Thursday, October 31, 2019

Grand Falls

We have covered a lot distance over the past few days, so we decided to take a rest day in Grand Falls. This is one of the largest communities we've passed through since leaving Fredericton, and it has a lot to offer.

One of the things we noticed coming into town yesterday was that it seems to be truly bilingual. French is provided first on most signs, but everyone here seems to easily and readily converse in both English and French. It is wonderful to see and hear this, and reminds us immediately of our own shame at having lost the ability to speak French after leaving high school.

One of the claims Grand Falls has to fame is that it boasts the widest main street east of Winnipeg. Broadway Boulevard is a charming thoroughfare divided by a wide, treed, green island. It is lined with shops, restaurants, and cafes, and is a lovely spot to wander.


On the island are a number of historical plaques and tributes. One of these is a large bronze statue of the legendary jockey Ron Turncotte riding Secretariate, his world famous race horse. The pair won the US Triple Crown in 1973. Tragically, in 1978, at the age of 36, Ron Turncotte became a paraplegic as the result of a fall from his horse at the beginning of a race. He is one of the best jockeys of all time, and one of the most decorated athletes in Canada. He now lives near Grand Falls with his wife.


Of course, the main attraction in Grand Falls is the Grand Falls Gorge, with its impressive waterfall. There is a 1.6 km walking path around the gorge and falls, a tourism and information center, a campground, and even a zip line over the falls. Right at the top of the Falls is the Grand Falls Generating Station which a hydroelectric dam. The dam was built in 1931 and has the capacity of 66 megawatts. The gorge and falls are definitely well worth exploring!

Outside the tourism center is a wooden statue of Malabeam, a Maliseet heroin who saved her people from defeat by the Mohawks five hundred years ago. At the time there was a Maliseet village on the banks of the Wigoudi (St. John River). Malabeam's father was captured and killed by the Mohawks, and Malabeam was taken prisoner. The Mohawks promised to spare Malabeam's life and wed her to a Mohawk warrier if she showed them the way to her village. She told the band of 300 Mohawks to keep their canoes close together and she would lead them down the river to her village. With a cry of triumph she led the group straight over the falls, killing the entire raiding party. The bodies of the Mohawks were found the next day, but hers was never recovered.


In addition to the waterfalls and regional history we also found yet another monument to the Sons of Martha and the Sons of Mary.  Based on a poem by author Rudyard Kipling and inspired by a story in the bible, these cenotaphs celebrate the efforts of engineers, builders, and labourers who work tirelessly to ensure the comfort and safety of those in their communities. In Canada the poem is part of the Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer and recited during the graduation ceremony in Universities and colleges across the nation.

The poem reads:

THE Sons of Mary seldom bother, for they have inherited that good part;
But the Sons of Martha favour their Mother of the careful soul and the troubled heart.
And because she lost her temper once, and because she was rude to the Lord her Guest,
Her Sons must wait upon Mary's Sons, world without end, reprieve, or rest.

It is their care in all the ages to take the buffet and cushion the shock.
It is their care that the gear engages; it is their care that the switches lock.
It is their care that the wheels run truly; it is their care to embark and entrain,
Tally, transport, and deliver duly the Sons of Mary by land and main.

They say to mountains, " Be ye removèd" They say to the lesser floods " Be dry."
Under their rods are the rocks reprovèd - they are not afraid of that which is high.
Then do the hill tops shake to the summit - then is the bed of the deep laid bare,
That the Sons of Mary may overcome it, pleasantly sleeping and unaware.

They finger death at their gloves' end where they piece and repiece the living wires.
He rears against the gates they tend: they feed him hungry behind their fires.
Early at dawn, ere men see clear, they stumble into his terrible stall,
And hale him forth like a haltered steer, and goad and turn him till evenfall.

To these from birth is Belief forbidden; from these till death is Relief afar.
They are concerned with matters hidden - under the earthline their altars are
The secret fountains to follow up, waters withdrawn to restore to the mouth,
And gather the floods as in a cup, and pour them again at a city's drouth.

They do not preach that their God will rouse them a little before the nuts work loose.
They do not teach that His Pity allows them to leave their job when they damn-well choose.

As in the thronged and the lighted ways, so in the dark and the desert they stand,
Wary and watchful all their days that their brethren's days may be long in the land.

Raise ye the stone or cleave the wood to make a path more fair or flat;
Lo, it is black already with blood some Son of Martha spilled for that !
Not as a ladder from earth to Heaven, not as a witness to any creed,
But simple service simply given to his own kind in their common need.

And the Sons of Mary smile and are blessèd - they know the angels are on their side.
They know in them is the Grace confessèd, and for them are the Mercies multiplied.
They sit at the Feet - they hear the Word - they see how truly the Promise runs.
They have cast their burden upon the Lord, and - the Lord He lays it on Martha's Sons !

Grand Falls is a border town near to the United States (about 3.5 km away). As we leave here on the Great Trail we will be staying on the eastern shore of the St. John River, since the border with United States runs right down the middle of the St John River. Between here and Edmunston we will be looking a cross the water at another county - another first for us along The Great Trail!

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Perth-Andover to Grand Falls

When we arrived in Perth-Andover last night we were pretty tired and the light was beginning to fade. As we headed out we got a better look at the small community.

