Paddling in fall

"…there is quiet even in cottage country "

By SHEENA MASSON* / Photograph courtesy of Scott Cunningham



Photograph courtesy of Scott CunninghamOn September 21, I went out to my woodshed and brought in my wood rack and my first load of wood. It was a symbolic gesture really since I did not actually light a fire until a week later. But an occasional nip in the air brought out this yearly instinct.

The same nip turns my mind to fall paddling and all it means for me. All summer I paddled on the ocean. Now I picture myself on a lake, and tomorrow I will be out on my first fall trip on a big South Shore lake.

Most of the motor boats, jet skiis and water skiis are put away for the year. There is quiet even in cottage country. The trees are just beginning to turn. The wall of green on the far shore has become a hazy tapestry. I paddle close to shore to take in the sensual experience of a brilliant yellow maple next to a rich green pine. I get even closer to look at the pattern of veins on a red leaf.

The contrast of colours and the quiet are an expected treat. Less obvious are the birds and animals on the move before winter, foraging by the shore, getting in their food supply, leaving for the south. I once paddled up to a young black bear high in an oak tree stuffing himself with acorns and unconcerned about my canoe.

Fall paddling brings another contrast to the senses. For this overnight canoe trip, I will have to remember a wool hat and warm coat to wear by the evening fire. But for a few delirious hours around noon, it may be warm as a summer day. I will paddle in my tee shirt and maybe go for a swim. Later I will enjoy the cool of the evening. I will gather dead wood before it gets dark and think about my woodpile back home.

If you go
You don't have to travel far to hit water in Nova Scotia but access can be a problem. Here is a short list of lakes around the province that offer easy public access for boats:
- Kejimkujik Lake, Kejimkujik National Park, Rte 8, Annapolis County; access at Jake's Landing, Merrimekedge Beach and other locations in the park
- Big Mushamush Lake, Lunenburg County, north of Bridgewater; access at Mushamush Beach Park (municipal) near Sweetland
- Dollar Lake, Dollar Lake Provincial Park, Halifax County, off Route 212 to Middle Musquodoboit
- Lake Ainslie, Trout Brook Provincial Park, Route 395, Inverness County
The following provincial parks all provide access to lakes. This information is available in the brochure "Nova Scotia Provincial Parks" available at Tourist Bureaus or the Department of Natural Resources. It may be a short or long carry to the water edge:
- Lunenburg County: Card Lake (off Route 14), Fancy Lake (near Bridgewater)
- Queens County: Ten Mile Lake (off Route 8)
- Yarmouth County: Ellenwood Lake (near Yarmouth)
- Kings County: Lake George (near Aylesford), Lumsden Pond (near Wolfville)
- Halifax County: Oakfield and Laurie Parks on Grand Lake, Porters Lake (off Route 107)
- Guysborough County: Lochiel Lake, off Route 7 north of Sherbrooke
- Cape Breton County: Mira River (near Louisbourg)
Co-founder of the Nova Scotia Water Trail, Sheena Masson's best-selling book of canoe and kayak routes -- Paddle Lunenburg-Queens: An Adventure Guide for Canoeists and Kayakers -- was published in 1998. She has been a contributing writer to shunpiking since 1996.