Archives by Tag 'Cape Breton'

Skyline Trail in Highlands National Park

By DAMI - Last updated: Saturday, September 20, 2014
The end of the Skyline Trail in Highlands National Park on Cape Breton Island has spectacular views of the sea and allows you to walk amongst unique growth on the windswept bluffs.

The end of the Skyline Trail in Highlands National Park on Cape Breton Island has spectacular views of the sea and allows you to walk amongst unique growth on the windswept bluffs.

We’ve been going to Highlands National Park for several years and have hiked many of the trails and stopped at all the lookouts to admire the views but this time we decided to finally do the Skyline Trail which was one of the few treks we hadn’t made in the park.

We decided to do the entire trail loop and went counter-clockwise taking the right fork in the trail where the loop begins. It seems most people do the Skyline clockwise or just take the left fork and go straight there and back to the boardwalks at the end of the trail, we wanted to do it different and we’re glad we did!

The trail crosses open fields with short stubby trees and grasses and some swampy marshy plants. There are great views of the ocean as you descend the trail which is pretty much downhill all the way until you get to the start of the boardwalk which is probably the most iconic section of the trail and perhaps the entire park.

The winds blowing off the sea in Highlands National Park leave the trees bent and twisted in to lovely sculptures.

The winds blowing off the sea in Highlands National Park leave the trees bent and twisted in to lovely sculptures.

The highlight was coming around a corner in a tall bushy section of the trail and I saw the hindquarters of a large moose! We finally saw a moose, these famous Highland Moose that we have often heard of and hadn’t yet seen.

He was munching leaves and was making his rutting sounds. It was amazing to crouch quietly in the bushes in the sunshine and watch him. He was huge but very peaceful looking and it was nice to stop and watch him rubbing his large antlers on the trees.

The highlight of our walk on the Skyline Trail was being able to stand quietly and watch this beautiful Moose eat some leaves just off the trail!

The highlight of our walk on the Skyline Trail was being able to stand quietly and watch this beautiful Moose eat some leaves just off the trail!

After we left we saw a few other hikers and they asked if we had seen the moose as I guess when a moose is spotted the word gets around pretty quick. I’m not surprised some people never see any moose on the trail; we passed a lot of people who were talking incessantly as they hiked and this would make any moose want to hide especially when they are talking about the economy and foreign affairs!

We walked along the boardwalk and stairs along the ridge of the highland hills and had an amazing view overlooking the Northumberland Straight as it shimmered in the sun. The trail from the end of the boardwalk to the start of the boardwalk is the most dramatic for views of steep sloping canyon walls but also for the interesting plants and flowers that grow along the wind beaten and wide open fairly bare slopes of the hill. There is an entire miniature world of plants we don’t see back in New Brunswick and it was fascinating to stop and see the tiny flowers and berries that snuggled against the rocks.

Stark and bare yet still life thrives in this desolate place.

Stark and bare yet still life thrives in this desolate place.

All in all the Skyline trail was nice, I don’t think it would rank as the best trail we’ve done in Highlands Park but then again there isn’t really any lack luster trails either; every season makes every trail different and there are bogs and elder forests and rocky trails with amazing views so wherever we go we are always happy to see something new.

The boardwalk has benches to sit and take photos and enjoy the view of the Nova Scotia Coastline.

The boardwalk has benches to sit and take photos and enjoy the view of the Nova Scotia Coastline.

Christmas on Cape Breton Island

By DAMI - Last updated: Wednesday, January 8, 2014
The Spruce Cabin at the Big Hill Retreat near Baddeck on Cape Breton Island is one of our favorite getaways. The peace and calm of the secluded cabin during the Christmas Holidays was amazing!

The Log Cabin at the Big Hill Retreat near Baddeck on Cape Breton Island is one of our favorite getaways. The peace and calm of the secluded cabin during the Christmas Holidays was amazing!

These days it seems the stores start playing Christmas music right after Halloween and in Canada as the days get longer in November and December we all start to feel the cabin fever that results from being buried under snow and ice with wind chills that constantly remind us that the only place worth on Earth would be on the dark side of Mars which is not even on Earth and besides it’s probably warmer than New Brunswick this time of year.

It’s not always possible to have a family Christmas what with our families spread all over the country so the next best thing is always going for a nice cozy stay in a cabin to celebrate the season. You know the kind of idyllic place we dream about: a wood cabin in the remote back woods where the closest town is miles away and only birds and creatures dare dwell in the ghostly snow scape.

The view from the cabin. Total silence. Birds drift past. Snow muffles the trees. A sleepy serene moment.

The view from the cabin. Total silence. Birds drift past. Snow muffles the trees. A sleepy serene moment.

