The southern shores of Nova Scotia

From Saskatoon I took a flight via Toronto to Halifax. The last part of my trip was about to begin – a six week adventure through the maritime provinces of Canada! I had booked a rental car for the whole time to be more flexible and independent, which I would share with my friends Maren, Raghu and Eiko, who would join me on different parts of this trip for about two weeks each.

A short layover in Toronto on the way to Halifax

After I had picked up the car, I drove downtown to meet up with Sarah. She had been an exchange student at my parents place in 2008/09 and I hadn’t seen her since then. It was the final stretch for the defense of her masters degree, but she managed to take some time off to give me a short overview of the city. We took a stroll through the public gardens and climbed up to the entrance to the citadel, where we had a good view of the city and the harbor.

The public greens in Halifax

Enjoying the view from the Halifax citadel on a city tour with Sarah

In the evening I left Sarah to her work and went back to the airport to pick up Maren. She had been in high school with me in Germany and had worked enough overtime for two weeks of holidays, which her boyfriend couldn’t get. To make use of the great weather, we departed immediately for “Peggy’s Cove”, where a picturesque lighthouse and a magnificent sunset were waiting for us. What a great start to this trip!

The small harbor at “Peggy’s Cove” at sunset

The lighthouse on the rocks is a well known tourist attraction

The next day we followed the “Lighthouse route” along the rugged coastline, but instead of more lighthouses we found little fishing villages filled with empty lobster traps waiting to placed and sandy beaches, where a few brave people defied the cold waters of the Atlantic to swim in the crystal clear water. Unfortunately the wind was blowing too much to enjoy a nice picnic at the beach without the food being covered in sand.

Dipping our feet was cold enough for us on this windy day

There are numerous little fishing villages to visit along the coastline

In Mahone Bay we ventured along the waterfront in search for some ice cream, while taking in the view of the numerous wooden churches lined up along the water and spread out all over the town. Without knowing, the day had gone by pretty quickly and we still needed to find a campground for the night. We opted for the one at “The Ovens”, which was also located right at the water with a nice view across the bay.

Several different churches line the waterfront at Mahone Bay

Maren and I found a great campsite right by the sea at “The Ovens”

The next morning we were quicker than expected and used the extra time to explore the rocky shore, for which this area is known for. We followed the little trail along the edge and discovered the caves that had been washed out of the nearly vertically stacked layers of shale. One of them was called the “Cannon Cave”, as it made a thundering noise when a large wave reached the end of the tunnel.

A little trail led along the shore to several viewpoints of different caves

The blue water and the reddish rocks at the “Cannon Cave” provided a great contrast

Afterwards we drove back to Lunenburg, which was named in honor of the British King George August of Hanover, who was simultaneously the duke of Braunschweig-Lüneburg. However, many Germans settled in and around Lunenburg after it was founded in 1753. The historic downtown provides the best preserved example of a planned British colonial settlement in Canada and was therefore declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1995.

The waterfront at picturesque Lunenburg

The colorful historical old town is protected as a UNESCO world heritage site

A little further down the coast we made another stop at the “Kejimkujik National Park Seaside”. It is located in an area that was once cleared for a large sheep farm. But the soil proved to be poor in nutrients and the sheep farm was soon abandoned and finally bought by Parks Canada in 1985 to protect the undeveloped shoreline, which is home to some endangered birds, as well as seals and other marine wildlife.

Taking a hike through the “Kejimkujik National Park Seaside”

The red chairs are a campaign by Parks Canada and are always placed in the best spots

Family and friends

After two weeks in Colorado it was time to go back to Canada. Since I wanted to go to the east coast for the final part of my trip, I decided to spend one more week with my old host family before heading out east. This worked out perfectly, as I got to see Faith, Torrie and Roland once more before they were heading out for a summer exchange to Ontario (Faith) and a road trip to relatives in British Columbia (Torrie and Roland).

