2016 August/September

Notes on These Posts

My usual mode of writing these accounts is to take brief notes as the day transpires and then edit, expand, and assemble them all into a coherent post. If the day ends with a late event, I do not normally attempt to complete the day’s account after the event, but defer its completion to the following day. This trip was an extremely event-filled one, however, and I fell way behind, far enough that I did not complete all of the posts before I returned home: most day’s accounts were therefore posted after the day in question—whenever I found the time to complete them from my notes taken at the day’s events.

Thursday, 4 August — Jackson to Calais

It was an even longer day than usual: I left the house at 5h57 and arrived at the motel in Calais at 19h46.

It was +16 (61) at the house, the coolest it’s been since I've been home. I encountered some ground fog on the way to the New Jersey Turnpike, but otherwise it was a beautiful morning with sun in a pure blue sky; that weather persisted all day, with the temperature gradually rising to +31 (88) before falling back to the mid-20’s (upper 70’s) in the late afternoon; some clouds appeared at the horizon in western Maine, but only began to appear overhead as I reached the St Croix valley.

The Tappan Zee Bridge traffic was moving, not briskly, but moving with very little stop-and-go. I encountered more ground fog in Westchester and again in western Connecticut. I stopped for breakfast in Newtown (Connecticut), again for a break at the Willington (Connecticut) rest area, once more in Tewkesbury (Massachusetts) for gas and lunch and coffee, again for a break at the rest area in Yarmouth (Maine), anew for a break at the rest area west of Bangor, and lastly at the Irving Big Stop in Baileyville for gas and dinner. From the Saw Mill River Parkway north to east of Waterville (Maine) all lanes were full of vehicles, usually moving well, but with significant stop-and-go from the junction of Route 2 and Interstate 495 west of Boston to Haverhill northeast of Boston—tedious and dangerous; nor was this the usual rush hour mess there, but from 11h to 13h and likely much longer. From Waterville to Bangor, traffic on I-95 was mostly one lane, a joy and a relief. I took US 1A in Bangor, usually a bypass for the nearly always slow traffic on Route 9 leaving Brewer, but there was an accident about halfway between Brewer and my turn off on the Kidder Hill Road, stopping traffic in both directions. I tried a couple of side roads hoping to find something connecting to Route 9, but they all either dead-ended or took me back onto 1A, so I finally made a U turn and drove back to and through Brewer. But I made ’er, tired though I am, and bed is calling. Hope you all had a much more enjoyable day and hope to see some of you at the dance tomorrow night in Southwest Margaree where Shelly Campbell is the featured fiddler.

Friday, 5 August — Calais to Margaree Forks

I awoke at 5h (ADT) this morning, but it was, of course, dark outside, so I went back to bed and got up at 6h30, well rested from the long day yesterday, by which time the sun had risen. In the morning’s e-mail was a lovely air in 3/4 time and the sheet music to it that Andrea Beaton had written, A Peek at Glengarry; as you may know, her last album, With Betty and Dave, was funded by a Kickstarter campaign and this tune was the perk I had chosen for supporting it. Glengarry, according to The Nova Scotia Atlas, is the area on Hunters Road up the hill off West Mabou Road and just south of it. I had asked Andrea to name the tune for some geographical spot in Cape Breton of her choosing; her explanation says that “the area that I’m talking about in the title is that little spot when you’re heading north on Rte 19, just past the West Mabou Road on the left. It’s one of my favourite views (especially at dusk) while driving up the road and my mom said ‘the old ones’ used to call that area Glengarry.” I believe the spot she means is where the Celtic Shores Coastal Trail kiosk now sits at the corner of West Mabou Road and Highway 19, a beautiful spot for sure with Big Cove, the Mabou River, and the edge of Cape Mabou on the far side of the river, and one that somehow gains even more power at dusk. So apparently the term Glengarry extends as far as Highway 19, something I didn’t know. The air is a beautiful one I’m very glad to have and she has given her permission for me to post the sheet music and the solo fiddle recording accompanying it to my web site when next I get home. If you're a fiddler, be sure to look for it then as it deserves to be widely played.

I left the motel at 7h20, quickly cleared customs (though the questioning was rather more thorough than last time), and had breakfast at the Carman’s Diner in St Stephen. I left there just before 8h; it was +19 (66) and the sun was out bright, though the clouds considerably outnumbered the patches of blue sky. Fog rolled in off the Bay of Fundy as I started towards St John and became heavier and thicker, descending to the road level between St George and Lepreau; it was above road level at St John, but no sky was visible and the temperature was down to +15 (59) when I stopped at the Visitors’ Centre on the western outskirts of St John. My next stop was at the Cobequid Pass tolls; after yesterday’s heavy traffic, it was a joy to drive through New Brunswick with its mostly empty roads and only one lane of traffic around Moncton; there was rather more traffic in Nova Scotia, but still light relative to yesterday. I had lunch in the car as I drove, eating up veggies and fruit from the refrigerator at home I’d brought with me. I crossed the Canso Causeway Bridge at 14h08 and turned onto Highway 19 and drove to the Celtic Music Interpretive Centre in Judique.

I took care of an errand there and then listened to the end of the lunchtime cèilidh with music by Donna-Marie DeWolfe on fiddle and Kevin Levesconte on keyboard; great to hear fine live music once more! I drove to Whycocomagh via the Rear Intervale Road, Glencoe Road, and the Whycocomagh Port Hood Road, all in generally very fine shape (except for the section “falling off the mountain” from the MacLennan Road in Dunakin to the Kewstoke Bridge, which hadn’t been touched and still suffers from erosion from water running down the road); even the section along the Indian River guardrails was potholeless! I filled the car with gas and got my motel room key for tomorrow night (Saturday has a very full schedule!). It was a warm day (+27 (81)) with light haze over Lake Ainslie and plenty of both clouds and sun as I continued on to Margaree Forks and got my room for tonight; I made reservations for the other Friday nights I had planned on attending Southwest Margaree dances, but they were booked full for next Friday night, 12 August (and already close to full for tonight!)—unusual there, even in high summer.

After a short nap, I drove to Margaree Harbour and was able to get a room there for next Friday night. I continued on the the Belle View, where I had supper (bacon-wrapped scallops and halibut, rice, peas and carrots, and cole slaw—all excellent); a friend invited me to sit with him and we talked through his dinner and then mine until 20h. I drove back via the East Margaree Road, where traffic lights are now in place around the spot in the road that is slowly collapsing into the Margaree River; Fordview was lovely in the dusk. I continued on to the Southwest Margaree Hall and worked on today’s account.

Tonight’s music was by Shelly Campbell and Allan Dewar; Allan is a technical sound wizard and tuned the hall, which does not have the best acoustics, to a fine fare-thee-well—I've never heard better sound there. And the music was just out of this world all night long! Shelly began at 22h with two fantastic jig sets that, somehow, got no takers; were I a dancer, I couldn’t have resisted getting out on the floor! And the playing continued this way for the rest of the night! The first square set got underway at 22h15 with six couples. The hall was only half full, shocking in high summer in Southwest Margaree, which is usually packed to the gills and running out the doors! The next two square sets were also smallish and slow to form, danced by seven and ten couples, respectively. A lovely waltz brought five couples out to dance. By now, the hall was fuller with not too many open seats, as folks had been gradually coming in in dribs and drabs. The fourth square set began as the other three had, with eight couples; midway in the first figure, I looked away from the musicians and was surprised to see a second group of ten at the back of the hall as a whole raft of folks had gotten up to dance; by the third figure, they'd broken into four groups with twenty couples pretty well filling the dance floor; a newly wed couple from Montréal danced this set and, in their honour, Shelly began its third figure with wedding reels. The fifth square set reverted to ten couples and the following In Memory of Herbie MacLeod brought four couples out to waltz. A second waltz got no takers. The sixth and last square set was danced by two groups with thirteen couples in its third figure. Shelly played on for the next twelve minutes, filling out the hour, but there were no dancers. The music from both Shelly and Allan was beyond awesome all night long, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

After chatting with friends and giving my heartfelt thanks to the musicians, I drove back to Margaree Forks and was in bed at 1h35. What a glorious start to this trip!

Saturday, 6 August — Margaree Forks to Whycocomagh

I got up to a sunny day with lots of clouds, some grey, at 9h, still a bit tired from the two-day drive to Cape Breton. I left the motel at 10h and stopped at the Dancing Goat, which was full up; there were too many ahead in line to wait it out, but it was good to see them doing a land office business. I drove on to the Lakes, which was not busy, and had breakfast there; two friends invited me to sit with them and we chatted.

After breakfast, I drove towards Middle River and took the West Side Middle River Road to Wagmatcook, which is in poor shape and very bumpy, though a beautiful drive nevertheless. I drove on to Exit 6 on the Trans-Canada Highway, where I stopped at the trail head to the Lewis Mountain Trail and wrote these notes. By now, the day had turned mostly overcast and looked like rain. I worked on yesterday’s post, completed and posted it, and then took the ferry and drove on to the Highland Village in Iona and got set up for photos in front of the stage. I got bottle of lemonade, a cheeseburger, and a sausage on a bun from the canteen and ate them before the concert. The sun was once again out in force, so I applied sunscreen on my arms and donned my “coolie hat”, which I had forgotten in the car and which is big enough to protect my head and neck. I have missed the last three Highland Village Days because of attending the Glengarry Highland Games in Maxville (Ontario), so was especially looking forward to today.

At 13h54, a single kilted highland bagpiper in full regalia walked down the entrance road playing tunes and stopped in front of the stage, where he continued playing, giving us, among others, Hector the Hero, Scotland the Brave, and, with tongue in cheek (pun intended), Mary Had a Little Lamb. David Rankin took the first two hours as emcee and, with Shay MacMullin, welcomed us to the festivities, which they announced were dedicated to Jerry MacNeil and Debbie MacNeil, longtime supporters of the Highland Village. The concert then began with the Gaelic Singers, who gave us a milling song with Rod C MacNeil in the lead. They continued with two more Gaelic songs. Among the singers were Colin Watson, David Rankin, Shay MacMullin, James MacIntyre, and Rod (I don’t know the rest by name but most of their faces were familiar). Next, Paul Wukitsch (one of the Boisdale Trio) on fiddle and Maggie MacNeil on piano played a set of tunes and then for Andy MacMullin to step dance. An Irish dancer, whose name I heard as Nancy MacDonald, but may well have been something else, gave us Irish steps to recorded music. Keith MacDonald, on highland bagpipes, played solo a fine set beginning with the Cape Mabou Quickstep and then an equally fine set of jigs, on which Allan Dewar joined him on piano midset. Keith’s twin brother, Kyle, on fiddle, accompanied by Allan on piano, next gave us a grand set of fiddle tunes. Donnie Campbell on guitar accompanied by Jinx O’Neil on electric bass and vocals, sang three folk songs: The Moonshiner, a song about the pipers in battle in World War I whose title I couldn’t find on the web, and Last Walk Home about Clydesdale horses being replaced by tractors. Two young ladies, whose names I heard as Anna MacNeil and Emma Ritter, from the MacArthur School of Dance gave us two highland dances to recorded music. Rodney Chaisson and another lady whose name I didn’t get presented an Award of Merit to Truman and Linda Matheson, who head an Antigonish company that has published many Gaelic works and learning materials that have greatly contributed to the Gaelic revival in Nova Scotia. Rachel MacKinnon, originally from Sydney and now living in Ontario and a student of Sandy MacIntyre, on fiddle, accompanied by Susan MacLean on piano, played a fine set beginning with a lovely and very expressive slow air followed by strathspeys and reels. Anita MacDonald on fiddle, accompanied by two sisters, Lauren on guitar and Catherine on piano, played a fine set of tunes. Anita on fiddle, Ben Miller on bellows pipes, Tyson Chen on piano, and Zakk Cormier next gave us some great tunes, to which Catherine and then Lauren step danced. Shelly Campbell and Sarah Hoy on fiddles, Fin Moore on bellows pipes, and Allan Dewar on piano played next, giving us a great blast o’ tunes played to perfection, during which Maggie MacNeil step danced. Ryan J MacNeil then played a fine set on highland bagpipes. As Shay replaced David as emcee, the wind was strong enough to blow my “coolie hat” off my head; I didn’t replace it as the sun was now far enough down that the hillside mostly concealed it; lots of clouds pushed by the gusting wind, some looking like they were rain-bearing, were now overhead and the air was damp and, once the sun was fully behind the hillside, cool enough to make me wish I’d brought a sweatshirt from the car to put on, something I’d ruled out when I set up initially as the sun was then so brutal. Next up was, I believe, Rosie MacKenzie on fiddle, accompanied by Susan MacLean on piano and Colin MacDonald on guitar, who played a long and very fine set including The Mortgage Burn near its end. Barra MacNeil brothers Kyle MacNeil on fiddle and Sheumas MacNeil on piano gave us a very fine set of tunes. Marianna, Malcolm, and John Angus (making his début on the Highland Village stage), all the next generation of the Barra MacNeils, on triple fiddles, accompanied by Sheumas on piano, played a set and, without John Angus, a second set of tunes in honour of Carl MacKenzie. Monica, the mother of the three children, played a set of tunes on soprano saxophone, accompanied by Sheumas on piano. Joanne MacIntyre and three of her sons, James, Stephen, and Cameron, sang a milling song in Gaelic and continued without pause into a puirt a beul. A dancer from Nanaimo, whose name I didn’t get, danced to recorded music. As the Mary Jane Lamond band got set up, Shay filled the time with two Gaelic stories, giving them in both languages a sentence at a time; Mary Jane then told another Gaelic story, which Shay translated sentence by sentence. The Mary Jane Lamond Band, consisting of Mary Jane Lamond on vocals and accordion; Wendy MacIsaac on fiddle, bouzouki, and backing vocals; Brad Davidge on guitar and backing vocals; and Cathy Anne Porter on percussion, accordion, and backing vocals, then gave us: a set beginning with a Gaelic song sung by Mary Jane with backing vocals from Wendy and Cathy Ann that segued into a fiddle/guitar duet with percussion added and then Mary Jane on accordion; a milling song by Mary Jane self-accompanied on accordion with Wendy on bouzouki, Brad on guitar, and Cathy Ann on gourd maracas and a stomp box of sorts; Tàladh na Beinne Guirme (The Blue Mountain’s Lullaby) with Mary Jane on lead vocals, Cathy Ann on accordion and backing vocals, Wendy on backing fiddle, and Brad on guitar, with all on vocals at the end; a blast o’ tunes from Wendy on fiddle and Brad on guitar; a Gaelic song by Mary Jane accompanied by Cathy Ann on accordion and then by Wendy on fiddle and Brad on guitar; Sleepy Maggie, a hit by Mary Jane and Ashley MacIsaac that vaulted Celtic music to the forefront of Canadian popular attention in the 1990’s. After they retired from the stage, Darlene Ellis and Page Campbell gave us three songs, the first in both Gaelic and English, the second a Rose Cousins song, and the third a Goiridh Dòmhnullach (Jeff MacDonald) song. The final performance was by the Legion Legends, a local Iona group of more than a dozen singers and guitar players and one bouzouki player, who gave us three songs: one I recognized but couldn’t hear the words to, Rise and Follow Charlie, and The Waters of Iona. The concert ended at 18h16 with remarks from David and Shay. Quite the afternoon of music!

After I moved my gear back to the car, the number of cars outside the Frolic and Folk Pub at the Highland Heights Inn convinced me I wouldn’t get a seat and therefore no supper, so I drove to the café in Grand Narrows, where I had their chowder and a spicy chicken wrap, both quite good. I then returned to the Pub and stood (no problem as I’d been sitting all afternoon) and listened to Howie MacDonald on fiddle and Flo Sampson, Gordie’s mother and quite an entertainer in her own right, on keyboard, the first time I’d heard her perform; she accompanied his fiddle sets and he provided backing fiddle for her self-accompanied songs. I left at 19h30 and drove back to Whycocomagh via Portage Road and on to West Mabou, stopping at dusk at the kiosk at the start of the West Mabou Road to listen to Andrea’s new tune, which went very well with the scenery indeed!

The music for tonight’s West Mabou dance was supplied by Donna-Marie DeWolfe on fiddle and Joël Chiasson on piano. She began playing at 21h07, but it was a fine cèilidh set, not jigs. A set of jigs followed, but got no takers, though there were enough dancers already in the hall. She had better luck with the next set of jigs, which, four minutes into the set, finally got four couples (three of them formed of young ladies), which grew to five by the end of the first figure and to ten couples in the third figure. The second square set again started small with six couples (all adults) that exploded to 23 couples by the end of the third figure as the hall filled with people. A waltz followed to give folks a breather, as it was plenty warm in the hall. The third square set formed instantly with at least three groups, growing to at least four and likely six (I couldn’t see the rear half of the hall from my usual vantage point); at least 32 couples in two queues danced its third figure. I hadn’t seen that number of people on the floor in West Mabou in some time! Another waltz and the fourth square set, again danced by more than 30 couples, followed. I won the 50/50 draw and donated my share back to the hall in gratitude for all the fine dances I've attended there. The step dance sequence followed, bringing to the floor Stephen MacLennan; Lewis MacLennan; a young lady whose name I’m not certain of; two young ladies dancing together whose names I don’t know; Amanda MacDonald; Iain MacQuarrie; and another young lady whose name I don’t know. The fifth square set got 27 couples in its third figure. It was wonderful music all night long and many of my friends commented on how much they enjoyed dancing to it.

As I drove back to Whycocomagh, I encountered ground fog on road, mostly from the rain shower during the dance (it was nice the rain didn’t dampen Highland Village Day!) I was quickly in bed and almost instantly asleep.

Sunday, 7 August — Whycocomagh

I slept in late, getting up about 10h45. I drove to Judique via the Whycocomagh Port Hood Road, the Glencoe Road, and the Rear Intervale Road. I got a table and worked on yesterday’s post; I ordered lunch (the house salad and a plate with a cup of chowder, a fishcake and chow, and a haddock taco), which arrived as the cèilidh got underway.

Today’s music was by Ian MacDougall on fiddle and Mac Morin on keyboard, two great players I encountered during my first years on the island and came to greatly admire. Ian began with jigs and the first square set was underway immediately with four couples. Next was a march/strathspeys/reels set with lots of my favourite tunes; a second set of great tunes in a minor key followed. The next set, of jigs, became the second square set, danced by nine couples. A waltz brought four couples to the floor and was followed by a march/strathspeys/reels set. The third square set was danced by eleven couples. Ian played In Memory of Herbie MacLeod and another dandy march/strathspeys/reels set. Mac then gave us a long keyboard solo, rollicking at its end: what fantastic playing! The fourth square set followed, danced by eleven couples. Faded Love brought three couples out to waltz. The fifth square set ended the cèilidh with eight couples dancing; Ian was wound up and, as soon as the dancers left the floor, without a pause, switched back to playing jigs again, finally ending well past the appointed hour. What a wonderful afternoon of great music, enjoyed by all!

While we were inside, a torrential downpour lasting ten minutes occurred; it was apparently accompanied by hail in some places and I later learned a tornado watch had been posted in the eastern half of the island. When I went out to the car, water was standing in the parking lot. I drove Highway 19 towards Mabou and detoured up the Rocky Ridge Road to pick up the can of bear spray I’d left at my friends’ at the end of my last trip and continued on to the Red Shoe, where Anita MacDonald on fiddle, Ben Miller on bellows pipes, Tyson Chen on piano, and Zakk Cormier on guitar were well into their cèilidh. It’s a great sounding combo and if you haven’t yet heard them play, you should! I stood for a half hour, no problem as I’d been sitting all afternoon, and then got a table and had the catch of the day (seared halibut, mashed potatoes, and grilled broccoli); as I was eating, Tyson gave us a great piano solo with lots of rollicking tunes. Gerry Deveau on spoons played a relatively short set with the other four. More fine sets followed, one with Anita taking a break, and then the finale during which she step danced. After the end of the cèilidh, I joined friends who invited me to sit with them on the patio and we chatted for a while.

