The trailhead to Meat Cove Mountain lies beyond the end of the blacktop, not far from the absolute end of the road. The initial steep climb leads through a mature forest that features hardly any conifers but an abundance of oaks, poplars, birches and maples. En route up the hill one finds no culturally modified trees – there are no stumps to indicate that the giants of this forest have ever been felled by sawyer and saw.
What awaits those who slog right the way to the ridge beyond through the leafy woods is a very grand landscape: 360-degree views east to the big headland at Cape North; south up the steep valley of Meat Cove Brook; west along the treeless, windswept ridge of Meat Cove Mountain and hilltops beyond; north to St. Paul’s, the Gulf of St. Lawrence and – on a clear day – the mountains of southwestern Newfoundland.
The weather availed us was sublime in every way but one. We had sun, warmth, terrific seeing in every direction. We also had wind, and much of it. I had no anemometer with us – Jan’s smart phone is not quite that smart – so no one is able to challenge my assertion that the gusts we encountered sometimes reached Force 8 on the Beaufort scale.
From time to time we were drawn to shelter in the lee of a boulder or tight knot of krummholtz to savour the vistas and ingest granola bars and hard-boiled eggs. At this altitude berries were legion – blueberries and foxberries in particular. With such a surfeit I wondered where the black bears were. Was it too windy even for them?
At such a place in mid-September I expect to see migrating hawks. The wind might have kept many more close to ground but we did in fact see hawks – northern harriers, bald eagles, sharp-shinned and red-tailed hawks – and imagined how much better the hawking might have been on a calm day. Perhaps there are no calm days. We passed the occasional brave three-foot spruce or fir that might have stood its ground sixty years or more whose shape suggested it is constantly buffeted by powerful nor’westerlies.
Strong winds or not, in the later afternoon I felt reluctant to leave the mountain – when might I get here again? – but descend we did, only to climb another, lower peak close to the village where we looked in vain for pilot whales but did manage to see gannets and a big sunfish lazily going about its business just offshore.
On this second hill we crossed paths with an American, Peter from Kansas City, with whom I struck up a conversation about the state of the world, particularly that part of it currently contemplating the opportunity of electing D. Trump President of the USA. The conversation was so congenial that we swapped cards and vowed to meet again for further dialogue three years hence when Peter plans to return to Cape Breton – provided of course that we and our world survive what US electors decide on November 8.
If there was a disappointment on this day it was a minor one. It turned out that the village canteen was closed: we were thus denied the snow crab roll we’d all anticipated as our reward for climbing Meat Cove Mountain. So we went to Neill’s Harbour where – oh joy! – we found five-star steamed mussels and snow crab sandwiches on offer. Some days it seems nothing can go wrong.