The Cape Mabou Trail system is an underpublicized trail system in the beautiful Cape Mabou Highlands situated between Mabou Coal Mines and Sight Point (southwest of Inverness village). Maintained to the highest standards by the volunteers of the Cape Mabou Trail Club, it is always a joy to hike, offering spectacular vistas and lovely glens from its eighteen trails. I spend great amounts of time here each year and this trip was no exception.
The notch in the middle of this photo is the mouth of MacKinnons Brook, where it enters the Gulf of St Lawrence; the brook’s course parallels the Cul Na Beinne (Beyond the Mountain) Trail, also known as MacKinnons Brook Lane, which can be seen in the valley below as it leads around the (unnamed, so far as I know) mountain at the left. The Beaton Trail, newly opened in 2006, traverses that mountain, with two splendid look-offs, one facing Beinn Bhiorach (Steep Mountain) near its summit and the other close to its junction with the MacPhee Trail from which one can see Cape George on mainland Nova Scotia across St Georges Bay.
The Oir à Ghlinne (Edge of the Valley) Trail connects the Cul Na Beinne Trail with the MacArthur Trail (named, I was told, for an aviator whose plane crashed in the area some fifty years ago), from which one can reach the Coill à Bhraighe (Highland Forest) Trail, which leads to the summit of Beinn Bhiorach, at the right of this photo and outside its scope, from which another quite different but equally marvellous panorama presents itself.
The dead evergreens that one sees in the valley below were killed by insects that attack fir and spruce trees. See this web site for information about one of the culprits, the spruce budworm.
UPDATE: In an article entitled Beetle damage evident in Inverness County forests in The Inverness Oran dated 2007 July 18, the damage seen in the photo above (and in other photos in this essay) is attributed primarily to the spruce bark beetle (Dendroctonus rufipennis), and not to the spruce budworm. According to the article, ”[w]hite spruce in particular matures within 50-60 years and thereafter is prone to beetle attack. The spruce beetles begin to attack trees in late May and continue into June. When beetle populations are low, healthy trees are able to resist the pest, but weaker or mature trees may succumb to ‘mass attack.’ Climate change, increasing temperatures, blow-downs (or tree stress) and even hurricanes may accelerate the spread and damage of the spruce beetle, which as an adult can grow to 4-6 mm. in length”. The article, quoting Walter Fanning of the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources, indicates that the damage was unlikely to have been ”caused by the blackheaded budworm. While the department had some concern about their rising numbers in the summer of 2005, Fanning says the numbers declined in 2006 and have virtually ‘collapsed’ this year. He also said that Nova Scotia does not yet have another spruce budworm problem, and the spruce budworm adult moths have only recently begun to appear again in very small numbers”. See here, here, and here for more information about this pest and here for photos of the spruce bark beetle.
 The spruce beetle has really wreaked havoc on the white spruce in Cape Mabou (and all over Cape Breton Island); this photo documents an early stage of the infestation, which has since devastated the area, resulting in the closing altogether of the Cape Mabou Trail Club’s great trail system in 2009 and 2010; some trails were cleared and reöpened in 2011 and it is hoped that more will be reöpened in 2012, but the damage is ubiquitous wherever the white spruce had established themselves in large stands. See the Hiking Information section of this web site and its annual “News” articles for more detailed information.