So here’s the thing – I am not getting any younger. I have a bucket list of journeys I’d like to take, and every year the likelihood of completing a fraction of these gets smaller.
If I learned anything from the Island Walk round PEI in 2022, it was to do things while the doing is doable. John Lennon’s quote comes to mind, that “life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans”.
With that philosophical kick up the backside to spur me on, I’ve decided that in mid-May I’ll start a walk from The Hawk on Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia’s southernmost tip,
following the coastline the length of the province to reach the lighthouse at Cape North, the northernmost tip of Cape Breton Island.
I’ll get there by travelling along rail trails, coastal roads, old dirt paths, and the Cabot Trail, passing along the way through Shelburne and Liverpool, Lunenburg and Halifax, Musquodoboit and Guysborough, Inverness and Cheticamp, and many more places besides.
I’ll camp in wilderness areas, provincial parks, national parks, and private campgrounds, and I’ll stay at some B&Bs and inns as well.
I’ll eat in the local restaurants, try the local seafood, shop the local shops, drink the local coffee, and sample the local beer.
I’ll weather the rain and the sun and the wind, and hope for stars with the northern lights at night, watching out for bears, coyotes, and skunks, while hoping to see moose, ospreys, seals, and whales.
All told, I’ll cover about 1100 km over 7 weeks before I meet Ann at Bay Saint Lawrence on two very tired feet, to finish with a couple of days in Baddeck to recover before coming home.
That’s the plan, at any rate. Let’s see how much it needs to adjust. I’ll post when I can along the way, and will probably write more about it afterwards, as I did about the Island Walk around PEI that I did in the summer of 2022.
Thanks to everyone who has bought me a coffee over the past year. The Buy Me a Coffee service allows patrons like you to fund writers like me, to cover things like the costs of running this blog, new shoes and gear, and journeys like this. If that sounds like a worthy idea to you, then go ahead – keep buying me coffees.
To make this a bit easier, I’ll do it in stages, with a rest day in between.
Stage 1 will take me from Cape Sable Island to Lunenburg, covering approximately 235 km over 10 days. This stage features the first of my wilderness camping nights, plus town visits to Shelburne and Liverpool, and finishes with a camping night by the ocean at Rissers Beach Provincial Park.
After a rest day at home in Lunenburg, Stage 2 will take me to Halifax with a detour through wilderness areas on old dirt roads to reach Peggy’s Cove for a quick hello to the lighthouse. It will be about 195 km over 8 days and will feature wild camping on crown land along with camping in provincial parks and private campgrounds.
Ann will pick me up in Halifax and I’ll spend another night at home having a rest. Then I’ll start Stage 3, and walk the Eastern Shore to Auld’s Cove, the longest stretch of the journey, about 370 km over 13 days. This stage features more B&Bs and hotels than the others, along with wild camping on crown land and visits to some private campgrounds.
Finally, Stage 4 will take me along the western coast of Cape Breton Island, from Port Hawkesbury to Pleasant Bay, and then cross northeast over the middle of the island to the eastern shore where I’ll turn north up the east coast to finally reach Cape North, about 270 km over 12 days. I’ll camp at private campgrounds, stay at a few B&Bs, and then camp for a few more nights in Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
For the terminally curious who want to follow at home, or perhaps even walk in my shoes along the same route, to make this journey all you have to do is:
- Start at The Hawk on Cape Sable Island, and follow coastal roads to reach Barrington Passage.
- Pick up the Shelburne County Rail trail and follow it to Clyde River
- Then walk along the tedious Highway 103 to Shelburne
- Where you’ll get back onto the rail trail to walk to Lockeport
- And then from Lockport, continue along the rail trail through and past the Tidney River Wilderness area to reach Highway 3 at Summerville,
- Where you can continue on the highway for a bit and then get back onto the rail trail to reach Liverpool
- And then find the rail trail to walk up to Port Medway, before exiting onto Route 331, the Lighthouse Route coastal road, which will take you all the way to LeHave.
- From LeHave, the ferry floats you over the river to reach the Lighthouse Route to Lunenburg.
- From Lunenburg, take the Rum Runners Trail through Mahone Bay, past Chester, and on past Hubbards to Upper Tantallon, and then
- Detour south onto the Joshua Slocum Trail to reach old dirt roads through Five Bridges Wilderness Area to reach Glen Margaret, where you
- Pick up Route 333, the Peggy’s Cove Road, to walk down to the lighthouse, and then bear east towards Prospect to connect with
- The Old Halifax road which takes you north back to Glen Margaret
- Where you connect onto the old St. Margaret’s Bay Road to walk east to Halifax
- And then walk through the city to the ferry terminal.
- There you catch the ferry over to Woodside in Dartmouth
- To reach the Shearwater Flyer rail trail, which takes you northeast to Lawrencetown
- Where you follow back roads to Porters Lake and then onto Highway 7 to reach Chezzetcook,
- And then keep following Highway 7, past Musquodoboit, Jeddore, Ship Harbour, Spry Bay, Sheet Harbour, Moosehead, Ecum Secum, and Liscombe, all the way to Sherbrooke.
- Where you turn onto Route 211 and follow the coast road northeast to Isaacs Harbour, and then
- Branch onto Route 316 and follow that to Larry’s River.
- At Larry’s River, you follow (natch), Larry’s River Road north to reach Highway 16 outside Guysborough,
- And Highway 16 takes you to Boylston where you get onto Route 344, which
- Bears northeast and then north and then west, around the coast to Aulds Cove, where the TransCanada Highway Canso Causeway clambers across to Cape Breton Island.
- Your feet fall onto the Celtic Shore Coastal Trail, and you follow that all the way to Inverness.
- From Inverness, Highway 19 brings you to Dunvegan and where you branch onto Route 219 along the coast to Margaree Harbour, to
- Pick up Highway 30 and follow that to Cheticamp, and then Grand Etang, where you’ll enter Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
- Here, you follow hiking trails, including the Skyline Trail, northwards before rejoining Highway 30 again, and then
- Continuing along that north until you reach Fishing Cove, and where you detour down hiking trails to the water and spend the night before
- Retracing your steps back to Highway 30 (the Cabot Trail) and then following it north to Pleasant Bay
- Here you turn the corner and follow the Cabot Trail east, up across the island past Big Intervale and Sunrise to reach the hamlet of Cape North (not the actual Cape North, just yet), and
- Turn north onto the Bay Saint Lawrence Road to follow that up to Bay Saint Lawrence, and connect onto
- The Money Point Road which, eventually and finally, brings you to your goal, the lighthouse at Cape North!
- Where you turn around and walk back to Bay Saint Lawrence and to meet your darling wife, who will drive you to Baddeck for a well-earned rest.
So that’s the plan. If all goes well, I’ll finish in early July 2023. Blog posts to follow, of course.
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