The day is finally here. The day I have been dreading since we started this trip. The day we enter the Cape Breton Highlands.
Don’t get me wrong, this is one of my favourite parts of Nova Scotia, and I am very much looking forward to the incredible views that I know await us. But I also know what comes along with those views… hills. Incredibly long and steep hills. A lot of them.
As a beginner cyclist, I have always found hills to be extremely challenging. My training and progress through the trip so far has meant that I have become a lot more confident in my hill climbing ability, but I have never attempted anything close to this. And my legs still ache from our previous days of riding. But as we leave the campground, the sun is shining, and my legs pump up the first climb of the day. As we crest over the hill, the wide and sparkling ocean is laid out before us, and a few tears slip down my cheeks as we fly downhill towards the sea. I can’t believe we are really here. That we really made it this far. I still don’t know how this is going to end, but whatever happens I am so proud.
**HI EVERYONE! Sorry for the delay in getting these last few posts up. We did in fact finish our bike tour across Nova Scotia, I just got very lazy with my blogging towards the end.**
125 km – Linwood to Inverness
We wake up in the morning with the excitement of knowing that we will be crossing the causeway to Cape Breton Island after riding less than 20 kilometers. I feel refreshed after a good night’s sleep, and the sun is peeking out between scattered clouds. There is some potential rain forecast for later in the day, but I push that knowledge into the furthest back corner of my mind that I can find.
Mainland Nova Scotia wishes us farewell with one last kick in the pants – an absolutely massive climb. It is unexpected, as somehow I thought there wouldn’t be any more big climbs this close to the island crossing. I am thoroughly taught how incorrect I was. We start climbing, and around every curve I keep expecting the road to flatten out or start descending, but it just doesn’t happen. We climb, and climb, and climb. I am impressed with how fresh my legs feel after our long and miserable day yesterday. My feet pump the pedals and I keep moving, up, up, up. The morning sun crests over the top of the hill and I don’t stop until we reach a construction zone at the top, and after waiting a few minutes for the go ahead we are flying down, down, down to the ocean.
Our spirits are high as we cross the causeway to the island. Even if we make it no further than this, I can be proud of the fact that we rode our bikes all the way across the mainland. But, I think, I can make it at least a little bit farther. At least to Inverness, to the foot of the highlands. We will see what happens after that. We cheer as we pedal across the water, even as vehicles inch past us on the narrow bridge.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.