Lochiel to Port Hastings

Our third day spent reaching Cape Breton began at Lochiel Provincial Park where we had spent the night. We followed paved, but quiet, route 276 east. The road was lined by the Acadian Forest, with delicate bog laurel growing just a few feet from the pavement.DSC_0267
There were no true towns between Lochliel and Guysoborough on the coast, but we did pass by a number of isolated houses and then the well-named hamlet of Erinville.DSC_0268

Guysborough is one of the oldest European ports in North America. It is a quiet town set on a beautiful cove with a surprisingly informative community museum. We arrived in the late morning, and stopped at the museum first thing. The steward generously shared his local knowledge, inlcuding where do get elevensies (also known as “second breakfast”).

I will take a moment here to say how important elevensies were to both of us on this trip. Each morning, we ate a simple meal of oatmeal or yogurt and granola at our campsite or hotel room. We also planned out, before even beginning, where we might get a more satisfying breakfast. No matter how beautiful the morning riding was, this upcoming meal was always a bit on on minds. If we did not find a place to satisfy ourselves before too many hours had gone by, G could think of nothing else. We judged the quality of elevensies the potatoes. The potatoes at Days Gone By Bakery in Guysborough were top notch. The had never been frozen. They were cut in large pieces but managed to be crispy and moist. And the meals came with baked beans, which I love. Delightful. Despite efforts for delicious breakfasts later in our trip, this meal remained our favorite.

We left Guysborough via Route 16, which hugs the harbor. The water was clear and all I wanted was to go for a swim, but we were well behind schedule and kept on, hot and uncomfortable. In the early afternoon, we were relieved to turn onto Middletown Road and then Pirate Harbour Road. These are dirt roads that cuts across the land where Route 334 goes around. I was suspicious of our map’s snowmobile symbols along Pirate Harbour Road, but Google maps and Map my Ride were in agreement that this was a drivable road.

And this was true at the start. We were able to relax and cruise along, passing by small farms and enjoy the absence of traffic. Every now and then, G would declare, “This road is chill!” DSC_0284.JPGEven a rusty broken culvert and our second flat tire couldn’t ruin our good mood. DSC_0291.JPG

But it was soon after this that the road petered out at a log landing. We confirmed with our GPS that we were in the right location and then heading to the right where we found a deeply gouged four-wheeler route with standing water and a soft mucky bottom. I thought about leeches.DSC_0293DSC_0285DSC_0296

From here, G was forced to walk Leonid through the deep muck, keeping his feet to one side of the “road” whenever possible.20170611_15345320170611_153931 We imagined that it would keep on like this for a while and then we would reach a drier stretch again and be able to ride the rest of the way to Auld’s Cove and Port Hastings. Instead, we came to an open swamp replete with cat tail and calla lily (a “life plant” for me). Staying on the four-wheeler/snow mobile route would have required swimming, so we opted to ford the sphagnum mats. We squelched our way through the knee-deep, sometimes thigh deep-muck,  letting out cries of surprise when the earth dropped suddenly from beneath our feet.20170611_15422920170611_15463620170611_15464220170611_155211At the tree line on the far side, there was an unexpectedly bikable dirt road running parallel to our planned route. I declared, “I think we have to take this road somewhere,” and so we did. We followed it and a few others all the way to Mulgrave and then took route 344 to the crowded and stressful Canso Causeway. We don’t have any positive things to say about cycling through Port Hastings, Port Hawkesbury, or the Skye Lodge where we spent the night, but we probably won’t remember much about these places either. Instead our memories of this day will focus on our silly and unexpected adventure on Pirate Harbour Road. If either of us had been alone it might have been frightening, and I certainly would have turned around and spent an extra day reaching Cape Breton via paved roads. Instead, because we were together for safety and for fun, we both admit that this was one of the highlights of our trip.

I cannot share videos here, so check my instagram account @walkinginwool for more views of Pirate Harbour swamp.


One thought on “Lochiel to Port Hastings

  1. Todd

    Wow – Google really got you. They got us a couple of weeks ago (https://serendipityencouraged.wordpress.com/2017/07/24/well-and-truly-underway/).

    I’d be lying if I said it was uncommon. I’d say about half of the trails that Google sends us down are really great and the other half are like the one you talked about. On the other hand, if nothing else they make interesting stories. Enjoying the story of your trip. The Cabot Trail’s on our list of places to ride in the future. We just need to get over ourselves about carrying camping/cooking gear.


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