Day #218 — On to New Brunswick!

CAMPGROUND:  Big Axe Brewery, a Harvest Host location.  Drop-dead gorgeous on the St. John River, surrounded by autumn colors.  Owner/brewer came out to greet us and help us get parked. It is a huge parking area right on the area – even with a firepit.  There is also a dock on the river for boaters to access the brewery.  5 stars out of 5
LOCATION:  Nagawic, New Brunswick
WEATHER:  Mostly foggy and drizzle all day.  High 68
DISTANCE DRIVEN:  8 hours

We tried for a 7:30 AM departure, but were satisfied with an 8:00 take-off.  We gave Tony and Jenny hugs good-bye, and the 2 trailers – TaJ and Joy sadly said good-bye, too.

We made it about 2 miles before both couples stopped at the French bakery in town for croissants.  Here we are in the parking lot – a final good-bye

The first two hours of the trip were through winding, secondary roads in Cape Breton and eastern Nova Scotia mainland.  We had driven through here a month ago, and wow – have the colors changed!  Just gorgeous!!!

After Cape Breton, the fog and drizzle came in, and the ride was mostly fairly gloomly.  The tree colors were muted due to the fog. 

We made it to Big Axe Brewery about 4:30 – a long day’s driving.  This is the view from our trailer’s front door.

Here is the sign for boaters to find the brewery from along the river

The colors are just fantastic.  The brewery  is surrounded by beautiful trees.

We sat out on the deck to enjoy our beers (and free popcorn).  We used up all Loonies and Toonies, as we will cross over to USA early tomorrow morning.  We could see Joy and the truck parked down below.

DINNER:  I hope to not go grocery shopping as we travel back to Texas, so it will be a lot of leftovers and leftover do-overs.  Tonight was a salad and a chicken/artichoke casserole. 

Day #217 – Last day in Cape Breton

CAMPGROUND:  Cheticamp National Park in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park
LOCATION: Cheticamp, Nova Scotia on western side of Cabot Trail
WEATHER:  Partly sunny.  High 60

We started our final day in Cape Breton at Cheticamp National Park with a hike on the Skyline Trail, the Cape’s most popular trail.  We had stopped by the trail head yesterday, but were aghast at the 200+ cars parked in the parking lot and foggy views.  So, our plan was to get up early this morning and hike it before all the other tourists arrived.

Our plan worked.  When we arrived, there were only 2 other cars in the lot.  One runner came out on the trail and said she had spotted 2 bull moose.  Yay – here we go!

It is a 5-mile hike out to a point with spectacular views of the Bay of St. Lawrence.  It was a clear, cool (38-degree) morning.  No moose,  but plenty of views.

After the lookout, I hiked back alone via a more remote path, where the moose had been seen.  I saw lots of moose poop, but no animals.

Speaking of poop – we were really pooped after the hike.  We did a lot of prep work for the upcoming trip, and went in to town to listen to some last Celtic music before we leave tomorrow. 

DINNER:  Fun times!  We did lots of snacks at one of the campground’s shelters, with nice picnic tables and a woodstove fire.

The feast included:  pate’, camembert cheese, hummus, shrimp cocktail, crackers, onion jam, and a baguette.

What a fun way to celebrate our last night together with dear friends.  We can’t thank them enough for all the planning of this 5-week trek around Nova Scotia. 

Day #216. The best color yet in Cape Breton

LOCATION:  Cheticamp, Nova Scotia in NW Cape Breton
CAMPGROUND:  Cheticamp Campground, part of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
WEATHER:   High 58.   Sun and clouds

Today was our last drive around the Cape on the Cabot Trail.  In the last 2 days, the trees have really started to turn, and today’s views were spectacular.

We stopped at a cute fishing village to check out their seafood market.  Since it is off-season, everything is frozen……and EXPENSIVE!  A pound of snow crab meat is $45!  Lobster – $47! 

The town has a nice harbor and light house.

We continued in a clockwise direction to the final town and then turned around.  The views of the Atlantic were beautiful

We had bad luck with lunch options.  We really like traveling in the off season (like now) as there aren’t many people and the weather is perfect for camping.  However, a down side is that several places, especially restaurants,  are closed.   The first two places we went to were closed and the third one, the only one open in the town, was packed to the gills.  So, we thought we would go back to the fishing village where we had spotted a chowder house earlier.  Alas, it was closed, too.  We were at the point of becoming “hangry”, so stopped at a grocery store and bought some snacks.  That tied us over until we could return to the campground/oyster market for more oysters.  They did not disappoint.  After some oysters and beers, we were happy campers once again.

Back at the campground, we took a nice hike.  We try to get it at least 4 kms (3 miles) per day. 

