On the schedule this time was a leisurely long weekend at my favorite place in the province-- Pollett's Cove. This was one of the few times we didn't have a plan or a timeline or a goal. We just wanted to get into the Cove and see where the coastal breeze takes us.
No matter how many times I've done it, or how prepared I think I am, there's something about the trail from Red River to Pollett's Cove that always poses a challenge. I think that first long, winding ascent (Heart Attack Hill) will always leave me gasping for breath and sweating so much I'd be embarassed if I were anywhere else at the time.
By the time I'd reached the top of hill, Kris and Matt S. were already forming a fair lead. I was in the middle of the pack, still sweating. The sun was beating down, and the day was steadily warming up. I reached Otter Brook in time to find Kris and Matt S. already starting on the next leg. I took the time to sit down and have a small drink. Eventually Dave, Sheena, and Matt M. caught up with me. This was fortunate as Dave quickly discovered I had torn a large hole in the left seat of my shorts. How embarassing! There I was flaunting my underwear to everybody! I quickly ducked behind a hill and changed into something a little more intact.
The next stretch of trail is somewhat easier, so I was cruising along at a good clip before I stopped for a little break. Dave and Sheena caught up and told me that Matt was starting to lag behind. They kept on and I waited for Matt. He had muscle pains in his leg and his discomfort was obvious. I followed behind him silently to make sure he would keep moving. I eventually lent him my walking stick as we made the initial descent towards the Cove.
That last hill before the Cove seems designed to slowly deliver the best view of the area as you approach. I was pleased to see that we were the first campers to arrive. It would later prove to be unusually quiet that weekend. Only 3 other parties were present in the Cove at any one time. As I made my way down the hill, I saw Kris and Matt S. make their way across the fragmented river. I stopped with Dave and Sheena at the base of the hill while we tried to decide where to camp.
After some discussion and much dilly-dallying, we chose our site and pitched our tents. Then, in keeping with our long weekend philosophy, we did absolutely nothing. It was great. Except for the slowly developing sunburns we were all getting. We like camping out in the meadow for the views and the breeze, which keeps the bugs away. The downside is the complete lack of natural shade. The afternoon sun is oppressive.
We rode out the afternoon as Kris discovered some damage to his toes. In treating some blisters he somehow made it worse, as the area on his toe was now bright red and causing him pain when he walked around.
The next day Sheena, Dave, Matt S. and I decided to explore up the Pollett's River. I've been to the Cove several times and this was the first chance I had to finally explore this river. Kris could not join us since his toes caused him considerable pain. Matt M. also stayed behind since he doesn't enjoy water all that much. We marched upriver. We had to resign ourselves very early to the fact that we were going to get wet eventually. After you reach that conclusion any river becomes easy to hike.
It wasn't long before we happened upon a second meadow along the river's edge. This one was home to a moose-hunting cabin that was locked down pretty well. The meadow was covered in morning fog, but once in a while you could catch a glimpse of the mountains that loomed above us. This meadow used to be home to a few farming families, evidenced by outlines and foundations in the grass. I envied whoever those people must have been, to live and work every day in such a place as Pollett's Cove.
A little snooping around revealed a footpath that went up a hill above the river. We followed this for some distance, anxious to see at least one moose. No such luck. The trail encountered a brook where we stopped for a break. The water looked inviting, until we tried to swim in it and my ankles went numb.
We followed the brook where it re-joined the Pollett's River and we continued on. Every stretch of the river was crystal clear and looked so inviting. We stopped for another break and tried to go swimming. Again to no avail. My skinny frame offers me no resistance to cold water. Dave, on the other hand, didn't hesitate to strip to his underwear and do a cannon-ball off a log. That image will haunt me forever.
From here we only continued a little further. We knew it was a lofty goal to try to reach the end of the river. But, no worries, this was a leisurely weekend. C'est la vie. We felt like turning back so we did. On the return trip Matt S. and I walked in the river. It became a bit of a sport in the sections where the current picked up. Nobody was permitted to go any shallower than ankle-deep or fall in. I wagered whoever fell the most would treat the other to dinner, and then I fell in. Luckily Matt S. fell in too and we broke even.
