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.
We are actually able to get on the rail trail briefly, and the conditions aren’t too bad, but it dead ends before too long and we are back on the road, cruising our way down into the adorable village of Bear River. We stop at the local grocery and stock up on salted caramel pretzels, Pringles, and pepperoni sticks for the day. I buy and chug a can of Bubly. We cross the river for which the town is named, and immediately see a road going rather steeply upwards. “Are we going that way?”, Gummies asks. “Nope, we need to go straight on this road for a bit first,” I reply. “Phew, that road looked pretty steep,” he says, but the relief dies in his throat as we round the corner and see the road we DO have to take, which is significantly steeper.
We again try to punch our way up, but the hill is long and seems to just keep getting steeper and steeper, and before too long we once again abandon ship and begin pushing the bikes up the slope. Even that is exhausting. The grade seems to lessen after we round a bend, so we try hopping back on the bikes, but I can barely get myself moving and soon find myself tipping right over onto the shoulder. And so again, we walk.
Once the road levels out a bit, we begin riding again. The surface is blessedly smooth this morning, and the terrain is somewhat rolling, but once again it feels like we are going up, and up, and up. I wonder if maybe we need to get over a crest to get into the valley, and this turns out to be the case. Soon we are cruising downhill on smooth, windy roads.
Near the town of Annapolis Royal, we attempt to get back on the rail trail, but it doesn’t even seem to exist in the spot where it’s marked on the map, so we continue on the highway into town. Annapolis is an adorable little town, and we make a stop to sit on the brewery patio and enjoy a cold beer. I examine satellite imagery of the trail, and we devise a plan to leave town on some back roads that will eventually meet up with the trail in a spot where it at the very least exists (in unknown condition).
Thankfully, when we do reach the trail we find it in a very rideable condition. We sit in a patch of shade to eat our lunch, and several cyclists pass by, which seems to be a favourable sign.
The trail winds through farm fields and alongside the wide and meandering (and very inviting looking) Annapolis River. The trail conditions vary greatly, from okay riding, to slogging through thick sand, to bumping over washboard track and large rocks. It’s hot and sunny and riding through the fields we are mostly exposed to the elements.
When we reach Bridgetown, there’s an old railway station that has been converted to a restaurant and tap room. We drink an entire pitcher of water, and only then feel refreshed enough to down a bowl of poutine and a pint of beer each. We need a morale boost to get back on the bikes, so we bust out our portable speaker and turn on some pump up tunes. The music helps immensely, as does the fact that the trail seems to keep improving slightly the further we ride into the valley.
Soon, we are cruising into Middleton, where we leave the trail to head to our Airbnb for the night, stopping on the way through town to grab some Subway for dinner. Our Airbnb is a bedroom in a lovely home in Nictaux Falls, with a gorgeous deck and garden. I have a hot shower (with soap!!), devour my foot-long sub, and collapse into the gloriously comfy bed, barely keeping my eyes open long enough to say goodnight to Gummies.