A home away from home
Growing up in Iran, a country with a vast and varying geography, I had little opportunity to explore and enjoy the outdoors. From the peaks of the snow-covered mountains to the hot sandy dunes, some of the world’s most beautiful natural wonders can be found in Iran. For the Iranian New Year, my family and I would visit the northern region of the country, where the air felt fresh and the sea was only a few steps away from our villa. The beautiful, lush greenery was mesmerizing, and the peacefulness was an escape from the busy city life.
While these visits were amazing, I always hoped to see more of my country. By age 16, I had moved to Canada, a new home with lots to explore. Becoming an intern with the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and explore the magnificent landscapes in Atlantic Canada. I am grateful to have had the resources to experience places like Johnson's Mills Shorebird Reserve and Interpretive Centre and a Mi’kmaq Medicine Walk at Fort Folly First Nation in New Brunswick. Luckily, Atlantic Canada is home to many NCC nature reserves, making it easy to expand my hiking skills.
Hirtle’s Beach on the east of Gaff Point, NS (Photo by Saba Mozaffari/NCC)
In 2022, while on vacation with a friend, we visited the Gaff Point Nature Reserve in Nova Scotia. With our hiking boots laced up and our water bottles filled, we headed toward Hirtle’s Beach on the east of Gaff Point. That day was magical. The sun peeked through the trees, the sky was a clear, bright blue, and the weather was the perfect temperature. It all felt as if Gaff Point was just as excited about our visit as we were. Having seen many pictures of Gaff Point, I knew what to expect, but it was much more beautiful than any photo could ever capture. At that moment, for the first time in years, I felt at home.
To reach the trailhead, we crossed the magnificent crescent of Hirtle’s Beach. The excitement of being immersed in greenery of the trail and the sounds of nature gave us a rush that no energy drink could provide. I can still vividly recall the feeling of being surrounded by trees, the salty, refreshing scent of the ocean and the sounds of waves pulling together and drifting away. The trail was beautiful and was a terrific reminder to be thankful for the generous donors and volunteers who support NCC's stewardship work. The trail was easy to walk and navigate.
The view of the Atlantic ocean from Gaff Point, NS (Photo by Saba Mozaffari/NCC)
My favourite spot on the trail was an open area at the point where the Atlantic Ocean spread out before us as far as the eye could see. We took a moment and sat on a stable rock, admiring and appreciating the view.
Taking in the scenery and thinking back to my memories, I started noticing differences in the geology of Gaff Point and northern Iran. Gaff Point gave us the rhythmic sounds of the ocean rushing against the bedrocks, whereas in northern Iran, it’s mostly calm ocean waves hugging the sandy beach. Another difference is the extreme humidity back home, where even the air conditioner gives up trying sometimes. On the other hand, the cool, strong breezes at Gaff Point created the perfect temperature for hiking and beach days.
Breathing the ocean air, I knew this was where I was meant to be. The sound of waves smashing against the rocks, the bright sun above and the calmness around were all I needed to realize that no matter how far away, I could always call this place my home.