England, Wales and Scotland

I was only going to be in England for about a day as I’d arranged, what was originally going to be, a climbing weekend with friends in North Wales that weekend. There’s nothing much exciting to report from that day! I drove up to North Wales that afternoon and evening and was the last to get there. Partly that was because I had the furthest to go to get there but it was also partly due to having a lazy start to the day. Which I needed after the last couple of weeks!

Next day say Sarah, Simon and I going for a hike while the others went of climbing. Simon was also having elbow problems and Sarah doesn’t really climb anymore so at least I had non-climbing company. We had a really nice 9 and a half mile hike with some beautiful views in an area none of us had hiked in before. The company was also excellent! I even coped with the uphill OK which was good given my lack of recent uphill experience – Nova Scotia doesn’t have the biggest hills! Photos are here. An enjoyable evening was then spent catching up with friends.

The following morning the weather was, frankly, a bit minging and no one was in much of a rush to leave. Eventually people did start to leave and I agreed to go with Sarah to find a geocache about 100m down an old mine. She had forewarned me about this plan and I had wellies with me! There was a little bit of crawling at the start but it quickly opened out into quite a big tunnel and the cache was pretty easy to find. After that we caught up with some of the others before everyone headed their own way. I hadn’t really had enough of North Wales so after a short while looking around the shops I went for a short hike in the rain. I was rather taken by how attractive Llyn Elsi was, even in the rain, and I’ll have to try to go back on a nicer day. Photos are here – taken on my phone as I didn’t take my decent camera due to the weather.

After a night at my parents I was off again, this time to Edinburgh to see a potential job and have an informal interview. I, informally, got offered the job and I’m probably going to take it but won’t write more here to things are more firmed up. The only down side to the whole trip was Ryan Air! Think I’ll try Easyjet next time I fly that route. And if I do end up on Ryan Air I’ll just pay the extra for extra leg room etc.

After that I was back at my parents where I had a pretty lazy few days. The next thing of any real note that I did was visit Mistley Place Park, a sort of animal sanctuary near my parents where there are some pretty cool animals and where I took quite a lot of photos. Highlights have to be the cool chickens, the colourful grouse and the ferrets. The next day I went and had a barbecue at my brother’s and got to see my niece for the first time. Which of course was wonderful. Even if she didn’t seem to like me touching her. She’d be all smiles looking at me but as soon as I touched her they’d be crying. Still she is only a few months old so I can’t really expect her to be logical!

Next I headed up North to catch up with those climbing friends that couldn’t make my weekend meet and those that aren’t climbers! Nothing too exciting to report although it was nice to catch up with people. Did go for a short walk at Curbar and took some photos, while just about avoiding the rain. Later that week I also went for a walk around the Naze, which is near my parents house. Again nothing too exciting to report, although, again, there are photos. That week I also finally managed to get in a swim in the sea at Clacton. I’d been meaning to do this ever since my parents moved there but for various reasons it had never happened so it was nice to finally get it in especially as they may be moving soon.

I’d arranged to stay at my brother’s the night before I flew back to Canada. They’re about an hour nearer Heathrow than my parents and it would also give me more of a chance to catch up with them and see my niece again – although her response was much the same as before! Next day I was on my way back to Canada. Nothing exciting to report this time – thankfully no car problems! I didn’t get up to anything exciting on the Sunday and then it was back to work. And there ends this post!


SMBE and Norway

My trip to SMBE in Vienna was not exactly direct. I flew Halifax to Toronto on the Friday evening, Toronto to London on the Saturday and London to Vienna on the Sunday. The things I’ll do to avoid a red-eye flight! There isn’t anything too exciting to report about the trip – it all went pretty smoothly. Well apart from falling between the train and the carriage at the airport when I tried getting up the step onto the train with a heavy bag and without using my (injured) right arm. That didn’t go so great although it all ended OK. I decided to just use my injured arm in future!

