Off to Cape Breton Highlands National Park – Monday, August 11, 2014
The Cabot Trail is a scenic highway running along the perimeter of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park on the northern coast of Nova Scotia. It’s described as “one of the most magnificent loop drives in North America” by Tripadvisor.com. It’s been on our must-see list for years and we finally get to see it today. We’re driving almost 300 miles to Cheticamp (pronounced Shetty-Camp – they speak French up here), a small harbor town at the southwest corner of the park.
We’ve programmed the GPS to take the scenic route which was a mistake since winter is hard on the roads this far north. At times, we can barely drive 35 mph for all the patched potholes and frost damage. It’s 6 PM as we finally drive through the town of Cheticamp on our way to the National Park campground. We see a sizable grocery store, laundromat, and a Timmy’s. Timmy’s is a Canadian fast food chain actually called Tim Horton’s that offers free WIFI. Since our Millenicom service will not work in Canada, we’ve had to rely on free WIFI wherever we can find it. Everything we need is here and our campground is only 5 miles up the road. This is turning out better than expected.
Cheticamp campground is similar to a commercial campground. The surrounding scenery is breathtaking but the sites are close together and lined up in rows. I had made reservations months ago so we have 30 AMP 3-way hookups and back up to the Robert Brook. The sound of rushing water will be a pleasant way to fall asleep during the 9 nights we’re here.
Hiking is the order of the day – Tuesday, August 12, 2014
We spent all day yesterday riding in the truck so the last thing we want to do today is get back in it. The Salmon Pools trail starts from the campground and runs about 3-4 miles along the Cheticamp River. The park brochure warns of coyotes, bears and moose and what to do should we encounter one on the trail. Armed with vicious Fox Terriers to protect us, we head out. The trail is actually a fire road so the going is pretty easy. At times, the road runs along the banks of the river but mostly it goes through the woods. We stop to admire the river and surrounding mountains while T&E take a dip in the water.
We’ve been walking for what seems like an hour and haven’t arrived at the first of 3 Salmon Pools mentioned in the brochure. Nor have we seen any other hikers so we begin to take the wildlife warnings seriously. Our imagination gets the better of us so we decide now is a good time to head back.
It’s Tuesday evening and we’ve recovered from both today’s hike and yesterday’s drive. We load T&E in the truck and drive north from our campground on the Cabot Trail. We plan to drive the entire length in a day or two but this evening we only drive 10 miles or so to get a taste of what it’s like. The scenery is gorgeous but the road itself seems to be the primary attraction. It’s best described as a roller coaster with long grades exceeding 13% and sections that seem to drop off into nowhere.
We see moose warning signs along the road, not like the big ones with flashing lights we saw in New Brunswick but small diamond shaped ones like we saw in Massachusetts. I’ve come to assume the probability of encountering a moose on the road is directly proportional to the size of the warning sign. How wrong I was.
As we’re driving along a patch of road near sea level, a large cow moose runs out into into the road from our left. I slam on the brakes and Cindy yells “#&%@!”. Eddie sees her too and starts barking. We can see the fear in the moose’s eyes as she looks over her shoulder having made it safely to the other side.
An hour later, we’re on another level section of road high up on a mountain. I see more moose warning signs and this time I’m driving slowly. Another car comes up on my tail so I speed up looking for a place to pull over to let him pass. Cindy starts yelling “Watch out, watch out!” There’s a cow moose on our right running out of the woods and again I slam on the brakes and swerve into the left lane as she runs out into the road. I can see her running along the side of us as I come to a panic stop. She turns and runs back into the woods. I breath a sigh of relief after our second near miss and pull over to the shoulder. The car behind accelerates ahead. He’s got Nova Scotia plates so you’d think he’d know better. We head back to camp never exceeding 25 mph no matter how many cars we hold up behind us.
More Moose – Wednesday, August 23, 2014
Based on near-misses with moose yesterday, we decide this place must be crawling with moose. It’s around 7 PM Wednesday as we head back out hoping to photograph a moose without running him over. We slowly pass the section of road where we had our first encounter yesterday. Up ahead there’s a couple of cars pulled over. I’m half expecting to see a dead moose and crumpled car. Instead we see the passengers looking off into the woods where a large bull moose is munching on plants. After a month of effort, I finally get the moose photos I’ve been seeking:by