miles from Hawai’i on a beach in Nova Scotia, I spotted a man wearing a Honolulu
Fire Department T-shirt. I’d been traveling with my husband and friends on Canada’s
famous Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island, and the man in an HFD T-shirt was just
one of many unusual sights. Our day’s adventure had started near Mabou at the
Glenora Distillery, home to North America’s only single malt whisky, Glen Breton
Rare. We’d driven North on the Ceilidh Trail, Route 19, joining the Cabot Trail
at Margaree Harbour and stopping at Cheticamp for a tour of St. Peter’s Church
and lunch at Le Gabriel seafood restaurant.
Cabot Trail is named for
John Cabot, the first European to land on Cape Breton Island in 1497. The trail
winds 185 miles through the north highlands. We had elected to start from Cheticamp
and end up in Baddeck, about 124 miles and a four-hour drive. Rain fell as we
entered Cape Breton Highlands National Park, where the ranger informed us about
the road conditions ahead. Fog and rain.
Courtesy : Nova Scotia Tourism, Culture and Heritage
bad weather made the highway’s hairpin curves even more treacherous. Visibility
was only 10 to 12 feet. Slowly, we traversed French Mountain and North Mountain,
listening to the mournful Cape Breton ballads on the car’s CD player. As we neared
Cape North, motorcyclists came around the bend. One skidded out. Our Canadian
pal Lowell swiftly maneuvered the van into a spot on the road and grabbed his
first aid kit. Perched precariously on a foggy road, we watched him bandage the
biker and impart instructions to his buddies who had returned for him.
we were rewarded for playing Good Samaritan, because the fog lifted and we could
see down the valley into Neil’s Harbour. As the sun emerged we pulled over at
a scenic area, showing the crescent-shaped Black Brook Beach down below.
white sand beach was rocky, with stacks of driftwood carried in by the tide. My
husband dipped his foot in and confirmed the water was cold. I laughed, thinking
of tourists doing the same thing at Waikïkï. I walked further down and that’s
when I spotted the HFD T-shirt.
of Honolulu’s finest on a beach in Cape Breton-what were the odds? The haole man
was ruddy-cheeked and appeared puzzled as I walked straight up to him. But he
was from Alberta, the T-shirt a souvenir his wife had brought back with his daughter’s
With a stick of driftwood I wrote ALOHA in the sand then returned
to the van. Back on the road with conditions clearing we could see the sheer cliff
drops on the side. Imagine a more treacherous Häna Road.
The road looped
south and we passed Ingonish, Wreck Cove and Indian Brook. We left the Cabot
briefly, hopping aboard the Englishtown cable ferry that took us across the beautiful
Bras D’Or lakes and picking it up again at South Haven. When we finally reached
Baddeck a long and winding road had been completed and we were ready to claim
our reward: a lobster dinner.