Friday 9 February 2018

Planning Summer 2018: Cape Breton National Park

In the past, we've only blogged trips on Little Rabbit's Planning. After a couple of days of migraine-inducing marathon planning for Summer 2018, I set myself a limit of 1 hour/day and decided to blog the process.

From Wikipedia: Ingonish Beach. BTW, the author of this photo, Tango7174, has contributed many professional quality photographs to Wikipedia. Thanks, Tango.  

Sometimes, it's the days that allow no room for maneuver that are the hardest to plan. Wednesday 1 August has to be planned backwards from the time when we need to check in for the overnight ferry at North Sydney. I always find that sort of thing a bit stressful: what if there's an unexpected traffic jam? 

The other difficulty is to decide what to do with half a day in an area that contains Cape Breton National Park and the Cabot Trail. There's easily enough to do here for two weeks. Fortunately, we are staying just on the other side of Cape Smokey from Ingonish, so we get to see what I suspect are two of the prettiest sights of the area. Briefly.

  • 7.00 - 8.00 - Breakfast at the Dancing Moose Cafe. It's not included, but they specialize in dutch pancakes, both sweet and savory. That's obviously unmissable. 
  • 8.00 - 8.30 - Drive from accommodation to Ingonish Visitor Centre: allow 30 mins, 27 km, over one of the more spectacular points of the Cabot Trail.
  • 8.30 - we need to pick up a day pass for Cape Breton National Park at the Visitor Centre. The entrance fee is $7.80, opening hours are 8.30 - 19.00

The choice of hikes

Both these hikes look nice, and I suspect that in practice the choice will be made for us, based on our efficiency in getting out in the morning.
  • 8.45 - 11.45 - Franey Trail is a 7.4 km loop hike, climbing up away from the coast to offer views panoramic views back down from the top. It is supposed to take 2 - 3 hours, and would only be possible if we got a really early start. The trail head for Franey is only 10 minutes from the visitor center, but does involve driving for 1 km down a dirt road.
  • 9.45 - 11.45 - Middle Head Trail is a very nice looking 4.8 km loop with extension along a promontory between two bays. It is supposed to take 1.5 to 2 hours.
  • 12.00 - 13.10 - picnic between Freshwater Lake and Ingonish Beach. The trails themselves could take as much as 1 hour to walk, but if we park in the Ingonish Beach day use parking lot, we can have a quick look at both environments. NOTE TO SELF: The picnic lunch will have been bought the day before, but it doesn't need to be too 'prepared'. We can put something together out of the cooler bag on the fly.

What will we do if the weather is absolutely terrible?

Probably just drive the Cabot Trail north as far as we feel safe in doing with our schedule, taking short stops from time to time and making sure to be back at Ingonish by 13.00.

Getting to the ferry

  • 13.10 - 15.00 - Drive from Ingonish to North Sydney Ferry Terminal, where it's ESSENTIAL to be checked in more than two hours before the ferry's departure: allow 1 hour 40 mins drive, 115 km. I've allowed a very small amount of extra time to pick up our bags from the accommodation if necessary. NOTE TO SELF: Double check these driving times when we do this route the day before, and try to find out about traffic/potential holdups at different times of day.
  • 15.30 - 16.00 - Boarding of the overnight ferry will begin. Our luggage needs to be packed such that we can easily take everything we need for the crossing, as passengers are not allowed to return to the car decks during a sailing.
  • 17.30 - The ferry sails. NOTE TO SELF: I still need to reserve the overnight ferries when booking opens for these dates. Note that although they ask for the license plate of the vehicle when they book, drivers of rental cars are only required to provide the license plate number on check in.

Dinner on the ferry

Opinions vary on the ferry's food offerings, but I'm quite prepared to believe that it will be on the overpriced and average side. I still don't see a reasonable option other than buying some kind of hot meal from them for dinner - especially as by this time, we'll have been picnicing a lot. NOTE TO SELF: What we could do is take some snacks and drinks on board, so that we can arrange our own aperitif, dessert and possibly breakfast - at least the food part of it. It is said the coffee is terrible, but there is not much to be done about it, unless, by chance, the tea is any better.

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