Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Day Hike Along the Louisbourg Lighthouse Trail

I’m used to working all winter and having my summers off but this year, I worked all winter, had the spring off and got called for a job in June which meant I had to work through the summer. That also meant I didn’t have a lot of time to do two of my favorite activities; camping and hiking.
I didn’t get the opportunity to participate in a hike until the last week of summer. I received an invite a few days before to participate in a group hike of a trail I wanted to do for a long time, the Louisbourg Lighthouse Trail. Lynne Doucette is an avid outdoor enthusiast, hiker and yoga instructor. When she is not exploring the beautiful island of Cape Breton in search of new trails to hike and beaches to comb, she teaches yoga in various rural communities around Cape Breton. She also loves to hike with friends and especially loves to show her favorite hiking spots to people who are interested in exploring new me that day. I was interested in hiking a trail I had heard about but had never hiked and I couldn't have asked for a better guide!
I arrived in Louisbourg to meet the rest of the group late that morning and after some introductions, we set out on the trail. It was warm when I left my house in Lingan that morning but, as per usual, Louisbourg was much colder and windier. The only thing missing was the fog bank that usually threatens the coast. Because it was colder than any of us had expected and because some members of the group had other engagements to tend to later that day, we agreed to hike for four hours; 2 hours into the trail and two hours back. The trail goes on and on for many miles and some have even said it goes all the way to Gabarus but anything beyond our set limits for the day would have to wait for another time.
This coastline has a lot of history attached to it. It once served as the battlegrounds between the French and the English and numerous ships are known to have gone down in the area. For decades, treasure hunters have searched the coast high and low. Many of these efforts turned up nothing while others have turned up more than anyone could imagine. The area is very rich with history and culture and one can learn more about the area by visiting the Fortress of Louisbourg, which is a recreation of a portion of the original fortress that once stood in the 18th century.

I was worried that the high winds might make the hike unbearably difficult but once we started moving, the air didn’t feel quite as cold. The trail started in an open area with scenery that included the lighthouse, large rocks, cliffs, barrens and a choppy ocean. Once we got into the more wooded area, the wind died down a bit. I could immediately see that the trail would be a diverse one. We made our way through the wooded area. I thought I knew a lot about the outdoors but I was learning so much more from my more knowledgeable hiking partners who knew every plant and berry! Others must have really liked that hike and possibly either hiked it often or hiked it all the way through because there was a makeshift campsite at one point along the trail.

There weren’t very many other hikers on the trail that day I presume due to the wind and chilled air. We hiked two hours and stopped to discuss whether we should turn around and head back like we had planned or keep going a bit more. We decided it was best, since the wind was picking up and it was starting to look like it might rain, to find a sheltered place to eat lunch before heading back.

We came to a rocky area where there were large boulders and cliff edges and set out to find one that was sheltered enough from the wind to allow us to eat our lunch without it being blown into the ocean. We found the perfect place right behind some large boulders on top of a cliff facing the water that was surprisingly very sheltered. I hadn’t gone for my weekly groceries yet that week so I didn’t have much of a lunch. I brought a bottle of water, some yogurt and a protein bar and usually that is all I need on any hike anyway. The others went all out and had lots of goodies, some of which they shared with the rest of the group. These goodies included healthy snacks of bread and cheese, blueberry muffins, dark chocolate and coffee but the best part of it was the experience; an outdoor cafĂ© surrounded by spectacular scenery, pristine wilderness and the sounds of the ocean below all shared with some newfound friends who share the same love of the great outdoors as I do and whom I hope to share more of these outdoor adventures with in the near future!

We took our time eating our lunch and admiring that view before beginning the two-hour hike back. Coming around that sheltered little areas was a challenge as the wind must have shifted and was even more fierce than it was before we took shelter. Walking against that wind was quite hard but that natural, fresh air hitting my face and washing away the stress that accumulated through the long work week was something I welcomed and the bonus of having that cool, salty sea spray hit my bare skin made it that much more enjoyable.

Whenever I embark on a hike, it seems the trek back to the car is always quicker and this hike was no exception, unfortunately. When the parking lot came into view and I could see my black Sonata gleaming in the midday sun, I knew that that lovely afternoon on the trail was coming to an end. One more trail knocked off my hiking bucket list…and many more to come!

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