Tuesday, July 26, 2022
Linwood, NS, to North Sydney, Cape Breton, NS
Cumulative Miles: 3,218
Gray skies all morning, clearing in afternoon, breezy, low 80s
We headed out about 9:00, stopping for fuel just before crossing the Canso Causeway that connects Cape Breton to the rest of Nova Scotia. We stuck to the main highways and arrived at Arm of Gold Campground near North Sydney about noon. It was at this campground that we will join the rest of the campers on this trip. Actually, we expected some of the other campers to already be there a day ahead of the full arrival, but we were the only ones.
After setting up we took a driving tour around the area, visiting nearby North Sydney and Sydney Mines. It is a picturesque area with mostly neat, modest homes and a small downtown. The main waterfront feature was the large ferry dock with its huge parking lot. Two very large ferries were docked there as we went by. This is the facility where we will board our ferry in a few days for the voyage to Newfoundland.
Sandy found a local pickle ball group in nearby Sydney River. The folks were very friendly. They even had lights so she played until after 9:00!
Dinner: Stir fry veggies with sweet Italian chicken sausage & sweet & sour sauce
Wednesday, July 27, 2022
North Sydney, Cape Breton, NS
Mostly sunny, 80
We were in a bit of a holding pattern until others in our tour arrive. We spent the early part of the day editing pictures and writing and posting to this blog, catching up on emails, etc. It was also time to neaten up our storage areas and take stock of our supplies.
The first of our Adventure Caravans’ crew arrived in the early afternoon, they being Barry & Terri, our caravan leaders. The leaders are referred to as our “wagon masters”. Others eventually began to roll in and filled the assigned areas of this large campground.
We and several other caravan participants are newcomers to the group which has already been on the road for most of a month. It is at this midpoint of the full tour that a few of the original participants will drop off of the trip as we join it.
Among those new arrivals was Nan Reisinger, our long time friend from our ski club. Nan’s Winnebago conversion of a VW EuroVan appears to be the overall smallest rig in the caravan. And we, at 22 feet long, are probably the smallest travel trailer. There are a few modestly sized camper vans, small motorhomes and a larger trailer but the majority of the units are much larger, bus-like class A motorhomes in the 40+ foot range.
We only managed a few introductions that afternoon because our wagonmasters and the final arrivals, our “tailgunners”, were busy getting everyone parked and otherwise organized. But that was fine because that evening they prepared and served dinner for everyone in the campground’s social center, a gentrified barn. As part of the dinner, introductions were made all around. Everyone was very welcoming.
Arm of Gold has a lovely walking path that runs along a pretty pond next to the campground. Can’t have us walk on dirt or gravel, the path is mowed lawn.
Dinner was chicken pasta primavera with vegetables, garlic bread and salad prepared by our four Adventure staff. Our wagonmaster was careful to provide gluten free pasta for Sandy and a couple of other gluten free participants. For a kicker, there were several home made deserts and ice cream. We left the evening happy and satisfied!
Thursday, July 28, 2022
North Sydney, Cape Breton, NS
Mostly sunny, chilly at 59 in the morning but rising to the mid 70s
We are camped near the eastern end of the legendary boating Mecca of the Bras d’Or Lake and the many smaller lakes in the vicinity. It seems nearly every road parallels the shoreline of a beautiful lake. Cruising sailors often use the lakes as sort of an inland passage through Nova Scotia when heading to the Gulf of St Lawrence.
The main event today was a bus tour that was included in our package. It was a long one, boarding the bus at 8:00 and not returning until after 6:30. Our route followed the well known Cabot Trail, a circular route that runs around the Cape Breton Highlands National Park that encompasses the northern part of the island of Cape Breton.
Our tour guide, a local, Gaelic speaking, seventh generation Scotch-Irish descendent, was excellent. She filled our day with a wealth of local knowledge, botanical, historical and cultural information and even a few beautifully sung renditions of traditional songs in Gaelic.
The first couple of hours were pretty uneventful, crossing the island until we came to the ROAD CONSTRUCTION … ugh! A small bridge had washed out and traffic had to be detoured over a long, narrow, back road on which they had to quickly install several Bailey bridges rated to carry the loads of the commercial traffic, like our tour bus. They were also trying to hastily widen the road while improving drainage and repaving so there we encountered multiple construction delays. One Bailey bridge, located on a tight curve, was so narrow that our bus had to make a couple of tries to line up to pass over it without hitting the sides of the bridge!