The conference itself was OK. As it happened that wasn’t too much relevant to my current work but as you don’t normally know the program until after you’ve booked that’s always a possibility – previous years have had more of relevance to what I’m currently doing. Still there was more of relevance to my previous work and I got quite a bit of interest in my poster so it was by no means a waste of time. I took one afternoon off from the conference to look around Vienna. It’s a very nice city and I can see why it’s so highly thought of. That said a lot of the architecture is from a period of history I’m not that interested in. Old history, more than about six or seven hundred years, yep interested. Modern history the last hundred and fifty years or so, yep interested. The bit in between not so much for some reason. Still had a nice time looking around – including going up a couple of towers in the cathedral. One had a lift (elevator). The other involved lots of circular stairs that got you rather dizzy! Was worth it for the view. Photos of Vienna are here.

The only other thing of note to report of the conference was the conference dinner. The dinner itself was OK but nothing special but I somehow ended up in a gay bar in the early hours of a morning. We were a large group so no one bothered us and it was all quite sociable. The three older ones amongst us – by which I mean those of us in our thirties – left at about 3am and left the youngsters to it! The train journey to the airport the next day wasn’t so much fun but I was OK by the time of the flight. I was glad I didn’t have an earlier flight!

Next I headed to Norway to catch up with Jen. The original plan had been to go climbing but my elbow ruled that out so we mostly went hiking and sight seeing. I arrived the Friday evening and we sat around chatting for a bit before heading to bed. In the daylight. Not a surprise as we were north of the Arctic circle in summer but still a little odd! Next day Jen and Rich the main event was a walk up Straumsaksla. The Norwegians sure like building their paths straight up the hillside! It wasn’t the greatest height gain but the very steep path made it feel quite hard – to me at least. Still the views were worth it. The next day the weather interfered with our plans a bit so it turned into mostly a driving tour. It was still very pretty though – see lots of photos. There was also a camp Polar Bear which was amusing.

The Monday saw us heading to Senja – an island south of Tromso. We only just got on our intended ferry which thankfully mean we didn’t have to wait the two hours or so for the next one. Once on Senja the weather didn’t exactly play ball and most of the upper half of the fjords were in clouds. Still there were plenty of hints about how attractive it could be. There was also the Senja troll – a tacky tourist attraction we didn’t pay to actually go and visit properly. Towards the end of the day we went for a short hike and wild camping being a big thing in Norway we decided to just camp on the beach at the start of the hike – so not really wild but you know what I mean. Photos from the day are here.

The weather the next day was not so great for the first part of the day so there was some ore driving and sight seeing before we walked in to see a waterfall, which the low clouds didn’t really affect. The weather started to clear up later in the day and we did a hike to an absolutely gorgeous alpine lake. I was rather pleased I chose that hike out of the two that Jen suggested. Of course I have no idea what the other one was like but I have no regrets about doing this one! It also included some rather nice views of the surrounding mountains. We then spent another night wild cmaping – again rather near the road. Photos from the day are here.

Wednesday was to be our last day on Senja and the weather was finally nice pretty much all day. We only did one short hike that day but it was still a wonderful day. Beautiful fjords – now visible in all their glory, idyllic beach and cool sights – including fish drying all made for a brilliant day. It so very nearly all went wrong when we went to get the ferry back as we were the penultimate car to get on the ferry and others missed it. But it didn’t go wrong so instead we had a nice end to our trip to Senja. Yes, the weather could have been better but it was still wonderful. Photos from the day are here.

Thursday was the day I was to fly on to England but first we took a cable car to the top of a hill overlooking Tromso. The views were pretty spectacular. On the way to the airport we dropped Jen off at her work where I was able to see a rather less camp Polar Bear and then my Norway adventure was over and I was on my way to England. Not that I’d spend many of the next few days actually in England but that’s for the next post. The final photos from Norway are here.


More time away – including Puffins!

