Our beautiful weather of the past couple of days was supposed to change today as they promised some rain and wind in the afternoon. Despite this forecast for rain we decided today was the day to go around the top of the island to Cape North with a few hikes thrown in along the way. Road construction and steep hills caused some concerns about towing the trailer through this section so we felt it best to just take the truck and leave the trailer in Cheticamp.
We pulled into the lookouts along the way and were treated to some panoramic views of sea and Cape Breton and even a bear and cub crossing the road below us. The road climbed a pair of mountains with several areas of construction making for slow progress but before too long we were pulling into Pleasant Bay. The little towns in this area are comprised of mainly a small motel, a restaurant or two, 3 or 4 houses and maybe a craft store along the highway which, of course, is not yet open. Most have no grocery store, no gas pump, no…………nothing. They are many kilometers apart and we just keep thinking that in winter, with no tourist traffic, it is extremely remote on “The Trail”. There are emergency huts along the highway offering a woodstove and shelter as well as a phone for stranded travellers. Apparently these have saved lives in the cold. Nice area for tourists to visit but, man, I wouldn’t want to live here!
We did a couple of short hikes with Rudi and Betty - one to a waterfall and the other to a stone shelter built in honour of one of the first Scottish settlers who homesteaded this area in the late 1800’s. They carried on to explore Cape North while we pulled in for a 6km hike promising 2 waterfalls. Because the road to the first waterfall was closed that meant we are walking the extra 2.5 km instead of driving! It was just beginning to drizzle as we started but we pulled on our raingear and grabbed the umbrellas determined not to let a bit of rain deter us! Oh well it was fairly flat and before long we were standing in front of the first falls along with a million little buzzing friends! Photos were taken………….very quickly as our flying friends didn’t seem as bad if you kept moving.
There were no signs telling us how far the next waterfall was as we crossed a bridge and started climbing. The forested trail was pretty and we passed benches indicating we were indeed on the trail – no other sign posts, no people, nothing but this trail. So we kept climbing and climbing and climbing and………no waterfall. After about 45 minutes of steady uphill our buzzing buddies buggered off which was a mercy, but still no waterfall. Another 50 minutes brought us to a stream cascading feebly down the hill but it was hardly a waterfall………….was this it? Crossing the stream on strategically placed stones we forged ahead on a narrower trail that seemed to get even steeper. Slogging on through the rain determined to find these #*%(@ falls, in about another half hour we rounded the corner and there sat one of the Canada 150 Red Chairs. Parks Canada had somehow placed one of these chairs on the edge of the mountain. It was a sight for sore eyes as, up to this point, we weren’t sure we were on the right trail………….or on any trail, for that matter. But there was the chair………cheerfully situated as a reward for all our hard work!
About another kilometer later (uphill) the trail ended with a foggy view down the valley from the top of the mountain we had just climbed! As the return was 90 percent downhill it was MUCH easier and quicker and we reached the truck a little soggy but happy to be done with this trail. Our drive over to Cape North revealed another small town with little there, but at least we finished the north leg of the Cabot Trail as we dried out from our hike.
It got very, very windy as we traversed the 3 mountains home in pouring rain. Guess the weather man had it right this time! By the time we hit Cheticamp the wind was pushing the truck all over the road and we were nervous about the kayaks perched on top. The wind was blowing so hard it was pulling water off the ocean and blowing walls of water across the bay. It was a true Cape Breton storm as the wind rattled the trailer all night long.