Cape Breton, day 2: Hiking through the Highlands National Park

I visited Cape Breton on a blogging trip from October 11th to 13th for Extreme Group and Destination Cape Breton. They gave me a couple ideas of what to see and full editorial control – so what you’ll read here is no-holds-barred travel blogging fun.

I got up after a long night of music and scenic drives to a bright new day at the Bras d’Or Lakes Inn. The Inn is known for its great food, and a breakfast buffet ($10 when you book the room) gave me a final chance to enjoy the warm dining room and the great view.

Today, I decided it was time to do some hiking. I would go up the west side of the Cabot Trail to the beginning of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, where a three-hour guided hike was launching from the interpretive centre just north of Cheticamp. The trails are about 9 km long, they go up 265m of mountain, and wind through three distinct forest types. The cost? Free. Check out the video below for trees, streams, and friendly Texans:

Q: What is another way of saying that the hike had tired me out?
A: I was ready for lunch, so I went to the Red Shoe Pub. It’s owned by a couple Rankin sisters, so you can bet on hearing some of the family’s famous Cape Breton musical talent if you make the trip. I showed up in mid-afternoon with a fantastic appetite, which sort of off-set the lack of music. The place was still packed, and the beer tap list featured Garrison and Propeller standards and seasonals. I had the Garrison Oktoberfest Brau, thinking that it would pair nicely with my absolutely amazing fish and chips. It turns out I was wrong: the crisp fish batter’s seasoning was a fresh citrus and pepper combo that made the heavy mouthfeel of the Brau completely out of place. Pro tip for next time: the Garrison Hopyard pale ale would do this haddock justice – and with food like this, there will definitely be a next time.

I had a couple hours before I would meet the rest of the Extreme Group’s contingent for supper and a tour of the Glen Breton distillery, but thanks to incredibly bad cell phone reception, the minor task of updating my social networks and booking a hotel for the night became a major side project. The problem: my Fido/Rogers phone would not work northwest of the 105.  I found an unprotected wi-fi network, thinking I could do some planning and calling from Skype, but the signal was too weak. I resolved to drive back towards where I last had reception to fire off a tweet or two, and by the time I was finished, it was time to learn about whiskey. That, though, is for another post – check back tomorrow!