On Monday, the fabulous weather continued—not at all hot, with a good brisk edge to the breeze/wind, but with blue skies, lots of sun, and pretty clear air. I therefore decided to head to the far north of the island, since there’s little music on weekday nights before the start of the high season of music. At Englishtown, I discovered some haze in St Anns Bay, making Cape Smokey shimmer in the distance.
At Ingonish, after renewing my annual season pass for the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, I decided to take a break from the driving and hike the Freshwater Lake Trail, whose trail head (GPS 46°39.020'N 60°23.443'W) is beside the canteen at Ingonish Beach (a park facility near the Keltic Lodge): it had been on my list of hikes for many years and I’d never checked it out, as fine weather for photography in Ingonish is rare whenever I am able to make it up there. This lovely trail follows the north shore of the lake; it is not very long, mostly level, and wheelchair accessible, but offers fine views of the lake all along its course. An extension to the trail, though not suitable for wheelchairs, continues along the northwestern lake shore to the park administration buildings at the entrance to the park. Across the Cabot Trail, a short and very steep path leads up a flight of stairs in a dry brook bed (I counted 175 steps on the staircase) to a look-off with superb views of the Cape Breton Highlands towering over South Bay Ingonish and Freshwater Lake; this is not a climb for those with poor footing, but it does provide a great cardio-pulmonary workout, at least for me, with magnificent views as the reward.
Photo #1 shows the gorgeous view to the southeast from the look-off: the blue waters of Freshwater Lake lie directly below the look-off and the white cobblestones of the barrier that separates Freshwater Lake from South Bay Ingonish crosses the middle left of the photo to the headland that forms the north side of Ingonish Harbour. (Fine views are also available from the end of that headland; in Ingonish Beach, turn onto Beach Crossing Road and drive out to the end of the road.) To the left of centre in the photo, Stanley Point, the easternmost tip of Cape Smokey, that part of the Cape Breton Highlands plateau which lines the south shore of South Bay Ingonish and Ingonish Harbour, draws the eyes towards its bare cliffs and to the Atlantic Ocean beyond. The incredible Stanley Point look-off perches high above the water below the top of the plateau at the end of the Cape Smokey Trail; see the five photos at the end of my Cape Smokey photo essay for some of the stunning views from that look-off. The south shore of South Bay Ingonish, visible here across the headland, is an interesting study in its own right: the Cabot Trail climbs up from Ingonish Ferry to the middle of the rounded protuberance to the right of the centre of the photo before making a 90° turn to follow a brook up towards the top of Cape Smokey (the utility poles that mark its path are easily seen from the look-off, but are barely visible in this compressed photo). Finally, notice the bank of fog that lies well offshore, a band of grey separating the waters of the ocean from the sky, which is whitish with the humidity of the air above the fog; it is this “smoke”, which appeared as haze from Englishtown, often far more dense than on this beautiful day, that gave Cape Smokey its name.
Photo #2 looks to the east from the look-off towards Ingonish Ferry on the south side of Ingonish Harbour. Along the headland in the centre of the photo is a protruding white rock, likely gypsum: big pieces of it have clearly become detached in the past and are strewn, mostly pulverized, down the hillside beneath it, making it gleam white in the sun. The land in the left foreground is an island, the leftmost part of which is also visible in photo #1. Ingonish Harbour lies invisible beyond the headland below the Cape Breton Highlands. Marching diagonally up the mountainside in the centre of the photo is a slash in the forest, in which a power line is sited. Notice also the intriguingly curved slope that descends at the far right of the photo, creating a valley behind it, the work of a brook that is unnamed on the topographical map.
The next three photos on this page were all taken at a railed belvédère at the side of the Freshwater Lake Trail on the north shore of Freshwater Lake about five minutes from the trail head. These photos are typical of the fine views of the lake and the Cape Breton Highlands beyond that one has all along this trail. Signage at this belvédère talks about the need to give space to the loons which nest and raise their broods along these shores; alas, I saw none of these lovely birds on this day.
Photo #3 looks directly south across Freshwater Lake; Stanley Point is at the far left of the photo and Cape Smokey extends all across this view. From this perspective, it is clear just how high the cobblestone and sand barrier, the gleaming white band that runs from the left past the centre of the photo and separates Freshwater Lake from South Bay Ingonish, rises above the waters on either side. It is possible to walk out along this barrier all the way from Ingonish Beach to the aforementioned Beach Crossing Road, with the lovely views one can readily imagine. The slash in the forest also mentioned previously is much more visible from this vantage point; although they can not be made out here, telephoto views taken here show that the communications towers on Smokey Mountain appear just to the right of top of the slash as seen from this belvédère.
Photo #4 looks southwest across Freshwater Lake towards the Highlands beyond. The topographical map has no names for any of the prominences seen in this view. Ingonish Harbour, the outflow of the Ingonish River lies behind the headland at the left of the photo, which hides it from view. The hillside right of centre with the cuttings is the site of Ski Cape Smokey, seen during its winter operations here.
Photo #5 is a telephoto shot of portion of the view in photo #4 that shows in more detail the area near Ski Cape Smokey, including the several ski runs carved into the forest. The site, now managed by a local non-profit group, has been working hard this year on clearing the runs and getting the chair lift back in operation. I do not know how much progress they have made; no one was at the site when I passed by this day.