Thursday, 9 June 2022, New Brunswick, Canada (Fundy NP)
(Throughout the years, I have heard often about the National Parks in Canada's maritime provinces, and always longed to visit them. Once I scheduled my trip to Acadia, I gave myself extra time to venture to the nearest National Park, Fundy in New Brunswick. Why not see how their eastern parks measure up against ours?)
The rain had passed overnight - but more loomed for the afternoon. Nothing I could do about it except hope for the best, so off I went to Fundy National Park, 45 minutes away. My dreams to see the parks in this corner of Canada would finally see fruition, giving me a chance to see whether to someday schedule a longer trip to this area.
I aimed for the Visitor Center, just inside the park, for info and suggestions. Unsurprisingly, they wouldn't take my NPS Lifetime Pass, but with a senior discount and less-expensive Canadian currency, admission ran only US$6, far lower than stateside parks. A bargain!
A few km down the road, I pulled off at Bennett Lake.
A lakeside trail beckoned, so I stretched my legs for a few minutes. The trail wound through a thick forest that blocked most views of the lake, so I cut the hike short and headed to the ranger's first recommendation.
Caribou Plain - named for the animals that left the area in 1907 - featured a flat nature trail (with boardwalks) through a boggy area.
One of the interpretive signs reminded me of a comment made by the horse-drawn carriage guide two days earlier in Acadia, that moose's biggest enemy was ticks. I could now pose the question: who would win in a battle of Moose v. Flark? answer: the flark, unless park rangers interceded on the moose's side.
A flark, I learned, happens when peat in a bog decomposes and turns into a slurry, a gooey mix reminiscent of quicksand.
Since the park built this trail, two moose have wandered into the flark's grip. One lived happily ever after following the ranger rescue; the other died shortly afterwards.
I wandered the trail, avoiding any flarks, photographing the distinctive terrain (not common in the park).
Didn't spot any moose, but did see Mr. Frog singing his mating song - or maybe his lamentation for the absent sunshine.
Driving to the next must-see spot, a high vista overlooking the Bay of Fundy, I suddenly collided with a huge fog bank - no views here! With the time nearing noon, I drove through the rest of the park to Alma. May as well check in with the outfitters leading my evening kayak tour, to burn off some time. Gina greeted me, commiserating with me about the weather. "Usually the fog burns off by now. Of course, they're saying more rain comes in this afternoon. If it's too miserable or unsafe to go out, we an try to reschedule your float..."
Of course, after the flight changes Delta bequeathed on me, my schedule had no flexibility. I agreed to stay close by, and hope for the best... and could she recommend a lunch spot?
Oh, yes. The maritime stew at Tipsy Tails went down well,
reviving me to explore more park. This park is slightly larger than Acadia, and I've barely scratched the surface! And the fog and clouds had finally started lifting - I could even see Nova Scotia across the bay. After photographing the high-and-dry boats next to Tipsy Tails,
and the low-tide-exposed land along the beach
and in the estuary of the North salmon River,
I headed back into the park.
The covered bridge at Wolfe Point attracted me next. The bright red bridge dated to the days of timbering the forest,
where workers in the extractive industries chopped down virgin forest. The forest has recovered from those dark days, with different trees in the woods (my outfitters thought these trees with distinctive red-orange wood were white birches)
and 431 varieties of lichens (these were known as 'Old Man's Beard - I could relate).
A hiking trail (complete with wooden staircases - common in the park)
takes you toward the coast. The park encourages visitors to rest along the way in provided Adirondack chairs.
Now over to the Matthews Head Trail, a moderate hike of 4.5 km (2.8 mi) with 220 m (730') of vertical gain/loss. Much of it was in thick woods, often covered in flowers,
then I'd pass a clearing with sightlines along the coast
or across the bay,
Even better, the sun began putting in appearances. And don't forget about the Adirondacks! (You'll stop to gape at the views anyway, so why not take a load off?)
