Terra Nova National Park: hikes and yikes

 

I was a little worried about Terra Nova Park Trails when I saw the dark-circled, bleary-eyed folk who staggered back into the Newman Sound Campground. Where on earth did they come from, I wondered? Consulting the map, we realized that they had probably taken the 35k Outport Trail. It is multi-day and has a rating of “difficult.” Replete with reputed panoramic views and more than one ghost settlement, it is a favourite of the young, hardy and brave. I say  brave because there were  so many posted, explicit warnings about equally young and adventurous bears.  Fortunately, there are also many other fine, more moderate trails to enjoy.

 

Carl and I did get in some excellent hikes. One of the great features of camping at the Newman Sound Campground is the interesting trail that somewhat surrounds the campground called Campground Trail. If you walk the entire trail, it is an easy one hour, 3k hike.  There are some spectacular views of salt-water beaches and moose-friendly bogs accessed through cool, damp forests.  The beauty of the trail design is that there are several access points to the campground itself. This means you can take the dogs for a quick jaunt and never really leave the vicinity of the campground. It seemed every time we took the dogs for a short walk, we discovered an interesting new feature of this trail. I noticed families would send their offspring to the trail for a little localized adventure while the parents got supper ready and downed a relaxing cool one.

 

We decided one fine morning to combine the Campground Trail with the 9.5 Coastal Trail. It was designated as easy to moderate. We felt it was mostly easy. There were lovely beaches that you could relax on and enjoy the famous “red chair” view. We discovered a quaint waterfall. There was also, occasionally, various and sundry behemoth cast-iron pieces of industrial boat-making equipment. These, we were told, are historical artifacts left to take their place amongst the fauna as a kind of testimony to the human impact on the history of the land. My engineer husband found these really interesting. This trail ends at the Visitor Centre.

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A stream, hiding behind a birch.

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All things die.

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The author, red-chairing it.

 

The Visitor Centre is one of the best interpretive places we have seen in a National Park. There are various rooms to explore inside which help the visitor to understand the natural history, Indigenous history and European settlement. My personal favourite was the demonstration of how much “browse” a moose eats on a daily basis. Yikes! I began to understand why moose grazing has a devastating impact on Newfoundland forests.  They are magnificent beasts but they do pose problems. Moose are not native to Newfoundland, having been introduced in the last century. Four moose were brought to Howley Newfoundland in 1904 and quickly adapted. There are now over 150,000 of their descendants relentlessly munching away and inconveniently placing themselves in front of the speeding cars of unsuspecting tourists. Moose are also, I might add, delicious. I resolved to feel less guilty about eating them.

 

At the Visitor’s Centre you can ask for a set of audio phones to take on the Heritage Trail.  I don’t think people do it that often because when I asked for a set, the young woman had to a) find a set, then b) find a set that worked. This took some time. It is worth doing though. It is a path with several stops which explains how a few families built ships in the cover. More than that, the voice of a young woman with a very thick, lovely Newfoundland accent, takes the listener though the day-to-day life of out port families through more than a hundred years. This was a life not for the feeble of heart. It was harsh and yet filled with celebration and unreasonable hope.  Newfoundlanders are a people whose culture bears some of those marks still.

We also decided to walk the Ken Diamond Trail in Glovertown, but will describe that experience in a separate blog. On a final note, there were an impressive number of guided walks at Terra Nova. If we had more time, we would have taken part in these. Guided walks in National Parks are not only informative and interesting, they put you into relational contact with other campers. One of the purposes of the National Park system is to make connection between peoples who have a love of nature, an appreciation of Canada and an affinity for camping, in all its varied forms.

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Trails

 

Malady Head Trail: 3.4 k/1.5 hours, moderate-difficult

Mill Cove Lookout Trail: 1.5k/30 minutes, moderate

Louil Hill Trail loop: 3.7k/1-1.5 hours, moderate

Southwest Brook: 4k/1-1.5, easy

Goowiddy Path loop: 8k/3-4 hours, moderate to difficult

Heritage Trail: .5/15 minutes, easy

Coastal Trail: 9.5k/3-4 hours, easy-moderate

Campground Trail loop: 3k/1 hour, easy

Outport Trail, backcountry: 35k/multi-day, difficult

Ochre Hill Trail: 5k/1.5k/2 hours, moderate

Sandy Pond Trail loop: 3k/1hour, easy

Dunphys Pond Trail: 10k/2.5-3 hours, moderate

Terra Nova National Park: a reintroduction

We were in our twenties the last time we camped at Terra Nova National Park. Carl and I had just started dating and were with our university friends for the May 24thlong weekend. Newfoundlanders are determined to camp on this weekend. Wild fluctuations in day-time and night-time temperatures at that time of year mean it is a shock-and-awe tenting experience. We slept in a pup tent, drank copious amounts of adult beverages and, in general, just celebrated being alive and finished with another term of post-secondary education. We therefore honestly couldn’t remember much about the park. Our interests in those days did not extend to hiking, assessing facilities and wondering about interpretive programs. We have always camped in Gros Morne when we are in Newfoundland because of proximity to Carl’s Mom. How would Terra Nova measure up to Gros Morne we wondered?

