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.

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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.

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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: 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).

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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: a UNESCO World Heritage Site for lots of reasons

 

Many years ago, Carl and I spent our honeymoon in Gros Morne National Park, where, as you would hope, we fell even more in love with each other. What we did not expect was how deeply  we would fall in love with Gros Morne National Park. I had trouble writing this post because it is so very difficult to convey into mere words such astonishing beauty. A combination of mountains, a freshwater fjord, the highest waterfall in eastern North America, salmon rivers, deep lakes, ocean seashore, dense forest and the occasional misty field make it a stunning buffet of panoramas. The multiple options available to explore these make it a struggle to choose your daily adventure!IMG_0280

Gros Morne is a UNESCO heritage site partly because of its picturesque splendour, but also because of its unique geological features. Orange, naked, mineral dense, weathered rock from the middle layer of the earth called the Tablelands, has been thrust up next to beautiful, forest-covered mountains through the stresses and strains of plate tectonics over 500 million years. You can walk on some of both in the span of a day. The geological tectonic thrusting about combined with glacial scouring during the last ice age to create interesting mountain cliffs, valleys and a freshwater fjord.The Tablelands of Gros Morne is one of the few places on earth where you can see, touch and walk on the Earth’s mantle. Every time we go to Gros Morne I need to walk on the Tablelands, lay my hands on the wrinkled rock and just breathe. It feels like holy space to me. At Green Point, seaside cliffs are layered with markers of deep time. Fossils mark the boundary between the Cambrian and Ordovician periods. This is a geological benchmark for the rest of the world, referred to as “Green Point Time.”

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Green Point: plate tectonics make interesting patterns. All of these, including the section that looks like a castle “wall,” were sculpted and cut by the earth’s crust .

If you camp, time seems to bend at Gros Morne. The five campgrounds are well maintained with clean comfort stations and good showers. You can choose from forested areas, shoreline or mountain views. Newfoundland is one of the last bee, bat and bird havens in eastern Canada. Since it is an island, the diversity of mammal population is more limited than that of the  Canadian mainland. You will notice that besides the occasional moose, there is very little roadkill on Newfoundland roads. There are no porcupines, racoons, snakes or gophers. Campsites therefore remain relatively unmolested by wildlife. Even bears tend to keep themselves scarce.

The hiking at Gros Morne is, I was told by global hikers, world class. There will be a separate blog describing some of the trails. Suffice to say, there are nineteen trails that explore unique aspects of this part of the world. There are many guided walks and some really excellent interpretive centres. You must get out and move around in Newfoundland to truly meet her. Luckily, when you get there, the land calls to you and you can’t wait to get your walking shoes on. Having said that, be prepared. Newfoundland is rugged and the weather changeable.

Tabletop mountains

Tabletop mountains

Many journeys culminate in Gros Morne National Park. Salmon make their epic voyage home to Gros Morne from their travels in oceanic parts unknown. You are able to fly fish in the Park, an activity that Carl says would beat any kind of meditation, yoga and mindfulness practice in terms of total body-mind relaxation. There are several companies that offer boat tours, kayaking tours and ocean fishing. Rocky Harbour is a tiny town inside the park which has certainly grown since we honeymooned in Gros Morne. You can find just about anything you may need there.  It has a fish store where you can get the world’s most delicious scallops and lobsters, often brought in that very day. If you prefer a cooked meal there are several restaurants.

We were told last summer about a really good fish-and-chip place in Rocky Harbour so we dropped by at about noon. Usually if a restaurant is good, there will be lots of people in it. I was one of two customers so I wondered if we were in the wrong place. I looked at the waitress and asked, “Where is everybody? There’s no one here.” She put down her cloth, looked over her glasses and said, “They strikes about 12:30.” It took me a moment to realize she meant that’s when the customers come. Newfoundland has a famously unique dialect. Often phrases or words refer back to fishing.  I remembered that when lots of fish start biting the fishing lines they are said to have “struck.” Also, on that note, most Newfoundlanders expect a real lake to be gigantic (by Mainlander standards). Most bodies of fresh water tend to be called “ponds.” When we first moved to Nova Scotia from Newfoundland thirty-three years ago, we saw Dollar Lake, shook our heads and Carl said, “I scoffs at dat. It’s a pond, b’y.” With that in mind, to explore Western Brook Pond requires a substantial trip in a large boat, which is well worth doing.

Explore local culture in Rocky Brook and other nearby towns. Newfoundlanders are some of the friendliest people you will ever meet.

