Nova Scotia Musings

I realized a couple of days ago that I never posted about the honeymoon we took in Nova Scotia last month! Crazy! This post is pretty much everything – Sunday is before the cut and the rest of the week is after it. Sorry Bloglines readers – you’ll get the whole thing!

Sunday July 23

After leaving Clarks Cove Farm, Amy, Nan, and I went to say goodbye to our families. Headed to Portland to catch the CAT ferry at 2:30. Spent a long time in line (we got there latish) and were some of the last cars on the boat. Parked and found a place to sit in the CAT – unfortunately nearly the casino. Due to Hurricane Beryl, the waters were r-o-u-g-h and both of us got pretty ill. Lucky Amy had to take care of me, since not only was I trying not to throw up, but also got a wicked migraine. Thank goodness for Imitrex, which deals with both nausea and headaches. Spent most of the trip curled up in a little ball on the floor of the boat. Every time I got up to go to the bathroom or wander around I ended up sicker.

The boat landed an hour and a half late, and we still had a 3.5 hour drive ahead of us. It was pretty foggy, which made things challenging. I drove the first 90 miles and Amy took over for the final 90. Once we got off 103, we made a few wrongish turns, but finally got to the Riversong B&B in Seabright, NS around 2:15 a.m. Beth, the owner, got up and greeted us (seriously!) and we made arrangements for a 9 a.m. breakfast rather than the typical 8:15 a.m. one.

Monday July 24

Got up around 8:55 and made myself decent for breakfast. Met the upstairs neighbors – 2 straight couples in their mid-late 50s from Texas. I don’t know if they get that we’re on our honeymoon, and don’t plan on bursting their bubbles…!

After a breakfast of currant muffins, fresh fruit, sausage, egg bake, slaw, and coffee, Amy headed back to bed for a bit while I puttered. It was still raining around 11:45 when she woke up. We got dressed for kayaking and headed off to East Dover for our afternoon kayak with Nova Shores Adventures.

We arrived and met Glenn, our guide. He got us oriented to the tandem kayak, the paddles, the skirt, the drybags, and getting in and out of the boat. We headed down to the boats and took off. We went through some really calm waters and then headed into rougher surf. We saw a couple of grey seals, seagulls, cormorants, blue herons, and 2 really hilarious brown ermines. We kayaked around some of the uninhabited islands in the area, and finally landed on one of them. Glenn had a picnic snack – which we ate after we hiked to the far side of the island. There were some amazing waves crashing on the rocks/boulders of that side of the island. It started raining harder, so we headed back to the kayaks and back to home base. On our way we saw the seals again and got a little seasick again (the swells were pretty big – thankfully the kayak was very stable). When we got in, Glenn realized he’d taken us on an extra-long trip, since we started an hour earlier than normal. Awesome!

He gave some good advice on purchasing a kayak – especially for novices like us. Don’t buy new, buy from outfitters at the end of the season, and try a few other types before you buy. That should be easy enough. He also gave dinner advice – so after showers, we headed to Halifax for Argyle Street and the Wooden Monkey restaurant. We got there by navigation-by-deduction, at which I am apparently quite good. The restaurant reminds me of the White Dog in Philadelphia food-wise, although significantly less fussy. We both had the sweet-potato/apple soup, and split an order of the julienned vegetable spring rolls with tahini dipping sauce and fresh greens. Amy had marinated kombu (a type of seaweed) and vegetables over soba noodles for her dinner, and I had the fish and roasties – breaded and not-quite-deep-fried haddock and thinly sliced potatoes roasted with olive oil and seasonings. This came with the best coleslaw I’ve ever had, as well as wonderful tartar sauce. We topped the meal off with a gin and juice for Amy and a apricot wheat beer for me. Yum!

After dinner we walked down to the waterfront and poked around just a bit – enough to see some of the charter boats that go out, as well as the multitude of restaurants in the area – amazing! Found a cash machine and headed back to the B&B, with a pit stop for gasoline. Liters confuse me when it comes to gasoline – I’m good with kilometers-to-miles, but liters-to-gallons? Whatever!

