Ingonish, NS

The rain marches in from the southwest and treads heavily on Cape Breton Island. Dark pines, dark water, dark granite, dark skies. Gloom suits the empty landscape and causes the few white buildings to glow as if surrounded by a corona. The Trans-Canada parkway merges down to a thin, black hose of a road that winds through monotonous forest. Progressing east, the ambiguously Scotch-Irish accent becomes thicker and unpronounceable Gaelic place names appear on road signs. The quality of roadside baked goods increases proportionally as locals become indecipherable: tea cakes, oat cakes, molasses biscuits—all are world-class. Hitchhikers, unfazed by rain, walk along the highway, four pale Anglos and one determined-looking Native American with a warmup jacket and a black garbage bag. Along with one or two native curio shops, he is the only reminder that this isn't Scotland. The slop-slopping of his soggy boots on pavement resonates as a persistent tap-tapping on the inside of one's skull, a sound that banishes Celtic romance and darkens the landscape with a gloom surpassing the heaviest clouds.