The Phoenix Nest

Arm of Gold Campground, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

Arm of Gold Campground, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

A Stop on the Phoenix's Grand Fossil Tour

By Jim Fulton

 

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Abstract

I spent a week at Arm of Gold Campground, near Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, in order to have ready access to the ferry to Newfoundland, as well as a base for exploring eastern Nova Scotia. The journey through the island province was definite worthwhile: the Cape Breton highlands were sublime, and they revealed a wealth of geological treasures that my previous research had not led me to expect.

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Table of Contents
Page Specifications
Id Flights_GFT_2018_0626
Title Arm of Gold Campground, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Subtitle A Stop on the Phoenix's Grand Fossil Tour
Keywords Cape Breton, Cape Breton Highlands, Nova Scotia, Arm of Gold Campground
Author Jim Fulton
Author's URL http://fenixnest/Phoenix/
Copyright 2017
Status Development Began: 2018/2/19
Last Revised 2018-06-30

Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

Arrived 2018/6/26
Day of Tour 339
Nights Stayed 7
Departed 2018/7/3
Map miles from last stop 226
Mileage on arrival 39,200
Actual miles from last stop 404
Accumulated miles for trip 20,683

To drive to Newfoundland, I had to take a ferry (an expensive ferry for trailers), and the most obvious choice runs from North Sydney, Nova Scotia, which made that island province a must-cross on my Grand Fossil Tour. However, in this case the journey through was a definite plus: the Cape Breton highlands were sublime, and they revealed a wealth of geological treasures that my previous research had not led me to expect.

Page Contents

Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

Cape Breton Island is the northeasternmost quarter of Nova Scotia. The Cape Breton Highlands form the north arm of a gigantic 'U', wrapped around the huge, twisted Lake Bras d'Or that almost cuts Cape Breton Island in twain. I don't know whether the tectonic forces down below are spreading or collecting the various pieces of the island. Arm of Gold', which is the name of the campground where I stayed on my first pass through here, is a literal English translation of the French 'Bras d'Or'.

If you prepend a French article to the name, you get a word that sounds like le-bra-dor or 'Labrador' (the 's' is silent), so I wondered if I had found a clue to the origins of the name. I checked out Labrador on WikipediaWikipedia, and they offered a completely different etymology. But the entry for Lake Bras d'OrWikipedia included that explanation among several options. Of course, who believes Wikipedia?

The Journey to Cape Breton

To get to Cape Breton, I took the ferry from Wood Island, PEI, to Nova Scotia. I had to be at the dock by 9:30, and it was an hour’s drive, so I did some of my shut-down the evening before, woke up early, and hustled through the rest of the shutdown. I didn’t want to miss the boat. So I ended up arriving by 8:30, the first of the RVs in line.

The ferry ride itself took about an hour, followed by a 4-hour drive to the Arm of Gold Campground in Little Bras d’Or, Nova Scotia. I had gotten quite used to seeing road signs in both French and English throughout New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. And they continue to be bilingual here in Nova Scotia. But at least here on Cape Breton Island (the eastern third of Nova Scotia), they are mainly English and Gaelic, with a few First Nations signs thrown in.

The countryside in Nova Scotia is pretty much the same as Prince Edward Island, probably to be expected of two adjacent islands, but I seemed to be climbing higher as I got into the Cape Breton Highlands.

Map of Journey to to Cape Breton

Cape Breton
Route of Journey to Prince Edward Island from Penobsquis, New Brunswick
Journey to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
The Ferry I Didn't Take
Ferry to Cape Breton
Journey to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
The Ferry I Didn't Take
Ferry to Cape Breton
Journey to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Ferry to Cape Breton
Journey to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Ferry to Cape Breton
Journey to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Ferry to Cape Breton
Journey to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Leaving Behind the Ferry I Didn't Take
Ferry to Cape Breton
Journey to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Leaving Behind the Ferry I Didn't Take
Ferry to Cape Breton
Journey to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Ferry to Cape Breton
Journey to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Ferry to Cape Breton
Journey to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Ferry to Cape Breton
Journey to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Ferry to Cape Breton
Journey to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Wood Island Lighthouse
Ferry to Cape Breton
Journey to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Leaving Behind the Ferry I Didn't Take
Ferry to Cape Breton
Journey to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Ferry to Cape Breton
Journey to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Leaving Behind the Ferry I Didn't Take
Ferry to Cape Breton
Journey to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Ferry to Cape Breton
Journey to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Ferry to Cape Breton
Journey to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Ferry to Cape Breton
Journey to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Ferry to Cape Breton
Journey to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Ferry to Cape Breton
Journey to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Ferry to Cape Breton
Journey to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Ferry to Cape Breton
Journey to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Ferry to Cape Breton
Journey to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Ferry to Cape Breton

