IT’S THE newest thrill in Eastern Canada—the wonderful Cabot Trail. Through virgin forest, up mighty hills, skirting massive cliffs, circling entrancing lakes, it makes a complete circuit of the north of Cape Breton, crossing over where no roadway has ever existed in the history of man.
No vehicle journeyed the road until October, 1932. All through 1933, gangs of workmen labored to lessen grades and make wider the narrow spaces, to perfect the highway for the increasing tourist traffic; and when the snows are gone from that Northern point in middle June, the adventuring motorist will find the Trail the answer to all his craving for scenery.
Cape Breton is the oldest French name in American geography. Oonamaagik, its Micmac title, means the “home of true men,” and it is surely such a country. The natives are very proud of their history, and every village in the old Acadian area has its legends and traditions, its old-world customs.
For years the visitor to Cape Breton has been impressed with the variety and charm of vista after vista of unusual beauty, glimpses of breath-taking hills, of gleaming darkblue waters, of sparkling little waterways guarded by sombre rock giants. Amazing panoramas unfold from almost every hilltop. It is an unspoiled land of startling loveliness, and the Bras d’Or lakes with their 450 miles of shore line bring to one vividly the reason for those first French settlers naming them “The Arm of Gold.”
Yet the Cabot Trail surpasses all this!
Its hills are higher, steeper. Its valleys are deeper, more winding, giving to dells that are exquisite, perfect gems. Its stretches of shore line are beyond description ; they simply astound the gazer, then grip him and enthrall him.
There is no rush of traffic there, no dust clouds, no hot-dog stands, no flaring signboards; just quiet and tranquillity.
You enter the Trail a fewmiles from South Gut,St. Ann’s, and drive through wooded areas—dark spruce and pine, with slender white birch giving color to long wood lanes. Bluejays flit ahead of the car. Partridges scurry to cover. A deer starts up from a resting place and stands to watch you go by. Then you are at St. Ann’s Bay.
It is a marvel of shore scenery, picturesque villages, high bluffs and hills, great shadows on the cliffs, sea birds like drifting white blossoms, nets drying in the sun, quaint pitch-pole fences surrounding the hillside sheep pastures, great gullies and pits where men have dug for buried gold. The famous Cape Breton giant is buried at St. Ann’s, and the inscription on the tall granite shaft reads;
“In Loving Memory of Angus McAskill, the Nova Scotia giant who died at his home in St. Ann’s, August 6th, 1863. Age 38 years. Height 7 ft. 9 inches. Girth,
50 inches. Weight, 425 lbs. A dutiful son, a loving
brother, a true friend, a loyal subject, a humble
Variety of Scenery
ALL ALONG the eastern shore you get entrancing ■4L glimpses of the sea as the Trail winds in and out, dipping now and then to little villages where the beach is covered with egg-shaped stones and fishermen have their wharves and canning factories, and where foaming, noisy little brooks lead back into the wilderness to long, still pools that afford the best trout fishing in this part of the world.
A sign on the side of the road reads “Foot of Smoky,” and at the top of a long winding climb you read “Elevation 1,200 ft.” From the crest of the hill one sees all the squandering beauty of Ingonish. Many claim it the beauty spot of the world. All that shore line thrills beyond measure. The mighty hills across the water, the long inlets and white sand bar, the villages snuggled at the foot of the mountains, all blend into a masterpiece of nature. Down the hill, winding through the villages,
Smoky looks exceedingly imposing with its massive headland splitting cloud banks and giving a lacy covering to its green sides. There are intriguing curves along delightful sea vistas, long sand flats inviting bathers, grey weathered flakes where fish are drying, then sudden hillside streams that roar and froth in miniature Niagaras.
Breton Cove, Neil’s Harbor, Dingwall—all these points offer infinite delight to those who tarry to explore and become acquainted with their warm-hearted and hospitable folk. Then you travel a region of dainty valleys, small lakes purpled with lovely iris, and plaster cliffs which loom like frames for the entrancing green pictures.
Sunrise Valley is a spot no tourist will ever forget.
There is the grandeur of the greatest of Cape Breton’s mountains, the play of sunlight over a sweep of fertile fields, glittering curves of a little river, the winding road like a thread of tan, and, away in the distance, bathing with changing color, St. Paul’s Island and its lighthouse.
It is a beauty that cannot be imagined, and seems given to those of the North as if it were a reward for their being so far from artificial attractions.
Crossing from east to west, one climbs up and up and over mountains 1,600 feet high, a road where never was path before, wide enough for two cars, walled three feet high on the “off” side. Ravines, clefts, chasms, a sea of tree tops, clouds so near they are like coverlets, great depths that are startling with echoes. Towering high is a Fire Observation look-out, and from it you can “see the world.” The dark green pockets of the ravine seem miles below, and the sheen of the wooded hills forms an ocean of pure color, while beyond is the splendor of the sea with an outline of eternal rock ledges.
ON THE western side, the Trail winds down to the sea through marvellous woodland scenery. Trees interlace overhead to form canopies of delicate greenness. The road is smooth as a floor, icy springs bubble from femringed rock bowls. Cool moss carpets every glade.
