LITTLE BLUFF JOURNAL - ROAD TRIP TO NOVA SCOTIA 2022 part B (previous months)
Road Trip to Nova Scotia PART B (part A here)
DAYS 11 - 13, Fundy, New Brunswick to Five Islands and Digby, Nova Scotia. Kinda sad to leave Fundy National Park, but we were just getting started with our Canada trip so we motored on up through New Brunswick and over to Nova Scotia. We drove the Glooscap Trail (their scenic byways are called “Trails”). According to legend, Glooscap was a giant god-like man that was created by a lightning bolt. Glooscap had a fight with a giant beaver and when he destroyed the beaver the Bay of Fundy along with “Five Islands” was created, an area we were soon to fall in love with.
We arrived at Five Islands Provincial Park (Canadian provincial parks are the same as our state parks in the USA, as in they are smaller state/provinciala parks vs. the larger national parks). The large campground that wound up a steep hill was full but my bride had picked a campsite at the very top that turned out to be one of the best in the entire campground (she booked it after being #6,700 in line two months previous). We had an amazing view out over the Bay of Fundy - AND even though the campground was crowded the only campsite we could see from ours was the one directly across the road! (always gotta check on the tide schedule)
AND one of the most beautiful hiking trails in the area was about 100 feet away. Pam got out her sketchbook and the pups and I headed up that trail for just a “short” jaunt for them to empty their tanks. This Red Head Trail was much more than I had expected, starting out across a thick wildflower meadow then through a deep, lush forest. It was easy hiking and just BEAUTIFUL!
As you might have guessed we kept going and going and soon arrived and visited several clifftop viewpoints way over there - oh my, each one was SPECTACULAR! All looked down upon vast redrock cliffs, and the crashing surf far below. We could see several of the five islands out in the bay, and one stunning view after another. The only person we saw on the trail was a lady park ranger - on her nightly run out to the point and back (she was kinda surprised to see us out so late - but the sunset was worth every step!). The hike back during twilight was memorable - I so love the edges of day.
The next day we visited one of Pam’s top picks for the area, the Dutchmans Cheese Factory that was complete with some of her most favorite animals on earth - Scottish Highland Cows. Much to my bride’s great surprise their gouda cheese was oh SO good! We bought several chunks (later we would regret this - we should have bought several ROUNDS - their gouda was remarkable). We also somehow ended up with no less than six or eight other sweet treats and pastries.
We met up with Pam’s parents for lunch at one of the most popular joints on this part of the coast - Granny’s. Stand in line outside only to order and eat, and oh my, like the cheese, this simple lunch was YUMMY! (we had fish and chips - my standard order) Later we all visited a small but scenic lighthouse park, then took the pups on a long romp on the sea floor at low tide.
Turns out our campground had not only one of the best hiking trails of all but also the beach/sea floor area there was INCREDIBLE! It was low tide and we hiked far out, almost to one of the other five islands, including a sixth island that is only visible at low tide. Once a few other folks had cleared out of the area we turned the dogs loose and they had more than a mile of empty sea floor to run and play and explore. This would be one of many magical spots in Nova Scotia. After another wonderful hike on the Red Head Trail back at camp we bid the day farewell with a great sunset.
Our next day would be all driving, with a twist. We met Pam’s parents and swapped drivers - Pam drove their car while her dad rode with me. We motored on south along the western coast of Nova Scotia past rolling hills full of small farms, GIANT barns, and lovely countryside. Rumor has it that the girls stopped at secluded lighthouses and a WINERY! The nice folks there got Pam a non-alcohol beverage and the ladies had a grand time (was it the wine, or no boys on board I wonder?).
Later we all met up in the quaint fishing village of Digby (turns out it’s no longer “quaint” but rather more of a busy port with large crowds). Somehow we managed to get a dockside outdoor seating area and watched the tide come in and colorful boats moored nearby during lunch at a place that advertised “best scallops in Nova Scotia.” My fish and chips were pretty good - ESPEICALLY the sweet ‘tater FRIES - oh my!
