I am proud to say that my daughter is 3-years-old and has already been to three National Parks. On the list for this year, as posted here, was Cape Breton Highlands National Park. The park is incredibly vast with so much hiking to offer. What shocked me though is that it only has a single area for backcountry camping: Fishing Cove!
The hike to Fishing Cove is described as an “8 km hike down to the rugged coastline cradled at the base of MacKenzie Mountain.” It was indeed a rugged hike! The 8 km hike was no way near comparable to the 7 km of the Skyline trail, which was level, even, simple, and boardwalked most of the way. Fishing Cove was really more like the kind of hiking we were looking for complete with switchbacks, steep climbs, lots of roots and rocks on the terrain, and of course, wildlife!
So, how did we do this arduous 8 km with a 40 pound child and carry everything we needed for a night of camping?
Good question! Our 3-year-old is exceptional on the trails. She has the confidence and physical strength to walk long distances and to surmount obstacles, however I don’t know any 3-year-old who can hike 8 km in a day without help let alone on steep trails! Soo, we had to carry her approximately 80 % of the trek. To make this possible, my partner carried her on his back in a mei tai (a soft kid carrier), and I carried everything else. We initially tried to strap some items onto the kid carrier as well but it proved to be too heavy and awkward. Because not all of our gear is lightweight yet (such as our tent, which weighs over 8.5 pounds!), I carried about 45 lbs in my backpack. This included food, tent, cookware, clothes, sleeping bags (2 for the 3 of us), first aid, drinking water, etc. Wearing the toddler, while lighter, proved to be much more tiring than a heavy load in a well-fitted pack.
The hike was a fantastic level of challenge for fit parents with wee ones looking to get into the backcountry! The trail was gorgeous!
There was so much wildlife on the trail and in the cove: moose (be prepared to respond appropriately!), pheasants, toads, snakes, squirrels, seals, whales! The trail is covered with moose scat, and moose are observed often. We did not see any signs of bear on this trail. We saw a family of pheasants walking on the trail ahead of us. And in the cove, we observed seals, whale spray, and thousands of tadpoles metamorphosizing into froglets! This was very fun to see, especially for a 3-year-old!
My recommendations/observations for this trail:
*kid carrier is necessary
*bring trekking poles for the climbs!
*pack a swimsuit for the gorgeous cove! We ended up skinny dipping!
*there is a bear hang, which we used, but it is far too close to the ground
*the outhouse was really nasty!
*there is one bear-proof garbage can at the outhouse, but it was left overflowing when we arrived! Be prepared to pack it out!
*the tent platforms may have rope left attached to them for securing your tent without pegs, however I recommend bringing guidelines for your tent!
*you may end up singing Dun-na-na-na-na-na MOOSE POOP a lot on the trail to occupy your wee one! Haha!