Fundy National Park
August 11th, 2016
Point Wolfe and Sheephaven
If nothing else Maritimes, Fundy National Park is a must. The extraordinary Fundy Bay, featuring the highest tides in the world, attracts travellers and tourists from all over the world and still the reality surpasses all expectations…
The effort getting tent site 158 at Point Wolfe was clearly worth the trouble. The location in the park was also very satisfactory and provided easy access to the various destinations.
8 pm, Point Wolfe
Those photogenic fogs were not an incident or a freak phenomenon of Nature! They were followed by the logical familiar sequence: fog, storm clouds, downpour!
Road 114 was nice, forested and curvy. I put “Point Wolfe Campground” on Google Maps and it kind of got me there. At one point I drove through a beautiful old red covered bridge. It swallowed the car for a minute, then let me out on the other side of the small river, a fun experience.
On the other side it was a confusion of signs and icons. Eventually I found my campground. It was late in the day and was raining. I was a bit panicky regarding pitching up the tent, wondering if I’ll have to sleep in the bathroom, but the ranger said chances are it would ease off. She suggested taking a short walk on the Sheephaven Trail in the meantime. People manage, she said, they don’t sleep in the bathroom.
I was handed the Fundy’s Bible: the map of the trail system with a short description of each – name, length, highlights (beach, river, waterfalls, etc.), habitat (forest, wetland, river) and degree of difficulty. Also included was the all-important tide schedule.
I was told to take the second right past the ranger station, park by the side of the road and walk down to the tent site. The bathrooms were behind.
Plump cute rabbits greeted me:
The rain decided to cooperate with my plans, and I succeeded to pitch up the tent as quickly as possible under a light drizzle. Once the tent was up, I drove to the parking lot. Sheephaven Trail and several other tracks, like Coppermine and Point Wolfe Beach, had their trailheads in the same location.
The overlapping tree canopies kept me dry, and the rain wound down to a light sprinkle. Walking was pleasant and easy. Parts of the path were boarded. Starting high, it descended through several viewpoints to a lookout over the top of the river estuary, a great spot to watch how the Fundy tides fill up or drain the basin. The tide was low at that time.
When I reached the campground again, the fog and the descending dusk created this awesome surreal picture of the ranger station:
I’ll admit, you were right, Jim, having a dry chair would have been a grand improvement. Instead of sitting in the tent, with the rain jacket blocking all vision, or by the waterlogged picnic table, I would be sitting on a dry plastic chair… It is too wet after hours of rain to place the patchwork mat on the tent’s porch, so I sit inside.
I feel sad I did not manage to take a pic of the marten, a small cute mammal, re-introduced into Nature by the park authorities, seemingly very successfully. Do martens account for some of the horrendous roadkill I see everywhere?
Interpretive panels inform me that the forest has been regenerated following two or three historical logging tirades. So perhaps there is Hope still. The forest I saw was beautiful, thick and tall. It even contained marten…
Sheephaven path had some impressive vistas over the bay at low tide. Shall I go back there now to check if the tide had risen? Temptation, but I might get into the dark…
Everybody here is an expert on the tides. They all know when they come in or out. This is the main parameter governing life in the Bay.
OK, I’m inside the tent, sprawled on my back, the lantern hanging above. I hear the voices of the couple nearby, the one who has a pink tent and a girl called Brooklyn. In general, Middle Class, Candaian and American, seems alive and well, and all of them can now be found in the camping grounds and national parks…
Ferns and Orchids
It was a challenge to find “East Branch” where the “Fern and Orchid” walkers were to convene, driving past many other trailheads and campsites. To make sure I don’t “miss the group” I got there early. The parking was empty, and I worried I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Eventually people trickled in, as well as the guide, and a nice group formed. Luckily I succeeded to “sneak” a “bathroom moment” in Mother’s Nature toilet before the “crowds” came.
We walked through the impressive gate marking the trailhead, and the sweet and expertly guide started bombarding us with a million names of ferns and other plants. I made a sincere effort, but only remember a few, like the New York Fern because its leaves look like the island of Manhattan and the “sensitive fern” because it is delicate. Another notable one was the “interrupted fern”, whose frond is “interrupted” by its fruiting bodies.
It was interesting to read later that the interrupted fern is a living fossil and the oldest fossilized fern in the world, apparently living without interruption for the last 200 million years and still going strong, as can be seen from its range map.
Some people in the group showed remarkable acquaintance with the subject matter, and I enjoyed the atmosphere created by involved knowledgeable individuals. Although the field trip was called “Ferns and Orchids”, we only saw one of the last, and even that one was miserable looking.
There was no shortage of ferns, though, and we also saw an interesting pale plant called “Indian Pipe”, supposedly rare, but we encountered quite a few specimens. I saw it several more times on other trips, even in New Hampshire. It is saprophytic and does not have chlorophyll, growing on dark forest floors.
There were sporadic patches of blueberries and raspberries in some corners. We also saw “fiddleheads”, a famous fern which can be eaten, and indeed we tasted some the next day on the “Edible Plant Walk”.
I think the words “furl” and “unfurl” were invented for ferns. They carry the “feeling” of “ferniness” better than any scientific explanations. Something neat about being surrounded by ancient primitive plants. At least they are here to remind us that Planet was a different Being eons past, when dinosaurs and other bizarre creatures roamed the earth. Unfortunately the iconic fern trees are now extinct. Modern ferns compared with the extinct Psaronius are like modern lizards to Tyrannosaurus rex.
Our guide sent the real interested people in the group to browse a comprehensive guide of the ferns of New Brunswick, and some wrote down the name.