And now it’s time for sleep. Amy’s out already, and I’m soon to follow. In the morning we head to Liscombe Lodge for a 3-day hiking extraveganza. I’m excited, for I feel my arms, shoulders, and upper back are going to need three days of rest before we go kayaking again.

Tuesday July 25

Breakfast with the Christian Texans was a lesson in “oh-my-isn’t-it-funny-we’re-all-sitting-here?” It was a bit more than uncomfortable for me to eat the lovely fruit, muffins, and blueberry pancakes with these two couples in their 60s who work for Christian schools and do missionary work in Cameroon periodically. Oy. Don’t know if they ever figured out our relationship – and didn’t find it necessary to enlighten them quite that much.

At any rate, we got on the road around 9:30 and headed on our way to Liscombe Lodge up here in the hinterlands. Some highlights of the drive included a pheasant bopping and herky-jerking his way across the road, peeing on the side of the road, and not seeing hardly any cars in the 3.5 hour drive up here. I got a bit of a yucky stomach at one point, but concerted breathing and a shift in position seemed to help it abate.

Got here around 1:30 and tried to check in. The girl working at the front desk was less than helpful, and I was pretty confused about what we should do. What we did realize, however, was that it was going to be impossible to get into our chalet (cabin) for a bit – although how long we did not know, since she didn’t talk. Interesting person to work the front desk… Ate some lunch – turkey club with fries for me, fish’n’chips for Amy. We wandered around the grounds some, down by the marina, and then decided to hike a bit to kill time until 3, when we could get into our room (someone else came to work the desk in the meantime and she talked more). Took a stroll around the easier trails of the lodge, and got the room key. After a nap (Amy) and some writing down of geocaching coordinates/directions (me), we made the late decision to head to Port Bickerton Lighthouse – a 45-minute drive on winding roads. Got there and sprinted to the first cache (our first ever!) I got us to the location and Amy found the cache itself. We took a keychain and left a lobster can opener. By this time it was 7:20, and wiser heads than ours should have prevailed and plunked us back into the car to drive back in leisurely fashion for our 8:30 dinner reservations. But we do not have wiser heads and so we struck out for the second cache in the park. Amy had the speed, coordinates, and watch, and I had the GPS and slippery glasses. Bad combination. We made it to the end of the trail and according to our coordinates were still a couple hundred yards away. And then we looked at the time – and it was 7:45. We quickly realized our mistake and headed back to the car, but it wasn’t easy. Neither of us is in great shape and the trail was narrow and slippery and wet and muddy and littered with rocks and tree roots. About a third of the way back I got pretty miserable and asked Amy to let me lead so I wouldn’t be left behind. She was kind enough to do so. We got back to the car at 8:00 on the nose and Amy hauled ass back to the lodge. We made it in 45 minutes – only 15 minutes late for our reservation and none the worse for wear.

Still – lots of lessons learned on that excursion. First, geocaching is FUN! Second, make sure you have TIME and know that if a trial looks long on a map, it’s probably going to be long in person. Third, make sure that the time person and the person with the GPS are the same person so that every check of coordinates is also a check of time. And finally, it’s not a competition, so go to enjoy the hike and consider the cache as the cherry on top of the cake that is the hike.

Dinner was good – steamed mussles (white wine and garlic for me, curry for Amy), plank salmon for Amy’s dinner and blackened scallops for mine. Dessert was excellent – blackberry crumble for me and coconut cream pie for Amy. We are now in the chalet with a bit of a fire going in the fireplace, Amy reading in bed, and me heading that way soon. Tomorrow I think we’re going to head up the Liscombe River Trail to see the suspension bridge and fish ladder at the far end of the trail. And to find a cache…

Wednesday July 26

A rough night of tumy aches led to a late morning – we didn’t get up until housekeeping rolled around at 9:45 a.m. Breakfast ended at 10, so we hauled butt up to the lodge and feasted on a buffet of pancakes, eggs, pork products, beans, hash browns, and coffee. Got our lunch for the day and headed out to hike the Liscomb River Trail. All the signs we saw indicated a wet hike – and they weren’t kidding! It’s been rainy here this summer and the trail really showed it. Fortunately, we both have new hiking sandals and they held their own.

