Moose in the Highlands – Cape Breton

From Bedford we embarked on a big drive towards Cape Breton.  Cape Breton is an island, part of Nova Scotia and connected by a land bridge.  Immediately, it feels tree laden and sparsely populated.  We were staying in Baddeck, once the home of Mabel and Alexander Graham Bell.  There is a big museum in the town dedicated to the work of the couple and their innovations in flying as well as communication.  Widely acknowledged as the inventor of the telephone, Bell appears to have had a curious mind, searching for an innovative solution to any problem.  Upon the death of one of their sons shortly after birth, he set about making a jacket which would move the lungs in order to assist with breathing.  He experimented with the trend between the number of offspring vs the number of nipples that sheep have.  It was fascinating to read more about the determination of the man who wanted to be known for more than just the telephone.  

With little plan for the day we struck up conversation with a local couple over coffee.  They appeared to know everyone in the small town, sharing nods and jokes with every passer by.  They suggested a few things to look out for and so we grabbed a map and headed to the east coast of the island which has been dubbed ‘the Caelidh trail.’  Many local artists span the quiet roads making their livings from sea glass and highland souvenirs.  We walked the beaches at Inverness and Port Hood enjoying the cool waters on such a humid day.  Eventually we looped back into Baddeck and our accommodation which overlooked the Bras d’Or lake with a deck perfect for an evening of sharing stories with other travellers.

The Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island shadows the coastline of the north part of the island, an epic drive of 298 km.  Tracing the world famous drive, we began anticlockwise stopping in at the local crafters of leather and pottery along the way.  As the highlands grew from the ocean, we began to climb, soon looking back over ocean with a steep drop away.  We took many vantage points along the way, stopping to hike out over a peninsula at Middle Head, and clamber over rocks at Green Cove.  

At the very north of the island we detoured off to discover Meat Cove, the northernmost tip of the island.  Soon the tarmac of the road ended and we were bouncing along, looking down at the ocean below.  At the very end of 30kms stood a clifftop camping site and a chowder hut.  We parked up at the beach and spent the end of our afternoon watching the waves roll in, sipping Prosecco, nibbling on popcorn and enjoying a round of the very Canadian, Crib.

Once we rejoined the Cabot Trail the road continued to climb up and up, until eventually plateauing to a vast flat rock top covered in skeleton trees.  It was a strange landscape, which eventually descended back down into the settlement of Pleasant Bay where we would spend the night. 

With so much beauty of one day to process, we swapped stories with our fellow travellers who had all experienced different stops in the day.  The mission for the next day was decided, an early morning moose encounter.  

When the alarm sounded at 5.30am the next day we packed up quickly and headed for Benjies Lake.  The weather looked threatening and there was no-one else around.  With great stealth we silently walked the path to the lake, looking around into the undergrowth for and large mammals.  We came across a family of Ptarmigans out foraging, and still silently made it to the boardwalk in the tree cover when the first moose was spotted.  He was swimming in the lake.  As he moved quickly through the water, it was amazing to take in his antlers, distinctive face shape and ease of movement.  Another moose waited patiently at the lakes edge, maybe having just made it across.  They both enjoyed a drink and we were able to observe for a few minutes before they were lost, almost instantly as they stepped into the tree cover.  The suspense of us tiptoeing the entire hike in anticipation only made it all the better. 

Among other lookouts, we sauntered the popular skyline trail.  The track passes through moose laden forest before opening out to a stretch of boardwalk from which the ocean extends infinitely.  The panoramic view includes the climbing road, eagles overhead and a walk along a pencil thin stretch of rock towards the ocean.

Tired from our early morning excitement we enjoyed a cup of coffee before getting on the road out of Cape Breton and towards Truro.  In Nova Scotia’s second city we met Jim and Vicky and caught up on their adventures travelling east from BC but through the States.  This part of the country was now overlooking the Bay of Fundy between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, famous for its incredible falling tides.  

Continuing further west the next day, we began for Wolfville, a beautiful town in a vineyard region.  Its small high street was filled with the produce of its abundent surroundings, once dyked and harvested by the Acadian population.  We followed the highway west towards a pencil thin peninsula which stuck out into the Bay of Fundy.  The houses and towns had a different air about them, not so lavish, but with amazing location next to the ocean.  Our guesthouse on the hill looked out over the Bay of Fundy to one side and St Mary’s bay to the other.  On the other side of a small body of water laid Long Island and a small fish and chip shack in the town of Tiverton.  We hopped on the ferry as foot passengers, went across to order our fish and chips, and came back with the next one.  The small town of Tiverton has houses lined up in rows all facing the shore.  Claiming to be home of the balancing rock, it also boasts whale watching companies going out to find the many mammals of the bay.  Originally I was planning and staying and volunteering here, however getting a feel of the area, I changed my plans and that night decided I would be heading back up to Wolfville for the foreseeable future.

On mums final day in Eastern Canada we drove back up the highway to Wolfville.  We now had time to indulge in a cheese platter at one of the towns many picturesque wineries.  We stumbled upon the national historic site of Grand Pré, originally an Acadian village.  Acadians were originally French settlers who over time felt they no longer pledged allegiance to the french, but were an independent and classless group of farming people living throughout Canada.  Once the land was ceeded to the British after the Treaty of Paris, the British crown required the Acadian people to swear allegiance to the British Crown.  As a neutral people they refused and were ultimately deported, scattered around the world.  Their sad history is remembered proudly, as well as practically as their contribution to the land is still vital in all that the area grows.  

The new plan had pulled together quickly and was to begin volunteering at an Arts Centre nearby.  Little cabins in the woods surrounded this beautiful site ‘on the mountain’ as the locals call it.  With a bought of Nova Scotia friendliness I was welcomed into what would be my new home for the next few weeks.  As always, it was hard to say goodbye to mum as she headed off toward the airport but what an amazing week it had been. 

3 comments

  1. It’s a fabulous place. Not too many people and beautiful landscape with some interesting and surprisingly tame creatures to see. Thanks for an amazing week and for introducing me to the game of Cribb which is best when played on a deserted beach.

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