The Time I Was Almost Blown off a Cliff in Cape Breton

A few nights ago, the wind was blowing like crazy. As I lay in bed listening to it howl, I wondered how much damage would be caused if it picked up our BBQ and sent it flying, cow-in-Twister style.

It also brought back some memories of a very, very windy night in Cape Breton. I decided that I would blog about this story, as part of what is sure to be a multi-year project of writing about my expeditions across Canada as a Woods Explorer.

(See Part I, lobster fishing in PEI, here.)

The entirety of our leg in Nova Scotia was spent in Cape Breton. I had no qualms with that because Cape Breton happens to be one of the most spectacular places on earth. It’s simply beautiful to look at:

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THIS IS BEAUTIFUL! (Photo from Woods Canada’s Instagram)

There was awesome hiking, awesome kayaking, and awesome bike riding to be had. Check it out:

I really, really loved Cape Breton.

Throughout our five months trekking across Canada, we camped in many different kinds of campsites. Some were tucked away in the middle of nowhere; others were in very busy provincial or national parks. And sometimes, we camped in RV parks. Cape Breton was one such time.

For part of the trip, we needed to camp in a certain spot due to its proximity to the place where we would be renting bikes to cycle the Celtic Shores Coastal Trail (which I highly recommend, by the way). We were there early in the season, so not many campsites were open. However, one RV park was open, and that was where we’d been booked for a campsite.

When we checked in, the lady confirmed that we, indeed, wanted a campsite for a tent. Yes, we said. She looked at us like we were crazy and informed us that it was as cold as 5 or 6 degrees at night. Yes, we said, we knew this. We had camped in similar temperatures days ago in PEI.

This lady took pity on us. Rather than having us pluck down our tent next to a bunch of RVs, she told us that they had little cabins and that she’d let us have one for free. She warned us that they were pretty no frills, but they had walls and an elevated platform for a bed. YES, we said. (Mostly I said yes. Cedric was probably bummed that we wouldn’t be getting epic tent shots, but it’s not like we’d be snapping amazing photos with six RVs in the background.)

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MAN I loved this cabin! Photo from the Woods Canada Instagram.

The lady was right: it was very cold. I was grateful for this tiny little cabin.

A few nights later, bike trip behind us, it was time to move on to our next campsite in Cape Breton’s Highlands National Park. Many people had told us that we would see a moose in the Highlands National Park. We tried to stalk moose on the trails for a little while, but had no success. Eventually, we saw two moose – a mom and her little one – from our car, scampering off the shoulder of the highway into the woods. This is why we got a moose ornament to commemorate the Nova Scotia leg of the trip.

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We chose a kayaking moose because we spent a day kayaking at a lake. This guy’s paddle doesn’t look too sturdy.

We went to check into our campsite. It was very large and had all kinds of amenities. Now, I like amenities – I like camping in the wilderness, but I also don’t mind camping where there are showers and real toilets and a place for me to wash dishes. But Cedric wasn’t so fond of amenities, particularly since all of our campsites to date had been on the cushier side (see: cabin in the RV park). Here we were, surrounded by some amazing scenery (or vistas, as our dear friend J. Cho called them) – and we were camping on a small square of lawn with nary a view in sight.

Cedric proposed that we swap our amenable campsite for one with no services, but with epic views. I conceded, so we asked a ranger to recommend their most scenic campsite. She told us that Corney Brook could not be beat, so that’s where we headed.

The temperatures were a little warmer than they had been earlier in the trip, but the wind was pretty wild. We pulled up to the campsite and it was as stunning as we’d been promised: it was a clearing on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic ocean.

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Photo from the Woods Canada Instagram.

We set up our tent in one of the cleared spots by the cliff, which maximized the potential for great photos. I made sure Cedric pegged the tent down EXTRA well. To prove I am not exaggerating about the wind, here is a side story: a man and his grown son, hailing from Texas, were setting up a tent beside us and the wind broke their tent. They had to get in their car and leave.

We made dinner, which involved heating tomato soup over a campfire. We didn’t have bowls, so we drank the soup out of mugs. While Cedric was taking the photo below, the wind was blowing the soup out of my mug. It was full on spraying. What I’m trying to say is, IT WAS REALLY WINDY.

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Photo from Woods Canada’s Twitter. Flying soup not pictured.

After showering ourselves in tomato soup (just kidding – one thing I learned from being a Woods Explorer is that someone is always lurking in the comments ready to say things like, “You showered in tomato soup? Don’t you know that is a bear attractant? How could you be so irresponsible?!?!” Joke’s on you, anonymous commentator – I’m actually the most bear prudent/paranoid camper on earth. Just ask my crew from the West Coast Trail), we decided to hit the hay. So we climbed into our tent, perched precariously close to the edge of a cliff that lead to the ocean.

Lying in my sleeping bag, hearing the wind howl and feeling the tent walls coming down on me, I started to wonder if this was such a good idea. Eventually, I decided that if death by tent being blown over the side of a cliff while camping in beautiful Cape Breton was my way to go, so be it. I slept like a baby.

(Incidentally, this is also how I convinced myself to fall asleep while camping on the shores of the Mackenzie River deep in the wilderness of the Northwest Territories while surrounded by wolf prints in the mud. That would really be a way to go.)

So a few nights ago, listening to the wind howl from the safety of my bed and fearing the consequences of a flying BBQ, I thought to myself “Hey – at least you’re not in a tent on the side of a cliff.” And, once again, I slept like a baby.

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5 thoughts on “The Time I Was Almost Blown off a Cliff in Cape Breton

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