It was a lovely evening and a delightful +20 (68), as I drove back to the motel in Whycocomagh, where I relaxed and then finished and posted yesterday’s account. It’s been busy since Thursday and I felt tired when I went to bed. I lost no time falling asleep!

Monday, 8 August — Whycocomagh

I arose at 9h30 to a lovely day, sunny and +22 (72); after catching up on the news, I chatted with my hostess at the motel. I got to Vi’s too late for breakfast, so I had a chef salad and a toasted western. I drove back to the motel, packed my backpack, and set off for Troy.

I ran into sprinkles at River Denys, but kept going as it was still sunny to the south. I saw the Horton Lake Road sign in Lexington and decided to explore it—it’s been on my to-do list for a long time. Horton Lake is, I discovered the last trip, the source of the Mill Brook with the ruins beside Highway 19 where it crosses the road to empty into Long Pond (those ruins, by the way, are now hidden by brush and no longer visible without stopping), so that was added impetus for an impromptu exploration. Alas, the Horton Lake Road doesn’t lead to Horton Lake these days, if it ever did. The road is a two-track-and-grass-crown with crushed stone in the tracks and, once away from the Trans-Canada Highway, heads smartly up a ridge; it is in fairly decent condition, but became so steep, my car balked and after spinning tires, I turned around and parked by the side of the road. Intrigued by the utility wires along the road, I headed off on foot and climbed another 55 m (200 ft) and soon found myself at the end of the road, beside a communication tower I’d never noticed from the Trans-Canada Highway. I stopped multiple times on the way down for photos—the views were fine, but very narrow as trees bordered both sides of the road, and, given the curves in the road, reached various points from off Kingsville way around to Point Tupper and the tanks and windmill farm there—good material for a Google Earth session this winter! I checked Google Maps for another access to Horton Lake, but it looks like the best bet would be to hike under the power lines which pass directly by the eastern end of the lake and also cross Horton Lake Road —there’s one other circuitous route that gets fairly close, but it looks to be private roads at best.

Curiosity satisfied, I continued on to the Celtic Shores Coastal Trail kiosk in Troy (Troy Station officially, apparently), which is just south of the unnamed headland on the west side of the Strait of Canso. As I sat on the bench under the roof of the kiosk, I saw white caps all over the adjacent Strait and far out into St Georges Bay, swept towards shore by the powerful winds, smashing onto the rocks with big splashes. It’s a very pretty spot, worth visiting even if you aren't planning on hiking. I was, though nothing very hard for this first hike of this trip, three weeks after my last hike. I set out from the kiosk, found kilometre marker 5 which I hadn’t reached on the Ghost Beach hike on my previous trip, and continued on south, past six cottages adjacent to the trail, crossing an unnamed brook on a bridge at Hefferman Cove (where the sand-covered trail ends and a two-track-and-grass-crown begins on the way south—easy to understand why no sand was laid there in today’s wind!) and on to the north end of the little pond where I turned around last time beside a long, low, blue-painted structure that looked like it might once have been a dock (but is well inland of the shore), 1.5 km (0.9 mi) from the kiosk. I turned around there and hiked back to the car, where the wind, which had been in my back on the trek south, whipped the brim of my floppy hat (the “coolie hat” wouldn’t stay on my head at all in this wind) up and down, alternately blocking my forward view and exposing my forehead to the sun. On the way south just before Hefferman Cove, I had noticed a barachois I didn’t remember from previous hikes; as I discovered by consulting Google Maps, it was indeed newly formed—Google’s imagery shows no barachois there, but a much larger cove: the force of the driving waves has sent enough rocks and soil ashore to close off half of the old cove! The wildflowers on today’s short (3 km (1.9 mi)) hike, are very different from those of July three weeks ago: Queen Anne’s lace, goldenrod, and fireweed predominated, while some other white small spike-headed flowers I can't find a match for in the wildflowers guide were pretty common, but no more daisies nor many yellow wildflowers other than goldenrod. Some large purple spiky wildflowers for which I again see no match in the wildflowers guide are just starting into bloom. Red clover was ubiquitous, but you had to look closely to see it. Although several cars were in the parking area at the kiosk, I encountered only two bikers and three ATV’s south of the kiosk—the other folks must have been to the north.

I drove back to Whycocomagh, got cleaned up from the hike, and headed to Mabou, where I intended to eat at the Mull. I got there about 19h, but it was obvious I’d have to wait longer than I was willing to to be seated, so I drove to Port Hood and had supper at the Admiral Inn. Their menu is pretty much oriented to fast food and light fare this year with no haddock dinner or other such entrées I remember from past years, so I made do by ordering two fish burgers and a spicy Thai chicken wrap (which was, indeed, quite spicy), all excellent. After dinner, I drove back to Brook Village via Highway 19, the Rankinville and Murray Hill Roads, and Highway 252. There, I completed and posted yesterday’s account.

The Brook Village dance tonight was played by Donna-Marie DeWolfe and Kenneth MacKenzie on fiddles and Allan Dewar on keyboard. Donna-Marie and Kenneth alternated on fiddle, joining forces only for the last square set. The first square set got underway at 21h43 with Donna-Marie on fiddle, growing to seven couples in its third figure. The second square set with Kenneth on fiddle had two queues in its third figure and was danced by about thirty couples. (From my vantage point, my line of sight was screened by the nearest queue, so counts are at best guesstimates.) About thirty couples danced the third square set. Kenneth played a waltz that brought eleven or more couples to the floor and played highland bagpipes for the third figure of the fourth square set, with 22 in the nearest queue and likely as many or more in the furthest queue—the floor was full up! The fifth square set was danced by at least thirty-five couples; Donna-Marie continued with waltzes. The sixth square set featured a reel new to me in its third figure, danced by likely forty or more couples. The seventh was considerably less crowded with under thirty couples on the floor. The step dance sequence brought to the floor Harvey MacKinnon, Gerard Beaton, John Robert Gillis, and two ladies I didn’t recognize. With only six minutes left, Donna-Marie and Kenneth on dual fiddles played reels, to which fourteen couples danced a very long third figure, not wanting the evening to end, finally giving up at 1h05. Kenneth’s playing was powerful and fantastic all night long; Donna-Marie’s had a lift and drive that can’t be beat, and Allan was as superb as always, no more so than in his amazing accompaniment for the highland bagpipes figure Kenneth played. Amazing music and dedicated and enthusiastic dancers! In short, another great Brook Village dance!

When I reached Whycocomagh, I found rain on the road; they must have had a shower that didn’t pass by Brook Village. Still awake from the excitement of the dance, I didn’t get to bed until after 1h45, but, when I did, I was asleep instantly.

Tuesday, 9 August — Whycocomagh

I got up after 10h and was again too late for breakfast, this time at Charlene’s, so I had lunch of a bowl of chowder and a spinach salad, both very good. The day was sunny, but with lots of white and many dark grey clouds; the forecast was for no rain, but that’s not what the sky seemed to be saying. I had intended to hike the Celtic Shores Coastal Trail from Kenloch to the West Lake Ainslie Road crossing, but with such ominous skies, I turned off into the “nosebleed” parking area near the mouth of the Hays River, where I enjoyed the scenery (and an eagle flew by watching me) as I awaited a decision on the hike; the patches of blue sky became ever fewer and sprinkles appeared on my windshield only to quickly evaporate. I dozed for a few minutes and, with dark black clouds now arriving from over Cape Mabou, I decided to postpone the hike.

As I turned back onto the West Lake Ainslie Road, I made very sure this time to avoid the embankment that caused me some grief last trip! I drove the Hays River Road to the MacKinnon Road (which I don’t think I’d ever driven previously) and took it to the Lake Ainslie Chapel Brook Village Road and it to Brook Village; both the MacKinnon Road and the Lake Ainslie Chapel Brook Village Road to the Meagher Road have been recently graded, but leaving small rocks in the middle of the roadway; moreover, the Lake Ainslie Chapel Brook Village Road east of Meagher Road also has deep ruts that I assume are more recent than the grading, some very bad—not a road to drive at night! The Hays River Road and the Lake Ainslie Chapel Brook Village Road from Meagher Road to Brook Village are both in fine shape. As the ugly black clouds by now had disappeared, I took Highway 252 to the East Skye Glen Road, which is in very good shape on the Centreville end and is generally good to very good on the Whycocomagh end, but the paved section remains poor with its pavement crumbling in numerous spots in the middle of the road. It’s all a very pretty drive with scenery one doesn’t see on the main roads through the area.

At the motel, I switched out of my hiking clothes and into my evening clothes. I then drove to the Red Shoe, arriving at 16h30, where it was once again sunny with no sign of rain, so I guess I should have gone hiking. I had dinner there (scallops, roasted potatoes, and peas in a delicious creamy sauce) as I listened to the dinner music provided by Melody and Derrick Cameron on fiddle and guitar; they are fine traditional players whose music I enjoy very much. A Meagan from Halifax, whom I think I also heard play on my last trip, relieved Melody for a couple of sets, during the second of which Melody step danced.

After thanking Melody and Derrick, I walked across the road for Karen and Joey’s cèilidh in the Community Hall, with Glenn Graham as tonight’s featured fiddler. They opened with a set of jigs (with Karen and Glenn on dual fiddles and Joey on keyboard) whose titles I heard as John Andrews, Walking the Floor, and Judique Jig. Karen on fiddle and Joey next gave us a set beginning with an unnamed march, an unnamed strathspey, Lucy Campbell, and four reels. Their next set began with The Heroes of Kohima, a lovely flowing slow air composed by Andrew Stewart and was followed by jigs. Glenn, accompanied by Joey, first gave us a set beginning with Coilsfield House that also included the Duke of Gordon's Birthday, the West Mabou Reel, and the Passion Flower hornpipe. His second set was of tunes his grandfather, Donald Angus Beaton, used to play at dances in the Community Hall on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Joey played Rose Acre, a J Scott Skinner tune, as a keyboard solo. After the break, Karen and Joey gave us The March of the Cameron Men in a set that also included the Father John Angus Rankin Reel. Their second set consisted of The Road to the Isles, Scotland the Brave, and The Crooked Stovepipe. With his mother, Mary Graham, accompanying, Glenn gave us a set of jigs, the second of which was Mary’s composition My Grandchildren’s Jig and the last of which was Happy Days; Joey step danced during this set. Glenn and Mary then played for Harvey MacKinnon to step dance. The finale again had Karen and Glenn on dual fiddles and Joey on keyboard; I didn’t get any of the tune names. It was a very fine cèilidh which I and everyone else I spoke with thoroughly enjoyed.

After thanking the musicians and chatting with friends, I drove back to Whycocomagh, where I wrote and posted yesterday’s account. I was in bed a bit after 0h.

Wednesday, 10 August — Whycocomagh

I awoke relatively early at 8h10 to a lovely, sunny day with clear blue skies. After breakfast at Vi’s, I drove to Kenloch churchyard, stopping for photos along the West Lake Ainslie Road, where the air was crystal clear even over the water—gorgeous views! It would be a very drying day, which, as lovely as it would be, is not good as rain is very badly needed, especially given the closure of the woods to all activities and the ban on open fires. Although the closure mentions trails, I don’t think it applies to non-smoking hikers and cyclists on the Celtic Shores Coastal Trail, which, though lined by trees at most spots, is hardly in “the woods”, and usually along or near water or open fields (moreover, all the hiking trails in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park are still open to hikers according to the last Parks Canada post I saw on Facebook and they are way more in “the woods” than the Celtic Shores Coastal Trail).

Today’s hike passes by the northern cove of Loch Ban and is never far from its shores. 600 m (⅓ mi) from the churchyard is a short side access to the shore, where I stopped for photos of the Loch and the highlands to the east (parts of Godfreys and Shaw Mountains); a few small, fluffy white clouds had begun to form over the lake. Another 200 m (0.1 mi) brings one to an area with an interpretive panel (which identifies the location as Strathlorne Station), two benches, and two picnic tables, with a fine view of the Loch; although similar to the views I had just captured, I took more photos there. From the picnic area to the West Lake Ainslie Road, the trail is adjacent to and below the West Lake Ainslie Road; this stretch is also relatively close to the former landfill at Strathlorne, now a recycling centre, and, with its proximity to water, has always been favoured by birds: near the Loch, I thought I heard a loon and as I continued to the south, a veritable cacophony of bird cries—crows, eagles, and gulls primarily and all together—filled the air, with a few of each species circling overhead. Cell phone service is spotty at best here, fading in and out, from no service to one or occasionally two bars. As one reaches the West Lake Ainslie Road, there are good views of Mount Young in the distance. I reached kilometre marker 80, just across the West Lake Ainslie Road, where I stopped for water and an apple. It was now in the mid 20’s (upper 70’s) and I was hot from the exercise, but a nice breeze helped a lot; there were clearly good winds in the upper atmosphere as the clouds that had been arriving were now thin and strung out and stringy. I returned as I came and then crossed the Strathlorne Scotsville Road continuing on to kilometre marker 83, where I turned around and went back to the car, for a total hike of 6.3 km (3.9 mi) according to my Trails app. I met a guy walking his dog; a group of five cyclists, two of whom were youngsters; two cyclists who passed me in both directions; and another pair of cyclists, so I was hardly alone on this section of the trail.

On the way back to Whycocomagh, I again stopped twice for photos along the West Lake Ainslie Road, which, even now had exceptionally clear air without a hint of haze. I got cleaned up from the hike and drove to St Anns, where I dined at the Lobster Galley (unsweetened iced tea, the house salad, and seafood pescatore linguini, all superb). While waiting in line for the doors to open at the Great Hall of the Clans, I worked on yesterday’s post.

The instructors’ cèilidh at the Gaelic College tonight was outstanding, outdoing the others I've attended there this year, no mean feat! Before it began, I struck up a conversation with the couple seated next to me, who proved to be the parents of the piper Matthew Phelps (who, with Doug Lamey and Cliff McGann formed the Boston area group Trì); they have a house in Big Baddeck and, after discussing music and musicians, I plied them with questions about the state of the route between Big Baddeck and Big Glen and the feasibility of hiking to Bald Mountain by that route. That discussion ended as Dara Smith-MacDonald, tonight’s emcee, opened the cèilidh. First up was Kyle Kennedy MacDonald on fiddle, accompanied by Lawrence Cameron on keyboard and Brent Chaisson on guitar, who played Memories of Willie D and strathspeys and reels. Angus MacLeod sang three Gaelic songs reflecting the changing attitudes of the Scottish settlers over time, which varied from the initial homesickness and rage at being forcibly removed from their homes; to the discovery of the richness and beauty of the lands, forests, and waters of the new world and the freedom to own their land; to loss in the face of the vast outward migration of the 20th century, a very interesting presentation; he then invited a lady whose first name I heard as Catriona and whose last name I didn’t get to sing us a contemporary Gaelic song she had written about the present-day revival of the Gaelic language and culture. Kenneth MacKenzie on highland bagpipes, accompanied by Lawrence on keyboard, played a fantastic set that got a good ol’ Cape Breton yell from the back of the hall. Dominique Dodge and Mary Jane Lamond sang a Gaelic song with harp (Dominique) and accordion (Mary Jane) accompaniment. Dominique on harp then played a set of Cape Breton tunes with Kenneth on fiddle—another helping of fiddle/harp which is pretty rare in my experience! Betty Lou Beaton and Lawrence Cameron next gave us a fine keyboard duet, another unusual event! Aimee Farrell Courtney, a bodhrán player from Ireland played a solo with interesting rhythms that displayed the full range of sounds that instrument can produce. Kinnon Beaton on fiddle, accompanied by Betty Lou on keyboard and Brent on guitar, played an air and a great march/strathspeys/reels set that was rollicking good fun! Colin MacDonald, David Rankin, Dominique, Brittany Rankin, and Mary Jane then sang a Gaelic version of “Happy Birthday” to celebrate Gaelic College staff member Joyce MacDonald’s birthday. Kinnon, Betty Lou, and Brent then played for Kelly Jean MacDonald, Mary-Janet’s daughter if I heard correctly, to step dance. Brent next played his fine composition of ten years ago, A Sad Tune for a Sad Man, on solo guitar, a lovely piece that was new to me and that I hope to hear again. Mary Jane on lead vocals and Dominique on the choruses sang Tàladh na Beinne Guirme (The Blue Mountain’s Lullaby) with accordion and harp accompaniment, an interesting contrast with the version the Mary Jane Lamond Band did at the Highland Village. With Ashley MacIsaac on keyboard, Mary Jane gave us Sleepy Maggie. With Ashley continuing on keyboard, Fin Moore on bellows pipes and Sarah Hoy on fiddle gave us a kind of strange but pretty lament whose name I heard as Angus MacLeod and followed it with strathspeys and reels. Ashley then took up his fiddle and played a duet with bodhrán player Aimee, giving us an Irish jig, a Jerry Holland tune, and an Irish reel, another rare instrumental combination. With Betty Lou on keyboard, Ashley then played a march/strathspeys/reels set, including a lovely slow strathspey not often heard. The finale had Kyle, Ashley, Stan Chapman, Dara, Margie Beaton, and Kenneth on fiddles; Lawrence and Betty Lou on keyboard; Fin on bellows pipes; Brent on guitar; Dominique on harp; Aimee on bodhrán, and began with a puirt a beul by Mary Jane, initially accompanied by Betty Lou, after which all joined in; during the finale, David Rankin, Kyle, Margie, Kelly, and Ashley all step danced. What a cèilidh!

Afterwards, I talked with a dear friend and then had a few minute’s chat with Brent, who is greatly enjoying his teaching work this week at the Gaelic College, his first time there. I then drove back to Whycocomagh and finished and posted yesterday’s account. I was in bed a bit past 0h.

Thursday, 11 August — Whycocomagh

I got up well past 9h; the skies were overcast, I wasn’t hungry, and I had no ambition. About 11h, I went back to bed and arose a second time a bit before 14h. Some sun had made it through the overcast and it was a warm day, +21 (70) at a guess. Still not hungry, I wrote much of yesterday’s post. I then called my sister to wish her a happy birthday and we chatted for a half hour.

When I finally stepped outside to go to dinner, I found sprinkles on the car windshield, but the road was dry, so it didn’t amount to much. I had dinner at Charlene’s: a cup of soup, a garden salad, and the seafood (chockablock with lobster and scallops only—they were out of shrimp) penne pasta in a lovely herbed creamy sauce with bell peppers, mushrooms, and broccoli, sprinkled with cheese and served with garlic bread—scrumptious! Back at the motel, I finished and posted yesterday’s account. I then drove to Glencoe Mills, where the setting sun was behind the clouds, but colouring them magenta from the back side—the photos I captured were after the best of the colours were gone at the first open views of the skies I found once I had glimpsed the colours.

Tonight’s music was by Rodney MacDonald on fiddle and Allan Dewar on keyboard and it was, of course, fantastic music all evening long. At 21h, there were four people in the hall (excluding the volunteers and musicians): people just do not show up on time for dances beginning at 21h in the summer, whether at Glencoe Mills or West Mabou (and the crowd is also light even at 21h30 at Brook Village). The music began at 21h11; the first and second jig sets went, of course, with no takers, so Rodney switched to strathspeys and reels without stopping after the second jig set. By the start of the third jig set, enough dancers were in the hall to barely form a square set, but it and the fourth set of jigs were no more successful in getting folks up to dance—the bashful dancers syndrome, so Rodney again switched into strathspeys and then played a waltz, again with no takers. If it had been like this on my first Glencoe dance, I’d probably not have stayed nor come back! And there were plenty of come-from-aways in the hall by now! They couldn’t have been impressed! Finally, at 21h40, a father/daughter pair got out on the floor and got three other couples to join them and the first square set was underway! A fifth couple finished the first figure with them; six and then seven couples danced the second figure; and then ten growing to twelve couples danced the third figure. All ages, from pre-teens to folks in their eighties, were now on floor with some fine step dancers among them. The second square set was slow to form, with four couples finally dancing the first figure; thirteen were in the second figure and eighteen in the third. The third square set started with seven couples; it split into two groups after adding many more couples for the second figure and into three groups for the third figure, danced by twenty-four couples. There was not a lot of spare space now on the floor and the hall was nearly full at 22h49. It had become very warm in the hall, even with the windows open (the fans weren’t working), so most of the dancers in the last set were outside getting a breath of air when the next jig set started and it got no takers. The fourth square set had four couples in its first and second figures and six, growing to nine, for its third. A waltz got nine couples up to dance. The step dance sequence followed, bringing Sarah MacInnis, Lewis MacLennan, Stephen MacLennan, Amanda MacDonald, Mairi Campbell, and Burton MacIntyre to the floor.¹ The fifth square set began with one huge group in its first figure, split into three groups for its second and third figures, the last being danced by 28 couples, nearly a full house! Had the music continued past 0h, I’m sure there’d have been plenty of dancers to enjoy it. For some really impressive step dancing was seen once things got underway! It was, all told, a very fine Glencoe dance indeed; too bad nearly a third of it was wasted by starting too early. It is very hard fighting against the tradition of many years that Cape Breton dances start at 22h!

