We are not still in Canada but we wanted to finish our last few posts before moving on to fun in the sun. I have already decided one of my New Year’s Resolutions will be to get caught up and stay caught up! It seems a fitting finale to Nova Scotia to write about the Cape Breton Highlands. We delayed this post thinking we’d have time to make a video. OK, on to Plan B.
Have we died and gone to heaven? One would think so as we start our 10 day stay at Broad Cove Campground in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. All of this beautiful scenery and full hookups too. Wahoo! Plus the rainy weather has ended and throughout our stay we basked in sunny weather. Now, how to share the high points of our stay with our readers?
Cape Breton Highlands National Park occupies most of the northern half of the island. The Cabot Trail circles almost 2/3 of the park and then meets the Ceidlah Trail. Our campground was located near the small town of Ingonish. You can get basic supplies and services here but count on coming fully stocked. The one problem we did have was that the park would not accept our mail drop and to have it sent to General Delivery at Canada Post could take longer than our planned stay. Well, we could wait until our next stop. We did find good wifi available at the library. We even “climbed” Mt. Smokey, a long, twisting 14% grade to get to Broad Cove campground. The trailer did fine but our speed dropped to 30 mph. Already I was was wondering about the return trip. We’d never taken the Dreamchaser down such a steep grade. Steve, as usual, was very confident saying “It won’t be a problem” and fortunately he was right.
The town of Ingonish, as with most of the towns in the area, is an active fishing harbor with colorful lobster boats. The town beach was uncrowded and offered Opal some great “roll in the sand” time off leash. We decided to spend one sunny afternoon on a Zodiac tour. While we didn’t see any wildlife, it was a great way to enjoy the beautiful coastline.
Much of the time we drove the Cabot Trail in sections and went on explorations along scenic backroads. One of our favorite backroads led to Neils Harbor, White Point and Bay St. Lawrence. Talk about photo ops. We were in shutter happy heaven. While in White Point we met a couple who shared one of the best insider tips with us. “Did we know where the crab plant was?” “No, we didn’t.” We certainly found out. You could get fresh Atlantic Snow Crab for $3/pound or flash frozen and cooked for $6/pound. We made several visits… and had some in the freezer when we left.
While in White Point we saw a dirt road that led to a small trailhead parking area. The trail went to White Point, one of the most beautiful areas we’d ever seen. “You can throw my ashes out here. I wouldn’t mind staying forever.” (Steve) After walking to White Point we decided to return the next day with a picnic and walk the entire trail. This was just one of the reasons we named this entry “A Little Piece of Heaven”. Opal gave us a scare on the way back. She disappeared. We called. We clapped. No Opal. She never strays far away so we were getting worried. More calling and clapping. Finally Steve found her under a bush. Apparently she’d just gotten hot and tired and decided to take a rest. Haven’t they ever heard of a siesta? (Opal)
Another day we headed for Meat Cove, the most northern point in Nova Scotia that you can reach by road. The last 7 or so miles are on a dirt road and you know how we “hate” that. There is a tent only campground there and a small restaurant. A picnic table was free so we claimed it. We bought fish chowder, crab and lobster to eat while enjoying the million dollar view. We asked the lady at the restaurant if she lived here year round. “Yes”. “How cold does it get in the winter?” “Around zero but with the wind maybe -30 or -40.” “Not my cup of tea!” (Chari)
On one of our trips along the Cabot Trail heading toward Pleasant Bay we met two young bicyclists who were resting at an overlook. We started chatting and found out they were on a 2,000 mile trip from Ottowa to Newfoundland and back. The Cabot Trail has some very steep hills. They’d just come down one. “It was pretty scary. We were on our brakes the whole time, whipping around the curves. We’re pretty heavy.” Even when we were their age we couldn’t have done a trip like that. Later we drove the hills they’d just biked up and shook our heads in amazement. I’d asked if they’d done a lot of training for the trip. No, we bike a lot at home and figured the trip itself would be training enough. We saw them again at our campground a few days later. They’d taken a rest break for a day by hiking one of the more strenuous trails. I felt like a wimp. We wished them well as they headed for the Newfoundland ferry.
Pleasant Bay was another small town we felt was aptly named. After driving around we found a great picnic spot behind a church overlooking the harbor and beach. As we ate our lunch we watched gannets dive bomb the water for fish. There is a Buddhist Abbey on the outskirts of Pleasant Bay and they offer free tours. We were just in time for the 1:30pm tour. Neither of us had ever been in a Buddhist place of worship and knew very little about their beliefs. Our guide was a woman from the USA who had been studying there for the past year. There are ten permanent monastics and ten temporary scholars living at the abbey. The temporary scholars can stay up to three years as they determine whether to take vows and become permanent residents. Our guide explained the basics of their day, meditation and how jobs are divided amongst the residents. There was a feeling of quietness and serenity. We were briefed in the use of various gongs and drums during the service as well as tenets of their beliefs. A very interesting excursion we found unexpectedly.
One of the things we enjoy most about Rving is the varied people we meet. Of course most of them we will never see again but that doesn’t keep us from short but sweet interactions. This was the case with a couple across from our site in Broad Cove. We saw they had a rental RV and were sitting at the picnic table. We asked if they’d like to share our campfire. It turns out they were from Switzerland. Each year they take a trip so they can practice their English. They’d been to the USA several times, western Canada, the United Kingdom, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. Steve and I thought about all the Spanish we’d had in high school. What had we done with that? Nada!
On our fourth try we finally made it all the way (+/- 65 miles) to Cheticamp on the opposite side of the Cabot Trail. This is the French speaking area on Cape Breton. I’d always thought that the Acadians had been in one general area but after my time in Nova Scotia I realize the culture is spread throughout the area. We dined at an Acadian restaurant that was frequented by locals so we knew it must be good. It was. On this day we spotted 5 moose: 1 bull, 2 cows and 2 calves. The bull we saw peeking out of the trees at the roadside. He had a huge rack and was just beautiful. Of course, the camera was still in my case! The others we saw at dusk running across the highway. You need to take those moose crossing signs seriously.
Other days we hiked the Middle Head trail, a bog boardwalk or kayaked near South Harbor. We’d hoped to hike the Skyline trail at sunset but time ran out. We did enjoy the sunset from an overlook just outside Cheticamp. Without a doubt this is one of our very favorite places. We hope you get to experience the Cape Breton Highlands for yourself. It’s as if Skyline/Blue Ridge Parkway was moved to the Outer Banks with sections of the Maine coastline thrown in for special effect. A Bucket List item for sure!