Monday, October 5, 2020

Enjoying those Dog Days of Summer 2020 on a Final Road Trip Around Cape Breton

 Before I set out on day 2 of my Cape Breton tour, I wasn't sure where I would end up. It was a toss-up between several routes but, after consulting with my friend who joined me that day, we decided to head up Route 4 to St. Peter's and then take West Bay Road through Dundee and onto Marble Mountain and eventually to Orangedale with the destination to be determined beyond that point. 

This was a drive I hadn't done in quite a few years so it was an opportunity to re-familiarize myself with the area and practice my new camera in surroundings different from where I usually go. 

The drive along Route 4 through Sydney Forks, East Bay, Ben Eoin, Big Pond, Irish Vale, Johnstown, Chapel Island and St. Peters is another one of my favourite Cape Breton drives.  We grabbed some subs at Subway in St. Peters and headed to Battery Provincial Park where we spotted a deer crossing someone's front lawn, watched some people fishing, took some pictures of the canal and, of course, ate our lunch.

As I said, I haven't driven the road that goes from St. Peters and onto Marble Mountain and Orangedale in quite a few years, so I couldn't remember what to expect as we turned onto that road and headed in the direction that I hoped would eventually take us to the Trans Canada Highway on the other side. 

We only had to drive for a few minutes before reaching an interesting roadside attraction.  I'm not sure what the meaning is behind it but it looked like it was worth stopping for.  There was no one around to ask what the purpose of all the license plates hanging in the trees was but as we stared and listened to them eerily rustling in the breeze, we came up with your own theories.  

The mysterious roadside attraction we came across on the highway through Dundee

I would like to know the real story behind them if anyone knows!  There are hundreds of them from all over Canada and the United States and a number of novelty plates as well.  Where would someone acquire all of these?

The road was longer than I remembered.  It was also likely one of the worse roads I had ever driven on in Cape Breton for potholes.  It was so bad, I thought I would get a flat tire.  As I veered to hit one hole, I'd hit another bigger one and that went on for quite a stretch until we reached Marble Mountain. 

I had always heard of Marble Mountain and its beautiful beach for years before I finally drove there a few years ago to check it out for myself.  I fell in love with the clear, warm waters of the little beach at the bottom of a steep hill. 

On this day, I was looking forward to entering those beautiful waters again.  Unfortunately, it was not meant to be.  Upon arrival, a light drizzle started, the fog rolled in and the temperature dropped.  We tried to drive down to the beach to get some pictures and stretch our legs, but there was no one around and there were signs saying the facilities were closed due to Covid-19.

Marble Mountain Lookoff
We drove back up to the main road and stopped at the look-off that overlooks the beach, took some pictures and had a rest there before driving off again towards Orangedale. 

I'm not sure what it is about Orangedale that captivates me.  Maybe it's the peace and quiet that envelopes the little village, the sparkling, clear waters by the docks or the desolate back roads that give it that peaceful, remote feel like you are in the middle of nowhere.  Or perhaps it's the sound of the Orangedale Whistle shatters that peace and quiet with a nostalgic shrill that pierces the stillness and reminds me that this was once a bustling community with an active railway passing through.

Upon arrival in the village, we drove to the little pier and sat for a while enjoying the fresh air and stillness that I've come to expect whenever I pass through.  

The pretty village of Orangedale
Unfortunately, during my visit to Orangedale this time, the sound of the infamous Orangedale Whistle was not to be heard. I don't know if it just wasn't working on that day or if it has been permanently silenced but like the song by the Rankin Family says, "The Orangedale Whistle Will Always Blow", it would be disappointing to find out that it has been silenced forever. 

After we stopped by the old trains near the museum to get some pictures, we headed towards the Trans Canada Highway where we had to make a decision on which way to go next.  When my content-to-just-get-out-of-the-house-road-trip-companion said she didn't care as long as she could get some sunset pictures, I didn't have to think twice before deciding where we would go next.  

Orangedale Museum
At the turn off to the highway, I turned left and only minutes later, I turned left again. I just had to get to Inverness Beach one last time.  It was starting to clear up, the air was warming up and the clear skies were an indication that there would be a spectacular sunset on the beautiful west coast of Cape Breton Island. 

Upon arrival at the beach, I was pleased to see that there were people in the water so I wouldn't be swimming alone. I changed into my swimsuit as quickly as possible and made my way to the beach.  I didn't have to enter slowly because the water was still very warm.  It didn't take any effort to get ducked. 

The conditions were exceptionally good for an evening that late in September.  There was a gentle ripple on the water which must have been at least 18 or 19 degrees.  The sun was quickly lowering into the horizon and the sky was starting to change from blue to a mix of orange, red and purple.  It doesn't get any better than this.  

Sunset at Inverness Beach
 I must have been in the water for at least an hour.  The sun was gone when I finally and reluctantly came ashore.  It took three tries to get out of the water.  Three times I walked to the edge of the water only to turn around and head back in. 

I know that any dip in the ocean I manage to get this late in the season is likely my last until next summer.  I need that closure before I walk away for good and it takes a few tries to accept that this is goodbye for a while.

It was almost dark when I finally came out of the water.  Surprisingly the air was still warm so I didn't get a chill like I expected to.  I still had to change out of my wet bathing suit as there was no chance it would dry without the sun and I didn't want to embark on the two-hour journey home on a wet car seat. 

Without sunlight, it was a bit of a challenge changing in the outdoor changing stall but I managed and soon, Inverness Beach was disappearing in my rear-view mirror.  I had a sinking feeling that this would definitely be the last time seeing it until next summer. 

The drive home was uneventful but I did take my time, not just because there were deer and other wild animals on the move, but because I knew this would likely be my last summer road trip of the season and I wanted to savour every bit of it. 

Driving through Margaree is just as lovely at night as it is in the day.  On a busy night, you might pass five cars all the way to The Red Barn.  While the lush valleys and towering hills lose their color after the sun goes down, their ghostly silhouettes can still be seen against the night sky.   

We stopped at the look-off on Kelly's Mountain that overlooks the Seal Island Bridge to try and get some interesting pictures of the bridge at night.  I never expected this to be a scary experience but let me tell you, when you are standing at that look-off while 18-wheelers are barrelling around that sharp turn, it looks like they're going to drive right into you. 

Imagine standing close to the Trans-Canada Highway as these huge trucks pick up speed going down that hill at 100 km's an hour.  My heart raced every time one came in our direction only to follow the curve of the road only metres away from where we stood! 

When the traffic cleared for a bit, I stood there on top of the world and took in the light, cool breeze before getting back in the car and making that last leg of the journey home.  2020 might have been an epic year - and not in a good way - but the summer of 2020 didn't turn out so bad after all.  


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