Our first visit to Nova Scotia (part 1) was a whirlwind of visits to relatives and preparations for our two year Cross-Canada adventure. Later, we would swing through Nova Scotia a second time (part 2) in a slightly more relaxed fashion. Because my parents live in Nova Scotia we have given it short shift as far as our Cross-Canada trip goes. We will be back numerous times over the course of our lives and so will be able to visit the province bit by bit as time goes on. In this light, here are two links detailing previous trips that occurred before we began our adventure (these pages were built as web development pages so the content is a little slim).
A Day of Sailing
Part 1: May 15 - May 26, 2003
May 12, 2003:
We left Toronto in the rain on May 11, 2003 and arrived in Nova Scotia in rain the following day safe but tired. It seemed to take forever to get out east as the rain, the pot holes and
the heavily loaded truck (we have some extra stuff to be left at Stephen's parents) made for a slow drive. We also experienced our first of what proved to be many problems with our brand new Coleman Sedona tent trailer. Somewhere in Quebec, the door lock worked loose allowing the door to open and bang around in the wind. Thankfully, nothing flew out but the door suffered some minor damage. It was an omenus start to our relationship with our Coleman camper.
May 15, 2003:
During our first week, Stephen and his Father started work building the storage boxes in the back of the truck. Carol had
started to organize the camper and make lists of things for Stephen to do but then more-or-less ‘crashed’ and thus slept a lot. Closing our life down in Toronto in the weeks before we left had been a major undertaking and was very draining. Our plan had been to recuperate in Nova Scotia for a few weeks allowing time to visit friends and family, relax and get organized for our trip. In the end however, there was so much to do getting ready that we short-changed the relax part.
May 17, 2003:
A mini-family reunion was held for Stephen's family with people coming from Windsor, Digby and Halifax for the gathering. This included Stephen's grandmother who was to turn 87 two weeks after the event. She still lives by herself in the family home! All present had a good time and a great feast!
May 18, 2003:
We went into Halifax to see Carol's cousin Peter and his wife Heather. What a feast! Peter made a delicious meal of sushi -
all from scratch and lots of hard work. Being the true artist, even the layout was designed. We definitely
don't have the skill to try this at home!
May 24, 2003:
We got a chance to drop in on Dave and Deb Goswell. I worked with Dave over my five years with Komatsu so it was very
nice to drop in for dinner and a few bottles of wine! Dave also helped us out by storing our trailer at his place for a few
days after it visited the dealership (for a new lock). Rather than drag it back to Kentville, Carol left it at Dave's work. He took it
from there to his house in Truro and we picked it up on our way out of Nova Scotia. Thanks Dave!
May 26, 2003:
Arrghhh! What kind of project have we started? May 26th and we are still here working away trying to get things sorted for our travels.
We didn't really have a place or the time to get organized in Toronto so we left a lot of the building work for Dad's garage. We are currently installing
a drawer/divider system for the truck cap, electrics to run the trailer, making stuff sacks and extra shelves for the camper, installing
air lift kits for the truck suspension, etc., etc. It doesn't seem like much but it all takes time so we are a bit frustrated as
we both want to get on the road. There are some photos of our set-up at -The Gear- link.
We finally got ourselves on the road and headed west! If you wish to follow our journey chronologically you can link from here to the New Brunswick page.
Part 2: July 9 - July 22, 2003
Note: Although we visited Stephen's parents Nova Scotia in May 2003, we did not do any touring as we were working feverishly to get everything set up for our
trip. This page details our return visit to Nova Scotia which took place between July 9th and July 22nd after having covered the first part of our journey - the
north-eastern Quebec, Labrador and Newfoundland loop.
