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.

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