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.

Vacation Fundy and other pictures 2010 030

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.

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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

 

 

Gros Morne National Park: acknowledging The Territory

 

As a country, Canada is just beginning to comes to grips with its responsibilities for and debts to the indigenous peoples within her borders. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) revealed in relentless, horrifying detail, the treatment received by indigenous peoples through first-voice testimony and historic documentation (including the government’s own 200 year-plus cache of damning documents). You can find the report at trc.ca. I was one of the United Church “listeners” in the “Church Listening Tent” during the Halifax round of TRC gatherings. Our role was to offer a place of rest, nourishment and to simply listen, if that was asked for. We also had one of three apologies that we were to read if requested. Two were United Church apologies (1986 and 1998) and the other was the apology made by the Canadian Government in 2008. When I was not doing a shift in the tent, I explored the displays and listened to testimony. I remain shaken to my core.

I liken it to the experience of the German townspeople who lived next to concentration camps during the war, who were forced to parade through the camps by the Allies so they could fully appreciate the horrors of what they chose to ignore. What grew within me during that experience was, first and foremost, a deep gratitude and appreciation for the grace and resiliency of indigenous peoples as they agree to the reconciliation journey. Also, a personal and professional commitment began to grow to support the recommendations of the final TRC report which was accepted by all political parties. First among them, is a commitment to acknowledge the Treaty status of the land we live or travel on. That is why this page is part of this blog. This particular commitment proves to be complicated in the case of Newfoundland.

First of all, Newfoundland was a British Colony until the very late date of 1949. So, her “Canadian” history is relatively new. If the story of Canada’s relationship with indigenous peoples contains tragedy and horror, Newfoundland’s story is particularly awful because it involves the true extinction of a distinct people, the Beothuk. The Newfoundland government website says:

            The Beothuk were the aboriginal inhabitants of the island of Newfoundland. They were Algonkian-speaking hunter-gatherers who once occupied most of the island. As a result of a complex mix of factors, the Beothuk became extinct in 1829 when  Shanawdithit, the last known Beothuk, died in St. John’s.

Wikipedia is a little more detailed, stating that violent pressure from settlers and an influx of other aboriginal peoples combined with a lack of food sources, an explosion of infectious diseases and constant movement toward the interior land which could not sustain life.  Whether active and intentional genocide occurred is still greatly debated by academics. There can be no denial that there are some heartbreaking historical stories of the “hunting” of Beothuks.

The Mi’kmaw, originating from lands off island, have also traditionally travelled, hunted and gathered throughout Newfoundland island. Miawpukek is at Conne River. A community’s words about themselves are always most important and usually the most accurate. The following is an excerpt from their website (http://www.mfngov.ca/about-miawpukek/):

            Miawpukek is the traditional Mi’kmaw name for our community. “Miawpukek” is used   as the name of the community in most documents produced by Miawpukek First Nation Government. Documents produced elsewhere most often uses “Conne River”. The  name means “Middle River”.

Miawpukek became a permanent community sometime around 1822. Before 1822 it was one of many semi-permanent camping sites used by our people who were at the time still nomadic and traveling throughout our Mi’kmaq Domain of Newfoundland,  Labrador, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Maine.

Miawpukek Reserve was established according to traditional oral history in 1870. It was officially designated as Samiajij Miawpukek Indian Reserve under the Indian Act in 1987.  Most of our members, as of June 1985, are registered Indians. The ancestries of our community members include Mi’kmaq, Innu, Abenaki and European lines.

Our membership is 787 on-Reserve and 1779 off-Reserve. Our total population on Reserve as of August, 2006 is 867. (787 Native and (approx.) 80 non-Native).

Since being established as a reserve in 1987, Miawpukek has gone from a poor, isolated community with almost 90% unemployment to a strong vibrant community with nearly 100% full time/part-time employment. We are one of two of the fastest growing communities in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. We are often pointed to by Indian and Northern Affairs as a model community for other First Nations.