I later drove to the Visitor Center trying to book a campsite in Truro. The visitor center was a nice compensation for the burocratic hassles of the park authority. It was beautifully equipped with nice wooden tables to sit at, supplied by multiple electrical outlets, and had a relevant library and other resources. The rangers were nice and helpful. They let me use the landline phone repeatedly since the lines in Truro were constantly busy and my efforts to reach them unsuccessful.
The name Truro stuck in my mind thanks to the guy from Mountainview who talked about the “Tidal Bore”. It sounded interesting and romantic. At the visitor center I charged all my gadgets – computer, phone, tablet, Kindle, camera battery – and did some Internet searches. Wide Open Family campground, or WOW, came up, but I could not reach them.
I quit my efforts, and drove to nearby Alma, where I had an overpriced clam chowder at a seafood restaurant by the shore (there was too long of a line at the recommended “Fundy Takeout”).
Everything seemed to be flowing smoothly, though. People were nice and relaxed. 38 million Canadians reside between two oceans in the second largest country in the world (for comparison, there are about 12 million of us, Israelis plus Palestinians, between the Med and the Jordan River…). No wonder people here can concentrate on worthwhile pursuits like ferns or mushrooms rather than the names and identities of terrorist organizations…
At that point I did not quite grasp Alma’s amazing geography and thought of the town only as a place to get commodities, so I went back to the park, stopping en route at the VC. The rangers accommodated me again with the phone, and this time I got an answer from Truro. I could just show up at their camping, no need to book.
A cool sola traveler I met at the Center told me she makes no reservations at all on her trip. She had just cancelled one she booked before. Her preference is to simply pop up in places. Things always work out. This is how I traveled in pre-Internet Europe and Latin America, and it was so much fun.
I let go of worrying, and in the comfort of the beautiful visitor’s lounge sat down to update my diary about Campobello and everything since.
As the day was drawing to a close, I went back to the campground, re-walked Sheephaven Trail, taking pics of the same spot as the tide was coming in. This time I also walked down to the actual Point Wolfe Beach.
The above pictures were taken 50 minutes apart.
But tide-wise I haven’t seen anything yet. The climax was expecting me the next day in Alma.
Fiddleheads and Labrador tea
That was an intense and beautiful day. In the morning I went on another interpreted walk called “Edible Forest Walk”. I reached the starting point half an hour late since my cellphone died and the old one I brought for a backup was half an hour backwards. This time we met at Kinnie Brook, a bit closer to the campground, and the walk was crowded with children and families.
As usual there was a nice “gate” through which you embarked on the trail. I don’t recall ever seeing one of those in Israel (but we have great trail markers everywhere!). The first time I encountered this custom was in northern Sweden at the start of the famous Kungsledden Hike, but I thought this was unique because of the trail’s royalty … Well, I found out that here, even one hour trails get promoted with a beautiful gate and sometimes even a field toilet at the start.
Finding the group was no problem at all, as they were moving very slowly due to the abundance of kids, the detailed explanations and the numerous stops. The guide was shy and sweet and greeted me pleasantly. He seemed to be partially tribal Indian and had interesting facial features. He was very knowledgeable about herbs, trees, plants, ferns and everything around us.
The focus of the walk was to find edible plants, but just as we did not find orchids the day before, not too many “edibles” showed up this day. There were a few cranberries here and there, and some Labrador bushes. Since the guide suspected that might be the case, he prepared for us in advance some goodies to eat at the end of the beautiful trail. The group was lovely and everybody was polite, friendly and mostly well-informed and engaged. The kids were beautiful. There was a baby on a leash, which still weirds me out, but I could see it would make sense in this context… A couple from Moncton gave me addresses of electronics and battery stores in their city, which I actually checked out later.
Left: Steamed and pickled Fiddleheads brunch with Labrador tea; Right: Rebecca
I made good friends with a beautiful kid named Rebecca (above), who had a lot of spunk and was incredibly intelligent, curious and full of life. Clearly her family got her interested in nature and she knew many names and facts. Her mother explained to me they wrote her name Rebbekha to keep what they saw as the correct Biblical spelling. I wrote her name and her brother’s name, Joshua, in Hebrew on a piece of paper, for them to keep. I found it interesting they were not familiar with the famous song “Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho”. Here the song is performed by Paul Robeson with his amazing deep voice. When cranberries popped up on our path, I and Rebecca ate them with a lot of gusto.
When I’m the only person from abroad, the only single woman, and from a city called Jerusalem, many people know about only from the Bible, they are not sure how to react… But the default response is always to be polite and forthcoming. How nice to live in a country like that, but, being from the wild Middle East I sometimes have a hard time with the perfect Protestant manners, so whenever possible, I resort to the middle ground of humor…
After a relatively level start we descended a boardwalk followed by a stunning number of stairs. Joshua and a friend counted 138 wooden steps. At the bottom there was a platform with a bunch of panels explaining the geology of the area and its natural history. We congregated there, and our Mary Poppins guide pulled out of his backpack foods and drinks and utensils, spread them on the rail for us to eat. I kept my good manners and never asked for a second before it was clear everybody else had theirs first… but in the end it seemed they left a whole host of these beautifully pickled fiddleheads I found extremely appetizing, so I did eat a bunch for the glory of the state of Israel…
The fiddleheads were either pickled or steamed, and were very good in both permutations. There was also Labrador tea that was delicious. Wikipedia tells me that fiddleheads have antioxidant activity, are a source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and are high in iron and fiber. Perhaps that explains my instantaneous fancy to them, or maybe it was just the environment, the fresh air, and everything folksy Canada that surrounded me.
Walking back up, Joshua and the other boys ran ahead. I stuck with the couple from Moncton to make sure I didn’t stray from the path. We shared some more info about life in Canada vs. the United States, and the weird candidate the Americans put up for election…
Following that, I decided to go see the tides at Alma after all, and I was rewarded beyond all expectations.