I was back at the motel at 0h30, but didn’t go to bed until a bit after 1h and was asleep almost instantly.

¹ Thanks, Burton, for two of these names.

Friday, 12 August — Whycocomagh to Margaree Harbour

I got up a bit earlier, just past 9h, and packed up the car, as today I’m decamping to Margaree Harbour (I couldn’t get in at the lodge at Margaree Forks, where I usually stay). I drove via Highways 252, 395, and 19 and the Cabot Trail to the Dancing Goat for brunch: a spinach salad, a Black Forest ham sandwich, and tea. Construction is now underway on Highway 395 from Scotsville to the recently repaved stretch; the ditches have been cleared and sluices are being laid, with one-lane traffic around the active work zone.

It was a very grey day, with occasional sun breaking through the overcast, +23 (73), humid, and damp. As it was on my to-do list, I turned down Stubbard Road, just past the Dancing Goat towards Baddeck, and drove a short distance to SANS junction 8K, where I unexpectedly encountered a fork: the road ahead, which I took to be Stubbard Road, is gated and narrower, while the right fork is snowmobile route SANS 105, one of the two major routes on Cape Breton Island, which looked to be in better shape; the signage was confusing, with signs for The Lakes Restaurant pointing towards Margaree Forks! I will definitely have to study this on the snowmobile maps to learn what’s up with that.

I turned around and drove back to the Cabot Trail and took it to the look-off in Terre-Noire, where I parked until it was time to check into the motel. It was very hazy, enough so that Margaree Island was a shadowy shape. I encountered sprinkles on the way and big raindrops fell as I worked on, finished, and then posted yesterday’s account. I then drove back to Margaree Harbour, got my room, read, caught up on the news, relaxed, and napped for an hour. A shower dropped enough rain while I was asleep to make a few puddles and moisten the road, but there was still a lot of water in the clouds that didn’t fall; I wish it would and get it out of its system, allowing woods travel again—I’d like to get a Cape Mabou hike in next week!

I then drove across the bridge to Belle-Côte and had dinner at the Belle View: bacon-wrapped scallops and the salt cod dinner. This one came with a baked potato, turnip, salted codfish, onions, and thumb-sized pieces of salt pork that were baked (according to the cook, whom my waitress asked to answer my query) so as to turn the fat crunchy and the rind brittle—crunchin’s indeed!—a third take on this delicacy. A delicious meal for sure.

Afterwards, I drove down the Belle-Côte Beach Road and parked beside the harbour, admiring the scenery and the many gulls, blasé about any vehicle that approached them. With all the threatening grey clouds, it was not terribly photogenic. As dusk approached, I drove back to the motel, read some more, and then drove to Southwest Margaree, where I parked and wrote this account to this point. Somehow the moon made it out through the clouds, which remained dark and threatening, while I waited for the doors to open.

Tonight’s music was by Ian MacDougall on fiddle and Dawn MacDonald-Gillis on keyboard. Both were present at 21h45, but the music didn’t start until 22h08, a set of jigs which had no takers, although more than enough dancers were present to form a square set. At 22h15, the first square set got underway as five couples got up to dance; another couple joined them and those six danced the rest of the set. The second square set began as one group, but broke into two during the first figure; eleven couples danced its third figure. Nine couples danced the third square set. A waltz brought five couples out to the floor. The fourth square set was danced by first two and then three groups, with sixteen couples in its third figure. At its end, the exodus began as several folks left. The fifth square set was slow to form, but eventually got six couples, with nine dancing the second and third figures. Only Jimmy MacIsaac answered the call for step dancers. The sixth and last square set had four couples in its first figure and six in its last two figures; it ended a few minutes early but no music was played to fill out the hour as most people had left by then. The acoustics were poor tonight, with the music often sounding muddy to my one good ear, but I had no trouble discerning the tunes, many of them my favourites and several of which only Ian regularly plays. I got to chat with several friends, both local and from away. All told, a nice evening, though compared with past years, when attendees spilled out the doors, the size of the crowd and the number of dancers on the floor were disappointing, as they have been at all the dances I've attended there this year.

When I went out to the car, stars were shining in the sky above and there was no sign of the day’s clouds. A bit of fog was present in Southwest Margaree, but the rest of the drive back to Margaree Harbour fortunately was clear. I was in bed at 1h35.

Saturday, 13 August — Margaree Harbour to Port Hood

I got up at 9h to a lovely bright, sunny day with blue skies and light haze; yesterday’s ugly clouds were gone, unfortunately having dumped very little rain. After breakfast at the Belle View, I again drove to the end of the Belle-Côte Beach Road, where I took numerous photos this time, walking down to the beach and stopping at several points with photogenic views. In Grand-Étang, I took the Old Cabot Trail to Point Cross, again stopping for photos there. I took the Chéticamp Back Road and, at the top of the knoll, turned up Chemin LeFort, which, since my last visit there a few years ago, has been extended on a wide oiled gravel surface all the way to the top of the Cape Breton Highlands Plateau: it is a very steep climb that ends at a Zutphen quarry and a driveway into a windmill of a somewhat different design than most of the recently built ones. I passed a blueberry field not far below the quarry where several people were gathering the berries. Very fine views are on offer on way down, but only as wide as the road itself until one is just above the start of the gravel section, where they widen out and encompass all of Chéticamp Island, Chéticamp Harbour, and the adjacent parts of the mainland shores. I took Chemin de la Montagne and Chemin Cormier back to Chéticamp Back Road, both very picturesque roads with great views of the highlands and the Chéticamp littoral. There is now a very bad bump on Chéticamp Back Road just before the bridge over Fiset Brook in Plateau: the sign is between the bump and the bridge, making it look like it means the one on the bridge (which has had a bump for some time) and not the less visible, but nastier, bump before the sign: treat it with due caution. Although it was getting close to the time I should be at the Doryman, I continued on into the Cape Breton Highlands National Park and drove to one of my favourite spots there: the look-off just north of le Buttereau and the picnic and rest area at la Grande-Falaise, which is once again open now that the new bridge is complete. The look-off has great views of the highlands to the south and of the area at and near the mouth of the Chéticamp River; I took several photos there, after which I returned to the Doryman in Chéticamp for this afternoon’s cèilidh and got my customary seat, where I finished the first draft of yesterday’s post.

Today’s music was by Kyle Kennedy MacDonald on fiddle and Hilda Chiasson on keyboard. It started with a set of jigs, but there were apparently no square dancers in the house, as no one got up for this set or any others of the several jig sets Kyle played. David Rankin step danced brilliantly during the next set, which began with strathspeys and an invitation for step dancers. A tune new to me embellished each of the next two sets and the first hour closed with a great march/strathspeys/reels set. After a short break, Gerry Deveau on spoons joined Kyle and Hilda for a relatively short set. As Gerry left the stage, he called for Kiffie Carter to join Kyle and Hilda; Kiffie used David’s guitar and accompanied the other two for the next six sets, a real treat as I very rarely get to hear him. David step danced again during the third of those sets, one of which was a waltz with no takers. Kiffie played a set of guitar tunes with Hilda accompanying and the three next played In Memory of Herbie MacLeod, to which one couple waltzed, after which Kiffie withdrew to applause. A set of strathspeys and reels and another of a slow air/strathspeys/reels followed, lively music indeed. David on guitar then joined the other two and played for the rest of the afternoon. Jigs and two slow air/strathspeys/reels sets followed and Kyle then asked Douglas Cameron to relieve him on fiddle; Douglas gave us two fine sets of strathspeys and reels. Kyle returned and gave us jigs, many in the upper register, a march/strathspeys/reels set, and another strathspeys/reels set with a strathspey new to me. Mo Mhàthair (My Mother) followed. Two more strathspeys/reels sets followed, to the first of which a couple round danced and during the second of which a lady step danced. The final set was of jigs and got the musicians a well-deserved standing ovation. Kyle said it was his first time playing at the Doryman and I heard one of his friends remark that he had been nervous about it. He shouldn’t have been as his playing was top notch throughout the four hours the cèilidh lasted (the longest on the Island), powerful and driving. Hilda, with whom I had a long chat after the cèilidh, and David both rounded out the music with their fine accompaniments. It was a memorable afternoon!

I had dinner during the later part of the cèilidh (salad and pan-fried haddock, both excellent), so I drove straight back to Port Hood, taking the Shore Road and the Deepdale Road and stopping for gas in Mabou. After getting my room key, I then drove back to West Mabou by the Colindale Road, which is badly washboarded on the Port Hood end; it was already too late for photos so I kept on going to the Hall.

Tonight’s music was by Mike Barron on fiddle and Joey Beaton on (real) piano. When the music started at 21h02, there weren’t enough dancers in the hall to form a square set, a fate that befell the next three jig sets as well. Burton MacIntyre got the first square set going at 21h29, with five couples, which had grown to nine by the end of its third figure. The second square set was a bit slow to form, with five couples growing to six in its first figure and eight dancing the next two figures. The waltz The Battle of Glencoe got one couple up to dance. When the third square set formed at 22h16, the dance was finally well underway; since I couldn’t see the back of the hall from my vantage point, I gave up trying to count anything but the third figures; it was danced by 24 couples. In Memory of Herbie MacLeod got at least six couples out to waltz. The fourth square set was danced by twenty couples. The step dance sequence brought Siobhan Beaton, Stephen MacLennan, Lewis MacLennan, a local young lady whose name I’m not sure of, Amanda MacDonald, another local young lady whose name I’m not sure of, Burton MacIntyre, and a lady from away sitting at my table, who proved to be a very fine step dancer. A birthday cake was brought forth to celebrate Danielle Barron’s birthday tomorrow and all sang Happy Birthday to her. A waltz brought out at least three couples. The last square set grew on the fly to fourteen couples. Mike continued playing for a couple more minutes after it ended. It’s always a pleasure to hear Mike, a powerful player with great lift and drive whom I don’t get to hear frequently, and also so great to hear Joey doing a whole dance (he often relieves the piano accompanist for a square set, but I haven’t often heard him doing the whole dance). After thanking the musicians and chatting with friends, I drove back to Port Hood and was soon quickly asleep.

Sunday, 14 August — Port Hood

I arose after 9h30 to a cool (+15 (59)), grey, overcast day, with light rain falling. Today, I had planned to split my afternoon between the Cèilidh on the Wharf at Mabou Coal Mines and the Kintyre Farm concert at Judique, but, with the rain, I decided to skip the Cèilidh on the Wharf (which was cancelled because of the weather, as I later learned)—the Kintyre Farm concert is always held in the Judique Community Centre in case of inclement weather. Accordingly, after a late breakfast at Sandeannies, I drove to Judique via the Shore Road and then worked on yesterday’s post until the concert began.

Emceed by Leona and Bill MacDonald, the concert got underway with a benediction by Father Allan Macmillan, who then sang O Canada in Gaelic. The Gaelic choir, Coisir an Eilein, under the direction of Father Macmillan and with Sandra Gillis on keyboard, gave us two lovely Gaelic songs. Glenn Graham on fiddle, accompanied by John MacDonald on keyboard, played a fine set beginning with the Kennedy Street March and including the Cavity Investigator reel. They then played for Marion Graham to step dance. Lisa Cameron on self-accompanied guitar sang two songs, the second of which was A Daisy a Day (my good ear wasn’t working well and I missed a lot of what was said or sung). To recorded music, two wee lassies from Sabra MacGillivray’s Celtic Touch Dancers gave us two short highland dances; three slightly older young ladies danced another. Kyle Kennedy MacDonald on fiddle, John on keyboard, and Bill on guitar, next played a great and powerful blast o’ tunes. Amy Graham, self-accompanied on guitar, sang two songs, neither of whose names I got. Shelly Campbell on fiddle and John on keyboard played a grand set of tunes and then for Sabra to step dance. Accompanied by Bill on guitar and backing vocals, Marie AuCoin, an Irish/Scottish balladeer married to an Acadian and now living in Chéticamp, gave us Carrickfergus and Rita MacNeil’s Home I’ll Be in a gorgeous voice; it was the first time I’d heard her and I’d gladly hear her again. Two Celtic Touch dancers gave us an Irish jig style highland dance and three others dressed as sailors danced a hornpipe. After the break, Joe MacMaster on fiddle and John on keyboard played for three Celtic Touch step dancers; they then gave us a masterful march/strathspeys/reels set. After the 50/50 draw, Keith Kennedy MacDonald on solo highland bagpipes played some great tunes. Melanie Holder on fiddle, accompanied by Sandra Gillis on keyboard and Bill MacDonald on guitar gave us a fine set of tunes, beautifully played, and then continued for Donald Holder to step dance. A fiddle/harp duo, whose names I didn’t get, with Bill accompanying on guitar,, gave us a set of tunes, a harp solo, and a third set of tunes with the harpist on concertina rather than harp. Lionel and Margaret LeBlanc, self-accompanying themselves on guitar, sang Rita MacNeil’s My Island Too and My Grandfathers Immigrant Eyes. Bill next told a story and then, with Shelly on backing fiddle, sang Kitchen Racket whilst accompanying himself on guitar. The finale had Shelly, Joe, and Melanie on fiddles; Keith on bellows pipes; Sandra on keyboard; and Bill on guitar; all giving us a final great blast o’ tunes, during which Marion, Donald, and Edna MacDonald step danced. It was a fine afternoon of music and dance, which I greatly enjoyed.

After the concert, I walked over to the Celtic Music Interpretive Centre where I sat with a friend from Truro and chatted as we had dinner: chowder and biscuit, house salad, and haddock tacos with roasted potatoes, all excellent. The regular Sunday cèilidh, which was moved to the evening to accommodate the Kintyre Farm concert, featured Glenn Graham on fiddle and Jackie Dunn-MacIsaac on keyboard. Glenn opened with a fine march/strathspeys/reels set. The following set of jigs drew five couples for the first square set. He then played She Put Her Knee on the Old Man as a lovely slow air and followed it with strathspeys and reels. A waltz brought five couples out to dance. The second square set followed, danced by nine couples in its third figure. We then got another fine march/strathspeys/reels set. The third square set was danced by ten couples in its second and third figures. Shelly Campbell relieved Glenn on fiddle and gave us a grand march/strathspeys/reels set. Glenn returned and played a waltz to which six couples danced. The fourth square set was danced by fourteen couples. Mary Graham gave Jackie a break and played for a waltz and the fifth square set, danced by four couples. With Jackie back on keyboard, Glenn finished the cèilidh off with a great march/strathspeys/reels set, during which Mary, two ladies I don't know, Edna MacDonald, and Shelly step danced.

I drove back to Port Hood and, unexpectedly tired at the relatively early hour of 22h30, went early to bed.

Monday, 15 August — Port Hood to Whycocomagh

Je souhaite à tous mes amis acadiens une joyeuse fête nationale des Acadiens! Happy Acadian Day to all my Acadian friends!

Rain greeted me again this morning when I got up at 8h45; it was +15 (59) when I left Port Hood. On Thursday night, I had noticed the passenger side low beam light was out, so this morning I drove to Port Hawkesbury to get it replaced. Since I had skipped breakfast, I had an early lunch at the Fleur-de-Lis: iced tea (unsweetened, of course), their “fisherman’s platter” (a cup of chowder, a fishcake, and a grilled haddock loin), and a maple nut salad, all superb. I drove back to Whycocomagh, where I’m staying for the next few days, taking Highway 4 to Cleveland, Riverside Road to Kingsville, and the Trans-Canada Highway to Whycocomagh, where the rain had stopped and the sun was trying hard to push through the overcast; it felt humid, though the car’s thermometer registered only +17 (63) as I waited in the day park until it was time to check in. After getting the car unpacked, I drove to Mabou to tend to an errand and had an early dinner at the Mull before the crowds of diners arrived: grilled haddock, salad, broccoli, and carrots, all top notch. I drove out to the kiosk in West Mabou and worked there on Saturday’s post and drove to West Mabou Beach, where, not wanting to get my good clothes dirty by walking down to the beach, I worked some more on the post. I drove back to the Strathspey Place and finished the first draft of the post in the car before going in to see Brìgh.

I greatly enjoyed last year’s production, so good I went twice, and tonight’s edition, while quite different from last year’s, was equally as good. This year’s presentations began after I left in July and are offered only five times, instead of last year’s every Monday in July and August, so this was my first chance to see it. With two more cast members than last year and completely different selections, it remains the same wonderful, energetic, enthusiastic mix of song, music, dance, and story telling that so captivated me last year. The music for the dancers was supplied by Howie MacDonald on fiddle and Tracey Dares-MacNeil on grand piano, but several members of the cast also played during their numbers, both on fiddle and guitar. The fantastic slide show projected on the back wall of the stage was just as gorgeous as, but considerably shorter than, last year’s, as it was interleaved with some fantastic historical video clips from the Celtic Music Interpretive Centre’s archives relating to the action on stage, e.g., a young and radiant Theresa MacLellan with her sister Marie and brother Donald; a clip of Jerry Holland; another of Buddy MacMaster; and one of a fine step dancer I never got to see perform, among others. My lack of Gaelic surely caused me to miss many of the finer nuances, but it was impossible to miss what was being conveyed in the humorous and well-done skits. To say I enjoyed myself is a serious understatement: I'll definitely be returning for the season’s last production next Monday night. Kudos to the cast and to all those behind the scenes who made this a production not to be missed! The talent in the show is incredible! What a treasure this community has in its children and young adults!

After the show ended, I drove to Brook Village for the dance, missing the first square set. Joey Beaton was on keyboard all night long, except for the fifth square set when Mac Morin relieved him. Kenneth MacKenzie on fiddle played the odd-numbered square sets and Shelly Campbell on fiddle the even-numbered ones; they played together on dual fiddles for the step dance sequence and for the seventh and last square set. Kenneth played highland bagpipes for the third figure of the fifth square set. Kenneth played a waltz after the second square set and Shelly played waltzes after the third and fifth square sets. Joey played Paper Roses as a keyboard solo after the waltz after the fifth square set. The step dancers I recognized were: David Rankin, Burton MacIntyre, and Chrissy Crowley (who danced with a lady I didn’t know); several other ladies and one gentleman I didn’t know also step danced. The floor was full of dancers all the time I was there, with between thirty and forty-five couples dancing the square sets and a dozen dancing the waltzes. The music was, of course, fantastic from start to finish, and the dancers enthusiastic and avid. It was another unbeatable Brook Village dance!

Some ground fog was on the road as I drove back to Whycocomagh. I didn’t make it to bed until 2h, still hearing the day’s great music as I quickly fell asleep.

Tuesday, 16 August — Whycocomagh

I arose after 9h15 to a sunny day with lots of clouds, perfect for hiking at +19 (66). After breakfast at Vi’s, I drove out to Strathlorne Station and parked beside the West Lake Ainslie Road where the Celtic Shores Coastal Trail crosses it.

