Day 3: August 25, 2006
The plan for day three was to drive around Cape Breton Highlands National Park and do some hiking on the other side near Cheticamp. The drive itself is a part of the Cabot Trail Scenic Drive and overlooks a scenic blend of rocks, mountains, ocean, and coastline. We stopped at some of the many scenic overlooks along the way. On the Atlantic side, we took a look at Lakies head, which is a small rock outcrop sticking into the Atlantic. Most of the rock in the area appears to be a pinkish rhyolite, similar to the rocks that the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park are made of.
Before too long, the road turns inland, cutting across from the Atlantic side of Cape Breton Island to the Gulf of St Lawrence. In between, the road goes up, then down, providing a plethora of inland mountain views.
The road rejoins the sea near Pleasant Bay, and from there goes up and down rather rugged terrain as it skirts southwards down the coast.As you approach Cheticamp, there are a few beaches. They are somewhat rocky, but quite nice none the less.
Finally we reached the park visitors center. Here is the trail head for L'Acadien trail, which was our mission for this day. The trail starts from the visitor center parking lot, and immediately dives into a thick, steeply sloped forest.
The forest alternates between spruce and hardwoods, with the hardwoods being mostly birch and maple. The trail itself is rather steep, but benefits from not being at high altitude and being smooth dirt instead of the uneven rocks one encounters in the southwest. There are many overlooks from the trail, looking back towards Cheticamp and the sea.
Towards the top of the trail, the trees lose height and give way to bushes and ground cover. Among the low bushes are many kinds of berries, including bunchberry and wild blueberries, both of which were ripe while we were there. Apparently, black bears really do like berries, as we saw a mother bear with two cubs. They walked out onto the trail in front of us, and took a good look/sniff at us. They then went further down the trail and off to the right.
Eventually, the trail reaches a ridge line that is as high as it goes. From there, it descends on the other side of the ridge you climbed, giving fewer views, but compensating with being a lusher forest.
The trail then meets up with a small but growing stream, the Ruisseau des Habitations Neuves. The trail goes back and forth across the stream and follows it for most of the descent. This provides for a very lush and shaded environment.
After a hike, there is nothing better than taking your shoes off and strolling in the surf along a nice beach. Very refreshing.
We then drove into Cheticamp, which is a very cute little town. Unlike the other towns we have driven through, Cheticamp is very French, with the Acadian flag flying from every available flag pole, and most of the people speaking English with a French accent. We ate a late lunch/early dinner there, and then began the drive back around the park towards Ingonish. The late afternoon light provided some nice parting views of the Gulf of St Lawrence.