After receiving a plethora of accolades, it is nice to see that none of it has gone to Cape Breton’s [collective] head. Quietly receiving all sorts of mentions on Top 10 lists and Must See Destinations – but, at the end of the day, there is not even an ounce of ego or entitlement in this place.
One of the most beautiful places I have ever encountered? Definitely.
Some of the friendliest people I have ever met? Without a doubt.
(This can be said for all Nova Scotians…)
We crossed the Canso Causeway (above) from the “mainland” to Cape Breton Island in a late afternoon. It was evident from the minute that we crossed the bridge that the Island was going to be a little different. In the rest of Nova Scotia, it is normal (maybe even required by law?) to have all of the street signs and directional highway signs in English AND French. And while there was French on the sign on the Island, there was also the addition of Gaelic translations. Nova Scotia = New Scotland.
We made our way up the Ceilidh Trail, which celebrates the musical gatherings that are common in this area, and in other areas where Celtic diaspora settled. We spent the night in Mabou, home of a well-known musical family, the Rankins, and their music at the Red Shoe Pub. Unfortunately, we were there during an off night (Monday), so we missed the live music and the dancing, but we didn’t miss the jaw-dropping scenery (and the good beer at the Pub).
Mabou Mines trail, high above the town
This hike was straight up the mountain, and I may have complained a bit (maybe I should not have had the beer the night before…) but once I saw this view – it was SO worth it. This overlooks the Northumberland Strait, looking west towards Prince Edward Island.
…and that was just a foretaste…
We continued up the coast, planning to camp that night in Cape Breton Highlands National Park… but when we saw this lovely beach near Margaree, we needed to stop and walk in the sand.
We headed to Chéticamp, the last stop before the park, filled up on gasoline, and a few supplies (there is a yummy bakery there!) before heading into the Park. Once we were there, driving up the mountains on the Cabot Trail, it didn’t take long before we were completely amazed. We did the hike on the Skyline Trail – where you are almost guaranteed to see the Park’s famous inhabitants. And we did.
The first moose we met. A juvenile male, right in front of us on the Trail.
When you meet a moose, you play by their rules. While this guy was smaller than some of the others, he was still huge. He was about 10 feet ahead of us on the trail, and seemed to be more interested in the plants than us. So, we stood for awhile, waiting for him to move… and he didn’t, so we had to find a very circuitous route around him.
We were there at the perfect time of day ~ 5:30/6:00 pm when the sun was starting to set in the west. The scenery there left me in a state of awe. The ocean looked like silk, or like paper…
We camped at a little spot right off the Cabot Trail in the Park, near the beach on the western side of the island. It was called Corney Brook. We put up the tent as the sky was darkening overhead… storm was a’brewin’.
We made some friends that night – a group of campers were visiting from Ontario – and as the rain came down, we huddled up in the little shelter near our tents. We talked hockey and politics, all while playing card games and *ahem* drinking. It was so much fun.
We rose early the next morning, made plans to meet with our new friends again, and headed up to some other trails. Little did we know… that we would see a BEAR that day. There is no photographic evidence of this bear - I was a big chicken, and was scared to even move at all… and I didn’t want Kris to photograph it either. We were on the trail – completely alone, and here was Mr. Bear about 25 meters ahead of us, right in the middle of the trail. HE WAS BIG. Bigger than other black bears I have seen – about the height of a small horse or a donkey, but many times the weight and roundness. I remembered reading over the Bear Safety pamphlet at the Ranger office, so, I started clapping and singing. I made up a great little diddy, and before too long, he moved off to the right of the trail towards the nearby lake. I was constantly looking over my shoulder the whole way back, but I was so darn excited to see a bear!
“Bear” Trail, or so I called it.
I thought there was a chance of finishing up the Nova Scotia posts today, but yeah, there is still too much to say, and I don’t want the longest post ever… so, more tomorrow…
A few more photos from the Park:
Tomorrow: Remainder of the Island, Eastern Shore, and return to Halifax