Fundy Trail, New Brunswick. Or, Who Blazes a Trail With Green?
My day on the Fundy Trail was a day of stories.
But first, a little background: The Fundy Trail is a ten mile dead-end parkway that runs along the Bay of Fundy just south of Fundy National Park that provides access to look offs, trails, and historical sites along the stretch of coast. I had scouted out the parkway the previous day so I was aware that it was gated and only open during daylight but I had neglected to actually check the time it opened so I arrived outside the gates at 8:30 to find out the operating hours were currently 10am – 6pm. A car with Maine plates almost immediately pulled up behind me and the occupant began repeating in varying sentence constructions how it wasn’t open until 10. He was pretty agitated in an anxious sort of way so I didn’t ask the obvious question (“So why are you here?”) but I remained friendly while he talked himself into parking and hiking in. I wished him luck and then broke out the stove to make some oatmeal. A few more cars arrived, parking along the roadside, while I ate breakfast, cleaned up, and packed away the stove. I then grabbed my beach blanket, found a spot of grass, and started doing some yoga. Around 9:30 a maintenance man pulled up and opened the gate to pass through. I was oblivious to this in the midst of my yoga until the anxious man from earlier ran past me puffing and wheezing and yelling what I think was “It’s open! It’s open!” I picked my head up and sure enough the gate was being held open. Turns out that we were being let in early – and for free.
The first pull off was a viewpoint over the Bay of Fundy but at the second there were stairs that led down the cliff and so I followed them. I reached a lower viewpoint of the bay but, as the path kept going, turning to follow the shore, I somewhat unconsciously decided to follow… and follow. What was (I think) Pot Rock Scenic Path at some point connected to the main trail that runs the length of the park. I ended up hiking through a couple miles of forest, down a steep incline to a beach, back up, across some wooden bridges, and past a waterfall. Well, it was a lovely morning and I was obviously not at all paying attention until I rather abruptly became thirsty and realized by looking at a sign that I was about three miles away from my car. Whoops. I climbed up back to the road and took the more direct bike path through the upper forest on the return to my car, stopping to see the “Sea Captains Burial Ground,” which were two nineteenth century cemeteries of the Fownes and Melvin families who were local shipbuilders and sea captains.
After reuniting with my car I stopped at a few more viewpoints before arriving at the suspension bridge over the Salmon River. Once I walked across the bridge I noticed signs for various trails and – I’m still not sure what happened here – I thought I saw a sign that said there was a loop trail to the Hearst Lodge, distance 1.9km, which is equivalent to a little over a mile. So I started walking, climbing an old forest road… and climbing… and climbing. At about forty-five minutes I realized that I must have misunderstood since it was impossible that I hadn’t already hiked over a mile but I kept going. Luckily I came upon the lodge soon after that. Since the point for the return loop wasn’t immediately apparent after looking around the property I headed inside to ask and also to confirm the distance because – once again – I didn’t have any water with me since I had just started wandering after crossing the bridge. Another fail. The very nice woman gave me some water and informed me the trail was 2.6km up and 2.5km back. Not 1.9km.
The return section of the loop trail followed the Big Salmon River and was exponentially more scenic than the hike up the access road. It was also much more challenging: Many places required scrambling and using cables or railings to navigate the steep, slippery river embankment that was tangled with tree roots and moss. It was a bit like an obstacle course at times and really just fun to hike. The scenery was beautiful with the mosses and ferns clinging to the rocks and tree roots; everything seemed to be precariously hanging on to the steep hillside. Glimpses of the river below were lovely as well. Because the trail often ceased to resemble a trail I found myself looking around quite a bit for direction; unfortunately, the trail was blazed with green paint which made it rather difficult to pick out in the green forest. I had to laugh but its really a terrible idea.
About halfway along the river I came across a crystal clear swimming hole which was perfect. The river water was significantly warmer than the ocean too. I only wished I wasn’t so hungry at this point or I would have stayed a lot longer. I also didn’t have my waterproof camera with me so I can’t show you how clear the water was so you’ll just have to take my word. It was a delightful spot and, if hiking from the opposite direction of my journey, only a little more than a mile from the trail head. Once I made it back to where I was parked and stuffed my face I finished visiting the remaining look offs along the the parkway before heading back to the beach at St. Martins to make some dinner.