Those four nights I spent by myself at Broad Cove were pure bliss. While the idea of sleeping in a tent sounds awful to most of my friends, I would sleep in a tent 365 days a year if the weather on the East Coast would allow it. I love the sound of leaves rustling in the trees, waves rolling ashore, coyotes howling at the edge of the woods, crickets chirping near the lake, and birds singing at first light. I even love the sound of rain landing on the top of the tent and sometimes I am lucky enough to hear the footsteps of an animal creeping around my tent. More times than I can count, those eerie footsteps have led to impromptu snapshots of moose, coyotes and foxes coming in for a closer inspection of my tent. I also love the very early mornings before everyone else is awake and when the dew still covers the tent and grass. There is just something so pure and natural about waking up and walking out into the fresh, pristine wilderness. Even being creative with trying to prepare a decent breakfast in the great outdoors is something I embrace. Knowing I can be self-sufficient and resourceful is like challenging myself to see how well I can do without all those fancy, artificial comforts of home.
I moved away in the fall of 2000 and spent almost every day of that last summer in Cape Breton taking in those long, lazy summer days in Ingonish. It's what I missed most when I moved to another province far away from that beautiful strip of heaven deep in the Highlands National Park. That first year away went by fast and before I knew it, I homeward bound. A few years after I moved away, my parents sold that old RV and I was forced to reunite with an old love; camping. I did a lot of camping as a kid but forgot a lot of things like how to set up a tent and how to start a fire. I bought my first tent at a local Canadian Tire store for 29.99 and a few other things to get me started and packed up the car and headed to Broad Cove.
The tenting section of Broad Cove Campground is quite different from the RV section. It has more trees, it's less crowded and there are more chances to have encounters with wild animals. I drove around the tenting section for quite a while searching for the perfect campsite - one that was close to the facilities and not too remote but far enough away to be quiet and not drenched in light pollution. I found the perfect site that fit all my criteria; lot 87. And I survived my first solo camping trip and rekindled my love for roughing it in the great outdoors.
For the next dozen years or so, lot 87 was my second home. My escape. My sanctuary. My little slice of paradise in the Highlands. Every chance I got, I took off and headed for that little grassy spot and set up my temporary home complete with clothesline and dining area. Sometimes I received visitors, both two-legged ones and four-legged ones. Moose, coyote, rabbits and squirrels mostly. The nights at lot 87 were my favorite; laying on the picnic table watching the stars and listening to the distant of the waves crashing onshore. There was nowhere else I would rather be.
|Lot 87 at Broad Cove Campground|
|My set-up at lot 171 at Broad Cove Campground|
My last stop is always the beach. This is pretty much the only thing that has changed at the campground. The two benches that stood just past the parking lot overlooking the ocean are now gone. Now, you might think that's not a big deal and that the loss of a couple of benches is a minor thing but to me, those benches played a huge role in my time at Broad Cove. I've read entire books on those benches, I drank my first (yes underage) beer on one of those benches. I saw my first unidentified flying object from the bench that was closest to the woods and how could I forget something like that! I've witnessed countless meteor showers, sun rises, sunsets and moon rises from those benches. I slept under the stars on those benches and hid in the wood's whenever I heard the park warden's truck coming after hours. And I stood at alert on top of one of those benches with a giant stick in my hand after being chased by some sort of wild animal late one night. so, as you can see, it was a huge disappointment to see that those benches are no longer there.
The beach is pretty much the same except now you have to go through the woods to get to it. This is no easy feat in the pitch black. I used my cell phone as a flashlight and tried to find my way down the stairs, all the while waiting for a rustle or a growl in the bushes to scare me senseless and send me tumbling. Just like old times. We used to walk the nearby beach path in the middle of the night as kids just to scare ourselves. That night, as a thirty-something adult, I laid down in the cold sand and watched the night sky feeling like I was 16 again. In the back of my mind, I knew I had to pack up my gear and head home the next morning but for those few moments, I imagined I had nothing else to do but lay there without a care in the world. The sound of the waves lulled me into a semi-conscious state while the sound of a lone loon could be heard in the lake behind me. This is my "tropical" paradise. No palm trees and turquoise water. Just the rough Atlantic coast, the crisp, clean air and beautiful beaches that stretch for miles.