The first thing we had to do is decide which campground to inhabit. There are two main ones. We needed electricity and wanted to be handy to some good hiking trails so we chose Newman Sound Campground. Carl and I had a little bit of an argument as to whether this was the campground we all took residence in during that wild weekend so long ago. Carl thought it was. I reminded him there was only one in our group who had a car. Our friend Obes owned an ancient, tank-like Volvo with no brakes. Every time we had to make a daily beer run, he took a couple of guys with him in case he went into the ditch. They had to make several passes at the Traytown turn-off from the highway before he could get the Volvo slowed enough to manage the turn. I recalled that we camped as close as we could to Traytown to minimize the danger. You can’t beat the safety logic of 19-year-olds. That meant we would have been in the Malady Head Campground. Yes, that is the name of a real place. One thing you get used to in Newfoundland is colourful and strangely appropriate place names. The Malady Head campground is close to Traytown and Glovertown while the Newman Sound Campground is more centred in the Park, sheltered in the Newman Sound Inlet.

The Newman Sound Campground was beautifully laid out with easy access to everything you might need. It is remarkable how they manage to fit so many campers into the Campground without it seeming crowded or intrusive. In our Newman Sound Campground, there were raised gardens, bird houses and evidence of the craft-fruit of other facilitated children’s programs around the campground. There are child activity centres in the campground areas in which many interesting programs take place during the day. Terra Nova is also trying to develop a dark sky sanctuary, which I did not know until I saw the bat exhibit at the children’s resource centre. The park is a great example of “if you build it they will come with kids.” It was lovely to see and hear so many children and families camping together. This has not always been our experience in National Parks. The Park seems to have purposely arranged playgrounds, activity centres and trails such that mixed aged groups can all find something to do together. The shower areas and comfort centres were clean and well kept. There are laundry facilities and even a general store. The campground dumping station was positively industrial in scale – 4 well-spaced receiving stations.  Our only disappointment was that fire pits are only found in communal areas. This is to mitigate risk of forest fire. Central Newfoundland can get quite dry in the summer time.

As with many National Parks, there are a number of different eco-systems to explore: boreal forest, seashore, ghost remnants of a ship building village, woodlands, ponds, bogs and more. Hiking, kayaking, boat tours, canoeing and swimming are all possible in this Park.

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Visitor Centre interactive interpretive display.

Terra Nova has some informative, well-staffed and interesting interpretive centres at Sandy Pond including a Marine Exhibit and a very interesting self-directed audio tour around a very old ship-building site.

My mother-in-law is a Newfoundland West-Coaster and is therefore very attached to Gros Morne National Park. When Carl and I returned from our Terra Nova excursion she asked me in a tone weighted with expectation of the correct answer, “So, did it measure up to Gros Morne?” I replied that Terra Nova exceeded our expectations and was astonishingly beautiful in its own way.

How to Get There:

Presuming you have found your way to Newfoundland either by air or by ferry, you will need to take the Trans Canada Highway. If you took the ferry which lands at Port Aux Basque your ferry ride will be about 6 hours. You will need to travel east for about 8 hours. Gas stations are not plentiful so fill up when you can. If you took the ferry to Argentia your ferry ride will be about 13 hours, but your land trip to Terra Nova will be between 2-3 hours. Both ferries will require reservations. Make them well ahead of time. It is a sad sight to see tourists languishing on the edges of the ferry terminal parking lots while they wait for space on the ferry.

Contact Information:

Visitor Centre (Salton’s Brook): 709-533-2942

https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/nl/terranova

Fundy National Park: Acknowledging the Territory

Fundy National Park lies between the Saint John River system and the Petitcodiac River system. There are easy inland portage routes which joined these river highways. They were extensively used by indigenous peoples who would be both Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqiyik. The area would be included in the Peace and Friendship Treaties – unceded, signed by the Wabanaki. Many Canadians do not know what “unceded” means. When Europeans first arrived in the Maritimes Peace and Friendship Treaties were negotiated which created agreements around trade, peaceable relations and so on. These treaties did not cede land to any government of any country at any time.

 

Summer season is Pow Wow time. The public is invited to many events. It is a great time to learn and connect. WestJet Magazine had the most accessible article that I have read on Pow Wow etiquette, which is posted below. The article originates from Western Canada so bear in mind there may be other etiquette to be aware of for local Pow Wows throughout the country. In general, a good rule of thumb is don’t be a jerk. Put positively, be courteous, respectful and open to learning. It seems strange to have to say these things, but indigenous communities have to put up with an incredible amount of unintentional and intentional racism so it bears saying. If you are white and don’t know if you are racist or not, another good rule of thumb is to do a lot of listening. Not only will you will be surprised at what you will learn, you will really enjoy yourself and connect with some wonderful people.

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Elsipogtog First Nation Pow Wow (photo by NB Tourism)

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Elsipogtog First Nation PowWow (photo: NB Tourism)

The West Jet article:

https://www.westjetmagazine.com/story/article/a-guide-to-powwow-season-in-canada

A New Brunswick schedule of Pow Wows:

http://www2.gnb.ca/content/dam/gnb/Departments/aas-saa/pdf/POWWOW-Schedule.pdf

Fundy National Park: lessons from barnacles

When the kids were little, we would go on every guided walk/hike that was on offer. Ostensibly this was for their education. Truthfully, guided walks are enjoyable for all generations. Led by Park personnel, those walks always ended up being chock full of surprising facts and intriguing observations. You also get to meet and converse with your fellow campers who inevitably are from all over the world. It is always a good practice to take in a couple during your stay if you can manage it because it may transform how you view your natural surroundings. Sometimes an encounter can even transfigure your worldview.

