Backpacking the Fundy Footpath, Day 4 of 5

Start: Little Salmon River campsite
End: Seely Beach campsite
Mileage:  7.0 mi

Today’s map:

Hiking direction = from earplug right to left

Mark Shaw, AKA Bad Influence,  posted this 2 minute drone footage that takes off from  Goose Creek and then continues along the coast. Mark is a professional sound engineer who also owns and operates Trail Head Shuttle, a Vermont AT and Long Trail hiker shuttle service, and now is available for commercial drone work in real estate, 3-D mapping, via  Skyview VT.   It’s very informative about the breadth of some of these tidal crossings.

Goose River/Low Tide Bay of Fundy

Mark and I joked about forgetting how challenging  this trail really is, especially given the fact that we hiked it 10 years go.  While he swears this is the last time on the FF for us, I started thinking how we might streamline a future walk along the coast, via engaging the drone to view any possible passage along the cliffed shoreline during low tides.   Mark successfully put the drone up to get us out of a huge marsh that confounded us on the East Coast Trail in Newfoundland last summer.  It’s like having s SUPER tall guide who can really view an obscure trail.

Another tool that worked well for me was my Delorme InReach Explorer+.

Satellite GPS unit

The unit is able to serve as an emergency locator and communication device.  I entered in a few pre-set messages, essentially confirming that I was OK.  I sent evening messages to both my wife and the shuttle operator with a map pinpointing the location of our campsites, along with GPS coordinates.  I have added the unit to my day hikes. When I find myself injured and need of assistance, I should be able to get help.  I believe it is an essential part of my kit, particularly when I am guiding clients in the wilderness.  There was very spotty cell service available on this hike.  I pay $12 a month for the service, which can be turned off for any months where travel might not occur.

It rained yesterday and rained today as well.  With the very high humidity the first two days, we were forced with the very unwelcome situation of donning cold wet socks, footwear, and clothing each morning.  I’m in the habit of leaving any spare clothes home these days, in an effort to reduce my pack weight.  I do carry a dry set of sleep wear  on all my hikes, that allows me to be very comfortable when it’s time to sleep.

One tip that I  can offer the wet hiker is to put on a wind shirt or light synthetic jacket over your wet shirt when you reach camp.  If you are fortunate enough to have found clothing that is truly breathable, your body heat dries out the wet clothing in an hour or two.  I have had great success with Patagonia’s Houdini windshirt and their 10 oz.  Nano-Air Light Hoody.  The Hoody was developed to pass copious amounts to perspiration while at the same time providing adequate insulation for winter use.  I have been amazed at the width of the range of temperatures that I wear the Hoody, from winter biking in freezing conditions to summer evenings.  I like the blaze orange version for visibility.

If your clothing is not totally sopping wet, it can also be dried by wringing it out and putting in on top of your sleeping pad and under your sleeping bag where your body heat drys it out overnight.

 

The Approach Trail by Justin Lichter (Trauma) | via Section Hiker

Section Hiker is an excellent source for backpacking information for both experienced and beginner hikers.  I subscribe via Twitter feeds, and generally read the whole content.

Today and tomorrow I am going to post two blog entries about selecting  gear for backpacking.

Today’s entry is especially good- written by Trauma, who has hiked and written extensively about hiking since his initial steps on the AT with a grossly overloaded pack.

Check out this entry from his first day on the Appalachian Trail, from way back when:

Day 1: The Approach Trail by Justin Lichter (Trauma) | Section Hiker.

Back from 2,650 mile thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail

 

1,000 miles: ripped, cut , torn- next step= trash can

 

It’s been almost a week since I’ve arrived home.
My backpack is still partly full, sitting right beside me. My inability to completely empty it and put it away is diagnostic of my reluctant, part-way re-entry into what Birdlegs has so aptly dubbed the “shower world”.
I do not miss the end of the trail.  I’m clearly happy here. The last two and a half months of the PCT hike were tough, not only in daily mileage, which was dialed in each morning at 25, but also the very taxing progress through the Glacier Peak Wilderness, where a week of cold and rain pummeled MeGaTex into a wet pile of humanity wrapped up in wet taco sleeping bags. We each fought hypothermia several of those days, which would have been very serious if any one of us were alone. We needed each other survive. It was that simple.
I have yet to muster the courage to view my photos from the Great Snow Walk of the high Sierra.  I still get a sinking feeling in my stomach when I even think about revisiting that section.
I do best here if I stay home, out of town.  Town was also my downfall on the PCT where I lost my wallet, money, checkbook, passport, earphones, gloves, and even my shirt.
I have visited with every one of my neighbors, who each presented me with a coming home present.  The best one was from my neighbor Bill, who informed me that he was buying a 25+ acre parcel that abuts my land on two sides.  He plans to put it into conservation trust. Now, I will only see woods and fields, as long as I live here.

