I do not know what the official status of the “look-off”¹ at the boundary between Terre-Noire and Cap-le-Moine is, but the large parking area is a very popular spot at which to pull off the Cabot Trail and admire the fantastic views, both of the coast and of the Highlands to the east. Photo #1 looks south from there along the coast at Terre-Noire and beyond to Belle-Côte (Beautiful Coast) to the mouth of the Margaree River and to the land on the south side of the River ending in Cape Grey at the right of the photo. The topographical map labels a shoal off the end of Cape Grey as “The Monster”; however, I believe the dot to the right of the Cape is a boat and not a rock sticking up above water. MacKays Cape, in this view, sits slightly inland of and behind Cape Grey and can be seen sticking up at the point where Cape Grey rises to the right; it is a lovely spot for a picnic and walking exploration with marvellous views. This coast is constantly changing due to erosion caused by driven waves off the Gulf and to the ice and snow that so bedevil Cape Breton’s western coast, not to mention the suêtes, southeast winds than can gust to 200 km/h (125 mph); the rocks one sees in the water were part of the island not all that long ago. The light at this point was fairly decent—this was a couple of minutes before the “light show” started that I discussed on the previous page of this essay.
Photo #2 looks north from the look-off along the coast towards Cap-le-Moine (Friars Head), the name of both the cape at the far left and the village one sees inland of it. This day, the Gulf was fairly calm; on a windy day, the waves can crash as high as the land and under really high winds, the salt spray carries across the Cabot Trail onto the surrounding farmlands. The grass one sees beside the look-off has developed a tolerance to periodic salt-water inundations.
¹ The topographical map, using 1994 reference data, labels it “Lookout”, so it has clearly been there for some time. However, there is no signage nor any indication of its scenic beauty posted along the road; fortunately, most first-time tourists notice the cars already pulled off and so don’t pass it by. It is always worth a stop.↩
Photo #3 is a close-up view of the cliffs along Terre-Noire. The gentleman standing at the left was a truck driver who had pulled off to stretch his legs and make a phone call. The house at the left can be used as a gauge to judge the height of the coastal cliffs one sees here. Notice the sun still shining on Margaree Harbour at the far right; it was gone shortly after I took this photo.
Photo #4 is a look across the Cabot Trail to the Highlands, showing good colour in the rapidly diminishing light. Near the centre of the photo is a stand of orange or possibly red trees, though most of the slopes are yellows with some oranges. However, the upper slopes are full of bare trees.
Photo #5 looks across at the bulk of Squirrel Mountain rising above Grand-Étang. These slopes are covered with mostly bare trees, though the middle slopes are still showing some late colours. The side road I took this photo from leads up into the Highlands and eventually to Pembroke Lake; I made it up part way, on a cloudy day with better light than this day, and found nice views of the Gulf and of Grand-Étang and St-Joseph-du-Moine, but a visit to Pembroke Lake remains on my to-do list. One of these days… There is so much to do and explore in Cape Breton!
Photo #6 was taken from the look-off just beyond (north of) le Buttereau, the prominence seen at the right which forms the east side of the Chéticamp River at its mouth. La Grande Falaise (the Great Cliff), seen near the beginning of this essay, is at the left of the photo and mostly outside its scope. The valley through which the Cabot Trail runs is labelled on the topographical map as the “Rigwash à Bernard”. The path seen leading up le Buttereau (roughly the Big Hill) is now a hiking trail, but was once the Cabot Trail, which originally crossed the Chéticamp River at its mouth, rather than well upstream as it does today. This protected valley still has good colour showing well up the slopes. This look-off is among my very favourites on the Cabot Trail; I stop by here regularly whenever I am in the area. For a view of what this scene will soon look like and for a discussion of its name, see this page.
Photo #7 looks to the right of photo #6 at the mouth of the Chéticamp River, where once the Cabot Trail crossed on a bridge spanning its narrow egress into the Gulf and continued across the sand/gravel bar to Petit-Étang outside of Chéticamp. Having walked out to the end of that sand bar from the far side, I can attest to the swiftness with which the water flows out into the Gulf, readily visible in the waters at the mouth. On a warm sunny day, it is not uncommon to find swimmers here, most on the inside of the sand/gravel bar where the waters are less salty and warmer. The top of Squirrel Mountain, seen earlier on this page from Grand-Étang, can be seen through the falling rain and mist at the far right of the photo, where its distinctive slope makes it unmistakable, even though it is much bedimmed by the rain. This is one magnificent look-off with views that excite me each time I’m privileged to see them!
Photo #8 looks at the colours on the slopes of French Mountain across from the look-off containing the memorial to Canadian Forces buried overseas. Lots of bare trees are seen here, but there are still yellows and oranges in the lower, more protected portions of the slopes.
Photo #9 looks south from the look-off to the south. In spite of the less than stellar lighting, one can see in the far distance all the way to Sight Point south of Inverness and Margaree Island to its right. Cap-le-Moine is at the far left in the haze. Chéticamp Island (ending in Pointe-Enragée at the far right and outside the scope of the photo) spans much of the photo in the middle ground. The village of Chéticamp lies on the east side of Chéticamp Harbour, where the spire of l’Église St-Pierre can be seen against the waters of the Gulf beyond. Presqu’Île is the peninsula at the left, where the Cabot Trail can be seen passing on its east side. What an amazing breath-taking view!
The memorial to the Canadian soldiers killed and buried overseas stands at the lower centre of photo #10. On this day, shortly after the senseless assassinations of two uniformed Canadian soldiers, Nathan Cirillo shot while standing guard on Parliament Hill in Ottawa and Patrick Vincent run down and killed by a vehicle in St-Jean-de-Richelieu (which also injured a second soldier), thoughts of these horrific events were foremost in my mind. The English text on the monument reads:
They will never know the beauty of this place, see the seasons change, enjoy Nature’s chorus. All we enjoy we owe to them, men and women who lie buried in the earth of foreign lands and in the seven seas. Dedicated to the memory of Canadians who died overseas in the service of their country and so preserved our heritage.
Even though these soldiers were assassinated in Canada—how it hurts to write that!—they too will never know “the beauty of this place”, which we who visit here are so privileged to admire in amazement. May those troubled souls who would seek to emulate this madness spend some time in this area and absorb its quiet beauty, finding the peace and tranquillity that fills one’s whole being when standing here in this majestic terrain.
And so, dear reader, this very long essay has finally reached its end, the longest I have written to date. I thank you for your patience in reading through it and hope you have enjoyed the photos and the commentary presented. Your feedback is always welcomed at the address in the footer below. I hope you will meet me in Cape Breton soon to share in the extraördinary beauty with which Nature has blessed its lands and to enjoy the great music and culture of its wonderful people.