We arrived back at camp at mid-afternoon with the sun finally beating off the fog. It became obvious we were going to have to build some kind of shelter from the sun. Dave engineered a hasty shelter and we all huddled underneath, keeping body parts within the shade. There was much goofing off.
Eventually I had enough of lying around and made an attempt to swim in the ocean. The water was cold, but tolerable if you kept moving. Sheena couldn't handle it for very long, but Matt S. stuck with me. We took some time to drift down the coast and explore the shore. It was some distance when we stumbled upon a waterfall emptying out onto the rocky shore. It was no great chute, but we felt proud to have found it. So much so that Matt S., who was wearing the proper footwear, scampered up the rockface. This part of the shore was lined with high cliff faces, but in no time Matt S. was at the top and signalling that would walk back to camp from up there. I wished him luck. The terrain there is steep and thick with trees. Plus he had no shirt on. Ah, the recklessness of youth.
I walked back along the beach and Dave and Sheena looked at me puzzled. They saw me head out with Matt S. earlier. Well, I went up the hill where I expected him to come out, with his shirt and towel in my hand. Half an hour passed and still no sight of him. It should not have taken him so long. It was then that I saw him coming up behind me. He had scurried halfway up a mountain and come down on the other side! Ah, the recklessness of youth.
We sat down to a hearty supper and a quiet evening. The next day greeted us with still more sunlight. Dave, Matt S. and I decided to climb the bald mountain and maybe journey to a neighbouring peak along the coast. Everybody else stayed behind to devise ways to stay cool.
The trail up the mountain is challenging, but short. It only takes 45 minutes to reach the summit, but you'll be wheezing by the end of it. We reached the top and took a quick breather. Matt S. immediately found a discarded moose antler, which Dave decided would be a good thing to take back home with him. He tied it to his pack and we continued our exploration of the peak. There was still more uphill to be tackled, which we did. From there we tried to find some route to another nearby mountain peak, but the area was covered in thick, dead trees. They scraped against us painfully as we tried several times to poke our way through.
Realizing it was going to be very difficult, we returned to the spot where the trail arrives at the mountain top. From here we followed a different ridgeline south and took in the view of the Blair River valley. After sitting for a break, it was somehow decided that we should just descend the mountain by the most direct route. The mountain summit is quite round, so that it was hard to see the base of the mountain from where we stood. Yeah, we're stupid.
Matt S. bounded from rock to rock while Dave and I, both afraid of heights, held tightly to any grass or rocks that would tolerate our existence. The mountainside was terraced in just such a way that we would be able to reach the tree line and then have much more available to slow our fall. One mistake and we could have gotten down a lot faster.
After we reached the tree line we swung from branch to branch like drunk monkeys. While we were now safe from any serious falls, it was still very steep and took some time to reach the very base of the mountain. But when we did we emerged in the other farm meadow and turned to behold the enormous slope we had just descended. Yeah, we're stupid.
With Dave's antler still intact we returned to camp by mid-afternoon to find the others cowering under the hot sun. We erected another sun shelter which Matt S. and I took full advantage of, taking long afternoon naps while the others went upriver to find someplace to cool off. By the time I awoke the clouds were starting to come in. The sun began to disappear periodically and it threatened to rain. We made supper as the wind picked up and the temperature dropped. By the time everybody was tucked in for bed the first bolts of lightning struck out over the ocean. The lightning and the obscured sunset combined to produce eerie orange flashes over the water, followed by very low rumbling.
That same storm eventually hit land and brought the rain with it. As I fell asleep I found it a fitting end to the weekend.
In the morning we packed up our damp things and started our trek back to the trailhead. Kris felt he had to hurry in order to make the most out of his injured toe before it complained too loudly. Kris, Matt S., and Matt M. left us behind fairly quickly. I was still on my leisurely weekend and was in no rush. The morning was hardly underway when we all caught up with Kris at the trailhead before tidying up and heading out, moose antler and all.
From Matthew Hogg, halifax, NS
The trail to Pollett's Cove is linear, and runs 7.25K along the coast. It can be done as a day hike there and back; probably 3 hours in and 2 hours back, but why would you do that and miss out in the experience of being there in such a peaceful setting? I suggest staying two nights, to give a day to explore.
