Shine On, Harvest Moon
Where there are birds, there is hope. - Mehmet Murat ildan
A few weeks ago, when my gravel bike was in the shop and my old mtb was sidelined with a seized derailleur (always clean your bike after you ride in the snow!), I took my vintage Raleigh out for a spin along the Harvest Moon Trail.
The Raleigh is built for comfort, not for speed, but the big narrow tires gather up the kilometres and tuck them away easily. It was just sunset when I coasted down Main St., easily navigating through low evening traffic to the entrance of the Harvest Moon Trail at Eaves Hollow. The Harvest Moon Trail is a 110 km reclaimed railbed trail that starts in Annapolis Royal and ends in Grand Pre. From Grand Pre to Waterville, it’s for non-motorized users only. After that, it’s open to, and dominated by, motorized users.
Needless to say, I spend most of my cycling time on the part of the trail closed to ATVs and dirt bikes.
Last summer I had the opportunity to cycle the entire trail from Annapolis Royal to Grand Pre with some friends. The journey is a passage through what amounts to the back yards of many Valley communities. Along the way are boarded-up warehouses once bustling with wagons and trucks, loading and unloading barrels and boxes of produce. Here economic history has left its mark, the abandoned rail switch markers being only the beginning. Rusting machinery, crumbling concrete, fallen fences, and collapsed buildings lurk in the trees and grasses.
Granted, there are also views of many gloriously productive fields of vegetables (you can smell the onions growing, yes, you can), fruit trees in bloom and, when the time is right, heavy with fruit, calm pastures of fat cattle, even a slow flowing river or two. But the main theme close along the way is of forgetfulness and decay.
The part of the trail where I spend most of my riding time is behind New Minas “The Shopping Centre of the Valley”, infamous for impermeable surfaces, traffic noise, fast food, and too many entrances to the road for motorized vehicle safety, let alone bicycles. New Minas grew up quickly in the 1970s and it shows. It still wears disco pants. The same disco pants it was wearing in the ‘70s when I lived there. And rode my bike. I rarely ride a bicycle through New Minas anymore.
Except on the trail. Behind New Minas, there is a secret. It’s gravel pits, machine graveyards, and the sewage treatment plant. But it’s also open fields, a remnant forest full of singing birds, and many small streams and ponds. And though I hate to admit it, the best thing about it is, it’s paved! You roll along real nice on smooth pavement a car tire has never touched. You can stop and pick berries alongside the trail, and at dusk there’s usually a deer or six grazing in the tall grass along a stream.
So I had my vintage Raleigh out, cruising like 1975 along that glossy asphalt, to the tune of a wee fender rattle accompanied by occasional ball-bearing percussion and the string-section hum of tires. And suddenly I couldn’t hear any of that, or the traffic hum from the highway crossing, or the wind or even the birds. Rising from the ponds, so loud you could almost feel it on your skin, so intense it was like a barrier in the air, emerged the song of Peeper frogs.
Now people talk a lot about birds and silence and mines and canaries but frogs – frogs are a bellwether, too. Frogs “drink” through their skin, so that largest organ, the integument, is exposed to whatever contaminants are present in the environment. That there were enough frogs in those muddy ponds and urban-fed streams to make this kind of noise – song that blocked out all the human-made noise, if only in this backyard, secret place - among all this evidence of human disturbance and neglect was a revelation. Oh, certainly where there are birds, there is hope. But where there are frogs – there is life.
PS My intention is to publish once weekly, or Monday or Sunday, depending on my work schedule. Apparently sometimes life chaos interferes even with this simple routine. My apologies. Hope you enjoyed this.