Sunday, October 21, 2018

Hiking New and Old Territory - Cape Perce and Morrison Beach

Quite a few years ago, I hiked a trail in Donkin, Cape Breton.  It was a rather short trail that started near Schooner Pond and went up a hill to reveal a magnificent view of the ocean and nearby cliffs.  What I didn't know at the time was the trail doesn't end at the top of that hill like I thought it did.  I learned years later from fellow hikers that it keeps going to a lovely spot called Cape Perce; a clearing high above the raging waters of the Atlantic, overlooking Flint Island.

Upon realizing that beautiful trail keeps going beyond the spot where I turned around that day many years ago, I picked a day that looked like the weather would stay nice long enough for me to make the two-to-three-hour-long hike.   

The drive from New Waterford to Donkin is about 30 minutes.  I parked on the old wood road running between the beach and the pond and made my way to the trail going up the hill.  The first difference I noticed since the last time I had hiked there was the noise coming from the nearby Donkin Mine which had just started operations a few years earlier.  Thankfully, the seas were high that day and the wind was brisk so the sound of waves crashing ashore and trees rustling in the wind soon drowned out the mechanical sounds coming from the coal mine nearby.   

I soon made it to the top of the hill, the spot where I had turned back the last time.  I continued walking on the fairly decent path that was carved out along the cliffs.  At times, it winded a little closer that I would have liked.  Atone point, I did get down on my belly and stealthily inched toward the edge to peak down to the rocky beach below.  It was quite a drop.  The realization that erosion could very well be occurring at that very spot caused me to quickly back up and keep my distance from the edge for the rest of the trek. 

As I walked, some ships that were headed out to sea followed me along the shore.  A giant cargo ship that looked to be overflowing with cargo and a cruise ship filled with passengers stopping by my fair island for the day.  I always wonder why people come to Cape Breton via cruise ship to only spend a few hours in port when it takes at least a week to see everything the little island has to offer.  How to choose between the Cabot Trail, Baddeck and The Fortress of Louisbourg?  And even if you do manage to see one, you barely have any time to enjoy it before you are shuffled back on board the ship to race to the next port.

The weather started to change as I pressed on.  I had no idea where the trail ended or how long it would take to reach the end.  A light drizzle came and went and the clouds grew darker.  I soon reached a clearing where I could see another clearing across a little cove.  There was what looked like a flag pole at the edge.  I knew that was Cape Perce as I had been told to look for the flag pole at the clearing.  I stopped for a bit to rest and take some pictures and watch some seals bobbing in the waves and cormorants drying their wings on some rocks.  As I looked out to sea, I wondered if Hilton, the tagged great white shark who had pinged this area as his location only a few days earlier, was lurking nearby.  I wondered if those seals knew about Hilton.  I rested for  but while enjoying the view and a cold beer before continuing.

I made it to Cape Perce just as the rain got heavier and the wind shifted.  The blanket wasn't laid out long; only long enough for me to eat the snacks I had packed and take a few pictures.  I had hoped to stay longer but the rain and sudden wind and cold made me decide to head back to the car. Another trail knocked off my list of Cape Breton trails to-do list.

Later that same week, I headed to another one of my favourite area's of the island; Framboise.  I met some friends and hiked Morrison Beach.  I hiked Morrison before but it had been a few years since I was there last.  It's a beautiful, remote, rugged beach.

It takes just over an hour to reach Morrison Beach from my house in New Waterford.  I took my time going through the little coastal communities of Forchu and Gabarus and made my way to the bottom of the gravel road leading to the beach.  I parked and ate my lunch while I waited for my friends to show up.

We walked to the right of the beach first and right to the river where we were unable to cross.  Had it been warmer, I would have found a way across but we turned around instead and walked back.  The weather was quite nice that day; a little cool but warm enough to take my shoes off and even dip them in the ocean at one point.  It takes about two hours to walk the whole beach and back but longer if you stop to take pictures and admire the beauty, which I always do. 

Upon returning to the car, we drove to the bottom of Crooked Lake Road and had some tea and snacks while watching the waves crash onto the beach.  A quick stroll up the hill to get a better view was done quickly only because the mosquitoes were so bad! 

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Summer Goes by Quick when It's a Good One

The weather on Cape Breton Island, where I'm enjoying my staycation this summer, is still quite nice after the prolonged and record-breaking heat wave of mid-July to late August.  Everyone around me complained non-stop about the heat but it didn't stop me.  While many took to spending hot afternoons in air-conditioned malls and supermarkets, I continued to do what I love to do best during the summer months...enjoying summer!  We have long winters and summer is a long time coming when we are in the midst of winter.  When the snow melts and the temperatures rise, I take advantage of every moment I can to get outside and enjoy nature.

I planned to do some traveling this summer with possible trips to Alberta and Iceland but I was having such a good summer here in Cape Breton that I decided to stay put and put the bigger trips on hold until maybe the late fall or perhaps next year.  So far, I've done some new things this year.  I recently purchased a bike rack for the car and took my bike on a journey further away than usual.  I drove to the old rail-bed in the Gardiner where some windmills now take up some space in some woods there.  A road is there now and bikers have been using it. It wasn't very long but it was a very peaceful journey through a wooded area that is surprisingly quiet despite being close to a highway.  I peddled right to the end where the brook is and stopped for a break.

Before the weather turned unbearably hot for hiking, I did get out for one hike along the beaches of Forchu with a few friends.  It was a long hike but the air was cool and a refreshing ocean mist dusted my face for much of the day.  We went so far and reached a raging brook.  After contemplating the tides and weighing the pros and cons, we took our shoes off and crossed.  Not my first choice when dealing with tides but I later found out that the option to take another trail back to the highway was available if it came to that.

As we walked, I noticed some seabirds growing agitated.  Their agitation grew the further we went but I couldn't figure out why. When we walked onto a little rock causeway that led to an island that appears during low tide, the birds became frantic and that's when it occurred to me that there were nests in the area.  Sure enough, I looked only a few feet away from where I stood frozen after my realization.  Three little eggs were nestled into some grass and there were more all over the area.  We quickly and carefully left the area and they stopped following us.

We crossed over the banks of the beach onto the river side and took out a couple of beers to enjoy in the cool breeze.   A relaxing hour of just sitting and staring at the water, sky and trees mixed with a rock-skipping competition and walking-stick-balancing competition.  After the long walk back to the car, a late lunch and hot tea was enjoyed at a look-off in Forchu.  I couldn't believe I had not known of that look-off before but it looked like many people were aware of it; a tattered Cape Breton Flag lay balancing on some rocks and someone had made some little ornaments to line the top of the driveway.

