Sat. Nov. 23, 2019:
Cape Breton trail to Port Hawksbury, Nova Scotia:
The previous night I had planned out that for breakfast we would go to Robin’s Donuts next door. In the light of morning I lost interest in the plan: it was in a gas station and it just seemed like an even crappier Coffee Time- no thank you. Plus, I still had my iced coffee. The heated seats in the car were a godsend for my low back.
The Cabot Trail was absolutely beautiful, the trees were covered in a light dusting of snow with the sun shining through. We stopped in at a convenience store to grab snacks to tide us over until lunch: mini Charleston chews, Tostitos and honey dijon Miss Vickies chips. It made for a good breakfast. We were driving to Ingonish Beach. They lie when they call it a beach, it’s really more of a pile of round smooth stones by the water. From the beach we could see the Keltic Lodge (where Brent’s grandma had honeymooned), our next stop. Once up near the lodge we confirmed: it was closed for the season and that was why we couldn’t get a reservation. We listened to Quirks & Quarks as we drove.
The plan was to go for a short hike to Mary Ann Falls. The road signs led us to a trailhead and a closed-for-the-season road. There was a sign saying it was 8km to the waterfall. We got back in the car and instead followed the GPS directions. On the way we got out at Lakies Head overlook, which had been the next destination. It was really neat: piles of red boulders and the ocean down below. Problem was the nice views were such that the sun was directly in my eyes and in my camera. Not helping matters was all the blowing snow. My hands froze and my lens was all spotted. The GPS took us to a close spot to it albeit on the road and there was no trailhead. On to the next stop! The weather was so erratic. One minute it was snowing, the next it was clear and sunny. At one point we had gone up in elevation enough that it was full on winter, the road was icy and covered in snow. So much for going on the Skyline Trail. The scenic lookouts were also a bust. Eventually we got down in elevation and were able to see some scenic views. It was so windy and cold that at first, we were going to skip the overlook but Brent did a u-turn because that was theone, he had written down in his notes. We could see the ocean off in the distance between the valley of two hills. I froze but it was worth it. At the next overlook it was just as cold but at least there was less snow. The ocean was so frothy and angry, crashing against the giant red rocks.
Once we were off the trail, we stopped at NSLC and I got another Bulwark cider. The guy at the register told me they had a Christmas one and I laughed saying I’d already tried it. We also stopped in at the Farmer’s daughter because we had seen road signs for it the day before. We grabbed some cowboy cookies and Brent got a donair bun. We had looped around and realized that we must have driven right by Charlene’s Bayside restaurant the previous day without even realizing it. It was one of the few places I had researched that was actually open. They were seen on You Gotta Eat Here! and known for their seafood chowder and a dessert called “bucket of mud.” I got a bowl of chowder and tried to order a lobster roll but apparently, it’s not the season so I got clam strips and fries instead. Can’t go wrong with either. The chowder was so damn good, some of the best I have ever had. It had so many chunks and was so buttery. It was topped with the meat from a lobster claw. The clam strips were so cheap I had assumed it would be a smallish plate. Man was I wrong. It was a mountain of food. And so damn good, I ate a bit too much. But somehow, I still had room for a bucket of mud. All we knew was that it would be served in a bucket. Digging in, we got spoonfuls of chocolate fudge cake, chocolate pudding, whipped cream and pecans. For all of its heaviness it was still inexplicably light.
As per usual, I fell asleep in the car. How could I not after such a hearty meal? We were staying in a roadside motel and I couldn’t find the thermostat. I ended up wrapping my scarf around my neck and crawling under the covers fully clothed. I turned a dial on a wall that had clearly once been connected to a heater but it was unclear if it still was. Being under the covers just made me sleepier. I played a little bit of Mario Odyssey and alternated it with reading Trick Mirror while Brent watched football. The cowboy cookie was delicious but there was no way I was eating dinner after such a large (and late) lunch. Eventually football ended, so I watched Friends and read during commercials.