Saturday, October 12, 2019

Big Salmon River to St. Martins

It rained gently on and off last night, so the forest was damp and glowing green when we emerged from the tent. This morning we learned that if your alarm clock happens to wake up a nearby red squirrel, that squirrel will very quickly make sure all the other squirrels in the forest are awake too, and then no one gets to sleep anymore.

The last few kilometers to the Interpretation Center at Big Salmon River were beautiful, and not too strenuous, although the root and rock strewn trail, especially on the last few climbs and descents, was a bit slippery from the rain. Progress was slow.

We mostly skirted the ocean on a forested footpath. There were a few low-lying meadows of blackberry bushes and ferns to navigate, and as we crossed several streams we saw evidence of mass erosion on the cliffs.

Just before we turned to head north up the shore of Big Salmon River we came to a lookout where seven seals were bobbing out in the ocean. Although we couldn't see below the surface of the steely grey water, they seemed to be floating on their backs. Every once in a while they would tip their heads back and appear to yawn luxuriously, exposing their dappled necks, large pink mouths, and sharp teeth. The yawning behaviour was a new thing for us, and we enjoyed watching them.

Big Salmon River is a beautiful, wide river delta which at on time was used for driving logs out to the ocean. Today it is the recipient of extensive river rehabilitation, with the goal of re-stablishing a healthy salmon population. As we followed its forested bank we were passed by three intrepid looking hikers heading in, appearing vigorous and determined. We wished them well and proceeded along.


We crossed the Suspension Bridge, pausing to enjoy the fall colours reflected in the river, even as we could still see the colourful rocks at the bottom through the clear, fast moving water.

From there it was a short walk to the Interpretation Center, where we were greeted with warm coffee and cookies. As we crossed the parking lot we passed another group of four people, just beginning their adventure on the Fundy Footpath, and stopped to offer a word of encouragement.

At the center we signed out, chatted to the friendly staff, and watched a short film on the Fundy Trail Parkway, which covers the next 10 km between the Interpretation Center and the village of St. Martins.

After the short break, we headed back out into the rain and began our walk along the 10 km multi-use trail through the Fundy Trail Parkway. The Fundy Trail Parkway is a 2,559 hectare (6,323 a re) park that is operated by the Fundy Trail Development Authority, a non-profit organization run by volunteers.


It is possible to drive or take a bus tour through the 30 km of road in the park, enjoying panoramic views over the forested hills, out into the Atlantic, across tidal mudflats, and along pristine beaches.

Along the parkway you can learn about nature, geology, and history. The park is part of both the UNESCO Stonehammer Global Geopark, and the UNESCO Fundy Biosphere Reserve. The 540-millon year old rock in the park was formed by the collision of continents, the closing and opening of oceans, volcanoes, earthquakes, ice ages and climate change. Much more recently, the park was the location of a thriving logging community. All this you can learn about from interpretive signs, park guides, and the Visitor's centers in the park.


The 10 km section of multi-use trail we walked from the Big Salmon River Interpretive Center to the park gates passed eight lookouts over the ocean. At some of these viewpoints we enjoyed lovely views of the coast, which was given mystery and distance by the mist and fog. At others the rain was too heavy, and the geological features of interest were mostly obscured.


The trail was mostly a paved or wide gravel track that wound through a beautiful forest. It was fully accessible, and easy to navigate. One of the highlights was reaching Fownes Head, where we stopped for a beautiful view of the Flowerpot Rock. This sea stack looked beautiful in the mist, with the large waves breaking at its base.

When we left the park we had another 9 km of road walking before we reached the seaside village of St. Martins. It was a hilly and winding road with some very beautiful and artistic houses along the way. There wasn't too much traffic either, likely due to the steady rain.

Around 4:30 PM we reached the sea caves. These caves have been formed by wave action at the base of the tall red cliffs. When the tide is out visitors can walk across a rocky beach on the tidal flats and enter the caves, which are a few meters deep. There were a few intrepid souls out on the rocks in the rain, and for a few moments we joined them.

We were soon seduced by the enticing smells from the Seaside Restaurant at the edge of the beach however. We happily enjoyed hot coffees and veggie burgers with fries with a view of the caves and the ocean. It was a lovely treat to celebrate our survival of the Fundy Footpath.


From the sea caves it was a short walk to the hostel in St. Martins. There we were met by Kaz from Not Your Usual Hostel, who showed us around and very generously invited us to Thanksgiving dinner at her house. Although we had just eaten, we deeply appreciated the kindness and generosity.

We spent a few minutes doing various errands, and picking up a few supplies in the village, and then set to the task of cleaning and drying everything out. It feels so very nice to be warm, clean, and dry!

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