Finding Adventure in Digby’s Outdoors

Me and the CARP gang! Thank you Stacey for the only picture taken this day.

Me and the CARP gang! Thank you Stacey for the only picture taken this day.

My how time flies (It’s the middle of August already!) We say this all the time and it still shocks us when we look at a calendar or stop to think what day of the week it is, but what exactly are we doing about it? I know I can say nothing really. And that’s no good considering the travel adventure I was just on.

I haven’t been doing much outside of working and the (very) little running I’ve been doing. After last weeks banter about being home and blah blah blah. Enough of that! Come on Jill, Nova Scotia is pretty great and you are failing to see it! So that was that. Everyday is not going to be great, and that’s okay. Training programs have their highs and lows – have you been following Erin’s NYC marathon training? – this is why they last so long. Probably not, but thankfully I’ve picked up a bit of momentum having begun my running training and with a little help from my friends. Yup, Erin won’t be the only three time marathoner. Mine isn’t until February 2015, but I’ve signed up for another marathon nonetheless. If I’m going to sit around and be a lump on a log that’s no one’s fault but my own. Now that I have a new running goal, reunited with some old pals, and of course the amazing support at the Y, I feel back on track.

I hadn’t realized how many of my friends are around. This is great news for my social calendar. My university friend Katie (hi, Katie!) is from Annapolis Royal, it’s a 30 minute drive from Digby. Her and her new husband are living in Bedford (another NS geography lesson it’s about a 2 hour drive from Digby) and planned an outing to go Tidal Rafting the weekend before the August long weekend. I hadn’t seen Katie in years! I needed to go. Plus what in the world is Tidal Rafting anyway? I will explain all in a post to come. But just know it’s awesome. This post is about another adventure we went on.  A tree topping, zip lining adventure!

Upper Clements Park is Nova Scotia’s version of Canada’s Wonderland. Well… it would be if Canada’s Wonderland had one roller coaster made of wood, some bumper cars and a giant maze. And that’s all. But they do have the Flume Ride, another park attraction. You have to think small scale here. But as a kid it was a great place. The face painting, the cookies as big as your face, and candy apples were the highlight for me. And you’d usually spot a pirate or two around the park. They were of course very cool.  But for years this would be a place I’d abandon. I had zero interest in going as a teenager I out grew the rides and the childlike fun, and now I don’t have kids in my life to share this experience with. Little did I know the Park also grew up. Now there is an Adventure Park.

Katie introduced me to her formal colleagues at CARP (Clean Annapolis River Project) and they invited me to the Adventure Park. I’ve seen zip lining in Costa Rica, but never dared to give it a try. This time I had no excuse.

The park is divided into Games (aka. obstacle courses) and Zip lines. Calling these things Games is supposed to give them a fun non competitive approach but these things are not easy! Don’t be fooled by the swinging steps and tight wire walking, my arms and balance were tested big time. If you’re a bit afraid of heights that will disappear once you try to pull yourself across a rock climbers wall of over a ladder of some sort. They make you work for the fun that’s for sure. If you’ve never done something like this before (that was me too) there is a full hour of training before you enter the park. Billy was our guide. After what we could assume was a late night for Billy and a long day ahead, he managed to shake the monotone directions and showed us a good time. If Billy happens to be your guy, ask him how the burger and beer competition went. If the zip lining didn’t scare you that just might.

Zip lining was the best part. The fast moving, freedom you feel when you’re flying through the forest was amazing. Each Game had a small zip line to the end the course, but the second half of the park is all zip lining. The Adventure Park is one the best in the province and I can see why. All the grown up fun to be had is worth a second or third trip. Just make sure to bring your gloves unless you want some “kick ass” callus. If that’s the case, join the club.