I stuck around home the next evening and took in the fireworks for Coal Dust Days in New Waterford.  I desperately wanted to master the art of photographing fireworks (just one of many things I want to master taking pictures of...lightning, full moons and waterfalls are some others) and I think I finally got it!

More adventures came not long after that lovely hike in Framboise but this time I got to enjoy them with my sister who has not been home from Calgary since the summer of 2016.  A drive to Louisbourg was the first thing she wanted to do after a much-needed rest after her flight.  Of course she wanted to visit all the usual spots around the town; the lighthouse, wharf area and Fortress entrance area to get a view of the stately site.

The next day brought a trip to Nyanza to spend a few hours at the Big Spruce Brewery. I had no idea what to order as I am no expert at craft beer but when I saw someone in line ahead of me order a pink beer, I knew I had to inquire. The Silver Tart, as it's called, is a sour raspberry wheat beer and, as I soon found out, it's delicious.  The skies opened up as we sat under our giant umbrella near the edge of the forest.  But we didn't care while we sipped our refreshing beverages and listened to a talented young man sing and play guitar for us and about a dozen other patrons. On the way home that evening, we stopped in Baddeck to have a look at the boats and yachts in the harbour.  A very large super-yacht took up much of the wharf and had a familiar name on it; Casino Royale.  A google search revealed that it was a charter/rental and it could be mine for $225,000 a week.

The very next day, I had a day trip planned with a friend of mine to go swimming and taking pictures in the western part of the island near Inverness, Margaree and Cheticamp. That morning, the weather forecast didn't look too promising with some rain and possible thunderstorms predicted for that region of the island.  We went anyway.  When we arrived at Margaree Harbour, the clouds looked to be over Cheticamp and slowly heading toward Inverness.  So we headed to Inverness first.  My logic was to beat the rain and get a swim in at Inverness Beach and than by the time we headed back toward Cheticamp, the rain would be headed toward Margaree.  my plan almost worked.

Upon arrival to Inverness Beach, I changed into my swimsuit and raced toward the surf to get a swim in before the sky opened.  I swam for close to an hour before the rain drops started.  I kept swimming.  The raindrops got bigger and bigger and heavier and than, all of a sudden, we were in a monsoon.  I didn't even bother racing back to the car.  There was no chance that I or my belongings would be dry again that day. The good thing was the rain kept going the other way and by the time we made it to Cheticamp, the sun was coming out and the clouds were moving west.  After some picture-taking at Grande Falaise (where I think I finally mastered spider webs), we stopped at Wabo's Pizza for slices and deep-fried cheesecake.  We ate outside since the weather had turned nice again but I didn't realize I didn't have napkins until I was half-way through the messy cheesecake.  My friend had quite the laugh watching me quite literally get the gooey stuff all over me and my face!

That evening turned out much better than expected after the adverse weather of earlier in the day; It turned warm, calm and there was a most spectacular sunset.  The earlier part of the evening was spent with our feet in the water at Chimney Corner, taking pictures of the clear water and rippling sand.  When the flies became too much, we drove ten minutes to Margaree Harbour Beach and took some pictures of the setting sun.

An impromptu trip around the Cabot Trail happened the day before my sister was due to head back out west.  It was a quick trip around but a good one.  We got to take in some views, went on a little hike and I now know where the trail-head to Pollett's Cove is.

This summer was a bit different for me because I stayed closer to home more often than I usually do and that wasn't a bad thing.  Watching a meteor shower at Dominion Beach, following newly-hatched, endangered piping plovers while they got big and learned to fly, enjoying a beer in the evenings on my back step while listening to relaxing music (mostly from the CD I recently bought and love - Buena Vista Social Club - a band from Cuba etc), fireworks, Bayside ice creams, sunsets at the lighthouse....I didn't travel far this summer but it was, no doubt, an eventful one.  I can't say I was bored for a second. 

I always try to make it to Baddeck a few times every summer and this year, I planned my main trip to the pretty village around Festiville Baddeck which is a festival held the first Monday of July and August.  I left home early to get there in time to take a little side trip to Kidston Island where I swam and hiked for a few hours before heading to the main street to check out the vendors and enjoy some live music.  Before heading home, I sat and enjoyed a sample serving of Spruce Beer.

Just as quickly as the hot weather arrived, it turned cold again but only for a few days before the heat made it's return.  Ipersonally loved the hot weather we had.  I spent more time swimming this year than any other because the water was absolutely beautiful.  I haven't been doing as much camping lately as I usually do so when the weather turned hot again, I jumped on the opportunity to book a campsite at my home-away-from-home at Broad Cove Campground near Ingonish.  I've been booking lot 87 for many years (almost 20 now that I think about it!) but this year was the first year it wasn't available.  Someone else had it booked during the dates I wanted.  I booked lot 91 instead.  It looked nice in the pictures online and when I arrived, I was quite pleased with the site.  It was very large, it had enough trees to hang my clothesline and solar lights and there was plenty of grass to put my tent on. I booked two nights and other than a little sprinkle of rain the first day, the weather was fantastic.  I didn't do a whole lot of hiking or swimming; my intention for that trip was to relax.  I spent a lot of time walking the beaches, watching the sunset at The Point with my evening coffee from the Bean Barn, reading under candlelight and enjoying a beer in the evenings while watching the night sky. 

When the muggy, hot days turned cold, I had a hard time adjusting as I must have been used to the extreme heat.  Dominion Beach turned bad too for a few days.  Lots of seaweed, crabs and even lobsters crawling around in shallow water.  I thought swimming was done for the season but than, just like that, it cleared up and the beach was back better than it was before.  The beach was quite crowded right up to the day before the local newspaper ran an article about how a tagged Great White Shark named "Hilton" was spotted not far off the coast of Point Michaud.  The very next day, the beach was deserted. This did not deter me from continuing to swim very day until the third week of September.  

Every Labour Day weekend I head to Margaree.  Actually, it's Cap Lemoine but I call it Margaree because it's close enough.  This Labour Day weekend was no exception.  I packed up my car and headed to the Western part of the island hoping for sunshine and warm enough weather to get a late season swim in. That first day was perfect.  Warm air plus warm water at Chimney Corner and Inverness Beach meant I got a lot of swimming in that afternoon.  That evening, I enjoyed supper at a new-to-me restaurant in Cheticamp.  The restaurant has been there for years but because the word "seafood" is in the title, I never gave it a second look.  Seafood Stop is situated right before you enter the main part of the town.  It's fairly small but nice inside.  I was anxious to see the menu because I wasn't sure what I would order if only seafood dishes were available.  Fortunately, there were many non-fish options available.  I played it healthy and ordered a Caesar salad and garlic bread.  It was delicious.  I had no idea what I was missing all these years .  The only complaint I had was it was too cold because the air-conditioning was on high despite it being cool outside that evening.