July 9, 2003:
A long day but a good one. We wheezed off the ferry (both feeling the effects of a rough sea - we're land-dwellers) and headed for Fort Louisbourg, a rebuilt
French Fort from 1744. It is quite large, very well done and has period characters acting out their roles. We had quite a good chat with the guy manning the
canons and after we covered the ins and outs of 18th century canons we got on to the cod fishery, the crab fishery, forestry, the collapse of the Syndey steel industry, the
associated coal industry and other interesting tidbits regarding employment in the Maritimes. From here we took an impromptu tour of the infamous Sydney Tar Ponds.
I had expected vast bubbling deposits of noxious black goo
but instead found what looked like a semi-polluted pond by an abandoned steel mill. I guess looks can be deceiving though; it is one of the largest environmental
nightmares in Canada and is still
slowly washing out to sea (the tar or sludge is under the water we saw ). Later in the day, we
headed up the over-run Cabot Trail and camped near South Harbour on the north end of Cape Breton.
July 10, 2003:
We spent the day in and around the north bit of Cape Breton. Beautiful and spectacular it is, off the beaten track it isn't. After the isolation of Labrador and the
relative quiet of Newfoundland, this place was a bit hard of a shock. The Cabot Trial is a mass of gift shops, craft shops, pottery shops, metal work shops, leather shops and
you-name-it-they-are-selling-it-shops. You are constantly presented with what purports to be some semblance of the Acadian and Gaelic heritages, both of which have been
watered down to the point of sterility. I am certain they exist here, but most certainly not boxed or bottled or otherwise gift wrapped and sold 10 meters off the Cabot
Trial. I enjoyed meeting the people of Labrador and Newfoundland but in Cape Breton I find it frustrating as everyone is either a tourist or
trying to sell you something. Anyway, I am being too harsh - it is beautiful... Carol will put a more positive spin on things....
A reasonably quick drive northwards off the "top" of the Cabot Trail puts you into Meat Cove. Although it had that typical over-run Cape Breton feeling it is a
spectacular place view-wise. Almost everyone drives to Meat Cove, has a look, turns around and leaves so if you head off onto the trails to the west or to the south you soon find
yourself very alone with the views all to yourself. The woman at the welcome center was very helpful and sent Carol and I off on a short hike that we managed to turn into a pretty decent
journey. After several hours with only a vague sense of where we were, we turned back only to find we had been a short distance from Cape St. Lawrence which is pretty
much the northern-most tip of that part of Cape Breton (Cape North is the actual furthest point north). It was too bad we hadn't gone all the way but we had reached
our turn around time (based on the amount of daylight left so it was the prudent thing to do). Still, it was a great hike - the only downside was that it didn't show
much of the coastline as the road/trail is pretty heavily treed on both sides. This north-western tip of Cape Breton would be great country to explore; if we are ever
fortunate enough to return the coast (and land) between Pleasant Bay and Cape St. Lawrence would be a great place to investigate further.
July 11, 2003:
Up near the tip of Cape Breton there are a couple of neat natural harbours that have formed at a river mouth. Just before entering the ocean these rivers drain
into a flat area forming a lake with a narrow, marshy inland portion and a wider portion where it eventually meets the ocean. Large sand bars block the lake from the ocean and are breached in a single spot to allow the river to drain into the sea. The lakes are salty as sea water alternately flows into the lake and then exits again with each tide. One
such area is called South Harbour and we spent a few hours on the morning of July 11th canoeing it. We followed the current out through the hole in the
sandbar at which point we stopped and had lunch. During this time the tide was lowering and this made the current through the sand bar channel that much
quicker. Had our lunch been any longer we might not have been able to canoe against it when going home! The lady who ran the campground said in her father's time they used to build ships in the harbour
and then push them out through the sandbar channel. Since that time, the channel has both shallowed and moved northward making any such activity impossible (not that
they build ships there anymore).