We are located on the south coast of the island part of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. By land we are 224 km from the nearest service center, the international airport town of Gander. Our community is accessible by land, air and water.

 

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“Wave Sound” sculpture by Anishinabe artist Rebecca Belmore

 

Gros Morne: Gone fishin’ (by Carl Yates)

Not everyone likes fishing but those who like it, like it a lot.  It can be one of the most relaxing things to do, especially if the setting is right.  In my opinion, the setting is right at Baker’s Brook in Gros Morne.  Baker’s Brook is located north of Rocky Harbour and in strict Newfoundland terms it is a brook.  In other provinces in Canada, it would be called a river but in Newfoundland the term is reserved for the big flows that are at the base of many valleys.  Baker’s Brook is fed by Baker’s Pond which again in other jurisdictions would be assigned lake status.  You see a pattern here!  Baker’s Pond was once a fjiord open to the ocean but after the last glaciers retreated over 10,000 years ago, the earth’s crust rebounded and the fjiord got flushed with fresh water from the receding glaciers.  The brook is home to speckled brook trout and Atlantic salmon, the two most common freshwater fish on the island.  Both of these species have a desire to travel to the sea to feed and as result, grow bigger.  Baker’s Brook discharges to the ocean approximately 1 km from the main highway that goes through the park and is one of the better places that an angler can try his or her luck for salmon or trout.  First, the rules are in order; fishing licenses for both trout and salmon are required but you don’t need a guide if you are a Canadian citizen as the park is on federal land.  Although Baker’s Brook is an unscheduled salmon river, you still require a provincial salmon licence and a park licence if you wish to retain salmon.  In essence, you will have two sets of tags and if you are fortunate to land a grilse [a salmon less than 63 cm centimetres], you must insert and lock each of the two tags through the gills of the fish.  It is hoped that salmon will continue to make this ocean journey to ensure a sustainable run but our “friends in Greenland” may put an end to salmon if they continue to harvest salmon from the ocean as part of a commercial fishery.  The numbers are very clear here that recreational fishing brings a greater return on investment than commercial fishing which is why Newfoundland banned commercial fishing in the 70s [a very good move].  In addition to the economics, Atlantic salmon are an important aspect of indigenous culture and a source of food for thousands of years.

To speak directly to the angling, a beautiful pool exists just upstream from where Baker’s Brook flows into the sea.  It is meant for fly fishing with a steady current to ensure your wet fly trails nicely.  I have had the fortune to hook both salmon and sea trout.  The trout gets the “sea” designation if it makes the journey to the ocean to feed.  One can tell the trout is of the sea variety by its brilliant orange underbelly and its taste [sweetness].  The other interesting aspect of hooking a fish in the lower reaches of the brook is that the fish returns from the ocean with a full belly and an abundance of energy which means that the fish will put up a good fight when hooked.  Although I have landed salmon at this pool, I have lost many after a fish has leapt in the air to set itself free.  Even if you don’t catch a fish, the experience at Baker’s Brook is one of tranquility.  You have beautiful views of the mountains and coastline to the south where the Tablelands rise, a wide-open ocean to the west and immediate views of hikers dropping by along a beautiful coastal trail which I have walked many times with Linda and our Jack Russell terriers.  I have also had the pleasure of fishing this pool with my son Matthew, the fish biologist, who is even more enthralled with salmon fishing than myself, but not as much as my father who got us all hooked on this recreational past time. In addition to enjoying the recreational aspect of fishing, Matthew is finishing up his doctorate degree at Concordia University with objectives to ensure a sustainable approach to fishing for future generations.

camper at Green Point Gros Morne

Gros Morne National Park: lone woman camping trend

Some are adventurous. Some love nature. Some are sad.