Our campsite was right at the edge of the bay - complete with a laundry, which would turn out to be the only time we did laundy the entire month!
DAY 14, Digby Neck, Acadian Coast, then north along the east coast, Nova Scotia. Heavy fog instead of dawn today - made thicker no doubt by the Atlantic Ocean just a few feet away from our campsite at the edge of Digby, Nova Scotia. We were off in a hurry to go try and find an almost secret spot my lovely bride found out about while researching interesting things to see and do. As we drove away and turned to head down the “Digby Neck” the fog got thicker, and then part of the sky opened and a brilliant orange ball of a sun burned through for a few seconds - a sight to behold, but only in the rear view mirror! As we drove down the “neck” (a narrow strip of land that juts out into the ocean for many miles) the fog thinned out and soon we had nothing but clear blue skies above. TURN LEFT HERE! I did as told, and we almost immediately found ourselves at the end of a rough road at a small fishing dock - lots of old stuff round, a guy or two milling around, and several fishing boats bobbing. We were obviously in the wrong place, so backed out and returned to the highway.
A few minutes later after all but giving up, we happened to see a battered and worn old wooden sign leaning up against the base of a tree - BEACH. That’s all we needed to see. There’s an underground of sorts for folks who find and collect what is collectively known as “sea glass.” These are basically broken bits of glass from any number of items that have ended up in the sea and may drift and tumble around for years - or decades, or centuries - until finally coming to rest on a beach somewhere. Some locations are better than others and some are well known, or not, but Pam had a lead on one that was near our route, so we gave it a shot.
Once again we came to a dead end road, but this time there were only two small, crumbling buildings, and what once was a short concrete pier, now split apart by time and the sea. We parked and found a small crescent moon shaped “beach” of sorts down beyond the pier - it curved around a rugged seashore for about 1/4 mile as the waves gently rolled in. This must be IT! Although we really didn’t know what “it” was. While Pam went down to the beach I wandered around the ruins and took a few snapshots - the early sunshine looked pretty nice on the old weathered place.
Then I moved on down to the beach, where my bride had already been walking, stopping to bend over, then another step and bend over, then another. Immediately I was struck how quiet and peaceful this place was. Just a slight breeze, and gentle lapping of the waves. They were incoming waves - low tide had been four hours before and so only a couple of hours left before the beach would be covered by the sea again.
I had only taken two steps before I spotted something beautiful in the sand. It was not sea glass, but rather a remarkable small polished stone of many colors, glistening in the morning sunshine. Another step, another beautiful polished stone was in my hand. There were bits and pieces of torn seaweed and a few broken crab shells here and there, but most of the beach was made up of these polished stones - some the size of golf balls, others smaller, in fact MUCH smaller. In fact the sand was actually small polished stones too. Before I knew it I had made my way to the far end of the beach and already filled one and a half puppy poop bags.
Then I’d made another pass and filled a third poop bag. It wasn’t until my third or fourth pass that I figured out my rhythm and soon I was as in step with the motion of the sea. It’s kind of hard to explain, but when you stop and look close as the small waves come in they bring with them new polished pebbles and scatter them across the ground. As the water retreats it grabs those same pebbles - and others - and tumbles them right on back out into the ocean, where they settle onto the sandy floor - only to be picked up and tumbled again and again and again until they take hold and sometimes disappear into the sand. I know there are rock tumbling machines that do this sort of thing but I’ve never really stood and watched the process happen right there in front of me before.
Before long I was able to walk along in the tumbling surf and reach down and pluck out a polished stone while it was still in motion without breaking stride.
The stones were in all colors, and especially in many colors mixed together as swirls or lines or splotches. Some stones had a frosty appearance, almost clear - clear as glass? But they weren’t glass, were they? We did find a few bits of actual, official “sea glass” but those were rare. I’ve been drawn to polished stones in creeks and rivers all my life but usually it’s the darker ones I’m attracted to. But today I kept finding ones that looked like opals, or other gemstones that were almost white, but then not really white - I had to hold them up to the sun to see if they were glass or stone.
