Photo #1 shows a tamarack tree near the junction of the Alpine Ridge and Whycocomagh Port Hood Roads that is in the process of changing colours: the upper portion and a branch on the lower part are showing the yellow-orange-gold colour they display in Cape Breton upon turning; the remainder of the tree still shows the usual summer light green. Tamaracks are deciduous conifers, i.e., they bear cones and have needle-like “leaves” that they shed over winter (rather earlier in Cape Breton than in the Adirondacks and southern New York State). In my experience in Cape Breton, they rarely turn until after the peak of fall colours, so seeing them is strong evidence that the peak is past.
From the Alpine Ridge, I drove up the south side of Southwest Ridge (Mabou Ridge) and over the top. On my way down into Mabou, I stopped several times for photos. I discovered at one stop that I had the full and undivided attention of a herd of six young cattle, seen in photo #2, who clearly were unused to such strange activity as having one stop and climb down and across the ditch to get under utility wires for photos. As can also be seen here, many of the deciduous trees were bare with only a few remaining ones showing signs of fall colours.
Photo #3 shows what I stopped at this point to try to capture—it wasn’t the cattle! First of all, there is a red maple here at the lower right, one of the few remaining, accompanied by green trees beginning to turn and some showing fall colours. This is all gloriously set against the Cape Mabou Highlands across the Mabou River valley at the far left and the bulk of Mabou Mountain that crosses most of the rest of the photo. The village of Mabou is spread out at the foot of Mabou Mountain, with the steeple of St Marys left of centre. No matter the season, there are always glorious views from the Southwest Ridge Road.
Photo #4 is a close-up of the red maple seen at the right of photo #3, together with its neighbours on the right, birches in fine yellows, though with still some residual greens showing. Another red maple at the upper centre right is still changing. The trees at the left of the red maple have lost their leaves already; the remaining ones are welcome laggards.
Photo #5 is from a bit further down the Southwest Ridge Road, where one has a fine view of the southern edge of the Cape Mabou Highlands on the far side of the Mabou River. They stretch from the mouth of the Mabou River inland to Northeast Mabou, bounded by the river. The ones seen here are along Mabou Harbour Road, with the eastern flank of the Highlands behind Northeast Mabou showing at the right. At this somewhat lower elevation, the trees, birches primarily, are still in fairly good colours, with some still showing greens while others are mostly bare. The white decorating the field at the right is mostly Queen Anns Lace.
It had been some years since I last hiked the section of the Celtic Shores Coastal Trail from Mabou Station to West Mabou, which I judged to be among the least scenic at that time. I found many and very welcome changes along the trail this day. For starters, I left the car in the new parking area beside the Cèilidh Trail where the Railway Trail crosses the highway. I found open views of the Mabou River and the Cape Mabou Highlands that I don’t recall from my previous hikes: some very welcome clearing has since occurred, making the tree-shrouded views I remember into fine vistas, such as that seen in photo #6, another look at the southern edge of the Cape Mabou Highlands above the Mabou River, where the skies were becoming ever more overcast, so the normally bright blue waters of the Mabou River are here a grey-blue. At the kiosk, I found a new business directory sign. Not far south of West Mabou Road, I found a new bench in a cleared area overlooking the Southwest Mabou River just above its mouth along with a fine new interpretive panel. And that doesn’t include the new park bench and interpretive panel I discovered this summer on the east side of the Cèilidh Trail! My thanks to the volunteers who maintain and enhance it for all these many continued improvements to the trail: your dedication is greatly appreciated.
Photo #7 looks south along the trail as it nears the Fire Station on the edge of Mabou. The white birches line the trail, giving it almost the impression of a tunnel. As you can see, I was not the only person out on this afternoon: another lady, who was proceeding at a much brisker pace than I was, was getting some exercise this early afternoon as well.
By the time this photo was taken from along West Mabou Road, the skies had darkened considerably and the blues now were all greys; a significant amount of haze/mist hung in the air, and, although it was not yet raining, it felt damp and humid. Photo #8 looks across Big Cove at the Cape Mabou Highlands on the far side of the Mabou River. The lines of black in the waters of Big Cove are part of an aquaculture operation. The bottom left corner of the photo shows that the Queen Anns lace is out in force here, too.
I made it out to kilometre marker 61 south of West Mabou Road, but decided not to continue on further on one of the most gorgeous sections of this trail, that along the Southwest Mabou River, as it could start raining at any point and it was a fair piece back to the car for one moving as slowly as I was. When I got back to the car, however, the rain hadn’t yet started, though it felt imminent, so I continued on across the highway to the aforementioned park bench I discovered this summer. I sat there enjoying the lovely view of the birches seen in photo #9 and of Mabou Mountain rising above them; while I was there, an eagle made two passes upstream fishing, but my camera wasn’t out on either pass, and some other large bird, perhaps a hawk, was circling over the trees across the river (but does not appear in this photo).
When it began spitting rain, I turned around and noticed another straggler, a red maple I somehow missed on the way to the park bench. Photo #10 shows its portrait, the last I took that day; I then made haste back to the car, arriving before it started raining for fair.