Cape Breton Island, NS - June 23 - 30

Cape Breton Island is located in northern Nova Scotia.  It’s...way out there.

The Cabot Trail outlines the shore and highlands of the upper half of the island within Cape Breton. In the center is Cape Breton Highlands National Park.  Because of the rugged coast, there are not many places to stay along the Cabot trail and most people drive the loop in one direction over the course of a day.  We heard mixed opinions on whether it was best to do the drive clockwise, or counter-clockwise.
 So we decided that rather than spend a day driving a loop, we'd use the RV as a base and drive the jeep half the trail, up and back, then cross the island with the RV and do the other half, up and back.
We started on the eastern shore driving the RV as far north as Cheticamp, NS, the entry point to the National Park.

We had a great camp site with hiking trails out our door.  

We arrived early and decided to tackle our first hike, the Acadian.  For the first time since we left Alberta last fall, we encountered bear warnings.  And the border guards asked why we would need bear spray in the Maritimes?  Hmmmm

The Canada Parks people have placed a dozen red chairs throughout the National Park and Cabot trail at locations with outstanding vistas. We found the first one at the top of our hike.

On the way out we encountered a solo hiker somewhat out of breath. He told us that 20 minutes earlier he had encountered a bear with two cubs on the trail.  We headed that way hoping we’d see them…at a distance.  And sure enough, she was still around with her two cubs.

The next day we drove the western section of the Cabot Trail.  

At the very tip of Nova Scotia, off the Cabot Trail is a small (<40 residents) town called Meat Cove.  We had first heard about it from our friends Marilyn and Gordon. On multiple occasions we had locals in Nova Scotia tell us things like “those folks are really isolated, I’d go there, get my picture, and get out of there quickly!”  We had to see it of course.  It’s not really a town, just a small cafe, a very small campground, and a handful of houses holding tightly to the hillside.  It’s a washboard gravel road for the last 5km and the road dead ends into someone's driveway.

 It was beautiful and worth the trip. 

It's unique going both ways so we think the "proper" way to drive the trail is up and back from both sides!!

The next day we did the most well known hike in the park called the Skyline. 

We had a young moose stroll onto our path and stop our progress for a bit.  It seemed like a long bit because the mosquitoes here are hungry!  Finally she continued on her way and we scampered by 20 feet away.

On the way back we found our second red chair.

Mommy has taken up one of the local arts known as "rug hooking". Daddy smiles and informs her that once she finishes her first rug, she can honestly tell folks that at one point in her life she was a....

The winters here are long and heating by wood is commonplace.  It’s extremely common to see woodpiles of epic proportions in backyards.

We stopped into the local harbor and got the inside track on lobster.  You can buy directly from the boats if you are willing to enter a place like this (the sign reads "Private, enter at your own risk") and buy them before the trucks depart.  

Fresh lobster is currently selling retail for around $6.75/lbs.  We bought 10 lobsters (13lbs) for less than $4/lbs after the exchange rate.  It took a couple hours to cook and clean, but we now have a few meals of lobster in the freezer.  You get 25% to 33% of the weight of your lobster in meat.


The next day we packed up and headed across the island on the southern section of the Cabot Trail with the RV.  We stopped for 5 nights at Adventures East campground in Baddeck.  Baddeck is home to the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site.  We spent an evening and a morning at the museum. Bell lived in this area for much of his life and conducted many of his aeronautical experiments here.  This is the site of the first powered airplane flight in Canada.  

They have a replica of a successful hydroplane that he and colleagues built.  WWII ended shortly after they had demonstrated it's ability to the military so it never saw commercial production.

The kids took part in a kite building exercise

We happened upon this news article the day we arrived.

Notice the line "Nelson and his wife Katie winter in Minnesota"  That's a first!

So of course we had to stop by and meet Tom!

The weather has continued to be very cool (50s) and was especially cold the day we visited Fort Louisbourg on the eastern shores of Cape Breton.  The Fort’s main visitor season, as well as most things on the island, start July 1st. Hence the crowds were minimal and the kids were able to interact with the period-dressed staff.

On Saturday JAK ran in his first official 5k race in the small village of Englishtown as part of the 10th Annual Mussel Festival.  From what we could tell, he was the youngest participant by a couple of years. He placed 67th out of a field of 115 with a time of 28:58 (his 9:25 min/mile pace only varied by 1 second each mile)

We headed north to do the eastern section of the Cabot Trail. We completed two hikes along the trail -  Jackpine and Middle Head.  

We had been watching for whales but they had been elusive during our week.  On our very last hike, one appeared.  We were told it was a Pilot whale.

After that last hike, we were all exhausted. 

It was time to head home.  That is Cape Smokey in the distance.

A combination of a big run, the hikes, a treat of mint Oreos, and then a very hilly/curvy drive over/around Cape Smokey finally caught up with JAK who without warning became sick on the back of Mommy's jeep seat.  After a few minutes of fresh air, he was better.

Quote of the week:

Mommy:  "JAK, next time you feel sick, maybe give Daddy a bit of notice so he can try to pull-over and you can get out"

JAK: "I mumbled it four or five times"

We picked up our third Canada Parks Xplorer badge of the week (Cabot, Fort L and Bell Museum).  This lady looked at JAK's stack of badges and said "so which of those have you actually been too?".  He smiled and proudly said "All of them"

Lobster season in this area ends this week.  It's hard to see from the picture, but all along the shores of the Cabot Trail are hundreds of lobster traps.

The next day we spent enjoying the quiet town of Baddeck and the cool 70 degree pool at the campground.   That evening we used some of our Cheticamp lobster to recreate Mike R’s lobster muddle (melt butter, add lobster until yellow turns to orange, then add cream and simmer to desired consistency).  Sinful.

We enjoyed Cape Breton.  One of our goals from our trip was to be able to interact with the local people and “immerse” ourselves in other communities/cultures/events.  Most of the areas we have visited have either been too large, or we have been surrounded by other non-locals to a great degree.  In Nova Scotia we've we’ve been surrounded by local people and really have gained a feel for this great area and it's people. 

The next day we departed the campground at 5:15am to attempt to get on a first-come, first-serve ferry to Prince Edward Island.  As we pulled out of the campground, Melissa  exclaimed “Jas, look at that!”  For one of the few times on our trip, she captured in a picture what we saw that morning.

We arrived in plenty of time and an hour and a half later, boarded the size-large ferry.

We will greatly miss our family, friends, and great country over this coming 4th of July weekend.  We are thankful to be a part of Canada Day here on July 1st.  Safe travels and good times to all. God Bless!

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