Sunday, August 12, 2012

The World’s Your Oyster Shell, But What’s that Funny Smell

Whenever I’m on these adventures, as I think of something I want to remember to mention in that night’s entry, I use the iPhone Notes app to write myself… well, a note, as the thought hits me. The stuff left from last summer’s note includes “open space, self-determination, no deadlines, only chance.” Today, I only wrote down one word: “Punished.”

That’s how this trip is starting to feel. Not that someone out there is punishing me (don’t even get me started on how much it angers me when people make suggestions like that), but that I’m starting to feel the same as when I used to be sent to my room with nothing to do as a punishment. I keep going to all these places to see what I can see, but because of the weather, the traffic, or the fact that the place isn’t up to my expectations, the result is that I usually can’t see very much that’s interesting.

When I got to the Old Shipyard Beach Campground today (the one that’s right on the water, so you’re virtually guaranteed a spectacular view), not only was fog and cloud obscuring all but the closest 50 feet of the water, but it was pouring rain. My options were limited to 1) drive 10 minutes to my supposed sunset location, where I knew there would be no sunset or 2) sit in the car and try to keep myself busy for however long the rain kept up. So for the next hour I was basically trapped in my car with nothing to do. Just like I was being punished.

This was the theme of my entire day. My morning hike at Cape Breton was the Salmon Pools trail, which is up to 8 miles long, with 4 “salmon pools” along the way. I don’t remember precisely why I had it on my itinerary, except that maybe I wanted to see some salmon – envisioning something like a herring run at spawning time. Well, even though I had only planned on getting to the first or maybe second salmon pool, after walking for an hour I gave up, since I had other places I wanted to see this morning. I wouldn’t call it a total waste of time, as it was a pleasant forest walk to start the day, but it definitely wasn’t worth the time it took.
Leaving the park, I embarked on a quest for the mythical Cape Clear – a lookout so obscure that I had to enter its location into Copina as a set of coordinates. She had no problem finding it, but did what she has often done this week and cavalierly thrust me onto rough unpaved roads. But the “road” to Cape Clear was a completely different animal from any other I’d encountered. Less of a road and more of a clearing in the woods strewn with boulders, it made the loop road at Monument Valley feel like the Autobahn. A conscientious homeowner along the first of these roads decided to warn anyone attempting the drive with a hand-painted sign reading “BAD IMPASSIBLE HIGHWAY!” A single sign along the way reading “High Clearance Vehicles Only” would have been enough to turn me around. But Canada’s infrastructure standards lag behind those of the US, and no one had thought to put the warning on any official maps or signs. So, after bottoming out 3 times (the last one had me convinced I’d ruptured my oil pan) I had had enough and decided to quit and turn around. Except that was impossible. The “road” was barely 6 feet wide, with 5-foot ditches on either side. To try to turn around would involve a high likelihood of me getting stuck and having no way out. So I had to back down the road in reverse until I came to a spot that was about a foot wider. There, I managed to make a 30-point K-turn and finish the descent in the right direction.

After that I was looking forward to rejoining the Cabot Trail, which had provided me the day’s best views in the few miles before I turned off in search of Cape Clear:

However, Copina again had other plans. There is apparently no filter for “avoid gravel roads” in her options, so she promptly put me onto one such street and pleasantly instructed me to continue 47 kilometers. That’s when I started mashing the “detour” button. The next hour took me on an unremarkable journey through Darkest Nova Scotia, looking a lot like the less scenic parts of Orange County, NY. Eventually, I made it to the Trans-Canada Highway, across the Canso Causeway back into North America, and towards Spencer’s Island.

I guess the one bright spot (no pun intended) is that although I don’t have much of an ocean view at the moment, the campground does have a lighthouse on its grounds! So when the fog rolled back in after dark, I took advantage of it:
So now I’m thinking that my love letter to the province yesterday was a bit premature. It seems now that what I got today and 2 days ago is the real Nova Scotia, and that yesterday was just the highlights – what really should have been the only parts of my visit to the eastern half of the province. So sorry, Nova Scotia, but your special place of honor has been revoked. From what I’ve seen, if I was to plan a return trip to the Maritimes, it would be to New Brunswick, not to you.

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