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All trails lead to Country Harbour (6 photos)

Travel Tails: Smitty barks at a seal, follows the footsteps of Black Loyalists

Years ago, some friends of mine from Martha’s Vineyard spent a month touring Nova Scotia. Already accustomed to lighthouses and sandy beaches, they had little to say about our province—with one exception.

They raved about camping at a magical hideaway on the Eastern Shore called Country Harbour.

Located in Guysborough County, Country Harbour is a three hour drive from Halifax. For the third summer in a row, Smitty and I headed up there for some August camping.

We booked a site at Salsman Provincial Park where it cost us $62.40 for two nights, including taxes and fees. This campground sells ice for $2.50 and firewood for $5 a bundle. The friendly staff will deliver the wood directly to your fire pit.

Within minutes of arriving at our campsite, a loon swimming just offshore greeted us with his magnificent call. Not to be outdone, Smitty reared back his head and let loose with his finest Arctic howl.

Like many of the campsites at Salsman, ours was perched right on the water. Last summer at this same site, Smitty caught a dozen or more squid in the seaweed just below our tent.

While relaxing in a camping chair, it doesn’t take long to be mesmerized by this peaceful harbour.

Now and then schools of fish surface, their silvery sides flashing in the sun. Other times you’ll see salmon breaching, their smash-landings echoing across the harbour.

We watched entranced as terns, ospreys, gulls and kingfishers swooped in to feed on the plentiful Country Harbour fish.

Then a seal popped up so close to shore that we could hear it breathing and almost count its whiskers. Smitty, of course, took a break from watching chipmunks to bark at this mysterious visitor.

After our first morning’s breakfast at Salsman, we drove seven minutes to the Loyalist Hiking Trail at Stormont.

Interpretation panels at the trailhead tell the story of early Country Harbour settlers, including Black Loyalists who sailed here from Florida in 1783.

Happily, there were no signs indicating dogs must be leashed.

The two-kilometre trail ends at a gravel beach where Smitty instantly came face-to-face with a porcupine. Thankfully, he has bad memories from the last time he tangled with a porcupine. Wisely, he decided to stand down from this pointy beast.

At the beach, you’ll find a rustic shack known as the Loyalist Building. Creak open the weather-beaten shutters and the sun reveals a picnic table and some plywood countertops.

It’s tradition to sign the shack’s rough-sawn walls with charcoal. A few Kingsford briquettes were left behind by previous visitors so Smitty’s name now adorns one of the building’s wind braces.

We hung out at the beach for an hour or so and watched another seal while the Country Harbour ferry made her crossings off in the distance.

That evening the clouds cleared at our Salsman campsite and we were treated to a splendid starry sky. Even with so many wishing stars above us, we couldn’t wish for anything better than camping at Country Harbour.

Smitty is an Inuk dog from Kimmirut, Nunavut who now lives in Nova Scotia.

About the Author: Bruce MacNab

Bruce MacNab is the author of the award-winning biography The Metamorphosis: the apprenticeship of Harry Houdini. Raised in Dartmouth, he attended NSCAD and the Nova Scotia Institute of Technology. He now lives alongside Nova Scotia’s Cobequid Mountains
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