top of page

So you want to be a pirate, eh??? Day 32!

Home for the night: Gulliver's Cove, Digby Neck, NOVA SCOTIA!!!

Distance: 8 kms by bike, 80 kms by boat, another 11 kms by bike and then 35 by car

Weather: the thickest fog yet...unbelievable! Eventually clearing in the afternoon to be hot, hot, hot and muggy, clear at night before becoming overcast and then showering

B #1: banana and small yogurt scarfed down in Sandra and Brent's kitchen

B #2: a second banana and granola bar while waiting outside the ferry in the mist

B #3: AN EXTRA LARGE AMERICANO WITH CREAM and delicious breakfast panini on the ferry!

L: super deluxe chicken and asiago/artichoke spread sandwiches with cucumber and tomatoes, plus a raddler to wash it all down with!

D: baby potatoes with chicken thighs, sautéed veggies, beer, carrot cake whoopie pies.

You know when you have something that you really, really, really need to wake up for early in the morning and you can't afford to miss your alarm? Sometimes it's for a flight, sometimes it's for a sunrise skating rendezvous and sometimes it's for a first light 8 km sprint by bike to catch a ferry across a bay! Regardless of the reason, I typically find myself awake every hour or two to check the time and not really deeply sleeping the whole night. This had been no exception and I was so concerned that I hadn't carved out enough time for myself to toss on my filthy clothes and make my way to the ferry terminal. I had set three different alarms and quadruple checked that they were all correct, my phone was charged, etc. Still...I just didn't want to mess this one up! I was awake before my alarm by 3 minutes and extracted myself from Charlie who had devotedly acted as a very warm blanket all night. On went the clothes, in went the contact lenses and after a very brief chat/standing small breakfast with Sandra I was out the door. The light of a new day was meagerly making its way through the thick mist everywhere and I felt it was dreary enough to warrant bike lights and my super cool high visibility vest!

I was able to see the driveway I had slid my way down the night before and get a sense of the forest on this end of the road. What had been a completely dark mystery laced with a touch of concern last night simply looked like foggy clearings and perfectly standard scrubby woods. Once again, three deer hoisted their tails in alarm and went bounding off into the bushes as I rolled past. It was nice to not be startled this time and I couldn't help but reflect how much my mind state affects my observations of a place. Last night the deer may as well have been giant velociraptors coming to eat me....but now, they were simply skittish herbivores and I had interrupted their breakfast. Last night I had been tired, a bit anxious of what my fate was and very ready to stop the struggle of staying upright on rocky, muddy roads. Today, I could see what lay ahead (well, as far as the fog let me) and felt resilient and ready for whatever challenges arose.

I had mapped out my route carefully last night, really not wanting a repeat of getting lost in the suburbs. Sandra had confirmed that I had the best way possible and I had memorized my first three turns so as to not have to constantly pull my phone out on my ride. I was curious to see what the hill that had defeated me last night would be like on a new day and as I worked my way up the backside of it, sweating heavily in the dense humidity I felt completely vindicated as I arrived at the top to see the steep, ridiculous descent on the other side. It was totally a doozie of a hill, even in the daylight. But, in the land of cycling...what goes up, must come down and I victoriously careened down the road to make my first, second and third turns no problem. I quickly checked the map for my next move, found the road EXACTLY where it was supposed to be and happily biked through an old part of Saint John. My odometer showed me I had already covered half my distance and hadn't been riding all that long. I had given myself 45 minutes for the ride and was feeling reassured that I would be just fine.

Then then? The road dead ended in front of me. What the F Saint John!?!

I wasn't far from the main road, and I knew I was close to the very bridge that Mathieu and I had walked along yesterday to see the Reversing Falls. There was a chain link fence much the same as last night's surprise bike path/road, and a trail did continue winding down a hill. I paused. Last night my choice to follow the path had worked out. This didn't feel as maintained. There were soccer fields and it looked fairly well travelled. Deciding I had about 5 spare minutes to investigate I wheeled around the fence and bumped down the path quickly feeling like this trail wouldn't go anywhere. Sure enough, around a corner I was faced with a brush pile and quickly hopped off Black Beauty to turn around and pushed her back up the hill. Screw it, I would just go back out to the main road and figure it out. I just needed to find that bridge.

