Thanks to fellow blogger Terri McCulloch for planting in me the seeds of an idea for this blog. In her recent blog, Terri talks about fascinating and unusual basalt rock formations along the Bay of Fundy shores,
In a blog of mine last week on autumn leaves, I stated that I was "the most distant thing in the world from being a botanist." This time around I'll clarify outright that I'm not a geologist either, but I do hold a fascination for rocks and rock formations, which leads me to the subject of how a tourism icon is born or gains popularity.
One of the greatest outdoor photographers of all time, Ansel Adams, made a career photographing rocks formations in the American southwest and Yosemite National Park in California was one of his favourites. The park's waterfalls and sheer rock faces make it one of the most photographed National Parks in the United States, thanks in large part to Ansel Adams' photography. I've been to Yosemite and it is indeed a stunning and mystical place.
In Nova Scotia, photography has helped create icons that attract tourists from around the world . . . places like the Cabot Trail or the lighthouse at Peggy's Cove to name two. There are many others and, for the most part, it was photography, or rather photographs of these places, that helped make them sought after places to visit.
When I saw Terri McCulloch's blog photo of the Balancing Rock on Digby Neck near the fishing village of Tiverton, it reminded me of the small part I played in making this unusual rock formation known to the traveling public.
In 1992, I was doing photography along Digby Neck and stopped at the small local museum and information centre at Tiverton. I was intrigued with a small, faded snapshot on the wall featuring a free-standing rock formation. I asked the young lady who was looking after the centre where the rock was located, as I'd like to photograph it.
She told me she wasn't sure where it was or how to get to it, but said that local fishermen passed by it going and coming to and from Tiverton. She offered to call a man living nearby whom she thought would know how to find it. After a brief phone conversation, she said the man would be right over.
A few minutes later, a retired gentleman showed up and I recognized him as Woodrow Outhouse whom I had photographed with his grandson two years earlier for the 1991 cover of the Evangeline Trail Travel Guide.
He explained to me that the rock formation I was looking for was not that easy to find, then went on to give me directions that involved a short drive, a long hike, some bushwhacking and hanging onto ropes while descending a steep trail to the shore. Oh! Did I mention that I was laden down with about 30 pounds of camera gear?
I followed his directions to the letter, including hanging onto ropes that someone had kindly left tied to trees, and reached a shoreline strewn with giant columns of basalt. In case you didn't know, basalt rock rises vertically from earth and not in horizontal layers like most rock. I'll let the geologists in the crowd explain why, or you can Google 'basalt'.
In any case, I reached the appointed destination and there before me was the rock in question. I hate terms like 'breathtaking', but I have to admit I was in awe at how this giant column of rock 30 or so feet high and several feet thick stood on a rock outcropping with no visible means of support.
I was even more awestruck when I approached for a closer view and could look under the rock through a narrow horizontal crack and see the ocean beyond. The rock column didn't appear to have much attachment to base rock on which it stood. Not only that, part of the base protruded out from the supporting rock. It looked like a pencil standing upright, half on and half off the edge of a table top. But this was not pencil, rather many tons of solid rock.
I took my pictures, all the time kicking myself for the fact that there was no one with me to place beside the rock to give viewers of my photos some idea of its size. I corrected my mistake a week later by luring my unsuspecting wife to Tiverton to be my model.
One of the pictures I took of her that day graces the cover of the 1993 Doers & Dreamers Guide to Nova Scotia. Another of the pictures has been used to death on a postcard that I still see in gift shops around the province.
Here we are 17 years later and the rock still stands proudly and supported only by the hand of Mother Nature. (No that's not Mother Nature holding the rock in the above photo . . . it' s my wife.)
However, a lot of other things have changed. I took the original pictures in 1992; the Guide cover appeared the following year and it started a flood of inquiries from people wanting to see and photograph what they were describing as the "balancing rock".
The Tiverton Chamber of Commerce, concerned that access to the rock was not only potentially dangerous, but involved traveling over private property, raised money to build a shorter route over land they acquired.
They put in parking lot, signage, washrooms, wooden boardwalks over swampy areas and, most importantly, stairs down to the shoreline and a viewing platform from which to see the Balancing Rock.
Thus, a tourism icon was born. It's not Yosemite Park, but it attracts several thousand visitors each year and, for a small community like Tiverton, it was a major accomplishment of which they are extremely proud.
When I visit the Balancing Rock now, I miss the adventure that used to be. Where are the ropes?
There are still ropes, but they're now attached to the stairs ascending the steep cliff and around the viewing platform.