Monday’s weather wasn’t conducive to photography, but Tuesday was a lovely morning with blue skies, puffy white clouds, and bright sun, albeit with residual haze in the air when I left Port Hood. Given the lovely day, I had planned on hiking up Salt Mountain, so I headed off towards Whycocomagh. I drove to Southwest Mabou and then headed up the Alpine Ridge Road,¹ from which the photos on this page were taken. The road is in generally excellent condition (much of it was reditched last year), though a couple spots require one to slow to a crawl to avoid bad bumps at places where running waters have made a mess. I travelled it regularly this year; my Prius’ GPS considers it the shortest route between Port Hood and Glencoe Mills and it took me less driving time than the other alternatives as well.
Photo #1 was taken a short distance up the Alpine Ridge Road from its start in Southwest Mabou; the road climbs steeply up towards the summit of Alpine Ridge, so one doesn’t have to go very far before gaining enough height for good views. This view looks to the west back down the hill just climbed; the road turns to the right and continues down onto the Cèilidh Trail just north of the bridge over the Southwest Mabou River. The hills seen in this view are across the Southwest Mabou River (invisible here in the trees) on the north side of Mabou Road.
From this same spot, one also has a good view a bit west of north towards Glengarry, seen in photo #2; the houses lie along Hunters Road on the northwest side of the Southwest Mabou River. Hunters Road is a spectacular drive, especially as it reaches West Mabou, with gorgeous five-star views of the Cape Mabou Highlands, the Mabou River, Mabou village, the Southwest Mabou River, Southwest Ridge, and Alpine Ridge. If you don’t know this road, seek it out!
¹ The official name of this road is the Whycocomagh Port Hood Road, usually shortened to just the Whycocomagh Road, which runs from Highway 252 outside of Whycocomagh to the bottom of the Southwest Ridge, where it meets the Southwest Ridge Road, also known as the Mabou Ridge Road. The side road that heads west from that point, locally known as the Alpine Ridge Road, runs from the Southwest Ridge Road across Alpine Ridge to the Cèilidh Trail (Highway 19) in Southwest Mabou. Historically, the road which connected Whycocomagh to Port Hood used the current route and did cross over the Alpine Ridge, but also continued on from Southwest Mabou over a course to Port Hood that has long since been abandoned, though parts of it are still in use under other names or as snowmobile trails. I have used the local name here to avoid confusion.↩
Photo #3 looks to the northeast towards the summit of Alpine Ridge, where the lovely green field seen here sits. This field, visible from the Railway Trail in Southwest Mabou, draws ones eyes there as one hikes above the Southwest Mabou River.
Photo #4 was taken further up the Alpine Ridge Road close to the summit, but before descending the eastern side of the ridge. As can be seen, the road continues to climb, though much less steeply than at its start. The view is to the west and shows Rocky Ridge across the Southwest Mabou River (still invisible down below). The three silos are on a farm at the driveable end of the Justin Road and are visible at several points from the back country, including Glencoe Station, the Hawthorne Road, and the Churchview Road summit in Upper Glencoe. I first noticed them in a photo taken from this last location and had a lot of interesting back-country drives trying to locate their site before I finally discovered them on Justin Road. I am pretty certain no other farms with three silos of equal height aligned in a row exist anywhere in the area! As can be seen from this photo, both Rocky Ridge and Alpine Ridge are heavily forested; fields are the exception, not the rule.
Photo #5 shows the view to somewhat east of southeast as one begins to descend from Alpine Ridge down towards the junction of the Southwest Ridge and Whycocomagh Roads. The lower ridge in the middle ground runs parallel to the Old Mull River Road, also known as the Brook Village Road, which is on the near (west) side of that ridge and below it. The huge diamond-shaped clearing at the upper right of the photo is the MacKinnon farm in Upper Glencoe off the MacKinnon Road. The ridge above it is part of the interior plateau seen from Kingsville earlier; the summit of Churchview Road is along that ridge to the left of where the trees stop, just to the right of the centre of the photo. Alas, the haze that remained in the air doesn’t allow one to see much of the detail, as there are multiple slopes and ridges in this view that cannot be distinguished in the blur.²
² Google Earth has been especially helpful in identifying the features in this photo (as well as others); if you haven’t used this amazing tool, it is well worth your time to try it out. It accepts GPS coördinates and can position you directly over any given point; better yet, one can set a “placemark” so that a given position is remembered from session to session. By now, I have hundreds of placemarks positioned all over Cape Breton Island, making it easy to get to a location, such as this one, tilt the view down so you can see the terrain much as you would in a photo (though it’s actually more like looking from a low-flying airplane), and you can readily (and surely) identify what it is you are seeing. Getting used to controlling the view takes some doing, but is well worth the effort, and I thank my friend who helped me through some rough spots when I despaired of getting it to work. Unfortunately, since the information and the generated views are copyrighted material, I cannot post them on this web site, but anyone can recreate what I’m seeing simply by entering coördinates (the summit of Churchview Road is at GPS 45°56.962'N 61°16.374'W, the MacKinnon farm is at GPS 45°57.118'N 61°17.110'W, and the point on the Alpine Ridge Road where I took the photo is given in its caption). Google Earth’s imagery in Cape Breton is generally excellent, but there are some quadrants that are overly dark and others, like the farm at the end of Justin Road, lack fine enough definition to properly distinguish buildings and structures in 3D.↩