Friday, September 27, 2019

Dorchester to Dieppe

Today was a very, very, very long day, but one filled with beauty and rich in history. We awoke from a very good sleep in our tiny cell in the Dorchester Jail, and enjoyed a breakfast of hot coffee and warm muffins. When we ventured forth we found a beautiful autumn day, soaked in sunshine but cooled by gentle breezes. Perfect hiking conditions!

As we headed out of Dorchester we soon passed the huge, modern, and still fully functional Dorchester Penitentiary. It was perched like a fortress high atop a hill overlooking Shepody Bay. The terraced hill leading up to the facility was immaculately mown, but there were saplings and grass growing up through the treads of the once-magestic stone stairways leading up the embankment. It gave a slightly eerie sense of abandonment.


For much of the morning we walked northwards along the road towards Memramcook. We had beautiful views out over the red mudflats of the bay, which were set off by the bright yellows and soft purples of the wildflowers, the deep reds of wild plants, and the rich golden brown of the tidal marsh grasses.


At one point we passed a series of small ponds beside the road. To our delight, these ponds were filled with ducks who were resting on their journey south. Among the highlights were Northern Pintails, Green-winged Teals, and Mallards. There were also several Greater Yellowlegs.


As we walked we passed several small Acadian villages on the opposite side of the bay, their white houses and prominent churches looking beautiful in the morning light. This region has a very strong Acadian presence, which was evident from the bilingual signs and the Acadian flags painted on the utility poles in some of the towns we passed.


The landscape itself also showed hints of centuries old occupation by the Acadians. The floodplains along Shepody Bay were all farmed, and we could still see the old dykes and channels built into the fields as we walked. Reading history in the landscape is something we both enjoy.

When we came to Memramcook we crossed the river. The Great Trail turned back south at this point to follow the shoreline along the tidal marshes and dykes. We took a small detour up into the town of Memramcook to explore and to see St. Thomas's church. This Roman catholic church played an important roll in the resettlement of the region following the expulsion of the Acadians in 1755. The church holds a prominent position, looking out across the valley, and is visible from miles around.


After leaving Memramcook we had a long and beautiful road walk through tidal flats, forested areas, and rolling agricultural fields. We passed a number of vineyards, as well as fields filled with large, orange pumpkins. At one point we passed a cyclist with an old fashioned bicycle, sitting under a tree at the side of the road and eating an apple. He called a cheerful "Bon chenin, bon voyage!" which brought back strong memories of walking the French countryside on the Via Podiensis.

The landscape we walked through today was predominantly pastoral, dotted with houses, barns, and small communities. While this was very beautiful, it presented a challenge for stealth camping. We had been aiming for a power corridor about 35 km from where we began. On the satellite image it looked like we could disappear into the forest somewhere along it. When we got there we found a gate with a forest of No Trespassing signs, a barking dog nearby, and two or three houses beyond the fence that looked abandoned but weren't. This freaked us out, so we kept going.


After this point we were pretty much in the outskirts of Dieppe. The traffic on the road really began to pick up, both in volume and speed, and there were a lot of fully loaded dump trucks in the mix. It was a bit harrowing, and there was nowhere to camp between the houses. We decided to continue on to the beginning of the Sentier de l'Etoile and the Riverfront Trail which lead into Dieppe and Moncton.

When we finally reached the trailhead and left the busy road we were delighted to find a lovely municipal trail with a flat stone dust bed. It wound through neighborhoods, stands of trees, and along the water. There were lots of people out bicycling and jogging. A couple of ladies who passed us looked like they were out training for a Camino or other hike, and another couple stopped to chat.


As we followed the water we crossed several very picturesque bridges and boardwalks, their seductive curves crisscrossed with long afternoon shadows.


On the edges of town we came to a wooden lookout tower, and at the base there were clear signs of Acadian dykes still visible in the mudflats. It was an interesting mix of nature and human history.


As the setting sun turned the sky to pink and gold, the tall grasses beside the trail began to glow. We were extremely tired by this point, having walked farther today than on any previous leg of this journey. As the city lights began to wink on one by one, by stopped for a much needed bite to eat at Subway. When we got up this morning we never thought we would reach Dieppe today, but we made it, and we are now one day closer to reaching Quebec before winter comes.

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