NS Bike Tour Day 6

112.7 km – Bridgeville to Linwood

I almost quit today. I stood right on the edge and stared hard at the possibility of not continuing on. But then I did.

The day actually starts out great. We wake up in our cozy Airbnb bed, pack up, say goodbye to Daisy the dog, and start pedaling. We cruise along on paved road for a while, but before long have to turn off onto another dreaded “mountain” road (Cumming Mountain Road, this time). Once again the dread proves to be well deserved. Cumming Mountain Road is an incredibly steep, incredibly chunky dirt track. I give up on riding almost immediately and begin pushing my bike up the hill, and Gummies soon follows suit.

At the top of the climb we find a gorgeous field stretching out as far as the eye can see, lit by morning light filtering through the clouds. We stop to take in the view and let our heart rates decrease back to a normal level. I glance at the vegetation on the roadside and immediately exclaim, “BLUEBERRIES!!”. The whole road is lined with them. I clamber off my bike to begin picking, and Gummies asks me to grab some for him as well.  As I’m picking, my eyes start to wander, and I realize that this entire field, as far as the eye can see, is carpeted in wild blueberries. We have hit the mother lode.

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NS Bike Tour Day 5

78.7 km – Brookfield to Bridgeville

I do not feel like biking this morning. My legs feel incredibly sore and I’d like to stay in bed for another couple of hours at least. But I don’t. I get up and wrap myself in my puffy jacket and sit at the picnic table and boil water for coffee. I eat my oatmeal and eventually get myself on my feet. As I move around the campsite getting ready for the day, my legs start to warm up and feel much better. By the time we’re ready to ride out of camp, I’m feeling okay again.

The day is beautiful and the riding is fairly smooth and easy. The fresh air whipping past my face continues to lift my mood. We ride through more idyllic countryside, forests and farm fields. We stop in a small grocery store in the village of Upper Stewiacke, where we fill our food bag with freshly baked biscuits and a block of cheese. We stuff cans of orange soda into our jersey pockets.

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NS Bike Tour Day 4

89.2 km – Windsor to Brookfield
My ass doesn’t hurt this morning. Okay, it still hurts, but not nearly as much as the last few mornings. Today my body settles onto my bike seat with barely a protest. I am sleepy but feeling ready to take on the world on my bicycle.

The day passes by mostly uneventful, for which I am grateful after yesterday. The weather is gorgeous, blue skies and sunny, and we wind our way along back roads that pass through farm fields and old forest harvest areas.

We make a lovely stop in the village of Kennetcook, where I get a donair sub at the local variety store and a moon mist ice cream cone from a little stand. How very Nova Scotian of me.

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NS Bike Tour Day 3

99.3 km – Nictaux Falls to Windsor

It rained today. The weather forecast for our little coastal province is ever changing, but no matter how many times I checked, this rain seemed inevitable. Still, when we woke up in the morning, I saw patches of blue sky and sun through the window, and I felt hope. I eat pumpkin zucchini loaf and drink fresh coffee in our host’s kitchen, and I feel hope.

The day starts not with rain, but with sand. After detouring along some back roads to get back onto the trail, we are greeted with a surface of thick, loose sand. We slog through it until it becomes unbearable and we decide to bail back onto the highway. We cut across on a track through a farmer’s field, which is so sandy that Gummies tips over ass first into the wheat. We walk out bikes the rest of the way out to the road.

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NS Bike Tour Day 2

89.3 km – Smith’s Cove to Nictaux Falls

We wake to the dead quiet of a trailer park filled with sleeping occupants. It takes us a bit to drag our stiff and achy bodies from our quilts, but when the sun hits the side of the tent we know it is time to move. We sit at the picnic table to eat our cold oatmeal, but we make hot coffee and tea, another luxury. The tent and everything else is completely soaked through with dew. We make empty attempts at wiping it down, before stuffing it away dripping wet.

When we start riding, my ass resists fully resting on the seat, but my legs are also too tired to keep holding myself slightly above it. After a few minutes I stop feeling much if anything at all.

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NS Bike Tour Day 1

129.8 km – Cape Forchu to Smith’s Cove

We wake up to the sound of our alarms in the Best Western Mermaid of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. I’m sleepy but the excitement of starting the adventure propels me out of bed. We pre-ordered our free grab and go hotel breakfast last night, and when I go to pick it up I discover we have ordered WAY too much food. There are eggs and sausage, fruit, yogurt, muffins, and cereal for each of us. If it was later into the trip, I may have easily devoured it all, but my nervous early morning stomach isn’t quite up to the task today.

It feels like it takes forever to get ourselves dressed, packed up, and into the car, but eventually we are on the road to the Cape Forchu lighthouse. We take a few minutes to enjoy the view with our lovely friend Katherine, who kindly agreed to accompany us to Yarmouth and then drive our car back to Halifax.