Let me give you a taste of how quickly one of my town excursions ended.
Last Sunday I drove my son down to the Portland, ME airport so that he could get back to his life in San Francisco. After I saw him, I went over to the Maine Mall where I planned to use my debit card to withdraw some money, get a dinner, and stop at the Apple Computer store to see what new stuff came out  while I was gone.  (Speaking of Apple, one of the few objects that did not tear, break, or fry on the hike was my iPod Touch.)  I was not able to get my pin number right, so eventually the ATM rendered my card void.  I had no phone, no money, and it was getting dark.  Somehow I also activated the anti-theft alarm on my 1999 Jetta diesel, which has never happened before. I was not only unable to start the car, but when I did try and turn the key in the ignition, the very loud loud alarm activated and the lights blinked on and off.  Luckily I went on the internet with my Touch and MiFi and was able to locate a key turn code that disabled the alarm.
Yesterday, more snafus. At the counter at the Hope General Store I knocked my large coffee over spilling the contents into an open drawer in back of the cash register.  Later at lunchtime, the person in line in back of me at the Brown Bag pointed out to me that I dropped a wad of cash on the floor.  I appear to be sorely lacking several skills that must be re-activated if I am to be a functioning member of society.
On the other hand, I love the unstructured time, which has been mostly devoted to fixing things that have broken while I was gone, like the garage door opener,  the DVD player, the trailer I use to haul things in, my bicycle, a broken window, and several pieces of gear.  There is a crate full of mail that has to be dealt with.  I dig vacuuming, and plan to wash some floors this afternoon.
I have received several calls from people who have wanted to talk with me about the PCT.  Auntie Mame and I had a great time visiting with my friend Andy and his wife last night. Andy lives here in town and just completed his own thru-hike of the Appalachian trail a few weeks ago.  He’s pumped!
I am trying to avoid paid work until Nov. 1.
Last night I even got to watch my favorite movie, Hoosiers, wrapped up in my sleeping bag on the couch, sitting right next to Auntie Mame.

Again,  a huge thank you to my sponsors.
First and foremost is Don Kivelus of Four Dog Stove , who supplied me with the multifuel Bushcooker LT 1 titanium backpacking stove, two cases of Coghlan (hexamine) tablets, and twelve cases of Mountainhouse freeze dried dinners.  Don believed in me, early on.  I consider him my outdoors guru, whose specialty is fire building and know how about efficiency in subsequent heat transfer.  His company has been a treasure trove of survival and back country tools and resources. I used his stove every day, sometimes multiple times a day.  I consider it the ultimate backpacking stove. There is nothing more I can come up with about the stove that would improve it.
On The Beach/ New Balance provided me with  Bushmaster boots for the whole hike.  I have REALLY bad feet and would not have been able to complete the trip without the benefit of composite mid-sole of this boot.  I also never had even one blister on the hike. It wasn’t easy to make deliveries to me where I most needed new boots, yet Dan came through for me when necessary.
Rock City Roasters supplied me with two huge bags of Dark Star drip grind coffee, for those many days where I was jonesing for caffeine.  I had enough to supply General Lee as well.  I will miss the owner, Pat, who died after I started hiking.
The Freeport, ME Patagonia store supplied me with a Houdini jacket. It was one piece of gear that never failed or ripped, a rare situation.

I would also like to thank my faithful and primary support team, the Speedy Sisters.  V8 not only transcribed and posted all my daily entries, and she encouraged me to label each and every photo posted on the Trailjournals site. People loved the photo section, I heard about it.   Auntie Mame primarily sent me love and her unwavering faith that I would finish.  She also provided me with 11 mail drops, each more thrilling than the last. It is very tough work being at home while a partner hikes.  I know, as the Sisters hiked almost half the AT in 2008, when I was Mr. Stay At Home.  Craig, thanks for making the pemmican that got me through northern Washington.  Chris, thanks for the earphones.  Mom, thanks for being my mother, being proud of me this time, and sending me all the home made bars, granola, and treats that sustained me.  Brad, your instant Curry In A Hurry mix and your Brad bars were so tasteful. They powered me up numerous uphills.  Roy, thanks for the New Balance socks and Powerbars.
Readers, thanks for writing in my Trailjournals Guest Book.  Your kind comments were what cushioned my steps when the ground was the most frozen and rocky. David H., thanks for your voluminous pipeline of inspirational quotes and encouragement, my Friend for Life.
I also want to thank Water, Heathen, Larry, Dusty Roads and the dozens of  trail angels who went out of their way ( often WAY out of their way) to bring me food or supplies.
If there is anyone else that feels they deserve thanks let me know so that I can suck up an apology and list you here too.
Lastly, I am forever  indebted to my fellow members of MeGaTex for all that they did for me, all the times they waited for me, all the food, pain, laughter, and adventures we created for ourselves.

