The last time I went camping, it was 1984. I have been to music festivals, done some RV trips, but the last time I slept in a tent and cooked my food on an open fire was 22 years ago.
The May long weekend here in Canada (known as Victoria Day weekend), myself, my husband, my sister, her boyrfriend, my brother, his girlfriend and one other great couple looked at the weather and decided we should make the 2.5hr trip from Halifax to Smithfield, where you will find St.Mary's Riverside lots.
We left Saturday morning. My hubby and I took the pickup loaded with tents, chainsaws, coolers, camping chairs, a GENERATOR LOL!, branch trimmers, canoes, paddles, a whole bunch of other stuff we thought we might need and hit the road.
Sarah and her man took the opportunity to get the bike out, it was a perfect day for motorcycle ride. We all met up at exit 25 on the 104 HWY. We loaded up with ice and fishing licenses at the local gas station and started our journey into the outback of Guysborough County. The roads for the most part are smooth. There are definitely some rough patches on HWY 348, but that's the nature of things when you head out into the wilderness. In the winter you might want 4 wheel drive, but 8 months out of the year even a small hatch back will get you there.
Dave and I were the first to arrive a the St.Mary's Riverside lots. There was some minor winter kill that we chunked up with the chainsaw clearing lot 12 access for the incoming crew. Within 30 mins we found ourselves riverside, the temp was 26 degrees C. The sun was shinning and by the grace of god we had a steady 20kms breeze which kept the black flies from a full on assault.
After about 2 minutes of taking in the river, it was "Operation Canoe". We had two canoes, so we would make two trips with one couple per boat. I think we just threw all the gear out of the pick up and loaded 'er up with the canoes, paddles, life jackets, some beer and ciders. Dave, Chris, Amanda and I went first.
An easy 'put in'for canoes and kayaks is about 5kms up river from the property, just before the lower Caledonia bridge. We had Sarah and her man drop us off so that we could end our trip at lot 12 on the St.Mary's Riverside Property.
The moment we pushed off the banks, a calm came over me. When I glanced back at David, I could see the calm had reached him too. Ahead Christopher and Amanda just sat, didn't paddle, let the river take them down for the first few hundred feet. By the time we caught up to them their smiles looked different. There was serenity in their faces. If there is one thing canoeing this river will do for you, is bring a sense of ease back into your life. We all have so much to keep up with, so much to do with so little time. I needed a break from it all and the St.Mary's River made that happen, not just for me, but everyone on that beautiful long weekend in May.
Over the past few months the team at Fish and Fly have been kind enough to publish several articles featuring fly fishing in Nova Scotia. Our first story introduced Fish and Fly readers to the exhilarating experience of fishing big salmon on the LaHave River in mid-May. Our summer piece featured the amazing rebound of the salmon run on the St Mary’s River and this, our final instalment for 2008, showcases the fall run on the East River, New Glasgow.
In fact according to Sport Nova Scotia, the St Mary's is one of Canadas' top 10 canoeing rivers. There is some fast water but no white water and the rapids in the lower part of the river are easily avoided. For those of us with young children the St Mary's provides many great places to swim and tube in a remarkably pleasant, safe environment.
The St. Mary's River was named after the old French fort, Forte St. Marie, which was built by the French in 1654, at the lower end of Sherbrooke Village. The fort was built, ostensibly, to protect the French fishermen and fur traders along the coast, but mostly Forte St. Marie was built to protect the French settlers who needed to come in and get their winter's supply of fish. The French didn't remain in Forte St. Marie very long. Five years later the British came and chased them out and the River has been predominately held and settled by the British since 1669.
Stone carvings in Egypt show fishing was being done with a pole and crude reels before the birth of Christ. The first flies used for fishing were made with feathers or wool tied first on pieces of bone or wood. It wasn't until the fifteenth century that iron hooks were first introduced in the British Isles.
For generations the Wild Atlantic Salmon has been at the centre of their efforts but it doesn't stop there. Meet the Wood Turtle! The largest population of this species of Wood Turtle in North America lives on the wooded shores of the St Mary's River.
A couple years ago a friend of ours came back home from working out West, he'd heard we had developed some land along the St.Mary's and asked if we needed any help working the property. There was lots to do, so we started with getting the common river access and boat launch ready for summer visitors. We rented a really old RV, which we fondly call the Tioga. This old girl has logged some serious road time but she was still up to making the trip down HWY 348.