 Fundy National Park is home to a variety of eco-systems and so offers a diverse selection of interpreted walks. Lake Bennet also has a guided canoe trip.  If you can only take in guided walk, do not miss the interpretive beach walk. The stroll will take place at very low tide so you can walk out quite far. Remember to wear your rubber boots! The guides tend to stay close to the tidal pools which look like salt-water puddles to the untrained eye. As you gather round and listen to the guide you begin to see that the Fundy tidal flats are home to an incredible array of creatures. It was once thought that the flats were devoid of life, even sterile. When biologists decided to take a closer look at the beginning of the last century, the diversity of crustaceans, fish, mammals and plants surprised them. The walks introduce you to a smattering of these creatures.

On these walks I love watching the transformation of people’s consciousness. They arrive, sloshing indiscriminately through puddles. By the end of the tour, they gingerly, respectfully pick their way through the mud. It is a delight to watch the wonder of children as they take small sticks, softly nudging tiny crabs into reluctant movement.

When you get a sense of the density of life on the flats, you want to walk lightly. It makes you slightly cringe to hear the crunch-crunch of barnacles meeting the bottom of your rubber boots. I learned on one of these walks that barnacles make a fateful decision. When they are miniscule, shell-less creatures, they swim freely around the ocean until it is time to set up a home for the next part of their life cycle. Then they must choose very wisely. When they finally find a spot, on a rock or under a boat, they excrete a glue that is tougher than any man-made glue on the planet. Attaching themselves to the object, they begin to construct a calcium-rich shell around themselves, complete with front-doors that open when the tide comes in and close when it is out. How horrible, I thought, to have chosen the rocks that people will walk on. Likewise, how sad to have chosen small rocks that get buffeted about by the waves, crushing them in the grind of pebbles and rocks. How fortunate is the barnacle that selected the sheltered side of large, inaccessible rocks. No wonder they are so huge, some approaching an inch in height. If you only ever get to choose once, a barnacle needs to choose well.

 

Barnacles by Chris Spencer (Flickr Commons)

Barnacles by Chris Spencer, Flickr Commons

It occurred to me that we humans are blessed with choice and chances for new beginnings and renewal. Although there are many things in life we do not have control over, there are daily decisions of small and large behaviors that we do get to choose. Today I presided at a funeral of a remarkable, humble woman, Roberta. She was of that generation that Tom Brokaw has referred to as the Greatest Generation. She was born in 1930, just as the horrors of the Great Depression were beginning to be visited upon the most vulnerable. When she was three years old her father left the family leaving her mother to raise her alone at a time when such

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Another friend you may meet on a guided walk at Fundy

 

circumstances not only bore real financial brutality but also social shame. Roberta lived through the Second World War and its aftermath. Throughout all of this hardship , or perhaps because of it, she determined to live a life of love and service to her community. She was devoted to her family, volunteered for a number of community groups, was faithful to her God and her church and was particularly interested in the promotion of the arts and literacy. She often said she was the luckiest person in the world. I found that an astonishing statement when I think of how she would describe the reality of her early years. When I listen to her children tell her life story, I cannot help but think that throughout her life she consistently made daily decisions to love and build up, rather than to resent and tear down. There was no situation, Roberta felt, in which a person could not start over in some way.

In life there are many things we do not get to choose. There are also many times we can pick ourselves up and try another rock.  We are not barnacles. For that we can be thankful.

 

 

Fundy National Park: How Those World-Wonder Tides Work (by Carl Yates)

The Tilting Tides of Fundy

When Linda and I went on our first anniversary tour as a couple, she was keen to take me to Fundy National Park where she had previously explored as a young child on camping trips with her family.  One of the big draws then, and still is, the amazing high tides of the Bay of Fundy that occur twice a day.  The twice a day occurrence of course is not unique but the height of the tides in the Bay of Fundy sure is.  When Linda and I did our tour, we met up with a friend of ours, Derek Dunphy, who went to university with us and had just graduated from engineering school.  As part of our reunion in the park, we decided to see what these high tides were all about and planned a day trip from the town of Alma to see how far we could go out on the flats after the tide went out.  Being smart engineers and recognizing the trek could be long and tiresome, we took a six-pack of beer with us to ensure our thirst would be quenched along the way.  After going quite a long distance [> 2 km out] in our rubber boots on a hot sunny day, we decided enough was enough and sat down for our first beer.  With our thirst quenched, we stood up and proceeded back to Alma with one beer gone and another in our hands.  As it was sunny, the walk back was slower, aided by the fact we had to have a swallow every now and then.  After finishing the second beer, we decided it was time for a proper break and found an old log to sit on and tell some war [university stories].  After the third beer, we were getting a little giddy and didn’t seem to have a care in the world.  That was until I looked behind us and saw water rapidly advancing towards us and headed for the beach.  Alas, the tide was coming in and coming in fast.  We had no choice but to pick up the pace and keep moving towards Alma.  By the time we reached the town, we had a good sweat on.  What appeared to be a tranquil resting place to share a beer was long under very deep Carl and Derek Dunphy astonished at the tidewater and we were tired.  The moral of the story is don’t underestimate the speed and extent of the Bay of Fundy tides as they have stranded many an unsuspecting tourist.  So, why are the tides so high you ask!  Well, it goes like this:

As mentioned above, the tidal cycle occurs approximately twice daily, or every 12 hours and 26 minutes to be precise. The Bay of Fundy is shaped like a funnel so as the water enters the mouth of the Bay, it continues up the bay to the narrower part of the funnel and climbs higher up the shoreline as it goes.  In addition, there is a phenomenon called the “seiche” effect that comes into play.  If you put water on a shallow tray and start the movement of water from one end, it is magnified in height at the other end due to the momentum of the water as it travels across the confines of the tray.  The Bay of Fundy is in essence, a rather long, shallow tray.  Now here is the fascinating part.  It just so happens that it takes about 6 hours and 13 minutes for water to travel from  the mouth of the bay to the end of the Bay at the Minas Basin and Petitcodiac River just downstream of Moncton.  In other words, it matches the natural tidal cycle between low and high tide.  So what does the unsuspecting tourist see from this combination of natural forces at work.  The tide rises and falls by as much as 53 feet at the inner part of the Bay.  As Fundy National Park is a little more than halfway up the Bay of Fundy, tides in the order of 30 feet are quite common.

 

Linda’s Note: The tides are a wonder worth exploring. Take waterproof boots and dress for cool weather when you are on the windy flats. Keep track of your time and where you are. Many a tourist has had to frantically climb cliffs in order not to be swept away by the sea. Sometimes, sadly, they don’t make it. Currently both Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are exploring ways to harness the massive energy power of these spectacular tides. Some companies have tried putting in turbines but the tides chewed them up and spit them back. The turbines are controversial because the Fundy tidal ecosystem is essential to an incredible variety of marine life. The Fundy sea bottom was once thought to be relatively devoid of life. Scientists have discovered (and you can too) a rich ecosystem uniquely adapted to salt water rushing in and out.

Fundy National Park: a place to breathe and heal (by Sarah Smart-Yates)

A heart-felt, wonderful post by our beloved daughter-by-marriage, Sarah.

One of the natural wonders of the world is Fundy National park. The tidal water flows in and out of the large basin in an eternal, rhythmical motion, producing the highest tides in the process. This daily ritual is predictable and scheduled. Something that you can count on, something you can expect. It is as if the bay of Fundy takes a deep breath each day as the water rushes in and out. During moments of crisis or sadness or chaos, having that dependable rhythm can be a source of constancy and strength. As the bay of Fundy breathes, it forces you to breathe with it.

I found this out a few years back when Matthew and I planned to take our young daughter there for a family vacation, complete with grandparents and uncles. This was to be our daughters first experience camping and we were all very excited to watch her explore the outdoors, something hard to do when you’re growing up in a city. Matthew and I were also very excited for this trip because I was 10 weeks pregnant, and we were going to share the news when we arrived. The day we were leaving I had my monthly doctors appointment to make sure everything was alright before leaving. Matthew stayed at home to pack the car and was going to pick me up afterwards and immediately embark on our east coast adventure. We had seen this “little bean” on a previous ultrasound, so we were hopeful that all was well. The doctor put the ultrasound wand to my stomach, but this time there wasn’t a twinkle of movement announcing the beating rhythm of a heart. There was just a little bean shaped baby devoid of movement. Unbeknownst to me, The pregnancy had died that week. It was a heartbreaking moment. When Matthew arrived moments later I had to crush his hopeful smile with the news that everything we had planned for had been drastically changed. We were heartbroken to lose the pregnancy. Instead of driving out east that afternoon, we found ourselves instead waiting in the hospital for surgery to eliminate the remains of what was to be my second child, our growing family, a piece of me. It was hard to breathe.

That night afterwards i laid on the floor next to my toddlers bed and just listened to her sleep. When morning finally came I announced we were still to go camping. We were still to go be with family. And instead of using the bay of Fundy as a place to announce our growing family, we decided to use it as a place to breathe and find the space to process what had just happened to us. We were going to heal.

Fundy National Park did not disappoint. We hiked on trails. We walked on the beach. We played on the playground. We ate marshmallows. We were with people and we also found space to be alone as well. We started the week in grief and shock and some pain, arriving only two days after my surgery. Yet over the course of the week we started the path towards healing. We were surrounded by a space that was bigger than me, And bigger then the personal pain that I was experiencing.

 

When you drive in the park they have a bunch of muskoka chairs, red, that look out at various natural wonders. They often came in fours; two big chairs, and two little. As if yearning for a family of four to come sit in them, those chairs would stand out to me all week as a reminder that we had just lost. But they also gave me a sense of hope. Just as the tides would always be there, so too would those chairs. It gave me hope that in our future we could come again and that our dream of four would be a reality for us when we did. I knew those views would wait for us. They were just too beautiful… the horizon over the water, the colour of the sands, the feeling of the wind, the smell of the ocean. The surroundings were just so big. Bigger than me. Bigger than my immediate pain. Constant. And dependable. Dependable when I needed it.