Home vs. Studio: I need some motivation

Life at the Y has been pretty great so far. I’m teaching yoga, I’m running with the Run Club, I’m now a cycle teacher, and soon I’ll be trained to lead fitness consolations. Tell me your fitness goals and I will create a program for you. But not yet, that’s coming soon. I’m feeling more and more like Joanna McLeod everyday! (Everyone remembers BodyBreak, am I right?!) Knowing how great this experience is for me and how beneficial it will be for future opportunities is really exciting to think about. I’m loving the Y, it’s staff and the community. And I love seeing the same people week after week attending my classes. It’s a good feeling.

Now that I’ve been home long enough to adapt to  some sort of routine around working and working out and trying to run and practice yoga on my own, it’s bothersome that I’m still struggling mentally with how to do it all. Yes, doing all these things is completely doable, it’s getting myself to do it that’s the hard part. And teaching that’s no problem. Again, it’s all the other things I should be doing outside teaching hours that’s causing me grief.


Brendan give me some hope!

Brendan give me some hope!

Being home has been great, but it’s not entirely easy. Small towns need studios and clubs and all the things I am doing at the Y. But, what are the teachers supposed to do? We can’t take our own classes. Of course, I have the option to practice yoga anywhere – at home, outside, at the Y – but figuring it out seems to involve more work than actually practicing. When I’m home I shouldn’t care what Mom and Dad think, but explaining to the parents that yoga is a part of my schedule doesn’t make sense when there’s a lawn to be mowed and a deck to be stained. So as a result I figured forget the explanation and run away to the Y. When I’m there, I’m there and no one can say anything. I’ll do all the things I need to do and use my time at home to be at home. This started to work, but something was still blocking me. Practicing or running or any individual activity is difficult to do on your own this is why we attend classes and join running groups.

I miss the studio atmosphere and the ability to walk into class and not have to worry about a thing. A teacher will tell me what to do and I will listen. I miss the inspiration teachers feed me with. When you’re in a city it’s never ending. When you’re at home you have to seek inspiration elsewhere.


This sad face needs to change (this is not Digby, but the expression tells all).

This is not Digby, but the expression explains all.

So where do you go for inspiration when you’re feeling uninspired? You have to think outside the box. I’m turning my attention to other classes, as long as I’m doing something that’s better then nothing, right? The Y has a good range of things to do, get in the pool, do some Zumba (it’s not really my things, but if I’m desperate and I have no excuse) Over thinking is probably my biggest problem. If you’re like me and finding yourself in a similar situation – get creative. It just might save us.

I was lucky enough to take part in a training session at the Y with Dave Comeau from Art of Strength. Dave was an amazing source of inspiration. I took things from his training session I can use in yoga and do on my own. And the best part is I’m actually wanting to do his simple workouts (simple in that they don’t require much equipment to do them, not simple in terms of the work itself!) I need to find and take advantage of more activities like this. Books and the internet are also great. Everyone knows my love for Brendan Brazier and Vega reading Thrive Fitness has given me hope! Podcasts are excellent for yoga classes. Find a teacher you like and practice with them. It’s been working for me because I no longer have to think on the spot and tell myself what do. More external creative input, this is good.

As for running I’m getting better at actually running again. Using the run club as my reason to run has been the kick in the butt I’ve been needing. I still need to run more which is why I think I need to be more social. There has to be people around who will run with me. Being committed to something or someone is excellent motivation. I’m the one complaining and I’m the only one who can do something about it. There is no reason to fall apart because I’m not in Toronto. Everything is here, it’s just looking at it in a different way.

Making it in Digby

It’s been about a month since I’ve been home. How did that happen?!! I think the harder part to believe is that I’m still trying to recuperate from traveling. At least that’s the excuse I’m sticking to. It still saddens me inside not seeing Cecilley on a daily bases, and waking up in a different part of the world, but as they say home is where the heart is. Only time will tell how long mine will call Digby home, again.