The trail itself is strenuous in places due to the climbing, rocks, and some exposure along steep terracing, especially under a heavy pack. Saying that, it's a very well built trail that needs no markers. If you have a dog, you'll be happy to know that there are several opportunities for it and you to get fresh water.
If you are driving from any distance to do this hike, it certainly is worth it, but you can make the trip go further by visiting Cape Breton for three or four nights. Do two nights in Pollett's Cove, and then move on to Meat Cove to a drive-in base camp, and day hikes a plenty. We have some of those trails in our Trailpeak database.
We traveled from PEI, so our initial night was at Laurie's Motor Inn in Cheticamp, where we lucked in on a whale cruise. It gave a close up view of what we saw out in the water as we camped on the hills overlooking Pollett's Cove the next day.
-Shannon Burt, East coast editor
Head to Cape Breton, crossing the causeway, and take your shortest route to Cheticamp. Keep going toward the National Park, (no need to pay a fee) and keep driving toward Pleasant Bay. (You'll exit the park again) and look for Red River Road on the left. Follow the pavement, and keep going when it turns to dirt. Follow it past the monistary and shrine, until the road's end, at a small parking lot that barely fits 7 cars. The trail goes in starting with the width of an ATV trail. You pass a yellow cottage landmark. Soon the trail narrows.
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Posted By: NorthernChinook
- Mon Jul 30 07:29:49 EDT 2012
CommentOne of the top trails in the area. Just a comment about the horses. Depending on where the owners choose to graze them they may not be present, sometimes we have found them at Cape St Lawerence/Lowlands Cove area. I haven't found them aggressive just curious although if your not use to horses you may find half a dozen curious horses intimidating I warning if camping these horses may decided to check out your campsite whilst untended , we watched as one young horse investigated a tent by stepping on it and proceeded some how to toss the contents of a pack that been left in the air. It wasn't driven off by yelling at it, I had to grab a stick and give it a good prod and drive it and it's friends a few hundred yards down a trail before they left. So if you return to a vandalized camp the bears aren't the only suspects.
Posted By: luger
- Mon Sep 12 12:33:23 EDT 2011
UpsideBeautiful views. Good workout for the legs but its totally worth it. Lots of great beach wood for campfires. Just remember to put it out when you leave. There were two camp fires still burning in two seperate spots while we were there, and no one around.
DownsideI just wanted to mention my dissapointment of all the garbage left by overnight campers, everything from empty cans, liquor bottles and beer bottles and cans, tents torn up and left. I hear the horses tore up some tents but it doesn't matter. Pack it in, Pack it out! It was disheartening to see.
Posted By: Balsac
- Thu May 12 09:31:29 EDT 2011
UpsideI've been coast to coast hiking all along the way, but there is no place like the cove. Sunset in august you can see whales and other sea life feeding just off shore.
DownsideThe hike being one. Although its listed here as being only 7 km it's actually closer to 14 km with all the ups and downs. The cows can be a pest by the end of the summer. I'd hike far upstream or make sure you purify your drinking water as the cows are notorious for leaving patties in it. The other thing that drives my nuts is the garbage. If ya pack it in pack it out. I pen a good portion on my time in there collecting mountains of trash, from tents, tarps cans, shoes, whatever you name it. I'll burn as much as possible in an ouuta the way spot in an attempt to make the place more enjoyable for others when they arrive
CommentI usually head in in early May for my 1st trip of the year. May is my favorite time of year. When pollett's is at it purest. I spent 10 days in there last May. Followed myna few more week long trips over the summer. May long weekend brings a crowd in. Never have I brought a tent. A few tarps and some imagination and you' ll be just fine. There is enough wood on the beach to make a suitable camp in little time. I'll try and add some pics and videos to this post to help give people a better idea of my adventures in here.
Posted By: The Big X
- Mon Jul 05 20:35:00 EDT 2010
UpsideSome of the most spectacular scenery in the Maritime provinces. The satisfaction in knowing you've hiked one of the truly isolated and wild trails in the region.
DownsideFor a heavy set fellow like me, or for someone under heavy pack an excruciating effort is required to pull this off as a day hike, mainly because of the many brutal hill climbs along the way. You will become intimate friends with pain.