 


Original MeGatex at Canada border

 

I would NOT have completed the PCT without their personal power and  energy. We were the strongest group of the Class of 2010,  all proud matriculates of The University of Adversity.

Pushing Past the Pain of Exertion

From yesterday’s New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/29/fashion/29FITNESS.html

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Chrissie Wellington of Britain

I had my first visit with my new physician this past week.  It was a sign of the times.  I have been fortunate enough to have had just one doctor, Richard Kahn, M.D. since moving to Maine in 1973.  It has been 36 years of excellent care, from a man who was one of the first in our area to ride his own bicycle bike to work from his home in Union some fifteen miles out.  He sold his practice to Dr. Anderson, and she will be fine. She had been practicing way up in Aroostook County for the past two years.   She read my chart with me, to be sure she hadn’t missed anything.  I was thrilled when she started asking me about my 2007 Appalachian Trail through hike, when she disclosed that she and her husband were avid day hikers and also backpackers.  We learned that shared some trail experiences in Yellowstone as well.

She is an osteopathic physician, and after deciding that my blood work did not indicate any serious problems, encouraged me to schedule my next appointment sometime next Fall after I ( hopefully) return from my 5- 6 month, 2,700 mile Pacific Crest Trail  backpacking expedition, where we could recheck those numbers.

Then we talked pain, something I have been increasingly familiar with.  I consulted about putting together a backup medical kit that would prepare me for any emergencies.  I  did hear her when she made the observation that pain is often a signal to the body that something is wrong and that stopping may be the best solution, rather than to dose pain with analgesics or stronger ( opiates) and push through  to some preset goal.

Then this article came out and it assisted me in placing pain into  a better perspective.

Endurance athletics exposes one to eventual pain.  It is important to train for the ability to sustain exertional pain, while at the same time accepting that the acute pain of an injury, such as  shin splints, a broken metatarsal bone,  or a bad back is a message from the body to stop for a while and heal.

 

Baking with the titanium Bushcooker Lt1

Baking with this stove is best accomplished using charcoal. In this experiment, I used three commercial charcoal briquettes. I felt it would be easier and more standardized to use them here. In the Northeast, there is ample charcoal left in the numerous fire rings that are omnipresent on backpacking trails. Those lumps of fuel are real charcoal, and can serve as an excellent alternative fuel source if they are primed with alcohol, as noted below.It is difficult to control a burn with alcohol, which is either 100 % full on or nothing.

Several items are needed to allow for convection baking.

Grease pot, muffin tin, cozy
Grease pot, muffin tin, cozy

My MSR .8 liter pot is not wide enough to be an effective baker. I found a Walmart grease pan in my camping bin that looked like it would work. I rummaged around the house and shaped a thin aluminum container ( muffin tin) to fit into the grease pan.   Taking a tip from Tinny, of Minibull Designs, I put a few small rocks on the bottom of the pan, which raised the bottom of the “muffin tin” from direct heat, setting up the convection situation. I lined the tin with parchment paper, which makes cleanup nonexistent, spooned in the add-water-only muffin mix, and put the lid on.

The next step requires wrapping a cozy around the pot. I was out at my camp for the baking, so my gear options were limited.   I found a “cozy” made out of double faced bubble wrap that wasn’t a perfect fit, but passed for adequate with the addition of a short piece of electrical wire to tie it shut and a block of firewood wood to seal the folded top down.

Next, I fired up the small Bushcooker Lt1, filling a shoe polish tin cover with 1 oz. of alcohol , igniting it, and then placing the BK1 (with 3 charcoal briquettes inside) on top of the tin. This step is necessary to preheat , ignite and glow the charcoal briquettes.

Why waste the heat?  I put a pot of water on the stove to boil up a cup of tea, while I was waiting the 10 minutes for the charcoal to ignite.

Improvised insulating cover on top of Lt1
Improvised insulating cover on top of Lt1

When the flame died down and the charcoal was starting to glow, I put the assembled baker on top of the stove, and after I waited a half hour or so, my giant muffin was cooked to perfection.

Finished product
Finished product

It must have been good, because it was all gone after some of my friends came over to visit.

More tests later.

