Northeast Nova Scotia

Since I failed to get a ferry reservation from PEI to NS for my oversize rig, I retraced miles back to Confederation Bridge, heading south thru a short piece of New Brunswick then into Nova Scotia. Not a big deal; it was a wash in terms of time and a few bucks less than taking the ferry. Plus, I got to see more of NB and NS, as the interstate highway flowed across several rolling ridges of heavily forested and enjoyable mountains. Eventually, I crossed the causeway onto Cape Breton Island. Wow.

Big Spruce Brewery
Big Spruce Brewery
Cape Breton Highlands - Big Spruce Brewery
Cape Breton Highlands – Big Spruce Brewery

About 45 minutes into the island I saw a sign for Big Spruce Brewery and made a quick hard left onto an uphill road where I finagled the trailer into a precarious spot so I could check out the unexpected brewery’s goods. Like they say, good things come in unexpected packages. Or something like that. I do know that Big Spruce is may favoritist brewery of all times, all places. Seriously.  I know you’ve heard that before but I’m totally real serious this time. I just might move here. Yup.

The village of Baddeck is so cool, too. I’m only here one night and have reservations in the national park up north and then for the 7-hour ferry ride to Newfoundland already booked. But I’ll return here whenever I come back from NF. Seems the further I go into the Maritime Provinces, the more I like them in all aspects: geography, history, people. Cannot wait to see what the north cape of Nova Scotia has to offer!

Well, the north cape of the island—largely Cape Breton Highlands National Park—offers up much, Lots of much! I hope God has used some of this incredibly beautiful country as the blueprint for heaven. The Cabot Trail covers much of the highlands of this end of Nova Scotia. It’s a wonderful road (and in short sections, it’s a wretched road; more on that later). I’ve had the blessing of driving many wonderful roads the past few months. Can’t really believe it sometimes. Truly blessed! Thank you, God!

Cabot Trail leaves the community of Braddeck and quickly climbs, with concerning roadbed deterioration into the highlands of the island. Just a couple miles in I was sure every cabinet door was thrown open, spewing its contents into a sea of confusion on the trailer floor (Amy, sorry for any disturbing images of open cabinetry!). But in a few miles the pavement settled down and the drive became quite nice. I now understand how tough winters are on roads and why the two primary seasons up north are winter and construction.

The seaside community of Chéticamp just south of the national park is so cool. Very picturesque; could spend a couple days just looking at the Saint Lawrence Gulf, enjoying the smells of the water. Within a couple kilometers of entering the park there was a small black bear foraging alongside the road. Also so cool. As I continued along the coastal route, I pulled into a few overlooks, talked with a few people, just enjoying the day. Beautiful day.

Skyline Trail is a highlight of the park that crosses a huge headland bluff. I took the 5+ mile loop trail that wound through wind-scoured forests and highland mesas. Didn’t see any moose, though there were plenty of signs they were in the area; it was a great walk in the park!

Hike done, I headed eastward toward my campsite. Cabot Trail continued to delight with its incredible views, and it continued to confound with its sometimes steep and twisty sections—sometimes very steep and very twisty sections! I was thankful for the heft of my F250, especially on the downhills. Man, some of them were intimidating. When I arrived at the KOA in Sydney the rep in the office remarked about hauling a 35′ foot trailer around the Cabot Trail… was impressed. I never felt in danger but there were many sections where I drove the centerline of the roadway because the shoulders were essentially craters. The road definitely required diligence.

Cabot Trail is another of the world’s great coastal routes and despite the tough driving at times, I enjoyed the three days circling northeast Nova Scotia. On to Newfoundland for a week before returning to lower Nova Scotia!

Nova Scotia — Mainland

Before leaving Cape Breton I stopped into Seaboard Tire in Port Hawkesbury to get another trailer tire replaced. Bad wear pattern on the left rear, so something is outta whack. Will look into that when back in Texas. The kid who replaced the tire also noticed and fixed a broken brake wire to the front wheel. Earned himself a nice tip. I spent the rest of the day winding my way down the eastern coast of Nova Scotia to Halifax and squeezed into a site at Woodhaven Park RV, about 10 miles out of town. The drive was nice, alternating between rolling hills and seaside villages.

