Photo #1 is a wide-angled view showing much of the vista from my vantage point on the stump; there is more to the right of the Highlands that my lens couldn’t fit into this view. As can be seen, the colours this day were way past their peak; for some that are closer to peak of this area, see this page. The trees in this area, even when at peak, tend more to the yellows and oranges, with very few reds. But the majesty of the views more than compensate for the lack of bright colours.
Photos #2 through #5, all telephoto shots, form a connected panorama from left to right showing the area in photo #1 in much greater detail. Photo #2 looks at the area near the mouth of MacKinnons Brook and the western flank of Beinn Bhiorach (Steep Mountain). The only noticeable colour here is the residual red-orange of the trees in the lower left. The “Meadows”, the open area on the far (north) side of MacKinnons Brook, are close to the centre of the photo in the middle ground; this was the area where the store was once located. The course of MacKinnons Brook is difficult to make out in this photo; its mouth is behind the red-orangish trees at the far left and below them. The MacKinnons Brook Trail, which begins on the banks of MacKinnons Brook, continues across the western flanks of Beinn Bhiorach high up above the water to Sight Point, at the far left of the photo, offering fantastic views of the rocks below and of the coast in both directions. The Rids An Daraich (Oak Ridge) Trail, accessed from either of two points on the MacKinnons Brook Trail, climbs up Beinn Bhiorach to the ridge seen at the upper centre right of the photo and then follows the ridge to the summit of Beinn Bhiorach; much of this trail is in the forest, but there are a couple of open spots offering very fine views. It’s been a while since I’ve hiked either of these trails, so I don’t know their current conditions, but I would expect both to now be in excellent shape.
Photo #3 continues the panorama, looking to the right of photo #2. This view shows the route of the Rids An Daraich (Oak Ridge) Trail along the ridge in much better detail. Another trail, the Làirig Na Creige (Rocky Hillside) Trail, also climbs up from the MacKinnons Brook Trail, crossing the area seen at the left and upper centre of this photo and reaching the summit in the stand of trees at the upper right, close to a place on the summit where there is always a blast of cold air even mid-summer, apparently from packed snow and ice that the sun doesn’t reach. This trail is a much harder climb than the Rids An Daraich (Oak Ridge) Trail, but with some excellent views on the way up. The orange/yellow-hued trees in the lower right corner are on the slope seen at the left of centre in photo #1 on the near (south) side of MacKinnons Brook.
Photo #4 looks dead on at the summit of Beinn Bhiorach (Steep Mountain), from which one has awesome views of the MacKinnons Brook valley and the coast below and of the Cape Mabou Highlands to the south and east. In many ways, it’s the focal point of the Cape Mabou Trail Club trail system, with several trails converging at the summit from various directions. The Beinn Bhiorach (Steep Mountain) Trail runs from the MacKinnons Brook Trail up and along the ridge that starts in the lower left corner of the photo, crossing “Little Benny” in the centre and continuing on up to the summit of “Big Benny” at the centre right. From experience, I can tell you that it is easier to go up this trail than to come down it! Although it doesn’t look that difficult from this distance, the footing is very tricky near and just below the summit. This mountain has justly earned its name! As can be seen from the orange/yellow colours, the mountain offers enough protection that deciduous trees have gained a foothold in this part of the MacKinnons Brook Valley; although well past peak, there is still some colour to be seen there. I would be remiss not to point out, at the edge of the grassy area near the lower left corner of the photo, a blazing orange individual so bright in the afternoon sun that it stands out even from this distance. If you look carefully, you will see a few other deciduous trees scattered amongst the evergreens in this area of the photo, including a red-orange one, but none have the brilliance of the orange one.
Photo #5 completes the panorama, showing the col at the far left through which the Coill à Bhraighe (Highland Forest) Trail passes to/from the summit of Beinn Bhiorach. The Coill à Bhraighe Trail continues along the ridge seen left of centre and then turns inland to reach the MacArthur and MacEachen Trails on the Cape Mabou Highlands Plateau, of which that ridge is an edge. The nearer mountain is unnamed; I think of it as one of the two “Beaton Mountains”, seen spanning the right two thirds of photo #1, over which the Beaton Trail passes from the MacPhee Trail and then descends to the Cul Na Beinne (Beyond the Mountains) Trail, also known as MacKinnons Brook Lane, a short distance from the MacKinnons Brook Trail Head.
The next three photos are close-ups taken of the area near the summit of Beinn Bhiorach (Steep Mountain) with “Big Bertha”, my 300mm camera lens. Photo #6 looks at the upper portion of the Beinn Bhiorach (Steep Mountain) Trail, which you can see etched in the grass of the slope as it ascends from “Little Benny” up to the summit. This area of the trail often offers open views that are nearly as spectacular as those from the summit itself. It also additionally offers views that are blocked from the summit of the MacKinnons Brook Valley and of the ridge up which the MacArthur Trail climbs.
Photo #7 looks at the forested eastern end of the summit. The most usual vantage point is at the end of a side trail that leads to the edge of the mountain left of centre, where the terrain drops more sharply than it appears to in this view. That trail leads back along the side of the forest to the Trail Head at the summit, which is in a clearing inside that forest. Along the forest and in the clearing, blueberry plants are endemic, a favourite of bears and humans alike. I’ve never seen a bear on Beinn Bhiorach, but I’ve seen plenty of signs that they are there. That is one of the reasons I’ve never attempted to reach the open area on the right, to which no trail leads, but whose southeasterly angle would offer significantly different views than the usual vantage point and from a bit higher up. I’ll leave that exercise for an intrepid adventurer.
Photo #8 looks at the col between the Beinn Bhiorach (Steep Mountain) summit and the Cape Mabou Plateau, across which the Coill à Bhraighe (Highland Forest) Trail passes. This col has been hard hit by the spruce bark beetle and it was a huge mess for the trail work volunteers to clear. Each winter, more dead trees come down and block the path; it was a real obstacle course when a friend and I hiked it this spring before the volunteers had gotten to it. The col also marks the point where the lovely Gleann Sidh (Enchanted Valley) Trail descends on the far side to the MacKinnons Brook Trail on the coast, passing through a gorgeous valley alongside a singing brook, adding to the enchantment. One really one expects to see a leprechaun at every turn!
As you may have gathered, these marvellous trails and their vistas and their streams have grown very dear to my heart over the years I’ve been privileged to explore them. I regret only that it took me sixty years to first come across them. I urge you to get out and discover them if you have not already done so; if you have, I’m sure their beauty and the challenges they pose will make you into a regular on this fantastic system.