Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Wide Open Wilderness Campground to Wild Nature Campground

This morning was unceremoniously announced by the loud, raucous, repeated demands of a group of American Crows above our campsite. Wondering what they could possibly want, we climbed out of the tent to find the campsite bathed in golden mist.

There was a lot of other bird activity as well. The soft cooing of Mourning Doves filled the air, as well as the bouncy 'potato chip and dip' calls of American Goldfinches, and the high pitched slightly whiny hiss of Cedar Waxwings. A Northern Flicker dug for insects on the snag beside our campsite, and a flock of mixed warblers, which may or may not have included Yellow Warblers and American Redstarts flew past overhead.

The bird activity was a nice distraction from our slightly depressing breakfast. It is so dry here that there is a fire ban in effect, and we haven't been able to find suitable liquid fuel for our stove. This means we have been making our coffee with cold water, or with warm water from the tap. While the results are recognizably coffee they are not too inspiring. At least we had some real wholegrain bread and local honey to go with it this morning, which was a fantastic change from cold oatmeal!


As we reluctantly left the sanctuary of the campground we found ourselves immediately on the hot ash vault again, with a 6 km trek to get back to the trail. Even though we have walked over 100 km of paved roadways in Nova Scotia, it still never fails to shock us just how scorchingly hot these sections are, even compared to the sunny gravel roads.
 
 

The walk back to South Maitland was largely uneventful, and we enjoyed a beautiful view over the Shubenacadie River as we crossed the bridge. We had a minor setback when we missed the unmarked and inconspicuous turn off the asphalt and onto the gravel Riverside Rd, but thankfully we noticed before we got more than one large hill past it.
 
 
 

The walk down Riverside Rd, which was a lovely, winding, gravel road was at first shaded by huge trees, and quite enjoyable. We had been thinking we might be able to camp in a forested stretch near where the road crossed a river, but we found all the tributaries gone dry, and the river of coarse was part of the tidal mud flats. It turns out adding the 12 km of extra walking to get to the campground was actually necessary.  Small comfort.
 
 
 


After we climbed out of the beautiful, green, grassy floodplain with the red ribbon of the river snaking through the middle, we found ourselves on shadeless gravel road. It took us through a very peaceful rural landscape dotted with the occasional house set well back from the road and surrounded by trees. There was a small stretch of logged forest, and rolling fields. It was quiet and peaceful, and nice to feel like we were off the beaten track.

 
 
 

Just after noon we had a bit of a surprise when the road turned a corner and we found ourselves at the Caddell Rapids Provincial Park. This was a nice little strip of shady grass beside the road that provided a lookout over the Shubenacadie River. The tide was out, leaving large exposed mudflats behind while we took our break, but it was nearly time for the Tidal Bore. Only one other couple stopped on their way by, so this must be a less well-known spot for viewing the famous Tidal Bore.
 
 
 

A farmer was ploughing the field behind us, using a large machine to bale the hay as he went. This was entertaining for a city dweller to watch, but to make it even better, there was a Northern Harrier making passes above the field, likely hunting for small creatures disturbed by the plough. We also heard the eerie high keening of a Bald Eagle over the mud flats, but never did get a glimpse of it.

 
 
 
 
 
 
At the park the pavement started, so the next 10 km or so into Stewiacke were extremely hot and tough going in the afternoon sun. This stretch of road also had a strange feel to us. There seemed to be a lot of traffic all of a sudden. We passed a farmer clearing more land, who had a large fire of stumps and brush going, even though we understand there is a strict fire ban in effect.

We also passed a large pig farm, where the sounds and smells of many animals confined in small space were strong. After that we passed several ponds, all surrounded by barbed wire fencing. Finally, we came to a fenced compound with notices posted about an injunction against illegal land uses, which was guarded by cameras and an RV staffed by two Alton Gas employees. It seems there is a dispute between the Mi'kmaq and the Alton Gas company regarding this land, which is unceded Mi'kmaq territory that the Alton Gas company claims it needs to access to repair infrastructure. There are also plans to potentially use the land as a large natural gas storage facility, which would pump tens of thousands of tonnes of salish brine into the Shubenacadie River, with lasting environmental consequences.  The challenge of living sustainably within our natural environment is one of the biggest challenges of our age, and I have great respect for the passion, courage, diligence, and persistence the Mi'kmaq Nation has shown across the Maritimes in their efforts to preserve our natural heritage and resources.

 

Once we reached Stewiacke we deviated from the trail to visit the Foodland for some additional supplies that can be prepared without hot water. On our way we were stopped by a lovely lady sitting outside a retirement residence. She offered us water and wanted to hear all about our hike.  Such kindness might seem rare in this world to people - given how so much of the news online is negative - yet our daily experiences have proven that individuals are wonderful, kind, and very helpful.  For those who don't know (and we didn't) the town of Stewaicke claims to be situated halfway between the Equator and the North Pole.  As an aside, this marks the third town that we have encountered on this same Meridian line, including once in Ontario and once in France.

Shortly afterwards, as we were sorting our resupplies into our packs outside the Foodland, another lady came over and talked to us. She had seen us walking on the road, and was curious too. The kindness and friendliness of people in the Maritimes has been a huge source of inspiration and comfort for us.

 
 
 
We stopped for dinner in Stewiacke before hiking the final six kilometers to a campground near Shubenacadie. The Great Trail is actually a waterway between Stewiacke and Lanz (about 35 km), so we will have to find our way around it on the highway.  We began and ended today with 6 km stints of walking that were off-trail. In the punishing heat of the late afternoon, this was an uninspiring feeling.

 

When we finally got to the Wild Nature Campground we were met with kindness. To reach it we had to climb over a very large hill. When we reached the office the extremely friendly and helpful owner registered us and then gave us a lift on his golf cart to our campsite. He even made sure we had a shaded site that was elevated in preparation for tonight's storm.

As we set up our tent, a lovely family from Ontario was just leaving the campsite opposite. They offered us their firewood, since they didn't have space to take it with them, and very kindly began to transport it to our site. They were very friendly and we soon shared the story of our hike and our goals of connecting youth to nature. Before they left they very generously gave us a donation to support our cause! This was even more amazing since we learned afterwards that they were leaving because of the very unfortunate and intolerant views of another camper. Meeting adversity with positivity is difficult and worthy of great respect.


We end tonight listening to the rain, wolves howling nearby, and the unexpected sounded of peahens calling.

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