The Atlantic shows it's muscle! - Monday afternoon, August 4
Being used to the Pacific Ocean and its' constantly rolling surf, the Atlantic Ocean has seemed gentle to us, and benign by comparison - until today. Today it turned angry, and we finally got to see it pounding the shore.
The road south from Capstick was demanding but drivable, so we left the Cabot Trail again at Effies Brook, and took an alternate scenic route that took us through New Haven and past Hatchers Point. For the first half of the loop the road followed the coast, and the high surf made it hard for me to keep my eyes on the road. The waves were tall and the powerful surf - sometimes muddy and sometimes white as snow - made every overlook compelling.
This was the Atlantic as I’d always pictured it, wild and flexing it’s muscle. The scene was made wilder by the torrents of water pouring into the surf from every creek and river. French Creek, Black Brook - all were swollen to the tops of their banks and the rushing water roiled the sea, turning the white caps yellow and brown. Still the rain came.
Some of the pictures and movies on this page were taken at Hatchers Point and Neils Harbor, where we stopped to watch enthralled as the sea hurled spray in the face of the rain. The meeting of tide and rock is one of the most fascinating scenes in nature.
At a more mundane level, in our rush to see Capstick we had skipped breakfast, and now it was way past lunch. In the interests of time we wanted to stop at a café and grab something quick, but from North Cape to South Point the eating places are few and far between. So at Black Brook Cove we turned in to a picnic area and decided to make lunch for ourselves.
We parked where we could watch the surf, and while it continued to roll we made a killer bacon and egg breakfast that we ate while we listened to the rain on the roof. Cars came and went, and we watched as people got out to watch the show. Some were wise enough to wear yellow slickers, while others just shivered in the rain. We did neither, and we felt so fortunate to be able to watch and enjoy it all through our rain streaked dining room window!
That idyllic hour marked the end of the good times for a while, and from there on things got stressful. It had been raining now for almost 24 hours, and the relentless downpour had collected in Cape Breton’s massive watershed and was starting to overflow it. We found ourselves back on a road that was now beginning to flood in places, and we still had 60 miles to go.
The flooding across the road was still shallow but the water was moving fast, and in many places it was eroding the shoulder and starting to undercut the sides of the road. Bridges here are marginal on a good day, and driving over a rickety bridge when the water looks like it might wash it out any minute is a real nail biter.
At Ingonish the road starts climbing Mount Smoky, and while the altitude relieved the flooding it did little to improve the driving conditions. Passing sheer walls with falling rock warnings is one thing in good weather, but when torrents of water are pouring down over those walls and rocks you begin to take the threat seriously. To add to the tension we were now beginning to enter the clouds.
Dangerous conditions don’t go away just because you can’t see them, and driving semi blind adds more to the stress. We passed several campgrounds and debated whether or not to stop early and get off the road, but the rain wasn’t letting up and conditions were already bad enough that tomorrow the road might be closed altogether, so we stayed the course and eventually descended again to a more populated area.
By the time we got to Baddek the rain had subsided to a sprinkle. We found a good campground and settled in, grateful to be off the road and safe for the night. Until the thunderstorm started. By 9:30 it was raining hard again, and, by 10:00 it was right overhead. Thunder claps and wind were rocking the motorhome, and rain was pounding the roof. But all things pass, and this storm did too. By 11:00 it was quiet again and we went to sleep knowing that it’s this mixture of fun and excitement that makes life worth living. If it sometimes gets scary it’s a small price to pay. This was not a day we will soon forget - and for how many days of our lives is that true?