Cape Split and Cape Breton
Saturday, July 12
Saturday... an ambitious day for us: I wanted to (a) hike to a picturesque point of land on the Minas Basin; (b) visit Acadia University; (c) drive from the Annapolis valley area to the Cape Breton highlands; and (d) scout out details for our ambitious trek to the highpoint of Nova Scotia, which we were planning to do the very next day. This meant maximizing time, so we got up at 4 am.
Cape Split is the point at the end of the funny little curve at the eastern end of North Mountain. It is quite distinctive when seen on a map. It is also quite a striking place, sticking out as it does like a dental instrument at the head of the Minas Basin. It is a place of striking beauty and of great forces. The already massive Bay of Fundy tides stream past this sharp finger of land, and the tidal forces generated as billions of tons of seawater forced in and out of the smaller Minas Basin generate swirls, vortexes, and rapids in the open ocean.
The hike to Cape Split begins at the end of a lonely highway, itself just past the lonely little community of Scots Bay. The rocky basalt shoreline (and the hike to Cape Split itself) was a favorite haunt of mine while I was attending nearby Acadia University, and I wanted to do it again after all these years -- I now had a proper camera to capture it's beauty, and I also wanted to show this scenic place to Jenn. And it was a good warmup walk for tomorrow's really big hike.
So, in the still of morning twilight, shortly after 5am, we started off on the trail to Cape Split. It was totally clear and calm, and it looked like we'd have superb viewing conditions.
The trail to Cape Split is nothing difficult. In fact, with the exception of a few rough patches near the beginning, the trail is wide, mud-free, and easy to follow. The trail very gently climbs 450 feet over it's course from the end of the road to the very tip of Cape Split, crossing from the southern side of the peninsula to the spit to the northern side along the way. The peninsula is tilted southward, so we gently climbed as we went. Once on the northern crest, we followed a mostly flat trail through beautiful open forest and ferns, with early morning sunlight streaming in from behind us. We had a tight timeline so we motored along, covering most of the 6km from the trailhead to Cape Split in about an hour and twenty minutes. As we neared the ever-narrowing peninsula, we got glimpses of the ocean below and to the left of us, and we could hear a constant roaring sound -- the sound of the rushing tide.
The trail wound past a precipitously steep ravine, revealing the blue ocean far below, and then we were out in the open with only open grasses and a wide seascape before us. We'd arrived at the split!
Apart from seagulls, we were here alone, early in the morning on a beautiful crisp summer morning. To our left, the rapidly rising tide was roaring past the sharp point of Cape Split, creating whitewater eddies and rapids. We soaked in the view for a bit, took some pictures, then moved off slightly to view the big and small sea stacks that mark the eroding point of the split. The best view was off to the left, just past another steep, tricky gully that leads down to the shoreline. The tide was too high for shoreline access today.
For a more detailed account of the beautiful Cape Split Hike, please visit the in-depth report
, with many more pictures and detailed hike maps and graphs.
After a satisfying look at the scenery and a quick snack, we turned 'round and scurried back to the car. We had places to go!
With the top down, we had a most enjoyable drive back across North Mountain, stopping at an excellent Annapolis Valley overlook called, appropriately enough, 'the lookoff'. From here you get an excellent view of the western end of the Annapolis valley. From here we drove across the fertile valley bottom to Wolfville, home of Acadia University -- a place where I spent fours of my life.
Wolfville is a prototypical little University town. Big leafy trees and heritage houses, and a storied, 150+ year-old University. There's a bylaw in Wolfville that prevents fast-food outlets -- the municipality is serious about presenting a respectable look about it.
We drove about the campus, stopping for pictures in scenic or notable spots. I visited my old residence, Crowell Tower, and my Computer Science Faculty building. It had been a long time, almost twenty years, since I last laid eyes on them. All in all, the place looked pretty similar to when I last saw it. In downtown Wolfville, we visited the old Acadia theatre (I remember seeing the original Micheal Keaton Batman movie there), and the Anvil, the main pub. Wolfville is definitely a scenic little town -- I don't think I appreciated that enough when I was living there.
From Wolfville, we drove eastward, angling to intercept the main highway that heads towards Cape Breton. We drove through an area known as the Rawdon Hills, a route that I drove many times while at university, since it was the shortest way between Wolfville and my home town of Bathurst, NB. Once on divided highway 102, we headed north to Truro (which I notice is no longer labelled as 'the Hub of Nova Scotia') and then east on 104 towards Cape Breton. We crossed over the Canso Causeway onto Cape Breton Island and continued under sunny skies all the way up to the eastern start of the Cabot Trail.
We chose to cross at St Ann's Bay, crossing on the tiny short little Englishtown ferry. The ferry crossing is short -- really short -- like, 200 yards short. In fact, there is a guide cable attached to both sides, and the ferry follows the cable. We were one car short of getting on the ferry when we arrived, so we got to see a whole crossing cycle -- about 15 minutes worth of time. As a consolation, we were the first ones on and off the next crossing.
From here we head north towards Ingonish. We were on the Cabot Trail proper now, and the road and the scenery were definitely first rate. In fact, I was quite impressed with the quality of the road twisties near Cape Smokey -- and with an 80km/hr speed limit throught, no less. Very fun (although unfortunately, that was probably the best twisty road section of the entire Cabot Trail, as I was later to find out).
With a nearly empty tank of gas, we rolled into the Ingonish area and the entrance to Cape Breton Highlands National Park. We stopped at the entrance booth to pay our entrance fee and to get a big topographic map of the park. Something we'd need for our next day's adventure: the trek to Nova Scotia's highpoint at White Hill.
We next stopped by at the ranger station to get some beta on the route and conditions. I fully expected to get a warning about our trek; about how it would be a bad idea, how we could get lost, how the area is remote. As it turned out, though, there was none of that. Nothing at all, in fact, because the unlocked and open ranger station was empty. My many 'hellooos' went unanswered.
Next we drove up to the trailhead area that we would be using, seeing what condition the road was in, where the parking area was, and seeing how much time we needed to drive up the access road leading to the trailhead. The last kilometre or two of the access road were a bit steep and rocky for a low-slung car like the S2000, so we factored this into our mental calculations, planning instead to park at the lower Freney Mountain trailhead (i.e. a bit less far along the road). It would be a longer day, but as a bonus would give us the option of returning via the scenic Freney Mountain trail -- a slight diversion with some nice scenery.
Satisfied that all that could be scouted was scouted, and in need of an early and good night's rest, we set up our tent at the nearby Broad Cove Campground. Unfortunately, loud partiers kept me up well past 11pm. It would be a short night for me that night!
Interactive Trackmap & Photo Points - Click map to expand