Gemstones, that’s what I kept thinking of as I walked along - the world at my feet was full of polished gemstones - tumbling into perfection all around me. (These are literally just snapshots at my feet opf what was there - nothing had been touched or placed.)
Eventually the puppies joined us and they frolicked about in the surf a little bit, but mostly nosed around in the piles of fresh seaweed - and now and then we could hear them crunching on crabs. Munch, munch, munch. This was only the second time in the past ten years we’ve been able to let them run loose on the beach - it was a well confined area with no one else around.
At the close end of the beach near the old pier, I found a jumble of multi-colored rope that seemed to have swirled all together in the surf and collected itself into a pile - several other bits of fisherman’s rope were mostly buried in the sand. I had to take a picture.
That was one problem I had - should I continue to search for sea glass (and snatch another dozen or two polished pebbles), or take pictures of all the beauty around me? I decided to do both - filed another poop bag with gemstones and then took a few photos. But really, no way any photo could some close to capturing this place we were in at that moment, so I stopped and did nothing for a little while, and life was as good as it gets.
The next item on Pam’s to-see list was a giant church - the largest wooden church in all of North America. Less than an hour drive from the pebble beach and we were right where Mrs. Google said it would be - but there was no giant church to be found! We even turned at the sign and drove to the end of the road! It was SO BIG, how could we not find it?! And then we turned around and there it was - so close we could not see it. Oh my what a structure it was! 190’ tall, built in 1903, but closed to the public right now because of much-needed renovation needed. I stood out in the empty parking lot in awe. WOW!! (I’ve always loved old churches - worked on a picture book of them for a couple of years but never even got close to completing it.) Even the statue of Mary in front was special somehow. As we were leaving I noticed one of those “firewood” bundle stacks that are so common these days - only this one had bundles of kindling. We generally don’t build campfires any more but for some reason I just had to have a bundle of their kindling - and add $5 to the renovation fund. (we also got the most expensive gas fillup of the entire trip - it's Canadian dollars in liters, but still...)
Last stop for the day was to visit a lighthouse south of Yarmouth, located on an island. Along the twisted road way out to it we passed a really neat wall of old fishing gear, and I had to stop and take a snapshot. Near the base of the lighthouse was a “M.A.S.H” style directional post that was also colorful - seemed to be the order of the day - a LOT of multi COLOR! The lighthouse was pretty nice too.
We ended our day at a small state park on the eastern coast of Nova Scotia - nearly ten miles off the highway and the last several miles on gravel road. All the campsites were surrounded by thick forest, and even though the ocean was about a hundred feet away we could not see a thing. (Thomas Raddall Provincial Park - sunrise photo below the next morning is from just behind our campsite.)
Day 15, working up the eastern coast, Nova Scotia. The ocean is less than 100’ away and I’m looking at moonlight across a very calm sea tonight. We spent the last hour of day sitting at the edge, within the rocks where waves were crashing in with the slowly rising tide. Without any official notice the winds and waves went silent as the sun dipped into the distant treelike - high tide had arrived, a moment when all is equal and the world is at peace. And then colors in the sea and sky began to grow red and pink and orange and some colors i’d never seen before - a full pallet to delight all who watched (we were alone at the shoreline - with our puppies wondering why the heck we had been sitting in the same place for so long!
This morning we moved on along the coast north to visit what is billed as the “most beautiful town in Nova Scotia” - Lunenburg. We arrived early and wandered the streets filled with beautiful COLORFUL houses, row after row on up the hillside, all overlooking the harbor filled with sailing ships and other boats (including The Blue Nose, which is on the Nova Scotia license plate). So many postcard scenes, and lots of friendly people. I mostly dog sat and hiked them around town where no other people wandered (our pups don’t do well around other people so we try to keep to ourselves). Here's the only snapshot I took -
We met up with Pam’s parents and a cafe deck outside in back overlooking the pier for a simple lunch. Seemed like to many were only serving outside - and why not, the views were quite stunning! Nice to see so many folks wearing mask as part of their day - they still get it.
