The Beinn Alasdair Bhain Trail continues on past the side trail to the look-off down to the MacKinnons Brook Trail Head. It used to go straight down through a lovely stand of aromatic spruce following, but below, a ridge that runs much of the way down the side of Beinn Alasdair Bhain. That area was destroyed by the spruce bark beetle, rendering the trail unusable and irrecoverable; the dead wood has since been cut away and the ridge above the old trail is now open. The Cape Mabou Trail Club relocated the trail along that ridge, opening up views that did not previously exist, some seen in photo #1. The initial part of the MacPhee Trail, which runs to the east along the crest of Beinn Alasdair Bhain, now connects the original trail to the relocated trail. The view in photo #1 was taken just a short distance north on the relocated trail down from its junction with the MacPhee Trail, which continues east towards the Beaton Trail before descending back down to the Cul Na Beinne Trail.
Beinn Bhiorach (Steep Mountain) is the prominence just left of centre on the far side of MacKinnons Brook; the nearer two prominences are unnamed, but the Beaton Trail crosses both, offering a look-off with a quite different vista of the MacKinnons Brook valley below and Beinn Bhiorach across the valley; the Beaton Trail then descends to the Cul Na Beinne (Beyond the Mountain) Trail near the MacKinnons Brook Trail Head. MacKinnons Brook flows between the further of the two prominences and Beinn Bhiorach, but cannot be seen here as it flows in the gully it has carved. The relocated trail follows the ridge seen at the far left and left of the photo down the west side of Beinn Alasdair Bhain. Below that ridge on the far side of MacKinnons Brook, you can see the half-field half-forest area known as the Meadows, a Conservancy Nature Trust. Sight Point is the most distant point visible in the photo; the trail head at the end of the Sight Point Road (officially the Broad Cove Banks Road) lies on the far side of the point out of view. The MacKinnons Brook Trail runs from that parking area along the side of the highlands high above the waters below, making for spectacular views and a marvellous hike, but not one suited to small children. The Rids An Daraich (Oak Ridge) Trail follows the far side of the sloping ridge of Beinn Bhiorach down to the MacKinnons Brook Trail roughly half way between Sight Point and MacKinnons Brook. To the right of Beinn Bhiorach lie two ridges, the nearer superimposed on the further. The further ridge holds the MacEachen Trail, which runs from the Community Pastures on the Cape Mabou Road to Sight Point; this trail remained closed in 2012. The nearer ridge holds the Coill à Bhraighe (Highland Forest) Trail, which connects Beinn Bhiorach to the MacEachen Trail; it too was officially closed in 2012, except for a short section that leads to the Gleann Sidh (Enchanted Valley) Trail, which descends the far side of Beinn Bhiorach and whose status in 2012 was uncertain (it has a dashed line rather than a solid line, which I take to mean it is hikeable with caveats). This stunning, wide, and open view simply did not exist before the spruce bark beetle devastation, though parts of it were visible from various vantage points along the MacPhee and Beaton Trails, so the havoc that insect caused at least had this benefit. Notice the foamflower in the foreground of this photo; this is the site where its photo was taken. As can be seen, bushes are already growing back where the spruce forest once stood; it will not be too many years before they have reclaimed the ridge and blocked out some of the wonderful view, so visit it now whilst the views are so fine!
Photo #2 was taken part way down the ridge and looks back up along the trail. The MacPhee Trails runs across the crest of the highland, just below its summit. Unfortunately, the lovely skies seen looking south were covered with the white cloud cover seen in photo #1 and the area on the north side of the mountain remained overcast until we were out of the the MacKinnons Brook valley. The vagaries of weather! At least there was very little haze to obscure the fine views.
Taken from the same spot as photo #2, photo #3 looks to the west across the ridge towards the Gulf of St Lawrence. This is the area through which the original trail used to run; you can see why it had to be relocated. Scenes of such massive devastation are all too common in this part of Cape Mabou where the deciduous trees did not have much of a foothold.
Once at the bottom of the Beinn Alasdair Bhain Trail, the friend with whom I was hiking and I continued on to the MacKinnons Brook Trail Head and followed the MacKinnons Brook Trail for a few minutes until we reached the side trail to the Meadows, which we took, first to MacKinnons Brook Mouth, shown in the last page of this photo essay, and then to the edge of the cliffs at the end of the trail, from which photo #4 was taken, looking up at Beinn Bhiorach, where the devastation from the spruce bark beetle is again very marked. For reasons that this photo makes obvious, I call the left prominence “Big Benny” and the right one “Little Benny”, but both are part of the same mountain. The original Beinn Bhiorach (Steep Mountain) Trail up to the summit on Big Benny started just past the MacKinnons Brook Trail Head and crossed Little Benny on its far side, coming out on the grassy slope and continuing on up to the summit; you can see a portion of the trail etched into the grass near the summit. A side trail, also visible in this photo, led from that grassy slope between Big and Little Benny down this side of Little Benny to the MacKinnons Brook Trail; in 2012, that side trail is the only access to the original trail, the initial section of which is blocked by deadfall.
Photo #5, also taken from the cliffs at the end of the Meadows side trail, looks towards Sight Point; the telephoto lens makes things look far closer here than they are in reality. The three points one sees here correspond to three superimposed ridges, the nearest one holding the Rids An Daraich (Oak Ridge) Trail, the middle one holding the Braighe à Bhaird (Poets Ridge) Trail, and the furthest one being Sight Point (most of the slope leading to Sight Point is hidden here). The MacKinnons Brook Trail runs all along this mountainside, but it is hard to make out here; if you have ever hiked it, though, you’ll never forget its incredible views as it dips up and down around and over side brooks entering the Gulf and staying consistently high above the rocky shores far below.