This stretch of the trail is one of my favourite inland sections, with varied and constantly changing scenery. A short initial section, perhaps 200 m (⅛ mi) long, leads from the road through tree-lined forest to debouch on a causeway along and then over the Black River; the causeway is completely open and offers fine views of the Black River, the Black River Valley, and of the Cape Mabou Highlands beyond. The bridge over the river is only 700 m (⅖ mi) from the road and is well worth the short walk even if you don’t want to continue further. Beyond the bridge, fine stands of birches intermixed with other trees line the trail, but often allow glimpses of the nearby terrain and of Cape Mabou in the distance. 900 m (⅗ mi) past the bridge over the Black River, one crosses a smaller bridge over Soldiers Brook, nearly as large at that point as the Black River itself, into which it empties further downstream. A good view of Cape Mabou is available just before this bridge and views of Mount Young are also on offer nearby. 600 m (⅜ mi) further on, one is beside the larger of two ponds. It was in sorry shape, more mud flat than pond, with barely enough water to float a duck and not that in most parts of the pond: sand is showing all over, with the roots of many of the cattails and marsh grasses completely exposed—I've never seen so little water there before! Another kilometre (⅝ mi) and one is beside the smaller of the two ponds, in the same sorry state this day as the larger one. Just past the pond, I startled a large brown bird who flew down the trail and up into a tree; I was as surprised as it was and didn’t get a good look or a photo so I don’t know what it was, perhaps a hawk or an owl. 600 m (⅜ mi) further, one arrives at a new crushed stone driveway up to a knoll on the left, marked as a private drive. At this point, a view of the ridge above the Black River begins that continues to the Blackstone Road; Highway 19 runs on its far side between it and Cape Mabou. 400 m (¼ mi) beyond, one has great views of the green fields of the Maloney farm on the Blackstone Road; behind are views of highlands to the north, at a guess Godfreys and Shaw Mountains; as one rounds the curve, views of Cape Mabou open up ahead and one reaches the Blackstone Road itself in another 700 m (⅖ mi). After a drink of water, a couple of granola bars, and a good rest, I turned around there and headed back as I had come. Wildflowers were abundant, especially on the southern section of the trail; along with the ubiquitous goldenrod and Queen Anne’s lace were pearly everlasting (the first I’d seen this year), Joe-Pye weed, ragwort, meadow pea, blue/lavender asters (low rough asters according to the wildflowers guide), bird’s-foot trefoil, clover, and more besides; the apple trees along the curve to the Blackstone Road were covered with apples; and what I know as “snake berries” and chokecherries were also in evidence along other portions of the trail. Vandals had removed both kilometre marker signs at kilometre marker 78, but left the post intact; the south-facing sign on kilometre marker 77 is also gone though the north-facing one is there. As I was going south, four ATV’s passed me going north carrying a big family with children; I met a couple walking north; another ATV passed me in both directions; a cyclist passed me going north on the return trip. The Trails app recorded a distance of 10.1 km (6 1/4 mi) for the whole hike, which included a bit of back-tracking and excursions off the side of the trail to get pictures. It was a lovely day for a hike and a lovely area in which to take it! I had a great time!

I drove back to the motel, got cleaned up from the hike, and had dinner at Vi’s (chef salad and a “variety burger”, both excellent). I then drove to Mabou for Karen and Joey Beaton’s cèilidh with Stuart Cameron and Cullin MacInnis as the guests; just before I arrived, a power outage struck the hall (and apparently a good part of Cape Breton, as I read Nancy MacLean’s report of a “candlelight cèilidh” in Baddeck). Joey hooked up a generator and local audience members supplied extension cords and, for the second half, electric floodlights, so that the cèilidh could proceed. While waiting for the extension cords, Joey gave us two fine solos on the upright (real) piano. Once the sound system and keyboard were working off the generator, Karen, Stuart, and Cullin on triple fiddles played a set of jigs, the last of which was Portree Bay, with Joey accompanying on keyboard. Karen on fiddle and Joey on keyboard then gave us Donald Angus Beaton’s march, Sandy MacIntyre, and followed it with strathspeys and reels. Joey then asked Cullin to step dance to music he and Karen provided while there was still enough natural lighting in the hall to see his fine steps. Stuart on fiddle with Joey on keyboard gave us a waltz followed by strathspeys and reels, lovely fluid playing. Cullin finished the first half with a beautiful air on solo keyboard. After the break, during which the floodlights were hooked up, brilliantly lighting the stage, Cullin on fiddle accompanied by Joey on keyboard gave us a fine Mo Mhàthair (My Mother) and followed it with strathspeys and reels. Stuart played some accordion sets—I forgot to record how many or what, so entranced was I. Karen on fiddle with Joey on keyboard played the Ashokan Farewell, followed by strathspeys and reels, the last of which was Tom Kettle’s Reel. Cullin again step danced to music by Karen and Joey and then he and Stuart played a dual fiddles set with Joey, who then gave us Lochaber Gathering March, a strathspey, and a reel as a keyboard solo. For the finale, all three fiddlers with Joey accompanying played the tunes comprising the traditional call for step dancers, during which Cullin step danced once more. The power returned towards the end of the cèilidh, but it was superfluous as it proceeded very nicely without it, thank you very much. It was a fine cèilidh, much enjoyed by everyone I spoke with. Although this was hardly the first time I had heard Stuart or Cullin, I was forced once again to realize how awesome the upcoming talent in Mabou is!

I returned to Whycocomagh, where, wiped out from the hike, I made a cup of tea and soon went to bed.

Wednesday, 17 August — Whycocomagh

I awoke after 9h15 to rain, which I heard during the night; it is badly needed and this looks to be what the doctor ordered, a good soaking rain. I had tea and some car food for breakfast in my room, where I spent the rest of the morning and much of the afternoon, reading and relaxing, and then writing and posting both Sunday’s and Monday’s accounts.

The rain never stopped all day and got harder in the afternoon as I drove to Baddeck for dinner; I had planned on the Baddeck Lobster Suppers, but it was full up, so I went on to the Lobster Galley in St Anns, where I had their chowder (very good); artisans salad—apple slices, beets, and walnuts over greens (excellent); and a boiled lobster (delicious).

Tonight’s instructors’ cèilidh at the Gaelic College was another spectacular one, in spite of some technical difficulties with getting the instruments hooked up to the sound system. Boyd MacNeil on fiddle and Stewart MacNeil on keyboard gave us a hornpipe followed by reels and then a flowing slow air with a lovely melody I’d not heard before, followed by a strathspey that was also new to me; beautiful playing indeed! Next, Rachel Davis on fiddle and Darren McMullen on mandolin gave us a fine set of tunes; Rachel sang David Francey’s song The Waking Hours with Darren accompanying on guitar; with Darren on guitar, Rachel on fiddle played a great march/strathspeys/reels set; Rachel said it was Darren’s first and her fifth year of teaching at the Gaelic College. Kathleen Reddy related a humorous story in Gaelic about shoes, while Joyce MacDonald provided a sentence-by-sentence translation. Rankin MacInnis on highland bagpipes accompanied by Colin MacDonald on keyboard gave us a great set of tunes and then a second equally fine one including a tune he wrote, a lovely flowing air, followed by strathspeys and reels. Kyle Kennedy MacDonald on fiddle and Colin on keyboard next played for Lucy MacNeil to step dance. Aimee Darrel Courtney gave us a bodhrán solo, as interesting a demonstration of the instrument’s range as last week’s. Dominique Dodge on harp and Aimee on bodhrán played a set of traditional tunes and then Dominique gave us a beautiful harp solo and a Gaelic song, accompanying herself on harp. Lucy, now on fiddle, with Susan Maclean on keyboard, played a grand set consisting of a slow air, strathspeys, and reels. Stewart then sang a Gaelic song from South Uist accompanying himself on accordion. Boyd on a pandera (a tambourine from Brazil) joined Stewart on accordion to accompany Lucy as she gave us a magnificent puirt a beul. The finale was a great blast o’ tunes with Lucy, Rachel, and Boyd on fiddles; Rankin on highland bagpipes; Susan on keyboard; Stewart on transverse flute; Dominique on harp; Darren on guitar; and Aimee on bodhrán, during which Colin, Kyle, Brittany Rankin, and Kathleen step danced.

The rain had mostly stopped when I came out of the hall; upon arriving back in Whycocomagh, I read and relaxed and was in bed by 0h.

Thursday, 18 August — Whycocomagh

I got up past 9h15 and, after breakfast at Vi’s, decided to make another attempt at the St Peters Coastal Trail. I therefore drove via the Trans-Canada Highway, Riverside Road, and Highway 4 to Saint Peter's, parked above the canal at the trail sign, and set off to the west along the trail, where I immediately encountered a large stand of what the wildflowers guide identifies as purple-stemmed angelica, “found primarily on Cape Breton Island and rarely in Antigonish and Guysborough counties”; initially, I thought it was Queen Anne’s lace, but a closer look and its height—it can grow to 3 m (10 ft) high—quickly disabused me of that idea. The first 1.5 km (0.9 mi) of the trail follow the edge of cliffs that vary in height from roughly 1-5 m (3-16 ft) and rise above the shore of St Peters Bay in an arc around it; the narrow and rock-strewn beach can be accessed from the trail at a couple of points. The views of the Bay and the adjacent terrain at Battery Park (including the Jerome Point Lighthouse) and Grande-Grève to the east and the area at the mouth of the River Tillard out to Isle Madame to the west are superb, largely unimpeded by the trees along the cliffs. Views to the north are of the buildings and homes in the village, which sit along a ridge well above the trail; more land lies between Highway 4 and the Bay than I had realized. The tread is mostly grass and was recently mown, giving the impression of a walk in a park, as do the benches placed at intervals along the trail, maintained in top condition. I made numerous stops along the way to photograph the grand views, though the lighting on this sunny day wasn’t the best—a layer of white clouds lay over the waters to the south making them white rather than blue. The next 2.2 km (1⅓ mi) leave the coast of the Bay as it turns south and pass through forest on a two-track-and-grass-crown tread, crossing the base of a point of land on the far side of which the River Tillard enters St Peters Bay (the park’s trail map identifies it as Lindloffs Island, but shows it as an isthmus, not an island). Two more park benches are found in this section of the trail, once the base of the point has been traversed, offering views of the River Tillard as the trail approaches its end near the junction of Highways 104 and 4; this final part of the trail runs close to Highway 4 with the road noise that entails. Past the trail map sign and a roped off highway 4 access road, the trail becomes a narrow path leading down to the banks of the River Tillard with views of the abutments of the old railroad bridge that once spanned the river high above. The river was flowing smartly after yesterday’s rains and I enjoyed the lovely spot as I had a snack and quenched my thirst. The skies began looking like rain, so I did not tarry there too long. It became more humid on the way back, but no rain fell. Once back along the coastal cliffs, always go right when you reach a fork to stay on the trail; I didn’t and had to backtrack when I discovered my error—I failed to even notice these side trails on the way west, but they force one to choose on the way back east. Where I started the hike is not the actual start of the trail, which begins across the road from a cairn whose upper part is covered in colourful lichens, beside the canal on a crushed stone path marked by two stones each accompanied by a vertical metal post with an upper red metal rectangle, as I discovered when I continued past where I had parked the car. In the future, I will park beside the canal and start the hike there. The trail was not a busy one this day: a jogger passed me going in the opposite direction, two young cyclists passed me going in my direction, and two gentleman cutting brush beside a highways department truck were the only other people I met on the trail. The total distance of today’s hike, as computed by the Trails app, was 7.7 km (4.8 mi); it’s a fine level hike with great views that I should be able to do in future years.

Once back at the car, I drove on to the store in Lower L’Ardoise, where I got my ticket for the Sounds and Supper by the Sea afternoon at the Lobsters ’r’ Us there during Celtic Colours. I then drove back to Whycocomagh via the 104, Lower River Road, Riverside Road, and the Trans-Canada Highway. After getting cleaned up from the hike, I had dinner at Charlene's: a garden salad, the seafood pasta penne, and unsweetened iced tea. I then drove to Glencoe Mills; as expected, the road was badly potholed again from the rains along the Indian River guardrails and beyond to the Cove Brook bridge; the section going up the mountain was in better shape than I expected, but still in need of work; a few potholes nearing the junction with the Glencoe Road had also reäppeared.

The music for tonight’s dance was by Shelly Campbell and Allan Dewar: fantastic playing by both all night long—I was transported! No dancers rose for the initial jigs at 21h, so Shelly continued playing tunes of other kinds in a gorgeous set. A bevy of young ladies got up for the next set of jigs and friends joined them to make a square set and were joined by another couple before the end of the first figure; six couples danced the second and third figures. This is the earliest I've seen any square set start at Glencoe this year. The second square set started with four couples growing to five; seven couples danced its second figure and eight, in two groups, its third. The third square set started with five couples, had seven in its second figure, and was danced by nine in its third. By 22h15, the hall was getting full and the fourth square set was danced by fifteen couples in its third figure, after a smaller start (five in the first figure and thirteen in the second). A waltz new to both me and a friend enticed only one couple to the floor. The fifth set was danced by twelve couples and the sixth by fifteen. The step dance sequence brought Siobhan Beaton, Lewis MacLennan, Stephen MacLennan, and Amanda MacDonald to the floor to share their fine steps. The set of jigs that followed brought out only two couples, who round danced to the jigs. Those two, joined by two others, made four couples for the first figure and added two more for the third figure of the seventh and last square set, finishing a wonderful dance with fine dancers and the absolute best of music.

After thanking the musicians, I got soaked in the torrential deluge as I ran the twenty steps from the door of the hall to the car, a problem many avoided by leaving after the step dancers finished. The rain let up a bit, but was still heavy on the way back to Whycocomagh. I stayed up until 1h savouring the great music I had heard and then fell fast asleep.

Friday, 19 August — Whycocomagh to Lower South River

I arose a bit past 9h and packed up the car, as I’m decamping for today and tomorrow. It was a bright and sunny day with lots of clouds and just a tad humid, even at +20 (68). I drove out the Orangedale Road and continued through town to the Stoney Point Road, which I had discovered last winter in Google Earth and had never before driven. Passing by Blues Cove, a part of North Basin, itself a component of the River Denys Basin, where a goodly sized flock of geese and a few ducks were swimming, the road continues directly along the shore of North Basin for a good ways, offering fine views of the shores to the north and east. At MacLeans Cove, excellent views similar to those along Portage Road, of Skye Mountain, Whycocomagh Mountain, and Salt Mountain, are on offer, but the waters are those of North Basin and not of Whycocomagh Bay, which is hidden behind the peninsula along which Portage Road runs. Past MacLeans Cove, the Stoney Point Road leaves the shore and runs inland between summer homes on both sides, eventually narrowing to a two-track-and-grass-crown affair, wet, and with trees close enough to brush the car; Google Maps shows about 1 km (⅝ mi) remaining from there to the end of the point, but I was in my good clothes, so I didn’t attempt to hike it to its end, from which there should be good views of North Mountain in the Valley Mills area. On the way back, I stopped at the Orangedale Railway Museum, where Eleanor Blue was most helpful but had no books on Cape Breton railways for sale and none of the information I was seeking on the St Peter’s Branch Line for my still incomplete photo essay; I did photograph some pages from an old book, intended to describe the passing countryside for passengers on trains running between Sydney and Truro, but more as a record of a time long past than as grist for the essay.

After leaving the museum, I drove out Marble Mountain Road to Crowdis Bridge; I knew the road was closed because the bridge was deemed unsafe after some kind of an accident, but I wanted some last photos of it, one of the rapidly dwindling number of the old green truss bridges. I couldn’t perceive any obvious damage from the barricades—the bridge is closed to both vehicles and pedestrians—but it’s almost certainly a goner, though it may be standing a while longer until the highways department concludes its study of what needs to be done to replace it. I drove back to Eden Road and took it to River Denys, stopping for some fine views of North Mountain along the way, and the River Denys Road through Valley Mills to Marble Mountain: the gravel road is a mess generally, made worse by my last night’s rains, potholed and not well graded; the paved road is bumpy and poor, but not in the Gillis Point East Road category in spite of all the noise about it this spring, though it might have been a different story before the recent large patches to the pavement were made. A shower past Valley Mills left mist rising from the road; lots of clouds, some rain-bearing, littered the skies turning the waters grey-white, so I took no photos of the lovely scenery from Marble Mountain. The Lime Hill section of the road was even worse, but still no Gillis Point East; a newly rebuilt and resurfaced road with temporary yellow markings now runs from The Marshes to West Bay. I took County Line Road from West Bay to Cleveland, stopping for some photos of a mountain in the distance of whose identity I am not sure and will need a Google Earth session to identify (my guess is Creignish Mountain, but it looks different from there than from any other vantage point I've been at). I took Highway 4 into Port Hawkesbury and took care of an errand there. I then drove to the Canso Causeway Canal Park and read there for a bit, as it was still too early to head for Antigonish.

I crossed the Canso Causeway at 15h37 and by 16h15, I was in my motel room in Lower South River. I enjoyed a very fine dinner at the Townhouse Pub, where I had bacon wrapped scallops, a very fine house salad (definitely not your ordinary salad greens and some very spicy pickle with the other veggies), and an excellent salade niçoise with halibut (red potatoes, Mediterranean olives, hard boiled egg, string beans, and greens with an orange and tarragon dressing), all cold of course except the halibut which was hot, juicy, and peppered. I then drove to Maryville and completed the first draft of Tuesday’s post.

The music for tonight’s Maryville dance was by Shelly Campbell and Allan Dewar and, as at last night’s dance at Glencoe, was perfection itself for both dancing and listening. This monthly square dance also runs from 21h-0h, but there is apparently no local tradition of dances starting at 22h as the Glencoe-sized hall was nearly full by 21h and the first square set started with the first jigs Shelly played as ten couples immediately took to the floor, growing to thirteen in its third figure: great dancing inspired by great music! The second square set was smaller and slower to form, with seven couples in its first figure, growing to nine for its third. A waltz brought 9 couples out. The third square set was the largest yet, danced by three groups with 18 couples in its third figure. Two back-to-back waltzes each drew nine couples. Collie Rankin replaced Shelly on fiddle for the fourth square set, danced by at least twenty couples in its third figure. During the break for a delicious “tea”, Shelly and Allan played tunes as folks went through the queue. One lad, Jay MacDonald, who has been taking step dance lessons from Bill Pellerin, was the only person to answer the call for step dancers after the “tea” was done, giving us some fine steps indeed. A waltz brought four couples and one free spirit, a highland dancer, to the floor. The fifth square set, danced by two groups, had twenty couples in its third figure. This dance was, like the other two Maryville dances I've attended, full of lively steppers who love both dancing and the incredible music we heard all night long.

I drove back to Lower South River under a moonlit night. After proof-reading and correcting Tuesday’s account, I posted it and promptly went to bed.

Saturday, 20 August — Lower South River to Port Hood

I arose at 9h and, after a continental breakfast at the inn, headed back to Cape Breton. I crossed the Canso Causeway Bridge at 11h and stopped at Visitors’ Centre for another copy of the Doers and Dreamers guide as I couldn’t find the one I had.

I then drove to St Peter’s via Highway 104, encountering sprinkles/light rain in River Bourgeois; it was sunny with white clouds streaked with grey at Port Hastings and +21 (70), but I found ugly grey rain clouds and +17 (63) at St Peter’s. I drove out to busy Point Michaud, where the parking lot was nearly full with lots of swimmers on the beach and in the water, but took no photos: although there were blue skies over the Atlantic Ocean, it was grey and dull by land with at best filtered sunlight. Numerous washouts roughly repaired made the drive to Grand River on the Point Michaud Road much less than pleasant, though the other parts of the road were in good shape. I drove the lower part of the West Side Grand River Road, which I’d not been on in some years, to its end at a Bed & Breakfast, stopping for photos along the way; the part of the road north of the Point Michaud Road into Grand River was not in as good shape, washboarded and bumpy. The St Peters-Fourchu Road from Grand River to L’Archevêque is in poor shape, rough, bumpy, and with stretches of badly deteriorated pavement. L’Archevêque was lovely and peaceful under sunny skies with white clouds over the Atlantic Ocean and grey rain clouds inland; there was a strong salt smell in the air—fantastic! Three ladies returned from a beach walk and drove off in their car, but I was otherwise alone during the hour I enjoyed watching and photographing the harbour and the gulls fishing it and the waves breaking on the shore. This is a beautiful place I just can't get enough of!