Another visit up along a scenic coast highway to Mohone Bay where we scored a bakery with hand dipped ICE CREAM - the very first we’d had on this trip! Then it was back down the coast a little bit for our new campsite that’s located right on the edge of the ocean, Rissers Beach Provential Park. Our bit of the coast line was mostly boulders with no sandy beach, but we did have access to the big sandy beach and my bride took a break from dog sitting to take a barefoot hike through the surf. Only a few snacks for dinner then the rest of our day was on the rocky coast line watching the day melt into the surf. Another splendid day on the Coast of Nova Scotia...
Day 16, Nova Scotia. A bit windy early this morning but I got to spend some time wandering the rocky shoreline with Wilson at dawn (he’s not been able to poop for a while - ate too many dead crabs on the beach a couple of days ago) - no luck again this morning). Then we headed off to continue heading north along the coast. We made what turned out to be a DELIGHTFUL side trip to Martinique Beach - what a wonderful, L O N G sandy beach that curves around gracefully to stretch out and receive the gentle waves from the ocean. Pam went one direction in search of sea glass (no luck), I took the pups the opposite way and in a mile or two of beach only passed ONE person - that’s our kind of beach! Once we got past the lady I unhooked the pups and they were free to run and splash and play like wild ocean dogs were supposed to do. Almost 100% fine sand, virtually no small stones anywhere, but that was OK.
And then we had a EUREKA moment - my boy pooped out a big one that included all the undigested crab bones that had been blocking him up. I jumped with joy a little bit, dug out a super-sized poop bag, scooped it all up, and headed back to the car.
The multi-mile drive out to this secluded beach was lovely, winding along the coast line with small houses scattered about. Many of the little homes had signs saying KEEP ANGEL HOME, with a photo/drawing of wild horse. Not sure if someone was trying to remove Angel from the area, if they wanted the owner to keep Angel in her stall, or something else. We did see a small horse along the narrow roadway on the way back, with someone hanging on to it, but weren’t sure if that was Angel or not.
There were other signs in yards along this area of the coast being FOR or AGAINST something or other, but otherwise just about all of Nova Scotia is free of political or religious propaganda. They are really into FLAGS though - in a good way. So many Canada flags (perhaps my favorite in all the land - in fact I have a Canada flag as my caution flag for my recumbent trike - I get stopped a lot by people asking me what part of Canada I’m from). There are probably 10x more Canada flags flying all the time here than all USA flags across the USA combined I bet. Canadians really love their country, as they should.
Almost all Canada flags were being flown at half staff everywhere we went in honor of QE2 - she was beloved no doubt across the Commonwealth of Canada. My lovely bride and I shared in a bit of all that since we’ve probably seen more documentaries about her this past five years than all other people combined. Such amazing history this past 70 years (not all of it good, but still).
I’ve been to timmy hortons several times over the decades of visits to Canada and have never really like it. We decided to give it one more try because their drive-thru allows vans like ours. There were SO many items on the menu screen, and they changed about every four or five seconds, I was TOTALLY confused after five minutes of trying to find something to order! (there are no numbers on items or combos) I gave up and just ordered something chocolate, but the nice young lady could not figure out what I wanted so I ordered something else. I know most people LOVE timmy’s, but I probably won’t be back.
Along our route to what we thought was an inland campsite on an island in a lake, we happened upon a boat graveyard that was literally spanning the highway on both sides - rusting old hulks of all sizes from small to REALLY big - I have no idea how they got some of those boats there! We could have stopped and spent hours there, but like most of our trip we were in a hurry into the unknown so we motored on. This was the sort of place that Pam’s parents would have LOVED, but we discovered later they were mis-directed to another route by Ms. Google and never got to see the rusting shipyard.
