Friday, August 12, 2016

Gooseberry Cove and Devil's Hill Falls

It's only early in the season, but already I've done several new hikes that I never knew existed on Cape Breton Island until recently.  I was lucky enough to recently knock two off my list in one day - Gooseberry Cove and Devil's Hill Falls.

I was undecided when my chosen morning to do these hikes arrived because it was calling for rain and the weather was changing every 5 minutes.  First it said sun and cloud.  Than it said mostly cloudy with showers.  Than it said heavy showers.  Finally, I stopped checking and took a chance and headed towards Louisbourg.

I made it to the turn off to Little Lorraine and located the stretch of road where the trail was said to be located.  The directions I found online said to drive a few kilometers down and park on the left side of the road.  I assumed the tail would be on the left side and was looking for it when all of a sudden, I realized I was in Main-a-dieu and must have missed it.  I turned around and, this time, set my GPS to take me right to the trail...and of course, the trail was on the other side of the road.

It looked like I could drive up the road leading to Gooseberry Cove but I wasn't taking any chances in an old gravel road in the Spring.  I grabbed my camera, changed into my hiking boots and walked along a somewhat rough but seemingly driveable road.  It was apparent that someone drove up there recently because there were fresh tire tracks.  I saw more evidence of recent visitors when I reached the parking area near the beach; empty lobster claws and an empty bottle of Bud.

I thought there would be signs marking the start of the trail but I didn't see any so I considered going to the right where there was a beach until I noticed what looked like a little trail going to the left.
I carried on even though I lost the trail a few times.  It wasn't hard to find the beaten trail again but eventually it brought me to a dead end...or I suppose it was a look-off since it was a spectacular view atop a cliff overlooking the ocean.  I didn't take into account the fact that many hikers before me caused the path to be there and it would be only common sense to assume they might veer off the main course to have a better look at the view or stop for a picnic somewhere. That path took me right to a dead end atop a cliff with nowhere to go but down....or back the way I came.  I backtracked and noticed another trail going the other way and decided that that must be the right one.
I don't know if the Gooseberry Cove Trail is just shorter than I expected it to be or I took another wrong turn because I ended up on a very high, thin ledge looking down at some pretty jagged rocks.  The ground started to feel unstable enough under my feet for me to carefully retrace my steps to end up back where I started.  It was getting too late in the day to start looking for another trail so I just stuck around that area for a while admiring the view and looking out to sea.  Lots of lobster traps were set according to the number of colorful  buoys I could see bobbing in the waves, some sea birds were floating around and ducking every now and than to grab fish, a fin broke the surface....wait, a fin?  I thought I must be seeing things, whales don't come that close to shore.  I stopped dead in my tracks, made myself as still as possible and watched the section of water where I thought I saw the fin.  Sure enough, seconds later, a clearly-defined black fin broke the surface.  It was a whale for sure.  A small one, perhaps a Pilot Whale chasing a school of fish.  He must have sensed he was heading to close to shore too because almost as quickly as he made himself visible in front of me, he started back to the open sea and was gone.
I started back toward my car with the intention of returning another day to find the real Gooseberry Cove Trail.  But the day wasn't over yet; I still had one other place to check out while I was in the area.

I thought I knew about every waterfall on Cape Breton Island until I found information online about all the waterfalls in Cape Breton and there are dozens I never knew existed.  Of course, being the adventurous waterfall-loving soul that I am, I will eventually see each and every one of them.  On this day, I decided to knock Devil's Hill Falls off my list.

While I had directions on my phone, I still had trouble finding the entrance to the falls.  I found New Boston Road with little trouble but the entrance to the falls eluded me for some time.  I drove up and down the road several times (and had my car accosted by some angry-looking dobermans when I turned around in their driveway) looking on the side that was mentioned in the directions and just couldn't find anything that even remotely looked like a trail.  Finally, I stopped to ask a woman doing some work in her yard if she knew where they were.  Turns out, the entrance is on the other side of the road and I would later find out that the directions I had were correct.  The problem, it turns out, is New Boston Road is a loop and the person who wrote the directions assumed most people would enter from the other way.
I finally find the entrance to the falls with a clearly marked sign with "Devil's Hill Falls" that I would have seen had I been looking in the right place.
It wasn't a long walk to the falls, perhaps five minutes.  I could hear them as I approached and than I could see the top of them....but I couldn't figure out how to get to the bottom of them to look up like I had seen in other hikers' photos.  I looked around for a good ten minutes trying to find out how to get down to the falls.  I was looking for a path or some stairs but saw nothing.  It was a hint of yellow tied around a tree that tipped me off; the only way down involved descending a steep embankment while holding onto a rope for balance.
I must say, the falls are quite impressive and worth the climb down that steep embankment.  The cozy little area at the bottom of the falls has a some benches but be sure to bring bug spray if you intend to hang around a bit!  The black flies were out in full force that day.

The sound of waterfalls is the most relaxing sound in the world to me (well, tied with the sound of crickets in a pond at night) and I could have stayed there at the bottom of those falls all day if it hadn't looked like the sky was going to open up any minute.  The trail keeps going for quite a bit according to what I read online so I made a promise to myself to return and stay longer at the falls and also hike the rest of the trail. Back at my car, I hadn't even turned the ignition yet when the rain started.  Another successful day on the trails!

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