The trail itself was gorgeous. The trees were mostly pine – with a lot of fallen down trees and deadwood around. Because it’s so damp, the moss is taking over everything. We saw many varieties of mushrooms and mosses, mayflowers (white blossoms in spring, red berries in the summer), blueberries, berries that were blue, brilliant magenta thistle flowers, daisies, old man’s beard (like spanish moss, but wispier), and more. We hiked up the southwestern side of the river and came back the northeastern (wetter and lower) side. It wasn’t too buggy – neither Amy nor I had to break out the DEET. At the top of the hike there was a suspension bridge over some falls and a concrete bridge over a fish ladder, for the Atlantic salmon that spawn upriver. It was pretty damn amazing to see all that right there.

Luckily for us, there was also a geocache up by the falls. We spent some time poking around on the wrong side of the river before I decided that (once again) the GPS unit wasn’t lying and we headed back over the suspension bridge. The cache was off-trail, under a big overhanging rock. We debated the merits of how to get down to the rock and my way won. As it turns out, it might have been easier to take Amy’s way – but we took hers out anyway! Once we pinpointed were we thought it was, Amy dropped down under the rock and started poking about. I was hollering things like “Did you check in that hole? What about in that one? Are you using the flashlight?” Finally she was about to give up when I looked down at her backpack – which was sitting on top of the rock that was hiding the cache. D’oh! It was a well-stocked cache, to say the least. Amy signed the book and I made the swap – a lobster bottle opener for a superball.

We ate lunch atop the concrete bridge over the fish ladder and headed on back to the lodge. It felt a lot longer coming back, but I think it was because we were both tired and ready to be back instead of tromping through damp moss, mud, tree roots, and rocks. Once we got back, the swimsuits were thrown on, the hot tub and pool were graced with our presence, and we relaxed. Some reading and a nap before dinner were next on the agenda, and then to eat! Dinner for me was: curried mussels, spinach, madarin orange, and bacon salad, and crab cakes. Amy had the seafood chowder and the steak with baked potato and steamed veggies. For dessert we split the cheesecake with blueberries. Yummers!

Tomorrow I think we might try to hike near a shipwreck somewhere – the Fury? Not sure if there are any caches in the area, which makes it a little less fun. Weird how addictive this sport is, isn’t it? Ah well – to sleep, to dream, and to hike some more tomorrow.

Thursday July 27

No shipwreck Fury today – instead did some more geocaching. Found three, didn’t find one. Nova Scotia’s Last Micro at the Country Harbor Ferry crossing (the road ends and you have to take the ferry across!) was a load of fun, because we had to take the ferry across, there were MASSIVE jellyfish in the water, and the ferrymaster knew exactly what we were looking for when he saw the GPS unit. Light in the Harbor was next – down in Isaac’s Harbor, we walked along some private roads and saw some MASSIVE pits in the woods. Finally ended up at an old nearly-abandoned lighthouse. Poked around a bit until I found the cache. Took a golf ball from it and left the superball we’d picked up the day before. Next we tried Loyalist Landing. The hike was beautiful – lots of up and downs, many frogs and toads, and a nice landing on the shore where Tories came from the States in the Revolutionary War to be safe. Some of them came from St. Augustine, Florida, and many others were free blacks. Very cool Unfortunately, we couldn’t find the cache – there were a couple of biting any colonies that stymied more investigations. Hiked back, and on the way back to the lodge, decided to give Longing for Long Sand in the Port Bickerton Lighthouse Park one more shot. This time we took our time getting out to the site. We found the cache without too much trouble, leaving a bottle opener and the golf ball and taking a hockey puck. On the hike back out, we took a different route that took us on a wooden walkway over a peat bog – incredibly beautiful and much easier to walk on than through the woods/ferns/bushes/mud from two days earlier.

Dinner was two spinach salads, the fisherman’s special (scallops, shrimp, mussels, and haddock), and the wild mushroom fettucini alfredo. We topped it off with a piece of coconut cream pie and a piece of carrot cake. Yum again! After dinner we spent some time finding caches to seek on the drive back to the Halifax area.