Turns out, at some point in development a new, main road had absorbed the name of little dead end road I had found myself on and the directions to follow it were not entirely wrong. Just not entirely updated. There was the bridge, there was the wide, safe bike path to cross it and I gazed out over the foggy space that was supposedly the Wolastoq River. I couldn't see the water at all! It was so foggy I truly felt I was living, breathing and biking through a cloud. If it had been pouring rain I wouldn't have gotten was wild! I waved hello to the statues of Kluscap and beaver, passing them and all the other white dudes of Saint John on the hill. And the one woman.

A few more turns and the roads started feeling busier as the city woke up. School buses, utility vans, commuters all filled in around me the noise of tires on wet pavement and the splashes of puddles were my soundtrack. I had wondered what it would be like to bike through Saint John, and I would just have to pretend that I saw the city. There was no view, there was a river somewhere below, the pulp and paper company didn't exist and neither did the oil refinery. This would be my memory, which as I have learned, is maybe not an atypical experience of the region. Lots of fog, lots of the time.

Finally, I spotted my first green sign with a picture of a ferry on it!! Hooray!!! It suggested I turned somewhere my map didn't, but at this stage I didn't care how ugly/busy/hilly the path to the ferry was, this was not the time for a scenic bike ride, thank you Google. I only had 2 kms left to go, and even with my little dipsy doodle of a dead end road, I'd be getting to the terminal exactly at the suggested time of 8 am. The route turned out to be quite flat, if not even downhill for the rest of my ride and without much time to think about anything I found myself rolling into a huge parking lot and started to...


!?!?!?!?!??!?!?!!??!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!?!?!?! *$#$@@&^#&**@**#&@!!*#**^@!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!??

A horrible noise came from my back tire and I slammed on the brakes....something was wrong, maybe a flat? maybe my pannier rack had let go?? I veered off to one side knowing there was a line of cars behind me. Shit. My mind already raced ahead to knowing I could walk my bike, no matter how busted it was onto the ferry, get home to Nova Scotia and figure everything else out from there. There was NO way I was missing this boat!

Hopping off Black Beauty I instantly spotted the source of the noise...a strap. Just a strap...the tail end of one that cinches my pannier shut had gotten free enough to buzz on my tire. That's it, that's all folks. I gratefully tucked it out of harm's way and noted how my trip mind immediately was zooming off to worst case scenarios, every time. I remembered I was still tired and I was big picture frazzled from all the constant problem solving of a month on the road, no matter how minute/un-problemy they were.

Rolling once again, I make my way towards the ticket booth and checked in. The woman handed me a green sticker to put on my body, to show that I had no COVID-19 symptoms after a brief interview. My jacket was wet, my shirt under my jacket was wet and even my hands holding the sticker were wet. I did the best I could to plaster it to my shirt and watched the corners instantly peel off. Oh well. I zipped up and hoped it wouldn't really matter once I was on board. I could see the boat docked on the wharf and I followed instructions to go figure out my next step from one of the staff near by. I was super hungry and knew I had time, so I took a moment to look around and have a snack. Eventually I asked a fellow who looked to be in charge of receiving walk on passenger baggage about where I should go. He shrugged and said I could put my bike in the van. ???? What? That made no sense....and he directed me to talk to someone else. The Someone Else told me to go inside to the terminal to talk to a woman at the counter. So I did and was told that if I was all checked in then I could go talk to one of the fellows to board the boat. So I did and went back to Someone Else and said I was told to get on the boat. He said ok. ??? So I went and got Black Beauty who was patiently waiting in the drizzle and we walked onto the boat with a few other foot passengers. For the record, wearing a bike helmet and mask in the very humid belly of a ferry is a hot and bothersome experience. I was directed by some friendly boat personnel and was handed a ratchet strap to hold Black Beauty to the wall for the crossing. I grabbed a few things to keep with me on board and went off to explore the Fundy Rose.

