Friday, October 18, 2013

Fundy In New Brunswick

Following more days of rain than sun in Nova Scotia, we awoke on Thursday morning to full sun and lots of birds. Naturally. That’s because we were leaving. But the sun only lasted about an hour once we were on the road toward New Brunswick.
We had hurried through New Brunswick on our way to PEI. Now it was time to take a more leisurely pass. Nearly 330 miles towing took us from Baddeck, Nova Scotia to Fundy National Park, New Brunswick. We hadn't towed this far in one day since we went from Mission to Kerrville, Texas in October 2012.

 Once in the park, getting to our site involved carefully threading around trees a bit close to the road for our comfort. A couple from New Hampshire, already seated outside next to their motor coach enjoying cocktails and the entertainment of arriving RVers, politely applauded as we finally parked, unscathed, on our site. Clearly, we would have to meet these folks.

Ruth, Carol, and Peter
We had barely gotten out of the truck when they immediately invited us over for wine. Peter was a recently retired teacher (50 years of teaching high school history) and his wife Ruth,  was currently serving as a legislator in New Hampshire’s District One: (Center Harbor and New Hampton). Fun folks. Tom got a huge hug from Ruth after showing her his favorite photo of Jennie with you-know-who. Unfortunately, they were leaving the next morning. But before they left, Peter said to be sure to take a short hike to an overlook between sites 59 and 60. The overlook was of the town of Alma. On a ridge directly across from our line of sight and sitting above Alma, was a line of RV’s. Hmm. We wondered if that was a private campground. The view of the bay must be spectacular from their vantage point.

Overlooking Alma (note RV's on the far ridge)
Friday was sunny. Winds calm. And with such limited time in the area we didn’t want to waste any of it. Based on the tide tables (much of life on the Bay of Fundy revolves around tide tables), our first stop was Hopewell Rocks. The main attraction at Hopewell: a high and low tide differential equivalent to the height of a 4-story building. When the tide was out, we could safely walk the ocean floor.

view from above and then from walking on the bottom
After parking and paying the entrance fee, we noticed that we would only have about an hour and a half of low tide. We hurried along what turned out to be a rather lengthy hike out to a cliff overlook where a set of steep steel steps lead down to the ocean floor. Wandering park staff were available to answer questions and to make sure that everyone who clambered down to the ocean floor was back up the stairs before being stranded by a deceptively fast rising tide.

platform to be used in the event one didn't make it back to the steps
On the exposed ocean floor, we had just walked the mile from Lover’s Arch to the furthest end, Diamond Rock, when we were told to begin heading back to the stairs. While we would not be consumed by a a tsunami like flood of water, the tide does rise very quickly. About one foot every six minutes.
Back safely on higher ground, we hiked a few of the trails along the cliff edges where we found flocks of migrating song birds and a begging Peregrine youngster. We had heard that a pair of Peregrines had successfully brought off one young this year. Now we had proof positive.
After our hikes, plus a saunter through of the interpretive center displays and a quick picnic lunch, we  drove to the nearby town of Hillsborough for fuel. Now, without a trailer in tow, we were free to explore a bit more of the Fundy Scenic Tour. Next stop: Mary’s Point Reserve. On the way to Mary's Point we passed the "Ha Ha Cemetery" which at first blush appeared to be a joke - but it was for real.

there was also the nearby Ha Ha Creek
The day had started off sunny and bright and it remained so. However, the wind had picked up considerably by the time we had reached Mary’s Point. A strong, stiff wind was hammering the beach nearly full on. While we were a bit late in the year for massive numbers of migrating shorebirds and/or raptors that had occurred just a few weeks earlier, we still found a good mix of several hundred shorebirds cartwheeling through the air. Usually shorebirds behave this way when confronted with danger. Sure enough, an adult Peregrine Falcon was stooping low and parallel to the beach in hopes of ferreting out a meal. As far as we could see, the falcon had no success and moved off further down the beach and out of sight. 

shorebird activity at Mary's Point
Eventually the shorebirds settled in again, hunkered down behind tufts of sea grass seeking shelter from the wind. Over the next half hour, several small mixed flocks of migrating shorebirds made their way past, flying just above the beach or hunkering down briefly with other birds already on the ground.

