I skied in the first time I went, in winter. I can still remember those four days in precise detail: the way the snow draped the jack pines and the flash of my friends' bright anoraks as they climbed through the thick forest to the blankets of snow above, and the astonishing gift of the run back down through it; our skis stuck upright in the snow at the foot of the stairs to the lodge at the tired end of a starched, sunny winter day, like soldiers guarding our utter happiness; glistening naked bodies in the hot sauna in the cold woods afterward. We're all still friends, and I suspect that place is one of the reasons why.
Years later, I went back in September; without its clothes of snow on, the lodge and the lake seemed younger, more daring. It was easy hiking – Lawrence Grassi, the man who first cut the trails in the 1950s, was considerate enough to jam slabs of granite into anything steep – but is still the finest I have ever enjoyed.
We walked out past Lake O'Hara where John Singer Sargent painted, hiked Odaray Prospect where the Group of Seven sat, and then aimed high, climbed the highline trail up beyond Opabin Pass: The light changed 50 times an hour.
I couldn't decide which I liked more – looking up, to see where I had yet to go, or back down, over the vast plan of where we'd come from. I remember following the trail around a corner to a steep shoulder of boulders and meadow, just below the summit of the mountain we were scaling. There were yellow larches on the other side of it, and a lake, and a puff of fog hanging on the side of the hill, like a scarf someone had dropped and left behind.
I would say it was the most beautiful place I have ever been except that, up there, I thought that everywhere I went. Up there, amid the larches spinning their strange wool bark and the green carpets of moss and the bright yellow leaves and the hard high rocks, it felt as it we were climbing through the mind of the world. Maybe we were. The same friends too.
I still think of that part of the country just about every day. I still long to go back. That's the only downside to a place as sublime, as memorable, as glorious, as important in one's life as Lake O'Hara is in mine. I don't want to imagine the day when I can't go there any more, when I will no longer be able to see its silvery, slivery light and lakes. That day will come, of course. But the place will still be there.
* * *
Nova Scotia Mahone Bay John Doyle
It was a day of dappled sunshine in May. Tiny puffball clouds drifted over Halifax harbour. I'd arrived from Toronto the night before with the mission of meeting Mike Clattenburg, creator of Trailer Park Boys , and his writing partner, Robb Wells, who plays Ricky on the show. They were holed up at a cottage in the woods, hours away from Halifax, writing the final draft of Trailer Park Boys: The Movie . I'd interview them, get back to Halifax and then back to Toronto.
All I knew was that the location was in Green Bay, Lunenburg County, but the driver taking me there knew the way, she said. We went on a three-hour jaunt along the highway and then deep, deep into the woods. We got lost twice. And laughed often. When we found them, Robb was standing outside, in a perfect moment of rural reverie, watching an osprey float in the sky and dive into the water to return with a fish for the osprey family. I'd brought champagne and we sat around for an hour, talking about the movie. Mike said Trailer Park Boys was about finding peace, friendship, love and affection, no matter how low the circumstance.
The driver and I left the writers to their work – they had a deadline in two days – and headed back to Halifax as evening fell. I was awed by the sky, the trees, the peacefulness. “We have to feed you,” my driver and host said. “And I know where.”
We turned off the highway and soon we were sitting in The Innlet Café in Mahone Bay, eating a light seafood dinner. We were the only customers and Mahone Bay was laid out in front of me, new to my eyes, gorgeous and tranquil. I was beguiled as I'd never been before, by the journey, the company and chat that day, and the Nova Scotia county where such peace and pleasure could be found with ease.