If you have family or friends that you visit in another area several hours away from you. You may understand that I have come to dread the 5 hr drive from My home in the Fredericton Area of New Brunswick to my childhood home of West Bay Cape Breton, in Nova Scotia.
I do this drive five or six times a year. As much as I love road trips, I don’t enjoy this trip. I just want to get there, have a beer and relax with my family. Last summer it occurred to me, that I spend a lot of time driving through and not seeing anything and I am wasting precious time and opportunities to see places I want to see. I make my usual stops at the Nova Scotia visitor center, and Salts Springs Provincial Day Park for a rest break. On the way back I stop in Amherst for gas, a snack and a pee break. Occasionally, I stop in Sackville or Aulac for visitor information for New Brunswick.
What makes the drive worse is that my family know how long it takes to do the drive, and If I tell them I am leaving at 10 am, they expect me to arrive at exactly 3pm.
So this last trip I was deceitful. Forgive me, but I told my sister I would leave at 9 am but I really left at 7 am. Upon arriving at the Nova Scotia visitor center exit. I did something scandalous I threw caution to the wind and I turned left on Fort Lawrence road. I drove for about 2 km then turned left onto Mt Whatley Road. A couple of hundred meters on the right hand side there is a stand of trees with a stone marker and a National Historic plaque. Further off to the left is a large brick 18th century farm-house; this is the Chapman house. A National Historic Site.It has been here for over 200 hundred years and I am only seeing it now at age 49.
Back on to Fort Lawrence road, I drive past the visitor center for a short drive of less than a Km. On the right hand side of the road is a another stone monument and a Parks Canada sign stating this is an active archeological dig site. Please be respectful. Here is the location of the original Fort Lawrence. There are plans for a restoration of the fort until then the plaque marks the spot.
Back to he visitor center. I stop in for some information on the Annapolis valley, I plan to go there this coming summer, so stay tuned for that adventure.
The visitor center is situated on the Nova Scotia side of the border. The Missaguash River separates the two Provinces, From here there is a good view of the Beausejour marsh. The early settlers both English and Acadian fought over this strip of land and eventually drained much of this area and the Tintamarra Marsh for farming. Their struggles and perseverance, has an enormous impact of Canadian heritage value. Several historic plaques are located in the vicinity. In the treed area beside the car parking lot, you’ll find a Plaque recognizing Jacob Bourgeois and behind the building over looking the Beausejour marsh flats is a plaque for the Beaubassin
To add one more delight, for anyone that enjoys bird watching this is a wonderful and important bird migration area. Tintamarre National Wildlife Area and two bird more sanctuaries not far off, I would search for later.
So to say “I killed four birds with one stone” may seem inappropriate but getting so many National Historic Sites in one stop, is quiet a score.
Onward I go towards Amherst just one exit down the highway. I make a right on Southampton road instead of my usual left. I want to see the Amherst Point Migratory Bird sanctuary.
I know it is too early in the season to see any birds, but I just want to located it. We can call it my due diligence research. I will know how far it is and what kind of access is allowed. This will save time for my return in the spring. The google map I was searching earlier showed the John Lusby Marsh and National Wildlife Area runs along the shoreline, parallel too, but not accessible from the road. Making both sides of the road, protected areas.
I am back on the highway and I know I am exiting some place between here and the Cobequid Pass toll booth. I know this because I don’t have the four dollars in cash to pay the toll. But I am undecided if I want to go check out Portapique River Wilderness Area, or go look for Debert’s Paleo-Indian Site, a National Historic Site of Canada. I have about a half hour to decide.
Portapique River Wilderness Area, is on Cobequid Mountain. It has old growth conifers and for geological enthusiast some ancient rocks. For the wildlife lover lots of birds, Mammals and some endangered fish species live in the streams. All of these topics are of interest to me however, I learned from the previous stop in Amherst at the migratory bird area, that this is not the best time of year for seeking out wildlife and geology due to snow cover. Decision made Paleo-Indian historic site in Debert.
I exit the sign that warns it is the Last exit before toll road. The old number 4 highway. It goes through the Wentworth Valley. I have traveled this road before, it takes about and hour to reconnect with the Trans Canada highway. I have in the past, disliked this route mainly because it is a lovely wide road with very little traffic but the speed limit is set at 90 km/hr and police are at every corner. It feels like you are putt-putting along, when you could be sailing at a much higher speed on such a nice road.
