Monday, September 1, 2014

Cape Breton, Day 2--the Cabot Trail

Saturday we drove the Cabot Trail, the main attraction for most tourists who visit Cape Breton Island.  This scenic drive is a loop a little over 185 miles around the island, with incredibly diverse scenery, along the coast, with steep drop-offs on one side and the mountains on the other, lots of steep inclines and descents.  In places the road surface is a bit rough, due to frost heaves in the winter, so you had to drive slowly in places, but there are lots of scenic overlooks as we would call them in the southeast--called "look offs" here.  We took our time and drove off on some side roads from time to time to explore places we had seen on the tour guide maps and literature we had picked up at the visitor center.  We were especially looking for yarn and quilting shops, as well as pottery, wanting to see as much authentic local crafts as possible.  Well, we had some luck with some, but a couple we tried were well off the beaten path, on some dirt roads, and when we got there turned out they were closed--many of these shops are just in the homes of the artists, and I guess they just don't keep completely regular open hours.  But it was a lovely day and the drive was such a joy.

One place we really enjoyed was a surprising find--a little gift shop in Margaree, just sitting on the side of the road above where the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Margaree River meet.  Well, it turned out to be a wonderfully surprising treasure!  The shopkeeper was so nice and welcoming, and she told us all about the various artists whose work she had for sale.  She had a wonderful Celtic music CD playing and knew the singer well.  So we got a lovely CD so we could have Cape Breton Celtic music to accompany us on the rest of the Cabot Trail!  But the most amazing find was a hand-knitted Nativity set.  We've been collecting Nativity sets from all over the world for years.  But this one is so unique and very special when we learned it was done by a 92 year old woman who lives way back up in the mountains on the island.  Of course, since the figures were knitted, they needed some way to stand up, right, so we picked them up and saw that she had used different jar lids!  What a hoot, with the brand name labels still on them!  Reminded us of the pottery we used to get from Neolia Cole, in Sanford, NC--she used to hand write some saying on the bottom of each piece.  Just knowing the story behind the work made it extra special  The shopkeeper told us she only sees this woman a couple of times a year, when she comes by to collect any money from sales, and to bring her some more knitted things to stock, and promised to take a picture of her the next time she comes to the shop and she'll email it to us.  So cool!!  We just love meeting people and finding stories like this along the way!  This gift shop is right along side the Margaree River, apparently one of the most sought after salmon fishing rivers in North America.

As we drove on around the trail we took a detour to go up to Meat Cove Campground and Chowder Hut at the northern-most tip of the island.  This place has been written up in any number of travel guides as one of the most scenic campgrounds in North America, so we really wanted to see it.  When we first picked up the brochure in the visitor center, we thought it might be a place we could take the RV to camp, but when we got there we had to laugh at ourselves for thinking this.  To get there you had to drive several miles on gravel and dirt, after the pavement ended and of course it was very, very primitive.  There were mostly tents there and one small van camper hanging out over the sea, truly a spectacular view of the place where the Gulf of St. Lawrence comes into the Atlantic--very beautiful.  And the Chowder Hut was just that--a hut, with about 3 tables inside and a couple outside.  We sat outside for a snack, but the bugs--not sure that they were mosquitoes, but some sort of small, yet viciously biting insects just about ate us alive!  So we hustled on back to the car and continued the Trail.

We stopped at the place where John Cabot is thought to have landed in 1497, thus claiming to be the first European to discover North America, since Columbus had landed on what's now San Salvador 5 years earlier.  Drove on down the continuation of the Cabot Trail and passed the Gaelic College in St. Ann's on our way back to the campground.  It was a great day to do the Cabot Trail, as the locals had told us we needed a pretty weather day to truly enjoy it, and we definitely had it.  Since the prediction was for possible rain over the next few days, we wanted to take advantage of Saturday's sunny day, and we were really glad we did.

Some fall colors beginning to appear amongst the hardwoods as we started out on the Trail

 This was our detour to a quilting shop we had read about, well off the beaten path

 Alas, the shop was closed, but this door was really cute!
 Crossing this very narrow, wood-surfaced, rather rickety bridge over this little creek to get there!
 But quite beautiful, don't you think?
 Passed a patch of sunflowers!

 Love these clothes flapping in the breeze on the line to dry!
 Beautiful countryside

 The little gift shop where we found the gorgeous knitted creche

 The view from the gift shop front door

 The winding route of the Cabot Trail

 Spectacular rocky shoreline
 A lone windmill, harnessing this natural energy
 Somehow, this sign just caught our fancy--an ad for a chicken restaurant, which we would never eat anymore, but the sign just happened to tickle our funny bones!
 Coming into Cheticamp, a center of Acadian tradition and culture

 Heading to the church in Cheticamp, where we had read there was a farmers market.

 By the time we got there, most of the produce had been sold, but we met this lovely young lady who makes jewelry from found beach glass.  Ironically we had found some earrings at the Margaree gift shop to buy for a gift, and when we saw this young lady's table at the market, we knew it was her work.  She confirmed this and graciously let us take her picture!
 the back of the church

 Back on the winding road of the Cabot Trail

 Heading up to Meat Cove

 Here we are at the Chowder Hut
 Looking down on the campground from the table outside the Chowder Hut

 Small waterfall just a ways up the coast from the campground

 The lobster season, now strictly regulated by the government, is over now for this area, so the lobster boats are all being hauled out of the water for storage until next spring
 Another little harbor on our way to Cabot Point
 Here we are at Cabot Point, where John Cabot is memorialized--the signs all say that it was never confirmed for sure that this is the point where he landed, but it's as close as the historians can get

 Looking out to the Atlantic Ocean from Cabot Point

 Another church along the Trail


  1. I am so enjoying all your photos and posts of the Maritimes! Looks like you all are having a fabulous time with old and new friends, and seeing some amazing scenery. I'll be sure to read these posts again one day when I finally get to travel there-- lots of great, detailed information!

    1. Thanks, Lynne! You definitely need to put this place on your list--just absolutely beautiful!