We’ve just got back from a camping trip in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. For those of you who haven’t been, I recommend it and put it at the same must see level as the Great Wall of China (which I have also visited). The highlands are beautiful, historical, and can accommodate a variety of ages and physical abilities. Cape Breton island has recently been rated as the number four island in the world to visit by Travel and Leisure magazine readers. It surprised some of us who live in the area, but they’re right and Cape Breton deserves the recognition.
The Cabot Trail, a driving route, is famous and winds through the CBHNP. You can drive the whole thing in a few hours, or spend weeks camping and hiking. The views are the primary reason the Cabot Trail is spoken of with such awe and inspiration. The highlands are actually large mountains like scoops of earth, all nestled together with valleys running in between and rivers and brooks running along fault lines. Sheer cliffs and very steep inclines plunge into the valleys or the Atlantic Ocean on the western side or the Gulf of St. Laurence on the eastern side. The Cabot Trail itself snakes up and down the sides of the mountains. I fearfully divided my time looking over the edge and gluing my eyes to the road- I’m afraid of heights, but the beauty was too good to pass by. Luckily, there are many lookout sites. There are also exhibits explaining the sea currents, forest ecology, continental drift and wildlife at the lookout sites and among some of the trails. One of the trails is even appropriate for baby strollers and wheelchairs as it’s a boardwalk on a bog.
We lucked out and saw a female moose on North Mountain. She was just going into the ditch and into the woods. Even better, between Cheticamp and the La Grand Falaise, we saw a mother black bear and two cubs turning over rocks beside the road. We, and a bunch of other cars, pulled over to watch, stunned by our good fortune. Actually, it was kind of depressing, because the bears didn’t seem much bothered by us. The mother bear would stop and stare at the cars on her side of the road every once in a while, and the drivers would dutifully leave. Otherwise, as long as everyone kept their distance, she was fine. There were also lots of birds and interesting beetles and dragonflies, not to mention interesting people.
We tent camped at Ingonish Beach and Cheticamp and ate chez Tony. For camp food, we follow a different philosophy from our daily lives: whatever will stay chilled for 24 hrs in a cooler; whatever will keep in any temperature; whatever can be cooked on a camp stove; and Tony's in charge of food. We’re not hard core campers who make our own fire and spits, but we take our recycling home, stash our garbage in the bear safe bins, and manage to eat OK in a reasonable amount of time. We do live in a processed food world, so we make this work for us.
This time out, we had Kraft Velveeta on Shells, all beef hotdogs on poppy seed buns, canned peaches, grilled cheese sandwiches, baked beans in molasses, Zoodles, apples, root beer, drinkin’ boxes, and fluffy pancakes. Do you see a trend? Apart from being good camping food, this is food from childhood. This is stuff I would have eaten in a real kitchen, for lunch, or an early ‘kids dinner’ before my parents went out to a restaurant without us. In many ways, camping feels like childhood: watching bugs, wandering through the forest, not showering (unless you want to), etc. None of the regular rules apply. It’s great.