger as they are called by the locals. It was part of the famous Digby Scallop Fleet, the largest in the world. The boat was in dry dock and workers scrambled like bees over the huge boat, scraping, painting, replacing hull planks and pounding rope-like caulk between the seams. I saw an old man with a beard whom you could just tell was the captain and yelled, “I will give you an apple if you show me your boat.”

He yelled back with a definite French accent, “Dat is the best offer I’ve haid all dey”. Before it was over, Captain Reg had shown me the engine room with its mammoth diesel engine, the wheel house with its wall of electronic equipment, his two sons whose rough, calloused hands seem to shout the degree of hardship known only to a scallop fishermen. Reg’s prognostication of the future of the scallop fishery was not optimistic as he quoted the mountain of government regulations and rising fuel costs. He ended the conversation abruptly with, “The young people today got no interest in fishin. No future in it, to hard ah work. They ar leaving here no end.” I parted, handing Reg the basket of apples and took his picture next to the boat. The next day I returned with the framed picture with the inscription, “BONNE PECHE”, Good Fishing. He loved it and said he would hang it in the wheel house to bring good luck. I left to get another basket of apples and hoped it did.

During our stay in the Annapolis Valley, we took one day to explore Kejimkujik National Park midway between the Bay of Fundy and the Atlantic Ocean. Kejimkujik is the only inland national park in Canada and covers thousands of acres of pristine lakes. It soon became apparent that the best way to explore the park was by canoe, but we did take a hiking trail along one of the many rivers in the park to a waterfall. The day was full of light wind and sunshine and the waters of the park sparkled at every turn. Kejimkujik is the ancient homeland of the of Mikmaq Native peoples. The parks visitor center told the history of these proud people and their attempts to co- exist with the white intruders to their native land. One gets the feeling that the people of Canada have a greater respect for their aboriginals or Indian peoples than in the USA. While there are reservations, they are less obvious and a greater attempt has been made by the government to integrate the native people into general society.

Before we left Annapolis Royal, we toured one of the only five tide powered generating plants in North America. Just a mile from our campground this facility is built in 1980’s on a causeway across the St Mary River. It is hard to describe how large the tides are in this area of the Maritimes. You can stand over the water at high tide and see boats floating and a shoreline where the water meets the tree line. Hours later it is like some giant hand scooped out all the water to expose the bottom draped in sea weeds, rocks and mud flats. Boats teeter on cradle like-devises that are suspended over the sides to keep them from flopping over. Wharfs display their wood scaffolding and encrusted timbers. Unfortunately, low tide also exposes the detritus of the sea. The shore line is often littered with plastics floats, lengths of tattered polystyrene rope and rusting cans. At the causeway high tide pushes millions of gallons of water up the St Mary River channel. At the peak of high tide, gates are closed, trapping the water upstream. As the tide recedes, the water is routed through giant turbines that generate enough electricity to power most of Annapolis Royal. It seems like the ideal energy producing process until one learns that it has interfered with fish migration up the river, food chains in the bay and many fishermen will claim, decline of the lobster and scallop industry in the area.

Before we headed for the states, Sara and I visited Grande Pre’ or Grand Prairie, principle site of the “Le Grande Derangement” or the forced removal of the Acadians from Nova Scotia. At Grande Pre’, there is a huge visitor’s center dedicated to the memory of the thousands of brave souls that lost their lives in this process. Acadians from all over Canada, including Prince Edward Island, Cape Breton, Quebec, and from France, Falkland Islands, Jamaica, South America, the New England States, North and South Carolina, and Louisiana migrate back to Acadie’ to trace their roots and traditions and try to give their children a sense of their history. There is a strange combination of sadness, awe and pride drifting through the building. A multi-media presentation in a room designed to give the viewer a feeling of a ship’s hole, relives the plight of the Acadians with screams of childbirth, pain and death, and voices of the past, both British and French trying to justify, their positions. In the end, the people of Acadia lost their farms, crops, livestock and lands. Grande Pre’ has over 7 miles of dykes that created over 3000 acres of fertile farmland The dikes still stand today, built by the Acadians by hand. Imagine the anguish of losing everything you own in a matter of days. Imagine families purposely separated and placed on separate boats bound for different ports to break them up. We toured the visitor’s center for several hours and stood on the dykes near a tiny church overlooking the fields in total amazement. Any trip to the Marti times would not be complete with a trip down the Evangeline Trail.

Two days later, Sara and I crossed the border at Houlton, ME. We had spent almost two months in the Canada Maritimes. The USA with all its problems and issues is still the best place in the world to live. We take our basic freedoms and privileges for granted. It felt so good to be home.
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