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Hi folks.

It’s going on two years since I last posted on this blog, and what a two years it has been. I am saddened and somewhat ashamed to say that I haven’t been on a single overnight hike since 2019 when I blogged about our AT section hike. That does not mean, however, that no adventures have been had in the last two years.

Last summer, during the height of the pandemic, Gummies and I both found ourselves out of work. So, when an opportunity to plant trees on the other side of the country presented itself, we jumped on it. We drove clear across the country (Nova Scotia to British Columbia – a distance of almost 6,000 km) in our little hatchback, pitched our tent in the woods of BC, and planted trees for a while. Notable experiences included a showdown with a grizzly bear and learning how to play Settlers of Catan.

Driving through Mount Robson Provincial Park
Continue reading “2021: THE CAFFEINATED HIKER ON WHEELS”

AT NH Day 10: “And I’ve Never Driven My Car to the Top of Mount Washington” – Michael Scott, The Office

Gorham, NH
0 miles
Today we did literally nothing. It rained pretty much all day and we barely left our room. We slept in, took advantage of the free motel continental breakfast, wandered over to Burger King to try the new Impossible Whopper, and ate at the Chinese buffet right beside the motel. Other than that we mostly lay in bed using WiFi and watching a marathon of The Office (which hilariously featured the quote in this post’s title) and bad reality TV on the Food Network and HGTV.

This is literally the only photo I took today

We did however, come up with a new plan for the ret of our trip. This plan had been brewing in our mind since partway through the day yesterday. The idea had slipped unbidden into my mind that Mount Washington would be a pretty epic place to end a section hike. And the more that idea rolled around in my brain, the more I liked it.

This trail has been incredibly freaking hard. I have to admit it’s not exactly what I pictured for our trip. It’s been amazing and fun and rewarding, but in our minds we were imagining, well, walking. This trip has involved a lot of rock scrambling and boulder hopping and hauling ourselves up and down incredibly steep slopes, but very little walking. This is our only vacation of the summer after all, and we had been hoping for at least a little bit of relaxation and the ability to let our minds drift while wandering through nature. Admittedly, we were hoping to briefly relive something of the experience we had on the PCT.
On top of this, I realized we had already experienced almost all of the things I wanted to experience. We got to hike Franconia Ridge and the Presidentials and Mount Washington, we got to camp in the mountains, and we made new friends. The only thing holding us to continuing was the statement we made that we wanted to hike the whole state of New Hampshire. And honestly I felt like I’d already accomplished what I set out to do. I proved to myself that I can do some really hard shit. I gained a newfound respect for my body and how strong it is. I felt totally content with ending the hike at Mount Washington. I absolutely know we could finish hiking the rest of New Hampshire. We are totally capable, and we would probably have a lot of fun. But I just didn’t feel like I needed to. I was ready to be done. Gummies and I discussed it extensively and he felt the exact same way. And so we changed our plan.
After zeroing here in Gorham to stay out of the rain, tomorrow we will hitch a ride back to Hanover to pick up our car, and then we will be heading to Boston! I’ve never been before, and Gummies has only been once when he was much younger and has always been saying we should go back for a visit. And so we will be using the rest of our vacation time to relax and sightsee around a new city, and I am very excited. We might also spend a day or two camping and day hiking in Maine on the way home.
The only thing I’m really sad about is the fact that we won’t get to say goodbye to the people we met along the way. The trail community is so lovely and we felt so immediately welcomed by the other long distance hikers. To everyone we met on the trail, I hope we will meet again one day. Our adventure on the AT is over, for now.

AT NH Day 9: Mount Washington or Bust

Maine Central Railroad – Mount Washington Summit
12.9 miles
Boy howdy, today was a doozy. It did not start well. First off, we somehow slept through our alarm for 30 minutes, so we did not get the early jump on the Presidential Range that we were wanting. But we were at least well rested. The trail went briefly downhill on a road before crossing the highway at Crawford Notch and heading uphill into the mountains.
I’m not sure what it was, but this climb up Mount Webster was one of the hardest we’ve had so far, at least for me. My calves were once again very unhappy at being made to start clubbing uphill first thing in the morning. They screamed at me to stop with every step. It was the kind of pain that made you feel like you should panic. My legs felt like lead. Every step felt like tossing a thousand pound bag of flour another couple feet up the mountainside. I felt so weak. I thought there was no way I could make it to Mount Washington like this. Every time I turned a corner and saw more steep uphill, panic seized my chest.

Feeling much better after a breakfast break

When I finally dragged myself up to the first view point where Gummies was waiting for our breakfast break, I completely broke down and cried for a few minutes. But after a long hug and some deep breaths, I felt better. Gummies asked me if I wanted to turn around and go back to the road, but I said no, I wanted to go to Mount Washington. I wasn’t going to give up on that.