Fundy Footpath, Day 4 of 4, Oct. 13, 2008

 

Goose Creek to  Wolfe Point

10 miles

    I awoke at 3 AM to the sound of light rain tapping away on the roof of my tent.  As soon as my consciousness cleared, I winced when I realized that I had to extract myself from the depths of my sleeping bag and rescue my pack, which was open and loosely hanging on a nearby tree.   My sleeping bag and gear that was on the floor of the tent would soon be soaked. I had to move quickly, as my tent fly was rolled up. I took care to consolidate my gear last night, as we were planning an early start, so all I had to do was exit, grab the backpack, throw it in, drop the sides of the tent, and get back out of the rain.  I soon fell back to sleep with the sound of the tides booming along nearby.

      Today we’d negotiate five more cuts:  Goose Creek, Fish Brook, Rose Brook, the Goose River and finally Rossiter Brook.      Two major tidal crossings would be reserved for today, and after consulting the Tide Schedule, we decided to awaken at 6AM for a 7AM crossing of Goose Creek, which becomes 30 feet deep here at high tide. 

     At exactly 6 AM I heard Xenon roust us, “They teach you guys from the States to wake up early?” It was still dark out.  At least now, my gear was either on, around, or laying right next to me. I took my time packing up, with the sound of the rain still peppering my tent.

    We headed out at 6:45, hiking in the dark with headlamps.  I decided to wear just my Crocs for the 1 kilometer walk upstream to the crossing point.  

    We were immediately walking through wet, cold,  swampy grass that ATV’s had  badly rutted up. At one point I stepped into cold muck that had me sinking up to my knees.  My next step left my bare foot exiting the suck hole. I panicked when I realized my Croc was imbedded somewhere down there. Luckily when I stuck it back in,  my foot felt the sandal, which I was able to slip back into and lift out. Plan B would have given me a slime-caked arm as well as legs.

      The crossing was surreal. We walked on in the dark struggling to make sense out of the meager markings here.     First , we weren’t sure where the white blazes ended, as our  headlamps would also occasionally illuminate light colored rocks, or whatever plastic detritus lie on the shore ahead.  We finally chose a likely spot, turned right and I headed over, as I didn’t have to change out of my hiking shoes. I was walking clueless, unsure about the depth of several of the channels of water I was about to traverse that were bisecting the stretch ahead, which I’d estimate was about 60 yards wide. When I had made it halfway across I did make out a prominent white blaze painted on a rock, and was relieved that we had nailed the correct spot to cross, but we were still in the dark.

     From here it was wash and wipe the muck off our feet and legs, put our hiking shoes on and head straight up, yet again, to gain the 500 feet in elevation that we’d need to reach the plateau above.

     The first section of high ground passed by some superb vistas, with one spectacular overlook some 600 feet above the expanse of the Bay. 

      I enjoyed the time I spent hiking with Rangoon today.  It reminded me of old times, like the 25 mile day he and I completed on the AT on the section from Boiling Springs to Duncannon in Pennsylvania. 

Late in the morning, we descended to Azore beach, the mouth of Rose Brook.  Here is a five minute video that I took walking into and around this spot. 

I fell and broke another Leki,  the fifth time that I’ve demolished a trekking pole in the year and a half that I’ve owned the set.I slid sideways off a wet canted rock and victimized my left pole.  Luckily,  I had just ordered a replacement piece after the anti-shock mechanism on the same section had  failed.  picture here

 

One unique feature about hiking along the Bay of Fundy is that this was the first time that my forward progress in backpacking was determined by the tides, twice in one day. 

We reached the Goose River exactly at high tide about 11:45 AM, where we sat and waited for the tide here to recede enough for us to negotiate a path along the steep and rocky shore.  

  The only way that we were able to discern the path ahead was through Xenon’s previous experience and a faint blaze on the side of a cliff quite a distance downstream.  The blazes on the rocks nearest to us were initially invisible , as they were deep under water.

   We sat out in the sun, ate the rest of our food, listened to music,  or just explored upstream.

At the time,  it  was  interesting enough to just watch this particular river rapidly drain back to the Bay.   

    We were able to start  walking again about an hour and a-half after high tide.  The river emptied amazingly fast, dropping close to 10 feet in that time.  

The trail ahead had us walking on the just exposed edge of the river, but the steepness of the bank and the slipperiness of the rocks made progress dangerous. Gritty mud soon entered the inside of our Crocs. 

Each turn opened up fascinating views of rocks, water, sky and trees. Eventually we encountered a mucky, grassy table that led to yet another ford at Rossiter Brook.

At the final beach site we washed our legs and feet in the Bay. 