Arm of Gold Campground

This campground is on a grassy knoll overlooking the arm of Lake Bras d'Or that opens northeast to the sea. The views are spectacular, but the wind off the ocean was ever-present. I had to listen to the constant creaks and groans of my trailer as it flexed in the stiff breeze. However, the wind was never so severe that I felt unsafe inside.

The campground itself was all grass, but for the gravel lanes. The pull-through sites were large, and reasonably easy to get into, since there was no expectation of keeping the trailer within the edges of the lanes. I had full, 30-amp hookups.

Except for one huge cottonwood and a grove of smaller trees around the house next to the office, the campground is mostly treeless. Nothing to block either sun or wind.

Management is somewhat mediocre. In my advance planning, it always took a couple days for them to respond to my emails, and the person who checked me in was young and seemingly not quite sure of himself.

Since my mobile hotspot does not work in Canada, I'm having to rely on campground wifi systems to access the internet. Arm of Gold provides a wifi service that's protected only by a common public password, not nearly as secure as a private password issued to each guest, but acceptable, since I use VPN as an additional layer of security. The service was oddly uneven. I got good to fair, if somewhat intermittant, internet access on my computer, somewhat worse access on my phone, and almost no access on my table.

I chose the campground in large part for its ready access to the ferry to Newfoundland. Upon my return, I will look for a different campground with more trees and less wind.

Photo Gallery for Arm of Gold Campground

Arm of Gold Campground
Arm of Gold Campground
Arm of Gold Campground
Arm of Gold Campground
Arm of Gold Campground
Arm of Gold Campground
Arm of Gold Campground
Arm of Gold Campground
Arm of Gold Campground
Arm of Gold Campground
Arm of Gold Campground
Arm of Gold Campground
Arm of Gold Campground
Arm of Gold Campground
Arm of Gold Campground
Arm of Gold Campground
Arm of Gold Campground
Address 24 Church Rd
Little Bras d'Or NS B1Y 2Y2
Canada
Home Page http://armofgoldcamp.com/
Phone (866) 736-6516‬
Associations
  • none
Rate (net US$) $30
Pros
  • Gorgeous location overlooking Lake Bras d'Or
Cons
  • Constant wind
  • Public password-protected wifi
Reviews (as of 2018/6/30)
Reviewer Rating Out of
RV Park Reviews 8.3 Good 10
Good Sam 8.5 10
KOA n/a 5
Tripadvisor 4.5 5
Phoenix 7 10
  Site Type pull-through  
  Site Size 8 10
  Ease of Access 8 10
  WiFiNotes 4 10

Points of Interest

I took a day to drive the Cabot TrailWikipedia around the Cape Breton HighlandsWikipedia, the northeasternmost part of Nova Scotia, much of which is included in the National Park of that name. I seen the highlands on maps, and I had heard others mention the Cabot Trail while I was waiting for the ferry, but it was not high on my list of things I planned to do. But Thursday was open on my calendar, so I decided to make the trip.

It was a long ride, 250 miles or about six hours. The weather was gray and ominous, with only a rare appearance by the sun. I had checked my weather app to choose the best day for the trip, and based on its forecasts, Thursday was it.

I found myself fascinated by both the natural beauty and the geology of the highlands. Maybe in another lifetime I will return to examine this area more closely with the appropriate tools and skills.

Cape Breton Highlands

The highlands were beautiful, even in the overcast. Much of the Cabot Trail highway is coastal, winding around inlets and estuaries and coves, fed by waters of all kinds: rills and brooks, rivers and falls. Away from the water, the hills rose steeply in their lush, green, blanket of trees.

