Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Hike To Oban Falls in Richmond County

The weather is staying fairly nice here in Cape Breton and that means I am still spending a lot of times outdoors. I’m certainly making up for the lack of hiking over the summer. Just this past weekend, I managed to knock another hiking trail off my hiking bucket list; Oban Falls.

I always knew there were waterfalls somewhere in the St. Peter’s area but I never knew where they were and never bothered to go looking for them. Until recently, much of my hiking was done in the Highlands area of the island and I am only lately becoming more familiar with the Richmond county area. So when a friend suggested we hike to Oban Falls, I jumped at the chance and we agreed on that upcoming Sunday because it was supposed to be sunny and fairly warm.

I made the two-hour drive to St. Peter’s and met up with the rest of the group who would be joining us on the hike. The trailhead to the falls is located about fifteen minutes from the village of St. Peter’s – about five minutes on the main highway and another ten minutes along a side road that eventually switches from pavement to gravel. Almost everyone else in the group had hiked Oban before so they knew what to expect. I was told two things before we arrived; 1) the trail would be wet and muddy due to recent rains and 2) a friendly dog who lives in the home near the trail would be joining us. Apparently she thinks it is her duty to guide hikers along that trail that she knows so well.
Before we even opened our car doors, the eager guide-dog was there to greet us. I liked the idea of having two fairly large dogs with us (one of the other hikers in our group brought along her dog as well) both for company and protection. After only traversing a few feet, I discovered that “wet and muddy” was an understatement. It’s so fun to watch the dogs trudging through the mud and bushes without a care in the world while we tried to avoid getting wet at all costs! The puddles were so large and deep that they completely blocked the trail and we had to either hang onto tree branches as we carefully made out way along the narrow edge or we had to leave the trail altogether and bushwhack our way around the swampy areas. At one point, I lost my grip on a tree branch I was using for support and found myself knee-deep in the water. It’s a good thing I brought along an extra pair of socks because my feet would have been frozen stiff by time we made it back to the car! The whole trail wasn’t like this and we came to a clearing near a foot bridge…which looked like an obstacle in itself. My trailmates insisted the flimsy looking bridge was completely safe and even ATV’s crossed over it with no problems. I still insisted that we cross it one at a time and when my turn came, I carefully but quickly made my way across.

Although the trail was a bit difficult, it wasn’t too long and soon we found ourselves at the top of the falls looking down a cliff. Upon closer inspection, I saw that there was a rope lying close to the ground and it was tried around trees all the way down to the bottom. One by one, others in the group began the descent. I wasn’t expecting any climbing to be involved in this hike and I debated for about thirty seconds whether I should attempt that slippery, muddy, dangerous looking descent. As usual, I erred on the side of danger, excitement and the prospect of trying something new. I grabbed the rope and carefully descended. It wasn’t dangerous at all except for that one tree that was attached to the rope but not quite attached to the ground.
Oban Falls was is quite a sight. The recent heavy rains ensured that plenty of water was gushing over the side and they were much taller than I thought they would be. We lingered for a bit, listening to the beautiful sounds and taking in the serene, natural surroundings. I love the sound of waterfalls…so peaceful and relaxing. Had it been warmer, I could have stayed there all day.

Going up the rope was a little harder than going down. Once we all made it back to the top, we took a little detour to a nearby lake that was in the area. No one seemed to know the name of this lake but agreed that it’s most likely called Oban Lake, which would make sense. We had to leave the main trail and trudge through a swampy area in order to access the lake. It’s a good thing everyone else had a good sense of direction because I would’ve never found my way back to that trail! On the way back, we made another little detour to the top of the falls and hiked along the river for a bit.

The sun was starting to descend in the sky as we reached that old rickety bridge and made our way through that puddle-laden section of trail and back to our vehicles.
During the drive back to St. Peter’s, I learned about some more great hiking trails in the area. Who knew such a little island could have so many trails and new places to be discovered. I’ve been exploring Cape Breton Island my whole life and I am still discovering new places all the time. It was almost dark when I made it back to my car. I changed into my dry shoes and settled in for a long but relaxing drive on Route 4 along the Bras d’Or Lakes. Another day lovely day spent in the woods, another trail crossed off my list!


Anonymous said...

Great post Andrea! Beautiful pictures! What restaurant have you had the best food? Remember to add it to your Besty List!

Craig Phillips said...

It was good hiking with you, Andrea. And I'm enjoying your blog.


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