Across Northumberland Strait to Nova Scotia

2011-07-24: 86km to New Glasgow, NS
We took a road that appeared on the map to head very straight south from St. Peter’s Bay to Wood Islands, where the ferry leaves for Nova Scotia. The road was straight in the horizontal dimension, but it probably climbed and descended some of the highest forested ridges in PEI. These aren’t all that high, but what beautiful countryside! There is pasture and woodland, the hedgerows are dotted with wildflowers, and stands of tamarack grow in peatlands. Thank heaven for the tailwind; the weather was hot and muggy.


Cormorant Colony on Pictou Causeway

We arrived at the ferry terminal in time for a cold drink before an afternoon sailing, and landed just over an hour later in Pictou, Nova Scotia. At the tourist office here we met Gilles from Rivière du Loup who was heading homeward after a multi-month trip on gravel roads in Labrador. He was in heavily loaded expedition mode with panniers larger than ours, a trailer he’d built himself (he was a welder-mechanic), and he must have been carrying at least eight litres of water. He did longer days than we do with fewer rest days; he was all muscle, but seemed lonely from his solo trip through a remote region, and he seemed happy to talk our ears off at a mile a minute in both official languages. We rode on as far as New Glasgow where we found a low-end motel because I was feeling hot and bedraggled and not yet ready for commando camping in gravel pits. The nearest organized camp site was closed.

2011-07-25: 95km to Gravel Pit Camp past Monastery
Most of this day’s riding was head-down-and-get-there on the shoulder of the Trans-Canada. In Antigonish we ate our picnic in front of the tourist office, and gathered information so as to decide our route across Cape Breton. We have a fixed date for meeting nephew Daniel in Deer Lake, Newfoundland, so we opted for a Bras D’Or Lakes route rather than the Cabot Trail, planning a rest day at St. Peter’s where a canal joins Bras D’Or Lake with the Atlantic. Besides, I would love to see Louisburg.

We felt like just getting to Cape Breton, so ploughed onward. Turning off on a side road, we soon found the proverbial gravel pit for a night of swatting mosquitos. I couldn’t find a lighter, having borrowed one from Dominique the night before. I assumed I’d weeded lighters out of our kit for plane travel, so poor Chris rode eight extra kilometres to buy one, adding insect repellant to our kit at the same time. (The next day, I found we had had a lighter with us all along. Argh.)

2011-07-26: 76km to St. Peters, NS, Battery Provincial Park Camp
We packed up and stopped for second breakfast near the Canso Causeway. After crossing it, we stopped to take a cheese de groupe (group photo) of a group of Montreal cyclists in front of the “Welcome to Cape Breton” sign. They were riding from Montreal to the easternmost cape in Newfoundland, a few kilometres Southeast of St. John’s. They were three cyclists — two couples, with one of the wives driving a van and sketching landscapes rather than pedalling. One of the men had already ridden from westernmost Vancouver Island to Montreal, so he was doing a composite crossing of Canada like Daniel, only in two big chunks.


We took a back road option toward St. Peter’s. A row on nine simple crosses caught my eye, so I stopped to look at a small graveyard. I thought perhaps there would be a story of a shipwreck or mine disaster, but all I could see was first names of both genders. That story remained untold, but a nearby headstone that I noticed dated back to the 1700s, and marked the resting place of a couple: the man from Argyllshire and the woman from Invernesshire, Scotland ….my father’s neck of the woods. I wonder if I have relatives here in Cape Breton?
Arriving at Battery Provincial Park campground in St. Peter’s, we cooked steaks on a fire for supper.

2011-07-27: 10km. Day off in St. Peter´s
We awoke to sounds of a thunderstorm and pounding raindrops, so we stayed in the tent till early afternoon. The tent is new, in theory an ultra-light three man tent, and it’s made of newfangled sil-nylon. It’s good and waterproof, but the ventilation is less than perfect, in fact it can get quite hot inside.


We finally emerged to stroll by the canal, which joins tidal Bras D’Or Lakes to the Atlantic. Bras D’Or is only slightly tidal (one foot variation) because it is naturally joined to the Atlantic by two channels at it’s north end, and these constrictions dampen the tide effect.  The Atlantic tides are much larger than the lake tides, which means either side can be higher at any given time. To deal with this, the lock has two gates at either end, with V-configurations pointing in opposite directions. Quite unique! We toddled on to the Nicolas Denys Museum, where artifacts included Gaelic bibles. After an excellent fishy dinner we returned to sort soggy gear and go to bed. On towards Louisburg tomorrow. If the weather hasn’t improved, we will be looking for a cabin or motel. No wonder the campgrounds are deserted!


2 responses to “Across Northumberland Strait to Nova Scotia

  1. Hey Margo, you folks really get around. We were in St. Peters 3 or 4 years ago as part of a car tour around most of Nova Scotia, in conjunction with a conference that we were attending in Truro.

    Heading down to Halifax once you have done the Bras D'Or tour?

    Ron Richings

  2. No, we are off to Newfoundland…

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