Cape Breton, High and Low

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June 22, 2022, Whycocomagh, NS-I had originally come here to this island of both intense and sublime beauty, to honour the First Nations people who keep the flame of dignity and well-being, for all creatures, alive and well. The person who I was hoping to meet, along those lines, had to work extra long hours and our meeting is deferred until next Wednesday. I did meet a young First Nations lady who works for Parks Canada, and who processed my admission to Cape Breton Highlands. I also encountered a road crew of Miqmak people, who were clearing what appeared to have been a serious rock slide, on the Cabot Trail.

Cape Breton is defined, topographically, by two features: The mountains of the Highland region and Bras D’Or Lake (Pronounced “Brah Dor”, though a local wag once had a restaurant he called The Old Brass Door, situated on the lake shore.), representing the forces of uplifting and nurturing. The lake, a salty offshoot of the Atlantic Ocean, extends virtually the length of eastern Cape Breton, from St. Peter’s, in the southeast, to Sydney Mines, in the northeast.

Here are a few views of Bras D’Or, from near Fair Isle Motel, where I am staying, and a viewpoint close to the Cabot Trail’s southern entrance

Bras D’Or Lake, near Watogomah First Nations Community, NS

Less than twenty minutes later, the view changed dramatically, as the clockwise route around the Cabot Trail beckoned.

View from Cabot Trail, near Nyanza, NS

The road ran out, briefly, just shy of Margaree, as the aforementioned crew had me turn around and use a short detour. Once back in the Margaree region, views of a healthy river and the Atlantic were abundant.

Here is a view of the Margaree River.

Margaree River, near its namesake town, Cape Breton Island

Next are some views of the coast, in western Cape Breton.

Margaree Harbour, NS
Margaree Harbour Beach
Beach at Cheticamp Island, NS

The three main communities of Cape Breton are the Miqmak First Nation, the Scots and the French-speaking Acadiens, distant cousins of Louisiana’s Cajuns-those who left Atlantic Canada, after the French and Indian War of 1756-63. The Acadien communities, such as Cheticamp, are very much thriving today.

Paroisse St. Pierre, Cheticamp

It was time to go up into Cape Breton Highlands, so after gassing up, in Cheticamp, I went to the Park Visitor Center, where the young lady I mentioned earlier greeted me warmly and sold me the admission pass. The mountains themselves were not long in providing a warm greeting of their own.

Here is Grande Faillante:

Grande Faillante, Cape Breton Highlands National Park

Next is La Bloc.

La Bloc, Cape Breton Highlands National Park

Sorry to have to do this, but the photos will have to stop here, so that I may get this out. Something is blocking my uploading of photos, regardless of which platform I use (whether Chrome or Firefox). I had to fight to get these last two photos posted. Wanting to keep this series going, so, for now, let words suffice. When I get this issue resolved, photos will be posted of the rest of Cabot Trail.

From La Bloc, the Cabot Trail goes on to the glorious greens of French Mountain and MacKenzie River Valley. The view of Pleasant Bay, from the top of the switchbacks to its north, is nothing short of breathtaking. Green Cove, between Pleasant Bay and Ingonish, allows for clambering and being as one with a smoothed mass of boulders, jutting out into the sea. There were many doing just that, including a mother and daughter who sat in meditation, as the rest of us took in the clifftop view of the Atlantic. The scene would repeat itself at MacKinnon’s Cove and at North Beach, in Ingonish.

By the time I reached Tartans and Treasures, in Dingwall, it would have been easy to identify with the “cranky” Scottish owner (“Patrick was a saint, but I ain’t”)-but the scenery is too soothing, so I got a second wind and kept on, past St. Ann’s and the “north” junction with Highway 105, which took me back to Bayside, which was full with golfers and day fishermen, as well as tired waitresses-who nonetheless took my order-the last one of the evening. The chowder was again superb. Getting back to Fair Isle, I got laundry done and am now ready for a good night’s rest.

Tomorrow, it’s off to Newfoundland.