Friday July 28

We got up before 9:47! Found ourselves at breakfast nice and early, with Hazel serving us again. Sent some postcards to folks, and got on the road. Our first geocaching stop was called Beaver Canoe Cache. The drive out of Sheet Harbor took a bit, but once we found the right spot to park, the hike in and past the hydro project on the river was really pretty. I think I took 136 photos of mushrooms on the walk! Finding the cache itself was quite easy. Took a Tim Horton’s keychain and left a bottle opener. Next was my favorite find of the day – Farley’s Find at the Falls. We stopped at this picnic area/provincial tourist info area and hiked down around some falls in Sheet Harbor. There was another fish ladder there, although with all the water Nova Scotia has had this spring and summer, the ladder didn’t look much easier to navigate than the regular river. Figured out that we needed to be on the other side of the river, and poked around in the woods (going, as per usual, the exact opposite way of where we should have been) until I finally realized the clue really MEANT something and we looked for a rock to the left of the trail. Lo and behold, the cache! Left another bottle opener and took a N.S. flag pin. Then we found junk food nirvana – dill-icious Doritos. Oh My God Yum. So far, two for two.

We opted to check out Taylor Head Beach and Park at this point, even though there wasn’t a cache (that we’d written down) in there. Just lovely – a big long beach, a few folks out there, a couple of dogs, lots of fog, and hundreds of jellyfish in the surf. We walked all the way down one side of the beach, found a sand dollar and a cool rock, and when we came back, I did it barefoot. Divine how quiet and peaceful a place it was.

Next was a little cache called Where Am I? It was right by the detour on Rt. 7 in Spry Harbor. We found approximate coordinates, parked the car, and headed up a hill. About 3/4 of the way up, we realized that both sets of coordinates were going in the exact opposite direction of what we wanted. So we trundled down the hill and looked around. Ah, a trail on the other side of the road (which the clues told us about). Hiked down, then up, and found the stump where the little clear film canister was hidden. Took photos, signed the log, and headed further on to Prince’s Arch. Yes, it was in one of those little wayside marker areas that old people stop at. Prince Albert, the second son of some British queen, stopped in N.S. to see the goldmines, and the arch commemorated where he landed. We got there and parked, and a big lab-mix woofer came running down from her house to greet us. Amy navigated this one – to exactly the wrong place – and then to the right spot. We found this micro cache and signed the log.

Which led us to the final cache of the day – the one at Clam Harbor Beach Park called Life’s a Beach. Let me tell you – that cache is a beach! We found the park and went down to the beach, which was a lot busier than Taylor Head. Looking at the coordinates we realized we needed to go down the beach to one direction. We got to one correct coordinate and looked around. Hmmm… river and ocean to one side (not the side we needed to go) and 85-degree incline covered with moss, falling-down pine trees on our other side (the side we needed to go). I shook my head and insisted we follow the river to see if it would curve around enough to get us to the other side at the correct coordinates. Amy agreed. We set off and then WHAMMO! Mosquito breeding ground hell! After about 38 seconds in that we started to hightail it back. When we got to the spot we’d started, Amy somehow convinced me to climb up this scary-ass hill. Love must be dumb as well as blind, because I followed her. We got to the top of the ridge and began heading towards one coordinate. And the other one was wrong and getting wronger. But Amy was leading and I was cranky and she was leading and I had the GPS unit and we climbed under these falling down trees and I started to cry and worry that we’d never get out alive and then I threw the GPS at her and made her stop and go back. And then we finally found the cache. I was so annoyed I didn’t take anything from it, but we did sign the log and left the final bottle opener. And then we found a trail back and I was still annoyed, but got over it a while later. (Of course, I still feel buggy now… eww!)

We continued on down to Halifax where we found a good moose store and Alexander Keith’s to have a beer and nachos at the tavern. Then they ran out of propane in the kitchen so we walked down the waterfront to the Keith’s Lower Deck where we tried to get more food. Alas and alack, no luck flagging down a waitress. Fortunately, Cows ice cream was right there, so after poking around this most hilarious shop, we got some ice cream and walked back to the car. Drove to the Anchor’s Gate B&B, were we are now. I’m going to play a game or two of spider solitaire and head to bed. Tomorrow we kayak again!