What a boat! I had no idea that there was even a new ferry for the Saint John-Digby crossing until I made my ticket reservation. The last time I had taken the boat across the Bay it had been a very utilitarian, very diesel-smelling 5.5 hour grind between the two ports. Which I was totally looking forward to. Five hours to sit on my butt and write/do nothing/nap/anything sounded like heaven to me! I was informed that the crossing would only be two hours and fifteen minutes long. Darn!! As I explored the various lounges and all manner of comfortable chairs I was doubly dismayed that I would only have so much time to relax. Oh well! The smell of coffee pulled me like a magnet and after a lovely chat with the wimyn behind the counter about the COVID season, new grandbabies on the way and life in Yarmouth, (we all mourned the nonexistent Cat ferry to Bar Harbor, where my family is) I was seated at the bow of the boat, trying to not devour my panini like an animal in front of the other passengers. I should have bought two! Maybe even three.

Although it was foggy, there was a strange atmosphere to the decks meant for festive passage

The water was so calm and the shroud of fog showed no signs of lifting, so there wasn't even anything to look at. I had full permission to just sit still...which I did, jazzed on delicious coffee and the fact that I had made the ferry in the first place! I settled into the quiet hum of the engines and trying to catch up on blog posts while I had access to an outlet.

All too soon, our approach to Nova Scotia began, headlands and the coastline emerging from the fog up ahead. From my spot at the bow I had watched rain come and go and suddenly little patches of sunshine were reflecting off the ocean. The Bay of Fundy. It was not lost on me the significance of crossing the water after having spent weeks alongside its shores. Somehow, despite the vast difference in energy and characteristics, this blue expanse of water was related directly to the muddy intertidal rivers far, far away. I thought back to my first day of cycling on August 29th when 60 kms brought me within 10 kms of my house having spent all of my energy circumnavigating many rivers of red mud. This place was why that place was so unique, and vice versa. It was almost impossible to understand the connection between everything I had experienced and learned about so far simply because of the diversity. SO much diversity! The plants, animals, landscapes, minerals, fish, forests, humans and communities...all so diverse and unique, all adding up to the weird and wonderful Bay of Fundy.

Land ho!!!!

The sun grew stronger and I set down my phone to go out onto one of the decks for some fresh air. A blast of hot air met me as I shoved open the door and my down jacket felt downright ridiculous! The skies were clearing and the sun felt so good on my skin. Movement out of the corner of my eye caught my attention and several porpoises showed themselves off the side of the boat. I watched them cruising along, seemingly so carefree and happy. I felt the same as I soaked in the heat and admired the rocky shores of a province I have come to love so deeply over many years. Home, sweet home!

The Fundy Rose slowed, gulls and other sea birds wheeling overhead welcoming us to port. The breeze lifted my spirits and I went to gather my belongings and get ready to ride to Digby. Passengers made their way to their cars, boat crew helping us all navigate the arrows and unidirectional aisles set up for COVID precautions. I was assured there was no rush to scramble off the boat as I had approximately five hours before the next sailing. I've learned from other helter skelter cycling/ferry experiences that it can be a total scramble to unload with cycling gear that needs repacking and a tight turnaround time for the boat. Relieved, I readjusted my gear and readjusted my clothes as the day was very different from when I left soggy, foggy Saint John. Work crews began maintenance projects all around me, the ferry turning into a veritable floating construction site. Loaded up and ready to get away from the noise I wheeled myself out of the ferry and into the beautiful sunshine.

