New Brunswick and Nova Scotia
June 25 to July 7
“We’re from Chattanooga, Tennessee,” we told the ranger at Cape Breton National Park in Nova Scotia.
“Oh, I’ve heard of there,” she said. “That’s the place Alan Jackson sings about, right? ‘Way down yonder in Chattanooga?’”
“Well that’s ‘Way down yonder on the Chattahoochee,’ but that’s not very far away either,” we said.
News of Chattanooga may not have made it to Nova Scotia, but Alan Jackson has!
Adventures in Atlantic Canada. Here we go!
As soon as we crossed the bridge over from Quebec, we were met with our first significant height restriction of the trip. We had to make an immediate left once we got off the bridge to avoid a 10-foot high underpass (we were 11 ft 7 inches). If you’ve never searched “RV can opener bridge” then you haven’t seen exactly what it is I was afraid of.
But despite a little detour (which led us to bacon poutine at a deli) New Brunswick was a wonderful stop. We stayed at South Kouchibouguac National Park on the Atlantic Coast. Technically it’s on the edge of the Northumberland Strait and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, but just think Atlantic. After much practice, we learned to pronunciation is koosh-oo-BOOJ-oo-wack.
The wildlife and the ranger programs are what we’ll remember about this park. Ranger Marilyn was outstanding! Braden and Andy went to a “Lagoon Life” ranger program where the class used nets to scoop up critters from the lagoon. Among the discoveries were hermit crabs, moon snails, one invasive green crab and mole crabs. Later in the lagoon, we saw an eel and jellyfish. With the ranger’s guidance, Braden even got to touch one of the jellyfish
Andy worked via the wifi at the campground store and talked to the Acadian storekeeper whenever the man came out of the store for a smoke break. He asked if the TV show “Swamp People” was an accurate representation of the American South and Andy explained that not everyone lived that way. The accent of the storekeeper and other Acadians in New Brunswick sounded very similar to the Cajun accent in Louisiana because they have the same roots. Acadians were the French settlers of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. They were expelled when the British came to power and many of them moved to Louisiana. It’s a sad, but interesting connection.
The wildlife continued to be a star. Braden and Jess discovered a luna moth that was coming out of it’s cocoon and we saw it full out in all its glory that afternoon.
In one of our longest hikes of the whole trip, we walked several kilometers down the beach to a point that sometimes has seals. We were lucky to see about 40 of them just off the shore. They were very curious about us, watching from the water as we walked down the beach and back up. We didn’t see any seals on land, but we did see an endangered piping plover.
On our hike, the beach was full of what looked like tiny pea-sized shrimp that jumped a foot or two in the air when you came close. We learned these were called beach hoppers and they were pretty harmless unless they jumped into your sandal and you squished them with your bae toes. That was gross. On our walk back, we drug a stick behind us for a kilometer or two leaving a long line just like one of Braden’s book Harold and the Purple Crayon.
Our first night in Nova Scotia was spent in the town of Pictou where we celebrated Jess’s birthday at a mediocre seafood restaurant. Around town, we did see a station for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and a replica of the Hector, a ship which was one of the first to bring Scottish settlers to “New Scotland” or in Latin, Nova Scotia.
Our destination was Cape Breton Highlands National Park on the northern tip of Nova Scotia, 700 miles north and west of Portland, Maine. Cape Breton had some of the most beautiful scenery anywhere with winding coastlines through and thick green forests. Though there was construction on much of the main driving route (The Cabot Trail) around the park, we were once again fortunate to see wildlife. Most notably, we saw a moose and a peregrine falcon.
But beyond the wildlife and scenery, we got a dose of culture as well. July 1 was Canada Day and the park went all out with a cookout, cupcakes and entertainment from Razzamatazz. Braden got to play in the band on stage, which he thoroughly enjoyed. He also got to meet Parka, that Parks Canada Mascot and got a stuffed beaver and maple leaf flag for a souvenir.
While there, we also took a short hike around the park trying to see the Atlantic salmon, but we we unsuccessful. Another short trail led us to a spectacular waterfall that emptied right into the ocean.
On the way out of Nova Scotia, we stopped at Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site, where the famous inventor had a summer home in Nova Scotia. While Bell is famous for his work with the telephone, he was into all sorts of cutting edge experiments, including airplanes, hovercrafts and hydrofoils. One particularly fun photo showed on older Alexander Graham Bell playing with one of his grandchildren and a whirly gig spinny toy. We almost skipped the site, but we’re glad we decided to go.
Back to New Brunswick
With only a few days left in Canada we stopped at Fundy National Park to check out the famous Bay of Fundy. The area is known for having the biggest tides in the world and we could definitely see that with the big swing between low tide and high tide. At low tide, there seemed like a quarter mile of mud from the water. Of course, we had to check these mudflats out. It turns out they were very muddy.
Thankfully, we found a store near the park that sold milk in jugs! From May 17 to July 4 we could only buy our milk in bags. See back to the first Ontario post for more details on this terrible Canadian invention. Elsewhere in food news, while at Fundy, we also tried lobster rolls and our last dish of poutine before hitting the states. The lobster roll was okay, but not what we expected. I expected something warm, but instead it was cold with slaw-like mayonnaise-based goop.
But the highlight of Fundy was the Hopewell Rocks. The crazy tide action shaped the shore into wild formations like nothing we’d ever seen before. Though it was crowded and fairly pricey, it was a must stop. Enjoy the photos!