I am hard pressed to imagine a better bet for a good time than to go for an all-day outdoor ramble with Cousins Lynn and Louise. We had a date with others on Saturday but when that fell through we hitched our star to the twins’ and let them lead us wherever they might. We wound up in the highlands national park where excitement began right away. Some workmen at the visitor centre showed us a creature the size of a hummingbird with the wing action of a bat. It was a moth – a big, gloriously handsome one – I reckoned as being one of the sphinx moths but with no field guide in the cabin library I shall bow to those who know better.
The four of us set out on the brookside Acadian Trail where the hardwoods – yellow birch, beech, sugar and striped maple – are already showing their autumn colours. Have you ever tried beech nuts, the darlings asked. We hadn’t, so we did and thus discovered why the local squirrel population seemed so full of vigour and good cheer.
Given a choice the twins always prefer the road less travelled: we departed the trail at its high point and followed our leaders on a wildlife track into open upland scrub. Abundant moose and bear scat had us all peeling our eyes for the producers. The sun remained behind clouds in the early going and given the chill wind, falling leaves and the gold-and-russet hillsides there was no denying that summer’s gone. We followed the perimeter of Burnt Hill encountering occasional bands of robins, jays and sparrows on their way south.
The sun broke through conveniently, at the northwestern extreme of our amble. We’d climbed to the top of the world, a local highpoint, and could see forever, or at least far enough to count the wind generators 85 km away at East Point on Prince Edward Island. At about the same distance we picked out the Magdalen Islands we’d last seen up close in 2006. By now, with the sun powering strong updrafts along the face of the ridge, a gang of freeloaders delivered a sky show. Ravens rode the thermals and showed off a typically wide repertoire of somersaults, spins and tumbles. Squadrons of bald eagles sailed past. We looked carefully at them all in hopes of finding a golden eagle among them. None materialized but a screaming red-tailed hawk and young hang-gliding goshawk provided consolation. As did a kestrel, smallest of our falcons, bulleting past our noses.
En route back down the mountain with the sun setting behind Northumberland Strait, mushrooms grabbed our attention. Legions of mushrooms, a feast for mycologists, in several varieties. Through the woods were pathways cobbled not with stones but big white mushrooms, hundreds of them, winding their way as far as we could see. What was responsible, or who? Fairies?
We spent all of the daylight, none remaining by the time the circuit was done. With that eight hours worth of fun behind us, we demanded more. The Acadian village of Cheticamp, just south of the national park, is a fishing port. At the Hometown Kitchen we all opted for fresh haddock; none of us was disappointed.
We returned in the dark, pausing at the Margaree to admire the reflected glory of the moon and Jupiter in still river pools. Back at Bigador it seemed too early to call a halt to fun. We fired up the Drolet, moved the table in front of the stove and played Bananagrams, a word game we’ve taken to with a passion since Kevin Squires introduced us to it a few weeks back. The twins are hooked now too. We’ve felt spoiled rotten many days these past three months or so. This day just might have taken the cake.