After the barbecue with Faith and Torrie it was time to say goodbye and until next time!

A nice bonus was also the fact that I got to spend my birthday with Vic and Bev and the rest of the family. After Vic had sung “Happy birthday” to me, the three of us boarded the car and went over to pick up Bev’s mother, Ada. Then we drove to Michael and Brenda’s place for some grilled hot dogs. Of course Zayne and Ryker used the opportunity to show me around their rooms and the playhouse that Michael is building for them in the forest.

Zayne and one of their numerous cats

Later on we took the leftovers of my birthday cake over to Crystal and Jose’s place, where we sat on the nice patio for a visit. Victor and Santiago had just written their last exams and were looking forward for the summer holidays. Unfortunately Jose was still out in the fields to finish spraying the crops while the wind was not too strong.

Crystal, Ada and Santiago enjoyed some of the leftovers from my birthday cake

The next day was “Canada Day”, which was celebrated with big parades and fireworks all over the country. This year was even bigger than usual, as Canada was turning 150. However, most of the day I helped Melissa moving from her shared apartment in Lloydminster to her own apartment. Luckily she had also managed to find two guys with a big truck, who were willing to help her on this special day, because I still couldn’t do much with my cracked clavicle.

After helping Melissa with her move, I joined Cristina and Todd for the rest of the “Canada Day” celebrations

After dinner I still got the chance to join Todd, Cristina and Sydney at “Bud Miller Park”, where they had different activities going on all day long. After listening to the music of Sam Landell and his drummer, I just sat in my chair and enjoyed doing nothing at all. It was quite rewarding after a full day of moving around. And the best was yet to come – fifteen minutes of fireworks! And even if it was “only” Lloydminster, they had some pretty good fireworks going on!

Sam Landell and his drummer were playing on the main stage when I arrived

The fireworks were pretty cool and a nice finish to a long day

That day, Vic’s aunt Mary (90) and her husband Tom had arrived from California. There had been some confusion as to when they would arrive, because we had no flight number or anything. As it turned out, they had been driving all the way during the last few days! So the next day, after a crop tour with Vic around the fields, we invited Vic’s sister Karen and her husband Wayne over to join us for supper.

Bev, Karen, Wayne, Vic, Mary and Tom on the patio in the back

So, once again my week with the Hult’s went by pretty quickly. Before I knew it, I sat in the car with Megan and Tyler, who took me over to Saskatoon. Megan, who had been in my class in high school, told me about their recent trip to Europe, where they had visited Rob with Deandra, both of whom had graduated with us. And we also compared our experiences from the “West Coast Trail”, which Megan had been talked into joining her brothers for the full hike in four days a few years ago.

It was nice catching up with Megan and Tyler on the way to Saskatoon

The skyline of Saskatoon as seen from the other side of the “Broadway Bridge”

In Saskatoon I met Whitney and another Rob, who were also part of our graduation class. We spent the next day exploring the city on an extended hike along the “South Saskatchewan River” and through the downtown area, before going out for pizza and the best ice cream in town. The latter one so popular that the average waiting time is about 20 minutes for a scoop of avocado, Guinness or dill pickle ice cream.

On our walk along the river we even encountered several pelicans fishing at the weir

Finishing the nice day with Rob and Whitney over some good pizza

Along the golden trails of Colorado

While I stayed in Boulder, I managed to go on several different hikes, most of which I had never done before. One of them was in the mountains right behind the city – “Mount Sanitas”. Coincidentally I joined a group of very mentally and physically fit hikers of the golden age, most of whom were also part of the ROMEOs like John – “Retired Old Men Eating Out”. By the time we reached the top we were happy that we had started at 7am for it was already a hot day.

