Saturday, August 9, 2014

Weekend in the Highlands

I like to get out of town on the weekends. What’s wrong with that? Yes, I could stay home and putter around the house and do the same thing I do all week but why would I do that when I can just jump in my car and drive off to one of my favorite places around Cape Breton. This summer, those weekends away mean even more to me than they ever did because I am working this summer and only have those 2 days each week to truly enjoy the things I love. A few weekends ago, I decided to book a cabin in Ingonish for the weekend. I usually camp when I travel to The Highlands but this time, I wanted to try something a little different. Besides, with work and so little time, it’s not really worth setting up a tent for just one night.

As soon as I made up my mind, I started searching online for available and affordable cabins in the Ingonish area. Most of them were booked as people wanted to take advantage of the beautiful weekend that was forecast. I finally did find one cottage available at Ingonish Ferry, about 10 minutes from the center of Ingonish Beach.

I left home early that morning and drove north, hoping to reach Ingonish by late morning. Something always has to go wrong on any road trip I embark on so it shouldn't have been a surprise when, just as I made the turn off at St. Ann's, my "check engine" light came on. To me, anything to do with my car that involves the engine is automatically a bad thing. I noticed a few days earlier that the car was driving sluggishly but didn't pay much attention to it. That light on my dashboard got my full attention and shattered my plans for the weekend. I turned around and headed to the nearest garage to see if there was a mechanic who could have a look. I didn't feel comfortable driving all the way home if it may damage the engine further. Of course, being a Saturday, there were no mechanics to be found. Before I started the drive home, I made a quick call to my backyard mechanic. His advice? "As long as the light isn't blinking and the car isn't overheating, your fine". So I decided to risk it and headed back toward Ingonish.

Knotty Pine Cottages are located just off the main highway near the bottom of Cape Smokey Mountain. I had driven by them many times before but never stayed there so I had no idea what to expect. My plan was to check in, empty the car of my belongings, get beach-ready and head to Black Brook for a late afternoon dip. The lady at the front checked me in and let me know that my key was in unlocked cottage #3 and off I went. The area was pretty and the cottages looked nice but the parking situation was a bit dodgy. Cars were just parked on the side of the narrow gravel road and there was only a small space to turn around. In their defense, there wasn’t a lot of space to work with so it wasn’t a big deal. The first thing I did was go inside, grab the key and test it….and it was a good thing I did because the key that was left in my cottage ended up being the key for cottage #5 next door. Had I not checked, I would have locked myself out and not realized it until I came back from the beach later that evening when there would be no one around to give me the proper key.

I first headed to one of my favorite beaches in the area – Black Brook. This beach has been hit or miss the past few years and on this day it was a miss. On good days, there is lots of sand, no rocks, no jelly fish and the waters are calm and warm. On this day, there were lots of rocks, the waves were choppy and there was hardly a strip of sand to even stretch my towel out on. I moved onto North Bay Beach, my next favorite one. While there was lots of sand at North Bay, there were way too many jellyfish to go swimming! I knew Ingonish Beach would be too crowded at that time of day so I moved on to The Point. Although this beach has all the criteria I like in a beach – uncrowded, sandy, no jellyfish – I often overlook it as a place to swim. On this day, the beach lived up to its reputation and I had a lovely dip in the cool Atlantic. The only problem? A huge flat fish stalked me the entire time. I know they are probably harmless but I tried to keep my distance anyway but he was always there lurking a few feet away.

That evening, I returned to my cabin to shower and get ready for dinner. I also took this time to get familiar with the little cabin I would be calling home for the day and a half. A kitchenette with a toaster, coffee maker and other appliances, a little deck overlooking the bay, a table (perfect for placing my laptop) looking out over the scenic area and a very comfortable bed with nice fluffy pillows. It was very small but cozy and I prefer cozy over spacious so it was perfect for me.

That evening, I grabbed some takeout and ate it at a picnic table near the beach. My way of thinking is “why eat inside a stuffy, noisy restaurant when I can eat to the sounds of the ocean and a view of a spectacular, fiery sunset over the bay. To me, the latter is the only way to go when it is an option! My meal was followed by a relaxing walk in the surf of Ingonish beach followed by a drive to The Point where I sat near the breakwater to watch the moon settle into the sky. After a long week at work stuck in front of a computer screen in an air-conditioned office, this is how I like to spend my free time…

I returned to my cabin close to midnight and settled into a late-night internet session and a glass of wine. I wandered outside to the deck for a while but the flies were so bad, I had to come back in. In my further explorations of my cabin I discovered a few things that could have been improved. For one, I realized I wouldn’t be having coffee first thing in the morning because the coffee maker had not been cleaned and some of the other appliances looked as if they had not been cleaned either. I also discovered something else rather annoying; the toilet had a habit of making a lot of weird and loud noises. I slept very well though and that is always a good thing.

Check-out went without any problems and off I went to spend another afternoon at the beaches before heading home to start another work week. Now that I know about Knotty Pines, I can look them up and book a reasonably-priced cute little cabin anytime I just want to get away from it all for a few days!

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