I have a confession. I have never seen a wild moose. I have lived in Newfoundland and northern Maine, I’ve traveled countless times through Cape Breton and New Brunswick, I hitched across Canada, and not one single moose. It’s become something of a running joke in my life. I just want to see a damn moose. So when I took Gillian to the Cabot Trail (@ParksCanada_NS) for her first time, I decided that we weren’t leaving until I saw one. With that in mind, we headed for the Skyline Trail.
For anyone who’s never been (you’re only hurting yourself), the Cabot Trail is a paved route that does a circuit through the Margaree Valley, Cheticamp, the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Ingonish and back down through Baddeck. But it’s not just any autoroute. It makes for some of the most spectacular driving, motorcycling and cycling you can imagine. You know when you see those scenes in movies where people are driving along coastal California in convertibles? This is the Atlantic’s rebuttal.
Once you enter into the Highlands National Park, there are a series of hiking trails you can take. The Skyline is probably the best known of these trails, and for good reason. It is a pretty easy, relaxing 10km circuit that takes you out high above the water, somewhat overlooking Cheticamp. Here it really earns its name. Faced with a panoramic view of the ocean, it’s nearly impossible to tell where the sky meets the sea.
We arrived about an hour before sunset for two reasons: we wanted to watch the sun set over the Gulf of St. Laurence and dusk is one of the best times to see moose.
We came prepared with water (always a necessity), snacks, headlamps and walking sticks. It should be noted that the walking sticks serve a dual purpose. Coyotes have been known to be seen in the area, but there are plenty of signs instructing you on what to do if you see one (back up, look big, and carry a big stick).
About ten minutes into our hike, before the trail splits to make the loop, some returning hikers told us there were two moose five minutes along the trail. I couldn’t believe my ears. Here it was, my chance to finally see one. Gillian had to remind me we still had 9km of hiking to do and wearing myself out now to race to see them wouldn’t do us any favours.
The sun was dropping ahead of us so it was in our eyes. We’d been walking for almost ten minutes, and I was beginning to despair. Then I saw a silhouette of a moose, and remarked to Gillian that it’s funny that Parks Canada put a wood silhouette of a moose there. Then it reared its head, and I geeked out. It was huge! Then I saw the second one that was even bigger.
We stopped and took many, many photos of the moose. What’s funny is that they were completely, absolutely indifferent to our presence. We seemed to be as far beneath them as bugs. Finally Gillian reminded me of our date with the sunset and pulled me away.