We left St. John with the anticipation of going to Bay of Fundy National Park. This would be our first venture into the national park system in Canada. After a fairly brief trip we left Route 1 and got onto Route 114 for a twenty-five-mile trek into the park. We stopped at the first entry point into the park about half-way on 114 to check in. The park attendant told us that the campground, one of five in the park, was at the end of the road. He made a point to say after you get to the bottom of a stretch of winding road.
He had definitely understated the whole winding road thing. About four miles from the campground the road began a steep descent on its way to the Bay of Fundy and our destination. The road was most definitely winding and the descent was very steep. Much of the road from this point on was anywhere from 5-7 degrees downhill around those curves. Despite the truck’s transmission doing a stellar job of downshifting and holding us back, it was hard to enjoy the spectacular view of the bay as we descended directly toward it, while also being very careful to watch the road.
When we finally stopped to check in at the campgroundI noticed that the front left-side of the truck was smoking just slightly, a testament to the work it had done keeping us from barreling down the mountain road.
The campground was sparsely populated, which has been the reality for most of our stays so far due to the early season and cooler temperatures. That is just fine for us. There are enough people around to meet new people and socialize, but not so many that we feel cramped or have to endure the possibility of a few parties that might create havoc.
When we arrived, we were told about a staircase near our site that lead down to the water. We decided to find it and go down to check out the bay that we had the seen as we descended into the campground. After a short walk we found the staircase and were a little shocked at how long and steep it was. Ground level was about fifty-sixty feet below. We started our descent being very careful as we went. In my later years, as Father Time begins nipping at my sizeable backside, I have found stairs to be potentially challenging if I do not pay attention. Wearing bifocals will do that. I was very careful on these particular steps.
Stairway to Heaven
When we arrived at street level we were able to walk down the sidewalk to view the bay. The nice little town of Alma was within walking distance. The town consists of a general store, a few hotels, some restaurants, and a post office and is pretty much the only choice for commerce within several miles.
Views of bay of Fundy from 114 near our site
After walking for a while we decided to return to the campground. We also decided to use the staircase to return. We definitely had to stop half-way up to catch our breadth and get a little oxygen into the old muscles. We met a group of German tourists coming down as we were going up. Despite the language barrier, we were both able to communicate about the unique steepness of the stairs.
The campground was particularly buggy with the small gnats dominating. You had to be careful not to find them in your nose and mouth at times. I attempted to put up our screen house, but it was locked in the back of the truck and I could not find the key. I had to ask for someone with the park service to come and cut the cable. This turned out to be fortuitous. When the guy came with bolt cutters we stuck up a conversation. He liked my Red Sox window sticker and shared that he had been to Fenway a few times to see a game. He had relatives in Connecticut as well. He saw my golf clubs in the back seat and asked if I was going to play. I asked him where the nearest course was. He laughed and told me that one of the nicest courses in Canada was right around the corner from us.
It was a nice day so in the afternoon I set out to locate the course. He was not lying. The course was a two-minute drive around the corner in the next campground. When I entered the “club house”, a construction trailer, I was provided the history of the course and shown the articles that been written about it which prominently displayed on the wall. It was a Stanley Thompson designed course. One publication listed it as among the top 25 nine-hole courses in North America and the fifth best nine-hole course in Canada. I paid my 32 dollars, Canadian, and made my way to my cart and the first tee.
Paying for golf in Canada is a little different than in the US. In the US the greens fees are the bulk of the charge and then there is a small cart fee, usually five or six dollars. It seems that in Canada the cart fee is either equal to the greens fees or more. I am not sure if it is a function of courses tending to be hilly, or in this care mountainous.
This course was definitely mountainous. The first tee looked out over a cliff that was at least seventy feet above fairway level. It was a stunning view with the mountains along the road in the background. The wind was in my face gusting up to about thirty miles an hour at points. I waited for it to die down a bit and hit my drive. It was a perfect drive, long and straight. What a beautiful site. I thought it was going to fly forever. And then it seemed to just drop out of the air to the ground. It was long enough, especially for me, but when it first left the club, I had grand illusions of hitting a wedge on my second shot. That was not reality.
View from the first tee
I got in my cart and started for the path. For a person who is less than fond of heights, the trip to the fairway was an adventure. I had to drop that seventy or so feet down a winding path to the fairway with just a foot-high guard rail between me and the hillside. I was somewhat saved by the fact that the cart had some type of governor on it that did not allow it to pick up speed by itself while going down steep declines. I would encounter two more paths like that on the course.
The course was as beautiful as advertised. It was not really as difficult as others had said it would be. I was unusually straight on most of my shots, which had not been the case for a while. There were water and sand challenges but nothing that intimidating. It was the scenery and design of the course that was outstanding. Those with consistently good games probably would not have found it all that challenging.
I played the course again a few days later with a couple of the locals, one of them the owner of the main hotel in Alma. It was interesting to get a local’s view of the area and the town.
A couple of days after our arrival we decided to visit Hopewell Rocks, which is one of the major attractions in this area of New Brunswick. It was about an hour from our campground. Hopewell Rocks is a natural phenomenon displaying the power of the tides along the Bay of Fundy and what types of beauty that nature can create. The tides along the Bay of Fundy are the highest in the world. The tides in this particular area are twenty-five to thirty feet.
At low-tide you are able to descend from a platform down a large metal set of stairs some forty feet below to the ocean floor to walk among the rock walls and rock structures that have been formed by the tides over millions of years. The rock formations are also referred to as the “Flower Pots” because they have trees and other vegetation growing on their tops. At high tide these structures stick out of the water some eight to ten feet.
