Tuesday, August 13, 2019

New Glasgow to Pictou

This morning we made our way from New Glasgow to Pictou, around a 20 km section of the Great Trail that is waterway. Once in Pictou we pitched our tent at a private campground, and then took the opportunity to explore the beautiful town of Pictou on foot, without our packs.

Pictou, which has been nicknamed the 'birthplace of New Scotland' is rich in history. We began by walking along the well-landscaped waterfront, with its thriving marina, shops, restaurants, and historical sites.

For the past few days we've been reading signs saying 'Say no to the pipe', which refers to a controversy surrounding a pulp and paper mill that is located on the Pictou harbour. The effluent from the mill is killing the lobster fishery in the area, changing the water temperatures in the strait, and polluting the marine fisheries in the region. From the waterfront in Pictou the mill dominates the seascape, and when the wind blew the smoke across the water it brought with it an unpleasant smell.

Although it is easy to see the arguments for closing or moving the plant, this would mean losing thousands of jobs from a county where they are sorely needed. This seems to be yet another example of a situation where we desperately need to find solutions for living sustainably in nature in such a way that we can have long term jobs in healthy, prosperous communities.


Located on the waterfront is the Hector Heritage Quay, which is a museum that includes a full scale replica of the ship the 'Hector.' This ship brought 189 settlers from Loch Broom, in the Scottish Highlands to Pictou on Sept 15th, 1773 after spending nearly 2.5 months at sea.


We visited the ship and the attached museum, learning about the reasons behind Scottish emigration, what the journey across the Atlantic was like, and a little about the conditions the settlers encountered once they arrived in the New World. The displays were interesting and well done, and we learned a lot.


We stopped at a local bakery for rhubarb squares and coffee before heading over to the Northumberland Fisheries Museum. There we learned about the history and trade of the lobster fishery, and had a chance to view and learn about live lobsters, including rare blue and speckled lobsters. One cool fact we learned is that lobsters apparently don't age, so they could theoretically live forever! This is because old lobsters can regenerate their cells just as efficiently as young ones.

The Fisheries Museum also included a display on the Lighthouses of North America. One of my favourite parts was a large wallmap of the Maritimes which showed the locations of the lighthouses in white, red, or flashing lights, depending on what the lighthouse really looks like.

Our next stop in downtown Pictou was the Grohmann Knives store. These locally produced knives are famous around the world for their quality and craftsmanship. I am definitely not a knife aficionado, but it was interesting to see the huge variety of knives that are available for different tasks.

Because former railways, or at least rail trails, feature prominently in our lives at the moment, we walked back to explore the Pictou Railway Station (Intercolonial) National Historic Site. We approached the building from the back, so may have missed some of it's original splendour. The first station on the site was built in 1867 as a terminus for the Intercolonial Railway, which linked the Maritime provinces to central Canada. The current building was constructed in 1904, shortly before CN railways took over the line.

As we continued around the shoreline we stopped at Mrs. MacGregor's Shortbreads to try a small sample of famous Scottish shortbread. We discovered it comes in many different flavors, including whiskey, chocolate, maple, lavender and lemon, and original. We can attest that the orange and cranberry was delicious.


After the refreshment break we continued our walk around the harbour on the Great Trail, which in this section is also the Jitney Trail. It was a lovely municipal pathway, complete with picturesque views back across the harbour to Pictou, benches and picnic tables, garbage bins, and interpretive signs.


On the way we stopped to look for Box 63 in the Great Trail Treasure Hunt. Sadly, we struck out again, for the third time in two days! On a positive note though, while we were looking in the shrubs along the shore we spotted three Bonaparte's Gulls swimming in the harbour. This was very exciting, as it is a first for the hike, and this Boreal Gull has a unique habit of nesting in trees!


We followed the Jitney trail for 8 km back to the campground. It remained a lovely pea gravel trail the whole way. We crossed a beautiful trestle bridge, walked between rows of birches with their straight, uniform, white trunks that created a natural border for the trail, and crossed open fields with some large and curious cows. It was a beautiful walk.

Back at the campground we are working once again, planning the next few weeks, and working on logistics. We learned that the presentation we were hoping to do tomorrow at the Pictou library isn't possible, due to an unlikely combination of us losing cell service for three days on the trail, our contact going on vacation during that time, her replacement falling ill, and emails failing to send.  In addition we were informed by another group today that "trekking across Canada isn't extreme enough to be interesting".  Some things just aren't meant to be.  Tomorrow we are back on the trail, heading towards Truro and then onto Halifax.  Let the adventure continue!

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