The weekend after I got back from Newfoundland I was once again heading away. This time to the area around Parrsoboro in Nova Scotia. As the crow flies this is really quite close to Wolfville but it’s about a three hour drive due to the Minas Basin getting in the way. I drove round on the Saturday morning and went to Thomas Cove and hike the trails there. Some nice coastal scenery which seemed really quite different to the coast on the other side of the Minas Basin. It bore some resemblance to the cliffs around Blomidon – not surprising given how close they are – but were generally lower and steeper. There was also a nice little estuary. Photos are here.

Next up I did the hike to Wards Fall. This trail was technically closed, and indeed many of the bridges were either out or very damaged, but it was still easily passable. The falls themselves are not meant to be as impressive as they once were since the rock shifted and hid half of them. I’d have to agree that I was certainly were not the most spectacular waterfall ever (photos). Having finished the hike I drove to my campsite for the night passing a small collection of old cars on the way – I think they were acting, at least in part, as an advertisement for a museum. That was even on old London Cab. And there are photos. Having brought dinner I went and ate it at a small park by a lighthouse. The lighthouse had been moved from several miles away to stop it falling into the sea but it was still all rather attractive (photos).

Sunday saw me hiking Kenomee Canyon. This was an enjoyable, if not spectacular, 11 mile hike that also included several stream crossing. Most of the crossing involved getting your lower legs wet but by the end of the hike all of me was getting wet as it had started to rain quite hard. Still it was nice to get another long hike in. I didn’t take too many photos but those I did take are here.

The following Saturday I hiked to Roxbury. This was an abandoned community about 5 miles down a dirt road. Technically I believe it’s still classified as a road but you’d need a pretty beefy vehicle to get down it. Most people, including me, walk. There wasn’t a whole lot to be seen of the old community although there were grave stones, an old dam and old wells. There were also turtles, butterflies and attractive lakes. All in all an enjoyable hike. Photos are here. The next day I did some macro photography at the research station (photos) and saw a wasp? that was half green. Which was odd. Still think I could improve my macro photography!

That week I remembered to look into Puffin tours and decided that I’d really have to go before I left for Europe as the puffins would likely be gone by the time I got back and could go on one. That left that weekend. So after some crazy organizing I left on Friday morning heading towards cape Breton. I took a rather circuitous route as I decided to explore the coast north of Halifax on the way – somewhere I’d never been before. My main stop was at Taylor Head Provincial Park where I did a hike recommended in the Nova Scotia hikes book. It was rather overgrown in places and having reached the end of it I realised I may have been better off doing one of the hikes that started from there. Still it was reasonably pretty (photos). Having got myself some dinner I drove to Cape Breton and camped for the night.

The next day I first headed to Baddeck where I did some shopping – mostly presents for my new niece before heading to the puffin tours. The puffin tour was pretty cool although the puffins were even smaller than I’d realised and quite hard to see. They also fed eagles from the boat and they took (dead) fish out of the water from really close to boat. They moved so quickly that photography wasn’t easy and indeed my best photo was a little out of focus. I also suffered from allergies for most of the trip but it was totally worth all the driving to see the puffins and the eagles. Oh, and the seals. Unsurprisingly there are a large number of photos.

After the Puffin Tour I hiked to Uisage Ban Falls and got, what in my opinion are, some really nice waterfall photos. On the drive back to mainland Nova Scotia I stopped to take some photos of the cool flowers I’d been seeing everywhere before going for a short walk just as the sun was setting (photos). I had some adventures finding the campsite where I was staying that evening but eventually settled down for the night.

The next day I explore more of the coastline north of Halifax, just this time further north. I did quite a bit of driving exploring but there was nothing two exciting – just some mildly interesting lighthouses (photos). By the time I got to the hike I intended to do it was already getting on quite a bit and so I turned round after about a quarter of the loop as the hike seemed hard going along the shore and not massively exciting. Things did improve a bit on the way back as the weather improved but I still think I made the right decision to turn around. Photos are here.

