Fundy Footpath

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This is my first backpacking trip. Car camping, cycling camping, canoe camping, but never backpacking. Apparently, this is a pretty tough one to begin on, but it is definitely a good one to get me hooked on backpacking.

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My companions are the same three from the Cannonball Run: Kris, Ty and Glen. Kris and Ty have both hiked the entire 3500 km Appalachian Trail and Glen works at Mountain Equipment Co-op. They are my mentors.
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Plus, it is so good to stretch my legs after 3 solid days in a car.

One section of the trail depends on a low tide crossing, so we are compelled by the tide schedule to begin at the northeast end and hike west. We barely make the provincial park closing time when dropping off our Passat at the end of the trail. The receptionist is grumpy, but lets us in for the day fee for all 5 x $7.50(including our driver) for the 30 minutes we drive in and out. My second cousin, Denis, drives us to Fundy National Park where our access trail begins. We wave goodbye to him at 10:20 pm.

Our original plan is to hike to the trailhead 8 kms from our drop-off point, but our late arrival forces us to pay for a campsite and enjoy access to full bathroom facilities and a picnic table.

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I’m shown how to pack my backpack: bag and clothes at the bottom, heavy items in the middle close to my back, and then everything else. The straps keep nearly all the weight on my hips.

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We are on the way to the trailhead at 9 AM departing from the parking lot at the Point Wolfe Campground. We steadily climb an access road through the forest. High humidity and no bugs. It takes about 4 hours to hike the 8 kms in Fundy National Park, including the 2 km extra because the tide is high. We lunch along a stream before stepping onto the actual path.

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A steep climb greets us a dozen times during our first three days. The cliffs over the bay are periodically eroded down to sea level by rivers and streams. Most of the trail lies within 200 m of the shore.

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We camp at Goose Creek our first night. It is tucked into the forest just beside the wide rocky beach where the muddy creek opens up. The three-walled latrine is placed between two clearings. We pitch our tents around a campfire and enjoy a little fire as the bright full moon rises to the east.

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I can not muster the energy to boil water for a hot meal, so I down some bagel, cheese, nuts and an apple – the same I had for lunch. I lay in my hammock and enjoy a stream-cooled Star Cheek IPA I brought from Calgary. We sleep deeply and late into the morning for a late start.

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The forest changes periodically. Birch and spruce are most dominant. The ups and downs are easier because of the great root systems, though a collection of manmade stairs are present on both ends of the segment between Cradle Brook and Seely Beach Brook. Some of the spruce sections are completely bare and you can see deep into the needle carpeted wood. Other times the dense foliage contrasts with thousands of fully extended ferns.

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Much of my camping equipment is loaned to me by Glen and Ty: Sleeping pad, sleeping bag shell, titanium pot, tent, stove gas. New gear I purchase: sandals, nylon zip-off pants, rain jacket, wool socks, 1 L Nalgene, spoon and mug. Kris shows me how to construct a snazzy stove out of two beer cans. I opt out of hiking boots, trekking poles, and extra rain gear.

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The periodic brooks and streams are so welcome as we overheat up the slopes and cautiously descend. Snacks and lunch spots are so natural and welcome. We undress and cool and cleanse in the fresh running water. We also resupply our drinking water which is never an issue. A few horseflies bother us at Wolfe Creek, but other than that it is paradise. We can rest in the sun to dry off, then munch on snacks in the shade.

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I did not know that having short toenails is so important when backpacking. Now I know. With all the steep descents on the trail, my feet jam into the front of my sneakers. Ty and I talk about it and at lunch on the second day I learn that Kris has clippers. Relief.

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Because of our late start on day two and because the site at Telegraph Brook is breathtaking, we settle there for the night instead of our planned destination at Wolf Creek. Telegraph Brook trips down the ravine in a cascading waterfall to the north. Rocky and wooded cliffs border the east and west. We pitch our tents high on the pebbled beach as waves crash to the south. I cool another Star Cheek in the brook and boil some water sheltered from the steady breeze to cook up my rice and curry. I relax and fall out of my hammock. The guys ask if it’s okay to laugh. It is okay, my hip hurts more than my pride.

The great rocks on the beach are so many rich colours. I pick one green stone that has an E.T. face on it to take home for Acadia. The ocean erodes the years I’ve been away from it. I fall asleep to the tide coming just 20 feet away from my tent with waves lulling me to sleep.

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No bugs and no rain the whole trip. Well, two mosquitos and a 15 minute thunderstorm our last night after we’ve settled in for the night. I can’t imagine better conditions. Aside from the group of 23 that are walking along the shore at low tide, we meet only 10 other hikers going the opposite direction. Only once do we share a campsite.

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Our third day we cover about 1/3 of the whole trail with great efficiency. I’m grateful for the bridge at Rapidy Brook as the crossing would be precarious without. We make a hasty crossing at Little Salmon River as the tide is coming in. I don my sandals and slosh through the grassy trail before I eat a quick lunch on the west side. A never ending ascent follows to begin the second half of the day’s hike.

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Ty and I hike together for half the footpath and enjoy some good chats. I hike alone otherwise and I have to pause to ensure I remain on the path. Most of the time the white rectangular markings are clear, but on several occasions the distance between them and the vagueness of the path in the forest add an element of doubt. We come near and even cross a few dirt roads that access the beach.

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A source of frustration for me is the manner in which the kilometers are measured. The distance is marked based on horizontal distance traveled, but so much of the trail is sloped, so we likely travel 30-40% further than what is marked. I still don’t know how long the trail is. Just over halfway, new signs emerge with better distance signage. My guess for the length of the trail, including the section in Fundy National Park, is around 55 kms.

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We emerge from the wood to the beautiful Seely Beach where we spend our third and final night. The water and dunes spill into pebble beach which is then bordered by dense wild sweet peas and then spruce forest. We have the camp to ourselves and my feet are sore. I quickly hook up my hammock and massage my feet while laying comfortably after the long day of five steep climbs.

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I also trudge the quarter mile to Seely Brook to fill my water bottles and then cook up meaty lasagna I traded my pasta primavera to Kris for. It goes down quickly. I settle into the sleeping bag after another self-given foot massage and fall into a deep sleep.

I am pleased with my packing prowess. I can’t say that I have deep regret for anything that I packed, though I didn’t play the harmonica at all and I could have done without the paperback I toted. Small lessons.

A huge group of enthusiastic scouts and their leaders pass by us on our last morning as I enjoy coffee and oatmeal on the beach with Glen. They encourage us to walk the beach to Big Salmon River, our destination. It means bypassing a couple climbs and experiencing some shore walking which we haven’t really had much of.

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The tide is low and getting lower. We walk through sand, large rocks and slime covered small rocks. We can make each other out in the heavy fog, but just barely. Snail trails and tide pools. Clay sculptures and looming cliffs.

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When we arrive at Big Salmon River, I leave the others who don sandals to cross the muddy estuary. I decide to scramble of the precarious boulders to reach the path again. I do and use the bridge arriving ten minutes after my friends to unlock the car.

Then seafood, showers, seafood, and sleep.

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Our footpath began on the right and moved left. Each colour represents a different day of backpacking.

**Many of the photos in this post were taken by Ty and Glen.

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