Saturday July 29

Kayaking today was amazing! We went with an outfit called East Coast Outfitters. There was one other couple and us besides the guides. We were in single kayaks this time, which I found I enjoyed much more. Our kayaking took us all around the end of Mahone Bay – we left from a place called Blue Rocks – from the little inlets that were still as could be to the ocean-areas with more waves. At one point, the guide took us out to what he called “Seal Point”. He wasn’t kidding – at one point I counted close to 50 harbour seals surrounding us, just watching. None of them came closer (above water, anyway) than about 20 yards. They’d come up, snort a little because of the water up their noses, stare at us for a while, and then disdainfully turn their backs on us and dive. Lather, rinse, repeat. We stayed out there for about 20 minutes, just bobbing in the midst of these creatures. Stunning!

Lunch was steamd lobster on another of the small islands. I’m becoming a lobster snob! Who knew that could happen? But I seriously thought these lobsters weren’t as good as the ones I’ve eaten in Maine, and I think it has to do with size. Bigger is NOT better in lobster-land. Give me a pound to a pound-and-a-quarter sized lobster, but no larger or they get tough and lose their sweetness.

Kayaking back was incredibly difficult. We were going into the wind, and my upper body strength just isn’t what I’d like it to be. The other couple, in their tandem, had no problems, and Amy and the guide seemed to be doing just fine. I really struggled, but when I would just get into a good (if slow) rhythm, one or the other of them would distract me somehow. Grrr!

Got back, found some divine ice cream, and headed on another wacky wacky driving tour of Nova Scotia’s shoreline on the way to the hotel of the evening. Eventually we got there (went to Liverpool, about halfway to Yarmouth), found the hotel, checked in, repacked everything, ate some dinner and had some nice beer (Propeller). And then, bed.

Sunday July 30

Early morning up and driving to Yarmouth. Got there, lined up, and waited and waited and waited to get on the ferry. Finally loaded ourselves and found a different place to sit than the first trip – on the other side from the casino. Amy ran into a friend from college on the boat, and generally we just enjoyed a calm, smooth, crystal-clear trip back to Portland. Went up to Amy’s folks and found the dogs there in good repair. Apparently Maggie (who was at a kennel all week long) about turned inside out with joy when Amy’s mom picked her up at the kennel. Funny! I know she likes Linda, but holy moly!

And that, in a nutshell, was our honeymoon. Quite nice – I highly recommend visiting Nova Scotia, and really giving it a lot of time. We’ve got at least 2 more trips planned there (Cape Breton for one, and the Evangeline Trail/Bay of Fundy for another). And honestly? I’d love to spend more time on the coast, kayaking and hiking. It’s beautiful, the people are kind and respectful (and GOOD drivers!), and the natural beauty is out of this world.

5 thoughts to “Nova Scotia Musings”

  1. Great trip report! NS is on my list of places to visit.

    I have a harder time with km-mi conversion, since I like my distance — particularly if I’m walking — to be accurate, and multiplying by .6 is a pain to my brain. why I can’t just go with “about half a mile” I don’t know.

    However, I have no trouble saying a liter is about a quart, so multiply Canadian gas prices by 4 (and round down for the exchange rate) to get the US gallon price estimate. last time I looked, it was about twice as much as in the US. London was 4x the US price a few weeks ago.

  2. Now you’ve gone and added another place I need to visit to my growing list. 🙂
    Nice write up and was a needed escape from a long day.

  3. Congrats on your wedding. I’m from Country Harbour. I used to use the ferry twice a day, when I worked as a milkman. I remember when it used to cost 50 cents to cross. I proposed to my wife at the Bickerton Lighthouse. Used to tie up at Liscomb Lodge dock, before heading out to do some sailing with friends. I just wanted to say thanks for letting me to remembering some of the memories that I forgot growing up in that area.

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