It was then time to head off to Iona. I stopped for photos of Fergusons Lake from the road in the Lakeview Cemetery; often gated, it was open today and I’d never gotten the fine views of the lake from that vantage point before; I also took photos of some of the older grave markers, many of them of the Fergusons for which the place and lake are named. I drove the Loch Lomond Road through Grand River Falls, Loch Lomond, and Enon, whose church recently burned, into Big Pond. North of Enon, I stopped beside a disabled truck and drove the youngish owner to the homes of two of his friends in Enon and along Salem Road, neither of whom was home, and then back to his truck, where he chose to stay and wait for one of his friends to happen by: it’s a lonely stretch of road with no cell service in the area and I was unhappy to leave him there, but that’s what he wanted. I drove Highway 4 from Big Pond to East Bay and Highway 216 from there through Eskasoni, Castle Bay, and Benacadie to Grand Narrows and Iona, where I was seated in one of the few unreserved spots at a table beside the musicians, which I shared with a couple from away and with Shelly Campbell's mother, Patsy.

I had dinner before and as the music got underway: chowder, house salad, and pan-fried haddock with sweet potato fries and baby carrots, accompanied by a Dijon mustard sauce instead of tartar sauce—all excellent.

Today’s cèilidh had Shelly Campbell on fiddle and Kathleen Leblanc-Poirier on keyboard (Allan Dewar, Shelly’s usual accompanist, was spending the day cutting wood for this winter); I've been doing my best to make up for my lack of hearing Shelly, who was in Europe for a good part of my last trip, and three days in a row is only a good start. Kathleen’s accompaniments are very different from Allan’s, but they were fine and great to listen to: she’s a very talented player with a great feel for the music. Brent AuCoin relieved Shelly during the afternoon with a couple of powerful sets. I had a grand time listening to Shelly’s jigs and strathspeys and reels with a hornpipe and occasional other genres seemingly just flowing effortlessly off her bow, ending the afternoon with a marvellous long set that started with Johnny Cope. What a fantastic player!

I was a bit late arriving at West Mabou for the dance—it takes more than an hour to drive from Iona to West Mabou—but the music, by Chrissy Crowley and Mac Morin, was still in the sound checking phase with Derrick Cameron assisting. At least two sets of jigs went with no takers; the first square set didn’t get underway until nearly 21h40, danced by six couples in its first figure and by eight in its second and third figures. The next set of jigs had no takers either. The second square set started with four couples growing to five in its first figure; eleven danced its second and third figures, as the hall begin to fill up after 22h. The third square set was danced by eighteen couples in its third figure. Giving Chrissy a break, Joe MacMaster played a masterful fiddle for the fourth square set, which was danced by 23 couples. With Chrissy back on fiddle, the step dance sequence followed; six young ladies, all in the cast of Brìgh I think and whose identities I can't for the life of me keep straight, answered the call, as did Lewis MacLennan, Stephen MacLennan, Amanda MacDonald, Melody Cameron, and Edna MacDonald. Five couples rose for the following set of waltzes, the second of which was In Memory of Herbie MacLeod. More than twenty-six couples danced the fifth and last square set, with the floor pretty much full up. The music was superb all night long; Chrissy’s timing was perfect and she has great lift and drive in her playing; Mac’s accompaniments were simply divine, making the music sparkle. And the dancers profited from the music, stepping it off with vim and vigour. What a great dance!

After thanking the musicians and chatting with friends, I drove back to Port Hood and was soon fast asleep. Only in Cape Breton!

Sunday, 21 August — Port Hood to Whycocomagh

Up a bit past 9h, I chatted briefly with my host and then just beat the rush for breakfast at Sandeannies. It was a sunny, bright day, +20 (68), with some clouds, some of which appeared to be rain-bearing. I drove to St Anns where the fine weather continued, with bright sun, only fluffy white clouds, and a nice breeze, a perfect day for an outdoor concert in the Gaelic College’s outdoor amphitheatre. For today is the Cape Breton Fiddlers’ Association’s gala concert, the high point of my musical year. I got my cameras set up and ready for the start of the concert at 14h; the photos I took this day will be posted on my web site when I return home in September; those from 2006 on can be found here.

The concert was emceed jointly by Wendy Bergfeldt of CBC Radio and Bob MacEachern of The Hawk, a powerhouse duo who said this was their 19th year of collaboration. The concert began, as it traditionally does, with a group number by the Cape Breton Fiddlers’ Association, directed by Eddy Rogers with Lawrence Cameron on the keyboard; they gave us a set of jigs and a march/strathspeys/reels set. Fred McCracken, accompanied by Janet Cameron on keyboard, sang two songs, Kitty Bawn O’Brien and the Green Glens of Antrim in fine voice. Rodney MacDonald on fiddle, with Lawrence on keyboard and Mike Barron on guitar, gave us a set beginning with the composition he wrote in honour of Fr Angus Morris’ fiftieth anniversary of ordination and another commemorating his son Ryan’s first day of school; they stayed on to play for Stephanie MacDonald to give us some dandy steps. Lawrence then played a fine keyboard solo. With Janet on keyboard, Kolten Macdonell played a nice fiddle set. Dara Smith-MacDonald on fiddle with Susan MacLean on keyboard next played for Rodney to share some of his great steps. Kyle Kennedy MacDonald on fiddle accompanied by Kolten on keyboard played a powerful fiddle set. The official opening of the concert then occurred with comments from Bob and Rodney and a prayer by Fr Francis Cameron, as a moment of silence was observed for the members who passed away since last August and to whom the second group number was dedicated: Carl Hamm, Arthur Muise, Marc Boudreau, Joe A. Doucette, Allan Gillis, Anne Marie MacDonald, Jimmie MacInnis, and Joe Cormier. After the group number, two dancers from the Kelly MacArthur School of dance, Sophie and Madeleine LeVert, performed a highland dance to recorded music. Drea Shepherd next danced The Tribute to James L. MacKenzie, to music provided by Dara on fiddle and Kolten on keyboard. Susan and Lisa Gallant MacNeil then presented this year’s Stòras na h-Òigridh (Treasure of Youth) bursaries to Olivier Broussard and Drea Shepherd. From Glengarry (Ontario), Bernard MacDonnell on fiddle, accompanied by Kolten on keyboard, gave us a fine set and then joined with Glengarry colleagues Don MacPhee and Koryne Fraser to give us a triple fiddles set featuring a slow air Koryne wrote and some jigs. Howie MacDonald on fiddle and Lawrence on keyboard played for Lisa to show us her fine steps. Marcellin Chiasson on mandolin accompanied by Gaston AuCoin on guitar played a nice set of tunes for us. Shawnee Paul, fiddler and composer Wilfred Prosper’s granddaughter, on fiddle, with Janet on keyboard, played another set for us. With Lawrence accompanying on keyboard, Joe MacNeil sang Make and Break Harbour. Accompanied by Kolten on keyboard, five Queens County fiddlers from PEI (Linda Moran, Carolyn Drake, Fr Charles Cheverie, Lorraine Lynch, and Marlene Gallant) played a set of jigs, including one by Jerry Holland he left on Rannie MacLellan’s answering machine that wasn’t discovered until after Jerry’s death, and then a march and reels set including Peter and Doreen’s and Dot MacKinnon’s. Mckayla MacNeil on fiddle with Kolten on keyboard played a superb set of tunes; this young lady has become an amazingly fine player! Kolten next step danced to music by Dara on fiddle and Lawrence on keyboard; Dara and Lawrence remained on stage to give us a dandy blast o’ tunes. To recorded music, Sophie and Madeleine LeVert from the MacArthur School of Dance performed a highland dance. To music by Dara and Kolten, Drea danced The Sailor’s Hornpipe. Betty Lord, with Janet, Fr Francis, and Floranne MacIsaac, sang two Gaelic songs a cappella. Wilfred Prosper Jr gave us some tunes on accordion, accompanied by Kolten on keyboard. The Feisty Fiddlers group from Sydney played some fine sets under the direction of Eddy Rogers. Howie MacDonald on fiddle, accompanied by Lawrence on keyboard and Mary Beth Carty on guitar, played for Iain MacQuarrie to step dance, his first appearance on this stage; after he had finished, the three continued with a grand fiddle set and then played again for Cheryl MacQuarrie, Howie’s sister and Iain’s mother, to share her fine steps. The Cape Breton Fiddlers’ Association’s third group number then followed. Donny LeBlanc on fiddle with Howie on keyboard next gave us a dandy set of tunes. Kyle on fiddle, accompanied by James Boudreau on guitar, supplied the music for a fine synchronized step dance from James’ daughters Janelle and Lauren. Olivier Broussard on fiddle accompanied by his sister Paryse on keyboard, gave us a great set of tunes. Larry Parks on fiddle with Kolten on keyboard played an air new to me and followed it with other tunes. Brenda Stubbert on fiddle, accompanied by Kolten on keyboard, gave us a super set of tunes and then stayed on to play for her daughter Tracey and Tracey’s daughter to step dance. Stephanie MacDonald on fiddle and Susan on keyboard played a masterly set of tunes. After the draws, the concert drew to its close with the final Cape Breton Fiddlers’ Association group number, during which Betty Matheson, Stephanie, Janelle, Wilfred, and Larry all step danced. It was a wonderful afternoon on a perfect day weatherwise, one of the very best Cape Breton Fiddlers’ Association concerts I've attended to date.

Not wanting to miss photographing anything happening on stage, I was unable to take advantage of the fine food the volunteers had on offer at the canteens (strawberry shortcake, sausages, and burgers among others) so, after collecting my equipment and carrying it back to the car, I drove to Baddeck where I had supper (egg roll, Chinese vegetable soup, the house salad, and a shrimp and vegetable stir fry on rice) at Wong’s. A sure sign that high summer tourist season is on the wane were the vacancy signs showing in Baddeck as I drove back to Whycocomagh. Tired, I soon went to bed.

Monday, 22 August — Whycocomagh

I awoke a bit before 8h30 to fog. After breakfast at Vi’s, I returned to my motel room, where I read, relaxed, and dozed. I then worked on Thursday’s account, finished, and posted it. Light rain commenced at 13h45 and I remained in my room until I left for Mabou. On the drive there, I found fog down over the highlands in Whycocomagh, Skye Glen, the Nevada Valley and Cape Mabou, though it was only brushing the top of Mabou Mountain. I had dinner at the Mull: chowder and the fisherman’s platter with carrots, broccoli, and a side salad in lieu of potatoes—all superb. Another sign that high summer is now on the wane: only a few cars were at the Mull when I got there about 17h—you may recall that earlier in this trip, I couldn’t get in at all at that hour; it looked more like summer when I left, though: it’s a busy place even off season! Fog and rain continued as I worked on Saturday’s account in the car waiting for the start of the show.

Brìgh tonight was even better the second time around! I had a clearer idea of what was going to transpire and was able to pick up on a lot of things that escaped me during the show I saw last Monday. I’d happily go again if the show were offered, but tonight’s presentation is the last of the summer. The verve and élan of the performers was in evidence in everything they did, whether song, music, dance, or story telling. The whole production seemed to run a bit smoother than last week and I couldn’t have enjoyed it more. Many thanks to the cast and to those behind the scenes who realized the vision of those who conceived the program; you all have a great deal to be proud of! I hope this program continues into the future: it is an awesome way of developing talent and I have seen other positive side effects of this project on its participants at dances, cèilidhs, and elsewhere in the community. It is a precious jewel indeed!

I arrived twenty minutes late at the Brook Village dance, in the third figure of the first square set, being danced to music by Rodney MacDonald on fiddle, Allan Dewar on keyboard, and Pat Gillis on guitar. The hall was beginning to fill up and no empty seats were available until Lawrence Lamey from Massachusetts got up to dance, after which we shared the seat: I used it when he was dancing and he used it otherwise. Twenty-one couples danced the second square set, which was followed by a waltz that attracted eleven couples. Thirty-six couples danced the third square set and over forty the fourth; so many dancers were on the floor I could no longer get accurate counts. Rodney left the stage and got Douglas Cameron, who was in the back of the hall, to take up his fiddle and play for the fifth square set, danced by over thirty couples. Rodney took back the fiddle and played a waltz set danced by thirteen or more couples—the hall was so full it was hard to be sure as the dancers weaved in and out of those standing on the floor. More than forty danced the sixth square set, which was followed by the step dance sequence; the dancers I recognized were Hailee LeFort, Kay Hanrahan, Peter Parker, Neil MacQuarrie, and Burton MacIntyre; four other ladies I could not identify step danced as well. The waltz set that followed drew more than fifteen couples to the floor. The seventh and final square set had 37 couples in its third figure. It was warm, though not hot, inside the dance hall and felt clammy, sticky, and yucky on a very humid night, just sitting; these conditions, however, didn’t dampen the enthusiasm or the vigour of the dancers, who were clearly having a great time on the floor stepping to the superb music coming from the stage. Rodney’s fiddle all night long (and Douglas’ on the set he played) was magnificent and the accompaniments from Allan and Pat rounded it out perfectly. I haven’t heard Pat play very often this summer and it was great to once again hear his wonderful guitar throughout the night. It was another great Brook Village dance!

As I left Brook Village, light rain was falling, but the moon was out as I arrived in Whycocomagh. I was still wound up from both Brìgh and the dance, so I didn’t immediately go to bed. Alas, when I changed position in my chair, something in my pocket pressed on the panic button of my car key fob, setting off the car’s alarm system at 1h50 in the morning; I quickly got the keys out of my pocket and shut it off, but it must have wakened my sleeping neighbours at the motel, to whom I didn’t get a chance to apologize in the morning as they had all left when I ventured forth. I will, in the future, make sure to remove the keys from my pocket before sitting down on returning to my room. Embarrassed, I quickly got in bed, but sleep was a while coming as I replayed the music of the day in my head.

Tuesday, 23 August — Whycocomagh

I arose a bit past 9h15 and had breakfast at Vi’s. After making arrangements for dinner with friends on Thursday, I headed for Black River in spite of overcast skies that looked to be threatening rain; it felt damp at +17 (63), but the forecast did not call for rain, so I drove Highway 252 to Glendyer, the Smithville Road to the Blackstone Road, and it to the Celtic Shores Coastal Trail. I ran into sprinkles in Skye Glen and Brook Village and light rain in Hillsborough but I kept on going nevertheless. A few sunny breaks through very grey skies made me cautious, as I didn’t want to get wet, so I parked the car beside the trail and decided to wait until the weather made up its mind. As I was reading on my iPhone, John Maloney, whose farm the trail crosses north of the Blackstone Road, drove up in his truck and we chatted; we met many years ago when I first hiked the Black River section of the trail and I had seen him at a concert in the Strathspey Place and most of the other times I had been on the trail near his farm. I learned that his brother is currently nearing the end of a walk from Vancouver (BC) to St Johns (NL) and had just been at the farm visiting. Quite the trek! By the time we finished our conversation, blue skies and sun were winning the weather battle, so I set off down the trail with a nice breeze in my face.

The Inverness Shean Trail ends at the Blackstone Road and the next 20 km (12 1/2 mi) of the trail to the south form the Mabou Rivers Trail, both under the umbrella of the Celtic Shores Coastal Trail. It was too late at 13h, at my current slow pace, to do the whole 6 km (3¾ mi) to the bridge over Glendyer Brook and then return for tonight’s music, which I’d managed to do the last time I hiked this section, so I decided to split it in half and turn around at kilometre marker 72. The initial part of this hike is the most scenic, offering views of Cape Mabou and the Riverville section of Highway 19 below Cape Mabou; they are often tree- or brush-screened, but there are some open gaps and the backward views of the ridge above the Black River are likewise excellent. The Black River, quite narrow at this point and soon concealed by brush and trees, runs adjacent to the trail the first 500 m (⅓ mi) and can be heard gurgling as one walks beside it; it then veers off to the west to its source on the side of Cape Mabou and is visible from the trail no more. Given the cloudy skies when I left, I had chosen not to wear my sun hat, a decision I soon regretted because I was attacked by deer flies at that point, so I applied bug dope to my hair and adjacent head areas and they left me alone thereafter; the skies soon cleared entirely and I also ended up getting rather more sun than was wise. To the south of that point, the only vista is that of the trail as it wends its way between rows of trees; it is generally straight, though there are occasional bends. Small marshy areas with cattails are seen along both sides of the trail as it progresses. I encountered what I took to be scat from a small berry-fed bear and a pile of moose scat, but saw no wildlife. The wildflowers were the main interest along the sides of the trail. By far the most plentiful were what the wildflowers guide calls flat-top white asters; goldenrod was visible but not ubiquitous. Wild raspberries were beginning to ripen. Bunchberry plants were sporting orange clumps of berries. I took photos of a number of other wildflowers, but need a larger screen than my camera offers to positively identify them. Two large stands of spotted Joe-Pye weed were endemic in a couple of marshy areas about 200 m (⅛ mi) before arriving at a small bridge with water on both sides that appeared to have been dammed; this is Glendyer Brook, which rises on the side of Mount Young and crosses the trail here and stays to the west until it crosses the trail and the Smithville Road at Glendyer. About 100 m (325 ft) before the small bridge, one can see the remains of a concrete/stone platform that would have been directly adjacent to the railroad tracks, possibly a place locomotives could take on water. 300 m (⅕ mi) south of the bridge, a two-track-and-grass-crown road goes off to the east, ending at a long driveway connecting a farm to the Smithville Road. Another 1.1 km (⅔ mi) south, where the trail is primarily lined with evergreens, one reaches kilometre marker 72, where I turned around and retraced my steps; shortly before doing that, I encountered two cyclists heading north, and before again reaching the two-track-and-grass-crown road, three lady cyclists, well strung out, also passed me heading north. Near kilometre marker 75 on the way back, a friend on a bicycle stopped to chat briefly before also heading north. I met no other users of this section of the trail today.

I drove back to Whycocomagh via the Blackstone Road, the West Lake Ainslie Road, Highway 395, and Highway 252, where I got cleaned up from the hike and changed into more presentable and less reeky clothes. I drove to the Red Shoe and got a table at 17h36, another sure sign high summer is going fast. Friends sat with me as we chatted, dined, and listened to the dinner music by Kevin Dugas on bellows pipes and Keith Kennedy MacDonald on guitar. After thanking the musicians, I walked across the road for Karen and Joey’s cèilidh, tonight featuring Kyle Kennedy MacDonald as the guest fiddler.

The opening set of jigs, with Kyle and Karen on dual fiddles and Joey accompanying on keyboard, consisted of Andy Dejarlis’, the Swallowtail, and the Irish Washerwoman; Joey left the keyboard to briefly step dance to the dual fiddles during the last jig. Karen, accompanied by Joey, gave us Theresa MacLellan’s version of the pipe march Mr Murray’s Welcome [to the 79th], a traditional step dance strathspey, another step dance strathspey, and a couple of reels. They then gave us three waltzes, including Mockingbird Hill. Kyle on fiddle with Joey on keyboard played a fine Killiekrankie and another tune, after which they played a set of jigs including one Joey had requested whose name I didn’t get. After the break, Karen played a march by Rannie MacLellan, strathspeys, and reels, including The Road to Errogie. Karen and Joey next played for Kyle to step dance. Joey then gave us the J Scott Skinner piece Rose Acre as a keyboard solo. Kyle and Joey played another set of jigs and next for Peter Parker to step dance. For the finale, Kyle and Karen, with Joey accompanying, played the standard sequence of tunes for step dancers, during which Kyle again step danced. It was another fine cèilidh in a great series of cèilidhs and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I drove back to Whycocomagh and, a bit tired from the day’s hike and wanting to be up early on the morrow, soon retired.

