Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Guided Hike of the Acadian Hiking Trail in Cheticamp

I try to do as many hiking trails around Cape Breton as possible but there are still some trails that I haven’t done because it’s hard to find other hikers to join me on some of the longer hikes and I don’t want to go too far into the backcountry alone. One of the hiking trails that I’ve wanted to do for some time is the Acadian Trail in Cheticamp near the entrance to the Cape Breton Highlands National Park along the Cabot Trail. I finally had the chance to knock this trail off my hiking to-do list thanks to a guided hike that was hosted by Parks Canada during the Celtic Colours International Festival.
10:30 in the morning is not early for me but because it is a two-hour drive to Cheticamp from Lingan where I live, I was up before the sun came that morning and on the road early enough to take my time and enjoy the drive that took me along a part of the Cabot Trail where the fall colours were out in full bloom.

I arrived in the parking lot of the national park entrance and was greeted by two Parks Canada employees who were serving as guides for the day’s hike and a fairly large crowd of hikers from all over North America. We set out onto the trail which started out flat and easy but eventually started to climb toward the highest point of the trail at 365 metres. It was a beautiful day for a hike. Not too cold and not too warm. In fact, even that late in the fall, I was able to remove some layers and hike in only a t-shirt and not get a chill. The well-groomed trail passed through an area of colourful trees and foot bridges took us across a little brook. Steep cliffs lined the trail on one side and one could get a feel of just how steep they were by simply observing a part of a moose skeleton that lay at the bottom. The poor animal must have tried to descend that cliff and didn’t make it safely to the bottom. As steep as the trail was, it wasn’t nearly as hard as Franey Mountain, another trail in the Highlands known for its steep incline to the top.

After a steady climb, we eventually came to a clearing in some barren land where moose are known to graze. We didn’t see any moose that day but remnants of their recent passage was evident. The landscape was quite spectacular with a panoramic view of the tops of the nearby mountains, but nothing compared to what we were about to see at the very top of the trail.
After about 2 hours, we finally reached the top and the look-off that made that long hike all worth while. From that perch high up on that mountain, we had a clear view of the main highway, The Grande Falaise, the ocean, the tops of the surrounding mountains and the village of Cheticamp below. Two Bald Eagles appeared seemingly out of nowhere and put on quite a show for us, majestically soaring through the sky and dipping low enough for us to get a better view. We stayed there taking in that view and talking to one another about where we are from and about our lives in general. That is one of the best things about doing these guided hikes; I always meet so many wonderful and interesting people from all over the world who have similar interests as me.

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