The next day, supper was had at a more familiar place; Wabo's.  I had my usual, the Lasagna.  However, I skipped the deep-fried cheesecake.  It's something I try to only have once a year at most.  I was awake very early the next morning to drive my friend to catch a bus to Halifax.  An early-morning stop at the Dancing Goat was part of that early-morning journey.  I stopped in Baddeck for breakfast and a short walk around the pretty little town before heading home. 

I camped during the first week of September (and froze) and again the second week (which was surprisingly warmer).  I camped in Baddeck with a friend in her pop-up trailer.  We chose Baddeck Cabot Trail Campground.  I stayed there at as child when it was the KOA.  I don't remember what it was like back than but it's pretty nice now!  Heated pool, a cozy lodge and grassy lots.  I enjoyed my first campfire of the season that night and I was also was spooked by a large animal as I walked in a wooded area after dark.  Not sure what it was.  Left the area quickly before I could find out. 

The very next week, I got another night of camping in.  I love sleeping in a tent and try to do so as much as possible when the weather allows.  This time, I roughed it in a remote area of Richmond County instead of staying on a campground.  My dad and I had been planning a trip like this for a while and finally got it together this year and set up camp at the bottom of Ferguson Road near Framboise.  It was a the perfect spot right on the beach surrounded by rugged coastline and forest.  After a couple of beer around a campfire, I stared at the night sky filled with stars and fell asleep to the sound of waves pounding ashore and coyotes howling nearby.  Despite it being late in the season, the temperature was just right; not too hot nor too cold.  A long hike along Ferguson Beach and a trip to St. Peter's for coffee and sightseeing completed the trip.

Summer is now gone for another year.  Swimming and camping season may be ending but hiking, biking and kayaking season is in full force!

Monday, September 24, 2018

Onto Bonavista and Twillingate...Searching for Moose and Icebergs

It was an early morning wake-up the day I started my road trip to Twillingate.  I took a little detour through CBS (Conception Bay South for those of you are not familiar with the local lingo) instead of heading straight for the Trans Canada Highway.  I stopped for a coffee and some breakfast at the Tim Horton's in Paradise and parked at Topsail Beach to eat it and enjoy the view.

To say signage is lacking in many areas of Newfoundland is a slight understatement.  Getting turned around at least once on the trip was expected.  I drove and drove on a highway that I thought was the TCH for miles before seeing a sign that confirmed that I was in fact on the right track. 

I didn't plan on going to Bonavista but, at the last minute, I heard there was some icebergs in the area.  I expected there to be icebergs in Twillingate as the town is known for its spectacular iceberg sightings.  However, I heard nothing about sightings there so I took a detour to Bonavista to see what might be the only iceberg on my trip.  At Clarenville, I left the TCH and followed the signs to Bonavista only to reach a closed road.  Well, that was unexpected.  I backtracked, got lost and had to stop for directions.  The lady I spoke with made a face that told me I was not the first one to come upon this roadblock that day.  Like I said, poor signage.  She gave me an alternate route and I was on my way.

It took a little longer than expected to reach Bonavista.  I drove for a little over an hour when the thought crossed my mind that I should turn around and head back because at this rate, I would be reaching Twillingate at nightfall.  But I kept driving...and driving.  I figured if I drove that far, I might as well keep going and hopefully there would be some icebergs so the extra side trip would be worth it even if I have to drive in moose country at night.

Finally, I made it to the lovely little town of Bonavista.  I didn't have a lot of extra time so I drove straight toward the harbor and lighthouse in search of icebergs.  I did fine one very small one.  All icebergs are impressive but after witnessing some very impressive ones near St. John's over the years, this one didn't really do much for me.  I took a short cut through a gravel road (I saw this gravel road, had no idea where it went, drove down it anyway out of curiosity and it ended up being a shortcut back to the main road), met some friendly horses along the way and stopped at a Robins Donuts to grab a coffee and inquire about icebergs in the area and to get directions to a place called Amherst Cove where there supposedly was an impressive iceberg attracting visitors.

I only had to drive for about five minutes before passing the sight indicating I found Amherst Cove.  Another few minutes later, the bay came into view and a quick scan  revealed what looked like three icebergs.  I found out later that it was actually one iceberg that first appeared in the bay with an arch going from one point to another but the arch had melted and because much of the berg is submerged under water, it looks like three separate ones. I admired that massive, ancient chink of ice, took some pictures and went on my way.  By this point, I was way off schedule.  But it didn't matter because the iceberg made it all worth while.

I backtracked to the main highway and took the same way back to the TCH despite knowing that there was an alternate scenic route that I was heard was worth taking.  My reason for going back the same way?  It may not be what I would normally do when the opportunity is there to take another route, but the late hour, the pothole-ridden roads, the unpredictable weather and the fact that I had a room booked at a hostel in Twillingate all contributed to my decision to drive through the exact same scenery I had already seen only a couple of hours before.

I don't usually speed (mostly because I'm too cheap to pay for a ticket) but even while doing ten over, everyone was blowing by me.  I stepped it up just a little...well like 30 klicks more just to keep up with everyone and make up time.  My logic was the person in front of me speeding would be pulled over first.  I don't know if that is the way it works or not.  I blew through Terra Nova National Park hoping all the way through that a moose wouldn't step out in front of me.

By the time I reached the turn off in Gander, the sun was starting to set.  I wanted to keep driving so I would arrive before nightfall but I was too starved to drive anymore.  I grabbed some take out at a truck stop and quickly ate it in the parking lot and was off again.  I has asked someone how much longer to Twillingate and she responded with the usual "oh not that long".  I lived in Newfoundland long enough to know what this meant; not that long usually means long by most standards.  Islanders are used to traveling back and forth between Gander and Clarenville and Gander and Stephenville and St. John's to Corner Brook.  Long drives by most mainlanders' standards.  Just a routine drive for most Newfoundlanders.