Wednesday, 24 August — Whycocomagh

A sunny blue sky day greeted me when I arose, early for me, just before 7h, in Whycocomagh. After breakfast at Vi’s, I drove to Mabou, encountering rain drops on the windshield in Mabou and on Mabou Harbour Road; the sun was out again but with grey cloud cover on the Mabou Coal Mines Road. Just after 9h, I reached the Mabou Post Road trail head, which new signage now variously calls the Mabou Mines Trailhead or the Mabou Mine Trail Head or the Mabou Mines Trail Head, take your pick. When I arrived, the sun was out and blue skies were over the land, but it was cloudy over the Gulf: it was definitely not the clear day promised, at least not yet. In another fifteen minutes, the sun had gone under thick grey clouds and the blue sky had disappeared. Nevertheless, long experience has taught me that morning clouds often clear later on, so I headed off up the mountain on the Beinn Alasdair Bhain (Fair Alistair’s Mountain) Trail a bit after 9h30. I had done no climbing since July and the steep uphill caused me to be frequently breathless, even more so than usual, so my pace was glacial. The initial part of the trail is grassy tread with roots; some work has been done around the big muddy spot to improve the walking conditions, but it is still a bit messy—there’s probably not much that can be done, given the initial section’s use by tractors and ATV’s as well as hikers. 400 m (¼ mi) on, this multiple use ceases at a fork, where the tractor path goes left and the hiking trail goes right; the grass tread gives way to dirt/roots. So much of the spruce forest is now gone that there’s a fairly good view of the mountain straight ahead; deciduous trees are thriving in the newly opened space and some are already quite tall. Another 400 m (¼ mi) brings one to the first views of MacDonalds Glen and Finlay Point. It remained a resolutely cloudy day and I could almost see the moisture in the air…I thought I’d be lucky if it didn’t rain! Cape George was barely visible through the haze. Another 600 m (⅜ mi) and I was at the southern junction of the side trail to the look-off on the summit; a short section of trail that ran very close to the cliff had been newly relocated a metre inland on this section. The distances reported here are those of my Trails iPhone app and total 1.4 km (⅞ mi); the signage says 1.1 km (⅔ mi) and is likely correct as I’m pretty sure Ian Sherman determined it using a surveyor’s measuring wheel. At the summit, dead stumps and twisted branches are all that remain of the noble stand of majestic aromatic spruce that once covered the summit, always heartbreaking when I remember what once was. In the now open areas, pearly everlasting and fireweed were most prominent and both goldenrod and hawkweed were also present. Some blue sky had now appeared over the Gulf, but it remained cloudy inland. I signed the trail register and took note of the 11 full pages of entries in it since mid-June, a better showing than in recent years, so word about this beautiful trail system is obviously spreading. By 11h08, I arrived at the look-off, having taken about forty-eight minutes longer to reach there than the last time I hiked up Beinn Alasdair Bhain. In a few minutes, blue skies were overhead and the waters of the Gulf turned a bright blue, while inland the sun was breaking through the clouds. Cape George was still hazy and a lot of haze remained in the air, but I no longer feared getting rained on. I saw four eagles cavorting overhead, two way up which I managed to get several shots of, and two midway up in wider circles that my camera refused to focus on quickly enough to capture them as they passed in and out of the clouds. Cell service, non-existent at the trail head and in some nooks of the mountainside, improved as one ascended the trail, varying from 3G to LTE and from one to three bars, allowing me to post photos to Facebook from the summit. An hour and a half later, it had become a lovely day, with blue sky everywhere! After having an apple and some water, I decided to return via the MacPhee Trail—I had hoped to do the loop via MacKinnons Brook—but I had been moving so slowly and waiting to see what the weather would do that there was no longer enough time to do it and be back in time for tonight’s cèilidh at St Anns. The Beinn Alasdair Bhain Trail was relocated on the north side of the mountain and now heads up out of the col on what used to be signed as the MacPhee Trail until it turns and again heads down the mountain to MacKinnons Brook; the new signage has the MacPhee Trail now starting at that point. There is a bit of climbing before it reaches that junction, 500 m (⅓ mi) from the look-off. I walked just far enough down the relocated trail to get clear of the brush and trees interfering with the grand views of MacKinnons Brook and Beinn Bhiorach running out to Sight Point. A lady also hiking alone called out to me from above so as not to startle me (a great precaution given my less than stellar hearing) as I was fussing with the camera and taking photos. I then climbed back up to the junction and turned onto the MacPhee Trail, which continues climbing along the backside of the unnamed mountain it traverses, gently but inexorably upward for 600 m (⅜ mi) until it starts down for the last 100 m (325 ft) to the junction with the Beaton Trail; the upper end is through forest. From the Beaton Trail to the Cul Na Beinne (Beyond the Mountain) Trail (MacKinnons Brook Lane), the MacPhee Trail follows an old cart track down the mountainside through a lovely, mostly birch and beech, forest that the sun penetrated with some difficulty; the trail is in fine shape, but a steep downhill walk, with switchbacks near the bottom of the mountain, where it crosses a wet area on rough plank bridges set in the muck, 700 m (⅖ mi) from the Beaton Trail junction. I navigated all that and the rest with aplomb, a distance of 1.1 km (⅔ mi), albeit with a few complaints from my hips and calves. But, just 3 m/yds from the Cul Na Beinne Trail, I was very surprised to suddenly find myself sitting on my butt: while negotiating a 20 cm (8 in) step, which I saw and had braced for using my walking stick, my left leg slipped out from under me on small stones lying on moist terrain as I was moving with my right leg and down I went. I heard both knee caps crack (as in knuckle cracking) and my braced left leg twisted as I fell. Shocked at this unexpected turn of events, I felt both legs, found no sensitive spots, and heaved a great sigh of relief. I got up slowly and walked the rest of the way to the junction. My left leg muscles complained as I got up, but it was obvious I had broken nothing, fortunately! Of course, at the base of the mountain, there was no cell service either. I sat a few minutes listening to Mill Brook quietly singing and, while chagrined at the fall, reflected on my luck that it was no worse. I then walked the 1.1 km (⅔ mi) back to the car with no pain and no problems, except my usual short-windedness. The Trails app computed the total length of today’s hike as 5.2 km (3¼ mi) and I both ascended and descended roughly 190 m (625 ft) over that distance, so I got a pretty good cardiovascular workout. And the lovely afternoon and the fantastic views made it all worthwhile. During my first year on Cape Breton Island, Cape Mabou captured my heart and I love every minute I get to spend there!

I drove back to the motel and got cleaned up; after a somewhat unusual, but tasty, supper at Vi’s (turkey vegetable soup, ham and cheese sandwich, chef salad, and chicken wings), I drove to the Gaelic College for the cèilidh, tonight held in Taigh Cèilidh instead of in the Hall of the Clans. The Taigh Cèilidh is furnished much as a home would be and is used as a Gaelic language classroom where students can learn Gaelic in a natural homelike setting, just as they learned their first language. Attendees sat on living room furniture (padded chairs and sofas) and on some audience chairs from the Hall of the Clans for the overflow folks. Kyle Kennedy MacDonald on fiddle and Margie Beaton on keyboard began the cèilidh with a set of jigs; their next set started with a Dan R MacDonald strathspey and continued with more strathspeys and reels. Darrell Keigan self-accompanied on guitar sang three folk songs, inviting audience participation. Dominique Dodge next sang a Gaelic song accompanying herself on harp and then played an air/strathspeys/reels set on harp. A youth Gaelic immersion class was being held this week and its members next gave us a song in Gaelic they had learned. Patrick MacDonald, Jeff MacDonald’s son, sang a puirt a beul to which two of those students step danced. Jeff then sang a Gaelic song of resistance to the British in the Scottish Highlands, after which Jeff and Patrick together sang a picnic song. Tea, oatcakes, and biscuits with butter were then served to the attendees. Margie next gave us a solo air on fiddle. Colin MacDonald on keyboard accompanied Margie on fiddle to play for David Rankin to perform a step dance at the end of which the candle on the floor about which he danced was snuffed out by the air from his well-placed steps, a feat I had not previously seen performed. For the finale, Kyle, Margie, and Lauren MacDonnell on fiddles; Colin on keyboard; Dominique on harp; and David on guitar played a blast o’ tunes during which Brittany Rankin, David, Lauren, Kyle, Margie, and Colin (replaced by Margie on the keyboard) all step danced. It was very different from the previous instructors’ cèilidhs I had attended, much more like an informal house party than a formal concert and entirely appropriate to the much smaller audience, which would have been lost in the Hall of the Clans (the 31 August cèilidh, which I will be unable to attend as I'll be in Meat Cove, will have much the same format).

It was dark when I limped back to the car; my left leg was now complaining whenever it bore my body’s weight, more so after sitting than before the cèilidh, so I naturally tried to humour it as much as possible. I drove back to Whycocomagh and was soon in bed.

Thursday, 25 August — Whycocomagh

After arising a bit after 8h, I spent the entire day in my motel room, making tea and having car food for breakfast. My left leg was wobbly, but clearly neither broken nor bruised; it was not sensitive to touch either, but twinged whenever weight was put on it: I limped noticeably whenever I walked. I had planned on trying to reach the Chéticamp Flowage today and attempting to find the second airstrip in the highlands on the way there (by the way, David Greenwell in conversation pointed out that both highlands airstrips are clearly marked in the The Nova Scotia Atlas, making finding them easy), but, under the circumstances, I thought it unwise to do so, as it would involve some walking for photos and exploration, and I felt it better to give the leg a day of rest. So, I read and relaxed in my room, wrote and posted Saturday’s account, and worked on Sunday’s account.

I drove to the Glenora Distillery where I had arranged to meet friends for dinner at 17h and I had a fine repast: a lovely salad with a delicious dressing; a large, moist, and juicy portion of halibut with a lobster sauce served on roasted potatoes; and the cheese board with three fine cheeses: a nicely aged cheddar, a tasty semi-hard white cheese, and a blue cheese—I do not normally like blue cheeses, but this one was mild and creamy and I would definitely have it again (unfortunately, the server gave me their names but I failed to write them down, so I cannot now determine what they were). The only disappointment was that I had asked for a crusty bread to go with the cheeses, thinking of good French bread or even an Italian bread, but received pita bread, not in the same league! We had a leisurely dinner with plenty of time to chat and catch up on each other’s news.

I then continued on to Glencoe for the last of this year’s Thursday dances (two Sunday dances remain, one on the Labour Day week-end and the other on Thanksgiving week-end during Celtic Colours). The musicians were there at 20h35, but no one arrived to open the doors until 20h52! Nevertheless, Joe MacMaster on fiddle and Joël Chiasson on real piano began playing promptly at 21h; when no one stepped out for the jigs, Joe switched to other tunes. The next set of jigs got one couple up round dancing and four other couples joined them just as the music stopped. When it resumed, at 21h13, the five couples danced the first square set. Both jig sets struck me as a tad too fast, but the reels were spot on and the tempo of all the following square set figures was perfect, so perhaps it was just not having warmed up. The second square set began with seven couples in its first figure, had eight in its second, and grew to ten in two groups for its third. The third square set started with eight couples in its first figure, but by its end had twenty-two couples in its third figure as folks arrived after 22h and pretty well filled up the hall. The fourth square set was danced by nineteen couples in three groups in its third figure and was followed by the step dance sequence, which brought to the floor Hailee LeFort, Iain MacQuarrie. Stephen MacLennan, Amanda MacDonald, Lewis MacLennan, David Rankin, Kyle Kennedy MacDonald, Margie Beaton, and Joël (with Margie sitting in at the piano while he danced); three other ladies whose names I don’t have, at least two of whom are cast members of Brìgh, also step danced. Joe began the fifth square set playing highland bagpipes; he switched back to fiddle for the next two figures, the last of which was danced by 26 couples. The next set of jigs drew only one couple round dancing. The sixth and last square set was very slow to form; played by Hailee and Joe on dual fiddles with Joël on piano, it finally began with four couples and grew to eight by the end of the first figure, added another couple for the second figure, and split into two groups with fifteen couples in its last figure. The music was superb and the dancers translated the fiddle’s energy into fine steps in the figures all night long. Joe is clearly destined to become an extraördinary dance player with a great following; it was a joy to hear him playing tonight. And Joël, who often “noodled” on the piano between square sets and sometimes between figures, as Betty Lou Beaton also often does, provided a glorious foundation for and embellishment of Joe’s fiddle. It was a great way to end this year’s Thursday dances at Glencoe! My thanks to the volunteers and organizers of these dances for their important rôle in ensuring young folks have a place in which to both dance and play for dancers, for they are certainly the future of this musical tradition.

I also was pleased to see a friend from PEI at the dance and to meet her husband; they were out touring Cape Breton and took in a very important feature of its cultural life that has so enriched my life.

I drove back to Whycocomagh, hitting way too many potholes on the section of the Whycocomagh Port Hood Road from the Cove Brook bridge to the Stewartdale cemetery; the remainder of the road was in pretty decent shape. I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

Friday, 26 August — Whycocomagh to Margaree Forks

When I arose at 8h55, my left leg was doing much better; while I still had a minor limp, it wasn’t like yesterday’s. I paid a visit to friends in Whycocomagh, who plied me with a lovely lunch. I also got to see and photograph a portion of the Skye River I hadn’t seen previously.

When I left Whycocomagh, it was a humid, overcast day and the car’s thermometer registered +27 (81). I drove north on the Trans-Canada Highway to the Yankee Line Road just north of Wagmatcook and took it to the Cabot Trail in Middle River. I turned onto the MacLennans Cross Road and took it to the West Side Middle River Road, which I followed back to the to Cabot Trail. A rain shower had previously passed through Middle River, leaving puddles beside the road, though the roads themselves were dry, and lowering the temperature to +24 (75). I stopped at the Lakes and had a garden salad and the lobster “salad” (cold lobster served with cold vegetables on a bed of lettuce), delicious indeed on this over-warm day. I then got my room in Margaree Forks and had a nap, after which I finished and posted Sunday’s account. I then drove to Southwest Margaree and worked on Monday’s post in the car.

Tonight’s dance had Douglas Cameron on fiddle and Kolten Macdonell on keyboard. The hall felt humid and close; the dancers complained of the heat, but it was not really that warm. Two jig sets went with no takers, so the first square set didn’t start until 22h18 and was danced by five couples in all three figures. Two more jig sets drew no dancers to the floor, but the third finally drew four and then five couples in the first figure and had six in its third. At this point, I counted 36 paid attendees in the hall, so most appeared to have no interest in dancing. More folks arrived and the third square set, very slow to form, was danced by eleven couples in its first two figures and ten in its third. There were now 57 paid attendees, most apparently listeners like myself. The fourth square set began with five couples and quickly grew to nine, adding two more for the third figure. The step dance sequence brought only Neil MacQuarrie out to share his fine steps. The fifth square set began with nine couples in its first figure, grew to fourteen for its second, and added another for its third. A waltz brought out two couples. A jig set went unanswered as the dancers took a breather and many people left at this point, though I failed to count those remaining. The last square set started with five couples in its first figure, grew to eight in its second, and was danced by nine in its third figure, on which Kolten took over the fiddle and Douglas the keyboard. With Douglas back on fiddle, they played out the time remaining by giving us a march/strathspeys/reels set, a set of jigs that went unanswered, and The Mockingbird, one of Douglas’ signature tunes, requested by several in the audience. The music throughout was top notch, with fine playing by both all night long and the dancers I talked with were as well pleased as I.

I drove back to Margaree Forks and was soon fast asleep.

Saturday, 27 August — Margaree Forks to Port Hood

I got up after 9h15 and found the clouds hanging down over the highlands; +19 (64) with mist, light rain, and fog. My left leg was doing much better and the limp was pretty much gone. After checking out, I drove to East Margaree via Fordview Road and continued on to Belle-Côte, where I had breakfast at the Belle View. I dropped in on friends in Belle-Côte and visited with them. I drove on to Whycocomagh and ran out of the rain at the West Lake Ainslie Road. I popped in to the motel to wish the assistant there a good year as he leaves for his first year of college on Monday. I then drove via Portage Road to Lower Washabuck, where I visited with friends and learned that Kenneth MacKenzie was not playing at Iona today; he was scheduled to when I made out my itinerary at the beginning of August, but had switched unbeknownst to me to a mid-September date and I had failed to notice the schedule change. Since I wasn’t interested in the replacement, I drove out the Gillis Point East Road and stopped for photos above Maskells Harbour, a picturesque spot usually with at least one sailboat moored there (today, there were two); the Gillis Point East Road has been somewhat patched since I last drove it two years ago, but it is still in very pitiable state, a bumpy obstacle course. I continued on to Iona and stopped at Darby’s in MacKinnons Harbour, which started up two or three years ago and at which I had not eaten. It turns out to be a pizza plus fast food place; I had a garden salad, a chicken wrap, a cheeseburger, and tea, all good but not great. I drove on to Port Hood via the Whycocomagh Port Hood, Glencoe, and Upper Southwest Mabou Roads, got my room key, read, relaxed, and finished the first draft of Monday’s post. I then drove to West Mabou Hall for tonight’s dance.

Howie MacDonald on fiddle and Hilda Chiasson on real piano were there before the appointed time and, after sound checks, started jigs at 21h06. That set, a one-minute jig set, and a six-minute jig set all got no takers, so Howie played a set beginning with a clog or hornpipe and ending with reels. At 21h29, Burton MacIntyre got the first square set going with five couples; its last two figures were danced by ten couples. The following waltz brought two couples to the floor. The second square set started with four couples and grew to eight by the end of the first figure; with the advent of people arriving after 22h, the third figure had thirteen couples. The third square set formed in under a minute and grew throughout the first figure; twenty-six couples danced its third figure and were really enjoying themselves, judging by the number of yells and hoots and hollers during the reels. The step dance sequence brought six dancers to the floor; those I can identify were Lewis MacLennan, Iain MacQuarrie, Stephen MacLennan, and Amanda MacDonald; two other young ladies, both in the cast of Brìgh, I believe, also shared their steps. The fourth square set began with two big groups in its first figure and was danced by twenty-eight in its third. The following waltz had no takers. The fifth and last square set was slow to form, starting with four couples and growing on the fly; thirty-one couples danced its third figure. Once enough people had arrived to make a dance out of it, it was a great dance. The music was fantastic from start to end; it is always a treat to hear Howie and Hilda play for any event!

I drove back to Port Hood and, not ready for bed, completed and posted Monday’s account. I finally fell asleep after 1h30.

Sunday, 28 August — Port Hood

Given my late bed time last night, I slept in this morning, not rising until after 10h. I read and relaxed in my room and caught up on the news. It was a mostly cloudy day with a few blue sky patches, but the sun was nevertheless out strong and the car’s thermometer registered +20 (68) as I drove the Dunmore Road to the Mabou Road to the Rear Intervale Road to Highway 19 to the Baxters Cove Road and it to its end where I took some photos. I found much more blue sky here, where the clouds were whiter and mostly inland.

I drove back to the Celtic Music Interpretive Centre for today’s cèilidh with Kinnon Beaton on fiddle and Jackie Dunn-MacIsaac on keyboard. I had an early lunch, as I had intentionally skipped breakfast. It was a dancing crowd this afternoon and Kinnon was only too glad to oblige: six square sets were danced, varying from six to a dozen couples, though one jig set went without takers. March/strathspeys/reels sets alternated with the square sets. Glenn Graham played the fourth square set on fiddle with Jackie. When Kinnon took back the fiddle from Glenn, Kiffie Carter on guitar joined them for a waltz and remained for the rest of the cèilidh, a treat as I rarely get to hear him (this makes the second time this summer!). After the fifth square set, Kinnon and Kiffie played an air as a duet with Jackie resuming playing for the following strathspeys and reels, during which Mary Graham, Jackie Ryan, and Rosemary Poirier (Antigonish) all step danced. Faded Love before the sixth square set drew eight couples out to waltz. The 50/50 draw was won by a Vancouver couple. The music was superb all afternoon long—both Kinnon and Jackie are a delight to listen to—and I got to hear many of my favourite tunes and a strathspey that was new to me.

