Hiking the Cape Breton Highlands – The Sequel

Last year, in early September 2020, myself and two friends did a drive up to Cape Breton to explore some of the hiking trails in the CB Highlands National Park. It was pretty much a success, so the idea resurfaced again this summer about a return. Not allot had to change actually – except we had one more addition to the party, a friend from PEI who was neck-deep into a house purchase and was unable to join us last year.

Monday – Aug 30th 2021

A quick stop at Costco for some steak, chicken and salads and off we go! The HALIgonians re-unite in with the PE’Ianders in Antigonish for lunch and then we proceed to our first pit stop – BUY BEER! As we are booked into Ingonish for the first two nights, it makes sense to get some growler fillups at Big Spruce brewery in Nyanza, CB, right along the route. Whatever is in the growlers is bound to be good!

We start around the Cabot trail and stop for a mid-afternoon snack of lattes and sweet treats at The Clucking Hen, a fine cafe and bakery in North Shore, maybe halfway between Englishtown and Ingonish. We arrive in Ingonish late afternoon, before our friends and enjoy a few wobbly pops on the front veranda. Later, we dish up food and drinks, catch up on news and hit the hay.

The Clucking Hen
Big Spruce Craft Brewery

Tuesday – Aug 31st 2021

Our first hike will be Franey, in Ingonish just up from the Clyburn River. The weather is warm – very warm, and we have some climbing to do. It is a loop trail so we opt for the counter-clockwise route starting up [supposedly] the easier side returning down the steeper side. You will climb approx 425m so I would classify this trail as “difficult enough”! After about 1.5 house, we made it to the lookout point – the real reward. The view from the top, it’s just spectacular.

Looking out over Ingonish and the Atlantic

I knew at the start of the trip that my boots were getting worn, their end of life was coming soon. About 3/4 of the way around the Franey loop, my sole on the right foot started to separate from the boot – like a pair of flip-flops. Just to be safe, I pulled the remainder of the sole totally off the boot. Not ten minutes later, the left boot also was fubarred as well. Oh oh, not a great start to a week of hiking.

As a dropin to the Ingonish NSLC was planned anyways, a side trip to the Home Hardware was no bother at all. I purchased a tube of ‘Shoe Goo’ along with a roll of Gorilla duct tape as Plan B. Do you know what – the Shoe Goo worked its magic for the remainder of the week! I late afternoon hike out to Middle Head, behind the Keltic Lodge, would complete the fitness activity of the day, as there were cold beer to be attended too as well!

Wednesday – Sept 1st 2021

We pack up the car, say goodbye to the Ingonish Chalet and head for Branch Pond Look-Off trail, about 5.9kms down the Mary Ann Falls dirt road. It is pretty much a straight line trail heading east to west, across the barrens. While straight, it is still a gradual climb the entire 4.2kms until you reach the lookout. We gain 305m of elevation, so it’s “difficult enough” (my new favourite rating)!

The view from the lookout across the barrens is wonderful. There are still a few blueberry bushes with berries and the leaves have not begun their change of color yet.

Sweeping vista looking back towards Ingonish.

In the afternoon, we proceed towards White Point, which is not really a trail as such – it is a shoreline destination a short walk from the parking lot. The good thing is since it is not part of the National Park, it does not get too much press and not allot of people know about it.

It is a rocky, shoreline with bluffs extending out into the ocean. In contrast to the shore, the hillsides are grassy with a cemetery oddly located on the side of the hill.

A final, short hike into MacIntosh Brook near Pleasant Bay will complete our itinerary for the day. A trail runs along the brook, shaded by tall birch trees. A waterfall at the end makes for a relaxing end for our tired legs.

A pretty spot along the MacIntosh brook.

A funny thing I noticed with accommodations – there may be a BBQ (but no tools) or some tools but no BBQ. Why is that ? I am a “buck shop” regular and a few patio tools do not cost allot of money. So please, hosts, pick up a few tongs, flippers and if it doesn’t break the bank – maybe a roll of foil wrap PrETty PLeASE! Okay, thats my rant.

Thursday – Sept 2nd 2021

The original plan today was to hike the epic Pollett’s Cove, near Pleasant Bay but we were faced with our first rainy day of the week. Hurricane Ida was moving towards the Maritimes and the windy, rainy forecast was not looking great to hike Pollett’s. Our itinerary changed to a relatively easy hike to Corney Brook, close to the Cheticamp Park entrance.

It is a river canyon, mostly flat, with a wonderful waterfall as a reward at the end. The rain held off nicely and we were happy to get in one more hike in the morning before the heavier rains started in the afternoon.

Corney Brook

We ride out the storm in Cheticamp in a hilltop house, with heavy rains and downpours most of the night. A visit (or 2) to the local bakery for cinnamon buns and oatcakes was a great treat! We also had a wonderful seafood supper in Cheticamp at the Seafood Stop Restaurant before completing our Cabot Trail trek the next morning.

A great time had by all!

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