We finally reconnected with the regular road near Margaree River Valley. After constant hilly forested areas it was quite a change to emerge to an ever widening, fertile valley with farming. The river is also the crown jewel of Atlantic salmon fishing in Nova Scotia. The program is catch and release fly fishing, and anglers from around the world come here. Not much was going on as we drove through since the main season is September and October.
Near the mouth of the river the road began following the coastline eventually coming to the town of Cheticamp. It is a picturesque Acadian fishing village that marks the west entrance of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
On the north side of Cheticamp we stopped at Les Trois Pignons Cultural Center which, in addition to providing insight into Acadian culture and history, highlights the craft of rug hooking. A docent did a nice job describing the historical exhibits but it was the rug hooking that really “hooked” us. These are not knotted latch-hook rugs. Our docent demonstrated the simple technique using a tiny hook to pull loops of yarn up through old-fashioned burlap. No knots were involved. The collection that lined the walls featured extraordinary examples of these rugs, both large and small. Wow!
Cheticamp also marks the spot where the road begins a steep climb into the Cape Breton highlands. The popular Skyline Trail begins at the top of the highlands and we could see people walking the ridge way up high in the distance. The bus tour group didn’t do the hike but Nan Reisinger, who was doing the same drive independently of our bus tour, did walk the trail. In spite of its appearance, Nan said the trail is an easy walk along a ridge that leads to an awesome overlook.
Coming off MacKenzie Mountain and the highlands we passed a unique place to stay. True North Destinations, which styles itself as Nova Scotia’s only 5 star housekeeping, eco-conscious, luxury geodesic dome experience! I tried to book one of these unique glamping units to check prices but they seem to be fully booked for the foreseeable future.
The bus stopped for lunch at the Mountain View Motel & Restaurant. The food was decent. Even with a limited menu, though, all the possible combinations of multiple appetizers, entrees and sides made for difficult logistics for serving forty or so orders in a timely manner.
Heading across Cape Breton, we stopped briefly at the Aspy Fault overlook. The fault was quite apparent when we were told what to look for. It is thought to have been created when two continental plates collided and pushed the seafloor upwards, also creating the Appalachian Mountains.
We made a short stop at popular Black Brook Cove Beach so people might get a chance to dip their toes in the water. It’s a lovely place. The beach is smooth stones that become sand near the water. There is a pretty waterfall at one end of the beach and, no small deal for a bus full of people of a certain age, bathrooms!
Friday, July 29, 2022
North Sydney, Cape Breton, NS
Windy, low 70s with some late afternoon showers
This was a lazy day. We picked up a few groceries including fruit for breakfast. A visit to Grove’s Point Beach illustrated the configuration of many beaches in the area. There were small, rocky beaches in each of a series of small coves. Swimmers and sunbathers were dotted around each of the coves.
That evening our group went to a “surf & turf” buffet at Hotel North Sydney. Unfortunately, it was a disappointing dining experience. But the company was good and we got to converse with a number of other people in the group.
Saturday, July 30, 2022
North Sydney, Cape Breton, NS
Overcast with temperatures in the high 60s.
With Nan, we drove through the town of Baddeck to Uisge Ban Falls Provincial Park and did the short hike to its pretty waterfall.
Returning to Baddeck, we drove to the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site. As we entered the parking lot there was a small market in full swing. The stands were mostly artisans showing off their work. Of special note for me was a weaver who made beautiful Nova Scotia tartans. The Nova Scotia tartan was the first provincial tartan in Canada. Also some woodworkers who produced elegant cutting and serving boards and one who carved beautiful bowls from tree boles.
The historic site consisted of a large museum building that told the story of Bell’s life and influencers. His father worked with his deaf mother to teach her to speak. Bell followed that as something of an early career teaching deaf people and eventually marrying one of his students. An inventor to the core, he did all kinds of work in the area of sound, eventually figuring out how to send audio over electrical wires and inventing the telephone. That invention brought him immense wealth and, along with his wealthy wife’s resources, the freedom to follow his interests.
Bell became obsessed with flight, organizing a group of engineers and developing the machine to fly publicly in Canada. As flight became more developed he turned his interests elsewhere including the use of hydrofoils to develop high speed boats.
That evening members of our caravan shared a pot luck dinner in the campground’s barn/social hall. The food was plentiful and tasty. Sleep came easily. Zzzzzzz…