While Halifax, Peggy’s Cove and the Cabot Trail are popular destinations in Nova Scotia, the southwestern corner of the province is not as well known. Nearly all the settlement is along the coast, with the interior penetrated by only a few roads. Much of this wild land is Kejimkujik National Park, and much of the rest is protected as wilderness reserves. We headed into one of the largest of these, the Tobeatic Wilderness Area of more than a quarter million wild acres.
For our trip to Nova Scotia, we took advantage of a tidy package that combines the overnight Nova Star ferry from Portland – a lot easier and faster than the two-day drive to Nova Scotia – with lodging at the wilderness Trout Point Lodge. When I say wilderness I mean that the resort is surrounded by miles and miles of forest, river and ponds, accessible by an unpaved road. But don’t for a minute think we were roughing it. The lodge is beautiful, log-built in the Adirondack style, with porches on either side. No nails were used in its lofty construction, only wooden pegs.
We stayed in the Black Bear Cottage, about a 10-minute walk or short drive from the main lodge. Black Bear Cottage’s landscape has been left natural, with own boardwalk to a little terrace overlooking the river instead of walkways carved into the meadow grasses, wildflowers and ferns that surround the cottage. The cottage was the size of a house, with a large cathedral-ceilinged room that opened into a full kitchen. The downstairs bedroom had a king-sized bed and full bath with a tub. The entire second floor is one big bedroom with two double beds and another full bath. The décor was rustic but not studiedly so, with clean lines, pine walls and tasteful bear-themed art and decorations.
There was plenty to do at Trout Point Lodge. Well-kept trails wandered through the woods and kayaks invited us to explore Beaver Lake or the Tusket River curving its lazy way through the property. Afterward, we relaxed our tired muscles in the riverside wood-fired sauna. We could have signed up for a guided hike exploring the geology of this glacial terrain, but decided to play on our own instead.
At 7pm, guests gather in the big parlor of the main lodge, where there’s a bar and a talented staff member playing the guitar. Dinner is served at one sitting, at nicely-spaced tables in two separate dining rooms, each with a fireplace. Dinners were a story of their own. The first night I began with shrimp ceviche, followed by a salad of crisp baby spinach, avocado, red onion, corn and pomegranate seeds. Our Asian mussel soup was highlighted by cumin and Mary’s Chicken Udon soup was lightly scented with organic Vietnamese cinnamon (she had to ask the chef because she couldn’t quite identify its delicate fragrance).
My trout almandine was heavenly, fresh from the water, gently cooked and served with enough toasted almonds so I had a little in each bite. Crisp leek strips topped my smashed potatoes and an edible baby thistle garnished the plate. There were several choices of dessert; two of us picked the almond orange tart and Mary, of course, chose a dark chocolate lava cake with raspberries. There was a fire in the stone ring outside and more guitar music, but it had been a long day with the 7am ferry arrival, and Black Bear Cottage beckoned.
After a hearty breakfast the next morning we set off by car to explore the historic port of Shelburne. Mary was especially fascinated with the boat building museum, where we saw a traditional handcrafted wooden boat under construction and talked with the builder. The next day we drove north along the shore for lunch on local seafood at Digby and a leisurely stroll through the magnificent Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens.
Although these tourist routes along the shore were uncrowded and laid-back, it was nice to return to the green wilderness that surrounds Trout Point Lodge, for an evening paddle or just to sit on our terrace and watch the birds diving for their dinner. Not to mention toddling up the hill to our own.