Barn Marsh and Cape Enrage
Cape Enrage was another stop on our list of things to see, so named for the reef offshore that causes the water off the point to become extremely violent, particularly at half tide when the reef is partially exposed and the water is moving quickly. The attraction here was a supposed spectacular view of the coast and of course, another lighthouse. The drive to Cape Enrage turned out to be longer than expected although the drive itself was probably more interesting than the lighthouse view. At one point we crossed the expansive Barn Marsh Creek wetland/marsh before a steep switchback road headed up to the lighthouse where one had to pay a fee to park (the fee was an unwelcome surprise to us).
Unfortunately, the wind was depressingly strong as we ventured out to the lighthouse. One could also walk down several flights of steel stairs (not unlike the stairs at Hopewell Rocks) to the ocean floor to look for fossils contained in layers of sedimentary rock approximately 320 million years old. Unfortunately the tide, while it was receding, still had not left enough beach exposed to safely explore.
The property apparently was being updated with the addition of a zip line tower to attract customers. Too bad the wires detracted from the view. Perhaps if they buried the zip line cables as they do power lines to help with the view? No, probably not. Overall, Cape Enrage seemed a bit too commercial for our tastes but the restaurant looked very inviting as did the menu. Skip the lighthouse and just go for the food.
By now, in addition to the high wind, clouds had set in by the time we returned to our RV. Checking the weather channel (our site had very good wifi) it looked a bit iffy for the next day when we had planned to explore the Fundy National Park proper. Well, if the weather really did turn sour, we wouldn’t be too far away from the RV.

covered bridge, view from bridge, and Wolf Point at low tide
Incredibly, the next day turned out to be quite nice. And, after consulting the tide table, we drove to Point Wolf, site of a large lumber mill in the early 1800’s. The mill is long gone but a colorful covered bridge spans the Point Wolf River. It's a relatively new bridge built in 1996 after the original (and historic) bridge was accidentally destroyed by a work crew blasting to widen the road. Oops. Hiking trails lead down to the point where at low tide, offered an expansive rock strewn area to explore. But explore quickly because in no time at all, the tide will return. Time and tide waits for no man.

road to, steps down to, and standing at Herring Cove
Semipalmated Plovers
From Point Wolf we drove to Herring Cove where a short trail descended sharply to a rocky headland. Though the tide was returning, there was still plenty of beach to walk. Several Common Eider along with a few Black Guillemot, a Common Loon and a Red-throated Loon fed in cove’s waters. Several Semipalmated Plover, almost invisible against the rocks, rested very near where we sat.

hike to Dickson Falls
Next up was the Dickson Falls Trail Head. On our short drive to the falls parking lot, we passed two buff women joggers who happened to stop in the parking lot for a brief rest. Carol commented on being jealous of anyone who runs to stay fit which lead to more conversations.
It turned out that Alisa and Angela were seasonal campers and their family RV’s were parked at a seasonal campground on that ridge overlooking Alma (the same campground we saw from the overlook in our park). Sensing we were not serial killers, they cordially invited us to stop by for a beer later that afternoon. "Stop by around 5:00", and "look for the Montana fifth wheel." Did we mention that Canadians are very friendly?

Dickson Falls turned out to be a lovely hike through a heavily wooded valley that traced Dickson Brook to a dramatic waterfall. This would have been even more spectacular with fall color. If your time is short in Fundy National Park, don’t miss Dickson Falls.
Back at the RV we caught up on a few domestic chores and around 5:00 p.m. we headed to Alma to capture a few pictures of the boats in the harbor at high tide. Oh, yes, and that offer of beer.

Alma high tide and low tide - every twelve hours
After photos of high tide, we found the road that lead up to the ridge to the campground. We drove slowly through but didn’t see a “Montana”. And we didn’t see anyone sitting out. We were, after all, about a half hour late and it had turned chilly so we thought we had missed them. As we turned around at the end of the campground road, we passed a tent structure. A fellow inside raised his glass in a friendly gesture. Carol waved back and we continued to drive on. Suddenly in our rear view mirror, Alisa appeared, running and waving her arms and yelling “wait, wait!”

Alisa and Angela were kind enough to take our photo
the 'man shed' - Danny, Alisa, Maddie, and Angela
Maddie and her dad, Al
Maddie and her parents, Angela and Al
Well, the Montana turned out to be a “Mountaineer” (made by Montana). Our bad. The fellow in the Yurt-like structure? Turned out to be Alis’a Husband, Danny. When Alisa had Danny asked if a vehicle had just driven past, he had replied, “yes, a white truck”. We had mentioned to Alisa to be on the lookout for a white pickup so she was out the door in a flash, arms flailing, to flag us down. We're forever grateful that she caught us.

