Day 9: Ingonish to Pleasant Bay - Nova Scotia and Cape Breton 2003 - CycleBlaze

September 7, 2003

Day 9: Ingonish to Pleasant Bay

I got on the road at 9:45 AM, obviously now in lazy vacation mode. Skies were sunny and it was already warm. Heading north it seemed like there is a spectacular view around every bend of the road.

East shore of Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
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Atlantic Ocean.
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The first 10 km took me a long time because I stopped so often to look at the great views. At Black Brook beach I stopped and walked out on the sunny beach.

Black Brook Beach. Two girls wading in the chilly North Atlantic.
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After getting down on the beach I saw a small waterfall at the north end of the beach.

Waterfall at Black Brook beach.
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A few km past the beach I reached the turnoff for the 'alternate scenic loop' that goes through Neils Harbor. I stopped for an early lunch (lobster sandwich) at a roadside restaurant, then went on to see the lighthouse in Neils Harbor. In front of the Lighthouse is a wonderful view of the village of Neils Harbor, rocky coastline, lobster boats, and lobster traps.

Neils Harbour. One of my favorite pictures.
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Lighthouse at Neils Harbor.
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Then I continued on the scenic loop. The loop goes up and down huge hills, often climbing more than 100 meters at a time. At the northwest part of the loop I could see across Aspy Bay to Cape North, the northernmost part of Cape Breton. It was quite a long distance away but the visibility was very good.

Ahead is Cape North, the northernmost part of Cape Breton island.
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The road climbs from one tall headland to the next, giving spectacular views of the rocky coastline punctuated with occasional sandy beaches. The 'alternate scenic route' has a lot of big hills but the scenery is very worthwhile.

Coastal view from the alternate scenic route.
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Just before the road turns inland I parked the bike and walked 500 meters down a trail to South Harbor Beach. A very wide sandy beach that is 3 km long. I walked 1 km down the beach and back, enjoying the sunshine and warm temperature. Unfortunately I couldn't stay too long because I still have a long distance to go today. Back on the main highway I continued southwest, inland with rather dull scenery. The road stays relatively low in a river valley but I rarely saw the river.

I re-entered the national park just as the road starts to climb North Mountain. But first I turned on a 2 km gravel road that dead ends at Beulach Ban Falls. It was mostly uphill to the falls but the gravel road was not difficult. The waterfall is in a scenic valley with a substantial flow thanks to all the rain two days earlier. The total drop is about 30 meters (100 feet).

Beulach Ban Falls.
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When I got back to my bike the speed sensor was no longer working. The sensor worked before this stop but now the wire is broken. I quickly got back to the highway and began the long climb up North Mountain. The climb starts at 30m (100 ft) elevation and the summit is 445m (1470 ft) elevation. The climb seems to be a steady 7% grade. Steep but not nearly as steep as the climb up Smokey Mountain. The sky became overcast and the temperature dropped significantly as I climbed and it got later in the afternoon. The road doesn't have switchbacks. It just steadily climbs a long ridge.

Climbing North Mountain.
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After reaching the top the road stays on a plateau for several km, passing through a windblown bog. I saw a moose very close to the road.

Moose along the road near North Mountain summit.
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Then the road descends steeply to the west coast of Cape Breton. I don't know my maximum speed because the speed sensor wasn't working. But I know I was going very fast even though I was braking very hard. The road drops into a gloomy mountain valley that reminded me of the Scottish Highlands I saw 30 years ago.

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Descent from North Mountain.
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Descent from North Mountain. It really does resemble the highlands of Scotland.
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At the bottom of the descent I turned into the small Macintosh Brook campground. I arrived with less than an hour of daylight left. The campground has nice bathrooms but no showers. Signs say to boil the water. The water is yellow from all the tannins the water picks up as it filters through the bogs. Boiled water tasted bad but it tasted okay after filtering. Just as I arrived a young cycle touring couple arrived at the campground, coming from the opposite direction. They're from Montreal and this was their first night of a tour around the Cabot Trail. Their high-end bikes looked brand-new. I set up camp next to a guy who was traveling from British Columbia on a Honda CX500 motorcycle. Mosquitoes swarmed when it started to get dark so I used my mosquito head net for the first time on this trip. I didn't take a shower with my water sack because it was too cold and buggy.

The campground was a disappointment but overall it was a fantastic day. Lots of great scenery and it was warm enough to actually enjoy being on a beach. Lots of climbing, too.

Distance: 75 km (46.9 mi) (5km gravel)

Maximum speed: 79.4 km/h (49.6 mph), before the speed sensor quit working

Climbing: 1161m (3831 feet)

Hiking: 4 km (2.5 mi)

Today's ride: 75 km (47 miles)
Total: 755 km (469 miles)

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