Two weekends ago, I was disappointed by the uncharacteristically sunny weather which greeted me near the Bay of Fundy. Seeing that the forecast called for rain and fog I jumped at the opportunity to return south for the full Fundy experience – and boy was I not disappointed – keep reading far below for a riveting tale!
Between the community of St. Martins and Fundy National Park lies a 50km long section of rugged coastline which is traversed by a narrow hiking trail known as the Fundy Footpath.
A coworker had mentioned this trail to me last year, and I had made a mental note to visit as soon as I could. Recently a short video series was released about a “city slicker” hiking the footpath which has greatly increased knowledge of the trail. The footpath is touted as a challenging and incredibly scenic trail along Canada’s East Coast. I can certainly say that it did not fail to live up these accolades.
My trip began with a very long and rainy drive to the south-western end of the trail. I hiked for three hours on Friday evening to reach a campsite at Seely Beach. The weather continued to be cold, drizzly and damp.
The footpath is ideally hiked point to point, but as I was hiking by myself I hiked two-thirds of the trail, and then doubled back to my starting point. Sunday was a beautiful day and the return journey was spectacular – almost Caribbean!
But let us return to Saturday morning – most of the hiking is a bit inland, as much of the coast is too steep and rocky to hike safely. Most of the time the ocean is not so much something that you see, rather it is more of a constant presence felt as a breeze over your shoulder, or perceived as the vast open air over the ocean looming beyond the trees.
The damp climate means there are lots of beautiful mossy forests to wander through.
Steep staircases help one climb the most challenging sections of trail.
The trail is punctuated by steep descents and correspondingly steep climbs out of river valleys about every hour (if you hike fast enough!) Beautiful scenery, but terribly difficult to photograph in Saturdays flat light.
More mossy forests.
Leaves on trees.
A decent spot to camp, or so it seemed at the time… read on below for an exciting story.
On Saturday evening I reached the Quiddy River and decided to camp for the night. I couldn’t see the ocean, but knew from my map that I was about 2km inland. The banks of the river were quite steep so I thought about the safety of the camping site. There appeared to be a lot of debris from spring flooding, but lots of space for rainwater to drain. I knew there was no rain in the forecast and decided that the risk of a flash flood was low. The next possibility of trouble would be the well know high Fundy tides flooding back up the river. I looked for any signs of mud and seaweed left by the previous tide and could only find them lower down stream. I tasted a few pools of water and they all tasted fresh which suggested to me that a salty tide had not reached this point. Satisfied with my assessment I snuggled into my sleeping bag for a good nights sleep after a long day of hiking.
At 2am I woke, why I’m not sure. I put my right hand down on the tent floor – and immediately felt a cool wobbly surface below my hand! My entire tent and sleeping mat were floating on water! I quickly put on my headlamp and looked through the mesh of my tent – water everywhere! Remarkably my tent and ThermaRest provided me enough flotation to pack up my delicate down sleeping bag without getting it at all wet! My heart leapt into my throat again – my boots! Where were my boots?!
10 hours of strenuous hiking away from my car along a rugged trail was not a place that I wanted to end up without my hiking boots. Remarkably my boots were floating upright (and dry!) in the vestibule of my tent. My water bottle was the only thing which floated away that night never to be found again.
I carefully unzipped my tent and stepped out into the shin deep water. I had been sound asleep as the tide flooded in to this height. I quickly threw all my belongings onto the riverbank and put on warm clothes and rain gear. Fortunately it was not raining, but it was about 5C cool at this point. My tent and sleeping pad got wet as I retrieved them from the water. I hung up the tent to dry and found a tiny piece of flat ground on the steep river bank. Not wanting to get my sleeping bag wet, I lay down on my wet ThermaRest in my raingear and slept for three hours. At 6am a chattering squirrel woke me and got my Sunday off to another brusque start.
I have reflected on the experience and there isn’t much I would have changed in my decisions. I checked for sings of a high tide, and probably would have been fine just another 30m upstream. This misfortune hit me on May 28th, just a few days after May 25th when the high tide was a “Perigean spring tide” ie: tides were exceptionally high at this time.
The 6am aftermath of the previous night.
After a quick breakfast I set off back towards my car and enjoyed some beautiful weather along the way. Sometimes we have to leave town on the rainy Fridays, to be in the right place for the sunny Sundays.
Beautiful black and white.
After making good time hiking on Sunday morning, I decided to take an extended lunch on a (definitely dry!) riverbed to thoroughly dry out my tent, ThermaRest and backpack.
Not a bad place to stop for an extended lunch.
A spectacular view of the coast.
Beautiful evening light.
In conclusion, I can highly recommend the Fundy Footpath to any experienced hiker. It is certainly not a trail to be underestimated. And don’t forget a good map and tide table! Happy hiking.