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Anishinaabe artist Rebecca Belmore created this piece of art that invites people to listen to the land. You can find it at the edge of Green Point.

 

 Contact Information for Gros Morne National Park

http://www.pc.gc.ca/grosmorne

email: grosmorne.info@pc.gc.ca

Mail: Gros Morne National Park of Canada, P.O. Box 130, Rocky Harbour, NL, A0K 4N0

Phone: (709) 458-2417

Reservations: http://www.reservations.parkscanada.gc.ca, 1-877-737-3783

 

Forillon National Park, a review by soundscape: pebbles, birds, children, RV washing (what?) and silence

I wish I could record the soundscapes for this park. First among the recordings would be the sound of walking on the pebbles of Grande-Grave beach. Pebbles is not quite the right word. It is more like a vast natural collection of flat, grey stones. Take the sound you remember as you walked along a pebble beach and add ethereal percussion.  The pebbles, wind and ocean is why Europeans came to this part of the Gaspé beginning in the 16th century. It was ideal for laying out cod to dry on the beach. A great fishing industry built up which was managed by a kind of fish mafia from the Jersey islands. They laid claim to the world’s “best” cod, although I know some Newfoundlanders who might dispute that. Sadly, over fishing means that cod is now the “white rhino” of the edible sea. The Park does an excellent job of animating this history with Hymans and Sons General Store. There is also a fisherman’s house, the Blanchette homestead. I thought I knew a lot about cod fishing, but there was still a great deal to learn in the well laid-out display upstairs in the General Store.

 

 

The second sound I would record is the that of birds. There were so many that I could not identify. It is encouraging. I wondered if the Park is experiencing the same horrific downturn in bird population as the rest of the world. I also wondered what kind of bird sounds the Mi’kmaq heard as they occupied, used and respected the land for over 8,000 years. A sound I could not record if I wanted to is that of mosquitos. This was a nice surprise, reprieve even. You learn to live with the constant whining of mosquitos where I come from.

The camp grounds are laid out in a let of 5 (A, B, C, D, E).  Four are all grouped together in kind of a skinny-leaved four-leaf clover. There is also a group campground. We were in one of the new 31 semi-serviced campsites (running water, electricity).  I was impressed that the Trudeau government was doing what they said they would do – investing in our National Parks after a decade of cuts by the other guys.

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Home at Forillon National Park

The third sound I would record is that of children. When we arrived almost every other site was occupied by massive motorhomeswho were part of an American tour group. This meant that they took off together in the little cars they towed for trips during the day, then retreated into their palaces on wheels when they got back. The only time we saw them was when they washed their motor homes which happened with a surprising frequency considering the motor homes never moved. All of the occupants were seniors who seemed terrified and/or suspicious when we said hello.  I really missed the sound of children’s voices so when I jogged in the mornings would choose a route through the other tenting campground areas. When the big motorhomes moved out en masse one morning, they were replaced that by families with children, Boomers in smaller motorhomes and just few Big Rig Seniors. They all had dogs. Children’s voices and dog barking vitalized our campscape. Thank God.

This Park infrastructure is prepared for children and families. There are modest playgrounds. There were a couple of offerings a day, often in French (as is appropriate since French is the first language of Québec). These too seemed more oriented toward adult experience. The shower areas are combined with recreation places that have a couple of wood stoves and several wooden tables suitable for board-game playing and family dinners. There is also a place to do supper dishes for Tenters. Much family conversation, negotiation and bonding happens when doing those dishes. I would sometimes linger, being the inveterate people-watcher I am.

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Lovely comfort centres are part of the shower and bathroom buildings

Another sound that I might record is that of Yates’ pounding on doors. The biggest interpretive centre is L’Anse-au-Griffon Visitor Centre. We really wanted to visit this on our way out. We arrived at 8:30am but were dismayed to find out the Centres all open at 10am. Almost all of the animated display centres also did not open until 10am or 11am. Mid-morning seems a strange time to open, but perhaps they found campers did not get themselves together until then.

The final soundscape would consist of a total lack of sound. The great asset of the Park is the combination of different eco-systems that can be explored. There are unique beaches, ancient human habitations, wooded trails, mountainous trails and cliff-walking. In a world of light pollution, the Forillon Park night sky is very dark, for those who like to explore the heavens. If you settle in your chair by the crumbling ashes of the fire and tip your head back you can imagine yourself in the depths of space, where there is no sound. At all.

