The downside to being in a large country with so many wonderful places to see and things to do is choosing how to spend your time. After collecting about ten pounds of brochures, maps and tour booklets, I found myself becoming a victim of “analysis paralysis” ~ by the time I figured out where I wanted to go on any given day, the day was half over. Nova Scotia has six distinct geographical regions, each with their own unique qualities. So my new approach is to select a region and spend as much time as possible exploring it on my off days. If I don’t finish, I will pick up where I left off the next time I have an opportunity to get there.
With the new guidelines in place, and two days to play, I headed off to the South Shore region today. The highway out of Truro traverses rolling farmland, passing towns with lyrical names like Shubenacadie (shoo-ben-ack-a-dee, meaning “place where wild potatoes grow”) and Stewiake (the exact mid-point between the North Pole and the Equator). As you get closer to Halifax, the terrain gradually starts to change as the open fields give way to evergreen and hardwood forests and the road is occasionally dotted with outcroppings of chiseled granite.
On the outskirts of Halifax, I take the Route 333 exit toward Peggy’s Cove. Known as The Lighthouse Trail, this is a rural, two-lane road that snakes through a region of salt marshes and lakes as it takes you southward toward the Atlantic Ocean. Passing through a series of tiny waterfront communities I have to reel in my impulse to turn down random roads to see what’s at the other end. Both sides of the road are lined with evergreen and hardwood trees. The road twists and turns and soon, through the trees, are glimpses of water ~ first on the right, then on the left. With each curve the water switches sides. Then, as I round yet another curve, the scenery opens up to a beautiful lake vista that extends to the horizon ~ sparkling, deep blue water with rocky islands covered with evergreen trees. At White's Lake I find a pullout where I can stop to snap a few pictures. Someone has trimmed trees and dumped the limbs near the clearing and when I open the car door, it smells like Christmas.
Entering the Peggy’s Cove Preservation Area, the landscape changes to an explosion of boulders. One hillside looks like someone dismantled Stonehenge, scattered the rocks randomly around and topped the hill with a balancing rock! I will learn later that it was actually the receding glaciers that dropped all of these granite boulders on this coast 20,000 years ago. The underlying granite bedrock was laid down 380 million years ago and has been polished by the glaciers and the sea to form the craggy seascape we see today ~ similar to Canada's arctic region. In a small inlet behind the Welcome Center is a large beige granite boulder that looks like a walrus floating in the water.
The community of Peggy’s Cove is a quaint, picturesque fishing village that was founded by six fishermen who petitioned the Nova Scotia government for a land grant in 1811. The current year-round population is 35 families ~ four of whom can trace their heritage to the founders. Many of them still make their living from the sea, catching lobster, blue fin tuna and mackerel. Many of the homes and buildings that encircle the harbor are original structures that have undergone renovations and additions over the years. The "rusty" coating that you see on rooftops and rocks is a lichen that flourishes in the phosphorous-rich sea gull poop. The lighthouse, positioned on the granite headland at the entrance to the cove, is one of the most recognized landmarks in Canada and was chosen to appear on a Canadian quarter that was minted for the country’s 125th birthday in 1992.
There is some debate about the origin of the town’s name. Some folks say that “Peggy” is a nickname for Margaret, and it seemed an appropriate name since the cove is situated at the mouth of St. Margaret’s Bay. Others tell a romantic tale of a young girl named Margaret who was the sole survivor of a schooner that was shipwrecked there in 1800. She fell in love with one of her rescuers and settled there.
The area has attracted artists and photographers from all over the world. One of the more famous was William deGarthe, a painter and sculptor from Finland who was so moved by the beauty of the area that he made Peggy’s Cove his home. The legendary Peggy was one of his favorite subjects and she is the subject of many of his paintings and sculptures. His most ambitious work is a fishermen’s memorial that he sculpted into a 100’ long granite outcropping in the backyard of his home. The carving is divided into three sections ~ Grace, Bounty and Work. Work depicts fishermen from Peggy’s Cove that deGarthe had known over the years; Bounty depicts Peggy holding a basket as she is considered “Keeper of Bounty”; Grace features St. Elmo, the patron Saint of Sailors, watching over a fisherman and his family. The monument was almost complete when deGarthe died in 1983. His home, along with over 100 pieces of his art, was donated to the Province of Nova Scotia and is now operated as a public gallery.
After touring the town and clambering over the rocks at the lighthouse, it was time for some nourishment. In the spirit of the cove, I opted for a lobster dinner. A culinary delight!!
Leaving Peggy’s Cove I returned to Route 333 and headed north along the shore of St. Margaret’s Bay. My next stop was a memorial to SwissAir Flight 111 that crashed in the Atlantic Ocean near Peggy’s Cove on September 2, 1998. The memorial site also offers a panoramic view of the community and the lighthouse across the bay.
The road hugs the coast here, passing through more small fishing communities. At Indian Harbour I settled into the OceanStone Inn for the night, just in time to catch the last of the sunset. As the sun went down behind a small island in the harbor, it streaked the sky and water with hues of orange and pink.
Tomorrow it’s on to historic Lunenburg!
For more pictures from today's adventure, visit my on-line web album