View of the rest of the Presidentials from Mount Jackson

After breakfast, the hiking became MUCH nicer. The trail alternated between flat and relatively gentle and steep rock scrambles. But the scrambles were short and fun and I found myself enjoying them immensely. I listened to a couple podcasts to get my mind of the morning, and then listened to a couple Panic at the Disco albums which got me super pumped up. I felt so much better and was enjoying the hiking so much. Plus, it was an absolutely beautiful day to be in the Presidential Range, with sunshine and blue skies. Of course, this combined with the fact that it was Labour Day weekend meant there were day and weekend trippers everywhere, but it honestly didn’t feel too over crowded.

Lunch break on Mount Pierce

It was a pretty easy climb up to the summit of Mount Jackson, where we got a glimpse of the rest of the trail ahead, winding through the Presidential Range to Mount Washington in the distance. It was so exciting to see, and the summit of Washington looked completely clear, which is a pretty rare event. We descended to the Mizpah Spring Hut where we used the toilets and filled our water bottles. Even though thru hikers can’t really stay in the huts, using the facilities is still pretty luxurious.

After that we climbed up to Mount Pierce, where we had a quick lunch break a bit back from the main view area to keep our distance from the crowds of tourists. We still had an amazing view of Washington and the other Presidentials as we ate. After descending off Pierce, the official AT skirted around the peaks of Eisenhower and Monroe. There were side trails to go up and over the summits, but the trail was beautiful enough as is and we decided to focus on making it to Washington and skip on the peak bagging. We would later find out this was a very good idea.

This section of trail was absolutely the most beautiful hiking we’ve done so far. We were above tree line for a lot of the day, and it just felt familiar and like home, after doing so much above treeline hiking on the PCT. The trail was mostly gentle and well graded, so we could just walk and take on the views. It was wonderful. We made one last bathroom and water stop at the Lakes of the Clouds Hut before starting our final climb up Washington. Some guy at the base warned us that it would probably take us at least 1.5-2 hours to make it to the top. It was already 4:30, so I was hoping that wouldn’t be the case.

We started climbing, and it was honestly one of the easiest climbs we’ve had all trip. The rocks were nicely arranged in a flat, fairly gradual climbing surface. We probably could have climbed the whole thing in one go, but took some small breaks to take in the amazing views as we climbed. Of course, as we began approaching the summit, clouds began moving in and fog began to surround the summit. It became incredibly windy and cold as we approached the top, but at last we made it! And it only took us 45 minutes (take that, guy at the bottom)!

View heading up Mount Washington!

It was super exciting to reach the top, but also also super weird. We had just done a hard day of hiking and climbing mountains to get here, and the top was absolutely swarming with tourists that had driven up or taken the train. It was a bit disorienting. We had to stand in line to get our photo with the summit photo. But it still felt absolutely amazing to have walked up, and all the way from Vermont! Unfortunately, the clouds had completely overtaken the summit by the time we got there, so there were no views, but the amazing views we’d got on the way up and the feeling of accomplishment were more than enough.

Our plan had been to try and hitch a ride with someone driving down the mountain, so we headed down to the parking area. As soon as we got there, we found a giant NO HITCHHIKING sign. There went that plan. We started walking back up to the main summit area to reevaluate, and then saw another sign saying that all cars must leave the summit by 5:45. It was currently 5:35. With ten minutes to find a ride, we just started randomly approaching people who were heading to the cars in the parking lot. We got super lucky when the second person we asked agreed to drive us down. Even luckier, they were going right through Gorham and offered to drop us off right in town! They were a lovely couple from Delaware and we had a nice time chatting with them as we drove down the incredibly steep and winding road down the side of the mountain. We got some amazing views from the car on the way down too.
They dropped us off in the middle of town, and we set about trying to find a place to stay. Unfortunately, the fact that it was labour day weekend meant that almost everything was completely booked, even the hiker hostel. We must have called every place in town, getting rejection after rejection. I was starting to get pretty stressed, thinking we might have to sleep outside somewhere, when we finally managed to find an available room at a cheap motor inn. The guy said it was his last available room and I’m pretty sure it was the last place available in the whole town. Lucky again.

We walked over, dropped our stuff and took a a quick shower before heading over to Mr. Pizza for food. We had cheesy breadsticks, nachos, and pizza, plus really yummy beer. It felt so good to finally relax, now that all the boxes of our plan had been checked. We got really lucky in several ways today, and it’s kind of freaky thinking how easily our plan could have failed. But we made it, and now we can rest in town tomorrow while it rains. So ready to collapse into our real bed and get some good rest. Today was an amazing day.