We have noticed it before and I have a friend who does it. However, it would seem that women camping alone is a definite and popular trend. When we were camping at Green Point, every single campsite adjacent to us had women who were camping solo in them. The campsites were close and did not have a great deal of tree or bush cover so view-planes were unimpeded. Your neighbours are unavoidably observable.

One woman, about 40 or so pulled up in a kind of volkswagon-y  . She would arrive at the end of each of her two days, cook up a scoff, contemplate the world from the vantage point of the top of her picnic table and then retire to bed. She had a large dog that looked kind of like a labradoodle. One evening a man came over and hung about chatting with her. She did not look terribly comfortable and I wondered about wandering over just to join in so she, and he, would know she was not unsupported and he was not unobserved. He left before she went to bed, but he arrived bright and early the next morning in a car. Again, they conversed and I could tell she sent him on his reluctant way. I admired her so much because, among other things, she expertly began her mornings with outdoor yoga.

The person to our immediate right on our first night was in her thirties. She was dog-less and slept in a tiny tent. She too was gone for most of the day, then arrived at suppertime, cooked a one-pot scoff and retired to the beach with her tea. At dusk she returned, lit a small campfire and sat by it, musing. She stayed for a night.

The next tenant of that site was a woman in her thirties who pulled in with an SUV with a rectangular contraption on the top. Lots of web addresses and sayings were decaled onto the car. When she got out, the most well-behaved German Shepherd calmly exited too. He kept very close to her. She told him to stay put, which he did reluctantly. Worried, his eyes followed her as she made her way to where I was sitting. Would I mind, she asked, defending her site from campsite stealers? She explained that someone took her last site because her car was not in it and her tent is always with her so a person just claimed her last campsite as some kind of squatter’s rights. I sympathised. Green Point campground has a Darwinian survival-of-the-quickest system. There is no way of making reservations and there is no kiosk with a person in it to manage the sites. I could see how it could happen. You are supposed to put an “occupied” sign on your campsite marker, but there are never enough. She further explained that she does not carry food and she just hiked all day, 10 km, and was hungry. She and the dog had to go to Rocky Harbour to eat. She did not appear to carry any kind of food. She was very worried that someone not take her site, she repeated. In fact, she appeared anxious in a general, vibrating kind of way. The dog looked like he might get up and come over. She had her back to him, but must have felt his slight movement. She turned and motioned for him to sit. I thought quickly. I had no idea how long she would be and could not imagine personally fending off campsite thieves for the rest of the evening. I offered up our “occupied” sign. She could not seem to make eye contact. Grateful, she expressed thanks, ran off, placed the “occupied” sign on her campsite marker and sped off in her car. The dog sat upright in the seat, looked toward the road and settled in, like he had done this a thousand times.

On the back of her Subaru was a website address https://www.wandering-dog.com. I took a look. I found it fascinating reading. The blog chronicles the adventures of the service dog named Indiana. The feelings, thoughts and experiences of her person, Brittany, provide content. Brittany was sexually assaulted twice while serving in the US Navy and was diagnosed with PTSD. Four years ago, she was discharged on disability and has been travelling with Indiana ever since. Camping for four years! Her blog makes for some difficult reading. When she returned, I longed to get to know her a little more. But, connection is, as she says in various places in her blog, difficult for Brittany. It was getting dark when they returned from Rocky Harbour. She parked the car, reached up to the rectangular thing on the roof and adjusted some bits and pieces. Voila!  A ladder appeared and a tent erected itself. She and the dog climbed the ladder and we did not see them until the next morning when the tent and ladder process worked itself in reverse. Then, safely ensconced in the SUV, Indiana and Brittany departed for breakfast and parts unknown, forever.