The town offers a riverside walkway with interpretive signs that describe its Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet), English and Scottish heritage. It also has the Southern Victoria Historical Museum, where visitors can see and learn about historical artifacts from the region. In the summertime there is apparently a farmer's market every Saturday morning, and the town also features various festivals, including the Larlee Creek Hullabaloo, the Gathering of the Scots, and the Tobique (Negootkook) First Nation Powwow. I have never had the chance to participate in an official hullabaloo, but I hope one day the opportunity presents itself :)


We crossed the St. John River on a long, modern, metal bridge, and picked up the trail again on the west side of the waterway. It began as a paved bike trail that wove out through a few small neighbourhoods into a more forested and rural landscape.

Not too far down the trail we came across two very friendly ladies, who stopped to chat and to ask us where we were hiking to. They were very adventurous sounding, and asked lots of practical questions about our gear and itinerary. They also shared some local history, including the fact that one of their relatives had served in the 104th Regiment during the War of 1812. According to the lady we met on the trail, the 104th Regiment is the reason we are hiking in Canada right now, and not in the US. They left us with a kindly "God bless you and good luck!"


Their conversation reminded us of another piece of history we've been reading about on the interpretive signs along the trail. These signs are titled "Marching into History", and they tell the story of how, during the brutally cold winter of 1813, New Brunswick's 104th Regiment marched on foot from Fredericton to Kingston, Ontario.  They made the journey to reinforce the British troops in Kingston and ward off an expected attack by the Americans during the War of 1812. Their route along the St. John and then the St. Lawrence Rivers was 1,100 km. Our hike to the Kingston area along the Great Trail will be 2,000 km. Nothing like taking the scenic route!


After leaving Perth-Andover we continued to follow the beautiful treed track along the edge of the St. John River. Although the day was overcast and quite dark, it was about 8°C, which we find a pretty nice temperature for hiking in.

It felt like an iconic fall day. There was a slight nip in the air. The smell of wood smoke reached us from riverside cabins and shacks. We could hear the rustle of tall grasses and dried wildflowers, mixed with the crunch of dead leaves under our feet. All morning we heard the honking of large V's of Canada Geese as they flew overhead. It was peaceful and beautiful and somehow very Canadian.


As we were walking past the community of Aroostook we came to one of those unexpected and exciting mixed flocks of birds. Of course there were lots of busy and noisy Black-capped Chickadees. They were joined by about 50 Pine Siskins who were almost frantically feeding on berries. There was a White-breasted Nuthatch giving its fast-paced and insistent honks, and a Hairy Woodpecker drumming away at the bark of a trembling aspen trunk. Joining the frey were about 30 American Robins, a handful of House Finches, and a small flock of American Goldfinches. A short way down the trail we came to a flock of about 50 Cedar Waxwings, also feeding on the berries and fruit at the trailside. Lots of entertainment!


Shortly after this we came to a lovely curved wooden bridge over the Aroostook River. Someone had painted a few small, colourful pictures on the wooden railings of the bridge, which we stopped to examine.


As we were enjoying the beautiful view down the wide, fast moving river we noticed a group of several male Hooded Mergansers making their way upstream, along with one female. Their bright and bold patterns made a beautiful contrast with the black water and the long silvery wake they left behind.

As we continued northward we noticed that the trail was steadily climbing, taking us into the forested hills quite high above the river. One of the nice things about walking a rail trail is that climbs are never steeper than a 2% grade.


In the afternoon it began to spit gently, and this gentle misting continued into the evening. The moisture gave the landscape depth, providing some magical scenes where the trees and hills seemed to recede into the mysterious distance.


The trail periodically pulled away from the river, giving some variety to the walk. We passed through small groups of houses, as well as through more open farm country, where we saw horses and cows grazing, and were greeted by some very enthusiastic and at times slightly menacing farm dogs.


Just before Argosy we came to a reroute around a washed out bridge and section of the trail being used to move heavy equipment. As we were walking around the obstruction we were passed by a hunter, fully clothed in bright orange, with his rifle and ammunition strapped to the front of his ATV. Over the past few days we've been seeing moose and deer prints on the trail, noticed snares and traps set alongside the pathway, and large dog or coyote prints.  No luck in spotting any moose in New Brunswick yet though.


Today's hike was 42 km, and by the time we were approaching Grand Falls we were getting pretty tired and sore. At the edge of town, with the darkness setting in, we spent quite some time skirting around what looked like an enormous quarry. Huge chunks of the hill we were walking around had been removed, leaving exposed dirt cliffs of 150 m or more, and there were multiple gravel pits we threaded through. Large machinery, which clearly use the pathway as a roadway, had left the trail muddy and torn up in spots where efforts had been made to control water running out the operation. At one spot there was a considerable washout where water draining from the quarry had taken out the trail. Northern Construction Inc. is clearly a big employer in the region, but not for the first time we were left wondering why there can't be a better and less destructive way for humans to inhabit our Earth.


When we were about 2 km outside of town, and still couldn't see any signs of a community, we were getting a little worried. Fortuitously, we met a very nice lady walking a very large and friendly dog who asked us if we were the ones walking across the country. She stopped for a chat, offered us a few words of encouragement, and assured us we were almost there.

When we got into the town we stopped for a coffee at Tim Hortons to warm up and dry off. It was a very long day, but one filled with beautiful scenery, lots of birds, and many friendly people. Having covered 85 km in two days and with the impending weather looking to deposit between 50 and 80 mm over the next two days we have decided to dry out, clean off and rest here in the wonderful city of Grand Falls before pushing the final 80 km to the Quebec border.