 

Vistor’s Guide to Forrillon National Park:

“Located at the northeastern tip of the Gaspé Peninsula, Forillon National Park safeguards an are that is representative of a terrestrial natural region, the Notre_Dam and Mégantic mountain ranges, and of some elements of two marine natural regions, the Laurentian Channel and the Magdalen Shallows. In other words, it protects a segment of the Applachians and the adjacent waters as well as the fauna and flora inhabiting this area.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forillon National Park of Canada: a variety of ways of getting there

A couple of years ago I presided at a wedding in New Richmond, QC.  (more about that in a later post). We were gobsmacked by the beauty of the land and the spirited hospitality of the peoples. Due to the short travel deadline due to the wedding, we did not have much opportunity to explore the area, so we vowed to return. This summer was the year of return. We dedicated the better part of a week to exploring Forillon National Park.

We travelled through Campbellton and made our way along the eastern shore of the Gaspe (Québec Coté Mer) on the 132 East. With the ocean to the right of us and lovely, distinctive Québecois houses, farms and fishing villages to the left of us, we thoroughly enjoyed the travel. However, it was slow. The highway moves right through working communities that are filled with tourists at this time of year. Children, dogs and the like dash onto the road and the camper does not stop very quickly. We had to creep at times. There were some impressive rock formations such as Percé Rock, a mini-Gibraltar that kind of rises out of the ocean with a colour and

 

textural distinction all of its own (see image). It is one of the world’s largest naturally occurring arches in water. The touristy nature of that particular area meant that the entire length of coast-line with the best view of the giant outcrop was taken up with cottages, hotels, restaurants, food stands, tourist shops and so on. It was difficult to meditate upon the wonder of this remarkable geological formation while trying not to run over the pedestrians staring at their phones as they meandered the road. It was also problematic to stop to view the magnificent hunk of limestone, as parking was at a premium.

We expected as we moved northward that the houses and settlements would become less frequent. We were wrong. The area is well populated. Do we sound cranky? We were not. The view, the drive and the people watching all had their inspirational moments. It is a well-known fishing area so you might want to stop to pick up some seafood. Lobsters are usually reasonably priced if you can get them in season. Stores sometimes carry delicacies like pickled fiddlehead ferns, pickled clams, whelks and cohaugs. Of course, anywhere in Québec you may come across a Fromagerie (cheese store). Do stop if you like cheese. The fresh curds are to die for. At the risk of annoying my own home province of Nova Scotia I must declare that no one makes cheese like Québec cheese-makers. As I am addicted to cheese, I am not to be trusted in one of these stores.

If you exclusively speak English, don’t worry about the language differential. At all of our stops we struggled to use our high school French, but were usually rescued from our butchery of that beautiful language by anyone we spoke to as they took mercy upon us and replied to us in English.  There was a fairly hilarious incident at a Canadian Tire which I will blog about later. In essence, an entire line-up of French speaking people at the cash register got together to help the sales clerk understand what I wanted.

We took the 132 West when we left the Park this year to go to Montréal. It was surprising how different the geology is. The tail end of the Appalachian Mountain Range creates craggy shorelines. You would be forgiven if you thought some giant race of tricksters had taken colossal buckets of white paint and just sloshed it randomly all over the various sizes of beach rocks. He-who-knows-geological-things says these are quartz veins. There were many tiny communities to be driven through who had seen better tourist days, shuttered motels and so on. Most of these small communities had a welcoming sign and a picnic area. Take a hoodie though, the temperature is often quite cool with prevailing winds a little brisk. We noticed that no one swam on the beaches due to both the chill and the lofty waves. We had real worries about some of the people venturing out in small, seemingly- perilously bobbing tourist boats. The volunteer medical responder in me found it difficult to look away!

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photo by Mathieu Dupuis (tourisme-gaspesie.com)

We were determined to see the valley area of Gaspé Peninsula so on our way back from Montreal we turned south at Mont-Joli and took the 132 South. (I guess this could be called our 132 trip). We had driven quickly through this area in our previous trip and wanted to really take our time to let the exquisiteness of the area sink in. The area is part of the Appalachian mountain range. Following mountain ascents there were sometimes descents into verdant, green valleys sculpted, with some struggle no doubt, into farmland. We felt there was something around virtually every corner to admire. Close to the Campbellton area the mountain vegetation begins to change with the steepness and the road follows a rocky-bottomed river that is frequented by salmon fisherman. Carl, a skilled salmon fisherman himself, was driving and would slow to count them and to see if anyone had caught anything. My nerves. I should have driven through that part. If you are coming from Montreal to go to Forillon you might want to take this route and then take the 132 East at Campbellton. It is well worth the effort and time if you like mountains, valleys, rivers and quaint towns. Toward Campbellton there are several fishing and outback kinds of tour possibilities.

