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Jack Pine, Cape Breton Highlands National Park

Generally, the Victoria Day weekend is the start of the hiking season in the Cape Breton Highlands area for many hikers. You can expect wet conditions, some windfalls, cold temps, winds and much more. Here are some tips to get ready for the season:

1) develop a checklist for your hiking equipment, then review the condition of each item, make notes of what is needed to be replaced. Then make sure everything is packed before you go out hiking on the trail. The checklist should include the following – whistle, map,  rain gear, layers, trekking poles,  extra pair of smart wool socks,  gaiters, jacket, first aid kit, knife,  hat, sun glasses, bug spray, and a  camera with extra batteries etc.

2) Develop a training plan – a)  start your hiking season with short hikes, b) then move on to medium hikes and then c) longer hikes.  Build your strength up, get used to your equipment and then you are ready for some hiking challenges.

3)  Every hiking season brings many special moments and memories. Always bring your camera with you, bring extra batteries and memory card. You never know what you might run into or find yourself in the right place at right time. Below is a pick of a spruce grouse that I almost ran into on the Clyburn Valley hiking trail in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park on the long weekend in May.

Spruce Grouse, Clyburn Valley, CBHNP

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This week’s post is not about hiking but remembering …on 11th hour, 11th day, and 11th month , those who served our country, Canada, and those who paid the supreme sacrifice during the wars and peace time activities.

Rembrance Day was always a special and big day in our household as my Dad was a veteran. A Flight engineer with Royal Canadian Air Force, Dad was in charge of the poppy campaign in our community as well played a role in the Rembrance Day ceremonies…. 

Rembrance Day always seem to be a cold and damp day but the crowds always showed up no matter what the weather to honor and remember the veterans and those who made the supreme sacrifice for their country. I always dreaded the last post…as it brought up so much emotion. My dad passed away several years ago but his funeral included the legion memorial service and yes the last post. 

Below is a video from canada’s country singers – Standing Strong and True (For Tomorrow)

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Explore - Canada's Outdoor Magazine

Explore - Canada's Outdoor Magazine

The June edition of  Explore Magazine has a great article of Canada’s Best of our Parks – National and Provincial. Two parks from Atlantic Canada made the list – Cape Breton Highlands National Park and Gros Morne National Park. Two of my favorite places to hike.

 A few surprises in the article written by Ryan Stewart. One in Gros Morne – Ryan indicated the Lookout Trail that takes you to top of Partridgeberry Hills offers best viewpoint. I would have thought on top of James Callaghan Trail. You see that view featured on many of Newfoundland and Labrador TV commercials.  I will definitely check that out the Lookout Trail the next time I visited Gros Morne.  Franey Trail was rated best summit of  Cape Breton Highlands National Park.  No surprise there as Hike the Highlands Festival considers it one of the classics. But the writer does indicated that on the way down visit Mary Ann Falls for a swim. There is an error there – Mary Ann Falls is not on the Franey Trail.  Otherwise,  I really like the article and it provides some great ideas and tips to visit other parks across Canada.  

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Last year's Marathon Start

Last year's Marathon Start, NHN, Cape North

One of the great ways to stay in shape in the winter for hikers is to cross country ski.  In the highlands, we have a number of events,  but one that attracts alot of skiers is the the 2009 Trail Shop Marathon at North Highlands Nordic Ski Trails in Cape North.  This  event will take place on Sunday, March 8th at North Highlands Nordic ski trails.  This event will feature 3 different distances – 42 km, 21 km and 10 km.  You can skate or classic ski.

Registration fee is $20.00 before February 28th and $25.00 in March. You can register online and pay at the door.  Start time is 11:00 am.  Final registrations and payment by 10:00 am. Your registration fee includes a voucher for the post-event barbecue and potluck.  There are incredible views along the trails that will make it an enjoyable day along with the great hospitality of volunteers at NHN Ski Trails in Cape North. One of my favorties is Courtney field where you can see Sugarloaf Mountain & North Mountain down to Bay St. Lawrence.

North Mountain in background

Sugarloaf & North Mountains in the background

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With eight winter storms to date,  it has been an interesting winter here on Cape Breton Island.  The last couple of weeks have been great seeing  birds and animals.  Michelle Sears from Halifax started things off by saying  she saw a Auk at Englishtown Ferry – see pic 2 below. Then after showing the picture around someone indicated it could be a common murre, then a great cormorant…  One thing for sure it creat alot of excitment …..The bird walks  like a penguin, stays close to shore… You been the judge. I am still not sure as it was hard to get a good picture.  Next my wife takes a walk along the Jersey Cove beach and sees a fox sleeping and then waking up. She then sees a seagull hitching a ride on ice in the channel and then comes across scoters.  On my walk, I managed to come across a squirrel and then some chickadees. You just never know what you will see on your walks these days. Thanks to Michelle and Heather for the pics. Enjoy them below.

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Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

Here are some great ideas for christmas gifts for your hiker friends and for yourself :  a compass, first aid kit, smart wool socks, biners, thermometer, wool hat, gloves,  gaiters,  fleece jacket, stainless steel thermos, BPS or non-
polycarbonate plastic water bottle, trekker/nordic walking poles, extra memory card for a digital camera, bear bell, blister kit,  rechargeable batteries, emergency blanket, safety whistle, binoculars, topo maps of favorite hiking trails, a gift certificate, a hiking calender, hiking guide book(s), a subscription to  Explore magazine, or  Backpacker Magazine, a membership to Hike Nova Scotia, buy a metre of the Trans Canada Trail or become a member , a map & compass course, and the list could go on.

Some useful online stores – Mountain Eguipment Co-opNorthfaceCamera Canada, Canadian Tire, Staples, Best Buy, Trailpeak, Chapters, Amazon.ca.  Good luck shopping – just eleven more days before Christmas. Merry Christmas everyone.

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West Highland Way, Scotland's Premiere Long Distance Route

West Highland Way, Scotland's Premiere Long Distance Route

Life is full of adventures and one of  them for me is to hike the West Highland Way in Scotland. A 95 mile (152km) trek across the highlands in Scotland ending in Fort William, the outdoor capital of UK.  My wife and I are going to do the hike next September (2009) after the Hike the Highlands Festival. We plan to hike the route in 8 days, averaging 10-14 miles a day. We plan to stay in B&B’s, Guest Houses, Inns along the way with luggage being transfer each day.  We intend to rest a day after the hike is completed and then hike Ben Nevis, UK’s Highest Mountain at 4,406 feet. 

 I have been getting lots of requests for information on the West Highland Way in Scotland so I thought I would share some web links for you. There are several companies – Contours, Wilderness Scotland, Transcotland,  Macsadventure, Hfholidays,  MaketracksCNDO  Scotland, UK Exploratory, and Travel-Lite,  that will book your accommodation and transfer your luggage. West Highland Way is well marked so it is a self guided hike.  Guide books and maps can be purchased at Chapters or Amazon.ca but you can order books from amazon.co.uk.  Books that I recommend are 1) West Highland Way by Jacquetta Megarry (2008), 2) West Highland Way: Glasgow to Fort William by Charlie Loram and Bryn Thomas (2008) and 3) West Highland Way by Dan Bailey (2008)  and 4) West Highland Way Map by Footprint.

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