So many recommendations - with each one surpassing the last! I next drove to the end of the road to Herring Cove, trying a stop that had not made the ranger's list. A staircase of 140 steps took me to the beach, where the incoming tide had yet to make serious inroads into the gravelly land.
After a short stroll, I moved on for one more treat.
For the last starred attraction, I headed to Dickson Falls. The park brochure labelled it the most popular trail in the park.
I felt transported to a fantasy world - as if Walt Disney had collaborated with a Japanese garden architect.
The lush green gorge teemed with small falls and cascades, with a mist lending it a mystical aura - and suffused with the aural landscape of running water.
Even photos can't fully capture its magic.
That certainly qualified as a climax to the park peregrinations. Time to return to Alma and choose my dinner stop. Down from Tipsy Tails I found a homey café with a novel item on the menu: fiddlehead soup, served with fishcakes. The owner explained that fiddlehead ferns are only available for a short time each year; by the end of June, they would be out until next year. The light dinner suited me perfectly.
At 6:00, Gina greeted me back at the office and introduced me to Rihanna and Jonah. ("Not Gina, Jonah," he clarified.) Gina explained the plan. "We'll put you in the double kayak with Rihanna steering in the back. We haven't heard form the other couple who signed up, so it looks like you'll get a private tour! But we'll give them a few more minutes."
Those few minutes lasted long enough for the so-far-so-good weather to turn. Suddenly we could no longer see across the bay, and a thin drizzle permeated the air. Gina outfitted me with sea skirt, paddle jacket, life vest, and a hat to keep the rain from my eyes. A few minutes later, the four of us set afloat.
Following a few spins in the estuary, Gina led us paddling under the bridge, past the boats no longer high and dry, and into the bay.
"Sorry for the fog," Gina apologized. "But if we have clouds, we usually don't have winds, so it's safe for us to float in the bay and paddle past the headlands for a ways." We went up bay, staying close to the shore. The gentle incoming swells made paddling effortless. Despite the rain, I stayed dry in my paddling gear - or at least I didn't notice the wet for focusing on the experience.
Before long, Rihanna turned us around, and we cruised back to the estuary. I eagerly endorsed the option to float with the tide up the North Salmon River, going up the watery estuary that had been nearly dry at noon. (See the photo earlier in this post.)
As the inlet narrowed and the forested slopes squeezed us, Jonah pointed to the left bank. "See that? Perched on the branch, watching us? A bald eagle." It silently watched us as we floated by.
Gina shared an anecdote. "We had a pair of NYC women on a tour a while back. Luck shone on us, and we saw a whole family of eagles. We pointed them out, but the women couldn't have been less interested. Go figure."
In what seemed like no time, my two hour tour had ended, and we paddled back to shore.
As I crawled out of the kayak, the drizzle finally stopped. I could see the Nova Scotia shore once again.
No sun, though. Out of the kayak, a breeze wafted against my wet clothes, bringing on a shiver. I ducked inside the office to change into dry clothes, before thanking the trio for a memorable evening. (Sorry, no GoPro video of the adventure. Blame operator error.)
Travel notes. Friday, early. Got a 7:00 (Atlantic time) start to get back to Bangor for my rescheduled Delta flight. This time, traffic and sunny skies accompanied me as I motored down NB1. As I neared the border, I detoured for another park, St. Croix Island IHS. In 1604 - 16 years before the Pilgrims rode the Mayflower to America - France sent a party to colonize North America. These 79 colonists, led by Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Mons (remember that name from Acadia?), decided that an island in the middle of the St. Croix River would work well to hunker down on until the spring. An extreme Canadian winter followed, and 35 of the explorers died of scurvy before spring arrived (with others near death). They promptly left in favor of the Nova Scotia mainland.
Not that I - or anyone, for that matter - can actually visit the park. The public is prohibited on the island. However, both the U.S. and the Canadian side host roadside parks overlooking the island, with a short walking trail featuring interpretive signs describing the failed effort.
The rest of the drive passed uneventfully, except for several short stops to keep from falling asleep. Now it's time to fly to the Midwest to for my next set of adventures...