The Great Central Interior Plateau

Fields on Whycocomagh Mountain
[#1] Photo 147 of 171: Fields on Whycocomagh Mountain
Taken 2012 July 6 from the Whycocomagh Mountain Road
5 km (3.1 mi) from its junction with the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 105) in Whycocomagh
GPS 46°00.271'N 61°05.900'W

In Whycocomagh, I filled the car with gas. The day, while sunny, was too hazy for long views, so it wasn’t a good photography day, though close-up views were generally better. I therefore decided to devote today to exploration rather than photography and headed up Whycocomagh Mountain Road (it leaves the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 105) at GPS 46°⁠01.845'N 61°⁠04.375'W), taking the route to Margaree Forks that crosses the great central interior plateau.¹ I had made this trip only once before, on 2005 August 1, as recounted here, and travelled² in the opposite direction, which, as I remember it, didn’t offer as good forward views as this trip did. I had plenty of time and was interested in refreshing my memory—I took no photos on the 2005 trip—so I decided to stop along the way and get some photos to have for future reference, poor photography weather or no. Some of them turned out better than I had expected, so I am happy to share them with you.

Photo #1 was taken 5 km (3.1 mi)³ up Whycocomagh Mountain Road, much of which is snowmobile trail 104 once you reach the top of the plateau. This part of the plateau is named Whycocomagh Mountain, which runs above Highways 252 and 395 from Whycocomagh to South Lake Ainslie. In years past, there was a commercial blueberry farm that exploited the fields seen here; I do not know if it is still active, as these fields now look to be pretty much overgrown with hay, wild grasses, and small bushes, though there were still signs about to keep off the land. The forests one sees here are not part of the parcel formerly managed by New Page; those lands begin at the 5.8 km (3.6 mi) mark at a 90° right turn: Whycocomagh Mountain Road ends there and Geldart Road begins.

Geldart Road runs a bit north of east and then turns to the northeast as it approaches Lewis Mountain and retains that direction until it reaches its end at a four corners, at the 9.2 km (5.7 mi) mark. To the left is Lewis Mountain Road, which leads northwest to Highway 395 in South Lake Ainslie; to the right is Lewis Mountain Road, which becomes Lewis Mountain Trail after passing through some recently logged lands and continues down to Exit 6 on the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 105), the lower portion following along MacPhersons Brook, previously seen in this essay. Straight ahead is Trout Brook Road, which is the name given to most of the rest of the route.

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¹ This plateau, some of whose northern edges were seen from Cape Clear earlier in this essay, is unnamed so far as I am aware; a good portion of its eastern part lies in Victoria County but the majority of its area is in Inverness County. Although most of the route I followed lies in Inverness County, it veers into Victoria County in order to bypass the Trout Brook Wilderness Area and then crosses back into Inverness County beyond the area’s north end. I take the boundaries of this great central interior plateau as running along the Trans-Canada Highway from Whycocomagh to Wagmatcook, along the Middle River to the Cabot Trail, along the Cabot Trail to Margaree Forks, along the Cèilidh Trail (Highway 19) to Southwest Margaree, and along Highways 395 and 252 back to Whycocomagh, excluding settlements, homes, and farms below the plateau along the highways and river valleys. Unlike Inverness County’s great southern interior plateau, which once was dotted with settlements, the great central interior plateau has never had much population. The one outpost on the plateau, Lewis Mountain, long since abandoned, and the interior valley communities of Pipers Glen and Keppoch near Scotsville, which are still hanging on, are the only exceptions of which I am aware.

² If you ever attempt this trip, make sure you have good maps and a GPS with you in the car, along with a copy of the Cape Breton Highlands Snowmobile Trail Guide, which covers a whole lot more than just the Cape Breton Highlands: it is very easy to get lost in the maze of roads on this plateau without these resources! Be forewarned: the route is 41 km (25 mi) long, no one lives on the plateau, and you are unlikely to encounter anyone else up there. So, should you run into trouble, you are going to have a long walk! Be sure to let someone know where you are going and be prepared to turn back, as you may well encounter very different road conditions from those I found: storms wreak damage that may not be repaired until someone discovers it. This is not an often travelled route!

³ The distances on this page were computed using the distance measurement tool of Google Maps in metres, rounded to kilometres, and then converted into miles. The values are close, but should not be treated as exact. The GPS readings are those I wrote down on this trip.

Pond and bog on the Trout Brook Road
[#2] Photo 148 of 171: Pond and bog on the Trout Brook Road
Taken 2012 July 6 from the Trout Brook Road
10.5 km (6.5 mi) from the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 105) in Whycocomagh
GPS 46°02.439'N 61°04.024'W

At the 10.5 km (6.5 mi) mark, beyond the four corners, the strikingly pretty pond/bog seen in photo #2 is on the left (west) side of the road; its outlet crosses underneath the road in a sluice and continues through a marshy/grassy area on the right into the woods and out of sight. The topographical map shows that two streams come together to the east of the road to form Humes River, which empties into the Bras d’Or Lake at St Patricks Channel; the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 105) crosses over Humes River on a bridge not far from the mouth of Humes River (at a very scenic spot when the fall colours are bright). The map is silent about which of the two streams is Humes River, if either one is, but my vote goes to this one, which does not long continue past the furthest point one can see right of centre here.