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Enjoy some of the world’s best lobster. So good you should, in the words of his people (Newfoundland) “Get your face and hands into it!”

 

Québec has an excellent website outlining all of the possible ways you can explore the Gaspé Peninsula www.quebecmaritime.ca Check it out before you go to Forillon Park.

 

Next post: Forillon National Park – The Park

 

Dollar Lake: Testing our choice of truck camper (by Carl)

Dollar Lake: Test of our Choice of Truck Camper

When Linda and I first became interested in recreational vehicles [RVs] while living in the Musquodoboit Valley, we wanted the flexibility to go off road without too much planning.  As a result, we purchased our first truck camper in 2002; a light weight pop-up that fit into a short bed half ton pickup.  We had many adventures including a trip to Red Bay Labrador where the Basques whalers made their presence  well before Cabot; they were smart to not tell anyone where they were going!

After selling our camper and moving to the City in 2005, we often got away on vacations to national parks where we would enjoy the ease of a rented cabin; Fundy Highlands Chalets in Fundy National Park being one of our favorite places to visit to replenish our souls.  We enjoyed this for some time but decided it was time to get back to the mobility and enjoyment of an RV.  At this stage our family was growing with both of our boys married and the potential for grandchildren which meant a search for an RV that would fit us all.  We bought a 29 foot Cougar Lite fifth wheel trailer in 2014 that could be towed by a half ton pickup  truck with no problem.  Although we had many enjoyable trips with the fifth wheel including a family outing in the summer of 2016 [a trip to Fundy National Park] where we were joined by our boys and their spouses [Shane and Enrique, Matthew and Sarah, and our grandchild Ellie], there were limitations.  A fifth wheel adventure requires a flight plan [your brain should always be fifteen minutes ahead of your destination] and getting off the beaten path was not easy.  The only practical approach was to find a decent campground as a base of operation and then unhitch and conduct day trips or excursions in the pickup truck.  Something was missing.  The ability to do spur of the moment and off road trips was limited.cropped-img_20160914_142632.jpg

After our 2016 summer camping was over, we decided to take another hard look at truck campers to capture the flexibility we were looking for.  As the quest continued, we decided we wanted a large camper that could accommodate both of us, two dogs and facilitate a sleepover with a grandchild.  Our search continued until we stumbled upon the Livin’ Lite Camplite series which seemed to have a good track record and the specs we were looking for; light weight, spacious and durable.  We settled on the 11.0 model which comes in at 20 feet long, 3400 lbs dry weight and features a dinette slide.  The dinette slide was important because I like to cook and I didn’t want to be bumping into things as I prepared a meal.  It also gave a nice open feel to the camper.  The deal was made with Jerry’s RV in New Minas with the trade of the fifth wheel included.  Now, as you can appreciate, a half ton truck cannot carry 3400 lbs so we also traded the Dodge Ram 1500 for a Dodge Ram 3500 to ensure we had payload capacity.  We picked up the camper in September, 2016.  When I drove away, all appeared to be in order.  Unfortunately, it was immediately evident that there was a problem.  One of the tie down anchor plates at the rear of the camper was fastened by ordinary screws and not the proper structural bolts.  The local dealer also recognized this shortfall and contacted me to make things right.  During the repair procedure, it became evident that the quality assurance program at the manufacturer’s plant was woefully lacking as this defect had to be noticed in the factory and sent along the assembly line anyway.  Although a gallant effort was made to realign the anchor plate and install the proper bolts, the repairs were not successful and another visit to the shop was scheduled for April, ahead of the 2017 camping season.  In addition, we received a recall notice from the manufacturer about the propane tubing in the stovetop burner which also needed replacement.

After getting all the defects fixed inApril, we were ready to go and booked our first outing at Dollar Lake provincial park for the Canada Day weekend on July 1st.  We chose Dollar Lake as it is a good park and the closet to home; Linda had to preach that weekend.  Although the original defects were repaired in good order, we discovered a new problem with a leaking hot water tap on the outside shower connection and made arrangements to get that fixed.  The good news is the camper does not leak from the external elements as we found out during the July 1st weekend as the rain was extensive and drove most of the campers home.  Although the rain came down hard, it did not dampen our spirits; we enjoyed the comfort of the camper and managed to get a hike in on Saturday afternoon with dogs in tow.  Hopefully, we will get things straightened out with the outside tap so we can get back to our first love of truck camping adventure. We intend to visit three national parks this summer, compliments of a free Discovery Pass from our federal government.

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Rain, rain, go away