Skyline Walking Trail
The day dawned a bit gray, but soon turned sunny with blue skies. After putting everything away, as we are moving to a new site later, we headed up the Cabot Trail for the Skyline hiking trailhead — about 15 miles.
The Cabot trail hugs the west coast of Cape Breton Island and is amazing to look at — a bit of an engineering feat. The roadway is a large circle of Cape Breton Island. In the national park it travels up both coasts and across the north end of the park.
We stopped at numerous pull-outs to enjoy the view of the headlands and beaches and also had to stop because they are rebuilding the road at one point. There were men on ropes working high up on the rock face on the inland side of the road. Only one lane traffic so we had to stop and wait from time to time. As we approached one of the stop points we were surprised and pleased to see a young bear trotting across the road. No mother in sight, but this is the first large mammal we have seen on this trip.
The Skyline trail is the most popular trail in the NP — per the gentleman at the visitor center. It is a mostly packed gravel 6-mile loop that has just 400 feet of elevation change — we had driven a great deal of elevation change to French Mountain. As we hiked the trail, we actually went down most of the way to a great boardwalk which went right to the coast. The board walk is there to protect the golden heather (an endangered species) along the coastline. Before we reached the coast we passed through a moose enclosure, an enclosure to keep moose out, and several experimental areas where they are also keeping moose out. Years ago the area was a boreal forest, but many of the trees were killed by a spruce beetle. As new trees have sprouted the moose have mowed them down. The entire area is a meadow with gorgeous wildflowers and a few young spruce. The experimental area has been set up to see it it actually grows better when the moose can not access it as they have been surprised that in the larger fenced area the spruce and birch have not regrown as fast as would have been expected.
We did the entire loop, but it was clear that many people just went out to the lookout and returned by the same route. We enjoyed the loop, although there were just a few views from it. On that route we did see some much older trees than on the direct route to the lookout and fewer people.
We returned to our new campsite at Cheticamp CG— a site with working electric. It is among birch trees which is nice, but even closer to our neighbors, not so nice.