Angela, Alisa and their new sister, Carol
The Yurt looking structure was officially the “man shed”, a gathering place for Alisa’s and Angela's families, their friends, and invited guests. Besides Alisa’s husband Danny, there was Angela (the other jogger), and Angela’s daughter, Madison (‘Maddie’). Angela’s husband, Al, joined us a bit later on. We had our beer and chatted but clearly, they were getting ready to eat and besides, we were headed into Alama for a pizza (one of Tom's favorite food groups).

Danny and wonder dog Buddy
Al, Danny, Buddy, Alisa, Angela
Well, a long story short, the beer invite extended into a second beer and then a "you MUST stay" to sample fresh scallops that were dropped off by a local fisherman. The scallops sampling somehow morphed into still more beer plus corn on the cob, steak, and fresh veggies. Somewhere along the line Angela brought out some excellent homemade wine. Before we knew it, it was dark and colder so we shifted the party into Alisa and Danny’s RV. From there, we invited them back to our RV for more drinks and stories. Buddy came with and it didn't take long for Buddy to figure out how to open the fridge, find the beer, and an opener (that's one smart dog). By the time everyone left, there were hugs all around and tear streaked cheeks from laughter. What can we say - we made more Canadian friends and are now staying in touch on FB. Gosh, Canadians are so much fun!
Looking ahead we had another goal in mind: We had learned that on Grand Manan Island there was the “Whales and Sails’ whale watching sailboat that sailed with a marine biologist aboard. She was not only well versed in sea life but was very good with IDing seabirds. We’re great with land birds but seabirds? Not so much.Through a series of emails with Allen, the company’s owner, we had determined that there was a very good chance at not only seeing whales but picking up a few life birds as well. We could do a walk-on onto the one and a half hour ferry ride from Blacks Harbor to Grand Manan, followed by a short walk to where the sailboat was moored. The problem was that the next available trip wasn’t until Tuesday. It was now Saturday and tomorrow (Sunday) and we were supposed to leave Fundy NP. Determined to fit in a pelagic trip, we extended our stay at FNP by one more night.

hiking Caribou Plain
Sunday at Fundy weather eventually turned crappy. But the rain held off long enough for us to get some photos of the harbor at low tide, go to the local farmer’s market (and a waffle breakfast!), and then hike the trails at Caribou Plain. Before the end of the last hike, rain arrived. Light at first, but by the time we finished, it was falling pretty steadily. Thank goodness for umbrellas.
On the drive back to our RV we took Hastings Road, a gravel road that would hook up with Point Wolf Road. To our good fortune, hunkered down along the roadside we found a Spruce Grouse. Yay! A life bird!
Rain pretty much held us in check for the rest of the day although we did venture out for that pizza at The Saprano’s Pizza. Yum!

New River Provincial Park
Monday morning the sun was back, although the wind had picked up. It remained sunny for our short drive down the Fundy Coastal Drive to New River Beach Provincial Park. We had read varying reports about the difficulty of getting a larger RV into the park. And while the roads were snug and the site a bit tricky to back into, we’ve encountered far worse.
Allen at Whales and Sails had suggested that we call after 7:00 a.m. for the latest news about weather which would be the determining factor as to the taking place. While it appeared mostly sunny at our location, Allen stated that due to high winds off Grand Manan, the trip was cancelled. Drat. First the disappointment in Portland and now this.

Grand Manan ferry; Carol and Cari bundled up for the ride
So here we were, having made an express stop for two nights to take a boat trip which was now cancelled. What to do. We sorted through our options and in the end decided to go ahead anyway and take the ferry to Grand Manan. Surely, during the hour and a half boat ride (in each direction) we would see some seabirds? So, off to Blacks Harbour.

Grand Manan Island Swallowtail Lighthouse and view from same
We did a walk-on and left the truck behind. Doing a walk-on, which we had originally decided upon even if the pelgaic trip had gone forward, was only $22 for the both of us (taking the truck would have tacked on quite a bit more). Waiting to board we met a young woman from Scotland with a bicycle and a back pack who was going to spend the night on the island. She too had signed up for the boat trip but hadn’t yet heard about the cancellation and was equally disappointed. Cari, it turned out, did seabird research on small islands off the north coast of Scotland. Quite an interesting young lady.
Perched on the upper deck, we spent the next hour and a half, along with Cari and another young woman, scouring the ocean for whales and birds. No whales and just few birds as the ferry headed directly into a very strong wind. We could well understand Allen not wanting to risk an outing today.
We pulled into port, disembarked, and walked to the Whales and Sails kiosk at the harbor in the very off chance that the trip might still go. But, with such high winds we pretty much knew the answer would be “still cancelled”. And it was. However, Karen, the woman at the kiosk (and Allen's wife), gave us a ride up to the Swallowtail Lighthouse where their daughter, Sara, was in charge of a lighthouse restoration project. It turned out that Sara also captained the sailboat when it was out for tours.