The view of Boulder as seen from “Mount Sanitas”
Hiking with Judy and some of the ROMEOs

For the weekend I went up to Eldora with Micki and John. There they have a nice cabin, which they like to visit frequently. It’s up in the mountains where it is a bit cooler than in Boulder and it’s also not as busy. It used to be a mining town, but the mines have long been abandoned. The “Goldminer Hotel”, “Klondike Avenue” and “Eldorado Avenue” are remnants of this short golden era. Now it mostly consists of weekend houses and only a handful of people live there year rounded.

One of the cabins in Eldora
The “Goldminer Hotel” is still in use

To accommodate the increasing number of day-tourists, a shuttle service has been installed, which connects the close by trailheads to the nearest town with bus connection. This way Oscar was able to join me for a hike up there. We left early in the morning and decided to go to “King Lake”. The reviews of people who had been there recently had all described it as being wet and snowy, but as we made our way up through the trees we only encountered small patches of snow. Maybe it had all melted in the last two weeks?

Hiking up to “King Lake” with Oscar
There is hardly any snow left in the lower part of the valley

By the time we reached the lake, we knew better. There was still lots of snow left, which was partly because we were in a valley, but also because we were getting higher and higher with an elevation of about 3400m at “King Lake”. Luckily Oscar had some snow chains for the boots, which he lent me for better traction. It definitely made it easier to balance. Yet the view of the lake and the surrounding mountains was amazing and it was definitely worth the effort.

“King Lake” was still partly covered with ice, but looked still amazing

The weekend after we also went up to Eldora. This time Micki and John had invited some friends for a dinner at their cabin. But before the guests came over, John and I went on a little hike up “Eldorado Mountain”. It was a short and relatively easy hike, but it provided a good view of Nederland, Eldora and the ski slopes that I had gotten to know so well during my time at the university in Boulder.

Looking towards Nederland
At the cabin with Micki and John

That night we slept quite well with a happy stomach filled with beef casserole, carrots and potatoes out of the oven and a delicious angle cake. The next morning we were ready for some more hiking. Unfortunately the area we had planned to visit was closed to protect the wildlife. Instead we looked for another trail at the “Sourdough Trailhead”, but we couldn’t find the one we looking for.

We were looking for the southern entrance at the “Sourdough Trailhead”, but couldn’t find it

Back in Boulder I decided to go with Oscar on one last hike. We chose one of the classics, leading up to the “1st Flatiron”. The afternoon sun was beating on our backs and dozens of hikers and climbers were making their way up and down the mountain. However, the view of the massive and inclined rocks of the other “Flatirons” and the picturesque city at our feet was more than rewarding.

The view towards the mountains from the “1st Flatiron”
The “2nd Flatiron” was still in view

It ended up not being my last hike for this time, as I had still almost all day the next day before flying back to Canada. Therefore, I asked John to join me, who readily agreed to show me yet another trail that I had never done before. We followed the “Fowler Trail” past Eldorado Springs, through fields of wildflowers and  a small canyon. On the other side we could see several climbers ascending the steep walls of “Shirttail Peak”, while the golden eagles were soaring above everything. It was a worthy finish of my time in Colorado!

“Bear Peak” as seen from the “Fowler Trail”
“Shirttail Peak” is popular with rock climbers

Home of the Buffalos

Even if we didn’t see any buffalos at “Buffalo Pound Provincial Park”, I got another chance in Boulder. This American city is home to the “University of Colorado” (CU), where I was studying for one year in 2010/11 with a Fulbright scholarship. It lies right at the bottom of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains with the iconic “Flatirons” rising just behind. The outside of the university buildings is kept in das sandstone bricks, giving it a Mediterranean flair.

The “Flatirons” are Boulder’s iconic mountains
Most buildings on campus have a sandstone facade, giving it a Mediterranean flair

Together with Micki and John, my host parents in Boulder, I rediscovered the campus. We walked all over and had a look at the university museum in the old main building. Here, a exhibition was dedicated to Ralphie, a buffalo, which has been the mascot since 1934. Other displays included the numerous astronauts coming from CU, as well as several Nobel laureates and other famous graduates.

