As we set out from the campsite we paused for a moment to watch the slowly turning blades of the wind turbine across the lake disappear and then reemerge from the low lying and fast moving clouds.
The morning began well enough, although everything was extremely wet from last night's rain, and the puddles had noticeably grown. We set off around Blackwood Lake and shortly afterwards emerged onto Blackwood Lake Road. This was a wide, flat, gravel road that gave us panoramic views over the surrounding hills. Some of the hills were covered in multi-coloured autumn forest, and as the rain began to fall in earnest, the ridges began to take shape, disappearing into the mist shrouded distance.
Other sections of the road took us through logged areas where the landscape had been pretty much completely cleared. I understand that regeneration of coniferous forests doesn't work well after partial or selective logging, and that in these cases clear cutting is sometimes the best option. I was somewhat heartened to see a few cut blocks with healthy looking 2-3 meter tall fir trees regrowing along the route. However, it was still hard to see the ripped and raw cut blocks, and it made me wonder why our species hasn't found a less destructive and environmentally devastating way to exist on this planet yet.
When the trail turned to take us down Mine Road we were passed by several logging trucks, some coming out loaded and unable to stop or slow down. The guidebook had warned that if we ran into active logging operations in this section we should figure out an alternative route down to the boundary of the park. Somewhat unsure of what lay ahead we continued to around kilometer 54 or so in the Dobson Trail, at which point a forester in a pickup stopped and advised us to turn around, that the way ahead would be impassable for us as their were active logging operations in the region. Admittedly the Dobson Guide Book does warn of this, but we had hoped to be able to get through. We asked for advice on a reroute and his best guess was to take Collier Mountain Road and then cross back over to the Dobson Trail gates at the northern edge of Fundy National Park. We thanked him and turned around. For those who are unfamiliar with the area, these roads are all dirt or gravel roads that are part of a network of logging roads. It can be quite confusing to navigate them, unless you happen to be on a well-designed snowmobile route.
We backtracked to Collier Mountain Road and began heading south on that until we reached the northern edge of Fundy National Park.
At this point the rain was pelting down, the wind had picked up, and the temperature had plummeted again. We turned west, intending to get back on the trail and head down to the Dobson Link Trail into the park. A couple kilometers in we heard shots in the woods quite close to us and then came across a group of ATVs on the side of the trail. We soon discovered a group of loud, highly inebriated hunters on the edge of the woods, and we were once again warned, this time in the strongest and rudest way possible to get out of there.
Tired, frozen, wet, uncomfortable with picking a fight with a large group of armed hunters, and having added nearly 10 extra kilometers to what was supposed to be a 26 km day, we decided to head back down Collier Mountain Road and simply head south on 45 Road to Alma. We resolved to walk the Dobson Link up from the south over the next few days instead.
On the walk down we passed quite a few private cottages and cabins. Some of them were in stands of trees that had been left in the middle of clearcuts. There were also plenty of signs asking people to look before they shoot, and indicating that hunting was prohibited.
The walk down 45 Road was mostly uneventful. The highlight was crossing the covered Forty Five Bridge. The bridge gave a fantastic view down a river canyon, and we were mesmerized by the water rushing and cooling below us. When we walk the Dobson Link Trail in a few days we will have to walk across the fast moving river not once, but twice.
As we continued towards Alma we descended down a very steep road and suddenly got a glimpse of the ocean. It was wonderful to see the fingers of land disappearing into the distance, and watch the small patches of sunlight dancing across the slate grey surface of the sea.
When we reached the town of Alma we stopped at Kelly's Bakehouse for a coffee to warm up. We also sampled some of their famous sticky buns, and quickly came to understand why they are acclaimed. It was a much needed boost to the spirits, and a good way to warm up.
We decided to take a day off in town to warm up, dry out, rest, and hopefully overcome our head colds before tackling the Fundy Footpath. As we walked the waterfront we came across a group of birders along the boardwalk at the edge of town. There was a dead eel on the road in the middle of the nearby bridge, and it was being feasted on by American Crows, Herring and Ring-billed Gulls, and as we watched a pair of Bald Eagles joined in the fray.
A Great Blue Heron was fishing at the bottom of the pier, and at the edge of the waterfront board walk a Ring-necked Pheasant was feasting on thistle seeds. We spoke with a man who had been birding for 40 years, who showed us photos of Black- throated Green Warblers, Black-and-White Warblers, Ruby-Crowned and Golden-Crowned Kinglets, and a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher that he'd spotted in the park. Very exciting!
As we headed back to our room there was a crescent moon hanging above the hills that surround the Alma. The trees on the ridge tops were silhouetted against a pink sky. In the midst of all this beauty, I managed to trip on the sidewalk and face plant damaging my glasses and hurting my pride. After all the climbing we've done on uneven terrain, I wait until town to fall over and add some spectacular bruises to compliment my cold. Winter may be coming, but we clearly need a rest day (or two).