I doubt that there is any more iconic view of Cape Breton than the one seen in photo #1, though it is more often photographed from other vantage points and from the opposite direction, especially from the Veterans Memorial Look-Off just below the curve where the Cabot Trail goes behind French Mountain. You see it everywhere, in the stylized symbol for the Cabot Trail on road signs (seen in the exhibit map here); in the stylized symbol for Destination Cape Breton (seen here); in tourist brochures; and in souvenir picture post cards; not to mention photographs taken by tourists: nothing else says Cape Breton Island like this iconic view. I regularly have occasion to stop and admire it, as I always have a few morning hours to pass while waiting for the Doryman cèilidhs to start Saturday afternoons at 14h, at which I am a regular attendee, and I often drive out into the park to enjoy the spectacular views. Since you might not have seen it from this vantage point, from the side rode at La Bloque¹ below the Cabot Trail near Cap-Rouge, I beg your indulgence for including it here if you have. The first four photos were taken from the end of the side road and look north along the coast, while the fifth was taken from a third of the way down that road and looks to the northwest.
The northernmost point one sees in photo #1 is Red Head; nearer to it is the light-hued slope on which the Skyline Trail comes out to a fantastic view; nearer still is French Mountain, around which the Cabot Trail winds; the closest point, which hides the small point at Corney Brook (known as la Rivière-à-Lazare to the Acadians), is that at Trout Brook (which the Acadians call le Ruisseau-des-Maurice). Cap-Rouge means the same thing as Red Head or Red Cape, but the topographical map shows Red Head further north than the historical community of Cap-Rouge (uprooted with the creation of the national park), which was on the mountain sides above the red-coloured cliffs seen in this photo; more than thirty Acadian families lived along these shores from le Buttereau to Cap-Rouge.. A new park trail opened in 2010, Le vieux chemin du Cap-Rouge (The Old Red Cape Road) and also known as Le vieux chemin des Cap-Rougiens (The Red Cape Dwellers’ Old Road),² that leads from Trout Brook up along the mountain side following the former route of the Cabot Trail, along which the foundations of some of the settlers’ homes and the remains of the old school can be found, to a look-off above Presqu’Île with very fine views.
¹ This is the spelling which occurs on the park sign at the entrance to the side road; the Cape Breton Highlands National Park of Canada Park Guide and Map, which one gets upon paying the entry fee into the park, and numerous other sources spell it as La Bloc. Both spellings are standard French and have the same pronunciation and meaning; they are simply spelling variants with equal standing, much like catalogue and catalog are in American English.↩
² As of 2012, this new trail was still not shown on the aforementioned Cape Breton Highlands National Park of Canada Park Guide and Map, though it is listed online here. If you wish to hike it, park in the new Trout Brook parking area just beyond the Trout Brook entrance off the Cabot Trail (at GPS 46°42.895'N 60°56.045'W) and walk back across the Cabot Trail from the entrance road to the east side, where you will see the start of the trail (at GPS 46°42.887'N 60°55.999'W).↩
Photos #2 and #3 are details of the slopes just before the reddish-coloured cliffs begin. Left of centre in photo #2, one sees one of the rocky spines that anchor the mountainsides in place (the Cabot Trail is almost directly above, so this is important!). Between these rocky ribs, one sees loose gravel, with lots of good-sized rocks as anchors, on which vegetation is trying with some success to establish itself and thereby help keep the earth in place. The pile of rocks left of centre in photo #2 that runs down the cliff and into the Gulf at the bottom attests to the force of running water, which has dislodged the soil and plunged the rocks down to the water level. Photo #3 is much the same view, but includes all of the mountainside; it is pretty clear that some of the great chunks of rock at the bottom of the cliff were once part of the rock formations higher up that were brought down by the effects of erosion. The Cabot Trail runs along and down the nearer of the two slopes, which has a look-off at the top (outside the scope of this photo)—I call it the “weather” look-off as the interpretive panels there discuss the winter weather and the ecological challenges that keeping the road open during that time of year imposes on the managers of the park; they are well worth having a good look at. The views of the area from the look-off are also very fine.
The layered rocks at the far left of photo #4 are likewise interesting to study; the leftmost chunk seems to have slid apart from the rocks to its right and accordingly has a slightly sharper angle than its neighbours. The shore also clearly a mixture of kinds of rocks, as the interspersed white rocks are quite different from the darker ones; some of the former, at least, are surely gypsum. For the land to be so red, strong residues of iron must be present in the soil. The curved red peak left of centre testifies to the effect of the strong winds that often blow in off the Gulf of St Lawrence, shaping the land. The sides of the summit of French Mountain towering above show the same rock spines and gravel and red soil as are seen at the water level. There are lots of interesting things to be noticed while studying this beautiful scene!
Photo #5 shows the old stone pier at la Bloque with the vastness of the Gulf of St Lawrence beyond it. Before the establishment of the park, a lobster cannery and fishing shacks were found along the shore at la Bloque, which was the economic centre of the Cap-Rouge area. The pier is all that now remains.