It all started in August of the summer of 2008. My Dad and I had heard the waterfalls at North River were a must-see and always on the look-out for new waterfalls to photograph and new trails to tackle, we drove to the area to speak with some locals about the trail and to get some directions. We found what we were looking for at the offices of the Department of Lands and Forests in Baddeck. While we were there, we were also told about something else in the area that was a must-see; Cape Clear Look-off. The person we spoke to had not been there in many years and the only thing he could tell us was that it was located off the Highland Rd. somewhere between Hunter’s Mountain and Cheticamp. It was too late to tackle the 19-kilometer trail to the North River Falls that day so we decided to instead set out into the Highlands in search of Cape Clear. After all, it couldn’t be that hard to find. After driving for a while, we found a turn-off marked with a Cape Clear sign. We drove up only to discover that this road was littered with dozens of other unmarked side roads. We drove to the end of the first road which came to a dead end and satisfied that there was no look-off in sight, we drive back the way we came and began the tedious task of driving up every side road that went off the main one. But, that was to no avail as all those roads also had dozens of unmarked roads running off them.
Nightfall came quickly and by that time, we had checked only a small portion of the overall area and all we saw were trees and more trees and more roads. Disappointed, we headed for home, vowing to try again someday soon. That summer, my Dad and I didn’t get to North River Falls or Cape Clear. I ran out of time and had to head back to my job in the city. But, before I left that summer, we vowed to see both the next summer. I returned home to Cape Breton this past August with anticipation for the adventures planned. For the first few weeks I was home, we were unable to embark on the hike to North River due to some unforeseen factors that came into play. When I arrived, Nova Scotia was going through a rare heat wave with temperatures climbing up in the 40’s Celsius. It was just too hot to embark on a hike that long and since Cape Clear was in the same area, we decided to wait until later in the summer to tackle both.
Mid-summer, hurricane Bill barreled through and caused the temperatures to drop for a few days but by that time, I was suffering from a bout of heat exhaustion due to the heat before the storm. I was off my feet for three days and by the time I was better, the hot weather was back in full force. It was starting to look like we would not get to North River or Cape Clear. Approaching the last week of my vacation, the temperatures had returned to normal. We decided that this was the perfect time to attempt the long hike to North River Falls. It was cool and overcast that day which was a good thing. We reached the head of the falls trail early that morning and by late afternoon, we made it back to the car with still enough time to make another attempt at finding Cape Clear. We made a quick stop at the Department of Lands and Forests again to get some clearer directions. Again, we were told the same thing. The person we spoke to had not been there in many years and couldn’t remember the exact location but he was able to provide us with a map marked with an X in the area he thought it might be. We reached the same turn-off we came to the year before, followed the roads to where the X was and again, we were met with disappointment and a dead end with no look-off. There were no signs pointing us to the look-off which made us start to think that maybe the locals wanted to keep it hidden from outsiders. But, we were not deterred! We started trying different roads which all led to nothing. When nightfall came, we had no choice but to turn around, again without finding the elusive look-off. We were left wondering if we were sent on a wild goose chase and thinking that maybe it didn’t even exist. A few days later, another opportunity to find Cape Clear came up. My sister, who works at the Keltic Lodge in Ingonish, requested that my dad and I take a trip up there to pay her a visit for the day. Since she was working until 5pm, we had the whole day to do whatever we wanted. The only thing we wanted to do was find Cape Clear and this time we were going to do it right! Armed with some research gathered from a Google search, we left very early that morning. After a hearty breakfast at Seal Island, we made yet another stop at the offices of the Department of Lands and Forests to see if we could get any more information. This time, the person there was a little more familiar with the area and assured us that it did in fact exist and the view was out-of-this-world! Armed with this new information, we again made our way deep into the Highlands in search of Cape Clear Look-off and this time we struck gold! In no time, we found what we had been looking for for almost two years and as promised, the view was spectacular! We were on top of the mountains, high above the valleys and raging rivers in the foothills. It felt like we were on top of the world! We spent enough time there to have a light lunch, take some pictures and take in the view before heading on towards Ingonish to meet my sister. A few days later, I decided Cape Clear would be something my Mom would love to see. We could not get on the road until late afternoon but I felt confident we would make it before nightfall. We made it just as the sun was going down and although we couldn’t see much, what a spectacular sunset it was! We returned to Baddeck to grab something to eat at the Yellow Cello restaurant before heading home. But not before watching a beautiful full moon come up over the Bras D’or Lakes!
If you are ever in the Baddeck area of Cape Breton and want to check out the Cape Clear Look-off, here are some directions that should help you on your way! From Hunter’s Mountain: Drive approximately 35 kilometers and you will see a road on the left-hand side of the with a sign that says South Cape Clear. Drive down this road and turn at the fourth road on the left. You must count the roads because they are not marked with signs! Drive down this road until you reach the end and turn left again. Keep driving until you get to an area with signs hanging in the trees that say “caution”. You have found Cape Clear! The road may be bad and you may have to walk a little bit, but trust me, it is worth it!