I started out on the secondary highway 340 (also known as Road to the Isles) and drove...and drove...and drove.  I drove until I reached the point where "oh not that long" was long past.  I stopped at another service station and was told it would be another hour before I reached Twillingate.  Lovely.  I had already been on that highway almost an hour.  It was like I entered some kind black hole or alternate dimension.  It took everyone else "not that long" to get there.  But me?  It felt like I just kept driving and driving on this never-ending highway.  I knew Twillingate was a coastal village but the ocean was nowhere in sight!

Finally, I passed a sign welcoming me to the town of Twillingate and than drove for another twenty minutes until I actually reached what looked like the coastal town I had seen in pictures.  I didn't have any trouble finding my home for the night, Hi-Tides Hostel.  It was right on the main road.  I parked and checked in so I could drop my belongings off and head out to take some pictures before darkness fell and those dark clouds that were moving in opened up.

Walking through the back door of the hostel felt like walking into an old friends home.  Shoes of guests who had already arrived lined against the wall, soft lighting over a kitchen where two guests prepared a late evening snack.  The sound of an acoustic guitar being played in a cozy living area where some young backpackers from across country were hosting an impromptu jam session.  The room where I would be sleeping was dark and quiet with four bunks.  After a brief introduction to the four ladies sharing the room with me, I unpacked some things and tossed them in a locker and headed out with my camera.  It was a good thing I also brought my rain jacket because only seconds after I managed to capture a few lovely shots of the harbour, the sky opened up.  I found myself trapped in a gazebo for about twenty minutes waiting for the worse of it to pass.  It was nice though.  A beautiful scene before me, the sounds of rain drops above me and not a soul around to bother me.

Despite sharing a room with 3 other people, I slept like a baby.  The three other women in the room were quiet and I got to know them a bit better the next morning at breakfast.   All were travelers passing through Newfoundland on cross-country journeys.  I always take an interest in these people making these cross-country journeys.  I've met a lot of them over the years.  They always seem to start the journey in Newfoundland and I meet them onboard one of the ferries or while hiking the East Coast Trail.  I envy those making this journey as it is one I've been wanting to make since I can remember.  I know I will do it one day.

I awoke early that Sunday and realized it was Sunday.  How did I realize it was Sunday?  Everything was closed, including that lovely cafe up the street that I was wanting to visit. I drove around and found another quaint-looking cafe with a "CLOSED" sign on the door.  Breakfast ended up being a muffin and cheese sticks from a local gas station.  I headed towards St. John's but took my time going back.  I noticed some photo-worthy scenes on the way to Twillingate but I was in such a hurry to get to the hostel that I didn't have time to stop.

By early afternoon, I was back on the noisy Trans Canada Highway.  I didn't see any moose on the way back despite everyone telling me they are everywhere this year. For some strange reason, I was drawn to a sign pointing to a place called Arnold's Cove just outside Clarenville.  I turned off onto the off-ramp and found myself in a picturesque little outport village.  Sometimes it's worth it to take a random off-ramp once and a while.  This was one of those times. 

I arrived in St. John's in the early evening and checked into the Abba Inn on Queens Rd.  With everything in order for the evening, I drove around looking for something to eat until I happened upon an open Pizza Shop.  I paid a little more than I normally would for a personal size pizza (17 dollars seems a bit much for a very small veggie pizza), but it was quite delicious.  I ate it on top of Signal Hill overlooking that magnificent view of St. John's.  I stayed there until that magnificent view went from a golden, sun-soaked downtown skyline to one drenched in darkness and street lights.  Both equally magnificent in their own way. 

Sunday, September 16, 2018

A Long Overdue Return to The Rock

It seems like it was only yesterday that I boarded the ferry to Newfoundland and spent a week visiting old friends and driving around in that pretty blue mustang convertible the rental company so generously allowed me to drive.  It only recently hit me that that trip was actually five years ago.  I always told myself that after I moved away from Newfoundland, I would go back for a visit at least once every two years.  I guess I lost track of time.

Upon realizing that I broke my own promise to myself, I decided that I would return to The Rock in 2018.  After ironing out some issues (such as when the best time to go would be in relation to work/life/weather and what to do with my big sooky-baby of a cat who doesn't like his mom taking vacations), I came to the conclusion that the best time to go would be the first week in June.  This is usually the best time to see the massive icebergs that make an appearance every spring. 

The only problem with the first week of June was the ferry that I usually take from North Sydney to Argentia wasn't due to start running until late June.  The other ferry from Port aux Basques was running but I would have to drive 12 hours across the island to St. John's and there are no rental car places in the little village.  So I flew, something I only did once in all my years traveling back and forth between the two provinces.  I was disappointed about this.  As much as I like to complain about the ferry service between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, I also have fond memories of crossing the gulf.  The people I met, the stories I heard, the storms, the delays the memories made (good and bad and funny now) on those crossings are something I hold dear to my heart.  I've always had a love/hate relationship with Marine Atlantic and those sometimes rough crossings that saw me so seasick that, at times, I was unable to walk.  Flying meant avoiding all those hateful things about the ferry but also forgoing a traditional part of that journey.

I always book my flights with Westjet when possible and this time, it was possible.  I boarded in Sydney, landed in Halifax and boarded again for the last leg of the trip to St. John's.  Besides a bit of turbulence, the flight was uneventful.  Actually, it was quite good.  On the first leg, I had a row all to myself and on the second leg, I was seated in the very front row (which I think is a higher class of seating on West Jet planes) with tons of leg room.

Because I didn't check any baggage, I walked off the plane and marched straight to the budget rental car kiosk to pick up my rental.  It didn't take long to sign the paperwork and get the keys to my small economy car.  I arrived at the rental parking area to discover that my small economy car was actually a giant, white Dodge Grand Caravan.  A gas guzzler.  I sat in it for a few minutes contemplating what to do.  After imagining myself trying to maneuver that thing through the steep, narrow streets of St. John's and having to stop every hour to fill it up with gas, I decided to make my way back to the desk in search of the car I booked.  It took some convincing.  My argument of having booked and confirmed an economy car sent the booking agent in search of something that she first said wouldn't be available until the next morning.  I stood my ground and told her that was not acceptable.  Within thirty seconds, a smaller (but still slightly gas guzzling) Chevy Impala was suddenly available.  I think she sensed a confrontation brewing and just gave in.  I will say though, it was a very nice car.

