Cape Breton Island: This is my Heaven
This is an entry in the We Said Go Travel Writing Contest written by Andrea MacEachern, Nova Scotia, Canada. Thanks for your entry Andrea!
I know what heaven looks like from many angles. I’ve looked down on it from atop the great mountain to the East. I’ve admired it from the glorious valley to the West. I’ve wondered at it from the grassy, wide farmlands to the North. I’ve viewed it from a perch on the cliff side over the ocean to the South.
I’ve been on this journey many times. The journey to heaven is not long but there are some obstacles on the way. I first have to tackle the bumper to bumper gridlock of the city and get on the short stretch of the highway 125. I take the next exit onto the Trans Canada Highway and it’s smooth sailing for the next twenty kilometers. Then, suddenly, I round that bend in Bras D’or that reveals the monstrous Seal Island Bridge. I’m not afraid of heights but I’ve been told that the bridge sways on breezy days. I try not to think about this as I approach the steep rise of steel and concrete that by some mystery manages not to collapse and crumble to the rough waters below. It’s smooth sailing again for about six or seven minutes until I encounter the next hurdle. I slow down to a crawl to safely round the very sharp curve that begins the ascent up Kelly’s Mountain. The car struggles up the steep mountain and although the view from here is heavenly, I am not in heaven yet.
I continue to travel onward down the mountain and take the next exit off the Trans Canada and onto the Cabot Trail. I make my way down the long windy road to take my place in the line up for the Englishtown car ferry. Once onboard, it takes only three or four minutes to cross the small bay, but some days the water is very rough. Rumor has it that, one day, the ferry broke away from the cable that it is pulled across on and floated out into the open sea! Luckily for me, the ferry has always docked safely and I continue on my way along the northern shore. I’m on the home stretch now, but there is just one more obstacle that must be crossed before I arrive a the pearly gates of heaven. Cape Smokey Mountain.
I approach the downward dip in the road that suddenly takes on the steep ascent to the top of the mountain. This stretch of highway has been declared one of the most dangerous stretches of highway in North America. I’ve heard from some of the locals that on many occasions tourists have asked them to bring their cars safely over the mountain because they are too afraid to attempt it themselves. I switch to low gear and slowly and carefully make my way through the dips and turns, while the only thing separating me from the thousand-foot drop to the rough Atlantic below is a guardrail. Finally, I make it to the top of the great mountain and pull into the Cape Smokey picnic park, thankful to have safely made the journey yet again. I’m not quite in heaven yet, but I can see it in the distance below me. In front of me the vast blue Atlantic Ocean meets the sky and the hills to the west of me. But this is nothing compared to what lays at the bottom of the great mountain! I continue on my journey and finally I round that final bend and heaven reveals itself. I know this is heaven. I’ve been here many times before.
I know what heaven looks like in all four seasons. I know what it looks like in the summer. Clear, blue skies and beautiful sunsets. Rolling green fields stretching into the back lands as far as the eye can see. Soft, white sand blanketing the coastline. Whales frolicking in the bay. I know what heaven looks like in the Fall when the leaves change colors and the countryside takes on the appearance of a carefully worked piece of art and a swelling surf roughly rolls ashore after yet another North Atlantic storm. I know what heaven looks like in the Winter when the landscape is at it’s most picturesque. I know what heaven looks like after the first snowfall of the season blankets the rolling hills and beaches in white and the pack ice starts to fill the small bays.I know what heaven looks like in the Spring when the streams overflow with melting snow and become raging rivers. I know what heaven looks like when the flowers start to bloom, the trees start to sprout leaves again and the rolling hills and vast fields change to a deep green again. I know what heaven looks like when the majestic icebergs make their way south after a long journey through Northern waters and dot the bays with their along the coast..
I know what it sounds like to be in heaven. Waves washing ashore on the beach. Coyotes howling in the distance. Crickets chirping in a nearby pond. A lone loon making it’s mysterious call at the lake at dusk. A Celtic fiddle accompanied by traditional Gaelic singers.
And as I sit here and write this from my apartment in the city on a cold, mid-winter evening, I close my eyes and I can almost feel heaven, too. Soft sand under my feet. The cool Atlantic breeze flowing through my hair and the refreshing ocean water spraying my face.
I know what heaven looks like when that dreaded day arrives. The day when I have to drive back over the great mountain and return to my apartment and job in the city. Leaving is the only thing I hate about heaven. I make one last stop at all my favorite places before I make the return journey. Black Brook Beach. Mary Anne Falls. Warren Lake. Broad Cove. Neil’s Harbor. Squeaker’s Hole. Middle Head. As long I continue to appreciate the simple things in life that most city slickers take for granted, I will always have a small piece of heaven close to my heart and it is always only a day’s drive away to the great beyond and it’s always in my dreams.
About the Author: Andrea MacEachern: I am a freelance writer with a main focus on travel writing. I love to travel and write and my base is currently in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. https://www.facebook.com/maceachernandrea