Visiting the university museum in the old main building
One of the displays covers the many CU graduates that went to space with the NASA

In another room we found a miniature model of several buildings from campus and the downtown area, all made of Lego. The copy of the “Folsom Field Stadium” was very impressive and featured a match between buffalos (CU) and ducks (“University of Oregon”). However, the large, buffalo-shaped swimming pool of the recently expanded recreational center did not make it for the model. It might be part of the new Lego landscape that is being build in the room next door.

The Lego campus had detailed miniature models of the university
The buffalo-shaped pool was not yet part of the Lego landscape

Micki and John were probably the oldest “Buffs”, as CU students and alumni are called, that I had met during my time at the university. Six years later very few fellow students were still around. The ones I knew were Oscar, who had decided to stay for a full PhD program, and his girlfriend Marion, as well as Dan, who had been involved in “CU international”, organizing various activities such as dinners in different restaurants every Wednesday.

I stayed with Micki and John for my two weeks in Boulder
Wednesday dinner with Dan, Marion and Oscar as a continuation of the tradition

A few days after my arrival, took me to the track and field event of his “Boulder Roadrunners”. They organize competitions every two weeks, but this time it was “Olympic Day”. Unfortunately I could not participate, as I was still handicapped with my cracked clavicle. However, I was able to help out with the stopwatch, taking time for short and long distance running, steeple chase and the relay race. In their spare time the participants could talk to local Olympic medalists like Frank Shorter, who won the marathon in 1972.

Stopping the time for the 5km run was the most difficult, as participants started lapping each other
Steeple chase was one of the competitions at the “Olympic Day”

While Micki and John introduced me to their neighbors, friends and family, I also met up with other American Fulbright alumni: Cheryl in Denver and Gene and Keith in Boulder. With the spirits high, I accepted Dan’s invitation to the grand opening of the “Longtucky” distillery to meet even more locals. It is owned and operated by his sister’s fiance and his friend. Currently they are making rum and whiskey in their copper tanks, which are self-made just like everything else on their premises. This is also the reason why it took two years to make their dream come true.

The grand opening of “Longtucky Spirits” in Longmont
Everything in the distillery was self-made by the owners, including the large copper tanks

One night I joined Oscar and Taka for a baseball game at the “Coors Field Stadium” in Denver. That night the “Colorado Rockies” were playing the “Arizona Diamondbacks”. Unfortunately, the guest team had a lucky streak in the fourth inning, after which the score was 1-10 and the game was pretty much decided. So instead of keeping a close eye on the game, we went to the top of the stadium and watched the sun setting beautifully behind the “real” Rockies.

The good seats didn’t help with winning the game
Up high we were able to watch the sun setting behind the Rocky Mountains

Another day Micki took me to the “Leanin’ Tree Museum” in North Boulder. It started out as a factory for greeting cards and later on Ed Trumble, the founder, added the museum, which displays his private western art collection. The garden houses several large scale sculptures, whereas the inside has mostly paintings in different styles. They depict cowboys, Native Americans, buffalos and the incredible diversity of nature in America’s west.

The garden at the “Leanin’ Tree Museum” was full of large scale sculptures
Western art paintings were on display in the gallery

Canada’s Wild West

With a short stop in Vancouver, I headed back east to the prairies to the city of Regina. Canadians might know that this is the capital of Saskatchewan, but most of them have never been there. Why would I want to go there? The answer is simple – because I wanted to visit Steve and Jan, whom I had met in Argentina back in January. They live and work in this city, which is surrounded by endless fields and an open sky.

Strolling through downtown Regina
Delicious dinner with Dave, Steve and Jan

As they were still on their sabbatical leave, they took some time to explore the area with me. First, we visited the “Buffalo Pound Provincial Park”, where the Indians, or first nations as they as called here, used to chase herds of buffalo over the steep edge on top of the river hill so that they would fall and break their neck. Nowadays it’s rather peaceful and the buffalos are kept in an enclosure. Unfortunately it is quite large and covered with many trees, so that we didn’t get to see any.

