Splashing around in the ocean, jumping off of cliffs, learning how to roll in a wave, boogie boarding, and water chicken fights were all part of our daily beach adventures when I was a child. Singing, dancing, playing horse shoes or cards, and drinking until the wee hours of the morning filled my early adult life and shaped the bond between my family members. All of my fondest family memories took place in one location. When I think about being “home” or reflect on my greatest form of happiness it is Ingonish, Nova Scotia that holds my heart and it was with great anticipation that I introduced Darren, my husband, to my happy place and a large piece of my past. On our first vacation to Ingonish together, I knew that Darren needed to experience Smokey Mountain, Black Brook Beach, Black Brook Falls, and Ingonish Beach to have a glimpse of my life and become part of it.
As we drove over Smokey Mountain together, I remembered the countless times I made the journey in my grandparent’s Nissan truck. We’d sing “On Top of Ol’ Smokey”, stop at look-offs, and cringe at the never-ending drop from the top of the mountain. The sight of Smokey Mountain Ski Resort is the first indication that I am back in Heaven. I take that turn with a smile every time.
Our first official stop was at Black Brook Beach. I’ve been around the globe and swam in many waters. The warmth of the French Riveria or the shimmering, crystal blue Caribbean Sea don’t hold a candle to the large refreshing waves at Black Brook Beach. Although the August breakers can be extreme and the water is cold enough to make your whole body hurt, it is worth every goose bump. If you’re strong enough to stand up against the waves and thick-blooded enough to brave the icy waters, you can consider yourself a true Nova Scotian.
Darren’s initial look of complete shock, as his toes touched the water, loosened up when I dove in and embraced the salty sea. He wasn’t far behind and I already admired his ability to adapt. We brought the water-proof camera with us and made an adventure out of our afternoon at the beach.
Black Brook Falls opens the hiking trails with an inspiring view of the jagged cliffs and busy beach below, but it is the hidden cove that makes me take a deep breath, relax, and truly enjoy the surroundings.
I shared stories from my life and brought Darren into my world just a little bit more. We listened to the waves crashing on the rocks and watched teens jump from the cliffs above, creating our own special memories in a place that brought sheer joy to my heart.
Ingonish Beach was a step even further back into my past. Before I was old enough to bravely boogie board the huge waves or shiver through the freezing waters, my family took me to the lake at Ingonish Beach. It may have been there that I developed my fear of water creatures because we were constantly brushed by eels, but it didn’t seem to bother me as a child. Besides, as a child, I always had my massive grandfather to fend of any unwanted guests. He was Poseidon, the God of the sea, and nothing could hurt me in his presence.
With hiking trails, the life-guarded ocean, swings, the lake, showers, tennis courts, and a soccer field, Ingonish Beach is a great place to spend the day with family. My younger sister and brother may remember playing tennis in the evenings there or flying high on the swings, my parents may remember cooling off in the clear ocean, and my grandparents may have a special affliction for the ice creams from the small vendor, but it’s the lake look-off that makes me a child all over again.
As we walked through the trails and watched the sun set, I knew that Darren fit into my life, past and present. We were free to act like children together. We embraced the ocean, strolled bare-foot along the beach, watched life happen around us, and completely filled the moments with our love.