With the summer coming to an end DD and I decided to go on a road trip from Quebec to Nova Scotia. We didn’t really have the resources or time to take any long-term official vacation this year so decided to take advantage of the Labour Day weekend and take 10 days off to visit Nova Scotia.
Neither of us had been to the Maritimes before, well…I had spent three months in Bishop’s Falls Newfoundland when I was a Katimavik participant back in the, but basically we hadn’t seen anything East of Quebec so decided it was time for a short road trip!
I had spent the first few days of my vacation at the Montreal Film Festival and we left on Tuesday after Labour day because we wanted to avoid the traffic of the families and holidayers who were returning through customs and going back to school.
We had our new Garmin Nuvi widescreen GPS unit which was great for navigating in uncharted territory. We had decided to drive through Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine instead of going through Canada on the way there.
We left Bromont, Quebec at 7am on Tuesday and got to St. John, New Brunswick at around 5pm where our first stop was The Irving Nature Park. When we hopped out of the car and started getting our hiking booties on we were greeted by a fox! Wow, I thought, this is some crazy wildlife nature park when the foxes come out to say “Welcome!”
We walked out on the boardwalk to these mangrove like salt swamps full of muddy undulated banks and grassy plains rich orange from the setting sun. There is a looping hiking trail through the Irving Nature Reserve so we did a 4 km loop across the Squirrel Trail, The Seal Trail and the Caribou Trail. The smell of the ocean was powerful and the low angle of the sun created fantastic shapes on the curling bark of the trees and dark shoreline rocks from the cliffs. The trails were well groomed and well marked; maybe we weren’t there at the right time to see an abundance of wildlife but we did have several close encounters with the creature known in Latin as : Headphonus Joggernuts! I guess the local Saint John fitness freaks use the trails as a perfect spot to train…which might explain why there were no creatures in the forest…the animals had been frightened by the sound of tinny treble through headphones and zooming spandex buttocks!
We loved the little hike to give us our first taste of New Brunswick…especially after a 10 hour car ride in the 2005 Salsa Vibe that is now paid for (sweeet)! We spent the night at the Best Western in Saint John New Brunswick where we got the room with the Jacuzzi and got there just in time for our episode of Hell’s Kitchen (I know…admitting we watch Hell’s Kitchen is saying alot but damnit we love the show) so had a hot soak and I made some pita vege-pate sandwhiches! Nothing like a jacuzzi in a hotel eating vege-pate and hopping into a king size bed and watching America’s Got Talent!
Next day we goofed around in Saint John shopping for some swim gear (oops…DAMI forgot his trunks) and a coat (D’oh! DAMI forgot his coat) and a tuque (yeah…you guessed it…DAMI left that at home too!) and found it all at WalMart and Winners at the new shopping Mecca in Saint John in the Industrial part of town where the hotel was. We picked up a Kickeroo for Alaska and Jasper and some Salmon snacks at the Pet Shop where the girl had a cold and had never heard of salmon snacks for cats before…I guess they only know about Cod Crispies!!
We drove from Saint John to the Bay of Fundy National Park. The Bay of Fundy was way-cool…while we didn’t get there to see the rise and fall of the largest tides in the world we did do some hiking and spent time on the beach to see Fundy at it’s finest…another place we need to go back to! After a quick hike and a Spam sandwich Picnic we drove through Moncton and down towards Truro and skirted around Halifax on our way to the Mersey River Chalets right near Kejimkujik. We had thought of taking the ferry to Digby but wanted to see a bit of the province so opted for the long way home!
It’s a nice ride, good highways…we were surprised at the quality of the roads but I guess coming from Quebec anything that doesn’t knock your suspension off or give you a flat tire is considered a good road. Highways in Quebec are like a third world donkey trail but the main roads in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia felt like a runway at Kennedy Space Center!
We arrived at the Mersey River Chalets & Nature Retreat after dark…the entrance was just to the right 5 km after the entrance to the National Park…the road was dark and the tires crunched on the gravel like walking kernals of popcorn on snow….skrunch skrunch as we rolled through the narrow treed road towards the cabins…we had wanted to get there before the sun set but it was actually kind of magical pulling into the darkness and not being sure of what was surrounding us as we pulled up into the parking space for our cabin…they had left the lights on for us! After the long drive we were a bit bushed and unloaded the car and lit a fire in the wood stove and then relaxed…ready to sleep and open our eyes tomorrow to see where we were…
Oh My Goodness Gracious! We woke up nestled in the wilderness of wild Nova Scotia in an amazing cabin built along the Mersey River on several hundred acres of pristine forest in a cabin with wood stove and kitchen facilities and complete amenities for the long-haul! It was incredible! The retreat has been lovingly built with the vision of a true wilderness experience and an obvious love of the Earth. It is designed as a fully accessible area with almost 2 km of boardwalks appropriate for wheelchairs and the cabins and canoe launch facilities all have addressed accessibility concerns.
They have a Tipi Village, which we might try in the Summer, and several modern chalets that have roll-in showers, two bedrooms and wood stoves! There were no annoying TV’s or WiFi connections in the room…there was silence and the river and the mist rising from the river! Awesome! They were so friendly when we went to say hi the next day and we were given maps and a full description of the facilities by Cindy who answered all our questions and made us feel sooo welcome!
We christened this our “FastCation” because we were on a vacation that was a total of 4 days including 2000 km of driving!
We started with a 90 minute canoe ride towards the beaver dam and the falls where we had been told we might encounter some “Little People” or was it the “Faeries” living near the Beaver Dam…I’m not sure what Stephan said and as we passed his Tipi on the shores we didn’t want to disturb his peaceful reveries and just paddled silently…the canoeing was stupendous!