The trees and bushes provide lots of hideouts for the buffaloes
“Buffalo Pound Provincial Park” is home to many different birds

Instead we went on a little hike around the “Nicolle Flats”, a swampy area that is home to many birds and other animals and insects. By the time we had completed a little less than half the way around, we realized that we had several ticks crawling up our pants. Somehow Steve seemed to be the most attractive for them for they had also managed to find their way underneath Steve’s long pants. We completed the rest of the hike in a hurry, eager to get some help to remove the ones that had already attached themselves.

A wooden boardwalk leads out into the swamp
I guess the birds don’t like the ticks, because there were far too many ticks

Luckily we found some nice people at the otherwise deserted parking lot, who gave us some bug spray. The smell was strong enough that it made the ticks let go so that we could take them off. But even if we managed to take off all of them, it was still itching everywhere for the rest of the day and we got a little paranoid thinking that we still had ticks crawling all over our bodies. Since we still wanted to visit the “Tunnels of Moose Jaw”, we had to live with that feeling for the rest of the afternoon, before we could take a shower and dry clean our clothes.

Downtown Moose Jaw
The actual entrance to the tunnels is located across the street

There are two tours offered to explore the tunnels. We decided to find out what Al Capone was doing in Moose Jaw. The famous gangster from Chicago supposedly got his booze supplies during the prohibition from this Canadian town. It is also thought that he came every now and then to hide out when the air was getting too thin. This theory is supported by the railway that connected Chicago and Moose Jaw in the late 1920s. On the tour we got to experience some of the old flair of hidden saloons, tunnels and secret doors.

The tour led through tunnels and secret passages to the basement
We survived the tunnels, but we could still feel the ticks everywhere

The next day we went to the tiny village of Ogema. Although it only has about 400 inhabitants, this town is home to two major tourist attractions: The “Southern Prairie Railway Train Tours” and the “Deep South Pioneer Museum”. Since the train was booked out, we decided to have a look at the large outdoor museum. More than 30 buildings from Ogema and the surroundings have been gathered and restored on the grounds of the museum, most of them are nearly a century old, from a time when the first settlers arrived in this area.

The museum in Ogema gathered more than 30 original buildings
The collection includes old cars and farm equipment

Besides from having a large number of old farm machinery, such as tractors and early combines, they also had old cars, carriages and sleighs. The buildings included a school, a church, a doctor’s office, a hairdresser and a movie theatre. The interior was full with original artifacts and created a feeling as if the old pioneers were still watching our very moves. It also made me quite happy that I don’t have to put up with the frightening machinery of a dentist from back in the day.

Inside the old school, which was used up until the early 1960s
When I’m looking at the doctor’s office, I’m glad things have changed

Afterwards we drove up to Moose Jaw once again. This time we wanted to have a look at the “Pow Wow” that was held at the banks of the “Kiwanis River”. This is a social gathering, where the first nations people get together for singing, dancing, socializing and for honoring their cultural heritage. In our case it was an intertribal event and open to the public. Visitors could bring their own chairs and sit around the tent with the dancing area.

At the end of the grand entry the flags are placed next to the table of the master of ceremonies
The traditional outfit with feathers, bells and other decorations is called “regalia”

Even if we had missed the opening ceremony and most of the grand entry, it was still very impressive. Men, women, young and old were wearing their traditional clothing, known as “regalia”. They were decorated with feathers, fur, little bells and even turtle shells. Located around the dancing area were several drums, which were played by a group of six to eight people singing traditional songs. It was a very powerful experience and you could feel the energy from the dances and the drums in the air.

The women dancing together before splitting up according to age groups and dancing styles
The drumming circles were responsible for the beat and the singing and don’t need to dress up