As we did five years ago, this morning we feast on Laverne’s blueberry pancakes and cut-up fruit bowl of cantaloupe, strawberries, grapes, and peaches at her Baddeck (Nova Scotia) Riverside B&B. Unlike 2014 when we set out on our hybrid bicycles for four days pedaling on the 190-mile paved Cabot Trail, today we are going to mellow out and drive the entire trail by sunset. Soft? You could make a case for that.
Five years ago, it took til mid-afternoon for us to bike the 55 miles from Baddeck to Cheticamp along the Atlantic Ocean. Today by 11A we have arrived.
Here’s an excerpt with pictures from the blog of our first day biking the Cabot Trail five years ago.
Within the first hour we have our first climb to the top of Hunter Mountain. It’s a 5% grade for two kilometres which requires steady pedaling in lower gears. It turns out to be very doable and our confidence builds. Zipping down the far side, Hannah leans over her handlebars and rockets down the hill. A little less steady and less confident, I sit tall in the bike saddle to let the wind resistance slow my rapid descent.
Today, driving 10 miles north of Cheticamp, we pull into the Visitor Center of the Cape Breton Highlands Provincial Park, each pay $6.80 Canadian for admission, and ask Liam, a park ranger, what’s the signature hike in the park.
Without hesitation, he offers up the Skyline Trail. That will take us past French Mountain, our first seriously steep, give-it-our-all, low gear climb in the park five years ago. Open from mid-May through the end of October, the Skyline Trail is rated easy as it is a gently sloping two miles to the headland cliff with a modest 400’ of elevation gain back to the trailhead.
Due its modest challenge, the Skyline Trail has lots of folks during this first week of August. For the most part, they so Canadian. And by that I mean, they are polite, upbeat, and amazingly tolerant of their entitled American neighbors to the south.
Digging life among happy vacationers of all body types, Hannah and I walk side-by-side on a trail of crushed gravel that rarely gets our heart pumping. The trail is a delightfully pleasant walk to the west coast of Cape Breton.
Passing through a moose enclosure (sans moose!), we learn that botanists are researching what plants and trees coexist with hungry moose. Beyond the enclosure, we see trees with healthy branches near the ground, middle ones chomped away by Bullwinkle and his friends, and then branches above that the moose can’t dine on.
Once above the cliffs we are greeted (metaphorically) by a wooden boardwalk staircase down the cliffside. At midday, the crowds are plentiful, as many are resting and lunching after their three kilometre trek. The boardwalk was built after hikers had trampled this headland, which in turn denuded the vegetation that led to the exposed soil being strewn across the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
An easy 45 minutes back to the trailhead gives us the two hour morning workout to satisfy our desire (by that I mean need) to get the first of our 10,000 Fitbit steps.
Back in our yupster Toyota Prius, we drive up the even steeper Mackenzie Mountain and North Mountain on our way to the Macintosh Brook trail with its Liam-promised waterfalls. I have waterfalls for you in next week’s blog.
Click here for the full blog from Day 1 of our biking the Cabot Trail in 2014.