The parking lot was practically empty and I followed the walk on passenger signs until I felt ridiculous winding back and forth across the pavement for no reason. Veering rebelliously off the path I headed towards the road which would take me to Digby and my very dear friend Holly who was coming to hang out/go camping with me for the next 24 hours! As I approached the road I noticed a man getting out of a pickup truck waving in my direction. Assuming he was waving to someone else I didn't think much of it until he called out as I drew nearer and hollered a question: "HEY! Did you just come off the boat?!?!"

Yes, I did as matter of fact! He seemed confused and a bit frazzled telling me he had no idea there was a cyclist on the ferry and that the crew had told them the boat was clear. Clear? THEN I noticed the fellow had a uniform on. He asked me if I had been outside of the Maritime Bubble in the past two weeks. Nope. Did I have any COVID related symptoms? Nope. Well, other than the fact my nose is constantly dripping all over Black Beauty, I often have a hard time breathing on hills and find myself tired a lot of the time, no! (I kept my cheeky thoughts to myself). He asked where I was coming from and I gave him the very brief version of my adventure. He was totally shocked and still seemed a bit ungrounded so I asked how his day was going. He said it was crazy. Every day was crazy right now, interviewing all incoming travelers to the province. I noticed a patch on his shoulder said "conservation officer" and I couldn't help but laugh, commenting on the fact that this work was a far cry from enforcing land use/hunting/trapping regulations, etc. He gave me a wry look and said that something needed to change fast because of the impending start to hunting season...he was exhausted and there weren't nearly enough staff in rotation. The kicker to our conversation:

"You would have seen first hand how busy it is when you crossed the border into New Brunswick at Amherst, right?? It's madness! Never ending, 24 hours a day, if I'm not there, I'm here....the province has to figure something out ASAP!"

Oh yes, officer, absolutely 100% I know EXACTLY what you mean about that border crossing back at Amherst. Insanity, I couldn't believe it. The line was crazy, but far better than the alternative of crawling through a barricaded, gravel road, cow pasture border crossing elsewhere...which I certainly didn't do.

I was very grateful that he didn't ask about my experience and I didn't have to lie at all. The door to his truck was still open, the key dinging away. He seemed eager to get back on the road to his next mission, so I wished him good luck and that I hoped he would get the support needed for the hunting season. He walked away, called out "be safe!" over his shoulder and zoomed off. It was official, I was back in Nova Scotia!! Weeeee!

The road was flat, the air was warm and I was able to look out over the long entrance to Digby Harbour as I made my way towards town. Holly and I would meet at the Visitor Centre and figure out our next move from there. I biked nonchalantly, soaking in the warmth kind of wishing this part of the ride was twice as long. I hadn't been to Digby in a million years and I slowed down to properly soak in the sights of a busy little Main Street. Folks were lined up to go to the bank, coffee shops were bustling and all the fishing boats floated cheerily off the wharf, their coloured hulls sparkling in the sun. I was enjoying myself so much I found myself on the other side of town, realizing I missed the Visitor Centre. Backtracking, I found it easily and settled in at a picnic table to wait for Holly's arrival.

There's nothing better than seeing a dear friend after time away. Holly had actually popped by my house the morning I departed for my trip to bring me hydration tablets, a bike tool and good luck. She also was the voice of calm reassurance that helped me figure out how to pull together a bare bones website in order to host this blog. After a month of meeting new people and experiencing the wonderful connections of new humans, a dear friend who knows you deeply enough to know your dark spots AND lightness is a cherished person to hug. Holly's arrival was met with glee and the appropriate amount of goofy enthusiasm that certainly had a few folks staring. YAHOO for friend reunification!! We both needed to eat lunch and begin the process of provisioning for wherever our adventures would take us next. All my gear got tossed into the car, Black Beauty finding herself yet again on another bike rack and away we went!

