The Cape Mabou Trail Club continues to reöpen trails closed in 2009 and 2010 due to the damage caused by the spruce bark beetle. The progress in restoring the system is slow because the damage was extensive and resources are stretched, but it is steady and enheartening. This year, the footbridge across the bog at the Cape Mabou Trail Head was replaced and the eastern half of the trail was trimmed and cleared of deadfalls, making it practical to once again use the MacEachen Trail to reach the Beinn Bhiorach summit, the route involving the least amount of climbing. The Bear Trap Trail was also put back into service this year.
I had a grand hike this summer on 8 July using the MacEachen Trail to reach the summit of Beinn Bhiorach; the needly parts are clear and wide and it is a joy to see the cart track restored to its superb state before the trail system was officially closed down in 2009; all of the many downed trees have been cleared away and bushwhacking around them is no longer necessary. I took the Highland Link Trail, in very fine shape, to the MacArthur Trail and it to the Highland Forest Trail to the col below the Beinn Bhiorach summit; these latter two trails were overgrown with ferns and in need of trimming, but the orange markers on the trees made the path clear and easy to follow. From the col to the summit, the Highland Forest Trail was in great shape. It was the first time since 2008 that I had stood on the summit of Beinn Bhiorach; although the blue skies promised in the morning had not materialized while I was on the summit, it was still an especial treat to take in its expansive and grand views once again! I returned by the Beinn Bhiorach Trail, which was in generally excellent shape, though I had some trouble finding the path at the cutoff sign (look for an orange ribbon at the base of a tree that may be hidden by tall grass); you want to take the cutoff as I understand the main trail is still blocked by deadfalls. The lower portion of the trail was passable and followable, but could have used some trimming in the area where it comes out on the MacKinnons Brook Trail. I continued to the MacKinnons Brook Trail Head and thence via MacKinnons Brook Lane to the Bear Trap Trail; the MacKinnons Brook Trail was a bit muddier than usual, but otherwise that portion of the route was in very fine shape. It was a joy to be on the Bear Trap Trail once again; it was again far too long since I had last hiked it and I was delighted to find the music of MacIsaacs Glen Brook as cheerful and beautiful as ever. The trail is leaf-covered and was a bit wetter than I remember it, but nothing hiking oxfords couldn’t easily handle; what a jewel this area of Cape Mabou is! I was very tired when I reached the car at dusk, but overjoyed I was still able to have pulled off this hike at my age. My thanks to all the hard working volunteers who have made it possible to once again enjoy this fantastic trail system!
I have been informed that, after my hike, work was done to clear the overgrowth on the MacArthur Trail and the bottom portion of the Beinn Bhiorach Trail below the cutoff. During Celtic Colours, I met a couple from Vancouver who hiked the MacEachen Trail past the Highland Link Trail and ran into a section of the MacEachen Trail that they said had been badly torn up by cattle on the loose; only the section to the Highland Link Trail is officially open this year. The Cape Mabou Trail Club actively maintains the trails that are officially open, now well over two-thirds of the system, but their resources are limited. If you can contribute funds to keep these trails hikeable and clear, please send them to the address listed here; even small amounts help. And if you can volunteer your time to work on the trails, please contact Nadine Hunt for instructions on where your efforts would be most useful.
The trail I have always known as the Railway Trail, which runs from the Canso Canal Park in Port Hastings to the Miners Museum in Inverness and forms part of the Trans-Canada Trail System, has been officially “rebranded” as the Celtic Shores Coastal Trail. The hard work and dedication of many volunteers and organizations have transformed this route into a world-class multi-use trail over nearly all of its 92 km (57.2 mi). Following the path of the old Judique Flyer train, it is nearly level along its entire length, making it easy to hike, bike, horseback ride, ski, or snowshoe. It is a multi-use trail that has given me great pleasure over the years since I’ve been coming to Cape Breton, passing along the lovely shores of St Georges Bay, traversing the beautiful back country around Glencoe Station, following along the gorgeous Southwest Mabou and Mabou Rivers, heading cross country at the edge of glorious Cape Mabou, crossing the upper end of Lake Ainslie, and ending in Inverness. On this web site, I will continue, as do many locals, to refer to it as the “Railway Trail”, but I have taken note that it is now officially the “Celtic Shores Coastal Trail” with the spiffy new logo seen at the left and a fine, professionally-done web site, including a gallery of gorgeous photos, maps, and other useful information for trail users. Hope to see you along the trail!
- A new kiosk, picnic tables, and parking area have recently been added at Baxters Cove on St Georges Bay, just south of Judique. The new area is adjacent to the water, not far from a sandy beach that attracts swimmers on the hot days of summer; it would be a great place to go for a swim and cool off after a hot summer hike! It is also close by a small fishing harbour, a busy place during lobster season, that is a short walk away from the kiosk and well worth exploring for its views of the area and the boats moored there.
- At Walkers Cove, between Judique and Long Point, a new parking area has been constructed at the end of the Walkers Cove Road adjacent to the Railway Trail, solving the problem of where to park when hiking from Walkers Cove. It also has a new picnic table overlooking the coast below, Long Point at the left, and the mountains on the south side of St Georges Bay.
- A new small trailside park has been sited on the shores of Loch Ban, the northwestern prolongation of Lake Ainslie; the day I was there, it was so new that no grass had yet had a chance to sprout in the park’s recently spread dirt. The park features two park benches and two picnic tables from which to enjoy the fine views of the adjacent lake and the nearby mountains; an interpretive panel describes Strathlorne Station, recalling a stop on the old railway. At kilometre marker 82, it is an easy short walk south from the Kenloch churchyard.
It is wonderful to see the ongoing maintenance and development of this fine trail system. Kudos to the volunteers whose hard work and dedication have made it one of the finest on the Island!