This spring, Parks Canada and Canadian Geographic collaborated to award a grade-eight class from Caronport, Sask., Canada's Coolest School Trip — a four-day adventure to Cape Breton Island, N.S. Canadian Geographic's Michela Rosano joined the class for the trip. Here's what happened on Day Three. (Read about Day One and Two)
We wake up bright and early at Inverary Resort, a sprawling set of accommodations and cottages on Baddeck Bay, and head to breakfast. Though we filled our bellies with
s’mores at a dockside campfire the night before, everyone is ravenous — and they’ll need the energy.
Ambassatours driver Ed MacRae takes us along the famed Cabot Trail, the scenic highway that runs through Cape Breton Highlands National Park. The route is spectacular. The highlands, like giant, green waves, end in steep cliffs that plunge into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. As the bus winds up and down and back and forth, the students keep their eyes peeled for moose (and spotted one later that day).
As we approach the Skyline Trail, in the heart of Cape Breton Highlands National Park, the students are antsy to get off the bus. The doors open and we all spill out at the trail’s entrance, where two Parks Canada guides are waiting to give us a brief rundown of the Skyline. It’s about 7.5 kilometres, or 45 minutes each way at a moderate pace, through a boreal ecozone and a boardwalk along the top of a headland cliff overlooking the Cabot Trail and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The view from the boardwalk is stunning and it’s easy to see why it’s the subject of so many Cape Breton postcards. The students frantically snap photos at the trail-end observation area overlooking the gulf, and strain to spot whales (but it was too windy that day to discern a whale from a wave).
Another drive along the Cabot Trail brings the group to Ingonish Beach, a stretch of smooth cobblestones leading to a sandy Atlantic coastline. The water is freezing, but a few run right in, clothes and all. Others play in the sand and study seaweed that’s washed ashore.
The time comes to pack up and head to Cape Breton University (CBU) in Sydney, N.S., where the class will spend their last night before flying home early the next morning. With bags stashed in dorms, they head to the CBU art gallery to take in a historical exhibit on Louisbourg and tour the campus, where they’re also treated to ice cream sundaes and a slideshow of the trip. They see their tour of Air Canada’s facilities at Pearson Airport in Toronto, the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site, Eskasoni First Nation and Bras d’Or Lake, the Highland Village Museum, Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site and the inventor’s former estate Beinn Bhreagh, Cabot Trail, Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Ingonish Beach and more. Everyone is exhausted and a little overwhelmed from all they’ve seen in just a few short days, but each student says they can’t wait to come back to Cape Breton.
“The trip to Cape Breton was an experience of a lifetime for the students and for everyone involved, “ says Ellen Bertrand, Parks Canada’s director of external relations. “Parks Canada and all of the contest partners see it as a gift of long lasting memories that forged a deeper connection to Canada's nature and history.”
For a list of the contest sponsors, visit www.myparkspass.ca/blog/thank-you-our-2012-2013-my-parks-pass-contests-partners