If you have ever driven around the city of St. John's, you know it's not the easiest city to get around.  Lots of narrow, one-way streets and roundabouts that cause you to be hopelessly lost if you miss your turn-off.  Missing a turn-off usually means going around in circles and getting more lost while you try to find where you are supposed to be.  The new roundabout that I hit immediately upon leaving the airport did just that to me.  I eventually spotted some familiar landmarks and made my way downtown to find some food and coffee.  I settled on a bagel with cream cheese and small coffee at the Tim Horton's on Harvey Road just around the corner from my old apartment.  I noticed the landlord is finally doing repairs on the deathtrap of an outdoor staircase leading up to that apartment.  Only took him 15 years.  I drove to Topsail Beach, which was one of my favourite places to go when I lived in St. John's.  I ended up driving further than that while I enjoyed my coffee and tested the Impala.  By the time I returned to the city, I needed to stretch my legs so I drove down to Quidi Vidi Lake and walked around it just like I did every morning in years past.

I moved away from the city in 2011 and have taken up residence in a quieter, smaller, more remote area with little traffic.  Traffic moves quite slow and no one is in a hurry to get anywhere.  During my travels that day, I realized that I've become used to a slower pace of life as cars passed me with horns blaring and middle fingers flying.  I was consistently doing between 10 and 20 km's over the limit while cars blew by me.  Not a cop in site.  Doing 30 over the limit back home would net me a stunting fine of about 2400 bucks.  In St. John's, doing 30 or 40 over the limit on city streets is considered slow.

By the time I reached my friend's house where I would be staying the next few nights, I was exhausted.  After catching up after five years apart and watching some TV, we both turned in for the night.  Him to prepare for work the next day, me to prepare for more exploring and visiting old haunts.

I awoke early and headed out to do much of the same I did the day before.  I visited all of my old favourite places.  I went for my morning walk and than grabbed my morning coffee and drank it at one of my favourite places, Cuckold's Cove near Quidi Vidi Village.  Portugal Cove, Middle Cove, Torbay, Flat Rock, Fort Amherst, Cape Spear and Petty Harbour were among my stops over those 3 days.  One evening, just before sunset, I made the last minute decision to hike partially around Signal Hill and I was glad I did.  It was cool but just right for a refreshing hike.  I ventured downtown to Water St. and Duckworth and checked out another one of my old neighborhoods.  Surprisingly, not much changed in this area of the city.  It's the old area, the area with the colorful row houses you see on postcards and tourism commercials.  I love that neighborhood and I'm happy to see that it never really changes. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Summer so far....

About a month ago to the day, I was wondering if we would even get a summer here on the East Coast of Canada.  Into the first week of July, it was still cold, foggy, rainy and even snowy in higher elevations.  Now?  Well, let's just say things changed completely around and we have been in the midst of a major heat wave.  In fact, I just heard today, that we basically shattered all weather-related records for highest temperature and longest stretch of extreme temperatures.  The temperature today was 30 degrees Celsius and 39 with the humidity - that is almost unheard of in this part of the world and it's been like this for weeks now!  I'm quite sensitive to the sun (not so much the heat and humidity as long as I'm out of the sun) so I've been staying indoors a lot more than I usually would.  My walking/biking workouts take place much earlier in the morning before the heat peaks and when I am not hunkered down in my cool-ish apartment, I am at Dominion Beach swimming and sipping on a cold beer in the shade.

All in all, summer has been going great for me.  While everyone else complains about the heat, I make the most of it.  I recently acquired a new toy - a canon DSLR camera with interchangeable lenses and all that fun stuff so I've been busy trying to master it.  I did a lot of the usual summer things too.  I ventured out to Rendell's Farm in Bras d'Or and picked some strawberries so I could skimp on groceries, save some money and eat nothing but strawberry shortcakes for two weeks.  I also spent a week in Newfoundland and the Canada Day long weekend in Margaree with fireworks, beaches and hiking.  Of course, Canada Day itself was spent at the Fortress of Louisbourg as it has been for the last 6 or 7 years.  I've been on a few hikes in the Framboise area too. Last weekend, I spent the day roaming the Cheticamp/Margaree/Inverness area beach-hopping, swimming and getting to know my camera better. Ive also been following a family of endangered piping plovers at the beach near my house.  They are flying now but I first spotted them only hours after they hatched. 

As for the final leg of summer?  Hoping to get some kayaking and camping in before the cold weather returns.  Hiking can wait until the fall and swimming will take its place until than.  I hope you all are enjoying summer (or winter depending on where in the world you are I suppose!) and please stay tuned for more posts about my adventures around Cape Breton and hopefully Alberta if I get to go there as planned later in the fall.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Hiking and Searching for Wildlife on Remote Ferguson Beach

As a child, my parents took me and my sisters exploring all over Cape Breton Island and over the years, we each developed a love for your own special place.  My special place was Ingonish and throughout my teen years when I first learned how to drive right up to the present, it is still my favorite place in the whole wide world.  My home away from home.  My escape.

One of the places my parents often took me as a child was an area in Richmond County along the Southern part of the island known as Framboise.  We had a summer home there and dad loved to fish and hunt in the area.  I loved it there.  Remote, rugged beaches, wild country back roads.  But it didn't draw me in like The Highlands around Ingonish did. Up there I had the sandy beaches, mountains, the windy roads of the Cabot Trail and, in my younger days, the opportunity to mingle and party with tourists from all over the world. Ingonish is a favourite escape for young people in Cape Breton.  Beach parties, barbecues and epic road trips filled the lazy summer days of my youth.

Since I moved back home from away, I've been doing a lot of hiking with my father and since his favourite part of the island is Framboise, we naturally end up doing a lot of our hiking in that area.  Now, while I still love the Highlands, I am growing quite fond of this other area too.  One area we visited quite a bit this winter is Ferguson Beach, mainly because it's the only road in that area that stays decently-well-maintained throughout the year.  We drive down the long dirt road, park at the top by the beach and walk to the left as far as we can go.  Some days we can go quite far if the river is not overflowing while other days we have to turn back.  We don't go right back to the car though; we keep going to the right of the beach and around the other side and up around an old summer home and onto and old wood road that leads back to the main road where the car is.  One particular hike on this beach a few weeks back yielded something that is not often seen around here anymore.

Dad likes to reminisce about the good ol' days when the deer were plentiful and every hunting season saw him get at least one deer.  The freezer would be full of deer meat all winter.  I remember driving through town on Friday and Saturday evenings and seeing the men who spent their days off hunting in the remote areas of the island parading their kill on the roof of their cars.  Over the years, the deer population declined dramatically and no one could figure out why.  Was it the booming population of coyotes?  Was it illegal hunting? 

