After the “weather” look-off, my next stop on my way back to Chéticamp Saturday was at the look-off above Le Buttereau, seen at the left of photo #1, a panorama looking out on the bight of the Gulf of St Lawrence along these shores. Here, there is plenty of open water, due in no small part to the mouth of the Chéticamp River, whose swift flowing waters enter the Gulf at the western edge of Le Buttereau, seen in much sharper detail in the close-up in photo #2. (The beautiful Chéticamp River is described in much more detail in this photo essay, whose first photo is a summer view of this panorama.) The huge expanse of ice just to the right of Le Buttereau covers the portion of the Chéticamp River estuary visible here that lies behind the cobblestone and gravel barrier jointly thrown up by the action of the Chéticamp River and the Gulf of St Lawrence. The similar expanse of ice the the right of and beyond the low ridge is L’Étang-à-Johnny-à-Eusèbe (Eusebius’ (Son) Johnny’s Pond), a large freshwater pond (barachois) cut off from the Gulf by the Chéticamp beach, here snow and ice-covered. Both of these beautiful bodies of water are accessible by a short walk from from the end of Chemin LaPointe, which joins the Cabot Trail near La Boulangerie Aucoin (Aucoin’s Bakery) in Petit-Étang. The coastal range (the edge of the Cape Breton Highlands Plateau) continues on to the southwest, where it ends at the Margaree River; in the far distance at the far right, Cape Mabou at Sight Point dips down to the Gulf. This look-off has long been one of my favourite spots to stop and soak in the gorgeous sights and I was overjoyed to see it in these winter colours on such a fine day.
Photo #3 shows the coast along Chéticamp Beach at Petit-Étang and on to Caveau Point at the mouth of Chéticamp Harbour, seen at the far right. The hill in the background at the right is on Chéticamp Island, a part of whose snow-covered community pasture can be seen on the other side of the harbour mouth past Caveau Point. As in nearly every view of Chéticamp, the steeple of L’Église-St-Pierre dominates the scene, fittingly so since the church is historically the institution that more than any other has bound this proud Acadian community together. All of the open water here came as somewhat of a surprise to me, even given the rapid outpouring of the Chéticamp River into the Gulf, as I’d have expected ice along the coast to be seen here.
Photo #4 is a view of Le Buttereau itself. The gash down its eastern flank marks the initial route of the Cabot Trail, which crossed the Chéticamp River on a bridge over the mouth rather than taking its current route along and around the eastern base of Le Buttereau and crossing the river considerably further upstream. The old route remains in use as a walking trail (there is a parking lot hidden from view at the base of the gash), leading to fine views from the top. Even if you aren’t up to the stiff climb up the old route, the parking lot also gives access to the rocky shore along the base of Le Buttereau with fine views of the Gulf and the birds who frequent the area (eagles are very often overhead). Another walking trail starts near the south end of Le Buttereau and follows along a ridge about a third of the way from the top of the hill along its western flank, passing by the ruins of more houses torn down when the park was created; this is a much easier climb than the old Cabot Trail route, spread out over a longer distance, and leads to the same fine views. Constant erosion on the western side has led to the closing of parts of the area previously open—obey the warnings to stay well back from the edges! I have hiked these trails a number of times and never tire of them; they are one of the Cape Breton’s many gems.
Photo #5 shows the valley known as La Rigwash-à-Bernard. I have been unsuccessful in tracking down the precise meaning of Rigwash, which apparently is an ancient dialectical term brought with the original Acadian settlers from France, though it is not present in the Acadian French dictionary I have. So far as I am aware, it is used only in one other place name, La Rigwash-à-Bésure, through which Le Ruisseau Robert (Robert Brook) flows to the east of the Visitors’ Centre. As used in these two place names, it seems to mean cleft or valley. The spelling using “w” and “sh” in Rigwash hint strongly at an English respelling of the original word, which would render those sounds as “ou” and “ch” in standard French. Whatever its provenance, it names a beautiful valley, both from below as one drives along it, and from the tops of the mountains above—the hiking trail named L’Acadien (The Acadian) crosses the mountains here, with several look-offs from which the views are magnificent. La Grande Falaise (The Great Cliff) is at the very left of this photo; it dominates the view from the valley below and is visible from a long ways away.
What a lovely look-off! It brings back so many memories of happy days hiking and walking around this gorgeous area, though admittedly none of them had the snow and ice so prominent in these photos! Great views, no matter what the season!