Over the month that we traveled around Northeastern Canada, several people recommended Cape Breton. We hesitated as doing so would add a lot of time and miles, but in the end said why not and set a destination. After spending a weekend camping, driving, and hiking on the most Northeastern tip of Nova Scotia, I can only say that it was completely worth it.
Before we get to the foliage, Cape Breton Island needs some discussing. It’s very similar to a lot of the small seaside communities around the Northeast, with some notable peculiarities. The first comes from its Celtic heritage. Our arrival coincided with the last days of Celtic Colors, a week-long celebration of the Celtic roots deeply embedded in Cape Breton. Lots of dances, cook-outs, guided walks, musical performances, and stunning colors create a very unique and varied festival. Performances range from big city performances in Sydney – the island’s major city – to what are effectively barn dances in small towns. We unfortunately ran 1-2 days behind the things we wanted to see and missed a chance to participate in this wonderful-sounding festival.
Those Celtic roots mix with the fact that this is the country and everything that comes with that. Small, one stop-light towns holding deeply conservative values were the norm. Every gas station we stopped at greeted us with Deliverance levels of back-water goodness, with one stand in particular taking the cake for least attended restroom of the trip. I did the country stuff, so found it charming in its own way. So take that and add a Celtic touch.
Top the whole thing off with the French-Canadian roots of the region and you have a very unique place to visit. The island seamlessly blended together lifestyles and traditions that I had never imagined could be mixed. The one thing that really brought it all home to me was the radio station we listened to while on the island. Everything was in French, so I can attest to what people were actually saying, but they played a lot of country music. Sung in French. With Celtic tinges. And every now and then someone on the accordion.
It was awesome and I tried my hardest to catch the names of some songs or artists that caught my ear, but my French sucks.
Fall Colors At last!
As other posts have mentioned, we had yet to vibrant, jaw dropping foliage of fall as we expected. As we drove towards Cape Breton Highlands Park, our expectations began to rise. We started to see some really nice colors.
Things only got better as we continued North. The colors became more striking and we were treated to views of the bay to out left. All of this was laid over rolling mountains to provide not just a wonderful contrast to the sea, but a landscape that showed fall foliage in all of its glory.
Several people over the month we spent in Canada recommended Cape Breton to us and we were a little hesitant to visit it due to the distances involved. Every recommendation was correct.
Cape Breton Highlands Park offers a wide range of nature activities and foremost on the list is hiking. And the most famous hike there is the Skyline Hike. Renown for the sunset hike, this is also the easiest trail to take a toddler on (it’s even stroller friendly most of the way). Naturally, this was our choice for hiking.
The trail takes some time to display the reason that it became so popular, but it is worth it. The rangers have done an excellent job of providing information on forest maintenance and restoration, but the real treat waits at the end of the trail. Here you view over the sea and turn back to see the glory of the island behind you. Wonderful stuff.
And do you know what else? We finally saw a moose!!!!
After taking the Skyline Hike, we drove around the tip of the island to camp on the Eastern side. The drive was quite nice.
As the Northern winds came down harsher with every week, most everything was closed and our campsite sparsely populated. After one very windy and cold day, we were treated to one day of reprise where we saw the beach and tried to catch a sunrise.
Filled with some delightful displays of faded chlorophyll, we packed up the next morning and headed towards the USA.