Saturday, November 2, 2019

Grand Falls to Saint Leonard

In the last two days New Brunswick has received a lot of much needed rain, and yesterday it was pummelled with high winds that left 500,000 people in Quebec and New Brunswick without power.


We weathered the storm in Grand Falls, which gave us an opportunity to experience the awesome power of water. We watched in amazement as the water level in the St. John River steadily rose over the past day, and the volume of water going through the hydroelectric dam and over the Grand Falls Gorge increased to a truly impressive torrent. The spectacle left us with little doubt that water really is one of the most powerful forces on earth.

 

There has been one refrain running through our minds for a few weeks now ..."winter is coming ...." So far the gods have smiled on us, but this morning it definitely felt like our pursuer was one step closer. As the sun peeked over the edge of the St. John River, turning the clouds a gloriously bright pink, there was a distinct nip of frost in the air.

 
 
 

The first kilometre of today's walk was along a lovely paved path by the river that crossed the water by way of a picturesque pedestrian bridge. As the sun began to warm and brighten the morning, the white birch trunks, bright red mountain ash berries, and tall yellow grasses stood out against the last of the thick dark storm clouds.

 

Once we left Grand Falls we walked down the shoulder of highway 144 for the remainder of the day. This busy road runs parallel to the St. John River and beside an active CN rail line. The Canada-US border runs down the middle of the river, so as we walked we enjoyed views of the rolling hills of Maine.

 
 
 


The area along the Saint John River between approximately Hartland and St. Leonard is known as the Potato Belt of New Brunswick. One of the main economic drivers in this region is potato growing, while the other seems to be Irving oil and timber harvesting. As we walked we enjoyed seeing the still bright green potato fields and blond wheat fields stretched over the rolling hills.

 

Just after noon we reached the small border town of Saint Leonard. It was a nice approach with many beautiful houses and barns along the road. We also noticed the return of a strong Acadian culture, with the red, blue, and white stripes and gold star appearing on lamp posts, flower pots, and other structures. Although this region is still officially bilingual, the dominant language we hear is French.

 

On the edge of town a friendly man pulled over and stopped for a chat. He seemed very knowledgeable about the trail, as well as the area we are in. Before he left he gave us each a Remembrance Day poppy, sharing that many generations of his family had been in the service. It left us feeling humble and very grateful for all the wonderful and beautiful aspects of Canada that we are free to experience as a result of all those brave men and women who have served.

As we explored Saint Leonard we came across the Clarence Bourgoin Park. This park has a short walking trail through it and is home to 100 or so booths. During the annual Rendez-vous des Artistes each booth is occupied by an artist.
 
 
 

The work of local talent as well as artists from across Canada, the US, and Europe are showcased. Festival goers can watch the artists at work, chat with them, and purchase their work. Live music is also featured at the end of the day. Too bad we weren't here during a festival!

 
 
 
 

    (Photo: Tourism New Brunswick)


In the park we learned that Clarence Bourgoin is a world renown Canadian painter who was born in Saint Leonard, NB in 1946, and lived in Quebec for 30 years. He is a figurative painter who is part of the expressionist movement, and he calls himself a "landscape hunter." In 2007 his work was exhibited in the Carrousel du Louvre in Paris, and he was awarded a special prize by the Bureau of the National Society of Fine Arts in Paris. His work portrays the landscapes and nature of Maritimes Canada, and is worth checking out if you like impressionist paintings!
 
 
 
 
 
                                (Artwork images from artists website)

After visiting the park we wandered over to the unique and interesting looking St. Leonard Catholic Church. As far as we can tell, the town and church are named after St. Leonard of Port Maurice. He was born in Italy in 1676 and became one of the foremost missionaries of the with century.
 

As we walked to the end of the main street and looked across the bridge to America we were left feeling like we have lots to reflect on. It was a beautiful, sunny, cool day, but we will likely bring our time on the trail this year to an end soon. We have managed to walk across four provinces. We have seen some stunningly beautiful landscapes. We have met some truly amazing people. We have seen new and amazing birds. We have learned a lot about ourselves and our beautiful country. We have so much to be grateful for.

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