DINNER:  Tony’s turn.  He prepared meatloaf and a Mexican-style salad.  Very good! 

Day #215 — Lots to celebrate!

LOCATION:  Cheticamp, Nova Scotia in NW Cape Breton
CAMPGROUND:  Cheticamp Campground, part of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
WEATHER:  COLD.  High 56.  Mostly cloudy

We got up early and took a hike on a trail where several moose have been seen.  It is one of the many trails in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park.  We thought we would have better luck at dawn.  While it was a very nice hike through a mountain-top forest in the morning fog, we sadly did not spy a moose.

Today is a day for celebration!….

1.  Happy #94 birthday to my Uncle Leo!!! 
2. Happy #7 months on the road this summer trip – We left our tiny house in Mission, TX on March 11
3. Happy Canadian Thanksgiving Day!

Several other campers are celebrating here, too.  These hardy Canadians are roasting various turkey parts in aluminum foil over their campfire for Thanksgiving dinner.

We started our celebration with a drink I call Cape Codders – vodka, cranberry juice, triple sec, and club soda.  Here is Tony, our bartender….

Tony and I split the meal prep…… 

Me –  baked turkey wings, stuffing, and gravy
Tony – home-made cranberry sauce, garlicky mashed potatoes, and Brussels sprouts in bacon and balsamic

We paired the meal with a bottle of dry, German bubbly.

Here is the meal, ready to be served.  We had hoped to eat outside, but it was uncomfortably cool

Now, on the table, ready to enjoy!

BOOK:  I finished book #2 in the Ava Lee series by Ian Hamilton – “The Water Rat of Wanchai”.  It is about a Chinese/Canadian young lady who retrieves money for her clients. 

Day #214 – Wild life on the Cabot Trail!

LOCATION:  Cheticamp, Nova Scotia in NW Cape Breton
CAMPGROUND:  Cheticamp Campground, part of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
WEATHER:  COLD.  High 56.  Mostly sunny

Today was full of wildlife (sort of)….

1.  When I went to the bathroom this morning, I walked in and saw a person with a ski cap on with long hair.  I moved toward the sink, then saw the urinal, locked eyes with the person….a guy. I was in the MEN’S Room!!!  I sort of screamed and ran out the door.

Then, we were off for another road trip along the Cabot Trail.  The colors are really starting to pop.

Our first stop was at a park with a thatched roof cabin that memorializes the Scottish shepherds that settled here. 

Behind the cabin was a beautiful forest full of Nova Scotia’s oldest maple trees.

Next stop was a park with a John Cabot memorial.  He was the first to discover North America and landed here, on Cape Breton.

On to a cute fishing village.  I can’t imagine what it is like living in such a remote place.

Mostly the people are lobster fishermen.  The season is July and August, but they work hard year-round working on their boats, nets, and cages.

We got off the trail and took a gravel road to Meat Cove, which is literally the end of the road.

We had a little picnic lunch with beautiful scenery as a backdrop.

Back on the Cabot Trail, we continued our clockwise trip around the peninsula.

We were really in search of moose, and observed several moose signs along the highway. 

Wildlife #2 – Suddenly, we turned a corner and there was a huge black animal along the road.  As we fumbled for our cameras, we were shouting “moose!  moose!”  Much to our chagrin, we finally realized that it was just a horse.

Wildlife #3 – A few miles down the road we saw a medium-sized black bear moseying along.  By the time we found our cameras, he was gone. (No photo available)  😦

George and I drove the Cabot Trail on our first year on the road -8 years ago.  It was a quick run around the peninsula.  We vividly remember our night here……we were totally out of gas, starving, and in search of a campground.  This part of the Trail is very remote.  Suddenly, through the fog I saw a billboard saying….”Campground with Oyster Bar.  Gas”.  It was like Mecca!  We couldn’t believe our luck!  So, today we stopped by the campground to show Tony and Jenny the campground, and to have some of their delicious oysters again.

Back at the campground, we sat around one of George’s campfires and enjoyed our Sunday afternoon ritual – a Bloody Mary.  But this time, we had Canada’s national drink  – Caesar’s instead.  It is like a Bloody Mary, but with Clamato juice rather than tomato juice.

DINNER:  My turn.  Pasta in a cream sauce with shrimp, smoked salmon, and capers.  Side was edamame with bacon bits. 

Day 213 – The Beautiful Cape Breton Trail

LOCATION:  Cheticamp, Nova Scotia in NW Cape Breton
CAMPGROUND:  Cheticamp Campground, part of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
WEATHER:  COLD.  High 56.  Scattered showers

We went in to the town of Cheticamp to check it out and to buy gas…..their station is the only gas around for miles and miles.