As we were hiking along the path above the beach, Dad spotted something moving in the patch of trees close to the river.  As we watched the brown figure, it started to move some more and that's when we realized we were looking at a deer.  In fact, there wasn't just one deer.  A look through the binoculars conformed that there were six of them munching away on some grass.  We inched closer to them so we could get a better look.  The wind was blowing in just the right direction to send our scent away from them but as we quietly and stealthily got closer, an ear flicked and all heads went up.  They knew something was around and they started to grow agitated.  We got close enough to get some pictures and off in another corner of that little field, Dad spotted more movement.  Three more deer to make six total.  I managed to get several pictures before the white tails went up and they took off running into the forest.

We continued walking in the direction that they ran but were forced to turn back when we reached the river and there was nowhere else to go but back the way we came.  I thought maybe the deer had made it onto the ice and might be crossing to the other side but a quick scan of the horizon revealed nothing.  When the car came into view again, I thought our walk was done until dad suggested we keep going along the other side of the beach .  In the sandy area, I noticed some fresh and rather large coyote prints.  We may have seen a handful of deer (which is the most either one of us had seen in many years) but this was a sure sign that the coyotes are still around too.

We walked for quite a while and walked even more when we spotted something on the beach up ahead.  It didn't like it was moving until we got closer.  Wanting to see what it was, we inched even closer and realized it was another deer...and another...and another.  When they caught our scent, they bolted and we are able to count seven deer.  That brought the total up to 13 deer in one day.  A record for me.  The most my dad has seen in one day in decades.   Perhaps this is proof that the deer are coming back.

We circled back around to the car and, as per usual, we ate lunch at L'Archeveque, drove around on some of the back roads for a while and headed toward St. Peter's for coffee before heading home along route 4.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

It's Been a While.....

Yes I know it's been a while...months in fact.  I was called back to work back in September and have been flat-out busy since.  I know, I know.....enough with the excuses.  All that matters is that I'm still around and still posting.  I just took an extended break.  I also didn't really have much to post lately as I have not been going many places or doing much due to having to work full time.  One thing I do look forward to in the winter is getting outdoors on those rare, nice days especially if an outing includes some snowshoeing! 

I was a bit late getting out this year for my first snowshoe hike.  The first weekend in January was the first full weekend I had off work since November as I've been diving into the optional overtime again.  Might as well take the hours and the money when you can, right?  Anyway, we received a little more than a light dusting of snow that weekend and Saturday morning the temperatures were just above zero and the sun was shining. I didn't want to travel too far on my first run of the year so I opted to try out a trail near my house that I had never hiked in winter before. 
I grew up in Lingan and played near this trail as a child and hiked it in the warmer months many times since.  The area has changed over the years.  The old house that was there is long gone and the one that replaced it has since been torn down and the land sold to Nova Scotia Power who have a power generating station nearby.  A windfarm with several windmills has gone up in the last dozen years.  Other than these few changes, the trail is still intact and it's still a beautiful area to spend some time outdoors.   

That particular weekend was much anticipated and I planned in advance that I would spend the majority of it outdoors no matter what the weather was like.  Fortunately, it turned out to be quite nice both days.  On Saturday morning, I called my dad, who also loves the outdoors and has recently taken up snowshoeing, and headed to Lingan.  It's only five minutes away so it wasn't a big adventure like I usually write about; the adventure would be seeing the area under a blanket of freshly fallen snow for the first time.

There were no cars in the parking area.  A good sign.  I like the trails to myself and when it comes to snowshoeing, I like to be the first one to break in the fresh snow.  And I was the first one that day because the only tracks on that trail were those of some bunny rabbits who must have been hopping around looking for food the night before.  Perfect!  We slipped on our snowshoes and bundled up and set out towards the narrow path that led to the windmills and the ocean.  The snow was perfect in every way.  Untouched by the dirt of the nearby road and untouched by anyone or anything except those bunnies and some squirrels who must have been munching on the bushes as their crumbs were scattered in little piles in various places.  We came to spot that I instantly fell in love with; a perfectly sheltered place inside the low branches of a spruce tree.  Protected from the wind and almost warm enough to lay down and take a nap. 

I had no idea how long it would take to reach the clearing by the ocean since it had been a while since I took that trail and I was usually walking, not snowshoeing.  We continued along, stopping from time to time to relax while enjoy the pristine, white surroundings and the sounds of birds and wind gently rustling the trees.  I didn't need to bundle up as much as I did because I quickly became overheated and had to remove some layers.  It took about 40 minutes to reach the clearing where the wind turbines were.  As we exited the thick forested, the terrain and sounds changed.  All of a sudden, the wind picked up, the temperature dropped and my layers went back on.  The calm rustling of trees was replaced by the raging Atlantic ocean smashing into the cliffs.  The blades of the windmills made a loud whooshing sound as they turned in the breeze.  The scenery was now that of  a large clearing ending where the Atlantic Ocean started.  The old barracks stood on the edge of the cliff, long abandoned by its original tenants but still used by partying teenagers judging by the broken beer bottles and graffiti spray painted all over the inside and outside.  As I stared out over the ocean, watching a large cargo ship go by, I spotted something odd in my peripheral vision; one of the windmills looked to be swaying dangerously in the wind.  None of the other ones looked to be swaying like this so I don't think it was my eyes playing tricks on me.  All I could think about was the fact that three of these massive things have fallen over in the last couple of years.  Perhaps that is why there are warning signs up in the area.  

We headed back the same way we came but reached the car sooner than anticipated.  We didn't stop for as many breaks and photo ops as we did going in so it only took half as long going back.  The whole hike took about two hours total.  I enjoyed it so much, I went back and did it again the next morning!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

My Cape Breton Bucket List

I've noticed that some of my fellow Cape Breton bloggers recently came out with some Cape Breton Island bucket lists.  Years ago, when I was young and naive and took what I had in my backyard for granted, I would never have thought of creating a Cape Breton Bucket List.  My bucket list was  made up of exotic places far, far away.  Now Cape Breton is considered one of those exotic places of the world and people from all over have added it to their bucket lists.  Imagine.  That little island tucked away at the far end of the continent where I had my quiet upbringing a top world attraction.   Years ago, I wouldn't have thought there would be enough things to see and do on this island to make any kind of list let alone a bucket list, my wanderings and explorations of my little island home have made me think twice.  This little gem has more to offer than any other place I can think of and the world is starting to catch on.  2016 was a record-breaking tourist season for the island and 2017 is shaping out to be much of the same.  So here is my list of must-see places in Cape Breton for those of you who are planning to visit or you locals who need some inspiration on new things to see and do this summer.  I consider myself an expert on all things Cape Breton so perhaps this can be your go-to list of things you must do in Cape Breton or at least inspiration to get out there and explore this beautiful little island.  Here is my list of favourite beaches, restaurants, trails, attractions and experiences around my fair isle.

