Winter at Fortress Louisbourg



Shortly after Christmas, it was announced that there would be a geocaching event at Historic Fortress of Louisbourg – in February.

I could not pass up at the opportunity of not only visiting the Fortress for the first time, but explore many areas of the site.

The Drive To The Fortress – Day 1

My journey started on the night before. The plan was to find accommodations somewhere between Halifax and Louisbourg for an overnight sleep. The weather was typical Nova Scotia, the forecast called for 30cm of snow, but it was pouring rain. I stopped by New Glasgow to refuel and used Twitter to posted a very simple query: “Arriving in antigonish shortly. Any good places for food in town other than big chains? #novascotia”.

With another 30 minutes of driving to go before reaching Antigonish, I let the Twitter replies stack up as drove the last stretch of road. Once I arrived in Antigonish, I pulled aside and checked my iPhone to see where I’ll be having supper. I picked the suggestion from Blomindon Winery’s wine maker @simonrafuse and stopped by Gabrieau’s Bistro. This was a nice intimate location with a very large wine list and a focus on local food. As I waited for my food order, I scanned Google Maps to see how far I was from the Antigonish Evergreen Inn. It was only a few kilometers from the Bistro.

Day 2 – Exploring The Fortress

After a great overnight sleep an the Inn, I had to take breakfast to go. I still had at least 2.5 hours of driving left to do before I reached Louisbourg. I finally reached the check-in for the event, the Louisbourg firehall around 10:30 am. I still had to drive another 6 kms to reach the actual Fortress once I collected my instructions.

The temperature was near freezing, stiff breeze coming off the ocean and a little bit of drizzle. The geocaches were placed to encourage exploring the Fortress at various times during the year, especially in the winter. The Fortress is still open to the public during the winter. We had about 2.5 hours of exploring to do. I visited a number of areas that were not as popular – but still offered a great view & history lesson. The biggest surprise once I got on site was that I could explore outside the walls. In fact the property is quite large with many points of interest. I passed an archaeological site near the coast line. The receding coastline is spurring activity in this area, so that artifacts & history can be documented before they are washed away.

Land attacks at the Fortress were not perceived as possible back in the 1700’s, but the Fortress soon found out that it was vulnerable by the various sieges over the years. Fortifications, including a ditch helped push back such attacks. I stood at a geocache location that highlighted this fact and I imagined how enemy soldiers would run up the rolling hills, avoiding cannonball & rifle fire and suddenly jump down a series of walls to find themselves in the ditch; at the mercy of the protectors of the Fortress. The proximity to the Cod fishery made the port a popular location, so it’s not surprising how much of the town inside the Fortress were concentrated near the Harbour. The lack of wood and terrain made forestry & agriculture inadequate industries to develop.

Need More Wood!

The event concluded at Grandchamps pub, an 18th century tavern. The fire hearth blazing away. I was told that it would take 1 or 2 days for the fireplace to be able to warm the entire tavern. The lack of firewood only permitted residents to make a fire only for food preparation. There were a few costumed interpreters roaming around the site, to give the event a more authentic feel to it. But frankly, I was thinking more about how difficult the weather conditions would be over a winter and how rum would be a popular drink with the soldiers. 72 people checked-in at the event, making this a great launch of geocaching within the Fortress of Louisbourg. The geocaches are available year-around and will be part of the Explorers program as an activity for the entire family to do.

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