My first inkling of what to expect came when I stopped at the Wreck Cove General Store, still about two hours away from Cape North. When I told the man behind the counter where I was headed and that I'd be staying in the hostel, his face lit up. "Oh, Bricin's place," he said. "Bricin is a character. Call him Striker." I was a bit leery of calling a stranger names for fear that it might be an insult, but the man assured I would be okay.
When I finally arrived at the hostel and stepped inside, I was pleased to see that it seemed clean and inviting. When a rather large young man stepped out of a room to greet me, I said, "you must be Striker." He laughed and said, "ya, that's me." I was relieved that he didn't seem to be insulted.
Striker (Bricin Lyons), told me that he and his partner, Patricia Sauer came to the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island from the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia last September. Bricin stated that he fell in love with the place after visiting the area years earlier. It wasn't only the friendliness of the people and the beauty of the place that captured his attention, it was the long, downhill stretches of highway in the highlands that brought him there in the first place. You see, Striker is a long-boarder. If you are not familiar with the long-board, it is basically a skate board on steroids. And long-boarders are those crazy people that you might see flying down a mountain road at speeds up to and sometimes in excess of 100 km/hr.
Striker told me that he initially approached Patricia's father and told him of his plans to move to Cape Breton and that he would only proceed if her father agreed to make the move with them. Her father agreed. So, Striker and Patricia bought the 100 year old church, packed up their two children, Billie and Cassius (Cash), moved to Cape North and opened the hostel with, he noted, considerable help from the international long-boarding community. Striker is well known in the community and travels back to British Columbia every year to organise his long-boarding event, the longest such event in the history of the sport. Money from the sale of tee shirts in Australia helped fund renovations and friends that came from all over provided the labour.
The hostel is open all year long and serves as a great staging spot for all kinds of activities such as cross-country skiing, snow-shoeing, hiking, bike riding, canoeing, whale watching, touring and of course, the Celtic Colours Festival. During the season from May to July, Striker buys fresh lobster off the boat each night and offers them to his guests for a very reasonable price.
Patricia is a very warm and friendly woman who obviously enjoy's the lifestyle of operating a hostel while raising her children surrounded by nature and the beauty that is the Cabot Trail. While I was there, Patricia spent considerable time planning a birthday party for her son Cash including painstakingly constructing a pinata for the big day. She made sure her daughter got to and from the school bus, socialised with guests and looked after the over-all day to day operation of the hostel.
Striker told me that he worked the night shift which included stock piling enough wood to keep the fire pit aflame every night and socialising and entertaining guests that gathered around the fire.
The fire pit is where I had one of many great experiences on this particular trip. My first day at the hostel was drawing to a close; I was enjoying a beer and chatting with other guests. Out of nowhere, six hunters (moose hunting season was in full swing) came into the hostel still dressed in their hunting gear. They had obviously had a few beers, no doubt celebrating the moose kill earlier in the day. They were driving by and just wanted to check the place out. They were very friendly and we all ended up at the fire pit chatting over some cold ones. Out of the blue, one of them said, "hey, we have the moose heart in the truck. Who wants to eat it." All hands immediately went up. He went to the truck and returned with a piece of meat as big as any roast I've ever seen. Work quickly began on setting up a grill on two logs standing on end and the moose heart was cooked to perfection. It was delicious. Patricia even invited one of the hunters into the kitchen where he fried a slab of heart in a pan with onion and spices. That was what I considered to be an act of generosity and was just one example of what I experienced many times while on the island. The pics below tell some of the story of the moose heart feast.
Not if, but when I go back to the Cabot Trail, I will stay at the Highlands Hostel.
You can also check out some of Bricin's long boarding adventures with a google search of his name.