There is no one way to heal from a miscarriage. Just as there is no one way to walk through a time of grief. But I will forever be grateful for our decision to spend that first week of grief at Fundy National Park. The sky was big. The beauty of the surroundings was all encompassing. Not only was it a source of distraction in the moments that I needed it, it was also a source of comfort. The park breathes. And you can’t help but breathe along with it.

Smart-Yates' at Fundy, 2016

Top left: Ellie and her Dad explore the beach. Top right: Ellie shows her Mom some treasure Bottom: Ellie, Matt, Sarah

Fundy National Park Trails: great proximity, incredible variety

 

The great gift of Fundy National Park is the sheer variety of ecosystems contained in one National Park package. The variety of hiking trails reflects this diversity. There are over 100 kilometers of them to explore. What makes Fundy special, compared to other parks, is the proximity of the trails to the campsites. You do not have to travel very far to reach any of the trails. Over the years, the trails we chose reflected the abilities of family members. When little legs had to trot along, we chose shorter trails with an interesting payoff, like a small waterfall or a beaver dam. Dickson Falls and MacLaren Pond would be examples. As those legs grew longer, but attention spans seemed a little short, we would negotiate. During the mornings, we would hike for an hour or two and in the afternoon, we would go to the playground, swim in the pool, play games, go to Alma for a sticky bun. In later years an hour or allow two on their handheld video games might be the post-hike pleasure.

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The fourth generation is introduced to the saltwater pool by her grandmother (me) after some hiking in her baby trail-carrier. Loved the pool toys. Hated the cold water.

Many trails are between one or two hours. You can cover a lot of ground in two hours of hiking. In Fundy that may mean starting at a tidal pool and ending up on a mountain. We have hiked most of the trails and all are worth a trek. There are a few that are special to us because they combine beauty, intersecting ecosystems and local stories of bygone eras.

 

 

 

 

 

Coppermine

This trail is a 4.4 km loop that will take about 1.5 hours. It will take you through deep, green forest. Much of the trail is coastal so you get breathtaking views. Benches are periodically perched along the edge. Take the time to sit and periodically ponder. Some of the trail is old road that led to the copper mine. Eventually, the trail will take you to the old, caved-in entrance to a played-out copper mine. Years ago, there was old mining equipment scattered about which our sons loved to investigate. In these latter years of anxious lawyering, these have been removed, although some interpretive panels explain the significance of the mine.

Matthew’s Head

One of our camping rituals was to find the sign that said “Matthew’s head” and take a picture of our son Matthew underneath, pointing to his head. Besides this happy naming coincidence, the Matthew’s head trail is a wonderful trip that begins with a path through old homesteads and farmland. It is a 4.5 km trail that will take most hikers about 1.5 hours. There is an old foundation that has a riot of rhubarb growing around it, interspersed with once-domestic flowers that someone planted a hundred years ago to cheer their days. Once you make your way through the fields, the trail moves into wooded areas and coastal paths. A fantastic fern forest greets you at one point.  If you want a beach experience, you can go from Matthew’s Head to Herring Cove beach. Fun fact: when I was a girl, there were government run stables at Matthew’s Head where you could get trail rides on horses. We did this a number of times as children. I suspect our parents were grateful to get some “adult” time for those two hours. There was something quite magical about travelling those old settler trails on the back of a horse. I had one that almost bucked me off when it saw a porcupine mid-way up an adjacent tree.

Laverty Falls

This hike tends to be popular. It is 5km and will take about 2.5 hours. The Park rates it as moderate. It can be a little rugged in spots and there is a fair amount of ascending and descending which can be problematic for folks with knee problems. However, your reward is the lovely falls at the end of the trail. On a hot summer day, you can jump in its very cool, refreshing water, so bring a swimsuit or amphibious hiking apparel. There are two levels to the falls, so don’t get there and think you are done. If you go a little higher, you not only see some lovely white water, you also get a great view of the river.  I think every time we hike this one, we are surprised at the number of unhappy young women limping along in flip flops despite signs warning of the rigors of some parts of the trail.

Third Vault Falls

This hike at 7.4 km return trip at about 3.5 hours is rated as “difficult” and it is, in spots. At one point we were climbing flat rock face, which, with small Jack Russells in tow, is no mean feat. We attempted this one for the first time in 2016 with our son and his husband. We loved it. Lots of riverside trekking, rugged forest floors, great diversity of tree species and much bedrock. Carl, the geotechnical engineer found the riverbed and bedrock fascinating. Of course, at the end of the trail, the spectacular Third Vault Falls is the great gift. Again, take the time to climb a little higher and you will be rewarded with a wonderful view of the river

Third Vault Falls

Taking a break at the top of Third Vault falls

Unscripted Trails

Fundy has a lot of lovely abandoned roads and ghost villages of ancient hostels and tiny tourist cottages. In the sixties when the nation’s youth were wandering about finding themselves, a youth hostel came in handy. Only the rubble of the foundations of the youth hostels exist now. The road to the hostel begins opposite the golf course. We call this the “Emerald Road” because the asphalt has been colonized by moss, so you find yourself climbing through a tunnel of green, with a canopy of overgrown tree branches above and soft moss below. It is breath-taking. Carl says it is lovey to jog on early in the morning. The air, he says, is absolutely saturated with oxygen. The preponderance of bear scat can be a little unnerving. I tell myself that Atlantic Canadian bears are small and shy. When you take these little unscripted hikes, you can meet some interesting people. We came upon university students counting fish from the river that meanders alongside the golf course in parts and were able to ask them a few questions about their research. We often forget that National Parks are places where ground-breaking research of our natural world takes place.

