Baddeck Lighthouse

group photo Getting to Nova Scotia was like pulling teeth, it seemed. I couldn’t believe how difficult it was, and what a circuitous route we had to take. Flying from Anchorage to Minneapolis, then to Newark, and then to Halifax, and finally in to Sydney.

We had a great group of people gathered, though: about 15 all together, with people coming from all over the US - me & my sister-in-law Heather coming from Alaska, of course, and the rest coming from California, New York, Texas, Virginia, Nevada, Wisconsin, Louisiana, and Colorado. We had all signed up with Country Walkers for a week-long hike.

lobster pot Jean Timmons was our lead guide. He's a Frenchman from Quebec originally who had moved to Cheticamp several years earlier and fell in love with it. After working as a professional naturalist for 14 years in National, Provincial and privately owned parks throughout Canada, he now works as a consultant in the tourism and eco-tourism industry, in addition to guiding tours in Nova Scotia for both Country Walkers and his own company, Gaboteux Tours.

old well Jean’s wife, Eileen, was to have been our other guide, but at the last minute she had to cancel so Michel Aucoin stepped in. He was a wonderful man; about 5 feet tall and seemingly related to EVERYBODY in the area. He comes from a very large family; his grandfather had 10 children, his father had 10 children, and he himself has 5. Every time we turned a corner, we ran into another one of his cousins.

cliffs cliffs Day one was just a small warm-up hike. We went for about 2.5 miles up along some cliffs at a place called “La Pointe.” Mostly it was just a get-to-know-the-group type thing, with some pretty scenery to wet our appetites with. We had all just gotten there and were still somewhat jet-lagged, so we didn’t do anything to strenuous. Even so, the view at the top of those cliffs was spectacular. Way down below you could see the waves crashing into the rocks, and all the birds perched precariously on the edges.

fog fog Day two was definitely more ambitious. First we went on a trail called “Sky Line Trail” - a “dramatic headland overlooking the rugged coast” of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, about 4.3 miles long with a 1350 foot climb. The rain that day created a thick fog that hung over the place, so it looked like we were walking in Sleepy Hallow. After that, we did the “Le Chemin du Buttereau” and “Le Buttereau” trails: both together about another 4 miles. These trails are the remnants of the old Cabot Trail, and we saw several old foundations of buildings built by the Acadian settlers who once lived there. There were also thousands of really strange looking mushrooms growing everywhere, of the most brilliant colors.

boat ride boat ride Day three was an easier day due to having to switch accommodations. We got to go on a 3-hour Whale Watching cruise out beyond the harbor, where we were lucky enough to see a small group of Pilot Whales. After that, we spent some time at “The Bog” - a self-guided boardwalk trail about half a mile long. We got to see some very interesting plants: several carnivorous species, even, like the Pitcher Plant.

squid cove Day four was another ambitious day for hiking. Our first trail of the day was down to Fishing Cove. This trail follows the Fishing Cove River for about 10 miles as it winds its way down to the ocean, about 1100 feet down. At the mouth of the river down at the bottom we found a squid washed up on the beach, and got to examine it close up. The Pilot Whales herd them to the mouth of the river so they can feed on them. We had just missed the whales, unfortunately – but got to see a Red-Tailed Hawk and a juvenile Bald Eagle.

After lunch, we took a short half mile hike on the Lone Shieling trail, which takes you through a 350 year old Sugar Maple Tree forest. Those were quite spectacular trees! One even had a mushroom growing on it about 15 feet up off the ground. Before calling it quits for the day, we walked along the North Harbor Beach in Dingwall, and watched the seagulls feeding off the mouth of a river.

Warren Lake Warren Lake Day five was another relaxed day. We spent some time on the beach at White Point where I took my boots off and waded in the ocean. The ocean is nice and cool, but I ended up with sand in my boots for the rest of the trip, because I didn’t have a towel to dry off properly before putting them back on. After the beach, we headed off to Warren Lake for a short hike. The trail around Warren Lake is about 5 miles long and was in the shade for most of the way. About mid way around, we had to go through a bit of a swampy area, and both Heather and I have the bug bites to show for it. The trail ends at a nice sandy beach, so I sat and watched several of our hikers wade in the water before we quit the place.

view view Day six was the best ever, I think; “Franey Trail” was only 4 miles long, but it went straight up – a 1400 foot climb - to the most spectacular view imaginable! Way off in the distance we could see a Red Tailed Hawk flying over the river, and when we all lined up for a group photo we had a Bald Eagle fly by. Back at the lodge, several of us decided to hike one of the trails offered right there on grounds. It was a short little hike out to the cliffs, off which you could watch the birds and a seal or two if you’re lucky – which we were.

morning walk grounds Our last day of the tour, day seven, offered an early morning walk around the grounds of the lodge we stayed at. Mostly it was just to get some exercise for the day, since most people would be sitting for the rest of the day as they went on their separate ways. I think it was about 2 miles, which we did at a brisk pace in order to get back to the lodge for breakfast.