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View from the Trout Brook Road
[#3] Photo 149 of 171: View from the Trout Brook Road
Taken 2012 July 6 from the Trout Brook Road
17.3 km (10.7 mi) from the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 105) in Whycocomagh
GPS 46°05.184'N 61°01.565'W

Beyond the bog, Trout Brook Road continues to the northeast with a fair amount of easting, as it skirts the Trout Brook Wilderness Area and crosses over into Victoria County. The road has numerous ups and downs, on which one must be careful of some washouts, but is in generally decent condition and easily driveable with care in my Prius—just don’t expect to travel at much over 10 km/h (6 mph) along here. I stopped at numerous points along the way for photos, but mostly they show trees and road and not a lot else. At the 17.3 km (10¾ mi) mark, one is at the top of a steep hill with the view to the northeast of the Cape Breton Highlands on the north side of the Middle River valley seen in photo #3. I am not sure what the feature left of centre in the middle ground might be; it is clearly on the south side of the Middle River valley and might be a ridge or other feature on Gairloch Mountain, which is not too far away from this point. (While researching this, I came across a lovely photo of a waterfall on Gairloch Mountain here, which I had never before heard mentioned—something to check out! If anyone has information on its location, please let me know at the address in the footer.) As seen in photo #3, this section of Trout Brook Road has protruding rocks that have to be dodged, but all hills require caution, so this is no more than par for the course in this section of the road.

Photo #4 was taken from the top of another hill, still in Victoria County, at snowmobile junction 6L, where snowmobile trail 700 heads southeast to Wagmatcook. This is much more typical of the views at the tops of hills than is photo #3—one can see down into the valley and up the other side, but not beyond the other side. At this point, Trout Brook Road turns to the north of northwest and continues on past Gillanders Mountain; it significantly improves over its previous state, becoming wider and smoother, when 20 km/h (12 mph) is not unreasonable at most places.

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View from the Trout Brook Road
[#4] Photo 150 of 171: View from the Trout Brook Road
Taken 2012 July 6 from the Trout Brook Road
18.9 km (11.7 mi) from the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 105) in Whycocomagh
GPS 46°05.823'N 61°00.741'W
View from Snowmobile Trail 105
[#5] Photo 151 of 171: View from Snowmobile Trail 105
Taken 2012 July 6 from Snowmobile Trail 105 1.7 km (1.1 mi) from Snowmobile Trail Junction 6K
GPS 46°09.410'N 61°04.047'W

At the 27.6 km (17.1 mi) mark (at GPS 46°09.823'N 61°03.216'W), one reaches Snowmobile Junction 6K, where Snowmobile Trails 105 and 104 come together; they both follow Trout Brook Road to the north. Misled by a sign indicating the road ahead was MacMillan Mountain Road, I turned left onto Snowmobile Trail 105 and travelled along it a way, reaching a point where I was heading due south, definitely not the direction I wanted to be travelling! The view here is of the plateau back where I had come (the pond/bog is almost due south of here), with the rounded hump left of centre in the far distance being Whycocomagh Mountain. As the road was not so good as the Trout Brook Road and it was getting late in the afternoon, I turned around at this point and went back to Snowmobile Junction 6K, ignored the sign, and continued on north. I definitely want to explore Snowmobile Trail 105 here to the south, if only to see where it comes out: some part of this trail might also eventually be incorporated into the Trans-Canada Trail to connect the Lewis Mountain Trail to Scotsville.

For those who wish to replicate this trip, continuing north from Snowmobile Junction 6K, the next significant point is at the 28.7 km (17.8 mi) mark (ignoring the excursion on Snowmobile Trail 105), where Trout Brook Road takes a sharp 90° right turn (at GPS 46°10.356'N 61°02.883'W); at this point, MacLellans Road (according to Google Maps) goes straight. I took it, in spite of a very clear sign saying to go right, because my GPS said it connected to Egypt Road (which, in fact, it does), but the road deteriorated quickly and I soon turned around and returned as I had come. The next significant point is at the 30.1 km (18.7 mi) mark (ignoring the MacLellans Road excursion), where Trout Brook Road ends at Snowmobile Junction 7A (at GPS 46°10.579'N 61°02.126'W); at this point, Snowmobile Trail 104 follows Gillanders Mountain Road east to Middle River and Snowmobile Trail 105 goes northwest along Egypt Road. At the 32.7 km (20.3 mi) mark, one reaches Snowmobile Junction 6S, where Snowmobile Trail 105 heads north towards Northeast Margaree and Snowmobile Trail 630 goes west along Egypt Road. Following Egypt Road, one descends the plateau along a very scenic brook, arriving at Pipers Glen Road at the 38.4 km (23.8) mark (at GPS 46°12.169'N 61°07.071'W) and at Highway 395 at the 40.6 km (25.2) mark (at GPS 46°12.699'N 61°08.521'W). The Pipers Glen Road, I should mention, goes to the Egypt Falls trail head (at GPS 46°11.762'N 61°07.428'W), a short trail from which leads to the falls, seen here; definitely worth a visit!

Besides Snowmobile Trail 105 heading south from Snowmobile Junction 6K, I wish to explore three other roads on the plateau, snowmobile trails all. The snowmobile trails map is clear that the trails go where it says they do and I have no doubt that they do, but I have difficulty in following them in Google Earth’s satellite imagery along their entire routes (parts of them are clearly there), while the route described here is present in full in Google Earth’s imagery. So, when next the opportunity arises, I hope to check out Gillanders Mountain Road from Snowmobile Junction 7A, the road from Snowmobile Junction 6S north to Northeast Margaree, and the road from Snowmobile Junction 6L to Wagmatcook. It’s quite likely they may not be driveable, but until one has made the attempt, one cannot know for sure.