We got a chuckle out of this craft store – Lola’s Hookers (as in rugs)

Then we took off for a drive  along the Cabot Trail, following the coast north and east through the Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

The drive is breathtaking with winding roads through the mountains.  We went up-up-up, then down-down-down, all with a lot of hairpin turns.  We stopped at several beautiful look-outs.

The trees are just starting to turn, but are late this year.  Here is a bit of color…

We stopped at one trail to do a short hike.  We had planned to do more hikes, but it was just too chilly and windy. 

George and I spent a lazy afternoon, watching a DVD and reading books.  Tony and Jenny went back out to do one of the park’s nice hikes. 

Tomorrow we will do another drive.  Tony offered to drive as he said it was painful watching me today,  clutching the steering wheel as I drove the winding road. 

DINNER:  Tony’s turn.  He grilled some porkchops that he had marinated in a maple/mustard glaze.  Side was a mango/lime salad.  We’ve been buying Nova Scotia wines and have paired every meal with some.  It has been quite nice trying different ones.

Day #212 – Starting our trip around the famous Cabot Trail

LOCATION:  Cheticamp, Nova Scotia in NW Cape Breton
CAMPGROUND:  Cheticamp Campground, part of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park.  Full hook-ups.  Picnic table.  Fire pit (extra $).  Grassy, level sites a bit close together.  Bathrooms good.  $US32/night plus national park pass.  3 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  COLD.  High 56.  Very windy.  Mostly sunny
DISTANCE DRIVEN:  2 hours

We did another nice walk at Whycocomagh Provincial Park, not in any hurry to pack up and leave.  After a light lunch, we hooked up and drove north and west on the Cabot Trail to this campground.

We will be here 6 nights, and will use this as a base to explore all over northern Cape Breton, the Highlands National Park, and the drives around the coast on the Cabot Trail. 

George made a campfire for tonight’s dinner.  We didn’t stand around it for long, due to the cold wind. 

DINNER:  George’s grilled chicken that I had marinated in chimichurri sauce, baked potato cooked in the fire’s coals, and caprese salad.

A good night to curl up and watch a DVD with the heat on!

Day #211 – Traveling Canada’s “Music Coast”

LOCATION:  Whycocomagh, Nova Scotia – in West Central part of Cape Breton
CAMPGROUND:  Whycocomagh Provincial Park. 
WEATHER:  Crisp and  sunny.  High 68

Jenny and I did our morning constitutional, this time hiking in the picnic park associated with the provincial park where we are camping.  We hiked down to the Bras d’Or Lake where we watched some old guys fly-fishing.  Nice.

Then, off on today’s road trip.  When we leave here tomorrow, we will be in remote country without any decent grocery stores.  So, we went in to Port Hawksbury, a fairly large town, to do some major shopping.  It will need to get us through the next 6 days, including a special feast we are preparing together on October 11, Canada’s Thanksgiving.

We followed Canada’s Music Coast back north, making another loop.  We stopped in Judique, a Celtic coastal town, where we visited the Celtic Music Interpretive Centre.  We were lucky to arrive while a duo was singing and playing Celtic music.

Our receipt for our drinks was in 3 languages – English, Gaelic, and French…..only in Canada!  I love it!

The trees are turning a bit more each day.  We have watched this tree in our campground get prettier each day that we have been here.

DINNER:  Tony’s turn.  George made a good campfire and we roasted hot dogs in the fire.  Tony served them topped with chili.  Since we were eating before sunset, we were able to enjoy it all around the fire.  As soon as the sun set, we all headed inside.

The Canadian Legion near our campground was having a jam fest tonight, so George and I went to check it out.  What fun!  It was a circle of about 6 musicians, taking turns singing.    When each musician started, he/she would say “Key of G (or whatever)” and the other musicians would accompany the singer on their guitars.    Some were a bit off-key; others were excellent.  The crowd was a mix of old and young people from the area.  Ladies in the kitchen served tea and homemade cookies.  It was really sweet!

BOOK:  “The Dragon Head of Hong Kong” by Ian Hamilton.  This is a new author/series for me, recommended by our friends Tony and Jenny.  It features a Chinese/Canadian forensic accountant.  Quite good.  I will read more in this series.  4 stars out of 5

Day #210 – Are we in Scotland or Cape Breton?

LOCATION:  Whycocomagh, Nova Scotia – in West Central part of Cape Breton
CAMPGROUND:  Whycocomagh Provincial Park. 
WEATHER:  Crisp and  sunny.  High 64

Jenny and I started the day with a nice walk, but our shoes got dripping wet on the grassy trail.  We got in some exercise at least.

