The kids were excited to see the mainland of Nova Scotia. They knew this meant that we were extremely close to Petit de Grat, the small village in Cape-Breton nestled on Isle Madame, that was home to our cottage.
But first, we were heading to Dollar Lake Provincial Park. We set up camp and spent a fun-filled weekend with my sister. The skies looked threatening on our drive there but the weather worked with us. It only rained at convenient times. I listened to the pitter-patter of a sprinkle through the night and the next day, a shower at the end of our afternoon on the lake. I had the good fortune of catching up with some of my good friends from the east who I miss dearly.
But even in good company, I was itching to get to Cape-Breton.
I was looking forward to visits with family, sleeping in a bed, spending lazy days at the beach, cleaning the van, and waking up without having to load up and go. After two nights enjoying the provincial park, we loaded up for our last leg of the trek to Cape-Breton.
As I drove along the highway and saw the Cape-Breton Causeway in the horizon, a wave of nostalgia overcame me. In the distance, my old stomping grounds, in the back of the van, my kids excited to spend some time with their grandparents and the place where I grew up. That was something special. The nostalgia intensified as I rolled the van across the bridge to Isle Madame. I had to pull over and have a moment. Tear, flick. I made it! Me+3!
When I turned into my parents’ driveway, the kids jumped out of the van before I could even bring it to a stop. There were lots of high pitch squeals followed by a big round of hugs. After a visit and a yummy dinner with my parents, we got settled into our cottage. As promised, my good neighbor brought me an armful of fresh veggies from his garden, which I was very grateful for. I was happy to be anchored here for a few extra days.
Over the next few days we emptied the van and enjoyed some time on Isle Madame. We spent our days at the beaches, combed the shorelines for treasures, rode our bikes to catch some sunsets, enjoyed time with cousins, found some wonderful lighthouses while pirates found us, and we spent lots of time on the water. We even had a special visit with friends from Calgary that came to see us on Isle Madame. We had so much fun that two weeks slipped by in the blink of an eye.
We only had a few days left before we would be hopping back into the van to drive west. Our last few days were bittersweet. They seemed to go by much too fast and we couldn’t quite squeeze in everything we would’ve liked to. But this was also a turning point in our trip because we would soon be reunited with Matt. The kids were excited to tell him all about our drive across and to lay down new tracks with him.
I went to pick him up in Halifax where we spent a night of fine dining, live music and strolling along the waterfront. Before heading back to Cape-Breton, we picked up the yellow kayak Ben had been asking for since Ontario’s Grundy. With our new purchases loaded, we drove the van across the mainland, back to the Cape.
On our drive back to Cape-Breton, we stopped at Keppoch Mountain to work out our bike legs and check out their park. We spent the afternoon on their trail, with occasional stops to rest in their red chairs. We ran into Hughie Stewart, who spearheaded the Positive Action for Keppoch, a group who helped clean Keppoch up and turn it into a day-use area. It had once been a ski hill. He told us about young kids, who years after the hill closed, had released an old truck from the top of the hill and sent it through the day lodge that used to be at the base of the hill. They worked hard to clean it up and built a new day-use lodge. It now offers single track biking, a pump/skills park, hiking, and winter sports such as fat biking and snowshoeing. I was thoroughly impressed with the park!
But it was time to get back to the Island to spend our last two days getting ready for the return trip. We spent an afternoon on the water with the ‘cousins’ and then worked on getting everything loaded up.
The next day, we were hitting the road and heading towards the Highlands of Cape-Breton.