Thursday Travels: The Cabot TrailPosted: January 10, 2013
I have travelled around the globe. I have seen the Canadian Rockies, the American Rockies, the Andes and the Alps and the Highlands of Scotland; but for simple beauty, Cape Breton outrivals them all.
~ Alexander Graham Bell
During the last Thursday Travels (A Friday edition of Thursday Travels: The Ceilidh Trail), we left off at the shipwreck, just after visiting the Glenora Distillery. It was shortly after this that we began our trek (okay, it was really a ride) on the Cabot Trail.
The Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia is 298 km (185 miles) long and loops around the northern tip of the Cape Breton Highlands. One third of the trail passes through Cape Breton Highlands National Park. It is an incredibly scenic drive with spectacular views of the mountains and the sea. Parts of the highway reminded me of the Pacific Coast Highway in the Big Sur area of California. Most of the reviews mention that you should give yourself about six or eight hours to tour the Cabot Trail (if you’re going to do it in one day), giving yourself time to stop at the lookoffs, exhibits, and to walk some of the trails. Actual drive time from Chéticamp to Ingonish is about two hours (106 km).
The directions we were given to the cabin we would be staying in for the next four days included the fact that we would be passing over two mountains: MacKenzie Mountain which would take us into Pleasant Bay, and North Mountain to Cape North. MacKenzie Mountain is 1,366 ft. (416 m) and ranks as the 10th highest mountain in Nova Scotia (10,289th in Canada). North Mountain is actually a narrow volcanic mountain range, a ridge of basalt that was formed over 200 million years ago when Nova Scotia was located in the center of the supercontinent Pangaea.
We were also instructed to be on the lookout for moose. As it turned out, we had no trouble at all seeing our first moose, but I’m getting ahead of the story.
The Cape Breton Highlands reminded me very much of the Highlands of Scotland with one exception. Or rather, many exceptions. All the trees on the mountains.
After a day of rain, mist, fog, and overall cloudiness, we finally caught a glimpse of sunlight along the horizon, and it looked as though it might be possible to watch the sunset from somewhere along the western side of the Cabot Trail. M and I debated the issue for a little while. The directions we were given to the cabin were somewhat complicated, and the area somewhat isolated. Our cell phones did not work in Canada and we had no idea where to find an internet connection in the event we needed to get in touch with the owners of the cabin (the possible event being that we had lost our way in spite of the very specific instructions). The cabin is located near Dingwall, just north of the Cabot Trail. Dingwall is traditionally a fishing community (although tourism in the summer is now part of the business there), and it is framed by the mountains to the south and north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east.
Eventually we decided it was wisest to continue on our way and hopefully catch a sunset another day.
It was a good decision. We did not get lost, but we might have missed the moose as well as some other great sights we saw along the way if we’d had to drive in the dark.
The scenery was stunning. Breathtaking. M and I are considering going back someday with plans to stay much longer than we did this time around.
Another interesting thing about this part of our trip is that we saw only one other car once we entered the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, and they were headed in the opposite direction. We had the place all to ourselves except for whatever wildlife was out and about.
Our total drive time, for those interested in such factoids, from Prince Edward Island to the cabin we rented was about seven hours.
We’re not going to make it to North Mountain or to the moose in this post. I am quite good at dragging this out, don’t you think? With good reason. I am taking my time because this is my record of our trip and I don’t want to miss out on some of the details.
Thank you for joining me on the Cabot Trail, and thank you for your patience as I slowly travel back through time and the Canadian Maritimes. The January thaw continues here in the Bogs on this cloudy Thursday. Rain is expected tonight. If it’s a good soaking rain, that should do it for the snow (not a bad thing as the snow was starting to look a little gray and dirty). It feels almost spring-like, and we’re supposed to get up into the 50’s (possibly 60) on Saturday.
Be good, be kind, be loving, just Be. 🙂