Then, off for another drive around the SW coast of Cape Breton.  It is nice to use a place as a base and to make day trips, as we are doing.  First stop was Inverness, a former mining town that now thrives with tourism.  Its main attraction is an exclusive,  beautiful links golf course right on the St. Lawrence Bay.  It is considered one of the top 10 golf courses in North America and is designed to look like a links course in Scotland.

We walked along the boardwalk that parallels the golf course.

It was a bit windy!

Like all seaside towns here, Inverness also has a vibrant lobster industry.  The owner of this lobster processing plant was preparing the cages for winter storage.

Then, to Glenora Distillery outside of town, North America’s only single-malt distillery.  (It is like Scotch, but cannot be called Scotch due to copyright laws- like Champagne can only be called Champagne if grapes are from France).  We went on a tour of the distillery and walked around the beautiful grounds/inn.

Next stop was a brewery, to pick up our last stamp in our Good Cheer Trail passport.  We now have 27 stamps, and hope to get a T-shirt as well as win the grand prize!  The brewery had some good beers, along with a beautiful view of the golf course and sea. 

The highlight of the day was a stop at the Red Shoe Pub/Restaurant.  It is owned by a famous Celtic singer family and  brings people by the busload to listen to their music.  Schools in town teach the children Gaelic. Road signs are in English and Gaelic — all very Scottish! We listened to a fiddler and piano duo

Some ladies in the back room did some Scottish dancing along with the music

After making a big loop, we returned to the campground.  It was my turn for dinner…

DINNER:  Mushroom soup, trying to imitate the recipe we had at the really nice restaurant a few weeks ago.  Flatbread pizzas with chicken chunks, artichoke hearts, onions, and mushrooms on a sauce made with pesto and cream cheese.  Topped with fresh tomatoes and sun-dried tomatoes.  They turned out pretty good, and are easy to make. 

Day #209 – Paradise in Cape Breton

LOCATION:  Whycocomagh, Nova Scotia – in West Central part of Cape Breton
CAMPGROUND:  Whycocomagh Provincial Park. 
WEATHER:  Crisp and  sunny.  High 66

Tony, Jenny, and I started the day with a challenging hike up a mountain in the park.  The guide map said the slope is 56 degrees.  It seemed straight up and slippery.  I chickened out about halfway through, afraid that I would slip and fall, so we returned.  Going down was even scarier.  But – it was a good workout.

Then, George and I were off for a day on our own to explore more of this area of Cape Breton.  We started by searching for Nova Scotia’s northernmost winery.  It is very remote. We traveled on poor paved roads, some gravel roads, and a few one-lane wobbly bridges.

We almost missed it, as there was no signage except for a small hand-written post saying “vineyard” and “closed”.  We entered anyway!  It was up, up, up.  Once we got up to the top, we could see a bunch of women picking the grapes.  We spoke to the vineyard’s owner’s mother.  She told us the name of the vineyard is Eileanan Breagha which is the Scottish Gaelic term for “beautiful islands”. Indeed, the views of Bras D’Or Lake below and its islands live up to the name.

She said they were closed for tastings, as they are busy picking the grapes and making wine, but that we could go to the winery and buy a bottle if we wanted.  So, we stopped at the winery and talked with the owner’s father and crew.  They were in the process of crushing the red grapes that the women  had just picked.  The white grapes will be picked in a few weeks. 

We asked about buying some wine.  The owner’s father went through a few boxes in the back and picked out 2 reds for us – a 2014 and 2017.  Then, he gave us a free one that didn’t have a label on it.  Cool!

On our way back,  we stopped at a scenic lookout for this photo.  This part of Cape Breton is very sparsely populated, but the people who do live here seem to live in paradise.

We stopped for lunch at “Charlene’s”, with a sign saying she makes world-famous seafood chowder.  We split a bowl which was chock-full of seafood and fish – halibut, haddock, scallops, shrimp, mussels, and even a lobster claw!    You could almost eat it with a fork.

George just had to have one of Charlene’s homemade desserts, too – pumpkin cheesecake.

We continued our outing by driving to one of the smaller islands within Cape Breton.  We took this rope ferry to cross the lake.

We made a circle around the island, almost devoid of people.  Someone has beautifully kept up this little wayside…

While we were gone, Tony and Jenny tried that hike again.  They made it to the top from which they could see for miles.  You can see Joy, our Airstream, sparkling below.

Back at the park, George built a fire.  The sun was shining, so we ate “al fresco”.  It was Tony’s turn to cook and he made some tasty turkey chili.

As soon as the sun went down, we headed indoors as it cooled off quickly.