After that I headed along the shore to an old ship apparently abandoned on the shore that I’d spotted on the way up. It’d been mostly dark on the way so I decided to stop to stop on the way back to take some photos. The ship is apparently the Mary Joseph, an old coastguard ship, that was brought to be converted into a yacht. Then there was a fire on it so that put pay to that plan and so it languished in Halifax Harbour for some years. Eventually it was brought by someone and towed to it’s current location. Their plan was to scrap it but they didn’t realise they’d need permits and all sorts of training to do that so it just sits there while they sort all that out. All rather eerie. After that I stopped briefly at Taylor Head again to see a bit more of the beach area I’d barely seen on the way up (photos) before heading home.

The next Friday I started my trip to Europe and more on that in my next post. My elbow was still not better in case you were wondering!


A quiet May, New Brunswick and Newfoundland

The rest of May after I got back from Ithaca was rather quiet – with a couple of exceptions. The day after I got back from Ithaca I went for a hike at the research station where I work but I don’t remember anything about it. Then again I’ve hiked there before and although it’s a nice hike it’s nothing too special so there probably wasn’t anything exciting to report anyway! One of the exciting things I did do in May was do a three day sight seeing trip to New Brunswick. But as is my way with such trips I’ve written that up in a separate section rather than on the blog and you’ll find it here.

The following weekend I ended in Halifax on the Saturday and went for a short hike nearby before heading home. It was getting dark and it was mainly through woods so there’s no photos but it was nice to get some exercise in. On the Sunday I hike a bit more of the Woodville trails as part of my attempt to walk pretty much the entire trail system. I either didn’t take any photos or I mislaid them. Shocking I know!

Look at that, we’re already up to the last weekend in May and the second interesting thing. It was the Apple Blossom weekend around here that weekend and as part of the festival there’s a carnival in Kentville on the Saturday which I went to with Zoë, a colleague from work. It was all a little bizarre – marching bands, the military, cars from the local car dealerships and best of all the Shriners. Apparently they’re a staple at these events in many parts of North America driving their miniature cars. Photos are here. As it was still rather early by the time it finished I went for a hike afterwards. I’d found what looked like a nice hike on a map that was on an abandoned railway line and went past a couple of lakes. I was pleased when it did turn out rather nice – well apart from the bugs. I took photos! Sunday I went for a swim and got kicked in the face by a young girl that swam across my lane without looking. I turned, pushed off the wall and went straight into her foot. No idea how I didn’t end up with a black eye.

The next week I went to the physio for the first time as my elbow had been hurting for a while and a break from climbing hadn’t helped. Turns out that he thinks I have tennis elbow and that I’ll be off climbing for sometime to come. Just as it’s becoming proper climbing weather as well! 🙁 That weekend I headed off to Newfoundland for a week sightseeing. Again that is covered elsewhere. One thing that did happen while I was there was I spoke to a man about a job in Edinburgh. I was sat in the national park visitors center – since it had free WiFi, which made the whole experience rather odd. Still it seemed to go well. That’s got to be the shortest post I’ve done in a while but it’s a natural break point so I’ll leave it there.

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I was only in Nova Scotia a couple of days before I was off on my way back to America, this time for work, but first I was taking a few days off in upstate New York. I had visited the area way back in 2005 and there were some really nice waterfalls in the area so it seemed rude not to visit them again if I was going to be so close. My trip to Ithaca was not the smoothest trip I’ve ever had. I was the closest I’ve ever been to being turned back at US immigration – they weren’t entirely happy about the purpose of my trip and whether it crossed from meeting (allowed) to work (not allowed). And then at Newark we sat on the ground for a while while United tried to work out what to do about the fact that no one had told another crew they were meant to be deadheading on our flight – in the end we left without them.

