In eastern Canada and the northeast corner of the USA the evenings become cooler toward the end of September as the time of year known as Indian Summer arrives. The leaves of the maple trees turn brilliant shades of red and orange as this overwhelming natural spectacle unfolds.
Our initial impression as we drive east along the coast road from Halifax is that we have arrived two weeks too soon. Most of the trees we pass are still a deep green colour. Occasionally we see a rather unimpressive yellowish-brown birch and from time to time a red shrub.
We have been planning for years to experience Indian Summer. Canadian friends of ours recommended the period between late September and the end of October. “But that can vary from year to year,” they told us. “The best option is to drive from Halifax to Montreal via Gaspé. That’s a particularly impressive route.” On their advice we postpone the start of our round-the-world trip by two weeks and book a flight to Halifax.
As the SWISS flight takes off from Zurich we are certain that we will witness the splendour of Indian Summer since the end of September is exactly the right time. But on arrival in Montreal, where we will connect to our onward flight, we are greeted by a beautiful green summer. There is no hint of autumn at all.
We arrive in Halifax after night has already fallen and can hardly wait for the next morning to come. Shortly after daybreak we leave our hotel and make a side trip to the city centre before setting off along the coast in an easterly direction. Here, too, there is still no sign of Indian Summer.
After driving along the coast of Nova Scotia for about 70 kilometres we stop at a small restaurant called Family Fries in Lake Charlotte. At first glance it doesn’t appear to be overly promising, but to our surprise we enjoy what must rank as probably the best lobster sandwich and the best sweet-potato fries in all of Canada.
After the meal we resume our journey east. With the Gaspé Peninsula as our actual destination, we turn on to Highway 357 at Musquodoboit Harbour and drive inland. The road leads us uphill to where we encounter our first fiery red maple tree, the hue so intensive that it almost hurts our eyes to look at it. We have never seen a tree so red.
As we drive inland and gain altitude above sea level, the leaves of the trees become more varied and more intense in colour. Each curve presents us with a new “wow” moment. We stop at a small bridge and alight from the car. Below us flows a narrow river, along whose banks stand a row of the most splendidly coloured trees. It is already late in the afternoon, and the sun is low in the sky, its rays further enhancing the intensity of the trees’ colours. The bright yellow leaves on the birch and ash trees blend with the luminous orange and crimson leaves of the maple trees. A breeze causes the leaves to dance gently. On the air is the scent of freshly mowed grass and moist earth. Beneath us, the river whispers.
We carry on driving until evening approaches. In the end, we have not travelled very far today because we have stopped so often to admire the magnificent colours of the trees. A picture-book Indian Summer!