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  • laurellakemcguire

Cape Breton….sunny beaches and moody grandeur…..

August 2022

Our base for most of the time in Cape Breton was the KOA, tucked under an excavated cliff by a bridge. There were the requisite jokes about a van down by the river but it was convenient. However our first two nights were spent at the Baddeck/Cabot trail Campground, a nice place with a great field for the dogs, which was great for Baddeck, home of Alexander Graham Bell.

I wasn’t sure how interesting it would be but it turns out there’s more to him than the telephone. And more to his wife as well who he helped with speech when she was a deaf teenager and he seems to have respected her intelligence and ideas.

They both were interested in early aviation and provided technical and material support. The Silver Dart plane has a very steam punk look. I also enjoyed seeing the enlarged doodles and notes from his work.

Ceilidhs (KAY-lees) are music parties and most towns have them all summer for the tourists primarily (the locals have their own kitchen parties). Baddeck has a well established one nightly in the St Michael’s church hall and we were fortunate enough to go to one with Morgan Toney, a member of the Mi’kmaq First Nation, who ,along with Keith Mullins the other musician there, had created mash ups of Mi’kmaq and Celtic tunes that were amazing as well as playing straight Celtic fiddle and originals from both musicians. I felt fortunate to have heard it. Before the ceilidh we ate at a restaurant across the street where we were amply entertained by a young girl and her dad - trading drawings with her and stories with him while eating my new Canadian favorite dish poutine (smothered french fries) and a yummy desert.

Baddeck sits right on Lake Bras D’Or (not actually a lake at all but an estuary as it has an inlet from the ocean and tides yet inflows of fresh river water as well) and a regatta was just finishing of which I believe we saw the youth division in their small Sunfish sailing boats.

We drove the Cabot Trail the next day. There is too much for one day, yet to do it all one would have to repeat the loop so it’s wise to settle for desired highlights. Just the drive alone is stupendous, hugging the bluffs above the ocean and winging around coves and bays. We drove it counter clockwise - not the usual for tourists but recommended by any local you meet. So much so that it’s probably on it’s way to being the usual! I preferred it because it put me and my camera on the view side.

I wanted to stop at a few of the art and craft shops sop our first stop was Piper Pewter. Pewter is apparently a big thing in Nova Scotia and the work there was lovely. I picked out a Christmas ornament for my brother and sister in law. Next stop was the Dancing Moose, mentioned in several guides for their Dutch pancakes. Mine had bacon and raisins soaked in rum - delicious! The view from the back window was lovely also. Then it was back on the road, through Ingonish and turning off towards Neils Harbour and White Point.

White Point Trail was described in the guide the campground had given out as an “off the beaten path” hike. The trailhead was certainly lovely - and filled with cars, small as it was! No where to park and not a good choice with the dogs so we snapped some pics and turned around. We had heard Dingwall was worth going to but in South Harbour just before it we spotted an unmarked trail with just one car in the turnoff. I have no doubt the locals kept it stealthy by design - it turned out to lead through a forest glade down to a beautiful beach, largely unoccupied.

I set up to paint and Jim took the dogs toward the more rocky point. Over time more and more families showed up. When I finished I walked to meet Jim and the dogs and take a leash and by the time we got to the road all the spots to park were now filled.

Next we headed for Meat Cove - an unlovely name for a spot described as scenic. It required a drive off the Cabot Trail and twisting around eventual dirt roads but the trip was worth it for the views off the bluff. The cove itself appeared to be filled with a campground and lobster shack as well as the homes of Meat Coveans so we spent all of two minutes to turn around.

After the unpopulated nature of much of Newfoundland, Nova Scotia at the height of tourism was beginning to irritate Jim. We made a stop for me to check out an art gallery then completed the drive around the western side, stopping at one overlook that had fascinating rock ledges and evidence of all the geological forces as well as a lovely late afternoon view.

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