We decided to take a visit, or should I say “re-visit”, to Cape Breton Island, because it is one of favorite places to be no matter what the season and we know that Big Hill Retreat is our favorite spot on the island. Cape Breton Island is the jewel that lies North of Nova Scotia and the cozy Log Cabin near Baddeck, Big Hill Retreat, is a place we love to be.

We booked for a week so we could celebrate Christmas and New Years at the cabin and when I say all of us that includes Jasper and Alaska our Burmese cats who were enjoying their 5th Christmas with us. I think they are really learning to love the cabin and we are so fortunate that it is pet friendly.

We brought all our gifts and a small tree, hung our stockings and decorated the cabin with some garlands and Christmas cards. It was so beautiful!

We brought all our gifts and a small tree, hung our stockings and decorated the cabin with some garlands and Christmas cards. It was so beautiful!

Although we had been planning our trip for months when it came down to leaving we were in for a bit of a surprise, but not really a surprise since it’s winter in Atlantic Canada: a major snow storm, ice storm, freezing rain mix was in the forecast on the days we were scheduled to be in Cape Breton Island and this what one of those events the Weather Network likes to call a “SnowPocalypse” or a “FreezleBomb” or a “PolarMolarParkaPounder”.

We packed our food, clothing and cats into the car and set out onto highway conditions that could be called trecherous but we were determined to make it to the cabin no matter what the conditions were. It took us 7 hours to drive from Moncton to Baddeck, the roads were icy, snow covered and downright horrible. My knuckles were white, the cats knuckles were white, and the odd time we saw another car daring to risk the ride I swear I saw every driver wearing the same white knuckles.

There's nothing like waking up after a snowfall to go out into fresh powder and hike a trail around the property.

There’s nothing like waking up after a snowfall to go out into fresh powder and hike a trail around the property.

Because of the slow drive we were so relieved to arrive at Big Hill Road: ahhhh finally home sweet home. I turned to look at Jasper and Alaska in their cage and they  seemed to understand that we had made an amazing and quite perilous journey for this Christmas Vacation, they both smiled at me I’m sure.

We had brought a hot stone cooker to try it out for our Christmas vacation and it was awesome! Cooking shrimps and chicken with our homemade sauces was amazing, better than a fondue and we had a great supper even with the power failure!

We had brought a hot stone cooker to try it out for our Christmas vacation and it was awesome! Cooking shrimps and chicken with our homemade sauces was amazing, better than a fondue and we had a great supper even with the power failure!

It’s so amazing to be able to go out on to the snowshoe trails around the property. There are animal tracks and bird tracks throughout the forest and when we visit in Winter it is great to see the difference of the trails compared to walking them during the summer!

Speaking of snow trails…make sure you have good snow tires or a 4 x 4 if you are planning to visit Big Hill Retreat during the Winter. We have winter tires but we still couldn’t make it up the hill. I wish we had studded tires or chains or a four wheel drive. Luckily we were able to call from the bottom of the hill where our car was stuck and arrange a ride with Linda in the four wheel drive and transferred all our supplies and Christmas gifts and cats to the four by four and were given a lift up to the cabin.

On our walk along the trail we stopped for a rest and picnic and I built a miniature snowman and we had a little candle and made a private Christmas ceremony. We went back every day to see our snowman!

On our walk along the trail we stopped for a rest and picnic and I built a miniature snowman and we had a little candle and made a private Christmas ceremony. We went back every day to see our snowman!

We brought our Turkey for our Christmas dinner and wouldn’t you know it the power was cut off because of the storms and we had preheated the oven but with no power what were we going to do? Luckily there was the barbecue outside and we lit it up and got the Christmas turkey outside on the barby! It was funny seeing the snow falling and the Cape Breton Highlands spread out in the distance while we barbecued a big fat turkey outside sending delicious smells across the lands!

We always bring some healthy bird seeds for the local birds. They come every day to the deck of the cabin and we sit and have our morning hot beverage while the cats watch out the windows and make growling noises at them

We always bring some healthy bird seeds for the local birds. They come every day to the deck of the cabin and we sit and have our morning hot beverage while the cats watch out the windows and make growling noises at them

The weather kept us close to the cabin but in fact it was a real pleasure to stay around the cabin every day. We woke up and fed the birds, had a hot beverage on the deck, had a leisurely breakfast, played a game of Ticket to Ride, went snow-shoeing, came back, played more games, played with the cats…it was totally relaxing! What a great Christmas!

The weather was mild enough for us to enjoy an outdoor picnic during our snow shoe trek along the trails of the Big Hill Retreat.

The weather was mild enough for us to enjoy an outdoor picnic during our snow shoe trek along the trails of the Big Hill Retreat.