A lot of miles in our U-Haul Van
Home: Ingonish Beach National Park Campground
With the weather cleared up, it was time to head for the famed Cabot Trail. Which isn’t actually a trail, it’s a regular paved road that forms a loop, much of it within Cape Breton Highlands National Park. We’d be doing the route counter-clockwise.
There was no rain in the morning, nor none overnight, so we could have managed a tent night alright, but it was nice to have the two consecutive nights in the cabin. The blue silicone end of our beloved and every-day-used mini-spatula (given to me by my mom years ago) never showed up, so that was a sad and inexplicable loss.
The van allowed us to do more offshoots and stops that we’d normally do on the bike, and the first on Rett’s list was a stop at a working fisherman’s harbor. No activity actually going on there when we arrived, but it was a quiet place for us to get a view of a significant portion of the economy here. Next was something completely different, a stop at Sew Inclined, a quirky middle-of-nowhere shop filled mostly with handcrafted hats. The hats didn’t really fit our luggage situation, but Rett came away with a new sarong and headband, and I had a bit of sewing chat with the creator as she worked at her machine amid piles of and piles of fabric remnants.
Then we hit the Highlands, with a climb to a 1000-foot coastal plateau that had Rett saying “I’m so glad we’re not on the bikes!” We pulled off into a park parking lot for lunch, and instead of setting up our chairs or going to one of the picnic tables, which is our normal instinct, I realized we could just sit in the nice chairs we were already sitting in inside our van, protected from the strong winds, and enjoy the view from there with some French-language station on the radio.
Our steep and narrower descent brought us down dramatically along an inlet cutting west into the rock, bringing us to Ingonish and the National Park entrance where they charge per-person, per-day, rather than the per-vehicle, multi-day passes that seem to be standard at US National Parks. Seems like a simpler and fairer system, with the total price ending up comparable to what I’d expect at a US Park.
After setting up in the campground, we set off for something we haven’t had the time or space or place to do in a while: a hike! We left straight from the campground, and walked along some roads and paths to the Keltic Lodge, an impressive white landmark that stands proud on the Middle Head peninsula, but not one that reaches the level of some of the great Western National Park lodges. At that point we picked up the real trail; Middle Head points like a bony finger into the sea, and we walked its rocky spine, able to see views to both the north and south, and finally, to the east, as we reached the tip.
On our return, we stopped to pick up a dessert for takeout for Rett from the Keltic Lodge restaurant, then took an alternate route through the golf course that eventually brought our tired feet back to our tent. That’s when our decision to get simple heat-and-eat Indian dinners revealed their brilliance, and the well-dried bagged firewood started right up to make our lives easy too. And for cleanup, we had the most-complete dish-washing situation we’ve ever encountered, with multiple six-packs of sink stations sprinkled through the campground. And they were being used too! (a side-effect of the no-power, thus no-RV setup at this campground).