December 09, 2016

A Walk in the Woods: Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia

Weeds, wildflowers, and wind on the Skyline Trail


Mea culpa! 

It's been far too long between posts. I've been busy in November with fall cleanups but the work season is finally over with another Toronto winter settling in; therefore, there's no real excuse for not posting here more often over the next few months until business starts up again next April.

Writing about my family's trip to Atlantic Canada this past August is long overdue. (You may be wondering what this has to do with gardening in Toronto but bear with me, the connection will be evident, tenuous as it is.)

We flew into Halifax, Nova Scotia, rented a mini-van and visited New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island as well (no time for Newfoundland unfortunately). It was the first time the kids have been out to this part of eastern Canada and I think they had a good time. Well, Linda and I enjoyed the stunning natural scenery and great food and our teenagers appreciated a strong Wi-Fi signal anywhere.

Linda and I have been "out east" over 20 years ago (!) for our honeymoon so many memories came flooding back. We found Cape Breton Island especially beautiful again and during our second time visiting, we spent an afternoon hiking the Skyline Trail in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

The Park is located in the northern part of Cape Breton Island with an elevation of around 1000 feet or 300 m. The hiking trail is considered "easy" to walk on as the terrain is quite flat and much of the path is covered with boards like this to make things, well, easy and to protect many of the delicate native plants.

Skyline Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park Nova Scotia boarded path by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Skyline Trail 
Cape Breton Highlands National Park 
Nova Scotia boarded path


But let's back up a little, literally. Getting to the Trail's entrance meant, after parking, walking a good 10 minutes along a gravel service road. I took these pictures of plants I've never seen before, thinking they were native wildflowers to Nova Scotia. Some were but others were just pretty weeds common to Nova Scotia and Ontario as well, weeds you'd pass by the sides of roads without looking at them once.


Perhaps you'll recognize some of them:


Canada hawkweed Hieracium canadense at Skyline Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Canada hawkweed (Hieracium canadense
at the Skyline Trail 
Cape Breton Highlands National Park



Canadian burnet Sanguisorba canadensis at Skyline Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Canadian burnet (Sanguisorba canadensis
at the Skyline Trail 
Cape Breton Highlands National Park



Spiraea alba var. latifolia White meadowsweet at Skyline Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Spiraea alba var. latifolia (White meadowsweet)
 at the Skyline Trail 
Cape Breton Highlands National Park 



Spotted knapweed Centaurea biebersteinii at Skyline Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Spotted knapweed (Centaurea biebersteinii
at the Skyline Trail 
Cape Breton Highlands National Park 



Tansy ragwort Jacobaea vulgaris at Skyline Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Tansy ragwort (Jacobaea vulgaris
at the Skyline Trail 
Cape Breton Highlands National Park




White meadowsweet Spiraea alba var. latifolia at Skyline Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
White meadowsweet (Spiraea alba var. latifolia)
at the Skyline Trail 
Cape Breton Highlands National Park



White wood aster Eurybia divaricata at Skyline Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
White wood aster (Eurybia divaricata)
at the Skyline Trail 
Cape Breton Highlands National Park 




Whorled wood aster Oclemena acuminata at Skyline Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Whorled wood aster (Oclemena acuminata
at the Skyline Trail 
Cape Breton Highlands National Park 



Wild roses at Skyline Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Wild roses 
at the Skyline Trail 
Cape Breton Highlands National Park 


Walking the Trail proper meant, of course, experiencing different plant communities (i.e., fewer invasive weeds) allowed to prosper with minimal human intervention since we're in a national park after all. During the hike, I went through different environments or "micro-climates" we gardeners occasionally read about. Having some knowledge of botany, soil sciences, and ecology (I have just a little of each) made the hike educational but sometimes, a walk in the woods should be simply about enjoying the moment.



Birch forest and ferns at Skyline Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Birch forest and ferns 
at the Skyline Trail 
Cape Breton Highlands National Park


Fern filled forest floor at the Skyline Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Fern filled forest floor 
at the Skyline Trail 
Cape Breton Highlands National Park 


Birch forest at Skyline Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Birch forest 
at the Skyline Trail 
Cape Breton Highlands National Park 

Blue Bead Lily Clintonia borealis at Skyline Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Blue Bead Lily (Clintonia borealis)
at the Skyline Trail 
Cape Breton Highlands National Park

Bunchberry Cornus canadensis at Skyline Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis
at the Skyline Trail 
Cape Breton Highlands National Park

Eurybia divaricata White wood aster at Skyline Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Eurybia divaricata (White wood aster) 
at the Skyline Trail 
Cape Breton Highlands National Park 


Pearly Everlasting Anaphalis margaritacea at Skyline Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea
at the Skyline Trail 
Cape Breton Highlands National Park 



Skyline Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park fern filled forest floor by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Skyline Trail 
Cape Breton Highlands National Park 
fern filled forest floor 




Skyline Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park ferns by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Skyline Trail 
Cape Breton Highlands National Park 
ferns 

Occasionally, I would emerge from sheltered forest floors into windswept bracken-filled meadows. You can likely make out the direction of the prevailing wind and how short the trees are. Many were stunted and clipped from the short growing season and moose predation.


Windswept field at Skyline Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Windswept field 
at the Skyline Trail 
Cape Breton Highlands National Park



"Where are the humans?" you might be wondering. Oh, there were more than a few on the Trail, given summer is tourist season but not too many to prevent me from taking pictures of an empty part of the path like below.

Such a sight really draws you forward. What's around that bend? 



Skyline Trail boarded path Cape Breton Highlands National Park Nova Scotia by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog



After hiking for perhaps an hour and a half, I became a little unsettled. Linda and the kids were way ahead of me and maybe due to an empty stomach, I was disoriented, thinking I was lost. Now, looking back, this made no sense but the path does split and I was convinced I was on the wrong part of the trail! Tired, hungry and not wanting to spend the night alone with the bears and moose, I headed back to the Trail's entrance and waited for my rescuers.

Eventually, we re-united but not after being chastised for "not keeping up and taking silly pictures" and plenty of eye-rolling from the kids.

But I did manage to make it to a Lookout (platform to safely take pictures) and have this vista with the Gulf of St. Lawrence in the background to share:


Magical....

Windswept Lookout at Skyline Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Windswept Lookout 
at Skyline Trail 
Cape Breton Highlands National Park