It was sunny and warm (+23 (73)) with only white clouds as I drove the Rear Intervale Road to the Mabou Road to Highway 19 to the Red Shoe. Shelly Campbell on fiddle and Joël Chiasson on real piano were well into their cèilidh when I arrived to a standing room only crowd. I stood in the back and Pat Gillis and Kate MacInnis, who were on the list for a free table when one became available, asked me to join them, which I did when their turn came. How anyone could possibly leave in the midst of such fine playing by Shelly and Joël is beyond me, but I was happy to sit down all the same (though standing did not bother my left leg, which is back to normal). I had the house salad with grilled chicken during the last part of the cèilidh. The music was incredible, just rolling off Shelly’s bow and Joël’s talented fingers, impossible to better. And I very much enjoyed Pat and Kate’s company and conversation between the sets and after the cèilidh ended. It was a wonderful afternoon indeed!

It had clouded up again during the cèilidh, as I observed on the way back to Port Hood, where I read and relaxed and then wrote and posted Tuesday’s account. I was in bed shortly after midnight.

Monday, 29 August — Port Hood to Whycocomagh

Showers and ugly grey skies greeted me when I arose about 8h45; it was coolish (+17 (63)) and not a very nice day. After breakfast at Sandeannies, it was raining pretty good when I went out to the car and the rain continued along the Shore Road as far as McKays Pond and resumed once more when I reached Michaels Landing, where I worked on Wednesday’s post as intermittent showers started and stopped. Cell phone internet service was either unavailable or unresponsive there, so I drove on to Christy’s Look-off in Craigmore, where I found two bars of LTE service. A brief, but hard, shower deluged the car as I read some Facebook posts and worked some more on Wednesday’s post. I left a card at a friend’s in Creignish when no one answered the door and drove on to the Troy Celtic Shores Coastal Trail kiosk and worked some more on Wednesday’s post; the rain finally stopped, but it remained resolutely grey. I decided on an early dinner at the Fleur-de-Lis, where I had the maple nut salad bowl (a beloved favourite of mine) and a plate with a cup of chowder, a fish cake, and a grilled haddock loin. After dinner, I drove back to Whycocomagh via Crandall and MacMaster Roads and the Trans-Canada Highway. I read and relaxed in my motel room and then finished the first draft of Wednesday’s account. Rain began again at 19h10, as I completed and posted Wednesday’s account. As I drove to Brook Village in light rain, the car’s thermometer reported a cool +16 (61).

Tonight’s dance featured Kinnon Beaton on fiddle and Jackie Dunn-MacIsaac on keyboard. The first square set started at 21h37 with four growing to six couples in its first figure and with nine couples in its second and third figures. Twelve couples in two groups began the second square set, which added one couple in each of the two following figures. By now, it was well past 22h and the hall was quickly filling up; three groups began the third square set and I was unable thereafter to get accurate counts: at least twenty-two couples danced its third figure. A waltz brought seven couples out. The fourth square set began with four groups and became five groups in the second figure; at least thirty-two couples danced its third figure. The fifth square set was smaller, danced throughout by four groups with at least twenty-five in its third figure. Shelly Campbell relieved Kinnon on fiddle for the sixth square set, danced by four and than five groups and at least thirty-three couples. With Kinnon back on fiddle, Happy Birthday was played to celebrate two birthdays, if I heard correctly, and was followed by a waltz danced by at least fourteen couples. The seventh square set was danced by twenty-eight couples. Because of its start close to 1h, the eighth square set, danced by twenty couples, omitted its second figure. It was a fine dance with vigorous dancers taking full advantage of the great music the whole night long. The smaller (but by comparison to the dances at other venues, still large) attendance is another indication summer is nearly over; when I enquired at the door, I was told by both the ticket seller and the ticket collector that the dance on Labour Day would be the last Brook Village dance until Celtic Colours.

When I got back to the car, the rain had finally stopped, but it was a chilly +12 (53). Back in Whycocomagh, I was soon in bed and fast asleep.

Tuesday, 30 August — Whycocomagh to Meat Cove

When I arose at 9h, I found a bright, sunny day with lots of white clouds. The car’s thermometer said +17 (63) as I drove to Vi’s, where I met Rob Wilson, the founder of the Red Shoe, for breakfast. He brought along with him a photo album with some great photos of those early days, before I first came to Cape Breton, when the Shoe was getting started and shared some great stories from that time. I greatly enjoyed our conversation, from which I learned a lot.

Although some music remains available this week, when I made out my itinerary at the beginning of August, I regretfully decided to forgo Karen and Joey’s cèilidh on Tuesday and the Gaelic College cèilidh on Wednesday (there is no Thursday dance at Glencoe this week) to make time for a three-day stay at the top of the Island. I wish I could spend more time there than I do, but with all the great music in the summer, this is the best I could arrange for this trip. I left Whycocomagh at 11h25 and took the Trans-Canada Highway to St Anns and the Cabot Trail there; I stopped in North River Bridge for photos of the church, which I didn’t have in my collection, but took no other photos along the way as grey/white clouds made the waters of St Anns Bay grey looking and unphotogenic. The newly rebuilt and resurfaced section of the Cabot Trail has now been completed, with the lane markings that were missing in June now in place. I left a calling card at friends in Indian Brook, who were away. From north of the Indian Brook church to North Shore, the horrible section that badly needed modernization and resurfacing is all torn up, so that work is now in progress and will likely continue into next year. I stopped at the Little River Harbour for photos, where I found the waters green/grey, not blue, but Cape Smokey was fairly clear down the shore. Cell service from St Anns to Little River is spotty, but becomes better as one proceeds north. I stopped at Cape Smokey for photos, where the views south were hazy and the waters white from the great rolls of bunched grey-tinged white clouds above. I stopped again in (South) Ingonish Harbour, where the largely open inland skies were pure blue, colouring the Ingonish River accordingly, and contrasting beautifully with the greens of the highlands. I continued on to Cape North Village, where I stopped at the store there for some supplies and noticed that Angie’s, across the street, was open and busy. I drove on to Bay St Lawrence, where neither take-out was open nor was anyone at the café. I continued on to Meat Cove and checked in to the Meat Cove Lodge; the gravel portions of the Meat Cove Road are in bad shape with potholes that are unavoidable and bone-shaking if taken at any low speed. This is a busy road this time of year and should have gotten some much needed attention by now.

The black flies were out in force on the back deck of the Lodge, but I discovered that they kept their distance if I wore my floppy sun hat soaked with Deep Woods Off—I didn’t have to put any on my face, neck, or hands: surprisingly, the hat alone was enough to keep them at bay. While enjoying the placid gurgling of the brook, I got a message from a Facebook friend who said he was on his boat at Bay St Lawrence if I wanted to meet up with him. An hour before dinner time, I drove back there and had a good chat with him; I learned that the highlands above Bay St Lawrence were once all fields, mainly used for pasturing sheep, which supplied mutton and wool, though vegetable gardens and the like were also present. Although one of the take-outs in Bay St Lawrence was now open, I drove back to Cape North Village for dinner and was quite chagrined to find Angie’s closed; her new hours are 8h to 16h, a complete surprise to me. I went across the road to the country market and got a dozen chicken wings. I then drove back to Meat Cove and had supper there—not the great seafood at Angie’s I had envisioned, but at least something I enjoy, and with a salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, and bell peppers, so not totally unhealthful.

After supper, I read and relaxed; there’s no wi-fi (unless one stands in a certain spot on the back deck, where one can pick up the wi-fi at the @CAP site across the road) and the Internet via cell service, when there was any at all, was very slow and unresponsive inside, though slightly better out on the deck. I wrote and posted Thursday’s account. It had turned into a beautiful, starry night, though a chilly one in the low teens (50’s). The couple that was supposed to stay in the other room never arrived, so I had the Lodge to myself. I retired at 23h.

Wednesday, 31 August — Meat Cove

I got up about 8h20 to a nice day: blue sky with lots of clouds, but sunny and bright and, at +19 (64), a lovely day for a hike. I had a leisurely breakfast at the Lodge: instant hot oatmeal, a dish of fresh blueberries, a bottle of orange juice, and tea. I drove to Bay St Lawrence, where I found the café open, but both take-outs closed at 11h30.

I then headed up the Massif on what is apparently officially known as “6014 Road”, a K-class road that starts south of Bay St Lawrence in Bay Road Valley beside an old MT&T building and continues to the communication towers near the north end of the Massif (it goes beyond them to reach the Money Point Light Trail, once a road to the no longer existing Money Point Lighthouse, but is not driveable in my car). I had driven to the towers a few times in past years as it offers a few superb views from the Massif of the area below to both the east and the west, though most of its course is between rows of evergreens with no views of the surrounding area. It was in the worst shape I’d ever seen it, having suffered serious water erosion damage especially on the initial ascent of the Massif, making it a very tortuous drive in my Prius. Once on top of the Massif, one passes a gravel quarry and starts a descent to a gap between two prominences; it was as dicey going down as up and for the same reason, but I slowly made it to the parking area at the gap, which shows off the coast to Black Point, St Margaret Village, Bay St Lawrence, Deadmans Pond, and the Harbour below. A jeep (a much more practical vehicle for this road than a Prius) with a party of four from New Brunswick was busy taking photos and I joined them too.

The last edition of the Hike the Highlands Festival that included the Money Point Gulch Trail started the hike from this gap (the description of that hike is here, though for some reason it is not accessible if the web site thinks you are using a mobile device, so use a regular browser); earlier versions of the hike started it from the southern end of the “6014 Road”, thereby incorporating the ascent of the whole Massif as well, one really stiff hike! Of late, the Money Point Gulch Trail has become known as the Kauzmann Trail, for reasons I am unable to ascertain; popularized by this rather breathless article, it has become more widely known, but it is precisely the same thing as the Money Point Gulch Trail that has been around at least ten years, if not longer, and has never been a secret. It had been on my to-do list a long time and I decided to hike it on this trip to the top of the Island so I could speak about it from first-hand knowledge. However, I chose to drive to the point where the trail leaves the road (at GPS 46°59.969'N 60°25.968'W), making a much easier and almost entirely level hike. Getting there, in the current state of the road in my car, however, was a very tiring, 25-minute process of dodging potholes, small and medium sized rocks in the road, and carefully plotting my course through the eroded areas and giant puddles. The last time I was at the trail head, it was marked only by a small piece of red-orange flagging tape affixed to a branch of an evergreen tree; what I found today was a much larger opening with a small rock cairn roadside and a red-orange styrofoam tag affixed to a tree—unmistakably marking the trail. When I set off along the path, I found a well-engineered forest trail in excellent condition, the tread primarily of dirt and roots with some well-placed stones and occasional small logs. The trail traverses some forest, but much of the trail is bordered by waist-high brush, stunted trees, and ferns; it is a nice walk, with a little up and down following the terrain, but pretty much level, as it circles the lip of the canyon through which Gulch Brook flows. 600 m (⅜ mi) down the trail, one gets a distant view of the cliffs above Gulch Brook and, at the 1 km (⅝ mi) mark, a fine view of the 500 m (⅓ mi) long ridge that is the destination of this trail. A short side trail here leads to the edge of the canyon with excellent views of the ridge; while there, I heard, but didn’t see, an eagle. 500 m (⅓ mi) further and one is at the start of the ridge, with fine views of the canyon through which Gulch Brook flows and of the cliffs rising above it on its far side. A geocache is located beneath a small evergreen tree near the north end of the ridge, at a point where it has already started down and becomes very narrow, not very palatable for an acrophobe like myself, but I nevertheless found the cache (a green waterproof army box), signed the register inside, and left a calling card there (others had left various trinkets and key fobs). A very narrow trail, suitable for mountain goats and fearless humans, continues past the geocache for perhaps another 100 m (325 ft), but I elected to stop there, 2 km (1¼ mi) from the trail head. The views from the ridge are fantastic: the views of the canyon and the area above it to the west, with Gulch Brook descending its side in a long arc, are only available from ridge; the cliffs across Gulch Brook and much of the area to the north are better seen from here than from any other vantage point I've been at. The views to the east are of the base of the ridge and the cliffs which line the mouth of Gulch Brook far below on Aspy Bay. As well, much of Aspy Bay with South Mountain as a backdrop, from Burnt Head and White Point to Smelt Brook to South Harbour to North Harbour, is visible from the ridge. Alas, by the time I got out there, the skies to the east were lead-covered and the views in that direction were hazy and indistinct; on a better day, they would have been five-star views (on a really clear day, I’m told one can see the coast of Newfoundland from the ridge), so I will try to return to capture them. I met a party of three on the ridge, parents and their college age son, and passed a party of five (parents and two daughters and their grandfather) hiking to the ridge as I was returning; they had managed to get their large RV up the Massif and to the trail head (though I suspect some dishes might have been broken during the rough ride) and somehow got turned around on the narrow road (I had a much easier time of that in my Prius). A few sprinkles began to fall shortly before I reached the car. Google Maps shows a “Rasmussen/McLaughlin Trailhead” about 50 m (160 ft) ahead, but I suspect that it is a location error (David Rasmussen is a well-known naturalist and avid hiker living in the area, and might well have had something to do with the construction of the Money Point Gulch Trail; alas, I did not meet any of my contacts on this trip, so can not confirm his involvement with this trail, nor did I learn who McLaughlin or Kauzmann are). I slowly made my way back to the gap, where the sun was once again shining and I put “Big Bertha” to work there. I then ascended to the quarry and descended to the Bay St Lawrence Road, both harrowing as the erosion is very problematic for a low-slung vehicle, but with great care, I made it without getting trapped in a rut or bottoming out.

One of the take-outs in Bay St Lawrence was open when I arrived there around 17h. I got to see the fairly extensive menu, which offered crab and lobster rolls, but they were all sold out of them, so I ordered a bacon cheeseburger; the service was very slow, but it was one of the best burgers I've ever eaten and huge, a bargain at $6.50! Back at the Lodge, two cyclists, who had biked to Meat Cove from Ingonish today, a serious workout (but nothing like what they were facing biking from Meat Cove to Pleasant Bay tomorrow!), had already checked in and were cleaning up as I arrived. They went off to the beach and spent most of the evening there and went to bed shortly after they came back, so I had little chance to chat with them. I supplemented my bacon cheeseburger with a salad, some blueberries, and an apple and then wrote and posted last Friday’s account. After reading and relaxing, I turned in at 23h, content with a great day at the top of the Island, even if the views to the east from the ridge were not viewed in the best of conditions.

Thursday, 1 September — Meat Cove

I sallied forth from my room this morning a little after 9h15. The biking couple had left earlier; I later learned from my hostess that she had driven them to Cape North in her truck as they were too tired from yesterday to make it out on their own. It had rained overnight and was a cloudy, cool day with sprinkles in the air; the clouds reached some distance below Meat Cove Mountain and were on their way down the Edwards Brook valley when I stepped outside; fog also descended part way down the sides of the “Western Wall”. I had a repeat of yesterday’s breakfast at the Lodge.

It was a good day for doing nothing, which is basically what I did—reading and relaxing and enjoying the brook from the back deck. About 14h, I walked down the road to a friend’s house, but he was away, so I returned to the Lodge and worked out motel room reservations covering the Celtic Colours shows and sent e-mails off. My hostess dropped by and let me know that the Meat Cove Lodge is available after the 17th of October and she currently has no bookings that week, so I may try to get back here then. I worked on Saturday’s account and got the first draft done. The fog had lifted to just above the highlands during the afternoon, but by 17h started coming back down; it remained a grey,. dark day, coolish and damp.

For supper, I drove to the Chowder Hut and had their mussels and chowder, both excellent. Even though served in a styrofoam cup, the chowder was nicely presented with an open mussel and parsley and lobster pieces on top; it was creamy and thick with potatoes and haddock in good supply. I had a tomatoes-cucumbers-green peppers salad when I got back to the Lodge—gotta have those veggies every day! Afterwards, I finished and posted Saturday’s account, after which I read and relaxed some more. I went off to bed at 23h.

It wasn’t a very exciting day, but a great one for resting up and “recharging my batteries” and Meat Cove is a wonderful place for doing that, even when the weather is not conducive to outside activities!

Friday, 2 September — Meat Cove to Margaree Forks

I got up a bit before 8h to a rainy, windy, cool morning with light fog down over Meat Cove Mountain. I felt bad for the campers at the Campground: at least four tents were pitched there when I was at the Chowder Hut last night and it was far less than ideal a day (and night) to be tenting! I read and relaxed at the Lodge until 10h30 and didn’t really want to leave then. On the way to Bay St Lawrence, I met two cars that were obviously planning on camping too, one with a kayak on the roof. Blackrock Point was the only thing visible from Black Point and Little Grassy was hidden by the fog; I also stopped briefly at the look-off by Black Point Brook, from which I could see water and nearby Pats Point, but not much else and no views of the Cape North Massif. Near Pats Point west of Capstick, I encountered a car with New Jersey license plates at a 45° angle in the ditch with four people standing beside the car; they said they’d called 911 and were fine, so I went on as there was nothing I could do to help them. I have no idea how they ended up in the ditch (they said the “car slid off the road”), but the road is wider than a paved road and was certainly not slippery, though it was badly potholed; I suspect it must have been some driver negligence or error. I drove on to the St Paul Island Lighthouse and Museum in Dingwall, where I picked up a copy of Billie Budge’s Memoirs of a Lightkeeper’s Son: Life on St. Paul Island, a book I cannot recommend highly enough, as a gift for friends. There was some brightening in Dingwall, but the views along the Bay St Lawrence Road on the way to Dingwall were poor, with the fog well down the side of North Mountain.

The bridge over the North Aspy River on the Cabot Trail at Big Intervale is not done and not too far along; the old bridge remains in place and in use. The sun came out very briefly on way the up North Mountain, but fog was still below both North Mountain and South Mountain at the fourth look-off from the bottom, where I ate the “smoked meat” (pastrami) sandwiches I had made at the Lodge to use up food requiring refrigeration. As I sat in the car there, lots of cars passed by in both directions, many more than I had expected to see on such a foggy day; an Ambassatours bus pulled up at the look-off to let the passengers photograph the foggy views and a wide load carrying a crane climbed up the mountain. I crossed over North Mountain and descended to the Lone Shieling, where the rain had stopped and the clouds were above the highlands, though the temperature was still only +13 (55); I have no idea why the weather was so different on the two sides of the summit. I did the loop trail at the Lone Shieling, which I had hiked in the past, a gentle, mostly level trail with nice views of the old growth forest and of the Grande-Anse River, which was flowing briskly from the recent rains. If one stops along the way, as I did, the walk is about twenty minutes. By the time I climbed up the stairs to the parking lot at the end of the trail, some brightening had occurred, though the sun was not out. Mist fell on the windshield as I left the Lone Shieling. MacKenzies Mountain sat just below the clouds and not by much, while the MacKenzies River, with as much water as the Grande-Anse, was rushing to its mouth at the base of MacKenzies Mountain, splashing against the boulders littering its bed. From MacKenzies Mountain, I could see Kerrs Point and Polletts Cove fairly clearly, but beyond was hazy at best, with the clouds below the highlands beyond Delaneys Point making it hard to distinguish the High Capes and Tittle Point. I was a bit peeved that the weather had screwed up the usually stellar views so badly, but then I thought of the others doing the trail today for the first time and felt sorry they were being deprived of much of the amazing scenery from the Cabot Trail: I’ll get to see it again this fall, but they may not return to experience its glories. No work was being done on the MacKenzies Mountain Cabot Trail segment under construction; the road is not paved, though it looks otherwise pretty complete, with new guardrails and the shoulders coated with hay and presumably grass seed. The construction at Corney Brook (Rivière-à-Lazare) is likewise still in progress, with traffic routed over the Bailey bridge, while the work on the hill above looks not quite so far along as MacKenzies Mountain segment. From French Mountain south, there was some sun, but it was filtered and barely casting a shadow. I saw reds in leaves at several points today; they are becoming noticeable and no longer so rare, even south of the Park; the whole forest has lost its spring/summer vivid greenness and is now veering towards the yellow-tinged greens. Cell phone service was good on the east side of North Mountain, but disappeared on the summit of North Mountain and remained that way through Pleasant Bay, MacKenzies Mountain, and much of French Mountain.

