Category Archives: Wildlife

Cape Breton Highlands National Park – Part II

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Sunset over the Gulf of St. Lawrence as seen from the Cabot Trail.

Sunset over the Gulf of St. Lawrence as seen from the Cabot Trail.

Skyline Trail – Sunday, August 17, 2014

Every Monday thru Friday, the National Park Service leads a sunset hike on the Skyline Trail. The Skyline Trail is 5 miles round trip and rewards hikers with dramatic, cliff-top views of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The sunset hike is very popular judging by the number of parked cars I’ve seen each evening. Not wanting to be part of a crowd, I decide to take my own sunset hike this evening when there is no ranger-led group hike.

According to the park brochure, the round trip takes about 2 hours. Sunset is around 8 PM so I hit the trail a little after 6. Cindy is staying behind with T&E in the Airstream since dogs are not allowed due to fragile vegetation at the trail’s end. (Note: Unlike National Parks in the States, dogs are permitted on most trails throughout Canadian National Parks.)

The Skyline is a well-groomed trail leading along a highland plateau out to cliffs overlooking the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The Skyline is a well-groomed trail leading along a highland plateau out to cliffs overlooking the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Heading out to the cliffs, I pass by numerous hikers on their way back. I get the sense that I’m the only one headed in my direction. At a fork in the trail, a sign warns of a bear in the area.

This does not look good.

This does not look good.

Noticing my tripod and camera gear, a returning hiker advises me, “Further in, there’s moose grazing near the trail”. I thank her for the tip and continue on.

After an hour, I make it to the end. The sun is still high and there’s quite a few hikers here. I take some pictures of the Cabot Trail while waiting for the sun to go down.

The Cabot Trail roadway is clearly visible to the south of the Skyline Trail.

The Cabot Trail roadway is clearly visible to the south of the Skyline Trail.

As the sun drops, more and more hikers leave. I’m now the only here. Waiting for a complete sunset no longer seems like a good idea. I can get plenty of good sunset photos from any one of the pullouts along the Cabot Trail.

As I hike back to the truck, I keep thinking about the bear warning sign and the moose seen by the friendly hiker. I also see lots of small trails crossing over the Skyline trail and disappearing into the woods on each side. “Could these be game trails?”, I ask myself.

As daylight turns to dusk, I see a dark shape to my left about 100 yards off the trail. It’s the biggest bull moose I have ever seen. He’s munching on grass as I set up my camera and tripod. I snap a few photos. This must catch his attention as I see him raise his head and stare directly at me through the camera’s viewfinder.

Bull moose checking me out.

Bull moose checking me out.

All the moose I’ve seen before have been along the roadside with my truck close by providing a sense of safety. Encountering a large bull moose a mile from the nearest road and being all alone, is a little unnerving to say the least. As I photograph and film the bull moose grazing, I can see him working his way in my direction. It’s getting darker by the minute and I still have a long way to go. Now’s a good time to leave.

Meat Cove – Monday, August 18, 2014

The weather calls for wind and rain today so Cindy and I load up T&E for a road trip to Meat Cove. Meat Cove is a small community outside the park boundary on the northern tip of Nova Scotia. The pavement turns to gravel 5 miles before you arrive in Meat Cove. You know you’ve arrived in Meat Cove when the road itself ends.

It’s raining as we turn left off the Cabot Trail at the town of Cape North. The road is surprisingly smooth and we make good time as we head up the eastern side of Cape Breton. We pull into the Cabot Landing Provincial Picnic Park near the town of Sugarloaf to stretch our legs. This side of Cape Breton overlooks the North Atlantic and the weather is dramatically different from what we’ve experienced on the west side. The rain has stopped but the wind is howling like crazy.

 John Cabot discovered the continent of North America in 1497 and is believed to have landed near this site in June of that year.

John Cabot discovered the continent of North America in 1497 and is believed to have landed near this site in June of that year.

Cindy along with her crew, Trixie and Eddie, do their impersonation of the Weather Channel’s Jim Cantori:

As we continue north, we miss the turn off to Meat Cove and come to the end of the road in Bay St. Lawrence.

These northern harbor towns are all business. No pleasure yachts or condos anywhere to be seen.

These northern harbor towns are all business. No pleasure yachts or condos anywhere to be seen.

We backtrack to the cutoff for Meat Cove. After another 5-6 miles, we find ourselves in the community of Capstick.

Capstick should be renamed Eagleton since we counted a total of 6 bald eagles as we drove through.

Capstick should be renamed Eagleton since we counted a total of 6 bald eagles as we drove through.

Cindy and I see a bald eagle flying off to our side out over the Atlantic. As the road drops down to the water, we see another bald eagle, this one immature, sitting by the surf. His head is still brown but as the wind blows through his feathers, we can see evidence of white feathers growing in.

After 10 minutes of sitting on the ground, this immature bald eagle takes flight.

After 10 minutes of sitting on the ground, this immature bald eagle takes flight.

As we exit Capstick to the north, the road turns to gravel and mud. After another 4-5 miles, we arrive in Meat Cove. There’s not much here other than a small restaurant and commercial RV Park. Plenty of sites are available but towing the Airstream up here would be a white-knuckle experience.

Meat Cove RV Park on the northern tip of Nova Scotia.

Meat Cove RV Park on the northern tip of Nova Scotia.

Some brave campers select a tent site out on a ledge at Meat Cove RV Park. Hopefully they won’t roll out of their sleeping bag in the wrong direction.

Some brave campers select a tent site out on a ledge at Meat Cove RV Park. Hopefully they won’t roll out of their sleeping bag in the wrong direction.

The rain worsens as we head home. We pass back through Capstick. Cindy sees something high on a hill. It’s a large coyote looking down at us. He doesn’t stay around long enough for a photo.

After an hour, we’re back in the park. We slowly pass through the area where we almost hit a moose and sure enough there’s another one by the road.

I wonder if this is the same moose we almost hit the other evening?

I wonder if this is the same moose we almost hit the other evening?

By the time we near our campground at Cheticamp, we get a few nice sunset photos.

Bad weather can make for great photography.

Bad weather can make for great photography.

Sunset from the Cabot Trail. There’s no need to hang out on the Skyline Trail for a great sunset photo op.

Sunset from the Cabot Trail. There’s no need to hang out on the Skyline Trail for a great sunset photo op.

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