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Scientific researchers taking a break from fish counting

Note: another post about fascinating tide walks will be forthcoming.

 

Easy Trails

Caribou Plain: 2.1 km loop,  60 – 90 minutes (forest, wetland)

MacLaren Pond: .5 km loop, 15 minutes, (forest, pond)

Shiphaven: 1.0 return trip, 30 minutes, (forest, coast)

 

Moderate Trails

Black Horse: 4.4 loop 1.5-2 hours (forest)

Coppermine: 4.4 km loop, 1.5 – 2 hours (forest, coast)

Dickson Falls: 1.5 km loop, 30 minutes (forest, brook)

Dobson Link: 2.6 km one way, 60 – 90 minutes (forest)

East Branch: 5.6 km loop, 2-2.5 hours (forest)

Herring Cove Beach: 1.0 km return trip, 1.5 hours (coast)

Kinnie Brook: 2.8 km return trip, 1.5 hour (forest)

Laverty Falls: 5 km return trip, 1.5 hours (forest)

Maple Grove: 8.0 km return trip, 1.5 – 2 hours (forest)

Matthews Head: 4.5 km return trip, 1.5 – 2 hours (forest, coast)

Point Wolfe Beach: 1.2 km return trip, 40 minutes (forest, coast)

Tracey Lake: 14km return trip, 5 hours (forest, wetland)

 

Difficult trails

Bennet Brook: 15.4 km return, 5-6 hours (forest, river)

Black Hole: 11 km return trip, 4 hours (forest, river)

Coastal (East): 6.4 km return trip, 3-4 hours (forest, coast)

Coastal (West): 13.8 km return, 5-6 hours (forest, coast)

Foster Brook: 8.8 return trip, 3-4 hours (forest, river)

Goose River: 15.8 return trip, 5-6 hours (forest, coast0

Marven Lake: 16 km return trip, 5-6 hours (forest, wetland)

Moosehorn: 4.8 km one way, 2 hours (forest, river)

The Forks: 6.8 km return trip, 3-4 hours (forest, river)

Third Vault Falls: 7.4 km trip, 3-4 hours (forest, brook)

Tippen Lot (North): 4.6 km return trip, 3 hours (forest, wetland)

Tippen Lot (South): 3.8 km return trip, 5-6 hours (forest, wetland)

Upper Salmon River: 17.6 km return, 7-8 hours (forest, river)

Whitetail: 11.4 km return trip, 4-5 hours (forest)

Fundy National Park Trails

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fundy National Park: Getting There

Fundy National Park: Getting There

As you might expect, Fundy National Park is on the Bay of Fundy, the southern coast of New Brunswick. The Bay of Fundy separates the province of Nova Scotia from the province of New Brunswick. The Bay is the site of the largest tides in the world, one of the world’s great wonders (more about the mechanics of that in a later post by Carl, the engineer). Both provinces are currently trying to figure out how to harness the power in those cyclical walls of water. So far, the Bay has simply chewed up and spit out any kind of turbine put in her. The Bay of Fundy is a crucible of incredible bio-diversity and adaptivity by flora, fauna and humans.  You will enjoy getting the travel to the Park.

Wpdms_nasa_topo_bay_of_fundy_-_en

By Decumanus at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11123462

The good news is that New Brunswick has quite good highway systems now. In the olden days, part of the adventure of getting to the Park was wondering if you would survive the drive. Of prime importance in those days, was choosing a route with the least possibility of crashing into another vehicle while attempting to avoid gargantuan potholes. No more! In the north-eastern parts of New Brunswick we noticed significant buckling and rutting of the asphalt. This is due to heavy truck traffic. However, the southern roads are quite passable for people towing RV’s. In order to get to the Park by wheeled things, you have two possibilities of approach. You can come through the north end of the Park, or you can approach it from the south east.

We have almost always come from Nova Scotia, so we approach the Park from the east. From Moncton, you just need to follow all the signs for Fundy National Park heading southwest on Highway 114. On this route, which follows a coastal trail, there is much to see including mixed Acadian forests and old farmlands. You can often actually observe the movement of the tide while you travel toward the Park. There are many restaurants, outfitters, kayak tour-centres, gift shops and interesting family-run enterprises along the way. Quaint villages are replete with very old buildings that used to house some of Canada’s oldest institutions such as banks and early railway centres. Some houses have long since been abandoned. These have a haunting beauty which I always find strangely compelling. We turned a corner one time to see an ancient house, long abandoned, its shakes faded to almost a white-grey. Faded gingham curtains, bottoms shredded from stark winter winds, blew gently out of an upstairs window. I asked Carl to stop, no mean feat when towing an RV on those narrow roads. Rhubarb and lilacs rebelliously surround the house. I stood in front of the house and was strangely delighted to see an old iron bedstead and night stand just beyond the curtains. Could I see dishes on it? What, I wondered caused the sudden abandonment of such a once-beloved home? You see all kinds of things just waiting to tell you their story on this route.

