Ambushed by a Moose

Trip Start Aug 20, 2010
Trip End Sep 07, 2010

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Where I stayed
Corny Brook Campground

Flag of Canada  , Nova Scotia,
Friday, August 27, 2010

Epic Road Trip Day 8 – August 27, 2010

Kilometers Driven: 120
Miles Hiked: 6.25
Moose Spotted: 4
Black Bear Spotted: 1
Eagles Spotted: 1
Sunsets Witnessed: 1

We awoke to more clouds this morning so took our time showering and packing. Luckily, the sun began to break through as we made our way into Cape Breton Highlands National Park.  We pulled into the visitors' centre (they spell it "re") and spoke to a very nice ranger who gave us campground information and suggestions for hikes.  Based on the hikes we chose, Corny Brook Campground was the winning location. 

Our campsite was fantastic!  It was right on the ocean, just a few stone steps up from the beach.  Corny Brook blasted its way into the Atlantic practically at our doorstep.  All of the iron flowing in the brook turned the ocean a weird rust color.  There was only one other couple in the campground when we pulled in (it was still early – about 11:00).  They were breaking camp and offered us their site and the rest of their wood that was still burning in the fire pit.  The offer led to a very nice conversation.  They were travelling from British Columbia – and we thought we’d had a long drive! – and spending seven weeks touring the country.  They were taking the ferry to Newfoundland next.  It sounded like an amazing trip!

After they left, we set up the tent, had a lovely lunch of pasta over the fire, and wandered the beach for a few minutes.  Then it was back into the car to drive some more of the Cabot Trail and take a few short hikes.  We stopped at nearly every outlook along the way and were happy to find a group of people watching a black bear at one of the turn outs.  The bear was across a valley and up the opposite slope so he was more than a safe distance away.  In fact, he was so far away that he was still just a small black spot when I used my most powerful zoom lens.  Oh well, the evidence of his sighting was recorded.

Our first short hike of the day was along MacIntosh Brook to a beautiful waterfall.  The path was fun (especially on the way back when we took the path less travelled) and we got some great pictures of the falls.  The second stop was an even shorter hike – ok, let’s call it a walk – to the Lone Shieling.  It was built to honor the Scottish immigrants of the area (Nova Scotia). 

Finally, it was on to the highlight of the day…a guided hike along the Skyline Trail to watch the sunset.  The hike had come highly recommended by the rangers at the visitors’ centre, and it didn’t disappoint.  Our guide for the evening was John Francis from PEI.  It was his last day on the job; he was leaving to study in British Columbia.  About 20 hikers headed out onto the trail a little after 6:00.

John Francis stopped a few times to give us information about the different trees in the park and how the moose population was affecting them.  We reached the cliff above the ocean about 15 minutes before sunset.  The clouds and sun had been fighting for dominance all day, and I was pleased to find that they had found a happy balance for the sunset – too many clouds and you don’t get to see the light; too few clouds and you don’t get to see as much color.  We found a great spot along the lookout and watched the sun dip below the horizon.  I took entirely too many pictures!  (Side note: we later discovered that the black bear we had seen earlier in the day was just on the other side of the slope from the cliffs.  Glad he wasn’t interested in the sunset!)

We had been told that this hike, particularly at this time of day, was a great way to see moose.  We were disappointed on the way out, but started the return trip with high hopes.  About half way back, Aaron’s eagle eyes spotted a female moose grazing on the slope above us.  Just past her, a mother and her calf were feeding.  It was getting dark so the best I could do was a silhouette.

We were now perfectly satisfied with the experience.  Aaron and I continued the walk, moving at a faster clip than the rest of the group and quickly outdistancing them.  We didn’t have a flashlight, but it wasn’t completely dark and we were feeling pretty confident in our nighttime hike.  That is until the ambush.  We were on the last section of the trail that followed an old road so it was pretty wide and we were able to walk side by side.  Suddenly, out of nowhere, a giant bull moose came charging out of the brush to our left.  He couldn’t have been more than 10 or 15 feet away!  We both jumped to our right and screamed.  The moose took off down the road in front of us and dove back into the bushes.  We stood shaking in the dark for a few minutes; then attempted to continue the walk.  As we approached the spot where he had disappeared from the road, we heard the moose making huffing noises.  Obviously, this way was blocked.  We slowing back pedaled until we felt safe again, walked back toward the rest of the group, and waited for company with flashlights before going past him again.  While recounting the tale to our fellow hikers, Aaron swore the moose was 30 feet tall with fangs and talons.  That might have been a bit of a stretch, but the sucker was huge!  After recovering our wits, we were able to laugh about it.  Nonetheless, we drove very slowly on our way back to the campsite, making sure to avoid another run in with an ambushing moose.
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