On Wednesday, August 9th, the sixth day of our vacation in Canada, we embarked on the Cabot Trail, a 297-kilometer/185-mile loop around Cape Breton Island. Friends Jack and Desiree Foard had recommended driving counter-clockwise for closer views along the road, so we did just that.
MIDDLE HEAD TRAIL
Our first stop was at Middle Head Trail, considered a moderate-level hike. The views made the hike worthwhile. The eastern coastline included bays and cliffs.
Our second stop was at Ingonish for a trail map, antacids, and what Handsome described as a “$20 Egg McMuffin” at the Bean Barn Café. We had run out of Canadian cash. We had to use U.S. currency at par. The smaller villages along the Cabot Trail didn’t have banks, or decent internet, or apparently, cash registers that calculated an exchange rate.
The eastern coastal area of Cape Breton had road signs marked in English and Gaelic. We passed a Gaelic college. The area had been settled by immigrants from Scotland. We then drove through three construction areas and waited for flagmen to wave us through. The northern section of the drive featured uninhabited mountains to the north of the road and forested area south of the
road. We also found signs in Mi’kmaw, the language of the First Nation.
Along the Cabot Trail we pulled over to take photos and met these folks. They were preparing to wheel down the winding road as part of a television show. They wore GoPro helmet mounts and a few professional cameramen were stationed on the road.
THE SKYLINE TRAIL
At last, we reached the Skyline Trail on the western coast. Touted in brochures as “Where the mountains truly meet the sea.” The Skyline Trail is a 9 km/5.7 mile loop. Most tourists take the left side of the loop to the boardwalk overlook and then retrace their path back to the parking area. This route is 7.5 km/4.7 miles. To hike the full loop takes a three-hour commitment.
We decided to take the full loop. Our friends Terri and Jim Johnson would have been proud of us. We once braved the long, hot hike through the dunes on Lake Michigan and lived to tell. They, too, had recommended the Skyline Trail.
We should have brought along bottled water. The trail led through forest and marsh. Others had spotted moose earlier in the day. We missed the moose. The remainder of the trail edged a cliff line. At two-thirds of the full loop, we found the boardwalk. It descended from platform to platform along the bare ridgeline with no handrails and steep drop-offs on either side. When I wasn’t watching where I stepped, the coastal views were spectacular.
Fifteen-foot fencing separated moose from newly-planted trees along the path. We met a parks worker who explained that the moose ate the last batch of trees planted, hence the fence. We dutifully closed the gates behind us.
We then drove through yet another road construction area to Cheticamp. The L’eglise St. Pierre Church would have made a lovelier photographic subject, but there was no way to photograph the entire thing without the power lines marring the image.
We then ate lobster at Le Gabriel Restaurant. It looked like a lighthouse. Our waitress Brenda Lee took our order from her wheelchair. Fitted with a tray in front, her motorized chair allowed her to work as efficiently as any other waitress. We ate with the zeal of starving field hands. The plastic bib rescued me from wearing butter.
RED ADIRONDACK CHAIRS
For the remainder of the drive, we traveled through the forest with occasional views of the shore, all the way to Baddeck. After ice cream, we took photos in the red chairs at the Alexander Graham Bell museum. Since we were the only souls in the parking lot after museum hours, we couldn’t beg a stranger to take our photo together. I’ve tried the hand-held selfie photos, but my arms are too short. My past attempts at selfies remind me of Cyrano de Bergerac.
I had been hunting these red Adirondack chairs all along so we could participate in the social media campaign #sharethechair. Perhaps we could get a photo together in the chairs this week. The hunt continued.
Tomorrow Handsome would truly regret that I was not added as a driver on the rental car. We were scheduled to drive five hours from Baddeck, Cape Breton, to Annapolis Royal on the far side of Nova Scotia.