Along this route you will also encounter the  Hopewell Rocks. This is a much visited, famous attraction and is really quite something to see up close. Book off at least two hours if you want to see the “Flower Pots.” These are heaps of rock sculpted by the relentless tide. If you have a full day to spend, you could also take a kayaking tour, but these have to be timed with the tide.

Hopewell_Rocks_Provincial_Park..8

By XeresNelro – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=65339836

If you come through from the north, chances are you have will have come from Fredericton. If so, to get to the Park, you will need to head east on the TransCanada (number 2) highway, turning south at exit 365 onto Highway 10 to Sussex, which we discovered has a decent hospital, should you unfortunately need one. Then head northwest on Highway 1 turning east on Highway 114 at exit 211 to the Park. Frankly, although New Brunswick is always beautiful, we have not found this approach very, well, interesting.

Whether you come from the north or the east, be sure to stock up on groceries before you enter the Park. There is only a rudimentary grocery store in Alma and you will pay top dollar for supplies there. Also, although New Brunswick is quite good at fencing off the highways so that carsand moose can avoid annihilating each other, there is still some risk of moose-strike. Remember, you may kill the moose with your car/truck which is bad enough, but you will not fare well either. Avoid travelling at night if you can.

Finally, it is also worth noting that New Brunswick is Canada’s only truly bilingual province. As such, you can almost always receive a warm welcome and services in French or English.

 

 

 

 

Fundy National Park: Beatles and world peace

 

Don’t you know it’s gonna be alright

Desperate for any kind of verbal signal beyond a sigh, we promised him a fire and s’mores. It was the summer of camping with sullen teenagers in our first, tiny, popup truck camper. We gave them their own tent for independence and privacy for whatever it is that teen boys do on their own. That summer, the boys fought so much, we had to camp with them separately. We entrusted the other with my mother, lest there be wild parties held in our absence.  The week before camped in Fundy, we had taken Matthew to Labrador.  He was seventeen and in no mood to recreate with his parents.

 

I offered Shane an evening of s’mores. I began eating “healthy” that summer. No sugar, not much booze and, instead, the addition of whole grains and a lot more vegetables. I had hoped for more energy and a lifted mood. Mostly, I craved sugar nonstop. If ‘smores appeared that night, I was pretty sure candy bars would be my breakfast, lunch and supper for the rest of the vacation. This offer was no little sacrifice on my part. That afternoon we picked up the marshmallows, chocolate bars and graham crackers in the only grocery store in Alma.

 

Fundy National Park seemed strangely devoid of campers that summer. So, we were surprised when we returned to our campsite to find that we had neighbours. To our right a couple in their forties from Quebec was setting up their tent. We waved and nodded whenever they turned toward us. When I encountered the woman at the washroom, I said “Hello, nice sunny day.” She looked at me with a serious expression and spoke some quick words in French, then quickly retreated back to her campsite. About an hour later the most ancient of Volkswagon campervans pulled into the campsite across from us. It had American licence plates. To our astonishment, Mama Cass, Brian Doherty and their thirteen-year-old son emerged. At least, that is what I shouted out to Carl. Alas, it was not. He agreed, sipping his beer, that the trio bore a resemblance to what could be expected in an alternate universe, had Brian requited Cass Elliot’s love. We three watched those three put up a very old canvas tent. Despite their cheery flower-power van, they too, seemed awfully serious.

 

It seemed a sullen kind of day. So be it, I thought. Bring on the s’mores.

 

When all the tents had been put up, both sets of neighbours stretched themselves out on lawn chairs. The French couple had state-of-the-art suspension chairs with cup-holders. The Americans had webbed, wobbly ones. The sun was out, at least, and there was a modicum of civility in the neighbourhood. We settled in, casually observing each other in sidelong glances. The Quebec man got out of his chair, fished around in his sports car for something, rolled down the window and closed the door. The unmistakable words “Writer, writer, writer…” drifted through the air. He had put on the Beatles, Paperback Writer. We held up our beer in approval.  Shane emerged from his tent-lair and the American Hippie Gothic trio across the way turned their heads toward the Quebecer campsite and nodded.  Acknowledging the nods of approval, the gentleman leaned in and cranked up the sound. We jumped off our chairs as did the Americans.  Everyone, even the teens, were dancing on their own campsites.

morguefile 0001062135514

morguefile 0001062135514

It turned out that all three families had brought the new Beatles CD set camping with them. For much of that week, the Beatles filled the late afternoon soundscape. One evening we ate s’mores while listening to Back in the USSR. We recalled for Shane the punky audacity of those four Liverpool boys who dared to sing that there might by something fun and interesting about the USSR at a time when everyone in the West was supposed to hate the Soviet Union as an evil empire made up of drone-like evil people.

 

I once read a theory that the Iron Curtain fell, not because of Ronald Reagan, economic pressure or world sanctions. Instead, some young people discovered the Beatles and created their own bootleg copies to distribute. When they saw what the “Demon West” had produced, a million questions about the unnecessary distance between peoples and economies began to surface. Those questions cracked the foundation of the Berlin Wall.