CommentI consider this destination one of the "top shelf" trophies of my hiking exploits thus far. I did this on the July 1st weekend 2010 with my brother. EPIC. This is a must see destination for all those who are explorers at heart and are looking for a true adventure. The kind of scenery many people have only seen in movies. If you only plan to day hike make sure you start plenty early and bring lots of water (or purification tablets - there are plenty of fast flowing brooks along the way).
Posted By: smburt
- Mon Aug 24 09:02:48 EDT 2009
UpsideA relatively short but very well built trail with great views, and plenty of opportunities to explore, as the photos and stories re-tell.
DownsideWe had to get out a day early due to the coming hurricane (Bill)
CommentWe will return and stay two nights, and move on to Meat Cove for more Rugged Cape Breton flaire. This is a great experience, with no park or camping fees. If you visit, do your part to keep the area clean. The trail was spotless, though the beach wasn't so much.
Posted By: Seascaper
- Mon Aug 17 23:28:47 EDT 2009
UpsideSome of the best scenery in the province Well worth the hike
DownsideYou need to be in decent shape for this trek - especially for the first climb
CommentWe did Pollett's Cove in Aug/09. It's been on my to-do list for some time but I worried because I knew how challenging it was for the average hiker. Let me tell you, it was so worth the blisters, heart pounding and sweating profusely for those hill climbs. We camped the first night in Otter Brook because we didn't start until supper time. Then we hiked into Pollet's Cove from there the next morning and then all the way back out again. To my disappointment, we did not see any horses but to make up for it was the sweeping view that awaits you when you emerge from the bush. It is simply breathtaking and probably my most favorite backpacking destination yet - it's a MUST do!! PS I've added a few of my own photos here to show exactly what "Pollets Cove" is.
Posted By: msspider333
- Sat Jul 11 12:47:17 EDT 2009
Is this a hike you need to do and camp overnight? Or can i return in the same day?
Your "blog" was great! :)ANSWERS are in this forum: Polletts cove
Posted By: SoloJoe
- Thu Nov 30 22:31:08 EST 2006
Upsidebeautiful scenic views
DownsideOut of shape
CommentA must do!!!
Posted By: Pushkin
- Sat Sep 23 14:36:54 EDT 2006
UpsideThis is the most scenic trail I've ever hiked in Nova Scotia. After reaching the cove I climbed Bald Mountain following trails known only to moose and bear, I actually saw a bear way in the distance from about halfway up the mountain. At the top of the mountain was the best view I've ever seen in Nova Scotia, you can see the ocean on one side, and you can also look down on the neighboring mountains and canyons around you. And the best part of all was a waterfall way in the distance pouring itself over the side of a mountain into the Blair River.
DownsideCould be marked alittle better, particularly at otter brook where it's possible to wander a small cow path and get lost.
CommentHighly recommended to any hiker who loves a challenge and great scenery!
Posted By: prospector01
- Mon Jul 25 19:48:35 EDT 2005
UpsideCan be a challenging hike especially with a full pack. Semi wild horses and cows offers a minor element of danger.
Downsidelot's of fresh droppings on the trail
CommentI did the trail solo in summer of 2003. Packed too heavy (50lbs) and consumed too much beer in Cheticamp the night before. The first mountain ascent was tough,but becomes easier once at elevation. I actually almost gave up with the hot sun, heavy pack and hangover. The cove is beautiful and I highly recommend the hike. Be prepared for all weather conditions but pack light. Explore the rivers, there is a geo-cache hidden under a waterfall. I will do it again someday but hopefully with a travelling companion to share the load. the Buddhist temple "Gampo Alley" is an interesting side bar. I met some interesting internationals along the hike who came foe a retreat.
Posted By: snowfighter
- Tue Apr 12 01:24:34 EDT 2005
UpsideThis is a very scenic hike, lots of wildlife, eagles and moose.
Downsidenot a day hike with small children
CommentI hiked this trail in the mid 80's, in October, My kids were small they didn't make it to the end but stayed by a small waterfall. As I started down the last hill before the field with the brook in it I heard an engine and there was an ATC tearing up the field. That was a turn off. I found out later it belonged to the owner of the cabin and he brought it in by boat.