Sunday, August 4, 2019

Port Hastings to Collins Pond

Yesterday we took a zero day in Port Hastings to rest, catch up on the blog, and resupply. It was a restful day, during which we received the extreme kindness and generosity of a lady who drove us in to Port Hawksbury so we could get groceries, and then picked us up a few hours later and brought us back to Port Hastings. She told us she had hiked the Inca Trail, and she was certainly very thoughtful and attuned to the possible needs of hikers, which is somewhat rare.

This morning we were up and ready to go very early, because we wanted to take advantage of as much cool morning air as we could on our long road walk today.

We headed back down to the Canso Causeway, where we had to say farewell to the beautiful Cape Breton Island as we crossed into mainland Nova Scotia.

The Strait of Canso separates Cape Breton Island from the mainland, and was historically used as a shortcut between the Atlantic and the Gulf of St. Lawrence by fishermen. This water route took 70 nautical miles off the trip to Montreal, Quebec and 171 nautical miles off the way to Charlottetown, PEI. Because it saves time and money, it was eventually used by freighters and oil tankers as well. Before construction of the Canso Causeway in the early 1950's a ferry took vehicle and train traffic between the Island and the mainland, but as things got busier this was no longer practical. The causeway is constructed with locks so as to allow vehicles to cross without obstructing boat traffic in the strait.

As we crossed the bridge we passed an Osprey perched on the metal supports, and we watched as a Great Blue Heron flew past. On the other side of the bridge it was immediately obvious that we had entered another stage of our journey along the Great Trail. The hike began with a very long climb up a large hill beside the Martin Marietta - Porcupine Mountain quarry. This was not too picturesque, or overly enjoyable, but we soon found ourselves in the prosperous community of Mulgrave.

Here we deviated from the Great Trail onto a gorgeous, treed, pea gravel, municipal walking trail. The purpose of our detour was to find Box 159 in the Great Trail Treasure Hunt. Happily, we were successful!

We followed this trail back down to the harbour, where it rejoined the Great Trail, which overlapped with the Scotia Trail in this section. This was a very nice pathway, complete with lots of benches and historical plaques showcasing the central role Mulgrave used to play in regional history. In the 1880s the train came through Mulgrave, and before the construction of the Canso Canal in 1955 all ferry traffic came through it as well.

The Scotia Trail offered lovely views out across the strait. On the opposite shore there were lots of signs of industry, including wind turbines, an active factory, and what looked like a quarry.

As we walked through Pirate Harbour, which looked very picturesque with its red and white boats floating at rest in the bay, we watched a small family of Black Ducks paddle lazily away from shore at our approach, and heard the high keening calls of a Bald Eagle. As we passed a stand of tall conifers the Eagle launched itself into the air and went soaring out over the ocean.

A little farther along we watched as a Belted Kingfisher dove into the ocean and came up with a fish! I am more used to seeing Kingfishers on freshwater rivers and lakes, and the sight of them fishing in the ocean is still unexpected.  Sadly both the Eagle and Kingfisher were too fast for us to get pictures.  Some moments we get caught up in and watch as they end before we think to grab the camera.

Just before Pirate Harbour the Scotia Trail ended and we began our hike along Marine Dr., which we followed for the rest of the day. This was a two lane road with a wide grassy shoulder, and very little traffic. The cars that passed us were mostly very polite, pulling into the other lane to give us lots of space, which we greatly appreciated. As far as road walking goes, this was pretty nice.

We passed a little lookout point called Breezy's Beach, with an inviting looking picnic table, a hammock, and some very elaborate rock art.

After Pirate Harbour the road followed the shore for a while, and then pulled inland a little. As we passed through the communities of Melford, Sand Point, and Hadleyville we mostly walked up and down rolling hills with trees on either side of us. There was little shade, but we were blessed with a mostly cloudy day.



In the community of Hadleyville we stopped for a rest at the multi-use recreational facility. We had really been hoping it would have water, but sadly it was a tennis court, a collection of outdoor exercise equipment, and a grassy field, with no water supply. Although it was very nice, there was an air of neglect of about it.


We looked at the map, and figured our next best bet for refilling our water bottles was at St. Francis Harbour. This turned out to be a very beautiful river, complete with a group of about 12 Common Merganser females, but it did not provide any way for us to access the water.

As we were sitting by the side of the road a car stopped and a very nice retired man introduced himself as Floyd, and asked if we were hiking. When we said yes, he offered us a place to shower and stay in his cottage near Port Shoreham. We greatly appreciated the offer, but in the end we just couldn't make it that far.

We finally found a small stream with water we could filter, and found a secluded stand of trees some distance from the road where we could pitch our tent. We are about 40 km west of Port Hastings, which is the farthest we have hiked in one day so far. Just as we finished making dinner the skies opened up and it began to rain hard. Sitting in our dry, cozy tent we feel like once again St. Roch has been looking out for us. Everything has worked out well once again.

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