 

I felt the Beatles had done that for us in our little camping neighbourhood microcosm. We did not all become fast friends or party together. Rather, we engaged each other in friendly, funny, small moments as we shared communal living spaces and equipment at the Fundy Park Campground. Sometimes we could only communicate through basic hand gestures and halting French/English. However, we respected each other’s language and cultural differences because a common love of the Beatles somehow made awkward conversations possible. I think this is one of the many reasons why I love National Parks. They make these kinds of conversations and encounters possible.

smores by 305 Seahill (flickr commons)

“S’mores” by 305 Seahill (Flickr Commons)

 

 

Fundy National Park: an eco-smorgasbord

Fundy is a National Park worth coming back to, even unto the third generation.

I began camping in Fundy National Park at the age of twelve. Camping was important in my family. My father came to Canada from the Netherlands as a young boy after WWII. He fully invested emotionally, psychologically and physically in this country. When he turned eighteen he joined the Royal Canadian Airforce. He met my mother a few years later after befriending her brother. They married and began a family. As an adult, he insisted my siblings and I take part in those things he felt that Canadians did, which included hiking, fishing and camping. My mother was not so keen. Her childhood included times of deep poverty which made the idea of minimalist sleeping, eating and struggling with flimsy shelter seem ridiculous and vaguely, uncomfortably familiar. In particular, she really hated tenting in those smelly, mouldy canvas tents which never seemed to be erected without much cursing.  She loved us, so she endured, managing to avoid camping-reality by immersing herself in murder-mystery novels.

One day, I disembarked from the Junior High bus to find an old, Bell telephone van in the driveway. Dad had put a bid on one and became the proud owner of this strange, clearly once heavily utilized blue van. He had a plan. By himself, with the occasional help of some inquisitive, sometimes incredulous neighbours, he cut off the top, extending it upward by three feet. He added a tiny fridge, some bunks and a collapsible table. He painted this Franken-van the colours of the Dutch flag. Dad grandly opened the side doors one day, declaring it finished. He proudly named it his “Blue-assed Baboon.” He did this, I think, partly because he could not keep himself from inventing weird things, but also because he loved my mother and hoped she would come to like camping as much as he did. I am not sure she ever got there, but camping was never quite the same after that. It improved in some ways and became more complicated in other ways.

One thing that it improved was our ability to range farther during our family vacations. One of the first really long trips we made in it was to Fundy National Park. We liked the Park so much we returned. I fell so in love with this Park that Carl and I decided to spend our first post-marriage vacation together there. He fell in love with it too.  Although, there were some very amusing moments for this born-and-bred Newfoundlander as he experienced life off the rock for the first time (more about that later). When we had children, we would often camp at Fundy feeling it was well worth the long trip. Now our children go there as adults, enriching their children with this same intense camping experience.

 

Why is Fundy so special? Fundy National Park has many radically different ecosystems packed into a relatively small space of a Park. The Park’s compact size means you can experience and explore them all. Fundy is home to the world’s highest tides, finalist for one of the seven Natural Wonders of the World. The Park has guided beach walks or you can walk out for kilometres and explore the fascinating tidal flats on your own. When you tired of tides, there is a unique blend of forests on the cliffs and mountains which are part Acadian forest and part Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region forest. If fields and grasses are your thing, you can find trails through those too. Fundy National Park has a lovely salt-water swimming pool, a beautiful golf course, groups of chalets and access to lake kayak/canoeing as well as sea-kayaking tours. There are hiking trails for every skill set and environment preference including journeys through forests, sea-side, mountain, riverside and waterfalls. Fundy Park is open year-round, although we have never been brave enough to winter camp (yet).

Fundy_National_Park_(8083106376) James Bates pic

pic by James Bates (Flickr Commons)

Accommodations include a variety of tenting sites, RV sites, chalets, yurts and oTENTiks. Care needs to be taken with the latter, as they are perched on cliff edges. Any family with toddlers or disobedient, unrestrained dogs would do well to avoid them. Chignecto North and Headquarters Campgrounds are well appointed with showers and shelters. We have found that there are often restrictions on campfires during the summer. However, Headquarters Campground is more likely to allow them because of their proximity to fire-fighting facilities. If you need a campfire, camp there.

There are a few stores in the nearby town of Alma, but they only contain the rudimentary things needed for camping and refurbishment of basic food. So, bring lots of food with you. There is a great seafood store with wonderful lobster and good scallops. One tradition we have is going to the Kelly’s Bakery, “Home of the World Famous Sticky Bun.” Truly, those sticky buns are the most delicious things on this planet. Don’t get one until the day you are leaving the Park because if you get them when you arrive, you will just dream of them every single day until you have one every single day and then you will leave a much larger person than when you came. So, trust me, wait.

My parents never really camped after we became older teens. However, they did plant those love-of-camping seeds in me. Now, my children and grandchildren are growing into their own deep love of camping. We keep coming back to Fundy and I suspect we always will. It always feels like a reunion of sorts. To honour my mother, I occasionally bring a murder-mystery to read.

Fundy National Park covered bridge

New Brunswick is the only province with well-preserved covered bridges. (Pic by Milo, Marko, Ana and Aleska – Flickr Commons)

Fundy National Park is located in New Brunswick which is Canada’s only truly bilingual province. Therefore, services are handily offered in good quality French and English.

Headquarters

PO Box 1001, Alma

NB E4H 1B4

Visitor Centre/Headquarters: 1-506-887-6000

www.parks.canada.gc/fundy