Efficiency out of necessity to stave off "hanger" (hunger + anger) had us in and out of the grocery and liquor store in record time and soon we were off to a beach I had spied on Google earth. Within five minutes of leaving the Sobey's parking lot we were feasting on delicious seaside sandwiches beginning the process of catching up on a potent month of discovery for both of us. The thread of efficiency would follow us as we made moves to find a place to sleep for the night. I voted for heading down Digby Neck, the long, skinny peninsula of land that juts to the west from Digby. It eventually ends at the well known Brier Island, famous for its whale watching opportunities. I had driven down the neck ages ago, enjoying the two ferry rides that help connect the string of landmasses like a pearl necklace. I figured we could easily find a dead end road somewhere on the mainland portion of the neck and have a beautiful site to camp at.

Within a half hour we were parking at a place called Gulliver's Cove which was shown to have a small hiking trail. A great start. An interpretive panel outlined how the place received its name, supposedly having been a popular hiding place for many pirates back in the day. Gulliver was one of the many well-known pillagers and would hide along the rocky coast, ensconced in fog able to bury his loot in the hills. There was no sign prohibiting overnight parking or camping, so we set out to see if the beach would be our home for the night. The beach was beautiful, made out of sea tumbled rocks of all sizes, but far too lumpy for even the most deluxe of thermarests to absorb. Deciding to wander up the trail we quickly discovered many beyond perfect options to put up the tent.

Grassy, flat and with incredible views. At the end of the trail, overlooking Gulliver's Head we discovered two benches and picnic tables with the softest grass of the whole meadow. SOLD! Primo real estate once lucky. I felt very confident in our ability to respectfully and discreetly set up shop for one, quiet Monday evening without bothering anyone.

In the true spirit of Gulliver himself we set about hauling our precious grocery store booty from the car to our coastal hideout. If I had been by myself, I would have simply ridden Black Beauty up the gentle trail and been there in 5 minutes. We had way more food and gear now, including a giant cooler and tub of kitchen stuff, so our booties were in store for a good work out. Our first attempts to carry everything piled up in one load ended in laughter and stuff all over the ground. Then, Holly's brilliant mind came up with the solution of the century: we could DRAG our stuff over the soft grass of the trail and use her tupperware tub and cooler as sleds!!! We snagged ratchet straps out of the car, cinched everything up and then we hauled, cackled and sweated our way along delighting at how ridiculous everything was. Full confession: I legitimately was concerned about peeing myself I was laughing so hard. Like when you're laughing so hard you go silent??? I couldn't tell the difference between the tears or sweat running down my face and relished in a fantastic training opportunity for winter sled hauling!

Victorious, we arrived in camp and celebrated with beer and taking off our shirts, true pirate style! I wouldn't have traded all the rubies, bars of gold or pillaged valuables for the way my beer tasted and the air felt on my skin as I set up the tent. Holly spearheaded cooking and soon we were celebrating life as we knew it, grateful for friendship and an opportunity to have an adventure together. Everything makes more sense, emotions, personal growth and the sometimes rocky waters of life as a human. We watched the stars drift in and out of visibility behind a thin veil of shifting clouds, knowing the forecast was calling for epic rains overnight. In anticipation, we had strung a tarp in the shelter of some nearby trees and sudden cloudburst had us scuttling with cups of tea and our dessert to lay on the forest floor in our dry, cozy fort. The ground was made completely of spruce and fir needles, surpassed in comfort only by moss. I lay there in my rain gear, savoring my 2nd (ok, 3rd...) mini carrot cake whoopie pie and once again was stunned by the magic of living an open, wholehearted life.

It felt good to be back in Nova Scotia in more ways than I could even understand, Holly's presence taking this celebration to a whole other level. SO much literal and metaphorical ground had been covered and at this point, my dream of looping the Bay of Fundy was close to coming true. Only a few days left to go, and this wild, wonderful story would come to a close.

Love and Piratey blessings to you all!

P.S. what's a pirate's favourite chocolate bar?

A Marrrrrrrrrs Bar!

And favourite sweater vest pattern?

Arrrrrrrrrrrrgyle, of course!

tee hee!



30 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page