Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia, No. 4 on our list of paddling places as we celebrated Canada’s 150th birthday with a cross-country tour, called out to us in part because of the name and what it means, the meeting of two rivers. And also because John remembered it from a story he wrote maybe 20 years earlier on the TransCanada Trail, now known as the Great Trail.
Memories of the Great Trail Trestle
We would paddle parallel to the Great Trail and also under a railway trestle where John recalled being caught in a freak October snow squall before handrails had been installed. The helpless feeling of being hunkered down in the driving wind halfway across the trestle lingered for a long time.
What John didn’t recall was the unique accommodation in the little town close to the Northumberland Strait east of Pictou. The Train Station Inn offers old rail cars converted to suites and a classic dining car with memorable food.
A Picturesque & Peaceful Paddle
In keeping with a sleepy kind of town, our paddle on the Waugh River was sedate as we caught it at slack tide on an overcast morning where only the eagles seemed awake. We found an easy point to put in at a spot on the outskirts of town and with virtually no wind or current it was a leisurely glide towards town and a lookout point called Patterson Wharf Park.
We then checked out what seemed like an unusually placed lighthouse that turned out to be a residence with a mock lighthouse atop it.
And that led us to a marshy area where Pam gamely tried to find a route to a small bay we had passed coming up river.
We were almost there but a boggy stretch intervened and we were content to navigate the serpentine channels through the marsh as eagles called out and cruised along a line of trees.
The area had an eerie sense in the morning mist but was good practice at sharp turns.
We paddled back down the river to the old railway trestle which spans the point where the Waughs and French River meet, swung into the French and enjoyed its benign waters.
It turned out to be the calmest paddle on our cross country trip, while the stay in a converted freight car provided the most interesting stayover.
A Romantic Tale of a Young Man’s Dream
Jimmy LeFresne was moved to buy the Tatamagouche rail station in 1974 when he was just 18 to save it from demolition. The line to the little town was decommissioned 12 years later but he could see a future in the classic building.
“While most kids were buying cars, I bought a rail station,” he says of his teenage inspiration.
He developed it over time and the history of the station and each car on the site is explained in the dining car’s menu.
We were directed to one of the newer acquisitions, Boxcar Jane, still a bit rough on the exterior but nicely finished inside with a sitting area with TV, compact kitchen area, small bathroom with modern shower stall and a sizeable bedroom.
The dining car was a delight, a throwback to an era of elegant rail travel. We enjoyed a restorative dinner of local striploin steak and ragout of Tatamagouche lamb, the latter wafting a medley of red wine, onions, peppers, garlic and oregano from a simmering sauce. The eight-ounce sirloin cut sizzled under a house herb butter.
Our bodies well nourished by the food and our souls topped up by the placid paddle, we backtracked a bit to Pictou, Nova Scotia to board the ferry to PEI, the next stop in our Canada 150 mission.