Skyline. The word evokes beautiful cityscape views with colorful lights dancing on calm waters. The Skyline Trail has beautiful views but no lights or tall buildings, but the views over the Gulf of St. Lawrence were beautiful.
Our hike in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, in Nova Scotia, was near the French Mountain Summit. We chose the Skyline Trail as it was supposed to be a moderate trail with wildlife and views. We really lucked out with the weather as it was cloudy in the morning but that all went away giving us a great view of the water as well as the coastline.
We were very careful on this hike as there are wolves and coyotes around and there have been some fatal attacks, but I was looking for the elusive moose. A bull moose to be exact. We did get to see the female moose in Banff, but now I am on the hunt to see the male. We hear that they are all around the island and we do see some animal tracks in the dirt of the trail, but it was probably from a small moose. Or a deer.
We did happen upon a beautiful butterfly on the trail right at the beginning. A short-tailed swallowtail butterfly to be exact. It is a species that exists here along the Gulf of St. Lawrence and nowhere else. It is seen in this area in June and July as there is a lot of cow parsnip and angelica, which is a favorite food. So glad we spotted one and it posed for us!
As we approached the trail head we heard the strangest noises. We saw a man with a camera leaning over some tall grasses. As we approached, the noises were getting louder. Bullfrogs! And lots of them. We did have fun taking pictures of them. They have what is a called a vocal sac that expands and this is their way of calling the female. So romantic. Then, they hop on and eggs are hatched not too long after into tadpoles.
The trail is a fairly easy trail with width enough for one person. We passed a few wide open spaces and some birch tree groves and it was a very quiet and peaceful journey. We passed a few people (well, they passed us) but overall very quiet.
The trail ends up at the far end on a cliff overlooking the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Stunning views of the water, the cliffs and the Cabot Trail Highway that drives along the coast. The trail was not hard and we did the whole loop around. The interesting part is at the tip. They created a boardwalk so that you can walk down a bit to see different views. There are signs to warn you not to go down if the wind is too high! We were being blown about a bit, but nothing we could not handle. Would NOT want to be up there when the winds were fierce!
On our way back we noticed some fenced in areas that we had to walk through. Evidently, in the 70’s a large spruce budworm outbreak killed much of the boreal forest in the Park. The regeneration of balsam fir and white birch following the budworm outbreak provided large volumes of food for the moose. With an abundance of food and lack of predators, the moose population grew quickly. In 2011, it was estimated that there were two moose per square kilometer in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. The fenced in areas are where the park rangers are trying to regrow some of the Boreal Forest back. The moose are kept out of these areas by this very high fence so that they do not enjoy the growth. So, you would think with that many moose in the area we would have seen at least one, right? Ha! Not a one.