By Laura Jean Grant - Cape Breton Post
SYDNEY — Ten years has meant lots of change — some good, some bad — for Cape Breton’s hiking trails.
© Submitted photo
A photo taken by “Hiking Trails of Cape Breton” author Michael Haynes on the Roberts Mountain Trail in the Pleasant Bay area.
That’s what hiker and author Michael Haynes discovered over the course of several months while doing the research and legwork required to produce an updated, second edition of “Hiking Trails of Cape Breton,” which is set to be officially released Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Knox Hall in Coxheath. The book is a followup to the first edition which was published in 1999 and a revised edition that was released in 2002.
“Quite a few trails in Cape Breton have disappeared,” said Haynes. “I’m pleased with the trails that are in the book in many cases, but I’m disappointed that there were some places that somehow seemed as if they had stood still or even gone backwards in the last 15 years.”
As an example, Haynes said the Cape Auguet Trail in Isle Madame has deteriorated to the point where he couldn’t include it in his book, describing its condition as “dangerous” at some points.
“It’s already wreckage, and it’s less than 10 years later,” he said. “That was very disappointing because it’s a beautiful area.”
Haynes said several other trails that were in the first edition did not make the second edition including those at Strathlorne Forestry Complex, Pringle Mountain, Old Branch Road, and Marble Mountain. Reasons for their exclusion range from the trails being abandoned or unusable, to others that have been impacted by coastal erosion.
On the flip side, Haynes said there’s plenty of good news stories on Cape Breton hiking trails.
“The trails inside Cape Breton Highlands Park are probably built to the highest standard of any in Nova Scotia, certainly, and maybe in Atlantic Canada. They’ve done a lot of great work to improve their trails and their trail signage,” he said.
A trail along an abandoned rail line on the west side of Cape Breton is also a positive development, according to Haynes.
“That abandoned rail line, just by itself, has almost doubled the amount of managed trail in Cape Breton Island, and that is built to a superb standard so that’s great,” he said.
In total, 40 trails are featured in the new edition of his book, down from 50 featured in the first edition. Haynes said he did his best to represent as many regions of the island as possible, as well as offering readers a wide variety of trails in terms of distance and difficulty.
For each trail featured, Haynes gives detailed information on trail access and route descriptions, as well as the basics like GPS co-ordinates, mobile phone coverage, maps, distance, and difficulty ratings.
“My book is not designed for the experienced person at all, an experienced person doesn’t need it, an experienced person has their own opinion,” he said. “It’s designed for that mass of people ... who have forgotten how to get out there, and sadly there’s more of us then we realize.”
Having hiked every kilometre of every trail featured in the new edition just last year, Haynes encouraged people to get out and explore Cape Breton’s trails for themselves.
“These represent some of the very best hiking experiences available in the Maritimes and I am confident that the 500 kilometres of walking available should provide you with many hours of enjoyment,” he wrote, in concluding his preface of the book.
The release event in Coxheath is sponsored by Hike Nova Scotia and is free and open to the public. Books will be available for purchase at the event.
Haynes is the author of numerous trail guides, including “Hiking Trails of Nova Scotia,” “Trails of Halifax Regional Municipality,” and “Hiking Trails of Ottawa, the National Capital Region and Beyond.” He is also a regular contributor to radio programs, and has written articles for various publications.