September 16, 2010

Margaree Valley, Cape Breton Island

Nestled in beautiful  Margaree Valley is the town of Margaree. Among the lakes and rivers are also Margaree Forks, Upper Margaree, Southwest Margaree, North East Margaree, Margaree Centre, Margaree Harbour and East Margaree. There may be more that didn’t make it to the map. It’s difficult to find or photograph these towns - by the time you realize you’re there, you’ve already left them behind!

Our day again demonstrated that Cape Breton folk are the friendliest we’ve ever met, the most open, content and fully grounded in their lives and community. I’m raving a little, but they’re outstanding, rivaled only by people living in the rest of Nova Scotia. Strangers are always greeted, and everyone loves a good chat!
An attractive, well-dressed woman in about her 60’s welcomed us to the Margaree Salmon Museum. Then she brought the collection to life – it’s a tribute to the salmon, fly-fishing and good sportsmanship on the local rivers. The tale is told through fishing tools and reminisces from those who have known the river intimately, both locals and those “from away” who’ve returned to wade the shallows year after year. The director spoke as though they were all her friends, back to the birth of the sport centuries ago! Only fly fishing is allowed on the river, with catch and release strongly encouraged.

Up the road, Robert Ingraham was on duty alone at the Margaree Fish Hatchery, which has been supporting the salmon and speckled trout population since 1902. The lucky Atlantic salmon don’t die after spawning, and live several years. In spite of their longevity, they’re extinct in most of their old north Atlantic habitats. We peeked into an open door, and Robert stepped out to let us know that it was a closed building, and pointed us to the visitor center and the pools where we could see fingerlings called parr.

Then he stayed for a good chat about the hatchery and his community. He was a woodsman for much of his life, but likes this work much better. We learned that the Salmon Museum director and her sister, too, had never married. This puzzled him. Here’s Robert with the tool used to pick non-viable eggs out from among the good. Three men carry out the demanding process of raising 200,000 salmon and 100,000 trout annually.  
Distance means nothing to Cape Bretoners, where tiny towns are far apart. Robert suggested we go up to Pleasant Bay at the north end of the island for the great sunset. See some whales, likely a few moose. We didn’t tell him that we’d already been there and failed at both goals!  This is our moose sighting. Right place, wrong time.

We’re off to lunch at the Dancing Goat instead - a trendy sandwich shop at Margaree Forks. it’s crowded, energetic with people and talk. Halfway through a huge sandwich an attractive server stopped at our table and soon we were chatting again. I’d guessed she was a college student, but she was 32, and the second child of 15!! By age 14 she was helping to raise the youngers. “I’m putting off have my own, probably as a result of that!” It was a rural family, and her dad, a woodsman with a back injury, stayed at home with mom. They had a garden and always got by, had “just enough,” nothing more than what they really needed while growing up. The pix is a hooked rug. More about that later…
We stopped at an advertised afternoon jam session at Canton Cross Road Community Centre. After all the Cape Breton fiddling we’ve heard, what did we find? Ten guitarists all in a row, all pickin’ singers! “Dream, Dream, Dream” and country singin’ were not our plan that day, but one young bearded guy sang Irish songs. It was his first time there. He nervously introduced himself, said he and his family had just moved to a place that’s way up a dirt road on the map. Everybody applauded and he dared to try a very good difficult tune next.
We stayed a couple more rounds then turned down the road to home.
The Margarees. Glad we went!  (August 29, 2010)                              


Diana said...

We're so glad you came to our corner of the world. I'm the tall one of the two who sang the old Everly Brothers song "Dream" while you were at the song circle. Come Back Again!

C and G Taylor said...

Thanks for the contact, Diana! You live in a great place. I added another pix to the blog...