The Quiet Beauty of Nova Scotia… The 10,000-Mile Bike Trek

Cove on East Coast of Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia has a quiet beauty that grows on you. I took this photo along the East Coast’s Marine Drive.

 

This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks. From Evangeline by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The beauty of Nova Scotia isn’t tied to towering mountains or vast open spaces. It makes a quieter statement— a combination of water and coves and forests and highlands and valleys and villages that grows on you until you realize that you have arrived somewhere that is very special. Long after I had completed my 10,000-mile journey around North America, Nova Scotia continued to exist in my mind as one of the highlights. Our recent drive around the province as Peggy and I retraced my bike trek route reinforced this original impression.

Nova Scotia is Latin for New Scotland, which seems appropriate to me in that I find the beauty of the two areas similar in nature. Before it became Nova Scotia, however, it was known first as Mi’kma’ki reflecting the First Nation people who lived there, the Mi’kmaq. Afterwards the French settled the area and called it Acadia. In 1755, the British expelled most of the French as a consequence of their ongoing wars with France. Longfellow’s poem, Evangeline, is based on that expulsion. Many of the people who were deported eventually ended up in Louisiana where they became known as Cajuns (Cajun derives from Cadia).

After the Acadians were expelled, numerous Scots arrived from New England to help repopulate the area. They also came from Scotland where British policies were driving them out of the Highlands. Gaelic became a common language. Following the Revolutionary War, a number of people who had remained loyal to England during the conflict resettled in Nova Scotia. Included among them was a small population of blacks who had joined Britain’s cause as a way out of slavery. What all of this means is that Nova Scotia has several distinct cultures, which, it seems to me, coexist side by side in relative harmony.

Other than a day of bicycling in Death Valley, Nova Scotia was the only place on my bike trip where I had travelling companions. Jean Snuggs and Lindell Wilken had both gone to college together in Illinois before moving out to California. I met Jean on one of the 100-mile backpack trips I led in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. We had become good friends and eventually lived together. That arrangement had ended but we remained good friends. Both Jean and Lyndell were college track coaches and in excellent shape. If I recall correctly, they had also just finished bicycling the Oregon Coast. I was extremely glad I had a few thousand miles of bicycling behind me! Otherwise, it could have been a long and humbling seven days.

We didn’t linger in Halifax, which was too bad since it is a lovely city. But the open road called. We crossed over the Angus L. Macdonald Bridge, picked up Highway 7 and followed it up the East Coast to Liscomb, a distance of 100 plus miles. Highway 7 is known as the Marine Highway in tourist promotions for good reasons. It closely follows the Atlantic Ocean. Inlets, coves, small rivers and towns provide an endless kaleidoscope of scenery.

The Angus

The Angus L. MacDonald Bridge in Halifax.

Crossing the Angus L. MacDonald Bridge in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Crossing the bridge. Note the screens on the side. There is no jumping off of the bridge!

Looking back at Halifax through the screened fence on the bridge.

Looking back at Halifax through the screened fence.

Numerous islands, such as this, are scattered along Nova Scotia's East Coast.

Numerous islands, such as this, are scattered along Nova Scotia’s East Coast.

Flats like this one added another element of variety.

Flats like this one added another element of variety along the coast.

Numerous islands fill the coves along Marine Drive.

Winter storms along the Atlantic Ocean must change this incredibly calm water along Marine Drive.

We passed over several river on the East Coast ranging form calm...

We passed over several river on the East Coast ranging from calm…

Riffled river on East Coast of Nova Scotia

To slightly riffled…

To roaring. The West River flows into Sheet Harbor.

To roaring. The West River flows into Sheet Harbor. Sheet Harbor, BTW, was one of the areas that Loyalist refugees from America’s Revolutionary War settled in Nova Scotia.

We found what appeared to be a large derelict along the coast.

We found what appeared to be a large derelict stranded along the coast.

At Liscomb, Highway 7 took us inland across the peninsula to Antigonish. I have only a vague memory of Antigonish on my bike trip, which may mean that the lure of the renowned Cape Breton pulled us on past it. Peggy and I stopped, however, and the town with its St. Francis Xavier University was definitely worth the visit, as university towns often are. From Antigonish we picked up Highway 4 to Auld and the Canso Causeway. The Causeway, a 4500 foot engineering achievement that took some 10 million tons of rock to build, connects mainland Nova Scotia with the island of Cape Breton. It is where I will end today’s post. Next up: the fabulous Cape Breton and the Cabot Trail into Cape Breton Highlands’ National Park.

