Thursday, July 25, 2019

Cabot Trail to Cheticamp, Cape Breton Highlands National Park

I wanted to begin this entry with "Today was another Wow! day on our hike across Canada," but that somehow makes it sound like it was "just" another day. This was not the case - today was extraordinary, in every way.

Around 8 am Kersti and her three creative, inquisitive, engaged, and highly energetic children picked us up at the campground to drive us around the Cabot Trail to the Cheticamp campground on the other side of the peninsula. This roughly 100 km trip can theoretically be done in a couple of hours, but we were given the full tour, making many stops along the way, and having the natural and cultural history explained by a very knowledgeable park interpreter. The generosity and kindness of this family were amazing, as was the journey through Cape Breton with them!






Our first stop was at Little Head, where we enjoyed panoramic views down the coastal cliffs, and were delighted to see a Grey Seal playing in the waves off shore.




After that we were given a tour of Green Cove, where we found a short trail to a clifftop that offered beautiful views down the coast. The rock in this area is a strong dusky pink, crisscrossed with lighter veins and highlighted with sparkly components. The blooming purple harebells growing in among the cracks were a very striking counterpoint.


Just off the shore was a rock covered in Double-crested Cormorants, and as we looked out to sea we spotted a couple Northern Gannets and a Black-backed Gull flying by.









A few kilometres farther along the Cabot Trail we visited Black Brook, which had a large sandy beach and a beautiful waterfall. We walked down to the waterfall while the children went for a quick swim at the beach. Watching the clear fresh water from the river flow down to meet the salty waves of the ocean was a curiously fascinating experience.


After exploring the waterfall we walked down past a stand of Jack Pines to the Black Brook to let the swimmers rinse off the saltwater. This beautiful spot was full of beach goers and picnickers, and it was easy to see why!







As we passed through Neil's Harbour we stopped at a picturesque marina, with its turquoise water and brightly coloured fishing boats. We spent a few minutes while Kersti phoned an animal rehabilitation center to come help an injured Northern Gannet that was in the harbour. It had a fish hook stuck in one wing, and possibly some line wrapped around its chest, and it was clearly unable to fly or dive. It was extremely hungry, coming right up and taking fish guts from a lady who was cleaning her catch down on the boat launch, which is extremely unusual behaviour for a Northern Gannet.



We stopped at a lovely locally owned and operated restaurant called Danena's for a lunch of quesadillas and salad. The food was excellent, and the decor was a mix of art, crafts, antiques, and interesting objects from the fishing and lobster industries.




The Beulach Ban Waterfall was our next stop. This is the tallest waterfall in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, and it was very beautiful, as were the forested drive and short walk to up to it.




This entire area, which is located in the Aspy Fault was extremely beautiful. We were in what felt like a deep, treed valley, and with the warm air and sunlight filtering through the trees the forest felt magical.
 

A little farther down the trail we came to Lone Sheiling, which was another short forested trail that led to a replica of a Scottish Shepard's hut. The man who had donated the land for this section of the park had requested that something be included to commemorate his home country of Scotland. Although there were no crofter's buildings originally in the area, this one was erected to remind the Scottish settlers of home.


 




After this the trail began to climb again, and we stopped for a fantastic view out over the highlands plateau.






Counter intuitively, there was also a beautiful bog up on the plateau, that reminded us a little of Newfoundland. The French Mountain bog has a winding boardwalk trail through it, and offers gorgeous views of small lakes, black and white spruce, and blooming bog flowers, including Pitcher plants and Sundews.



After a short walk through the bog, during which we met Robert, who would help with our talk later this evening, we made one final stop at a lookout that offers the view down the coast of the winding Cabot Trail that has been made famous on posters and post cards. It was incredible!

From there it was a relatively short drive to the Cheticamp campground, where we spent the night. We quickly set up our tent, and then Kersti came back and picked us up again so we could tag along for a resupply run into town. We made it back around 7:30 PM, just in time to join Robert in roving the campground to invite visitors to attend our talk at 8:30 in the Visitor's Center.



We were very fortunate to have 21 people show up for our talk, including about eight children, and they asked lots of questions afterwards, which we took to be a good sign. It was an interesting group, and we were very grateful for the chance to connect with them.

It has been a long day, with so many amazing parts to it that it is difficult to process them all. Once again, we are left amazed by the series of events that has led us to this moment, in this amazing place, with these kind, generous, and supportive people.














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