Don’t get me wrong, not all is lost in Nova Scotia. After sleeping away the first week due to pure exhaustion and power outages – what a welcome home. “Jill a hurricane is coming!” my mother enthusiastically explains just days after my arrival.  And sure enough a hurricane hit. We as many Nova Scotians and New Burnswickers did lost power for almost a week. Let’s say serious action is taking place in the Balser household for future hurricane prevention.


The hurricane is coming!

As the world has heard and now seen, my father is a born again mountain man. And in so many ways I love it. I believe my mother does too seeing how we spent her 62nd birthday stocking the freezer with, yup you guessed it, chicken meat. The chickens, well… what’s left of them, run around the yard all day everyday. Mom loves them so much! I, however, enjoy the company of the chickens, but choose to eat all the things possible in the greenhouse. I really have nothing to complain about here other than not having a solid work and fitness routine.

The hardest part about being home, as it was on the road, is getting myself into a routine. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy coming home, but it’s getting kind of ridiculous. Work gives you structure to go by. Knowing when you cannot workout makes you accountable for the time you can. I’m just starting to figure it out for myself. Hopefully next month will be a lot easier.

Having Erin visit definitely helped. I hadn’t see Erin since the day I left Toronto all those months ago. You can tell from her Instagram photos how delightful Nova Scotia really is.  Knowing Erin’s marathon training is starting back up should be enough motivation to get myself back in the swing of things too. I also picked up Brendan Brazier’s second book Thrive Fitness as another source of encouragement – I want to re-marathon train Vega style! I’m convinced it worked last time. My time at the County Marathon gives me enough reason to believe so.

Right now it’s not about kicking myself for all the things I should be doing. Instead it’s focusing on all the great things that have happened so far (and the things to come!). Another important lesson I picked up while travelling.


Me and the chickens! Post  Mom's birthday.

Me and the chickens! This was before mother’s birthday.


So, the job! Yes, the job that brought me home in the first place. You must be wondering how that’s been going and what I’ve actually been up to. I’m working at the Fundy YMCA. It’s keeping me somewhat busy, but it is filling that need to be active just a bit. The facility blew me away when I first visited. Digby and Annapolis County need a place like this – a family friendly, health and wellness driven community, and a place to be active and feel good about doing so. We take it for granted in Toronto having classes and studios at our disposal. But here in rural Nova Scotia it doesn’t exist. If I want to practice yoga I have to do it on my own or take class I’m not teaching. This has been a hard adjustment for me. Self discipline is a must here and something I’ve been lacking in more ways than one. Oh goodness, all the baked goods and homemade bread in this house is not good. If my goal is to run a fast marathon I don’t think it’s possible living at home.


July teaching calendar

My teaching schedule at the Y!


Being home has a lot of positives. It’s good for hanging out with the parents, reconnecting with old friends, family and the local folks – although Erin, Anne and my legacy as the Balser Girls is not working in my favour. Everyone here thinks I am Anne, fair enough given Anne is a national champion and the best golfer of the three of us. It’s clear now I’ve made a lasting impression. The pains of being the middle child, they’re haunting me all over again! Thankfully this weekend my cousin got married (congratulations, Glenn!) at least my family still knows who I am.

Kayaking the Annapolis Basin

Jill, Anne and Erica ready to hit the water.

Erin’s story:

Jill and I went home for a week this month, to celebrate our mama’s birthday. We also took the opportunity to take advantage of the amazingness that is Nova Scotia in the summer. I’ve lived in Ontario now for five years, and I may say: I’m sorry, Ontario. Your summer weather can’t hold a candle to Nova Scotia’s weather. Your air is too hot. Your water is not vast enough or salty enough. Simply put, Nova Scotia is the best place to by in July.

(As long as you’re on the ocean. If you’re in the middle of the woods — like the house we grew up in is — be prepared to be eaten alive by bugs!)

While we were home, Annie, the littlest sister, suggested we go kayaking. She’s spending the summer working at the Dockside, which is a pub in downtown Digby that sits on the water and is the epitome of every seaside bar you’ve seen on film and television. But it’s lovely and they recently started renting kayaks. HOORAY.

