Between May 21 and 26th, Kris, Matt and I had our annual
backpacking trip, this time heading to the Fundy coast in New
Brunswick. Our goal this year was to hike the Fundy Footpath, a seaside trail that leads you from the St. Martins area to Fundy National Park at Alma, NB. This trip was a special one, as Matt now returned to our hiking group after his repatriation from Central America. It was the first time we all hiked together since 2003.
The Fundy Footpath is part of the Fundy Trail Parkway Provincial Park, a relatively newly designated park. The area is the site of new development and a roadway which is supposedly planned to link the Saint John region with Fundy National Park to increase the tourist traffic to the area. The Fundy Footpath is a 41km trail (and now vulnerable due to the close proximity of the development), which leads through varying types of forest, landscape and terrain. For instance, a day's travel could bring you through old growth birch and maple trees, descend into numerous gullies and valleys surrounding rivers, brooks and coves. You're also treated with views of the surrounding hills, river valleys, beaches and of course, the Bay of Fundy. There are many stream and river crossings, and your boots are wet for the entire trip. One of the more interesting features of the trip was the need to plan for high tide. There are two sections of the trail that particularly depend on what time you travel across the river or cove, which are only passable at low tide. This consideration makes for a neat change in planning and depending on the time of year. Also, a bonus aspect of the Fundy Footpath are the options for side trips. Many sections of the main trail have access, lookoff and day trip trails, not to mention there are quite a few waterfalls to visit along the way. See my waterfall site for photos of the ones we visited. Of note, the 41 kilometre trail doesn't count the 8 kilometres of trail in Fundy National park that leads you to your vehicle. When you're at the end of the Fundy Footpath, you have more travel to your car unless you planned on leaving via zodiac!
As for difficulty, I would have to say the trail is extremely challenging, due in part to the condition of the trail, the choice of route and the frequent changes in elevation. The days are long and it would be challenge to travel more than 12 kilometers in one day. In some sections, the trail lacks yearly maintenance and deadfalls are plentiful. The most difficult section of trail due to deterioration is between Martin Head and Centurion Point. In this area, the trail has eroded to the point where if additional trees fall or are uprooted, this part will be impassable without a treacherous sidesloping bushwack traverse. Caution should be taken particularly in this section as a tumble would easily lead to a fall a hundred metres down to the shoreline.
In general, the routing of the overall trail in some sections is also somewhat questionable, as it seems to stay near the shoreline at all costs, including a succession of steep descents and ascents to maintain the route. During our trip, we took a couple of cut offs to lessen the constant ups and downs, most evidently at Quiddy River. If you arrive at Quiddy River during low tide, scout ahead to take a route that hugs the east side of the river to go around the peninsula. It is a beautiful trip up river along the grassy islands that divide it as it flows to Martin Head.
Our trip was mostly as planned. Day 1: we began around 10am, leaving from the west the Big Salmon River interpretive centre. From there, it was a quick intro to the hills we'd experience for the rest of the following 5 days, as we began our ascents and descents to Tuft Point, around Seely Beach and camping at Cradle Brook.
Day 2: Was a short day for us, as we planned to hike to Eye of the Needle and the falls beyond it at Little Salmon River. After making the short trip between Cradle Brook and Little Salmon river, we set up camp at the luxurious campground there. When I say luxurious, I mean in a backcountry way, with a shared-use relaxation chair, brick oven and plywood table! After setting up camp, I headed upriver for the Eye of the Needle. The Eye is a geologicall formation caused by a river that eroded the ground over time. At its narrowest point, it is about 4 meters wide and 60-100 metres high. From the Eye, I continued further on to reach Walton Glen Brook Falls, which were spectacular. After backpacking for the morning and spending the afternoon on a day trip, we were quite tuckered out by the evening.
Day 3: With wet feet, we had an epic day, traveling from Little Salmon River to Brandy Brook, a resulting in 13 hour day. Our concern was that as the tides were high during the middle of the day, we wanted to put ourselves in good position for days 4 and 5, which depended on an early crossing of Goose Creek and Goose River. It has just happened that our long day ended with the most difficult section between Martin Head and Brandy Brook. I barely was able to take a photo of Brandy Falls before colapsing into bed just after dark.
Day 4: We rose early to hike the hour and a half to Goose Creek, where we had our much earned breakfast after crossing the cove at low tide. There were lots of old wooden structures there, which seemed to be the remnants of docks, dams and a loading area. At one time, there must have been a small inlet community there. The rest of the day our travel was slow, as we were still feeling the previous long day of hiking. We did however reach Goose River with some time for an afternoon nap, only interrupted by a thunderstorm and subsequent downpour.
Day 5: This day was a true denouement and only 2 hours of travel along a grassy cartpath. It was almost relaxing to finish on such a trail, as for the past 4 days, we were used to a narrow trail, necessitating careful one to one steps over roots,
rock and mud. Finishing early made for a nice mid-afternoon big meal at Mama Georges in Springfield, a needed feast after 5 days in the woods.
I'd recommend doing the Fundy Footpath at least once as the scenery and sheer difficulty and challenge of backpacking the coastline hills is worth the adventure. I'd also recommend travelling in May as there were relatively no bugs! After enduring the backpacking portion, we may return via some of the access trails for a day trip to one of the waterfalls we missed along the way.