Last week, I had an opportunity to ride the Cabot Trail alongside a lifelong friend and 13 new cycling buddies from Conestoga Rovers and Associates (CRA).
I've been thinking about how to describe this ride, and it's difficult. "Epic" sounds a little trite, and alludes to a significant level of suffering. There was some suffering on those
hills, but that suffering was quickly rewarded with amazing vistas, and
"Beautiful" doesn't quite nail it either. It was incredibly beautiful, but there
were moments of sheer exhilaration- moments when you just cheer- shouting with
joy into the wind at 70km/h.
I think “incredible” does it justice. I know those few days last week won’t and can’t be replicated exactly- but I will return to do the ride again- I have to. I just have a strong feeling that all the right things fell in place at just the right time.
The ride itself was made a little longer each day than was mapped out, with adventures back up particularly good climbs or side trips to historic fish hatcheries (we are cyclists after all, and as such, seem to seek out more
pain whenever possible). All told,
we rode a little over 330km over 3 days.
We started in Ingonish and rode the trail clockwise to Baddeck,
Cheticamp, and back to Ingonish.
A huge surprise was the Margaree Valley- which took us away from the coast, but through incredibly lush countryside complete with raging rivers surveyed overhead by soaring bald eagles.
Both the Gulf of St Lawrence coast and the Atlantic coast were breathtaking- comprised of endless, rolling hills with huge cliffs plunging into wild water. The
highlands held even more majestic views- and the most difficult climbs I have ever
experienced. The French Mountain
climb was 6 to 7km, with the final 4km averaging an 11% grade. I downed a full water bottle on this
climb and was only able to manage about 11km/h. I had never sweat so much at one task (that was before North
After a brief pause, re-grouping, and refueling, the group made its way to North Mountain. Things got very quiet- and smiling faces were replaced by looks of sheer horror. We have been told that some cars and
RVs have a difficult time crossing North passage from the west- and I’m not
surprised. Although much shorter
than French Mountain, this particular road averages 13% for 3 km nearing the
summit, and the locals report that the grade is between 13-17%. It
was an accomplishment just to make
it to the top, ignoring the pain and little voice begging for a stop.
The best quote of that climb goes to an undisclosed rider from CRA who
exclaimed- "darn, I just threw up a little bit" (and he did, but never
got off the bike!)
The pain disappeared quickly with the descent, as the road plunged down- switchback after switchback- and one amazing panorama after another.
There are so many superlatives to describe the overall experience and I’m sure this was only heightened by riding next to such a good friend and sharing the experience alongside a group of similar-minded two-wheelers.
This is a ride that absolutely must be on every cyclists’ “list!”
I've attached a few pictures that capture some of the moments...