Anne and Jill paddling like pros.

Kayaking is my favourite kind of paddling and it’s something I wish I did more often. Jill and I keep making grand plans to kayak to the island, but it has yet to happen. So I’m glad Anne suggested we take the boats out at high tide one morning.

Yup, Digby is the kind of place where the schedule depends on the tide. It’s awesome.

Our uncle Peter and cousin Erica joined us and we were off. We decided to head to the base of the Joggin river, which is the river that snakes up the back of our house. It’s seriously weird — and amazing — to sit in a bay you drove by every day growing up. It changes your perspective on pretty much everything. For a moment it made me love the little town I grew up in, even though I spent 18 years dying to get out. The weather the perfect, the water was calm. Everything was grand.

Oh, and I learned I’m way way way better at kayaking than Jill. And, really, that’s all that matters.

So if you’re ever on the East Coast, I have two suggestions: go to the Dockside and tip my sister well. Then rent some kayaks and take the Annapolis Basin in. It’s an enclosed harbor and there’s not a lot of boat traffic — which means it’s perfect for first-time or newbie paddlers. And if you’re really experienced, you can head to the nearby towns of Bear River or Annapolis and back in a full day. It’s worth it. I swear.

Summer on the east coast is always worth it.

Jill’s story:

Okay, “a way way way better at kayaking than Jill”? Please. Don’t let Erin’s suttle enthusiasm fool you. Just because she decided to kayak much further away from the rest of us to try and reach the deserted island in the middle of the Digby Gut — it’s called Bear Island — doesn’t make her a better kayaker. But if that’s what it takes to make you “better” then I guess Erin wins this around. I bet if we raced, I’d be faster. And that’s all that really matters. I, on the other hand, decided to hang back and take the more leisurely approach to kayaking and took in much more important sisterly bonding with our baby sister Anne.

I am clearly the better big sister.

Kayaking is one of those things that looks so much easier than it really is. It takes a lot of coordination, arm and shoulder strength. And you also need to be able to say put on your butt for quite some time. That being said, I will give it to Erin, she took to the coordination much quicker than I. Good thing Anne is not as nearly as out to out do me in because I clearly needed a lot of assistance. Of which she was super helpful to my kayaking capabilities. The niceness came through no doubt when it was easily sensed she was better kayaker, but that’s besides the point. I was grateful for Anne’s help. I still blame the wonkie paddle and I also had a different boat than Erin and Anne. And Uncle Peter and Erica were off soaring in their 2 person kayak. I was set up for failure from the start.

And give me a break! The last time I was in a kayak I might have been 15 when I went on a trip to Weymouth (an even smaller town than Digby, if you can believe it) with my Dad.

Now back to the important details – kayaking as it relates to fitness.

I felt fantastic roaming the salt waters of my hometown. The ocean sea breeze, the open bliss of life in a super small town, made me really appreciate my childhood. I left actually feeling for once, that I actually could have stayed longer. But Erin said it best: Nova Scotia is amazing in the summer. Growing up on a golf course, my summers were spent as far away from the ocean as you could possibly get. But for some reason the feeling of home really struck a sentimental cord with me. I’m getting emotional in my old age, or my Mom’s old age. Sorry Mom, I couldn’t resist.

One thing is for sure there are many ways one can be fit in a small town, on vacation or in Nova Scotia – or all of the above! Kayaking is one of those activities that does’t require lots of experience or preparation to do. It’s not entirely complicated and it’s a good work out. You’ll have sore arms and shoulders the next day, and that’s a guarantee! I sure did.

And if you’re not convinced yet that Digby is a place for you, just head towards Shelburne Road and you’ll know for a fact that rednecks really do exist. Then you’re know for sure.

Jut watch out for the bears.


(Editor note: Jill’s not joking about the bears.)