As we arrived at our new campsite it was indeed on an island but it turns out it was the OCEAN bay and not a lake! Pam picked a site online two months ago that was at the very far end of the island, out of the very tip - and much to our delight there wasn’t another campsite within 100 yards of us! This is one of the most beautiful campsites we’ve seen in Nova Scotia (Salsman Provincial Park) - so much space between campground, clean HOT showers, and the ocean bay on all sides! Pam spent a good bit of time sketching boats and trees and reflections and waves. And the park only had a few campers total - our kind of park…
Just as I was about to turn in for the night and was walking the pups around in the dark, I happened to look up and saw an INCREDIBLE full moon rising, and it was beautiful! As was the sunset on the water - and we didn’t even have to step away from camp. We hope to come back to this campground and stay longer…
Day 17, to Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. This will be a quickie since we have internet right now and not sure when we’ll have again. Eleven years ago I first mentioned to my lovely bride that I wanted to take our new camper van to Nova Scotia. Took us that long to get here. When we finally were able to actually start planning a trip there, after much research we decided we would spend a week on Cape Breton Island in the northeast part of Nova Scotia. Six months ago we set out plans in concrete and booked a primitive campsite next to the ocean for seven days - YIPPIE we were on our way (at least on paper). It wasn’t until today, 17 days into our trip, that we finally set foot on Cape Breton Island. We arrived a day early and after what was the second or third great FOOD spot on our trip (Dancing Goat cafe along the Cabot Trail - sandwiches were OK, but their SCONES were AS ADVERTISED - TERRIFIC!!!), we checked into our campsite at Cheticamp (and we’re actually just a hundred yards or so from the Cheticamp River, famous for salmon fishing).
As it turned out we decided to do the main hike of this visit TONIGHT instead of waiting until later in the week (when we would be camped on the other side of the island). One of the most epic (and hyped) hikes in North America is no doubt the Skyline Trail here at Cape Breton Highlands National Park. And it WAS!!! Since we now are mostly not able to leave the dogs in the van alone (and they are not allowed on the Skyline Trail), we took turns doing the hike.
While Pam was on her hike I sat in the van and watched the local security ranger write no less than EIGHT tickets - widely advertised as being a $248 fine if you don’t have the required park pass. We already bought our yearly national park pass and had it proudly display in the windshield so I was not worried, but it was funny as they ranger approached our van - he was looking closely at all the vehicles. He walked all the way across the parking lot to inspect us, but then only got within about ten feet when he turned around and headed the other direction. Wilson was sitting proudly in the driver’s seat next to the pass - way to go buddy!
Then when Pam returned with wide smiles and photos from he hike, I was anxious to get my shot at this epic trail. And it was - such a beautiful hike through dense forest with the biggest ferns I’d ever seen - maybe because the trees were so short. But the trail itself was wide and graveled and smooth, then turned to boardwalk and steps that descended down the barren hillside towards the open ocean. It was mostly clouds, but I love clouds at sunset. I stopped and took pictures along the way, but when I got to the end I just stood there with mouth wide open at the incredible view. It would have been pretty great even if the sun never appeared, but the sun was just up there in the clouds and then eventually dropped into an open slide above the horizon just before sunset. Epic view. Epic trail. Epic national park. And we’d only been there three hours! CHECK!!!
Day 18, Cape Breton Island Nova Scotia (Cape Breton Highlands National Park). I’ll start this one off because - yep, we’ve not left our first campsite on the island yet and we still have internet access! The day started off well and all four of us (pups) hiked up the remarkable Chetacamp River just as sunbeams began to illuminate the steep hills above and the beautiful river below. (see photo below) WOW!!! Oops, my bride just informed me that she was going to fix LUNCH - I guess maybe I’ve been here too long typing and I still have pictures to process and post - we’re headed on up the coast and around to the other side of the national park to a campsite we booked for the next seven nights...
Day 19, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. Here's some snapshots from one of our morning stops today along the northeastern shore of Nova Scotia in Cape Breton Highlands National Park (we left our campsite before sunup and were on the beach for sunrise).
THE REST OF THE TRIP WILL BE POSTED SOON!