July 11, 2003:
We stopped in at Pleasant Bay during the afternoon to go whale watching. We signed up for the Zodiac (as opposed to one of the bigger, slower boats) tour and were very
glad we did. We ended up with six kids and four adults. The kids, the Zodiac, 200HP and a young captain made a great combination and we had an awesome time (despite
not really seeing that many whales). The trip could best be summed up as: two moose sightings, a bit of high speed wave jumping, a couple fin-back whales up close,
two high-speed donuts with all the kids screaming and a few pilot whales. Heaps of fun. If you do it, go for the Zodiac. You cover more ground
so you see more whales (while the bigger boats just slowly bob around on the ocean making you sea sick) and have a lot more excitement. Whales? We got really close to
a couple of fin-backs which can get up to 75 feet long. Amazing to watch them surface - you get close enough that you can watch their 'face' as they surface beside you.
We were surprised how aggressively the Zodiac chased the whales but they seemed to be on a mission (ie. feeding) and didn't mind. Despite, the noise and commotion the whales don't seem
bothered at all. The could have left us in the dust but they just seemed to ignore us. Later they settled a bit and we motored beside them while two swam in
a straight line slowly surfacing and submerging. Spectacular. The kids were just loving it so it was that much more exciting. That night we stayed at the National Park
in Cheticamp. Having heard a forecast for 90 km/hr winds we picked a spot well sheltered in the trees. We were glad we did - the noise from the wind and the driving rain
were unbelievable. We didn't really sleep very well but the wind more or less left us alone as the trees absorbed it all.
July 12, 2003:
The plan was to do a quick day trip down the Margaree River but when we got to the river we found the water level to be very low (too bad as we were really hoping
for some practice in the rapids). Despite this we really enjoyed the drive in and along the Margaree valley area - very picturesque and quite quiet. We decided to head
out of Cape Breton and soon found ourselves on the Maritime Drive of what I think they call the south-eastern shore (but what I would call the north-eastern
shore - I can never figure out how Nova Scotians label their coastline). A very pretty and peaceful drive (except for
the two young kids driving daddy's car and throwing McDonald's garbage out the window - which we would stopped and picked up) without the sense
of busy-ness we find in the rest of Nova Scotia. The drive follows the coast but as it was very foggy we couldn't see much so we did a few inland short cuts and were very surprised at the number of small lakes and boreal type forest. We ended our day at Salsman Provincial Park (near Stormont) where we picked a beautiful 'water-front' camping
site at the end of a small bay. Six hours later, we found our beautiful bay had turned into an expansive mud flat - we're from Ontario, what do we know about tides!
We spent the next day in this beautiful park relaxing, watching a couple of eagles, practicing our whitewater strokes out on the river and trying to avoid tipping on
account of the jelly fish we kept seeing. This nice quiet corner of Nova Scotia and beautiful little park made for a great day!
July 14-22 2003, Kentville:
Well, we survived the first part of our trip and are back home with Stephen's parents to recuperate and repair whatever needs repairing
(mostly the camper - 12V system, front wall, stove lid protectors, stove spot weld, repaint the sandblasted frame, etc). We had a much more relaxing visit as this
time we weren't running around trying to get everything ready. We had a little more
time to do things like sailing in the fog (see photo - it was actually fun as I got to play with the radar and GPS), visit my Grandmother in Digby, go to a play
(Into the Woods) with Mom and Dad, cut down some BIG but dead tree limbs with Dad, pick strawberries, get new tires installed on my truck (Thanks to my
Uncle Kelly), send a letter to Coleman regarding our camper and fix up our paddles. A most productive week (nobody said that this would be a 'holiday')
and to top it all off Carol got a job for the winter in Williams Lake, B.C.! The photo is of Stephen's family and is from
our first visit in May which includes Kate (even though she wasn't in Kentville this particular week).
From here it was a mad dash to Quebec to meet up with Linda and Bill Smith for a week long bike tour around Lac Saint-Jean. Although we of course passed through New Brunswick on the way to Quebec the following link takes you directly to Quebec: Part 2 as that is were we pick up the next part of our journey. Our New Brunswick tour had been completed earlier in the year and this July 23rd drive was just that - a drive. To follow chronologically click on the Quebec: Part 2 link.
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