As you walk along the ocean floor at low-tide, under and between the many structures that stand as a testament to time and nature, you can see the water line in some cases, or the markers that have been placed in other places to indicate the water line at high-tide. It is hard to imagine that you are standing where a few hours later you would be twenty-five to thirty feet below the water.
The power and randomness of nature also creates structures that have been named over time because they are recognizable such as the “bear”. It is interesting that the water that sits in this part the bay is orangeish-brown. The power of the tides running over the near-by tidal bores dredge up enough earth over time to keep the water consistently this color.
Views of the “Bear”
Bay of Fundy National Park is 207 square kilometers, or for we Americans who have eschewed the metric system, eighty square miles. There are several hiking trails of varying length and difficulty including the Coastal Trail which is a six to eight-hour hike, which at points brings you to cliffs overlooking the bay. We did not do this one. Six to eight hours is five to seven hours more than our capacity at this point and cliffs are not my favorite geological feature unless there is a railing about ten feet back. We chose a medium-difficulty trail that promised to be about forty-five minutes to an hour to complete. The bugs were overwhelming. At one point I was walking behind Eileen and there was a cloud of gnats following close behind her. We survived the hike and returned to the truck as quickly as we could. Later, I went to the store in the visitor center near our campground and inquired about nets. They had them and I purchased two for future use.
The park has twenty-five waterfalls. That is understandable given the topography as the park descends from the Canadian highlands down to the rocky coast. The temperature in our part of the park can be ten degrees cooler than in areas north of the park on any given day. We decided to visit Dickson Falls which was touted as a reasonable hike and was within fifteen minutes of our campground. As soon as we began the hike to the falls I used my net as the bugs were very active. Eileen refused the net and used the hood of her sweatshirt instead. It was a beautiful hike to the falls. On the way past the falls on the loop back to the starting point, the trail actually went into a dry bed of the stream for about forty meters (about 35 yards). I wondered what hikers did when the stream was more active. Probably just get wet.
Eileen and I at Dickson Falls
Images from the hike to the falls
On Wednesday night it poured for several hours throughout the night and into the next day. I was sitting in the living room reading and the rain sounded like it was inside the RV. I looked over and I noticed that the wall under the cabinets that sits above our dinette was sort of glistening. I walked over and noticed there was a little waterfall of our own going on. It was not pouring in, but it was coming in enough to cause a little puddle on the floor. I looked in the cabinet and noticed a small puddle there as well. There was a laminate panel screwed into a small portion of the back wall in the cabinet. I removed it and found that the wire for the outside LED lights was coming through a two-inch hole in the wall which was letting the rain in. They had covered up the hole with a piece of laminate. I stuffed the hole with Styrofoam wrap and put clear packing taped over that to seal it up. Later I would caulk the area where the awning is attached to the RV where I was sure the rain was getting in. Welcome to RV life. A minor event in the scope of things.
While in the park we once again got a chance to meet up with our Canadian traveling partners, Wendy and Dave, who were actually camping in the next campground in the park next to the golf course. We have enjoyed meeting up with them along our trip through Atlantic Canada. We had extended our stay at Bay of Fundy by two days because we liked the area so much and that gave us more time to get together with our new friends.
We had decided to get out of the RV after our extended deluge and we were actually in the car when they texted suggesting that we meet for dinner. We decided to meet at a local micro-brewery called the Holy Whale. The brewery is in a former church and the church design and motif has somewhat been preserved. We arrived first and asked to see the menu. We were told that they no longer had a menu per se but specialized in pickled eggs served in a variety of flavors. My first thought was revulsion harkening memories of the original First and Last Tavern back home in Hartford which had a large jar of pickled eggs on the bar. We would imagine and joke that the jar had probably been there since prohibition and that was probably the last time it had been opened.
At the church of beer – Eileen in a pew
I turned to tell Eileen that all they had were pickled eggs expecting to get a disgusted look and the suggestion that it was time to go. Instead I was shocked to hear, “I like pickled eggs. My mother used to make them.” After I picked my jaw off the floor, I turned and said, “I guess we will look at the menu.” Eileen ordered a curry egg and I reluctantly ordered an Asian egg. I was confident that the delicious stout I had ordered would be sufficient to overcome any taste I had to kill. They were delivered in small ceramic cups. I bit into the hard-boiled egg and was surprised that it was not disgusting. It wasn’t actually good either, but it was edible. Eileen actually enjoyed the curried egg. Neither of us ordered another.
Our pickled eggs -yum!
When Wendy and Dave arrived, they ordered beers but passed on the eggs. We decided to go a few places down the street to have dinner. After dinner we returned to the Holy Whale because they were scheduled to have live music. The place was packed which meant there were about twenty-five people. There were three young singer-song writers who were performing. They were an interesting trio. For some reason they had two guitars, one of which was shared by two of them. They played mostly original stuff which was actually pretty good. One of them was a pretty good player, one was a very good singer, and the third could sing and play fairly well but stood out as a lyricist. We were far older than most of the “crowd”. I could imagine that this was the extent of the night-life in Alma. There are lots of young people working in the parks. They must have other alternatives for fun. Some we are better not knowing about I am sure.
One of our singer-songwriters – his turn with the guitar
The next night, our final night at Bay of Fundy National Park, we shared a fire, a few drinks, and some great conversation at Wendy and Dave’s site. The next day we were off to Halifax and Wendy and Dave would leave a few days later for Prince Edward Island. We will both share a few calendar days on Cape Breton, Nova Scotia in another week to ten days. Although we will not be in the same area, we hope we can connect again. Its been fun so far. We look forward to Nova Scotia.