Thursday, August 8, 2019

Cross Roads Country Harbour to Newtown

Today was a long hard day, for a number of reasons. Last night our lovely riverside campsite was circled by a pack of highly vocal coyotes. They were active all night, yipping and howling. It was not a restful night, and although dawn on the river was gorgeous, it felt like it came far too fast.

Apart from last night, we have been making a pretty hard push these past few days. This has been less out of a sense of urgency, and more out of necessity. We are in a 140 km stretch of trail which is about half road walking, that has no resupply points, and it has been somewhat difficult to find nice camping spots with water. A lot of the lakes and rivers we hope to use end up being completely or partially dried up. This makes for long days in the heat with heavy packs, and we are really starting to feel it.

We awoke to a misty morning in our mossy campsite, and as we made breakfast on the shores of the river we watched the mist rise off the water. It was magical and wonderful, and the river seemed to be inviting anyone who was there to follow it upstream to find adventure.

When we finally left our protected hollow we were amazed to find the trail soaked in sunshine and already hot. The temperature difference between the shaded forest and exposed rail bed was huge. For the first 10 km or so the trail was surrounded mostly by young, open, regenerating forest. It looked like the logging had been done within the last decade, and young birch, balsam fir, spruce, and shrubs were slowly coming back.

In the heat of the morning the birds were mostly quiet, but we passed one wetland area with a family of Blue Jays and a family of Northern Flickers hanging out in the same stand of trees. Other birding highlights included seeing lots of brightly coloured American Goldfinches, several flocks of elegant Cedar Waxwings, and a Hairy Woodpecker foraging at the side of the trail.

Other wildlife highlights in this section included seeing a small Green snake (though sadly dead) and a larger red snake. We didn't get a very good look at the reddish snake, which was the same colour as the pine needles, but it was about 24 inches long and quite thick.

We clipped through that first 10 km pretty quickly, because although they were beautiful, we were pursued relentlessly by deer flies, which were worse than anything we've ever experienced. We must have each had about 20 flies buzzing us, and they were biting almost immediately on contact. This made stopping, photographing anything, or slowing down nearly impossible.

The next section of trail was beautiful, and came as a huge relief. It was gorgeous shaded trail, bordered by tall white pines. It took us over several very impressive trestle bridges that rose high above the rivers below. It also gave us gorgeous views of peaceful and uninhabited lakes, where we stopped to enjoy the cool breezes.

In this beautiful stretch we met the volunteer who cares for this section of trail. He was heading in to check on the Great Trail Treasure box, and stopped to chat. He told us he was instrumental in getting the impressive trestle bridges installed, and had helped build the trail. He also mentioned several sets of hikers who had passed through on their way across the country. We greatly appreciate his, and all volunteers' efforts in building and maintaining the trail. Our hike wouldn't be the same without all their hard work!


We had been hoping to collect another Treasure code in the Great Trail Treasure Hunt, and after some searching we were successful! Box 93 was our fifth find!

After this beautiful section of trail, we had a 10 km stretch of road walking. This was because two trestle bridges on the section after Aspen have not yet been replaced. This made us appreciate the volunteer's efforts even more!

The road we walked took us through agricultural areas, as well as through quite a bit of forested areas. It was winding and didn't have too much traffic, for which we were grateful, although one very nice man did stop and ask us if we wanted a ride to New Glasgow. We very much did at that point, but we politely declined.

Road walking is hard because there usually aren't too many opportunities for stopping. We took a short break on the lawn of a church, and were delighted to find that the lawn had small blueberry bushes all through it that were bearing fruit! We have been happily munching on wild blueberries and raspberries along the trail edges for the past couple days - or at least I have been!

Towards the end of our highway walk we came to a memorial cairn with the poem "Sons of Martha" by Rudyard Kipling inscribed on it. Apparently these cairns were put up by Harry Maclean, who worked for the railway between 1920-1940 to commemorate the work of the engineers who worked and died while building the railways in Atlantic Canada and Quebec.


As we took a break beside the cairn, we discovered there was a geocache in the vicinity. There are thousands of geocaches along the Great Trail, and I have decided to try to find at least one per province. Now I have one for Nova Scotia!

Shortly after this point the trail turned off the highway and onto a gravel road. We had been hoping to camp by a river that crossed the road a couple kilometers in, but there were houses at the crossing. We continued on, but we entered an agricultural area, and the water that was available didn't look drinkable even with a filter. It was  very sludgy and unappetizing.

We continued walking. And walking. And walking. And walking. Finally we found a stand of trees with a small brook, just beyond a field of blueberries. Having walked just over 31 km, we decided to stop and set up camp. As we fall asleep a gentle rain is falling, and we are glad to be inside shelter.

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