By the time I got to Ithaca I only really had time to find some food, some beer and head to my campsite. I’d decided that while I’d still visit the really well known waterfalls in the area again I’d also try and see some of the more out of the way places. So next day I headed of to Chimney Bluffs State Park. This was on the shores of Lake Ontario and contained some rather interesting rock – well almost mud – coastal formations. I hiked along the top of the cliff before trying to come back along the shore line – something recommended in the hiking book I had for the area. I suspect there had been quite a few fallen trees since the book was written as going back along the sure was hard work – I gave up for the last bit and scrambled up the, by that point, very low but very muddy cliff to follow the path again. Photos are here. I next headed to Sterling Nature Centre where I had a nice hike amongst the wetlands. The highlight has to have been seeing quite a few nesting herons although they were quite far off and I didn’t have a big enough lens to get great photos.

Next day saw me heading to Carpenter Falls. The main falls were reasonably close to the road and semi-popular despite their relative isolation and lack of signage. The position of the sun made getting decent photos a little difficult although I did take rather a lot in an attempt to get some. I then followed the river downstream to another falls and eventually to a lake. This part was rather quieter although other than the falls and the lake there wasn’t a whole lot to see. After that I headed to Tinker Falls. This was a nice little falls which you could get behind – indeed a path even went behind and climbed up to the top on the other side. So of course I did that! Once up the top I headed to a nice overlook – apparently a hand glider launch point although there were none there when I was there. Once back at my car I walked round a broadwalk which was in the same area. Although by this time it was getting a little late I still decided to head to Green Lakes State Park as I’d originally planned although I ended up doing a shorter hike. At first it was a little disappointing and I was unsure where the “Green Lakes” name came from but as I got further round the lake it became more obvious. Tinker Falls photos are here and Green Lakes here.

The next day was Sunday and my last touristy day before working for the rest of the week. This was the day when I hit the more touristy, bigger, waterfalls I’d seen before. First up were the falls at the state park where I’d been camping – Taughannock Falls State Park. Thankfully I was up early enough to avoid the crowds when I walked down the gorge to see the falls. After spending some time taking photos I walked the trail around the top of the gorge which included seeing another small waterfall. I next headed to Buttermilk Falls State Park which, while not having a single such spectacular falls, had a gorge with a lot of smaller ones. I walked up the main gorge before deciding to turn round and head back to the car and take that to the upper bit to save time. Can’t remember exactly why I ended up deciding I was glad I hadn’t walked to the upper bit but I know I definitely did decide that! Anyway there are lots of photos again.

Work started the next day and it was a very productive week. There is a gorge that runs between Cornell University and downtown Ithaca and I ended up hiking it twice on the last work day – once in the morning on the way as I wanted to take some photos and then again in the evening when I joined every one else in walking downtown to get food – the later hadn’t been planned as otherwise I doubt I’d have done it in the morning as well! That means some of these photos are from the morning and some from the evening.

My travel adventures weren’t limited to getting to Ithaca as I had fun getting back as well. There was an aborted landing at Newark as the pilots couldn’t see the runway despite getting down to within a couple of hundred feet of it. The fog was pretty bad – I hadn’t even been aware we’d got that close to the ground until the pilot told us! So we diverted to a small airport in Pennsylvania where they offloaded us and we sat in the airport for a couple of hours. While we were there they rebooked those of us with missed connections, which included me, onto later flights. After what I think was an hour and a half or so we were on our way again but I now had some time to kill at Newark. When I eventually arrived at the gate for my flight for Halifax they were looking for volunteers to come off the flight and offering $500 in travel vouchers if you did. I chatted with them about how they would then get me to Halifax – either a connecting though Toronto and arriving in Halifax around midnight or the same flight the next day. As they’d already mucked me around so much that day I decided 500 dollars was too much to turn down so took the Toronto connection option. The nice lady at the gate managed to turn it into 600 dollars and they also gave you 30 dollars in food vouchers. All in all I’d say it was worth arriving even later in Halifax even if it did mean a tired trip home – I’d been at Ithaca airport about 5am!

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