The concert at North Highlands Elementary School was excellent. Marc Boudreau and Douglas Cameron, with Maybelle Chisholm-McQueen on keyboards, gave us four marvellous sets of fiddle tunes, the first and last with dual fiddles, the second by Marc, and the third by Douglas. Then the Asham Stompers took the stage, in red rather than the turquoise of the previous concert, and presented three fine dance sets, different from those they danced at the Strathspey Place, but equally as good and, as there, earned them a standing ovation after each set. What a breathtakingly amazing group! The Jennifer Roland Band (with Jennifer on fiddle, Jason Kempt on keyboards, Linden MacKenzie on guitar, Allie Bennett on bass, and Pete Mullen on drums) played several fine sets in the Cape Breton band style; I've been a fan of Jennifer’s music since I heard her first CD several years ago: no one does the Cape Breton band sound better than she does. I no longer drive in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park after dark as a result of too many close encounters with moose, so I caught up on my sleep a bit after returning to my motel room in Cape North. What a magnificent day, scenically and musically, Wednesday was!
Thursday, was a far less lovely day than Wednesday, with mostly overcast skies through which a burst of sun would occasionally light up a portion of the landscape. Since I had no obligations until the evening concert in Terre-Noire, I was able to spend most of it in northern Cape Breton, a place I have come to love for its incredible beauty and fine people. My initial destination was Meat Cove, at the stunning end of a gorgeous 13.2 km (8.2 mi) drive along the northern shores of Cape Breton Island, easily the equal of any stretch of the Cabot Trail. Accordingly, I set out promptly for there, stopping for photos along the way.
Photo #1 is the first of the photos I selected from this morning, taken from the guard rails above Wreck Cove east of Capstick. Once upon a time, the community at Capstick was known as Wreck Cove, but this very popular name was used for two other places in northern Cape Breton, so the Post Office, sick of the inevitable confusion, forced a name change: the post office and the community were renamed Capstick, after a family there. I have very fond memories of the night I spent in the cabin on the north side of the road above the cliffs (left of centre in photo #1) before my initial hike out to Cape St Lawrence in 2006; the views of the Cape North Massif were spectacular and the glorious sunrise the next morning is still firmly etched in my memory, but it was the long chat through the twilight and evening with the proprietor that I remember most gratefully, filled with stories of days gone by and of the hard life led by those in the area eking out a living from the land and the sea. The egress of the Wreck Cove Brook divides the cobblestone beach into two parts; above it can be seen the old road which descended to the wharf once located there that the local fishermen then used (today, the fishing fleet from all along Bay St Lawrence (the water) docks at the marina in Bay St Lawrence (the village)).
Wednesday evening was certainly very brisk as I stood in line for the concert; a frost covered my windshield when I went out to the car the next morning. Since I wasn’t on this road on Wednesday, I can’t say what the state of the colours might then have been, but for sure, on Thursday, they were noticeably more advanced than anything I had seen elsewhere in northern Cape Breton. I don’t have any photos from this trip of individual red trees — the light didn’t make them shine, but I did see at a distance some interspersed amongst the prevailing oranges, yellows, and limes and I know from previous years that many red trees are to be found there. It was, perhaps, too early yet for them to have reached their glory.
Photo #2 looks across Wreck Cove to Pats Point on the other side. The course of the Meat Cove Road can be traced by following the utility poles in evidence. The house, left of centre in the photo, seems to be hiding amongst the trees, which here again are distinctly changed from their summer state.
Photo #3 looks down the road and across to the mountains above the once bright green fields, now fading into fall hues. Here again there is a mantle of colour all over the terrain; fall has definitely arrived! The ridge seen here is the northern edge of the Cape Breton Highlands plateau, although the topographical map labels it as North Mountain.
The road, which is paved from St Margaret Village to Pats Point, becomes gravel for the last 8 km (5 mi) into Meat Cove. Along with the loss of the bridges over the Salmon River (east of Capstick) and Meat Cove Brook (two of them, both in Meat Cove), the Meat Cove Road also suffered numerous washouts in the torrential downpours that occurred in this area during the night of 2010 August 21-22 (see here and here). One of them was below the curve seen in photo #3 where the road traverses Wreck Cove Brook; now repaired, the evidence of the damage still remains very visible.