And the western shore is thrilling. Hills and hills and hills, sheer mountains, glorious, stunning, terrific. Away up, you stop and gaze out over the black sea wall where sea gulls hover below. Far out at sea the big boats bound for the St. Lawrence River are in full view, while sailing craft are nearer, then motor boats and dories.
You seem in the clouds; away from earth. All below is in miniature—the boats, the far-away craft, everything.
It is nine miles across the top of the mountains—the "plateau.” as some call it—and then you have an even
more thrilling view. Almost sheer below, you can see men lifting their salmon nets. Farther out are schooners; on the horizon a steamer leaves a long smoke trail. Cheticamp, eight miles away, seems at your feet, and Presquille, a milelong peninsula with a very narrow isthmus, adds to the beauty of the scene. That view from Cap Rouge alone is worth a trip over the Cabot Highway. It is glorious, incomparable.
After the hills you are in Cape Breton’s Acadian district— a long seaboard with entirely different scenery, humble homes, humble folk with a quaint dialect, wonderful rivers and pools for lovers of the rod and reel, Grand Etang’s quaint wharves, Friar’s Head with its big rock face, Belle Côte which is Acadian even to cap and kirtle, whitewashed fences, low-roofed dwellings—all facing the sea, all backed
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by the great brooding, sheltering hills, mistcrowned, dominating.
Everyone who has heard of Cape Breton has read of the Margarees—Harbor, and Forks and Valley. “God's very own valley," the visitors call it, and it is the last stretch of the Cabot Trail. Fragrant pine groves, meadows with stately elms, long slopes leading from the enclosing hills. It is a different beauty than that of the North, yet just as enchanting in its own way, a variety of pure delight, restful, soul-filling.
And, as an unmatched finish, you have the Lakes o’ Law—entrancing mirrors hidden among dusky greenness—and then Baddeck, nested under Salt Mountain and coyly embraced by the bonniest hills that the mind of man can picture. There, on one of
the hills, Beinn Bhreagh, Dr. Alexander Graham Bell is buried, not far from the home he loved, and this was his verdict.
“I have travelled around the globe. I have seen the Canadian and American Rockies, the Andes, the Alps, the Highlands of Scotland, but for simple beauty Cape Breton outrivals them all.”
In August of 1933, a cultured lady returned from travelling in Europe and was driven over the Cabot Trail. At the finish she said :
“I have been in Norway, in Switzerland, in all the mountains of Europe, among the Rockies, and I have never seen anything as exquisitely beautiful as the scenery along this Trail.”
It is the variety that adds to the attraction. First, you have the w-onders of the Bras d’Or lakes, the “Arm of Gold.” Then
you travel through sheer forest—spruce and pine and white birch that shelters startling creatures of the wild—drinking aromatic odors, to arrive at your first great thrill of sweeping, unique, sun-shadowed shore line, St. Ann’s Bay. After that comes Smoky’s majestic grandeur and the entrancing, holding beauty of Ingonish, its picturesque villages and sandbars. The rest of the east coast are those little fishing hamlets, every one a gem in its setting of weathered flakes and anchored dories, warm with the welcome of its hearty, rugged seafaring folk.
Leaving it, you enter entirely new scenery —Sunrise Valley, broad rich acres, walled by the grandest of Cape Breton’s mountains, watered by a winding, hide-and-seek river, opening to a sea view that is unrivalled in that Northland of successive sea views.
In Sydney there is a photographer with the soul of an artist, Norman McLeod. He loves Cape Breton as a mother loves her child, knows every mile of her travelled ways. He has photographed every exquisite scene until his studio has become a wonderland, yet he told me it cost him twenty attempts before he had obtained a satisfactory picture of Sunrise Valley; so baffling is the expanse of view, so constantly changing the lights and shadows. Visit him, and his gallery will give the grand finale to the greatest unwinding of unspoiled beauty in Eastern America.
The road around Gaspé is thrilling, enthralling, but you become accustomed to its beauty. On the Cabot Trail you pass from shimmering, placid lakes to pounding, roaring cataracts and sheer mountain sides. You wind through tranquil Acadian farmlands to climb straight into the heavens—astounding heights that stifle all expression. You travel through a sheltered valley with fine farmhouses, grazing cattle, patient toilers in the fields—to enter suddenly a wilderness, absolute, stupendous, that strikes one with wonder, fills him with awe. For seventeen miles there is not another sign of the work of man save the new-made road. It is mighty forest with the windfalls of ages entwined with new greenery, with hoary monarchs of spruce towering over ravines so deep that echoes come slowly from their depths. It is a trail of constant surprises, new thrills, added delights.
Every man or woman who has the means should spend a vacation in Cape Breton, should travel once the Cabot Trail. Then they will go again. Cape Breton thrives today on those who went for one trip. They are now constant friends, more enthusiastic than the natives. The man is sorely lacking in appreciation who can make the trip in summer weather when all nature is at its best, and remain with emotions unchanged.
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