Probably the most challenging ride for a Nova Scotian cyclist is the Cabot Trail. The route starts and ends in Baddeck, a hamlet on the Bras d’or Lakes. Baddeck is well known for its restaurants, inns, golf and for being the summer home of Alexander Graham Bell. The trip around the Cabot Trail is usually done over three days and takes riders through the beautiful Margaree Valley and over three serious climbs by the names French, North and Smokey Mountains. The highlight is traversing the Cape Breton Highlands National park from Cheticamp to Ingonish. If it is natural beauty you are looking for, you can trust the endorsing words of Alexander Graham Bell himself, “I have traveled around the globe. I have seen the Canadian and American Rockies, the Andes, the Alps and the Highlands of Scotland, but for simple beauty, Cape Breton outrivals them all.”
The first time I cycled the trail was in 1986 on a Norco Bigfoot Mountain bike and my companion was on a Fiori Modena road bike. It was my first serious bike trip and inspired a lifetime of cycle touring and bicycle love. My bicycle became my ticket to personal freedom and discovery. But the Cabot Trail will always be my first great ride, and no matter where my bicycle takes me, I have no memories more vivid that those of the Highlands.
This year my sister Kelly made a commitment to cycle the trail with a friend on the Labour Day long weekend. Kelly is herself a lesson in how to make the things you enjoy doing a priority, like cycling. This year her personal goal was to ride the Cabot Trail in the more common clockwise direction. With her friend Dave (who at 67 is only getting started by the looks of things) she completed the trail after a seriously long first day of headwinds followed by the day 2 mountain stage. In her words…
"The morning [of the final day] started out with the climb up Smokey mountain which was pretty easy compared to yesterdays mission. Coming down was pretty steep and I'm thankful for my new brakes I got this year for Christmas. The rest of the way to Baddeck was in a headwind, but we didn't care. It was an awesome weekend. I feel so blessed and grateful for my friend Dave (who is 67 by the way) for encouraging me to do this trip again. Now I can say I've biked the Cabot trail from both directions and it’s officially OFF the bucket list.
Whether your male or female, 41 or 67 (give or take a decade or two), experienced or beginner, bicycle touring is a great way to live life to its fullest. It doesn’t have to be a three day trek along the Highlands of Cape Breton. It can be a half-day trip along a country road. Wherever you go in Nova Scotia you’ll find ample nature to explore and enjoy which is second only to the feeling of elation you get from riding your bicycle.
Congrats to Kelly and Dave for completing one of the most challenging and beautiful rides in this part of the world. It may be off the bucket list, but it will always remain on every cyclist’s bike-it list.
Let’s go for a ride!