Cape Smokey and St Anns Bay from the St Anns Look-Off

Cape Smokey and St Anns Bay from the St Anns look-off
Photo 9 of 41: Cape Smokey and St Anns Bay from the St Anns look-off
Taken 2009 October 7 from the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 105) at the St Anns look-off
GPS 46°15.277'N 60°32.411'W

This is doubtless one of the most frequently photographed scenes in Cape Breton: beautiful St Anns Bay and the Cape Breton Highlands Plateau rising above it and continuing north to Cape Smokey. In part, this is because it is so easily accessible—most people travel the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 105) over Kellys Mountain at some point—but that is only the beginning of the story. Spectacular landscapes draw one’s eyes across the entire horizon here, from south to north and back again: the mountains to the south and southwest in the far distance, St Anns Harbour leading back to Goose Cove, massive Murray Mountain sitting directly across the harbour, and the Englishtown ferry crossing the very narrow mouth of St Anns Harbour demand every bit as much attention as does the St Anns Bay coast to the north. In short, this look-off always repays a stop, however brief, to admire the many and varied beautiful views it lays out at one’s feet.

The haze had not diminished while I was travelling south on the Cabot Trail to Jersey Cove (with considerable delays caused by the very welcome construction at two points south of Cape Smokey to repair sections of the Cabot Trail that had badly deteriorated), but the sun was still breaking through, though never illuminating any one spot for long. I had less than half a minute during which the sun lit up the beautiful incipient fall colours seen here at the base of Kellys Mountain—heretofore they had been as much in the dark as the trees in the middle ground are in the photo and they returned to the shade shortly after I snapped the photo. These colours were mirrored on the other side of St Anns Bay, though it is difficult to see that from this photo. Still not close to their peak, they were nevertheless now definitely showing the beautiful hues of a Cape Breton fall. Even the reds on which the sun is absent stand out; how much more so were they to be touched by the sun!

Since the rain in the forecast had not so far materialized and since I was still in a hiking mood, on the way south I had decided, if the weather continued to hold, to take the long way back and try to get in a hike on the sole section of the Trans-Canada Trail that is completed in Cape Breton County.¹ That 7.9 km (4.9 mi) segment follows the Old Branch Road from Johnson Road (off exit 2 on Highway 125 at GPS 46°13.033'N 60°16.617'W) to its southern terminus just beyond Scotch Lake. Accordingly, I checked out the trail, though I did not make it all the way to Scotch Lake, turning around about three-fifths of the way there (at GPS 46°11.849'N 60°19.042'W), as the skies were becoming more threatening and, if I was to make the cèilidh, I had to leave the rest of the trail for another day. I drove back along Highway 4 on the eastern side of the island, running into more very welcome construction at three points along the way and then making my way through a heavy, driving rain as I reached and entered Port Hawkesbury. I did get to the cèilidh: a great conclusion to a long day!

¹ Existing proposals have the Cape Breton portion of the Trans-Canada Trail (TCT) eventually connecting North Sydney to the Canso Causeway: from North Sydney, the proposed route passes west of Pottle Lake on Old Branch Road to Scotch Lake and thence inland southwesterly along the Boisdale Hills east of St Andrews Channel to cross the Barra Strait at Grand Narrows; after traversing the Washabuck Peninsula to Little Narrows, it crosses the plateau that runs from Whycocomagh to Middle River on a route taking it north to Scotsville and then west to Inverness; at that point, it joins the Railway Trail, which has now been incorporated into the TCT, and follows it to the Causeway in Port Hastings.