A hos­tel en­vi­ron­ment

BC fam­ily treks their way to Cape North to start a new life run­ning a hos­tel in a for­mer church

The Victoria Standard - - Front Page - SEAN MAC­DOUGALL

Bricin Lyons and his part­ner, Pa­tri­cia Sauer, are wel­com­ing trav­ellers to their home at the top of the is­land. The cou­ple opened the High­lands Hos­tel last year af­ter pur­chas­ing the old Cape North Pres­by­te­rian Church.

Although the build­ing was re­stored in­side, the cathe­dral ceil­ings are still lined with the orig­i­nal wood pan­elling when the church opened in 1928. The old wooded in­te­rior, along with the breath of life from the cou­ple, has trans­formed the church into a lit­tle get­away on the Cabot Trail.

Lyons, a re­tired pro­fes­sional long­board racer of 20 years, first came to the is­land 13 years ago on a trip, ex­plor­ing all the cul­ture and peo­ple that Cape Bre­ton had to of­fer. Eleven years later, he re­turned with Sauer, their two chil­dren, three-year-old Cas­sius and seven-year-old Bil­lie, and Sauer’s fa­ther Peter.

Leav­ing their co-op­er­a­tive Van­cou­ver apart­ment for the vastly con­trasted set­ting they live in now wasn’t easy, but Lyons said he had a lot of help from the in­ter­na­tional long­board com­mu­nity.

Garner­ing help from as far away as Aus­tralia, Lyons and his fam­ily ren­o­vated the main floor and up­per lofts to house six bunks and a pri­vate room with a queen­sized bed. The church is now not only their hos­tel, but their home as well.

Their next step is to ren­o­vate the base­ment of the church, where 12 ad­di­tional beds will re­side. When fin­ished, the base­ment will more than dou­ble the hos­tel’s ca­pac­ity.

While the hos­tel’s bunks have been fill­ing up since it opened, the busi­ness does face an is­sue with wa­ter. Cur­rently, the hos­tel re­lies on an on-site well that is only 12 or 13ft deep. Lyons is wor­ried it will not pro­vide enough wa­ter to sup­ply a full com­ple­ment of guests. The cou­ple con­serves wa­ter when­ever pos­si­ble and has posted signs up around the hos­tel to en­cour­age guests to do the same.

De­spite the hur­dles, Lyons and Sauer still wel­come trav­el­ers with an open door. When in sea­son, the cou­ple hosts lob­ster or crab boils with guests and reg­u­larly brings in lo­cal mu­si­cians to play in the liv­ing room. They have adorned the trees be­hind a hand-carved cross in the yard with a se­ries of ham­mocks for guests to lounge in. The back­yard area also has an out­door firepit.

The fam­ily is quickly lay­ing down roots in north­ern Cape Bre­ton. Bricin vol­un­teers on the North­ern Vic­to­ria Com­mu­nity Cen­tre com­mit­tee, and the kids, Cas­sius and Bil­lie, re­cently par­tic­i­pated in a ju­nior nat­u­ral­ists day camp in Cape Bre­ton High­lands Na­tional Park.

To ex­pe­ri­ence the hos­tel first-hand, check out the church at 29295 Cabot Trail, down the road from the North High­lands Com­mu­nity Mu­seum, or visit high­land­shos­tel.ca.

Photo by Sean Mac­dougall / The Vic­to­ria Stan­dard.

The Lyons/sauer fam­ily mo­torhome, lov­ingly called the F-bomb, sits along White Point beach. The RV has seen many kilo­me­tres across Canada and the United States at­tend­ing long­board races and events. It now serves as lo­cal trans­port to bring guests stay­ing at their hos­tel to lo­cal nat­u­ral at­trac­tions.

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