After the canoeing we drove to Kejimkujik Park with our bikes to do some touring. We checked in with the Ranger and heard tales from one visitor who had been coming to the park since 1966 and had just scared a black bear out of his black fuzzy pajamas on one of the back country bike trails…he looked at me with a rascal spark in his eyes and told me “not to worry” about the bears…GULP!!
We drove to the head of the Mersey River Hiking Trail…this is the perfect time to visit the Park…just after Labor Day when all the munchkins are back in school and the summer holidays are basically over….we had the whole park basically to ourselves!
The Mersey River bike trail was one of the best bike trails we’d been on…instead of a railroad trail this was an intense winding trail, fairly flat, along the brown delicious tannin of the Mersey River. We did the 3.5 km ride without breaking a sweat and then pulled into the Kedge Beach Area where a few folks were launching a canoe and we just waded into the brown waters and marveled at the horizon of dense trees without any telephone poles or hydro lines or building anywhere…so quiet and peaceful!
After the loop along the lake where the mainly empty campsites were, we passed a few deers who really ignored us and got back to the Vibe and drove down to the Snake Lake hike which also leads to Peter Point. The Snake Lake trail was for hiking only but Peter Point was a bike trails so we decided to do both and rode in towards Peter Point to where Snake Lake Trail started and locked the bikes and took the 3 km walk and then returned to the bikes and drove the rather uphill crest towards Peter Point which was…WOW!! A tiny point of land with a white sand beach and flat stones and cries of Loons on the lake…incredibly intimate place and we were able to skinny-dip, take off our clothes and wade into the warm September waters of Lake Kejimkujik. We were hosted by a tiny little lake frog who perched himself on the flat slabs of stones that contained the scratching hieroglyphics of visitors to the point from years gone by. Like people scratching their names into a tree with a penknife the point has a few flat slabs with scratchings in stone like an aboriginal cave painting…the oldest one I saw was from 1954…the newest said something like “Buffy Loves Jimmy” and was from 2008. But it was a magical place!
After the ride we drove back towards the chalets and stopped at M + W Restaurant and had our encounter with Marilyn at her funky corner store/restaurant. We had some take out fried fish platter and drove back to the cabin to light a fire and relax after our hiking biking and canoeing day! DAMI fell asleep after supper, probably from a combo of physical activity and the 4000 calories in the deep fried seafood platter from Marilyn, but came to life after an espresso coffee in time to go for a walk under the stars.
DD hadn’t seen stars so crystal clear and bright since her last visit to the Planetarium and with more and more light pollution in the world it is harder to find areas where you can see more than 200 stars…here in the Nova Scotia darkness we could see the cloudy whisps of the Milky Way and we brought a blanket to the canoe docks and layed down for half an hour to watch the stars and see a few falling stars…it was a magical moment indeed!
The next day we had an eggs and ham breakfast on the picnic table on the boardwalk and met a few British tourists who were excited to have heard a wood-pecker…we didn’t have the heart to tell them we have a few resident woodpeckers back home in Quebec that eat out of our chickadee feeder on a regular basis! We took some pictures of the morning loveliness and then packed up the car and drove to Fort St. Anne in the Annapolis Valley but didn’t want to stop and pay the $3.50 fee for the site so asked Garmin where there was a park nearby and she brought us to a small Zoo not far from the park.
We thought the place was closed but they had just shut the main pavilion down for the season…the gate was open and a donation box for payment…we rode our bikes and were like two children alone in a wild animal zoo! It was crazy! We rode to see the cougars, the owls, the lynx, the moose, the eagles…all alone…with just us to say hello to them and share some kind words. It was a quiet powerful 45 minutes riding between the natural outdoor cages and saying hi to the animals without anyone else in the zoo!
We had to say goodbye to the creatures and drive down to Yarmouth because we were catching the Fast Cat from Yarmouth to Portland at 4:30 pm and according to the schedule had to be there 1 hour in advance so we drove past Digby and down the West side of Nova Scotia to Yarmouth with only a small stop on the way when we saw the sign for Doucetteville so we could take a picture, naturally…right DD?
We got to the International Ferry Terminal in Yarmouth and grabbed a ticket, we had made our reservations on the Internet thing before we left so we just had to show ID. Loading up was similar to our experiences on board the Sunshine Coast Ferry in British Columbia but this boat looked more like a jet with whiskers!
I was disappointed that the only observation deck for passengers was off the back and was only 50 feet wide by 6 feet deep so not many people could squeeze in…I guess coming from BC where the Queen of Cowichan had wide open sun bathing decks I had been spoiled…but I understand….with the speed the Fast Cat Ferry travels it would be too easy to lose someone overboard and tough to backtrack and find them again.
The Fast Cat was ultra-deluxe…more like a jumbo-jet with comfy seats and lounges and there were like 3 movie theaters and a casino! Restaurants and a gift shop, kiddie zone, a fancy bar and cocktail lounge, and all of this traveling at 46 knots across the Atlantic!
We found a nice seat with a table and had a truly Canadian moment when we had a game of cards using a deck of cards from the Season 6 DVD from Corner Gas while eating some Kettle Chips made in New Brunswick and drinking some Big 8 Cola bought from a Nova Scotia corner store! Holy Maple Leaf!!
We stayed in Portland overnight and decided that on our next visit the total cost of the Fast Cat and hotel of $600 USD wasn’t worth it as we could have drove back the long way home and saved some money and likely some time…but we try anything once and that includes Marilyn’s Seafood Platter!
We loved our trip to Nova Scotia and got back home on Saturday evening…a fast 4 day vacation but we have already planned to go back in October…it’s too beautiful in Canada’s Ocean Playground! But this time we don’t take the Ferry and we Do take the Burmese Babies!!!