I love Cape Breton! When we lived on the East Coast, Jon and I spent four summers working and adventuring in Nova Scotia. This was in the years before we had kids and decided to settle near my family in California. Our summers in Nova Scotia still maintain a very special place in our hearts and we are beyond thrilled to finally have the chance to share this place with our children. Mic likes to claim that she has technically been here before, since I was in my third trimester of pregnancy when we spent our last summer here. I certainly have many memories of her in Nova Scotia!
In our summers here, Jon and I explored every corner of Nova Scotia. We camped in provincial and national parks, visited beaches, explored fishing villages, hiked coastal trails, stayed in small B&Bs, and drove many a dirt road to view numerous lighthouses. Another time, another truck, no kids, different camping gear, but same beautiful, friendly Canadian province!
Cape Breton was a favorite spot for both of us. Twice we made the several-hour drive to the island from our home-base town of Lunenburg, which is on the south shore Lighthouse Trail. Both times, we stayed at the historical Normaway Inn, in the Margaree Valley. Nova Scotia is divided into several sections (trails) each offering different history, experiences, and scenery. The Cabot Trail, in Cape Breton, is well known for the scenery and wildlife along its amazing coastal drive.
For this trip with the kids, we chose to camp in the national park along the Cabot Trail. Cheticamp Campground, just inside the park and adjacent to the visitors center, turned out to be a perfect location for a three-night stay. Like everywhere else we’ve been, the weather was pretty chilly. While we set up camp on Tuesday night to calm cool weather, Cape Breton decided to add a new element to our adventures, on Wednesday, with a day of intense winds with some overnight rain added to the mix. When I say intense, I’m talking gusts of wind 50 to 60 mph, which sounded even scarier when the wind advisory was written in kilometers per hour and predicted gusts up to 110 kph!
I was nervous leaving our pop up, but the folks at the visitors center and our travel trailer neighbors seemed unconcerned. So, after putting away everything that might blow away, and making Jon stake the awning down thoroughly, we set off to explore the national park.
Wednesday was spent driving the Cabot Trail along the edges of the national park, stopping periodically for scenic lookouts and short walks. In some areas, the vivid fall colors were stunning. The windy and drizzly weather prevented us from exploring too extensively, but we managed to pick up some lunch fixings at a small market and prepared sandwiches in an enclosed picnic area at one of the campgrounds. One of the highlights of the day was our walk at Ingonish Beach, which was the girls’ first time seeing the Atlantic Ocean!
The drive back to our camp was peaceful as we admired the scenery in the fading daylight. Back at the campground, we were greeted by winds even more intense than when we had left! I was glad that the pop up was still standing and the awning was still attached but, no joke, from inside the trailer it sounded and felt as if that situation was far from guaranteed! The girls did some school work while Jon prepared our dinner in one of the sheltered picnic areas at our own campground.
The facilities at the national parks in the Maritime provinces have been very nice, despite the fact that there are few visitors this late in the season. The picnic facilities are fully sheltered and secure, with electricity, running water, wood burning stoves, and several picnic tables. It offered a great place to prepare and eat dinner while staying sheltered from the storm. I told the girls we should go help dad cook, but mostly I was scared that we were about to blow over or have a tree fall on us. We ended up having a great time in the cozy, lit picnic shelter while Jon cooked dinner on the stove. The girls and I sang, danced, and played card games as Jon prepared his masterpiece of the evening!
We’ve been trying to save money by using what we’ve packed before buying more groceries or eating out, so our dinner was a strange combination of Mediterranean and Asian flavors- kalamata olives, muscadine grapes, and Parmesan cheese as an appetizer, followed by a ramen soup seasoned with sesame sautéed vegetables and soy sauce. Odd, but warm, filling, and delicious.
After eating our dinner and cleaning up, we walked outside with our stuff to face even stronger winds combined with pouring rain. We screamed and laughed hysterically as we tried to load up the truck while listening to howling winds and defending ourselves from the attack of raindrops and swirling leaves. Once we made it the short distance back to our campsite, we hurried inside the pop up to bundle up. We had left the heater on and electric blankets warming, so it felt great to clean up and get into bed. I thought the girls would be scared (it was a REALLY loud storm), but they actually fell asleep pretty quickly. I fell asleep more easily than I thought I would as well, in spite of the howling wind and rocking trailer. Somehow, it made our night all the more cozy and, by that point, I was finally convinced that, if the pop up had survived the day with no issues, it would make it through the night!
Thursday we woke up to wet ground and the sun peeping out from the clouds. We enjoyed a lazy morning and then decided on an afternoon hike. Two moderate trails left directly from the campground, so we put on hiking boots and selected the Acadian Trail, which is a five-mile loop trail that takes hikers up the mountain to gorgeous views of the coastline. Based on the signage, I was a bit worried that we’d survived the storm only to meet our end on this hike, but it turned out to be a beautiful and uneventful hike.
We decided to hike about 1.5 miles in then back out, rather than try to accomplish the whole 5-mile loop. Even in that small section of the trail, we saw diverse scenery and stopped to admire the river, many mushrooms, different types of forest, and the views of the coastline. We did have to move a few large tree limbs off the path that had been blown down in the storm.
We made it safely back to camp and enjoyed a good, peaceful night’s sleep. This morning, we got an early start and are now on our way to Lunenburg for the next four days. I am so excited for Mic and Daisy to experience this lovely coastal town, where Jon and I spent so many wonderful summers!