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I have observed over the past couple of years that women who camp alone seem to have short stays. They like to hike. Many have dogs and most seem to cook their own food. Brittany, the only one I knew by name because she had a website, was the only one who does not deal with food. She also was the only one that was outwardly, seriously anxious.  There are various reasons women camp alone.  My friend, Janet Moulton loves the outdoors, is a confident, skilled and gregarious woman. I suspect she makes friends wherever she goes. Sometimes, she tells me, other women join her. I know another woman who is determined to do the entire Appalachian trail on her own. She too is confident, determined, tough and loves the outdoors, as well as the challenge of having a difficult goal. All the women I have encountered solo-camping in Parks, have another life to return to. Camping was a break, a time of renewal, a contrast from their ordinary life. It did not occur to me that someone would camp for four years and possibly many more. What, I pondered, is Brittany looking for? How will she know when she finds it? She is another person that will live in my prayer life for some time.

A final thought. It is interesting that I consider it an anomaly to observe more women camping alone. Yet, it also has to be said that it is unusual to find men camping alone in National Parks. What would I think about a man camping alone for four years with a dog? What would you think?

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Gros Morne: a spiritual experience of apology and gratitude to the earth

Gros Morne National Park: a spiritual experience around every corner

I must see the mantle of the earth before I can rest. Going to Gros Morne always feels like pilgrimage. I need to go to the Tabletop, study it, touch the crinkled surface of the rock and just wait. The rock itself feels grainy-raw and looks wrinkled. Mother Earth without her makeup on.

The formation gives rise to a kind of dragon-spine all along the Northern Peninsula.  Some of the oldest rock on the planet, it has managed to stay surface-bound in the shifting, folding, molding of the earth’s crust. Nothing but the very toughest and most slow-growing of life exists on Tabletop rock because it is chock full of minerals and chemicals that make colonization of rock and soil almost impossible. The tiniest of trees, hundreds of years old, take root between rocks. They are so easily and willfully trampled by tourists who make rock cairns along the path despite explicit pleas from the Park not to because of the ecosystem’s ancient fragility.

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I need to touch Her for two reasons. First, I just pause to consider the near impossibility of being alive at this moment in time, part of a species that has existed for only 300,000 years. Energy from the gold rock reminds me to reflect, simply because I can. I am life consciously reflecting on 500 million years of planetary life. Second, I apologize to Her. Green Point may mark the boundary between the Cambrian and Ordovician periods, but we are now living in what scientists call the Anthropocene era. “Anthro” simply is a fancy word for “human-ish.” Humans have so affected the air, land and water with our need to project heat, garbage and chemicals into and onto our planet that we are now creating our own geological time-mark. It can be measured in the earth’s crust for all of time. So, I apologize to Her and vow to do a little better in my own life and sphere of communication. The apology is part of my passion for Parks as preserved space for nature, the people of Canada and the inhabitants of the greater world. When I leave I am sustained by the knowledge that the earth is resilient. On the Tabletops I can see, smell and feel 500 million years of persistent existence under my feet. Humankind may not live another 100,000 years, but the Tabletops will still be there.

Another place of deep reflection and peace is the ocean shoreline. There are a couple of lovely shoreline trails. One of the most wonderful spiritual experiences we have had occurred this summer. During our honeymoon, we wanted to camp by the shoreline at Green Point campground, but were not able to. For over 30 years we aspired to spend a couple of nights there. Arriving around Noon this summer, we despaired of finding a site, but was astonished to find the one site we had always dreamed of camping on vacant. Those nights were some of the most beautiful we have ever spent camping. Behind us, the waves made their endless, eternal heartbeat on our doorstep. At night, as the sun set and the moon levitated, we observed people moving to the shore, clutching cups of warm liquid. They would often talk as they walked.  A curious thing happened during the final setting of the sun. The people became silent. It was not just about the gorgeousness of the moment.

The death of the sun amongst the salty, wet heartbeat of the earth, reaches deep inside of you. The moon brings hope of luminous resurrection, but still, it is never really enough.  There is some part of you that knows the death of the sun is but an echo of your own. And so, conversation stops, tea remains un-sipped and gratitude for life itself floats, if only for a brief visit, within you and among your companion strangers.