Friday, August 9, 2019

Countryside near Newtown to Sunnybrae

Last night we experienced a torrential rainstorm for about an hour, and then moving bands of heavy rain followed. We stayed dry in our little forested hollow, and once again had a deep appreciation for our tarp.

When we got out of the tent the world was drenched, and the sky was overcast. The only birds I heard singing while I made breakfast were a single Wood Thrush and a Red-breasted Nuthatch.

The walk began well enough as we followed the road for a few hundred meters and then began climbing a hill on the trail. It was a nice, forested gravel track, and we followed it over a hill and down the other side without question, travelling about 5 km. We soon discovered that the Great Trail App was taking the day off, and we had no cell service, so although we could use Google maps to navigate in our immediate vicinity, we couldn't see very far. We thought this was okay, because we had a rough idea of where the trail would take us. We continued past a house, and crossed a lovely trestle bridge with a nice sandy beach on the edge of the river. We stopped to take a break, and I went for half a swim. We then realized we weren't where we needed to be. Using first Google maps and then a fantastic Snowmobile App we downloaded, we realized we missed a turn off about 1.5 km back - uphill. This stunk.

We climbed back up a steep hill, and backtracked to the mapped turn-off. It was an unsigned grassy track, which hadn't even registered as a possible turn to us. Yikes. We began down it, getting soaked by the grass and overhanging vegetation within a few meters. Although it is always unpleasant to hike with wet shoes, it was actually quite beautiful to see the sparkling water drops clinging to all the grass blades, and very entertaining to watch as frogs scattered at our passing.

As we trekked we began to realize that not only were parts of the trail non-existent but that the Trans Canada Signs throughout the region had been forcefully removed, making navigating amid a series of interconnecting snowmobile trails a further challenge.

About a kilometer in we came to the first in a series of large washouts. It seemed more like a small pond. We dubiously skirted the edge, mostly trading a walk through water for a slide through mud. It felt like we were on one of the least well maintained sections of trail we've encountered yet, but it occurred to us that if this stretch is used mostly by snowmobiles in winter, the condition of the trail bed likely isn't too important, as it is covered in snow when they're on it.

We followed the trail for much of the morning as it led through a previously logged landscape. The volunteer trail captain we met yesterday seemed justifiably proud of the gorgeous section of trail he maintained, and told us that some sections were still more open than his, because they take a while to heal. This description seemed to fit what we were seeing in a landscape of stumps, tall standing snags, and young regenerating birch and balsam fir.

At one point we stopped for a break as the heat and humidity continued to rise, and with it the numbers and voraciousness of the deer flies. As we sat in the shade of a tree on the edge of the trail, we spotted a Brown Creeper family foraging in the trees opposite. Other birding highlights for today included seeing a family of Common Mergansers swimming happily downstream on one of the rivers we crossed, and watching a Common Yellowthroat forage for food on a riverbank.


Around mid-morning we crossed a very sketchy feeling bridge, which came complete with four sets of warning signs. It was constructed from deeply corrugated metal, and covered by a carpet that stretched between gaps in the structure.

This bridge led us the edge of the beautiful Eden Lake. This is a large lake, which was lined on the opposite shore with very large and elaborate vacation homes.  Many of these came complete with large boats and other water toys, including a floating blow-up island. It looked civilized and a little bit inviting.

We continued on, very thankful for the good signage provided by the Snowmobile Association of Nova Scotia, and their App, which seems always to work, even offline. This was very helpful as we wound our way through a network of snowmobile trails without even a single Trans Canada Trail marker to guide us.

At one point we had to choose which fork in the trail to take, and make a guess as to which was the Great Trail. We decided it was the left fork, but when we took this we found ourselves in the midst of an active logging operation. We could hear the heavy machinery at work, and the trees crashing down. The trailbed, which was also lined with vehicles, had been churned up by the large machinery and logging trucks. With last night's rain this made it a soft mud pit, which was tough going. It was the correct fork to take that time.

After the newly logged section we walked through more regenerating forest. It was very hot and humid by this point, and stopping was not possible due to the biting flies. We were not happy campers, although we were enjoying the remoteness of the area. For most the day we were far enough away from civilization where the sounds of the forest were all we heard. We also have enjoyed seeing quite a few interesting animal tracks in this section, most of which we can't identify.

We were struck again by the difference between the trail in Nova Scotia and in Newfoundland. In Newfoundland we saw people on ATVs every single day, whereas here we rarely meet anyone on the trail.

We had been hoping to get to a river just short of Sunnybrae to camp for the night, but by 5 PM we were hot, tired, and having walked 27 km, still had no way of seeing how far we were from our destination. We guessed it was about 6 km ahead of us, but we'd had enough for the day, so we made camp on the edge of a burbling brook.

We have created a problem for ourselves for tomorrow, but for now we are enjoying the beauty, quiet, and peacefulness of this spot enormously. We will figure out tomorrow when it gets here.

As the last of the light fades we hear the warbling notes of two Wood Thrushes, the calls of an American Woodcock, the clear song of a White-throated Sparrow, and there is an inquisition Dark-eyed Junco looking in the door of the tent. The magic of tonight is brought alive by the fireflies, which are blinking on and off above the river outside our open tent door.

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