The Skyline Trail
If you can only do one hiking trail on your entire trip to Cape Breton, let it be the Skyline Trail.  I'm not saying this is the best trail on the island because there are many great trails that aren't listed in the guidebooks and are not well-known to many people.  What I am saying is this trail is one of the best and that is because it incorporates everything one could want in a hike.  Scenery, wildlife and easy terrain that almost anyone can hike.  I've seen moose nearly every time I've hiked this trail and I've hiked it a lot.  The views at the end of the trail are spectacular.  I know that sounds cliche but you gotta believe me...This is where the mountains literally meet the sea and sometimes, as an added bonus, bald eagles are soaring above and whales can be seen close to the shore below.

Whale Cove Beach
Not only is Whale Cove, in my opinion, one of Cape Breton's nicest beaches, it is also home to one of my favourite spots on the island.  First, let me tell you about the beach itself.  Soft, light sand. Clear, usually calm, relatively shallow waters mostly free of rocks, seaweed and other debris.  It's not a long beach but it's rarely crowded.  Mid-way down the beach, there is a walking trail that lead to the top of a hill.  At the top of this hill is a big field on top of a high cliff with some of the best views around.

Coastal Restaurant
Featured on the TV show You Gotta Eat Here a few years back, Coastal Restaurant is one of my favourite restaurants on the Island and has been since I can remember.  They serve great food with a wide variety of items to choose from (even vegetarians can find many things to eat!  I know because I am one!) and the service is friendly and fast.  The place has a nice atmosphere too and you can enjoy your meal while also enjoying some live, local talent on certain nights of the week.

Inverness Beach at Sunset
Not that Inverness Beach is not Fabulous all the's just at it's most spectacular when the sun is disappearing over the horizon.  The west coast of Cape Breton is known for it's beautiful sunsets.  Combine one of these sunsets with the beautiful, long, sandy beach in Inverness and you get a summer evening that is second to none.  I've been to the Caribbean many times and yes they have nice sunsets but the ones at Inverness Beach even beat them.  

MaryAnne Falls
I love all waterfalls but Maryanne Falls near Ingonish are my favourite.  Not only are they a pretty sight, there are two beautiful pools at the bottom of each falls that are deep enough to jump into from the nearby rocks and the water is clean and refreshing for swimming.  I also love to walk along the river and the little trail that goes above the falls to get a beautiful view of the entire area. 

Kidston Island
From the boardwalk in Baddeck, I often seen people roaming this little island and wondered how they got there.  I recently discovered that there is a little shuttle boat run by The Baddeck Lion's Club that takes passengers back and forth from the wharfs in Baddeck to the island.  I went one day last year and finally got to see what I was missing.  Strangely enough, I think I was the only one of the island at that time so I felt like a real castaway.  A little building with bathrooms and picnic tables stands near the shore and some signs guided me to a walking trail.  I walked all around the little island and went right up to the iconic lighthouse and than sat on the beach for a couple of hours with a book.  Now I know where to go if I want to escape the crowds in Baddeck!

Sqeaker's Hole
Although this is a marked trail at Black Brook Beach in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park  I rarely see many people hiking there...and I don't know why!  I love this trail.  It's not very long, it's fairly easy and there are several different ways to go that all bring you somewhere different.  One trail takes you to the little waterfalls above the beach (and yes you can wade into the little pool at the bottom of the falls too!), another trail takes you to the bottom of Squeaker's Hole and another one takes you to the top where there are beautiful ocean views and tons of great spots to sit on the rocks and relax and enjoy the beautiful ocean views.  

Ferguson Beach
I'm a little iffy about sharing this one because not many people know about it and I kinda want to keep it all to myself!  Chances are if you go looking for it, you won't find it anyway as it is not well-marked and the road is not for the faint at heart.  If you like remote beaches where you can walk for miles and not see a soul for days than than perhaps the benefits outweigh the risks.  Once there, you can walk to the left or right on the beach or on the trail above the beach in either direction.  If you are the adventurous type, you can keep going and going and going and when you reach a river or stream, you may just want to find a way across so you can see what's around the next bend.  The last time I was there, I saw a herd of deer in a field and seals are regular visitors.

The Carrot Cake at the Bean Barn Cafe
The Bean Barn Cafe in Ingonish is always the first and last stop of the day for me whenever I am in Ingonish.  Before anything else, I grab a coffee to go and head over to Ingonish Beach to drink it while enjoy my favourite view on the island - Cape Smokey Mountain.  When I make the last stop of the day, it is to sit inside the cozy little cafe with my laptop to catch up on emails and enjoy some more coffee with a giant piece of their delicious, homemade carrot cake.  It is, in my opinion and the opinion of many others I introduced this cake to, the best carrot cake on the island...and I've eaten carrot cake in many places.

North River Falls
By far one of my most memorable hikes to date.  The trail is long (about 19 km's return), rugged and not well-maintained at times.  But it's all worth it when you reach the falls which are the tallest in Nova Scotia.  Because the trail is so long and rugged, the odds that someone else will be there at the same time as you are slim so you will most likely have the falls all to yourself!

Glace Bay Miner's Museum
This is one of the most interesting, interactive museums in Cape Breton in my opinion.  Not only do you get to see a number of exhibits outlining the history and culture of coal mining on the island (the biggest industry at one time), you even get to tour a real mine and actually go underground with a retired miner and hear both funny and heartbreaking stories from years gone by,  If you are lucky, you may even be there on one of the days when the famed Men of Deeps are practicing for one of their upcoming concerts which take place at the museum throughout the summer and fall.

Celtic Colours International Festival
Cape Breton's top music and cultural festival but also one of Canada's top festivals.  People from all over the world travel to the island each fall to enjoy world-class entertainment that just happens to coincide with another popular fall event in Cape Breton...colourful fall foliage.  This is one of my favorite times of the year and I make sure to leave my schedule free for the entire duration of the festival so I can take in as many events as possible. While the festival is mostly known for it's concerts featuring local and international talent, the festival also hosts art exhibits, guided hikes, storytelling events, community meals and other cultural events all over the island.

The Yellow Cello Cafe
This little cafe/restaurant in Baddeck is another favourite of mine.  My mother and I started going there for dinner on summer weekends when I was still in high school.  I still go there every chance I get and it's one of the places I always take visitors who are visiting from away.  The menu is extensive, the service is friendly, the atmosphere is lively (there is often live music during the evening mealtime) and the food is delicious and plentiful.