We had now actually completed the Fundy Footpath,  bounded by Fundy National Park. However, , we were faced with more walking , this time along a maintained cart/ bike path running 5 miles east to our pick up point.  

We were now on the Goose River Trail in Fundy National Park.

Xenon’s wife Nancy was going to pick us up  at the Wolf Point area of the Park.  Problem was, we would be early, four hours early, way too early.   The printed material we received from the Interpretive Center warned us that “ You may be a day late due to tides or difficult terrain”,  and that, “ Concern has been expressed by officials of both Fundy National Park and the Big Salmon River Interpretive Center that persons arriving had been upset and worried that the hikers did not arrive at the scheduled time.  Perhaps a call on arrival or a few hours before arrival would be more appropriate to advise your party  of the time of arrival or delays.”  

We repeatedly tried to reach Nancy to alter the pick up time. For the whole last day, there was no phone reception from any of the different cell carriers the three of us phone guys were using, no matter how high we were on the plateau, or how clear the view was to nearby Nova Scotia.

In addition to no cell coverage, several more situations should be noted.  

First, whoever had recently trimmed back brush in the eastern half was in the habit of throwing it back into the trail, which is normally fine, but in the frequent boggy sections on the last day, we were unable to see beneath the spruce boughs to where rocks, or high points of ground were.  Our feet became unnecessarily wet. 

Also the switchbacks at some points were somewhat puzzling.  For example, while descending toward  Martin’s Head,  the switch backs seemed far too gradual. It almost felt like we were just walking back and forth, rather than actually descending. Then when we went up the other side it was as if it was the complete other extreme existed with far too few switchbacks, leaving us with  a good deal of  straight up going.

Most vexing was that someone had, for some undetermined purpose, laid out miles of either monofilament fishing line or white thread, at times on both sides of the trail, that frequently crossed the footpath so that we were either avoiding it, pushing through it, or frustratingly worse, getting the tips of our hiking poles entangled in it.

While the strip maps that we were sold were appreciated , the navigation  could be improved by matching the accompanying narrative section descriptions with running mileages/ or kilometer marks, as is the habit with most trail guides. 

We also neglected to use the extensive documentation of  GPS waypoints, as  most of the terrain is heavily wooded. In my experience, GPS units need relatively clear views of the sky to pick up the satellite signals.  

The hiking guide should also state at what tide levels you can make the crossings rather than just state they are tidal crossings. We ended up having more leeway than we expected.  

Nevertheless, I plan to return to hike the Fundy Footpath, taking an additional day to reach the Little Salmon River Gorge that we missed this time. Walton Glen and the Eye of the Needle sound like unique features to explore.  

I would also come a bit earlier in the season, to take advantage of the clear pools that we avoided swimming in this time of the year.    

In the end, what I especially liked about the Fundy Footpath was the raw, untraveled nature of much of the path itself. While we griped about aspects of it while walking, it is what we will remember and talk about as we  look back at it.  

I’d get up there sooner than later.  With the obvious spending that has already been done in the western portion, I expect the project will be manicured and pulled together in the years to come, in a effort to attract tourism dollars to the area.  

The international team we assembled turned out to be a positive experience. 

 

Uncle Tom, Xenon, Rangoon, Bad Influence
Uncle Tom, Xenon, Rangoon, Bad Influence

Without ever hiking one step together, I still signed up Xeon as a team member!  My intuition served me well this time.  Xenon’s prior experience on the Footpath was a huge plus, not to mention the efforts that  he and Nancy made to welcome these USA visitors  to Canada.  

  I’m left with Rangoon’s final comment, “ I was pretty much deliriously happy by the end of it.  This was a good one.  One for the books ”.

    

 

 

     

Fundy Footpath Day 3 of 4, Oct. 12, 2008

Little Salmon River to Goose Creek
9 miles

“Whoo, whoo!
Rangoon started us up after sounding the Maine Train whistle.   Our little international crew was on the move for our biggest big day yet of trekking through the sine wave topography.

    Is this trail as tough as the AT ?
  Yep. I felt it beat me up more than 95% of any raNdOm 14 mile day on the Appalachian Trail.
It is curious that this trail is termed a footpath. At times, particularly in the eastern half , it would more accurately described as a goat path. 
 The promotional literature rates the Fundy Footpath as “challenging”. Other internet trip reports have described this term as misleading, suggesting that “extreme” would be a more accurate descriptor.
A ranger report states, “The challenging 24-mile Fundy Footpath is like a roller-coaster; even serious walkers only manage six miles a day,”
Xenon reports that we were a strong, but atypical group, with our hiking times about half compared to those suggested in his hiking guide (“Hiking Guide to New Brunswick” by M. Eiselt and H Eiselt).

