Destination: Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia
Christine woke up first in the parking lot of the Halifax wal-mart, not too far from where we’d watched the movie the night before. We were on the road a little later – by around 10am. We decided to drive the scenic Marine route, which kept us near the water, weaving in and around inlets and interesting rock formations, and through the trees over endless bridges. The route offered occasional seascapes where we would stop to take photos. We also stopped in a few little shops, including one where we got ‘recognized’ by another traveller because of the social media plugs on our car! They took a photo of the car and posted it to our facebook page, and then introduced themselves. An odd but awesome experience.
Mostly, though, we kept a determined trajectory. We stopped for gas in a little town called Sherbrook and then got back on the highway.
We paid a $1 toll for a bridge and then carried on. Eventually, we crossed the bridge to Cape Breton Island, which was awesome. We drove on, with a little bit of backtracking to Margaree, where we stopped at a co-op to get groceries. It was a really cute little store just flocked with tourists, and I was reminded again that in all these travels, I am the tourist that I find hard to tolerate in my own hometown. I try to make up for that fact by being extra courteous, patient, and trying not to take up anyone’s time if I can help it. But there’s a definite fish-out-of-water feeling with being the stranger in town.
Christine drove after that and we entered Cape Breton Highlands National Park. We stopped at the visitor centre to get some souvenirs, and then drove to Chiticamp campground, the first one in the park out of five, all of which were fairly spread out over easily a hundred kilometres around the peninsula of Cape Breton, and we were already coming in fairly late. There were plenty of sights and waterfalls we wanted to see on this route, so we had to make the best plan to do and see everything we wanted.
We spoke to the staff there about the different campgrounds, and we decided to head to Broad Cove, which is the one that had been recommended to me in my research before the trip. It was about a two hours drive, and we chose a campsite that would be ours for the next two nights. This would mark only the second time we stayed in the same site for two days in a row, the first being in Banff, and the first time we’d actually planned to stay again.
On the way to the site, we stopped at a 1.7k hike to a waterfall: MacIntosh Brooke. It was a fairly level trail accessed through a campground, with some roots and rocks to navigate. The waterfall at the end was lovely, a sloped multi-tiered falls. We stopped at the foot of it for a while to enjoy it. We were the only ones on the trail, something that had been a rarity in our journey. Our choice to make this trip on the year of the 150th anniversary of Canadian colonization / confederation meant that the parks were free for us – and everyone else. So most trails and campsites were even busier than they would have been in other years. My preference has always been to hike in isolation. I’m an avid solo person, and while I don’t mind hiking with my friends and loved ones, I don’t enjoy as much hiking alongside other people. Having to leapfrog other hikers or hang back so they can get a good head start and I don’t have to keep running into them takes up the brainpower I like to dedicate to meditating and focusing on my hike. It took additional patience when hiking on this particular year, but it also meant we got to see more people than we would have any other way – and also meant those people were not necessarily the same you’d see in previous years where you had to pay to use the park trails.
I believe that park entry should be by donation to make them accessible to everyone. Nature should be shared with each and every person who desires it. So though I may whinge about not having a beautiful lake or waterfall all to myself, the free entry this year meant Canada’s beauty would be seen by even more people, and that is wonderful.
We made another stop, turning almost backwards onto a side road, down two kilometres of brutalized gravel with potholes deep enough to seek shelter in. We finally arrived at Beauleugh Ban Falls, a really tall waterfall that cascaded onto the rocks below. It was dark by that time so our photos didn’t turn out, but we were glad we made the trek even though it shook us up quite a bit in the car!
It was after 9pm when we pulled into our campsite. The campground was still awake and at it, so we happily set up, taking our time in doing do. It’s amazing what the knowledge that you’ll be in one place for two nights does to you. It feels like such a luxury! We even staked out the tent, something we frequently skip if we’re only spending one night. It feels like setting up a homestead.
However, we were not impressed by our neighbours that night. They had a picnic table that we could see, absolutely covered in food – condiments with the lids off, a cooler, and a full garbage bag! Someone had definitely not bothered to learn about campground courtesies. And it isn’t just about bears – campgrounds frequently have other, smaller pests that can be just as detrimental to your gear. Like racoons, chipmunks and squirrels, and crows and other birds! It’s no fun being set up next to someone who doesn’t practise good campsite etiquette, because it means all the little creatures will find their way to us as well! So we had to take extra care that our food and smellies were packed away in the car.
Christine and I got out our camp chairs and parked while we strategized about the hikes the next day. We had lots of ground to cover and we also knew we’d see beautiful lookouts all along the Cabot Trail, so we had to plan time for those stops as well.
Once we finished our plotting, we called it a night. It began to rain shortly after… Too bad about our neighbours’ stuff…