This lovely view is one of the many glories of the Cabot Trail. At the far left of the photo in the foreground one sees the red of the cliffs of le Buttereau. Immediately to its right is the mouth of the Chéticamp River; a very swift current keeps open the sand/gravel bar which the wind and the waves of the Gulf of St Lawrence have deposited and continue to deposit across the mouth of the river, a part of the Petit-Étang beach that runs along this shore to the southwest. A hill separates the waters of the river on the left from those of L’Étang-à-Johnny-à-Eusèbe (Eusebius’ Johnny’s Pond) on the right. In the background, one sees the coastal mountain range¹ which runs all along this coast from Red Head to the Margaree River.
As I discovered when I hiked out to the mouth of the Chéticamp River this summer, the Petit-Étang beach is not easy walking. La Plage-St.-Pierre (Chéticamp Beach), at the south end of Chéticamp Island, is a white sand beach; Petit-Étang beach, on the other hand, is a sand/gravel/cobblestone beach (though both sand dunes and white sand can be found along the shore further inland) and walking on this uneven and unstable surface had tired my legs considerably by the time I got back to the car. Nevertheless, this beach is quite popular in summer and justfiably so, since the views are magnificent. Moreover, swimming well away from the swift currents where the Chéticamp River crosses the sand/gravel bar seems quite popular on warm days: the water in the river is mostly fresh and warmer; that on the other side of the bar is salty and cooler.
To access the Petit-Étang beach, turn off the Cabot Trail onto La Prairie Road and drive past La Boulangerie Aucoin (Aucoin’s Bakery) to the end of the road; turn right onto a dirt road which rises above and parallels the beach and stop along it wherever you will, leaving a path for other cars to exit. Alternatively, you can turn right onto le Chemin Bourgeois (Bourgeois Road) before reaching the end of La Prairie Road (it’s the last right-hand turn); this road leads out to the hill which separates the Chéticamp River from L’Étang-à-Johnny-à-Eusèbe, which halves the distance needed to walk to the mouth of the river.
As best as I can determine, L’Étang-à-Johnny-à-Eusèbe is a barachois, a coastal lagoon separated from the sea by a sand bar. This word, borrowed from Acadian French, which got it from sailors’ speech, is current in the English of Atlantic Canada, but hasn’t made it into any of the unabridged English dictionaries I have, except for the Encarta dictionary, so I have shown it here as a French word. It first came to my attention as the name of the wonderful PEI Acadian band Barachois (Albert Arsenault, Louise Arsenault Bergeron (Albert’s sister), Chuck Arsenault, and Hélène Arsenault) who produced three marvellous CD’s and mesmerized those who heard them perform at Riverfest in Knowlton, New Jersey, in 2001. After a very busy and distinguished career lasting nearly a decade, Barachois disbanded in 2003.
¹ This is actually the western edge of the internal plateau that forms the Cape Breton Highlands, sculpted by the streams which make their way down it to the Gulf of St Lawrence.↩