The sun was out full-bore when we arrived below Smokey Mountain, but the winds had not diminished one whit. I fortunately was wearing multiple layers of clothing, so I was not cold standing in the winds, but I wished I had thought to bring some protection for my bare face! My hands I could do nothing about anyway, as I needed them glove- and mitten-less to operate the camera (and wore warm ski gloves otherwise). I was not long outside on each stop for photos, so it did not make that much difference, but it was something I will certainly bear in mind for the next winter trip! You can easily see the effects of the winds in both these photos: look at the foreground at the far left of photo #1 below the birches next to the road—that’s blowing snow, not haze—and look along the top of the ridge in photo #1 and to the right of the headland in photo #2—those aren’t clouds, but again blowing snow! The snow on Thursday was moist and sticky—recall the snow-covered trees at the two look-offs on the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 105); for it to be blown about as seen in these photos, it would first have had to be been dried out before it could be picked up and sent sailing on the winds.
Unless you know the area and the Cabot Trail well, you may miss the path that the latter takes climbing up and around the headland in these photos, but that is where the amazingly engineered route goes. On its course to the Atlantic Ocean (at the right of photo #1 and outside its scope, but not far off), Pathend Brook has carved this ravine below Smokey Mountain, creating a shady glen at its base; if you have the time, stop at the base of Smokey Mountain where the Cabot Trail makes a very sharp turn and begins to climb (there’s a small pull-off at that point) and examine the pretty glen and the brook which flows under the Trail there; it’s also a good spot to appreciate the feats of engineering that went in to building this road over Smokey Mountain. The summit of Smokey Mountain is behind the ridge and the headland seen in both of the photos on this page; there will be another view of it on a later page of this essay.
Photo #1 gives a very good idea of the state of the Cabot Trail’s surface on this day; as you can see, while some snow lingers along the edges of the road, the road itself is mostly clear and dry. It stayed that way all the way up Smokey Mountain, in spite of the blowing snow, and beyond. The road crews in Cape Breton do a fine job of keeping the main roads open, especially in the Highlands where the snow is deeper and lasts longer. I will have more to say on this topic later.
Again I am compelled to comment on how different this scene looks in winter; the details of the terrain are so clear and sharp (compare with this summer view of the same scene, although from a slightly greater distance away), though the cliffs along the Cabot Trail midway up the headland are snow-covered and considerably less distinct than in the summer time. This is just one of the many glories of the Cabot Trail, but what a beautiful place it is, and even more so on a winter day such as this one!