Cabot Trail today! There is a hurricane down in the States right now that is moving north toward Atlantic Canada - hurricane "Austin" - and they are expecting it to hit here on Saturday with strong winds and rain. We decided that it was best to get anything we really want to do, such as the Cabot Trail, out of the way before Saturday hits so that we hopefully have some good weather for it. So it was the Cabot Trail today and we are going to Fort Louisbourg tomorrow.
For anyone who has not heard of the Cabot Trail is a world-renowned drive around the Cape Breton Highlands. There are numerous hiking trails, lookout points, beaches, museums and little villages along the way. The drive itself only takes about 2 hours, but by the time you stop to see all the sights and visit a few little shops along the way it can easily be a day event. If you want to do lots of hiking, you can easily make it a multi-day event too.
The Cabot Trail is renowned for its picturesque views of the highlands and the drops off to the ocean below. The trail winds through the highlands, with so many twists and turns in the road and amazing sights. In many brochures, there is an image of the road winding through the highlands with a big drop off to the ocean; the highlands are to the left of the road and the ocean to the right. Dad likes to be as close to the drop off as possible when driving these kinds of roads - you get the best view being as close to the drop rather than driving along the hill side he figures - so he decided that we were going to drive counter-clockwise around the Cabot Trail. This way, when we got to the scene that you see in all the brochures, we would have the ocean on our right and we would be driving in the lane closer to the drop, facing the same was as in the brochures that we have seen. (The trial is essentially a big loop, so you can drive it clockwise or counter-clockwise easily enough.)
I don't really have a ton to report on our day today other than the views are beautiful! We would drive a little bit and then see a road-side look-out, so we would pull in and admire the view. Then we would drive a few more minutes, and see another look-out, so we would pull into that one, and admire the view from there. And this continued for quite a while - there's a lot of look-out points throughout the drive! We also stopped at a café and bakery a little ways into our drive (us Einarsons are fond of bakeries, but who isn't?) and I had the most delicious Chocolate Crunch pastry. So good!!! For anyone driving the Cabot Trail, stop in at the Clucking Hen Café & Bakery and get one - you won't regret it!
Another stop we made was at the Glass Artisans Studio & Gallery, where they offer free glass blowing and flame working demonstrations. The lady who owns the studio and gallery invites artists from all over to come use her studio spaces, and she then purchases anything that she likes from them to sell in her shop. There were a couple artists in when we stopped by, so we took a break from driving to watch them work and to admire the glass works that the lady had in the gallery. The work was so beautiful and if I had enough money I probably would have bought every single piece (well, almost every piece) in there.
For anyone who remembers their grade 6 history lessons in Manitoba (at least it was grade 6 for me), the name John Cabot (or Giovanni Caboto) might ring a bell. He was the explorer who they claim discovered North America while trying to find a better sailing route from England to China. We stopped to eat lunch at 'Cabots Landing,' where a monument is erected to commemorate this part of our history as they believe it was on this bay that Cabot landed.
After driving for quite a while, we were starting to get a little frustrated because we still hadn't come across the brochure views that you see of the Cabot Trail, which is really what we were dying to see. Mom mentioned that she thought one of the views in the brochures was seen from a hiking trail, though, so we did a bit of reading in some of the brochures we had and figured that it was probably the 'Skyline' trail that the views were on, which was just a little ways from where we were at that point. It said that the trail takes 2 - 3 hours and is just over 9 km long return. At first we weren't going to do the hiking trail, but then we figured we should probably just do it. The trail is a big loop and we didn't do the whole loop but people on the trail told us to stick to the left trail when we got to the fork, so that's what we did. Along the way, we happened to come across a moose - we were probably within 20 feet of it as it grazed on the side of the trail! I have never been that close to a moose in my life and I don't think I will probably ever be again. It must have been a younger bull moose because he wasn't that big, but it was still pretty cool to be that close to one! After snapping some pictures of it, we snuck past it quietly and continued on the hike. After a couple miles of hiking, we reach the end point of the trial and hooray! We found the views we were in search of all day!! The view was gorgeous and my pictures will not do it justice. But holy smokers, was it ever windy up there! I have rarely been in winds that strong, and we were standing on cliffs - that's a moment you hope that you do not blow away! When you get to the point with the incredible view, there is a boardwalk you can talk lower than where you first see the view. Mom didn't come lower because it was so windy and even hard to stand at moments, but Dad and I went to the end. At one point, I was trying to take a panoramic picture (which consists of 3 images) - I snapped the first picture and then the gust of wind that came was so strong I couldn't even take the next picture right away. I had to brace my foot behind me so that I could attempt to stand steady enough to snap the last two pictures. Dad was laughing and said he'd stand behind me to help anchor me since I could sort of lean against him then to be steadier so I could get the pictures! Despite the crazy winds, I'm happy we chose to do this trail because the view was definitely worth it!
Once we returned to the truck from our hike, we finished driving the Cabot Trail and headed back to Whycocomagh Provincial Park to make dinner. Right now, the first annual "Kitchenfest" festival is going on in Cape Breton, which features live local music every evening at numerous venues throughout the island. One of the venues is the Red Shoe Pub in Mabou, which is about a half hour from where we were camping, and we decided to head there later on in the evening to take in some of the local musical culture. Also, the Red Shoe Pub is owned by some of the sisters in the Rankin Family and so we needed to make a stop at some point simply because the Rankins own it! (The Rankin Family was a family musical group that played traditionally Cape Breton music primarily, and if you like that style of music, they were fantastic! Today, though, the band is no longer together but the Rankins do play together every now and then when they are all back in town together. Mabou is where they grew up.) The people performing at the Red Shoe were a few fiddle/piano duos and another guy who sang and played guitar. Eventually, they also started some square and step dancing. What a fun evening! I love that style of music and it was great to sit and listen to the talented people who were performing. Perfect way to wrap up a great day in Cape Breton!