I had bacon-wrapped scallops, salad, and tea at the Belle View in Belle-Côte and then finished off the other perishable car food in my motel room. Some sun and blue sky patches were visible at 18h, but they had disappeared by 18h40. I wrote and then posted Monday’s account.

Since it had gotten no warmer and felt damp, I donned a long sleeved shirt and a long sleeved sweater over it. I then drove to Southwest Margaree for the last regular dance of the season (there’s another scheduled during Celtic Colours), with Dawn Beaton on fiddle and Margie Beaton on keyboard. The music began at 22h10 and sounded very mushy to my one good ear, to the point it was very hard to make out the melody, let alone the accompaniment. A jig set at 22h15 got no takers, but at its end, four couples got up before the music started again and a fifth was added on the fly, making the first square set. The second square set started with five couples and grew to seven couples in the second and third figures; I moved to the front table at this point, where the sound seemed to me to be almost all acoustic with nothing coming through the speakers. After that square set, adjustments were made to the sound system and thereafter I could hear the music clearly from my position at the front table. A waltz got two couples and the following set of jigs had no takers. The third square set began with seven couples in the first figure and had nine in the second and third figures. Margie asked Sandra Gillis to take the keyboard so she and Dawn could play dual fiddles, and the fourth square set was danced to that configuration; my notes record that it was a small set with some avid dancing, but not how many couples danced it. Another waltz drew two couples. The fifth square set was danced by eight couples. The step dance sequence drew only one dancer: Jimmy MacIsaac. When I counted the number of paid attendees present in the hall at various points during the evening, the largest number I came up with was 27, so the dance was, alas, poorly attended. The music, once I was able to hear it clearly, was delightful, with fine playing and lots of ornamentation in the best Cape Breton style.

After thanking the musicians, I drove back to my motel room in Margaree Forks and was soon in bed and fast asleep.

Saturday, 3 September — Margaree Forks to Port Hood

I arose at 9h to a cool (+13 (55)) and mostly grey day. I had breakfast at the Belle View, which won’t be serving breakfast after Monday, though it will be open at 11h through 15 October; neither the fruit cup nor the yogurt was available, as the kitchen had not renewed supplies for breakfast items. I drove to Chéticamp and made a reservation for the night of 11 October, when I will be there for a Celtic Colours concert. I continued on to the look-off above Le Buttereau via Barren Road and chemin Damase, where I found patches of blue sky over the Gulf but grey rain clouds with sun breaking through inland, and a somewhat warmer day at +17 (63). I worked on and finished the first draft of Tuesday’s account. When I left for the Doryman, some sun was out and more blue sky was visible, but great grey rain clouds were also present. When I arrived just after 13h, I was surprised to find an almost full parking lot and then watched a Coast Guard cutter entering the harbour. The pub was already quite full and would become more so by the time the music started. I sat with friends and we had a good chat while waiting for the musicians to arrive, during which time some rain fell.

Today’s music was by Mike Hall on fiddle and Joël Chiasson on keyboard; they began with a fine set of jigs that had no takers and followed it with a fantastic march/strathspeys/reels set beginning with Killiecrankie, during which John Robert Gillis step danced. The second set of jigs became the first square set of the day, danced by five couples throughout the three figures. Another dandy set of strathspeys and reels was followed by a waltz that brought three couples on the floor to dance. The next set featured tunes, likely clogs or hornpipes, and continued with reels. From the windows, I could see that the rain had by now given way to blue sky and some sun with lots of white clouds. The next set, of jigs, got six couples in its first figure and eight in its last two figures. A short break ensued. Another fantastic march/strathspeys/reels set followed, attracting John Robert Gillis and a Doryman waitress to share their fine steps. Gerry Deveau on spoons played the next set with Mike and Joël, after which another break occurred. A set of strathspeys and reels drew two ladies, one I’ve seen before and the other I hadn’t, to share their steps. A waltz drew six couples. The third square set followed, starting with five couples in the first figure, six growing to eight in the second, and eight in two groups in the third. Another break was followed by Faded Love and the St Anne’s Reel was played for a step dancer. The next set began with an air I’ve heard before and was followed by strathspeys and then Tulloch Gorum and reels, which drew four ladies to the floor to step dance. A set of jigs went without takers, but dancers appeared immediately thereafter for the fourth square set, beginning with four couples in its first figure, five growing to six in its second figure, and a total of nine in its third figure. That concluded the cèilidh, which was an absolute joy all afternoon long. What fine players these two musicians are!

I was also delighted to see Megan Shepard, the late Marc Boudreau’s partner, who sat down at my table; we had a good chat as the music was playing and I was very happy to learn that she has moved back to Sydney and is attending college there.

I then drove back to Port Hood and got my motel room key; I talked with my host for a bit until a guy looking for a room walked in. My host called all over the island, but the only places with rooms left were Port Hastings and Port Hawkesbury, which was kind of surprising to me, as there wasn’t all that much traffic on the roads, though it is Labour Day week-end. I took care of an errand in Port Hood and drove to West Mabou, where I posted Tuesday’s account from the car and read a bit.

The music for tonight’s dance was by Wendy MacIsaac on fiddle and Howie MacDonald on real piano. Wendy was a bit late and the sound check didn’t get underway until 21h13. The first set of jigs for real went without takers but the next set developed into the first square set with five couples in its first figure and seven in its second and third figures. The second square set had seven couples in its first figure, added another for its second figure, and added two more for its third figure. With the advent of more people arriving at 22h, the third square set was large enough I could no longer see everyone from my vantage point; at least eighteen couples danced its third figure, which used two queues. The fourth square set had at least twenty couples in its third figure. Joe MacMaster on fiddle and Sarah MacInnis on piano played for the fifth square set to give Wendy and Howie a break; at least twenty-three couples danced its third figure. With Wendy and Howie back, the step dance sequence drew Sarah, Iain MacQuarrie, Stephen MacLennan, Lewis MacLennan, a young lady I don’t know, and Amanda MacDonald to the floor to share their steps. The last square set began as one large group in the first figure, split into two in its second, and was danced by fourteen couples in its third; the jig sets in this square set were a tad fast, though the reels were spot on, and the music continued until 0h10, making up for the late start. The playing, of course, was top notch all night long, by both Wendy and Howie; Howie, who was “noodling” at the piano when I entered the hall, found some striking embellishments in the treble in the third square set and Sarah did something like Howie had done in the fifth. Even though there are only two instruments (besides the feet), this is a very complex and intricate music and I always hear something new from these great players.

I was tired as I drove back to Port Hood, but full of the day’s music and as contented as could be! Only in Cape Breton!

Sunday, 4 September — Port Hood to Whycocomagh

I arose at 8h55 to a lovely, sunny day with a few white clouds. I loaded the car, said good-bye to my host, and drove to Sandeannies for breakfast—the lady at the register knew me so well that she told me they were out of fish cakes before I even had a chance to place my order! After breakfast, I drove back to the Celtic Shores Coastal Trail kiosk at Port Hood, which offers a beautiful view of Port Hood Island; I worked on Wednesday’s post there while enjoying the views. It was nearly cloudless overhead at 12h45 (though clouds were over the Gulf and inland to the north) and, at +18 (64), a fantastic late summer day!

I drove the Shore Road to Judique for the Sunday cèilidh, today with Mike Hall on fiddle and Allan Dewar on keyboard. Their initial set of jigs had no takers. After the following fine set of tunes, six couples danced the first square set. A waltz got no takers, so Mike continued with other tunes. Dancers took the floor before Mike resumed playing; the second square set was danced by eight couples in its first figure, nine in its second, and ten in its third. During the next set of tunes, Olivier Broussard, John Robert Gillis, Amanda MacDonald, Elizabeth MacDonald, Joe Rankin, and Hailee LeFort all shared their great steps. A waltz drew seven couples. With dancers again taking the floor before the music resumed, the third square set began with seven couples and grew to nine before the end of the first square set and had ten couples in its second and third figures. A great set beginning with a lovely slow air followed by strathspeys and reels was next. The fourth square set started with seven couples, grew from eight to ten in its second figure, and was danced by ten in its third. Another great slow air began the next fine set of tunes, which was followed by a superb march/strathspeys/reels set. The final set of the afternoon began with another fine air and continued into strathspeys and reels, during which Mike played Tulloch Gorum and a favourite reel of mine. At its end, the audience rose to give Mike and Allan a standing ovation, very richly deserved for their superb playing.

I then drove to Glencoe Mills for the Glencoe Day supper. It was an amazing spread filling two large tables with ham, turkey, and roast beef, salads galore, dinner rolls, and condiments of all kinds, including homemade cheese, a delicacy I thoroughly enjoy (and surprisingly to me, given its active dairy farms, the Island’s only indigenous cheese); strawberry shortcake and all manner of other sweets were on offer for dessert. At the end of the dinner, I was presented with a gift of a T-shirt saying “All Roads Lead to Glencoe” and a thank you card for my support of the Glencoe dances and hall over the years. The volunteers who put on the dinner were very efficient and the hall was cleared as soon as the last diner had finished.

I stayed in my car and worked on Wednesday’s account, which I finished and posted. The musicians arrived early as did the ticket collector and a number of attendees, but the hall remained locked for lack of a key; that problem was finally resolved at 21h03 when a couple with the key arrived and opened the hall. Given the late opening of the hall, it took time for Howie MacDonald on fiddle and Hilda Chiasson on real piano to get set up and sound checked. The first square set got underway at 21h23 with four couples growing to five in its first figure; seven couples danced its second and third figures. The second square set, during which Mary Beth Carty on guitar joined Howie and Hilda, had ten couples at the end of its first figure and was danced by thirteen in its third. The third square set had fourteen couples in its third figure, after which Mary Beth left the stage. The fourth square set was danced by sixteen couples in its third figure. A waltz got two couples. The step dance sequence brought Mary Beth, Amanda MacDonald, Stephen MacLennan, Olivier Broussard, Lewis MacLennan, and Burton MacIntyre to the floor to share their fine steps; Mary Beth was on percussion on stage after she finished step dancing. Olivier on fiddle and his sister Paryse on piano ably relieved Howie and Hilda for the for fifth square set, which was danced by twenty-one couples in its third figure. With Howie and Hilda back on stage, the sixth square set began with six couples, but grew to twenty couples in its third figure. The food that was left over from dinner was set out for the attendees as a midnight meal and I got to enjoy again some very fine cooking. Joe MacMaster on fiddle, with Hilda on piano, played for four step dancers, whose names I failed to record, and for the third figure of a square set that had eight dancers who wanted to keep dancing, so the late start was balanced by a very late end. The music was fantastic; “Howie’s fiddle just sings” I noted at one point, but it was true all night long, and Hilda’s accompaniments were, as usual, very interesting to listen to. It was a wonderful evening of music and dance!

When I left the hall to return to Whycocomagh, it was a chilly night—I forgot to record the temperature then, but the next day I heard there was frost at Brook Village and low temperatures elsewhere. I was still pretty wound up from the day’s incredible music, so I read and answered some e-mail and didn’t get to bed until 2h.

Monday, 5 September — Whycocomagh

Bonne Fête du Travail! Happy Labour Day!

I got up late about 10h45 and discovered a lovely, sunny day with pure blue skies in Whycocomagh, mild at +21 (70). I decided to finish up the Celtic Shores Coastal Trail segment between the Blackstone Road and the Smithville Road, the northern half of which I had previously hiked on Tuesday, 23 August. I therefore drove to Glendyer and parked adjacent to the bridge over Glendyer Brook and, after taking some photos at and of the bridge, headed north along the trail.

A few metres/yards after passing the trestle on the trail over Glendyer Brook, one crosses a bridge over a side brook that enters Glendyer Brook. One then arrives at a road leading down to a ford; Google Maps calls this road Glendyer Hill Road, which it shows as coming out on Highway 19 north of its junction with the Northeast Mabou Road—I’ve never hiked this road, having believed it to be a private road, and I wouldn’t try to cross the ford in my Prius either, though woods boots should suffice to keep one’s feet dry. Just a short distance beyond this road is a fine interpretive panel that I don’t remember from the last time I hiked this segment. It reports a nearby train derailment that cost the life of the engineer and relates a fine Cape Breton ghost story about it, recounting an apparition repeatedly warning of the forthcoming tragedy—the apparition was that of the engineer’s wife and was not seen again after the accident! Past the interpretive panel, the trail is halfway between the hill above and the brook below; it has a distinct, though gentle, upward grade that continues to kilometre marker 72, gaining 19 m (62 ft) in elevation over 3 km (1⅞ mi). The brook wanders below the trail, sometimes close by and other times out of sight a short distance away; the trail’s height above the brook softens the sounds of the waters below, which occasionally spill over rocks and small boulders making tiny waterfalls. The trail is bordered by trees, both deciduous and evergreen, hiding the adjacent terrain from view. 400 m (¼ mi) south of kilometre marker 72, where I turned around, a small brook crosses under the trail (it was dry today), making a dip that has been almost completely levelled out since I was last here (a “Caution” sign still warns of it heading north, but no corresponding sign is present heading south and none is now needed at all); bordered by a wooden fence, gaps in the trees at this spot allow one to espy a ridge on the west side of the brook, which unfortunately blocks the views of Cape Mabou on its far side. The wildflowers, however, are always worth one’s attention: today, the yellows had it, with a fair number of lavender-hued asters intermixed, though Queen Anne’s lace and pearly everlasting were also present in substantial quantities. I also saw some fireweed in seed already. I heard an eagle, but didn’t see it. I had lunch of an apple, a granola bar, and some water beside the former dip on the way back south, by which time some white clouds were overhead, having moved in from the south and the west. A small sliver of Mabou Mountain is briefly visible above the trail on the way south. I continued south past the trestle over Glendyer Brook looking for kilometre marker 69, which I overshot: it is on the bridge sign post within view of the trestle just south of it. The Trails app on my iPhone reported a distance of 6.7 km (4⅕ mi) for the entire hike. I was the only hiker, but hardly the only person: seven cyclists, seven people in four ATV’s, and one motorbike rider passed me while I was on the trail today.

I drove back to Whycocomagh, where I relaxed and read and then got cleaned up from the hike. I drove back to Mabou, where the Mull was closed for the holiday, so I continued on to the Red Shoe, where I sat with friends from Scotsville; I had a house salad with the catch of the day, scallop and lobster puttanesca over fettuccine, as I listened to Hailee LeFort’s dinner music. I then drove up to Rocky Ridge and left the bear spray with friends there; we had a good farewell visit. From there, I drove to Brook Village for the last dance of this trip (and the last dance at Brook Village until Celtic Colours), where I was told there were frosts yesterday and this morning in Brook Village.

Tonight’s music was by Ian MacDougall on fiddle and Mac Morin on keyboard, a fabulous way to close out this trip! Their music all night long was fantastic, with many tunes I first heard from them during my early years in Cape Breton when they played together frequently; they know each other’s music perfectly and it’s always a great treat to hear them play for a dance. The first square set got underway at 21h40 with four groups and nineteen couples dancing its third figure; the second square set had seventeen couples and the third twenty-three couples in their respective third figures. It was a smaller crowd than at the other Brook Village dances, but, like them, it increased in size around 23h, when the session at the Red Shoe had ended. The fourth square set was danced by thirty-three couples and was followed by a waltz that I was told was Memories of John Charles Gillis, composed by John MacDougall. The fifth square set had twenty-eight couples in its third figure and the sixth had twenty. In Memory of Herbie MacLeod drew twelve couples to waltz. The seventh and last square set brought eighteen couples to the floor.

It was a very brisk +9 (48) on my way back to Whycocomagh. I was quickly in bed and asleep, for, alas, tomorrow I return home until Celtic Colours. It has been an amazing month and I am very grateful to all those who have made it so.

Tuesday, 6 September — Whycocomagh to Bangor

I got up at 9h¹, without enough sleep from the dance last night, and found Whycocomagh covered in fog with no visibility of the surrounding highlands. It was +18 (64) when I left the motel. I got the car filled up with gas, took care of an errand, and had breakfast at Vi’s, by which time it was raining, not hard, but slow and steady. I ran out of the rain at Glendale, where the sun tried valiantly to pierce the clouds/fog and managed to get a few beams through, enough to cast a shadow. I crossed the Canso Causeway at 11h17, and found the coast to the northwest clear of fog as far as I could see (Low Point), though the clouds were just below the top of Creignish Mountain and the skies were completely overcast. Clouds gave way to sun between Havre Boucher and Heatherton; clouds and fog returned at Antigonish; patches of blue sky and sun came back at New Glasgow, but it remained mostly cloudy; I was astounded to see +26 (79) on the car’s thermometer there and got a blast of tropical-feeling air when I opened the car window, much warmer feeling than the thermometer reported and very humid. I stopped at the Cobequid Pass Tolls and walked a bit, but it was uncomfortable there too, albeit a bit cooler. I stopped again in Salisbury (New Brunswick) and got a sub, of which I ate half there; the car reported +29 (84) there and it felt all of that and more. Albeit with lots of clouds, both white and grey, it remained generally sunny and bright to St John, where the sky covered over with low lying clouds, realized as heavy fog on the Bay of Fundy. At St George, patches of blue sky and rare sunny breaks reäppeared and it remained like that across most of the Airline Road in Maine. I had the briefest ever interview at US Customs I can recall, stopped at Baileyville (Maine) for gas and, since it felt like a sauna, though the car reported only +25 (77), had an ice cream cone to cool down before heading off to Bangor. For about the last twenty miles to Bangor, the sun was below the clouds and out in force, blinding whenever the road veered to the west, its general direction of travel. I arrived safely and without incident at the Motel 6 in Bangor at 19h35, where I got a room, ate the other half of the sub, and wrote this account. I will soon be in bed with a longer day ahead of me tomorrow than usual (I normally stop at Lewiston, but I left too late and was too tired to do that tonight).

¹ All times are ADT—I switch back to EDT tonight.

Wednesday, 7 September — Bangor to Jackson

I woke up at 5h30 and snoozed for another ten minutes. I then drove to Newport (Maine), where I had breakfast at the Irving Big Stop. The morning was a foggy one, +17 (63), with fog often down to road level, though it wasn’t usually thick enough to cause problems seeing; it persisted to Kennebunkport (Maine), where I stopped at 9h for coffee, as I was feeling a bit hypnotized by the road and the fog. The fog lifted from the road at York (Maine), but continued above the road to Sturbridge (Massachusetts), where I stopped for gas. It was very slow going on the I-495 from Lawrence (Massachusetts) to the I-290, due to an accident at Tewkesbury and to the lane closure at Route 2. Once the fog cleared, the skies were overcast, but more sun and blue sky appeared further west; west of Hartford (Connecticut), the amount of blue sky became greater than the area covered by clouds, which became whiter and less grey as I continued to the west; the day was quite warm, reaching +29 (84) in Connecticut, and, because it was humid, mandating the use of the a/c once I no longer needed the defroster for the fog. Construction caused slowdowns on the I-84. I stopped at the Blue Colony Diner in Newtown (Connecticut) for dinner at 13h30; they were out of halibut, one of the few places I know of that has it on its menu, so I ordered the stuffed flounder, which had crab meat stuffing; it was good, but not as enjoyable as the halibut would have been. I was late enough getting to the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey that I hit a couple of pockets of “curdling”, that phenomenon where the volume of traffic entering the highway becomes so great that traffic slows to a crawl, but not so late I got caught in a parking lot, as often happens there at rush hour; the New Jersey Turnpike was busy, but moving along smartly. I got home at 16h57, having driven 7960.9 km (4946.7 mi) this trip. I am tired and will be off to bed early again tonight.

I would like to thank all those who made this trip such an enjoyable one, musicians, friends, and hosts. The drive to/from Cape Breton is long, but the music and scenery and people all make it well worth the trouble. I'll do it all over again, gladly, in October.