I wanted to share my outdoor adventures for anyone who hasn’t been out East because the scenery simply takes your breath away. It made me proud to be Canadian.
I packed my CD wallet (very important) for my vacation to the Maritimes — Indigo Girls, Dave Matthews, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell. I needed the beautiful vistas and rugged cliffs to be accompanied by an equally earthy music match. Each day we drove the winding roads of the Cabot trail for an hour or more to another picturesque hike.
Middle head Trail
Picture Anne of green Gables-like meadows with wooden knotted fences and beautiful lookouts with small bursts of purple vegetation, which can be found all over. Everywhere I turned the light would change — and so quickly. No view is the same. Tips of evergreens meet a seemingly infinite skyline and there are rocks, with every shade of grey you can imagine, nestled between blowing blades of tall grass. Cape Breton is a photographer’s paradise. I can tell you that there were a lot of photos taken on this trip of just the wind blowing the grass. My sister always jokes that if I went on the TV show “Survivor” I’d be the first one voted off by the rest of the cast offs who would feel bad for me for breaking out into a full body rash. Probably true, but at one point on this hike my husband, Joe called out to me to wait up because I was going too fast for him! He even joked that I was earthier than him — and for anyone who knows me this may be hard to believe. I’m known to be a car camper at best. Anyways…I felt a little like Gene Kelly feels in Brigadoon when he is transported to those magical green highlands of Scotland.
Mountain Trail in Meat Cove
In addition to using our Fodors guidebook, moosebait.com was a great resource. Both had written up Meat Cove as having “an end of the world quality,” that leads to the northern tip of Cape Breton Island and is home to less than 100 people. It was something we couldn’t pass up. Each morning in Cape Breton I awoke to a day that could alternately be foggy, rainy or sunny within minutes. A million little microclimates on one island. A funny thing about the East is the way people give directions: drive down the road and make a left at the mountain. Keep going until you see a rock formation on your left and then keep following the dirt road. Really? It seems to work because you’re essentially on one road and there is really only one road to follow that you’re either on or not. As we drove there in the rain, we passed two of Meat Cove’s inhabitants sitting on a rock getting rained on. They waved at us.
Climbing up a muddy, vertical cliff in runners in a completely desolate forest was a new experience for us. We heard the howl of a Coyote getting closer to us –I knew they were Coyotes, but pretended not to and told Joe that it could be a dog near our car back at the bottom of the hill where we had parked. Who knows? But as those coyote cries got closer, we decided to turn back. It was pretty comical. Us sweating, wearing our OFF brand bug-repellent fans around our necks that are supposed to create a magical force field around your body to keep away Mosquitos…I’m still not sure those really work, but, it was an adventure.
Kayaking the Atlantic Ocean
Late in the day, under an ominous sky, Joe and I decided to hire a guide to take us on a kayaking expedition. Troy, our kayaking guide, was already light years away from me (in terms of being rustic and bare bones). He greeted us by asking the question, “do you feel confident?” You’d think that question might scare us off, but it actually did the opposite. We approached the Southside shore of Ingonish beach under a swirling gray sky and extremely choppy waters. I have to give him props for being such a great guide. We’d been out kayaking on the ocean enough to know that our weather wasn’t optimal, but he gave me a couple of tips that made me feel I had control over the waves. The first was: “be loose in your hips.” As a Pilates teacher, I thought that could mean several things….so he explained that if you’re too rigid through your hips it could make you capsize immediately. He also warned us that the waves make you feel weightless as they go under your kayak. Very helpful advice, so remember that when kayaking on the ocean you have to go with the flow of the water or you will easily tip.
Skyline Trail: A Windy Peninsula
This trail is in every guidebook as a must-do, so there was a big build-up and it still lived up to the hype. Every hike in the Cape Breton National Park has warnings at the trailhead with photos of moose, bears and coyotes. In my Fodor’s guide, there is a cautionary tale of someone hiking alone at night and getting killed by coyotes. Moral of the story…don’t hike at night and don’t hike by yourself. Check. Check. Even before we got to the lookout we had our moose sighting. I felt like a bit of a hunter or detective trying not to be too loud with my footsteps as we walked the pathway. We geeked out so badly over our Moose sighting that we already felt we had gotten our money’s worth. Anything else would be icing on the cake. When we got to the lookout, there was a man made staircase that descended to the tip of the peninsula. it was so windy up there, I had trouble climbing down without being pushed on a diagonal.
In my mind, a god-like voice would summarize our trip as follows:
We came and saw — grass, water, wind. We heard — wind, coyotes and silence.
This was a great retreat for anyone who enjoys nature’s wonders. So, maybe I did “earth-out” a little on this trip.