Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Hike Around Point Michaud Beach - Another Trail Knocked off my List

I certainly am doing a lot of catching up this fall…and by catching up, I am referring to hiking and being outdoors. You know how I didn’t get to do a lot of hiking this summer? Well, now that I am laid off from my job, I am taking advantage of the beautiful fall we are having here in Cape Breton to getting outdoors and exploring some new places and revisiting some old favorites.
I’ve been to Point Michaud Beach many times over the years but I’ve never had the chance to hike the area. Actually, I didn’t even know there was a hiking route in the area!

It was an early start to the morning the day I decided to do this hike. The drive from Lingan to Point Michaud is about two hours and there is always construction along route 4, which is the highway I usually take to get there. One of the most anticipated things about this day-trip was the opportunity to meet some new people. I’ve met a lot of new people this summer and this is a good thing for me because most of the people I’m meeting love the outdoors, nature and hiking like I do! And it’s very hard to meet people like that these days.
After meeting everyone at a pre-determined meeting spot, we drove to the Point Michaud area. We didn’t go directly to the beach parking lot like I thought we would; we, instead, went down a road just before the beach and parked at the end of it near a trail that ran along another beach.

Luckily, we are having a very nice fall here in Cape Breton. Lots of sun and warm temperatures which are quite abnormal for this time of year and quite welcome after the horrendous winter we had earlier this year. Perhaps it’s the fact that weather experts are predicting an even worse winter this time around is what has me darting outside at every opportunity I get. But even though the sun was shining when I left home and it was calling for fairly decent temperatures, I played it safe and dressed in layers. Needless to say, the top layer came off about five minutes into the hike. More came off as the afternoon went on and the temperatures rose.
The trail started off very easy on a sandy and grassy trail with the beach on one side and a swampy area on the other. The black flies and mosquitoes were particularly bad on that part of the trail. I could immediately see that this trail would be very diverse. The first section had a softer landscape and it was nice to hear the sound of the waves gently rolling ashore and the seabirds curiously swarming around us. There were deer prints on the trail and on the beach and some prints that I assume could only have been made by a coyote or very large dog. I’m leaning towards coyote because there were no human tracks accompanying these prints and we were quite far from any houses.
The trail continued to an area with more trees and high bushes. Various plant life was still thriving including Angelica and Rosebud. I didn’t know you could actually eat the Rosebud berries until one of my fellow hikers encouraged me to try one. We’d already had a frost a few days earlier so the bud tasted dry, bitter and seedy but she reassured me that they usually taste better and are very healthy.

As we started to come into a clearing, I noticed a cluster of trees to the right of the trail. A cluster of trees is usually not something out-of-the-ordinary but this cluster of trees was different. For one, they were all dead and two, they were all very short - much shorter than the other trees in the area. A fellow hiker, who was familiar with the trail, had already wandered into the little tree cluster, calling it The Little People Forest. This name suited it as I had to slump down in order to maneuver through the little trees and there were many little hiding places and overhangs that one could hide in. It looked and felt like something you would see in one those fantasy movies like The Lord of the Rings and my imagination suddenly began to run wild. I felt like a little kid again as I weaved in and out of the little spaces.
The next section of the trail was rockier and ran along a rugged coastline. One can see the damage that has been done in previous storms that have hit the area and there used to be old wharfs along the shore that have since been washed to sea. We walked along this area slowly, taken in the spectacular views of the ocean and surrounding coastline and enjoying the fresh ocean breeze complete with airborne ocean spray! At one point along that rocky section, I spotted a lone, dead tree seemingly darting out of the rocks. My hiking companions had already named it The Spirit Tree on previous hikes and, again, the name was suitable. I’m not sure why but it just looked like what I pictured an actual spirit tree would look like.
The hike ended up being a little longer than I thought it would be but that suited me fine. I was loving the fresh air and just being out there in nature. The wind picked up a bit later in the afternoon which made the flies retreat so the walk back was much more enjoyable in that sense. We’d gone in a complete loop and soon our car roofs were gleaming in the distance. Another hike done, another one crossed off that list. But the day wasn’t over yet!

While much of the group departed and headed home or to other engagements, the rest of us headed over to the Grand River area where there was a beach I didn’t even know existed. This hike wasn’t as long as the other one; it was more of a leisurely stroll along the water. We reached the far end of the beach and just sat by the river on the other side and listened to the natural sounds around us for a while; seabirds chirping, trees rustling, waves crashing onshore behind us and water trickling along in the river before us. It was the perfect end to a perfect day!

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