Black Brook Beach
Another one of my favourite beaches in the Ingonish area of Cape Breton.   Most of the time, I like to just relax on the beach and have a nice relaxing swim in calm waters but sometimes, I like waves too.  Some of the best waves around are at Black Brook and you can also enjoy hiking trails, a waterfall, a freshwater lake and a picnic area nearby

The Wraps at Downtown Nutrition
Downtown Nutrition has been around for a while but I only recently discovered it.  I was looking for somewhere to get a good veggie wrap in Cape Breton and a friend suggested I try the ones at Downtown Nutrition and they are, in my opinion, the best wraps around.  My favourite is the Mediterranean Wrap.

Hiking around Freshwater Lake and/or Warren Lake at Night
Yes I am mentioning two hikes in one paragraph.  I've done both of these hikes at night but hiking around either one of these lakes at night (especially during a full moon!) is quite the experience.  For one, they are both located in a national park, The Cape Breton Highlands.  If you've ever had the opportunity to spend time in a national park, you know how wild, quiet, pristine and untouched the area is.  Imagine hiking around a beautiful lake in a place where there is no traffic, hardly any people, no buildings and no noise except the nearby call of a loon or howl of a coyote.  Just make sure you take someone with you or at least have a stick or bear spray as the critters (the type that may eat you if they are hungry) tend to come out at night.

The Fortress of Louisbourg
 I visit the Fortress at least once a year.  Why?  Because I love to take a trip back to the 18th century every once and a while.  With an 18th century-inspired restaurant and bakery on-site, "residents" in period costumes acting out the roles they would have had over 200 years ago and grounds that were the site of historic battles, there's no better place in North America to get a true feeling of what life was like under those conditions.

Chimney Corner Beach
A recent find but a good one.  Chimney Corner Beach is currently my favourite beach for ocean swimming.  Never over-crowded, nice scenery, rarely any jelly fish, little seaweed, sandy, warm and hardly any rocks...what more could you want in a beach.

Strolling the streets of Baddeck in the evening
I love Baddeck at all times of the day but it's the evening I love most.  The water is at it's calmest, the main street the main street is at it's liveliest, live music can be heard coming from the yacht club near the wharves and the little boardwalk along the shores of the Bras d'Or Lakes is the perfect place to sit and watch the boats coming and going on warm summer evenings. 

Wabo's Pizza Cheticamp
Wabo's doesn't only sell pizza.  A full menu of salads, pastas and pretty much everything you can imagine is available at the restaurant at the back of the property.  However, it's not just the main courses that draw me in. Wabo's is, as far as I know, one of the only places around that sells deep fried cheesecake...and yes that's as delicious as it sounds.  Bonus: The restaurant is located right on the boardwalk which is a great place to watch the sunset after dinner.

Watch the Sun Set/Moon Rise at Ingonish Beach
In my opinion, the best place on Cape Breton Island to watch the sun set and moon rise within the same hour is the lifeguard chair at Ingonish Beach.  That is if no one else claimed it first.  However, anywhere on Ingonish Beach is a great place to sit and watch the night sky.

Cape Clear
I first heard about Cape Clear about ten years ago but wasn't able to find out any information about it because, until recently, it was a well-guarded secret for the few who did know about it.  In recent years, it has gained popularity and now pretty much everyone on the island has at least an idea where it is.  My dad and I went searching for it about 5 years ago and found it after quite a few days of looking.  Was it worth the effort.  You bet it was.   Access is via The Highland Road at Hunter's Mountain near Margaree.  The scenery, which includes an aerial view of the northeast Margaree River Valley, is spectacular.  Bonus: you will likely be the only person there when you arrive.  It's just that remote.

Le Gabriel Restaurant
Delicious food, fantastic service, lively atmosphere and a taste of true Acadian cuisine....expect all this and more (such as live entertainment during certain evenings of the week) when you visit Le Gabriel in Cheticamp.  Look for the lighthouse in the middle of town.

Camping at Broad Cove Campground
This is my favorite campground on the island.  It's a perfect mix of remote isolation and modern comforts.  Heavily forested with lots of wildlife and a beach nearby makes it feel like you are in the middle of nowhere (which, really you are) and full bathrooms with showers and flush toilets mean you are not completely roughing it.  The campground is huge with plenty of trails and wood roads to walk or bike, there is an outdoor theatre, playground, fire pits and a beach path...and speaking of the beach.  Did I mention you will fall asleep to the sound of waves crashing ashore every night?

Hike the Skyline Trail at Sunset
Actually, hike the Skyline trail anytime...but if you want to get the absolute most out of a hike on one of Eastern Canada's top hiking trails, it's best to start the hike about an hour and a half before sunset so you can watch it from the top of the trail where the scenery is.  The added bonus of doing the trail at this time is you are more likely to see wildlife at dusk than any other time of day. 

North River Kayak
Whether you have ever kayaked before or not, I highly recommend you take an excursion with North River Kayak.  There are short trips of only a few hours and longer ones for more seasoned kayakers. Lessons and safety instructions are provided.  I never kayaked before when I took my first excursion with this company and I did fine.  It is really almost impossible to tip a kayak!  Waterfalls, beaches, bald eagles and other seabirds are just some of the things you can expect to see during a relaxing paddle in St. Anne's Bay.  

The Bayside Canteen
This place has been around forever and serves everything including some of the best ice cream around.  I highly recommend the onion rings and the banana splits and I recommend you take your food and park around back of the building to enjoy the beautiful view on Lingan Bay or park directly across the street in the little park to get an equally nice view.

Ice Cream at the Lighthouse in Neil's Harbour
A tradition when taking a trip around the Cabot Trail is to stop and get ice cream at the old lighthouse-turned-ice-cream-parlour in Neil's Harbour.  Many flavors, huge scoops, friendly service and a fantastic view!

Swimming at Marble Mountain
I only found this place along the Bras d'Or Lakes late last summer but it is now one of my favourite freshwater swimming holes.  Crystal clear, calm, refreshing waters with beautiful scenery all around make this a great place to spend an afternoon or evening.

The Fairy Hole/Glooscap Caves
A longish drive and a slightly challenging hike are well-worth the time and effort it takes to reach these remote caves.  Best to go at low tide if you want to get inside the area where the caves are.  You know you are close when you reach the little beach.  The water is a little rough at times but it's only a short swim to the opening in the rocks that takes you to a beautiful swimming hole and the opening to the caves.


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