One of my favorite movies is the GREAT animated film, “Princess Mononoke” by the acclaimed filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki. Hand drawn animation at its finest, with a story for the ages (the environment, personal responsibility) – it is a masterwork that is not to be missed. The film features a fantastic soundtrack by Joe Hisaishi. The tune “Ashitaka and San” is peerless. And here is the music, acting as the accompaniment to a short vacation video I made almost eight years ago.
Even on a cloudy, drizzly, cold, windy, autumn day, Cape Breton Highlands National Park is a revelation. Cape Breton is an island off Nova Scotia. Buffeted by the winds of the Atlantic Ocean, the rugged beauty of the island is a sight to behold. As you drive through the Cabot Trail along the coast, you will pass through this incredible natural wonder.
Driving through Nova Scotia, the seaside towns, the rugged coastlines, the friendly people already provided enough memories to last a lifetime. And as we drove to Cape Breton, I had expected to see more of the same. Well, yes and no. The people were friendly, but the island is more exposed to the winds and tantrums of the Atlantic. And as we drove through the coasts, the road winding through the mountains on one side and the Atlantic on the other, I could not help but think that I was the luckiest man on the planet. I know countless people have witnessed the beauty of Cape Breton. Yet to see it for the first time, to feel the cold crisp wind in your face as you stop and marvel at each curve in the trail, to experience the raw power of nature and the raw beauty that it has to offer – there are few places in the planet that elicit such awe.
I didn’t spend enough time at the park. That much is certain. A few hours hiking barely gave enough time to grasp the true beauty of everything that was around me. Here, at least, are some images from this incredible spot on an incredibly beautiful island known as Cape Breton.
This was proving to be a wonderful hike through the highlands. And then, the forest gave way to the coasts. What a sight to behold. I ran into these two women who bicycled their way across Canada. From Vancouver, to the Canadian Rockies, to Cape Breton – they must have seen so much of what I still long to see. Probably not on a bicycle, but someday – there are still so many places left to explore.
The winding roads, the clouds over the ocean, the wind, the trail went on towards vistas that boggle the mind.
And then, the sun peeked through. Just a smidge of sun, a few ticks of the clock – it was enough.
Sometimes, when a place is really special, even a moment is enough to capture a memory. And strangely enough, all the time in the world is never enough time to spend in that same place. Cape Breton and Cape Breton Highlands National Park. I hear the siren call.
Words are inadequate. Schwabacker Landing in the Morning. And this is just the beginning.
And it was wonderful! With my son (young then) looking at the pristine blue waters of Crater Lake, the beauty of the Cascades was in full view. If Bend was beautiful, the view from the snow covered edge of the caldera that forms the lake is nothing but spectacular. The blue waters. The strong springtime winds. The setting sun. And getting used to snowshoes.
My older son is in college now. His younger sibling will soon follow. Each second seems long enough, but the years spent with the children seems all too short. The transient nature of every moment. Each slice of time unique. Some joyful. Some challenging. All part of lives lived and still being lived. A lot has been told. A lot has yet to unfold.
Life is indeed beautiful. From the places that we visit and look on in awe. To the short moments that we share with each other. Each day unique. Each day a chance to appreciate the world that we live in. And hopefully, in our own way, moments lived making a world that is a better place for all who live in it.
When I was young, my parents used to take me along trips and vacations to see the wonderful places the world had to offer. I remember driving to Skyline Drive and Shenandoah National Park for the first time. My father was ecstatic looking at the mountains and the seemingly endless views of the valley below. My mother was busy posing for photographs. I was unmoved. A typical teenager, I just wanted to stay home and do my own thing.
A few years later, my grandparents were visiting us in Virginia and they decided to visit their friends in rural southeastern Virginia. If the barely two hour drive to the Shenandoah was long, the drive to Richlands, Virginia seemed like an eternity. Mountains, hills, valleys all melded into a mosaic of interstates and highways, rural roadways, the occasional town. It was a happy time for all – friendships rekindled, beautiful mountain air – with the exception of the grumpy teenager who just wanted to stay home. And of course, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was only a “short” distance away. So what to do? Drive through more mountain roads, look at never ending forests, gaze upwards to look at yet another mountain peak, and meet native Americans for the first time. That part of the trip was actually interesting. Clean mountain air, the fog that covered the mountains that made for spectacular sunrise and sunsets, the breezes that made the hot summer days bearable – I didn’t breathe, see or feel any of that. I chose to ignore the beauty that was around me. I just wanted to be home.
When my father bought me my first real camera, I started taking pictures of my friends. Eventually, I started taking pictures of the monuments and landmarks that were so close to me. Visit to the woods and parklands soon became a favored diversion. I started to read about the great places to visit in the United States. Shenandoah National Park. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Yosemite National Park.
I visited family and friends in San Francisco and they offered to drive me to Yosemite. I was unprepared for what I saw. I knew that the place was beautiful – who hasn’t seen the pictures of Yosemite taken by Ansel Adams and other great photographers. I envisioned cliffs, mountains, streams. Instead, I was treated to one of nature’s great cathedrals. Yes, El Capitan, with its granite face was a sight to behold. Half Dome, Yosemite Falls – they were indeed impressive. Still, they are but backdrops to the true beauty of Yosemite. The life sustaining valley nestled within the great peaks of the Sierras. The stone monuments, beautiful as they are, are the supporting cast to this place that the trees and animals call home. Yosemite. A monument for the ages. A cathedral for the living. A gift of magnificent beauty for all.