Donning my new objective of enjoying the journey rather than dreading it; I admire the scenery and find there a lot to see here. Folly lake is still frozen over and the hills rise in each direction around it. Today is partly cloudy but when the sun break out it feels warm and melt waters from snow banks are forming rivulets across the road. I stop just pass a field, too late to see four deer grazing in the sunshine. They ran for cover in the trees as I try to take their picture.
The the Wentworth valley ski resort is here, as is Wentworth Provincial Park and a High International Hostel too. I resign to return for a more extensive visit to this are, so more to follow in the future.
I find Plains Road, towards Belmont. I know this is where my site is located It’s about a 20 minute sojourn to Debert. My notes tell me the site in on Fred Crowe road but my GPS keeps coming up with ROAD NOT FOUND; tips for searching. I unplug it and wing it. Following my instincts- I find Fred Crowe Road. It appears as a dirt driveway on my left. A couple of hundred meters up the road there is a house. If Fred Crowe road continues further as google map suggests, it doesn’t today; the owner of said house has pushed a snow bank in front of it, blocking access further.
I make a U-turn in the yard slightly embarrassed but I shake it off. I am sure they are thinking “another tourist looking for the Paleo-Indian site”. I keep going up the road towards Belmont just in case I miss another way in. The narrow road only goes into the village of Belmont. I do another U-turn and head back. My late winter traveling is not ideal for the choices I picked. Just as I go back along the road I see a sign that says Isgonish. I didn’t stop but I recall reading about a place called Isgonish being a portage and Paleo-Indian historically significant spot. I make a note in the back of my thoughts; I will do some further investigation for next trip.
With my two-hour window of opportunity ticking down, I hit the trans Canada rolling. I have one more side journey and it is to Cape George Light house along the Sunrise trail between New Glasgow and Antigonish.
The twinning of the new highway towards Cape.Breton is much-anticipated for everyone that lives within Antigonish and Guysborough counties,and of course on the island. Some changes in the exits and accesses from the highway had me confused. The signage I followed towards the sunrise trail and lighthouse was nowhere to be found at the round about. My maps where out dated with the new construction.I circle one more time and I packed it in.
I knew the way to Cape George from Antigonish up past the hospital, so with that knowledge I went back on the 104 North. This was a mistake and not the recommended way to go.. Although I enjoyed the drive on Hwy 337. A.K.A Sunrise Trail. It back tracked me towards New Glasgow again. I did see a Tiny House which I loved and wanted.
It was a lot longer drive than I thought; about an hour outside Antigonish.
The scenery is worth traversing over the rough patches of road. When I drove by at the location proclaiming Cape George, there was no light house to be found. The numerous signs pointing to various hiking trails was a clue that hiking is popular in this area.
I did come to a wide open field with prime views of the shoreline. The waters of the Northumberland Strait stretched on as far as my eyes could see. The wind was brisk so I moved on in search of the lighthouse. You have to keep going into the village, past the wharf and church and up a switch back road. The last part of the summit reminded me of the Cabot Trail, only less grand. Finally, I found the entrance to Cape George Lighthouse Day park. A dirt road with a few remaining deep spots of snow. made me second guess, then gun it through. I was not completely sure I wouldn’t get the truck stuck.
Out of the tree lined path, the world breaks open and you see the lighthouse and a gorgeous vista of the sky, with the ice and water blending together. I felt so luck to have come at this time of year. Not a soul around to mess up my photos. The sun fought it way through the cloud cover and glistened on the ice sheet that was starting to break up with the milder air.
I stayed soaking in the view, and taking picture from all angles including a selfies for “my travels” folder.
I had to push on my sister was waiting and I was looking forward to getting home. It will have been a 7 hour drive. I departed with a thought I may never travel this way again. With so much still to see, who has time to retrace steps. I learned from a friend in Cape Breton that they call this drive to the light house; the little Cabot Trail. I highly recommend it. Picnic tablets and hiking trails would make a great outing. If you want to see it with Ice in the Strait. you’ll have to come late winter to early spring. I did this trip March 10th, 2017. Enjoy and happy road tripping from Maritime Mac.