We doubled our mileage again with a “three map” day, where we faced 7 ravines, each presenting with a 500-700 foot descent with immediate challenging climb.  The cable steps were gone in this Eastern section. Instead we were greeted with laughably steep switchbacks.
Today offered a really a big dose of deeply satisfying hiking: occasional spectacular views,

cool temps, and world class terrain, with the blessed mattress footpath springing us right along. We encountered no one today.
Rapidy Brook, Wolf Brook, Hunter Brook, and Telegraph Brook came and went.  We had lunch and a longer break at Telegraph Creek.  Here is a video that takes place then and there:

At the end of an uphill climb after fording the Quiddy River, we encountered a gravel road crossing. Our map revealed that the footpath paralleled this road. We had to step back into the brush, dodging a phalanx of All Terrain Vehicles and 4 wheel drive pickup trucks that were headed down to the shore. Xenon took charge, sticking his thumb out to stop a truck that carried us all the way down to the mouth of the Quiddy River and the expansive beach at Martin Head.  This scene had people milling about ( mostly drinking) , families cooking up hot dogs, with the backdrop totally dominated by an acrid fuel smell accompanied by the roaring, and/or whining motors of perhaps a dozen ATV’s screaming across the beaches, dunes, and paths. The Canadians were very inquisitive and friendly to us, and we ended up being gifted a quart citrus drink from them as we told them our hard traveling tales.  


We tried to walk the beach past Martin Head,   only to meet a rock wall that blocked any further beach walking. We rejoined the path after a steep bushwhack climb through some increasingly brushy matter. We still needed to do the descent/ascent sequence a couple of more times. Our final gully appeared at Brandy Brook before our final climb, ridgewalk, and then decent to Goose Creek.
        We finally reached out intended destination at the western side of the rather formidable Goose Creek.
At day’s end, we passed up a chance to set up camp on the beach in favor of a more secluded spot just inside the tree line at the shore.

 

The next low tide here would be at 4:47 AM.

We needed the tide to be low in order to cross here, otherwise we’d have to deal with the incoming tide, which is reportedly very fast as it advances upriver, as you’d suspect with the thirty plus foot tides here. Xenon reasoned that we’d probably be able to handle the depth of the water if we crossed at 7 AM. We had a brief talk about the merits of crossing right now,

and looking for a site on the other side of the river. Xenon wisely counseled us that there was no place on the other side to camp, and it turned out he was correct.

This campsite had good seating, due to the large timbers that had been reclaimed from the high tide line of detritus a short distance away.
One bizarre touch was finding a full, rusty can of air freshener we found perched on the edge of the open air toilet box. Maybe folks used it and a lighter as a blowtorch to fight off the mosquitoes which would likely be fierce here in the heat of the summer.
It was easy for us to build a decent fire here, as there was plentiful dry wood that had washed up above high tide. We lay on the earth around the fire, and worked up some words that got us through at least another hour of darkness before we retreated into our respective tents. Bad Influence had a nice grove to trees to hang up his hammock, and the rest of us were on cushiony, dry grass.

Fundy Footpath , Day 2 of 4, Oct.11, 2008

Seely Beach to Little Salmon River
7 miles


Funky maps here.  I received  maps for the length of the Fundy Footpath on two waterproof computer-generated  pages, which you then cut into  6 individual  4.5 x 8” maps that fit into a ziplock plastic bag.
Yesterday we walked over one map, today we moved over a map and a half. Each small map is covers approximately 4-5  miles.
The elevation marks an the maps are in meters.
Some of the data is really skewed, as sometimes happens with  computer-generated maps.  I liked that the 50, 100, and 150 meter contour lines are bolded, but in places are misaligned with the numeration.   For example, I sometimes found the number 20 placed on the 100 meter contour line.  Other times you trace your finger along one contour line that shows a 160, yet a bit further it reads 180,  on the same line.
No matter what the maps say, the real world is here under foot.

The hiking today was unusually enjoyable.