Halifax Area

The next day I drove to popular Peggy’s Cove for lunch and then continued down to Mahone Bay, which is probably my favorite little seaside village with sidewalk cafes, shops, marina, and colorfully painted buildings. It’s just cool—and it has a good brewery, Saltbox Brewing. Enjoyed a flight of good brews, although nothing particularly stood out as a favorite. Don’t get me wrong, they make respectable beer.

Wednesday I headed downtown to visit the Maritime Museum with it’s good exhibits of the Halifax Explosion, the Titanic, and various sailing and sea-oriented displays. Great selection of model boats and ships. After having visited the Titanic museum in Belfast, Ireland last year, this was  a cool experience to bookend the doomed ship’s history, from its planning and building in Northern Ireland to the recovery of its survivors and victims on this side of the ocean. I then kicked around town visiting a few breweries, Tidehouse Brewing, among the smallest of breweries anywhere. It’s in a quirky location with a taproom about 8′ x 12′ which seats nine people, tightly. At sleek 2 Crows Brewing, I loved their Smackwater Jack farmhouse ale made with quince fruit. My taste for farmhouse and saison ales apparently continues. At Propeller Brewing the Bohemian Pilsener caught my taste buds; the rest of the flight was decent.

Thursday (which I thought was Wednesday and forgot to make my pickem choices for this weekend’s football) I visited Fairview Cemetery where over 100 Titanic victims lie at rest. Then I just bounced around town some more. Had good times chatting with the bartender and an awesome pork butt sandwich at Good Robot Brewing and later won a game of cribbage at Unfiltered Brewing. Topped the day with a lamb burger at Finbar’s Irish Pub on the way back to camp.

Bay of Fundy East Shore

Friday I left Halifax and officially started heading west and south. But first I stopped into the very nice Schoolhouse Brewing in Windsor. The roast beef, cheddar & jalapeño panini was very good, as were all the 5 ounce tasters across several styles. Another cool spot and glad I went a few miles out of my way to check it out.

The road between Windsor and Maitland, primarily NS236, was wonderful! Although several sections have badly bleeding shoulders, the two-lane country road winds through the inland hills of Nova Scotia. I thorough enjoyed the hour-long drive, especially as the trees were starting to show beautiful fall colors. Some were just starting, others had already fully committed to the arriving season. Gorgeous drive; one of the best! Since there were virtually no pull-outs I couldn’t get any pictures. They would’ve failed giving the scenes justice, anyway.

With the weather turning cooler and rain in tomorrow’s forecast, I left the truck and trailer coupled at secluded Maitland Family Campground, planning to just hang out and read about the Newfoundland sealing disaster in 1914. Noticed the low Sunday morning when I’m going tidal bore running is supposed to be 39 degrees. That’ll be a chilly day on the Bay of Fundy! More on that below…

Sunday morning, in the low 40s, I arrived at Shubenacadie River Runners to ride the tidal bore—the only area in the world where you can do this! I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect but when they started handing out survival suits I knew we were in for something special. I truly wish I could’ve gotten pictures or video of the waves created by the rushing incoming tide  but it took both hands to stay inside the boat. Our guide, Brandon, had one mission: soak everyone to the marrow. He succeeded. It was also so cool to walk around a huge sand bar and then just a few short minutes later have it  be several feet underwater. The tides in this area run up to fifty feet! We had about 35-40 feet of tide, which was waaaaay sufficient! We also saw a bunch of bald eagles perched in the tree tops waiting to pluck fish caught in the tide. Very cool. One guy lost his Go-pro in the first set of rapids; another guy’s Fit-bit registered 9348 steps during the two-hour ride. This was the best adventure ride of my life. Unreal fun!

And with that, I left Nova Scotia in my mirrors and headed toward Saint John, New Brunswick, slowly heading home.