A road shot of Highway 7

A road shot of Highway 7 between Liscomb and Antigonish.

This guy provided some color, and class.

This guy added both class and color to the road.

St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish is recognized as one of Canada's top colleges.

St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish is recognized as one of Canada’s top colleges.

Antigonish is an attractive town with a number of eating establishments.

Antigonish is an attractive town with a number of eating establishments. Peggy and I had a tasty lunch here.

A number of murals decorated the downtown. This was my favorite.

A number of murals decorated the downtown. This was my favorite, given that I always like weird animals.

The mural also included this girl flying a kite.

The mural also included this girl flying kites.

Bricked in windows across the road also featured fun murals.

Bricked in windows across the road also featured fun murals such as this baker.

This cat looking out of a window also caught my attention.

And a cat looking out the window..

This sign is located at the end of the Canco

This sign was featured at the end of the Canso Causeway. I’ll use it as an introduction to my next two blogs on Cape Breton, a world-class tourist destination.

37 comments on “The Quiet Beauty of Nova Scotia… The 10,000-Mile Bike Trek

    • You and Don would enjoy it, Alison. Nova Scotia is special but we enjoyed all of the Atlantic Provinces we visited. Working on Cape Breton! 🙂 Should be up in a couple of days. Once again, I truly enjoyed your travels in Egypt. –Curt

  1. Loved reading about the early names of Nova Scotia. I didn’t know so many went to Louisiana and the transformation of the name there. I remember reading Evangeline as a young girl and loving it, though I didn’t recognize the significance.

  2. Curt many of your photos I recognize as one of my uncles has a summer home near Antigonish. Nova Scotia is a fantastic destination. The people so friendly and the food so scrumptious. The scenery well that speaks for itself.

  3. I have always wanted to visit Nova Scotia, and your photos did not disappoint. Beautiful landscapes and fun murals. Fascinating history too.

    Peta

  4. Have you seen the statue of Evangeline in Louisiana — in St. Martinville? I’ve been trying to find a way to write about that country, and the events that connect Nova Scotia and Cajun country forever — it’s just so big, I can’t quite find my way in.

    I’d love to find my way to Nova Scotia, that’s for sure. The countryside is so beautiful, and the culture seems wonderfully rich. I couldn’t figure out why “Antigonish” seemed so familiar, and then I remembered. William Hughes Mearns wrote a poem with that title in 1899. It was based on tales of a haunted house in Antigonish-the-town, and I’ll be you remember this first verse:

    “Yesterday, upon the stair,
    I met a man who wasn’t there.
    He wasn’t there again today,
    I wish, I wish he’d go away…”

    • Yes, Linda, I do remember the poem. I saw a reference to it when I was doing research and should have looked it up! Thanks. Antigonish is such a strange word, it is derived from First Nation Mi’kmaq, and means ‘where the branches are torn off.’
      I think I have seen the statue of Evangeline, or maybe I just saw a photo. Did you post one?
      Nova Scotia is gorgeous, the people are friendly, and the culture is fascinating… all three reasons you should visit. –Curt

  5. Really, really love Nova Scotia. It seems to be about 50 years, maybe 100, behind the rest of North America in terms of civilization, and that’s exactly why we love it. Our fave spot was Mahone Bay. Great photos of painted walls, too — don’t know that we saw those. Good eyes, Curt! — Rusha

    • I am with you Rusha on always enjoying areas that go back in time, and make an effort to retain their history. I didn’t get a feeling that Nova Scotia was ‘touristy’ although it is a great place for people to visit. The murals in Antigonish showed great imagination. They might not have been there when you went through. Thanks! –Curt

  6. Curt you took me way back many years when I was a very very young adult in my twenties. I visited Nova Scotia. It is a very quiet province. You reminded me of St Francis Xavier University in Antigonish where I visited my bestest friend who was studying there. I had an amazing time in Nova Scotia, but I felt it was only a place I would want to visit someday again, I wouldn’t stay forever, but it is so beautiful up there. Another thing I fell in love with are them big vintage wooden houses, they are amazing and beautiful. And me too, I drove through the Halifax Bridge hahaha. Thank you so much for the remembrance of such a lovely place. I love your blog. Keep it going.

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