Blazing the Trail in Nova Scotia
In Canada’s second smallest province, a larger-than-life demigod, over-the-top scenery and the world’s highest tides set the stage for RV travels on a grand scale
Look up, way up, because Glooscap is a giant in Atlantic Canada’s Mi’kmaq culture. This almighty being was of such gargantuan proportions that the province of Nova Scotia was his bed and Prince Edward Island his pillow. Ancient legends of the mythical creator live on, and there’s no better place to explore them than the spectacular Glooscap Trail in northwestern Nova Scotia. The trail stretches 227 miles, all told, but our itinerary focuses on a 125-mile segment between Truro and Joggins. It’s a laid-back, mostly coastal drive, beloved by those in the know.
The Mi’kmaq (pronounced Meeg-mah), an indigenous people native to Canada’s Maritime Provinces and the Gaspé Peninsula of Quebec, once lived freely in this region. Silas Tertius Rand, a Baptist missionary who traveled among the Mi’kmaq in the mid- to late-1800s, documented their stories featuring the heroic Glooscap. He “lived like other men … but he never died, never was sick, never grew old,” wrote Rand. “He could do anything and everything.”
Traveling RVers can learn more about Mi’kmaq myths and culture, and stand — dwarfed — beneath the demigod’s towering bronze likeness, at the Glooscap Heritage Centre, less than 5 miles from Truro in Millbrook. If you’re lucky, Program Director Gordon Pictou or a heritage interpreter will be on hand to share some of the Mi’kmaq creation stories, like the one about Five Islands.
The tale begins with a giant beaver building a colossal dam, which eventually flooded the region, Pictou told me. In anger, Glooscap threw handfuls of mud and boulders at the gushing water. He swung his huge paddle into the dam, causing the timber to fly and allowing the river to flow once again. “On the other side of the bay,” Pictou explained, “the rocks that were thrown as the beaver made his getaway began to sprout roots and grass, and they are known as the Five Islands.”
Heading west from the Glooscap Heritage Centre, make a pit stop at Masstown Market. You can stock your RV’s larder and refrigerator with fresh produce, meats and baked goods at this local landmark. It’s hard to resist the fabulous fresh fish and take-out seafood at the market’s Catch of the Bay. They serve huge portions in a fun outdoor boatlike setting.
Carrying on to the town of Bass River, pay your respects at Veterans Memorial Park and stop in at the Dominion Chair general store. Although the company no longer manufactures wooden chairs, it’s worth a visit to all three floors of the unique furniture and gift store.
At the Glooscap Country Bazaar in Economy, a local cooperative sells fresh food items, baked goods and handmade jewelry, crafts and gifts. Time it right and you’ll meet the T-Shirt Lady wearing one of her many witty tops with sayings like “Heaven Doesn’t Want Me, and Hell’s Afraid I’ll Take Over.” She’s a survivor of cancer, heart attacks and car accidents.
A must-stop in Economy is That Dutchman’s Farm (big rigs can use the Brown Road entrance). Take a walk on Willem van den Hoek’s meandering trails to see the delightful collection of heritage farm animals. Of course, you won’t want to leave without sampling the gouda and Dragon’s Breath Blue in the cheese shop.
Five Islands Lighthouse Park is a piece of paradise where you can see all five islands that Glooscap created: Moose, Long, Diamond, Egg and Pinnacle. The highest tides on the planet happen here (not a legend, this part is true), and Glooscap magically controlled them (OK, that part might not be true). Here in the Bay of Fundy’s Minas Basin, high-tide waters can reach 52 feet above low tide.
The town of Five Islands is a great place to explore, and you’ll want your fishing rod and reel to drop a line for striped bass. “Most of my regular visitors come here to fish,” said Nita Carson, owner of Diamond Shores Campground. She’ll be happy to fill you in on local folklore and a ghost tale or two.
Clam digging on the expansive mudflats at low tide is likewise popular, and noncommercial diggers can take up to 100 clams a day. For fishing and clamming paraphernalia, check out Five Islands Fish Market and Bait and Tackle Shop.
Like Five Islands, Parrsboro is a good destination to set up base camp for RVers who like to take day trips in their tow vehicle and leave their trailer behind. A whimsical little arts-and-theater town, Parrsboro offers plenty to do, and there’s a tourist office at the local Fundy Geological Museum. Park on the beach near Harbour View Restaurant where you can eat in or take out — be sure to try the deep-fried clams. Partridge Island, the fabled home of Glooscap’s grandmother, is a great spot for beachcombing or a hike.
Cape d’Or is a must-do for breathtaking views of the Bay of Fundy and across to where Glooscap made his home at Cape Blomidon. Then visit Driftwood Beach on Advocate Harbour, laden with a bizarre array of flotsam in a beautiful panoramic setting. All along the Fundy shore, each tide cycle exposes new treasures, from sea glass and fossils to semiprecious stones like amethyst and agate.
The RiteStop in Advocate Harbour is a friendly place to gas up and grab a bite. Owners Mike and Sarah Berry are more than happy to answer your questions. If you want a really great meal, head across town to Wild Caraway Restaurant and Café where Chef Andrew Aitken and Sarah Griebel serve a locally sourced menu “for everyone, everyday.”
Then follow the coast up to the famous Joggins cliffs, a UNESCO world natural heritage site where rock and fossil finds are world-renowned. Here, the history of 300 million years gone by comes to life. Visit the museum, watch the film and make your own geological discoveries.
All along the Glooscap Trail, you’ll find plenty of other places worth a stop: museums, craft and antique shops, galleries, the new Fundy Ocean Research Centre, golf courses, restaurants, hiking and horseback trails, waterfalls and no shortage of beaches.
If your travels take you to the other side of Truro, try the roller-coaster river-raft ride on the tidal bore of the Shubenacadie River as the tide rushes in. When you’re not busy hanging on, watch the eagles soar overhead. You’ll experience the power of Glooscap like nowhere else.
Getting to the Glooscap Trail
For RVers visiting from south of the Canadian border, a first-class ferry, the Nova Star, makes the 10-hour crossing from Portland, Maine, to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, in style.
Nova Star Cruises
866-864-6295 | www.novastarcruises.com
RV Camping in Glooscap’s Shadow
Because of occasional sharp turns, one-lane bridges and rough patches along the Glooscap Trail, some owners of large travel trailers and fifth-wheels prefer to unhitch at an RV park and take day trips in their tow vehicle. Others tow their RVs along the entire trail. Plenty of campgrounds for big rigs can be found on or near the stretch between Truro and Joggins, a sampling of which appears below. Most are open from late spring through early fall. Check the websites or call directly for dates and rates.
ADDA Fundy Tides Campground
Diamond Shores Campground
Hidden Hilltop Family Campground
Glooscap Campground and RV
Old Shipyard Beach Campground
MORE CAMPGROUND INFO
Nova Scotia Tourism