Because this is such a beautiful region, I've attached links to higher resolution images, in case you want to look more closely. Click on in the caption, not on the photo, a change from prior practice.

Photo Gallery for Cape Breton Highlands

Cape Breton Highlands
Cape Breton Highlands
Cape Breton Highlands
Cape Breton Highlands
Cape Breton Highlands
Cape Breton Highlands
Cape Breton Highlands
Cape Breton Highlands
Cape Breton Highlands
Cape Breton Highlands
Cape Breton Highlands
Cape Breton Highlands
Cape Breton Highlands
Cape Breton Highlands
Cape Breton Highlands
Cape Breton Highlands
Cape Breton Highlands
Cape Breton Highlands
Cape Breton Highlands
Cape Breton Highlands
Cape Breton Highlands
Cape Breton Highlands
Cape Breton Highlands
Cape Breton Highlands
Possibly the oldest rocks in North America, outside of Greenland!
Cape Breton Highlands
Possibly the oldest rocks in North America, outside of Greenland!
Cape Breton Highlands
Cape Breton Highlands

Geology in the Cape Breton Highlands

The bones of the highlands are not high, as mountains go. They form a ridge or plateau down the center of the island, but not a ridge as you might have seen most often elsewhere, with a sharp, undulating fold at the top, dividing north from south. Instead, it seemed to me that under its forest blanket lay broken, rocky dominos, stacked on end, the product of eons of tectonic shifts that lifted the layers of the highlands out of the continental crust. Of course, I might be entirely wrong in my interpretation of the ridge. The forest obscures too many details.

More direct evidence of the orogeny, the mountain-building, is found in the rocks themselves: masses of granite striped here and there with rock of a distinctly different color. These are not sedimentary layers; granite is uplifted continental crust, not sedimentation. My understanding is that these stripe are not layers but dikes: cracks in the granite that formed under the pressures of the uplift, then were filled with much younger mud that hardened later to form the rocky dike. Were I a paleogeologist, I would have enjoyed analyzing the rock in those dikes. I suspect they would reveal an abundance of microfossils, or at least a chemical composition, that would reveal their age rather precisely.

According to the web page for the National Park [https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/ns/cbreton/decouvrir-discover/environ/geologie-geology/ile-island], "The oldest rocks in the Maritime Provinces form the Blair River inlier which is found in the northeastern corner of Cape Breton Island. They can be seen on North Mountain as you drive up from Pleasant Bay. These rocks were formed 1,500 to 1,000 million years ago during the collision of continental plates that resulted in the supercontinent Rodinia." Sadly, I read this after the fact, and wasn’t looking for these rocks during that part of my drive. (It was very late in the day!)

I'm including photos of these rocks in the Fossils section of this issue. Technically they're not fossils, though there might be microfossils in some of them, and I have no basis for dating them, except very roughly to the Appalachian orogeny. But they do belong in a biography of Gaia, so here they are.

[To see higher resolution images, click on in the caption, not on the photo, a change from prior practice.]

Photo Gallery for the Geology of the Cape Breton Highlands

Cape Breton Highlands
Cape Breton Highlands
Diagonal dikes in the granite.
Cape Breton Highlands
Diagonal dikes in the granite.
Cape Breton Highlands
Diagonal dikes in the granite.
Cape Breton Highlands
A slate seam in sedimentary rock.
Cape Breton Highlands
A slate seam in sedimentary rock.
Cape Breton Highlands
Dike in crumbled granite.
Cape Breton Highlands
Dike in crumbled granite.
Cape Breton Highlands
Dike in crumbled granite.
Cape Breton Highlands
Dike in crumbled granite.
Cape Breton Highlands
Crumbled granite shoreline.
Cape Breton Highlands
Crumbled granite shoreline.
Cape Breton Highlands
Strange patterns.
Cape Breton Highlands
Strange patterns.

Onward

My next stop after leaving Cape Breton will be Doyles, Newfoundland, where I begin a month on that remote, fossil-rich, easternmost corner of North America (excluding Danish-controlled Greenland).

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