This was a beautifully laid out path, that often side-slabbed across steep hillsides. The steepest uphills were sometimes characterized by placement of cable steps, essentially two foot long pressure treated  4 x 4’s that had holes drilled through each end, which in turn had cables passing through which resulted in very long staircases,  one of which was close to 100 feet high.
The morning saw us complete two difficult hill climbs, each rising from the Bay to  close to 700 feet in less than half a mile.   We spent the day hiking between 550 to 650 feet in elevation, with the sounds and often the sight of the Bay of Fundy within view,  and the far off shore of Nova Scotia in the distance.  What makes this trip unique is the ravines, where streams, and sometimes wider rivers slice down through the land, as the waterways fall from the heights of the plateau all the way down to the waters of the Bay.  Encountering each ravine is an exercise in rapid descents and demanding, steep climbs.
The footpath here is to die for.   Ninety percent of the walking is on a carpet of pine needles, a really thick carpet.  Rangoon calls it “mattress walking”.
Many of the trees we pass by  are ancient.  The mix is of spruce intermixed with abundant white birch.
We walked together well today.  No one was a burden on anyone. We took care in making that  happen.  At one point, early on in the day,  Rangoon rocketed ahead, but later we found him waiting patiently for the rest of us.

“I want to be part of the group now,” he said, as he fell in at the end of the line.


We ate a first lunch above Cradle Brook.  After a bracing climb of 650 feet in elevation, the trail skirted 600 foot cliffs.  Up on this plateau we looked for, but never found,  “evidence of an old copper mine”.  For a brief period, we followed the Old Telegraph Post Road, a worn, and  sometimes surprisingly steep path that had connected communities along the Fundy coast in the early 1900’s.
Later, we descended to the Little Salmon River.  Here, the ravine was blessed with a floor couple of hundred feet wide, with a 25 foot wide crystal clear stream meandering through from side to side, with tongues of glacial gravel extending at intervals toward the watercourse. Much grassland was also present.
Here we continued to walk upstream until we reached a relatively shallow crossing point.  There  was no way to get across without taking your shoes off to ford.  Bad Influence shouted out that this was the coldest water he had ever forded.


Even though it was only 12:30 PM, decided to stay and camp in this unusually beautiful site.    Perhaps these photos will do a better job than I of describing this absolutely superlative camp site.

There was plenty of time to eat, sleep, read, walk around exploring the area, or just lay in the sun and  share our pleasure about deciding to come here and see this land.


But the question that we continued to ask ourselves was, “Why were we the only ones here?”       Three of us aren’t even Canadians!
Reaching the answer to that question could take one a very a very long time.  I personally think that people are increasingly divorced from an appreciation of being in the outdoors. Couple that with the fact that backpacking is often  hard, sweaty, exhausting, and often less than pleasant, sometimes for days at a time, and you have a formula for attracting relatively low numbers of participants for this particular recreation activity.  If the weather here were rainy, cold, or if it were humid and hot ( and buggy), I’d understand why few would walk here.  But this whole weekend, it is not at all like that.

Here is a video of our crew in the late afternoon at the campsite:


I enjoyed using my wood stove immensely at this site.  Bad Influence also had his own home made wood stove on this trip.  For a video of my stove in action, click on the brief movie below.

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Later on in the afternoon, we did see  our first hikers walking along, with full backpacks on,  coming down the Little Salmon.  It was a pair of women who were doing a section of the Trail.  They had been up to visit the Little Salmon River Gorge, which houses the 400 foot Walton Glen Falls and Flume.  Photos of the site are available at the Waterfalls New Brunswick site, which is maintained by a person who talked with us while Xenon and I were at the general store in Alma, NB at the end of this trip.

Fundy Footpath , Day 1 of 4, Oct.10, 2008

Big Salmon River to Seely Beach:       New Brunswick, Canada
5 miles

I first learned about this particular hike this spring, when the following mini-article appeared in Outside magazine:
“If Canada’s Atlantic Provinces are the new New England, then the Fundy Footpath is the new (and abbreviated) Appalachian Trail. The 14-year-old, 24-mile wilderness route traverses one of North America’s last undeveloped stretches of Atlantic coastline, following the Bay of Fundy north of Saint John from the Big Salmon River to Fundy National Park. The bay is best known for having the world’s highest tides—up to 48 feet—so a chart is required reading on this five-day trek. After hugging the cobbly expanses of Long and Seely beaches, the trail climbs 1,000-foot coastal bluffs, descends ravines, and crosses the Goose River. At Little Salmon River, take a four-hour side hike through Eye of the Needle, a narrow canyon enclosed by 200-foot cliffs, to the 300-foot cascade of Walton Glen Falls. There are eight campsites en route, but most of the trail’s hikers sleep on the beaches, above the tide line. Trail maps and free permits are available at the Fundy Trail Interpretive Centre (fundytrailparkway.com), at Big Salmon River, a 45-minute drive north from Saint John. River Valley Adventures (rivervalleyadventures.com) will shuttle your car from Fundy National Park back to the Big Salmon for $150.”

Then a web search for trip reports found Dom Caron’s words, which leapt out at me, “Get set for a bumpy ride. I have hiked a lot of places, like Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and  Maine and this is by far the most up and downs I have yet to encounter in a trail.”
Next was my  realization that this trail was only 4 and one-half  hours away from my home.  Right then I knew that I would be hiking it, sooner than later.
After checking out the info on the website, I called  866-386-3987 and ordered the Fundy Footpath Map Kits and Emergency Maps with GPS co-ordinates.   The price of the maps was $20.00 (taxes & shipping included), which included a contribution towards aiding the maintenance costs for the volunteers.

Getting the whole deal going was like a slow click with destiny.  Little did I know that a major hurdle would clear by a happenchance meeting, which occurred when I was hiking the Appalachian Trail in Maine.  On Oct.4 this month,  a man who goes by the trail name of Xenon walked in for the night at the Horseshoe Canyon lean-to.   When I heard that he was from Saint John , New Brunswick, I told him that I was planning to do the Fundy Footpath near there on Columbus Day weekend.  Xenon replied that he had already done the section, several times, and he was more than willing to try and help us out and left me his address and phone number.  It had been difficult for me to find people who have done the whole 26 miles, and I  still had lingering , puzzling questions about spotting cars, and negotiating tidal crossings of rivers and streams that can only be forded at low tide, due to the 40 foot tides .

This first day of our trip, I left our house in the company of Bad Influence, a veteran for two long distance stints on the AT, who has now become a good friend, after we have camped together this winter, and spent time with each other in various places in New England.  We motored north to Milford, Maine where we picked up Rangoon, legendary for his climbing abilities, which allowed him to traverse the whole 26 miles of  New Hampshire’s Presidential Range in one day on his 2007 AT thru hike.
Then it was  Down East for three and a half hours, passing efficiently  through customs at Milltown, near Saint Stephen, New Brunswick.
We reached Xenon’s house around noontime, where he and his wife Nancy had soup and sandwiches waiting for us.  Canadian hospitality has always shown itself to me as a true class act.
In no time, we were all in my Caravan, and headed the 1 hour drive through St. Martins and further to the  Big Salmon River Interpretive Center, where the Fundy Footpath started.  The descent down to the bay’s edge was so steep that my front brakes were smoking up a cloud when we exited the van.  Nancy remained to explore a bit before she drove my vehicle back to St. John.  She was to pick us up in three days at the other end at  the western edge of Fundy National Park.

We  walked across the suspension bridge which immediately brought us into a seaside wilderness, the likes of which I have never experienced before.


The Fundy Footpath itself is a 24 mile long  trail that requires an additional 5 mile trail walk to reach a roadway at the eastern end at Fundy National Park.  We encountered high cliffs, spectacular views and relative solitude, as we encountered only  four other people over the three days we spent on the trail.

The literature recommends  four or five days to complete the walk, and that, “A hasty trip can be done in 3 or 4 days for the fit and experienced hiker”.

We encountered cliff side walking, fording several streams,  and climbing of cabled wooden stairs.

The Footpath is part of the Acadian forest region, home to more than 30 species of trees, 45 species of mammals and 285 species of birds.  The walk and the camping is, at least for now, free of charge.

We were delighted to encounter a very cushy footpath, but often it was cut into a steep side slope with loose lower edge.  Not many have walked here before us. There is nothing like the deep wear that characterizes the AT experience.  Despite the relatively virgin path, there is a feeling of being surrounded by ancient history as we moved through the area, where we encountered million year old rocks and aged trees that were sometimes between one and two hundred years old.  The fragrance of the bay and the forest intermingled into a heady mix.
Another companion on the walk was the constant sound of crashing surf, sometimes with multiple shore/wave sounds occurring simultaneously.

We were almost giddy with our enjoyment of the first afternoon of hiking.

Some of the first day’s walk involved traveling on sand , pebbles, muck, and smooth beach stones of all sizes and colors .

We spent our first night camped along the shore of Seeley Beach,  5 miles from Big Salmon.

All of our camp sites were on the shores of the Bay of Fundy, with the moon close to  full, shimmering on the bay,  with the faint  lights of far off Nova Scotia  in the distance.
That first evening was made especially memorable due to Xenon’s contribution of  individual marinated steaks, and precooked, buttered baked potatoes.  We roasted the meat over an open fire , and reheated the foil wrapped potatoes in the coals.  If the meat was too rare, or needed reheating, onto the fire it  went.  I cracked open some tequila, disguised as water in my recycled plastic soda bottle.  A  home made Whoopie pie topped off our first meal.
All this and we were only on day one, no it was actually day half-one, part of the afternoon.  The weather was clear and reasonably cool, with ditto forecasts right through the weekend.
This was gonna be good!