the Whales and Sails sailboat
herring pen
A bit of a walk about on the windy cliffs before we hiked back to town. On the way to the lighthouse, Karen had pointed out a few interesting stops in town so we poked our heads into a few places. We lunched at the Seashell Cafe (very good haddock but they were out of chowder). Then more of a walkabout with a stop at the Island Arts Cafe for coffee and baked goods. There we met a couple from Maine who operated a few rental cottages on the island during the summer months. And we also met Ryan, a local lad furiously working on his laptop. Ryan was looking to spend part of the winter hiking in Ecuador or Bolivia having already been in South America earlier. Once again, the people we meet along the way make our travels so rewarding.

research station and museum
At the Whale and Seabird Research Station (and gift shop) we met Lori. She’s the marine biologist who would have been accompanying us on the boat trip. By now we had met most of the crew from the boat without actually taking the boat ride.
Having exhausted all our options in town, we boarded the 3:30 ferry back to the mainland. This time, however, the ferry was going with the wind and our upper deck ocean watching was far more comfortable. And productive. Both Sooty and Greater Shearwaters, Atlantic Puffin, Common Murre, and Black Guillemot. Small flocks of phalaropes bobbed on the surface or flew past but were too far away to properly ID as Red-necked or Red Phalarope.
By the time we reached shore again, a light drizzle had begun. All in all, considering the weather, the trip out on a sailboat would not have been much fun (although we still fantasized about all the birds we might have added).
There was one more stop on our New Brunswick bucket list which we had decided to make: Campobello Island, the site of Roosevelt Campobello International Park, FDR’s summer retreat. It would require a bit of backtracking, but since this likely would be the only time we would be close enough, we decided to make the effort.

outdoor artwork: St. Andrew-by-the-sea
Several people had also recommended stopping in St. Andrew’s-by-the-sea National Historic District so we plugged it into the GPS and made it a waypoint on our route. A lovely little seaside community where we took some time to stretch our legs visiting several shops, art galleries, admiring large outdoor murals, and lunch at the Red Herring Pub.

site at Herring Cove Provincial Park
The bit of backtracking involved reentering the United States at Saint Stephen on Hwy 1, then following Hwy 1 south to Hwy 189 and heading east again to re-enter Canada at Lubec across the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Bridge. Interesting to note that while reentering the United States, it was the first time we’ve ever had to open the RV up for an inspection. The border agent inspected the contents of our refrigerator and confiscated citrus - oranges and limes that we had taken into Canada but were now apparently contraband. Go figure...
Herring Cove Provincial Park proved to be wide open. Literally. Wide open spaces and very few RV’s which was fine with us. It was getting to be the tail end of the travel season for many, so while some parks and services are cut back, it tends to be a lot less crowded.

the summer cottage
The Roosevelt Campobello International Park is unique in that while the physical location of the park is in Canada, it is a memorial to a U.S. President. The park is administered by a commission created under an international treaty signed by Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson and President Lyndon B. Johnson on January 22, 1964. It is the only park in the world owned by the peoples of two countries and administered by a joint commission in their name.
We availed ourselves of a brief guided tour through the grounds followed by a tour of the “cottage”, a 34-room residence meticulously maintained and filled with mostly original furniture and memorabilia. And while the park bears the name of the 32nd U.S. President, his wife Eleanor's legacy constitutes a good deal of attention as well. So much so, that two daily “Tea with Eleanor” sittings are offered to visitors. It’s free, but seating is limited and  on a first come, first serve basis. Knowing that’s it’s wildly popular we had arrived early enough to score a couple of tickets for the morning tea.

Tea with Eleanor
Two park rangers served tea and homemade cookies and regaled visitors for an hour with numerous stories and antidotes beginning with Eleanor’s early childhood and continuing through her adult life. It’s not to missed if you ever find yourself on Campobello Island.
We had learned of a whale rescue organization, Campobello Whale Rescue, that offered whale watching/birding trips, Island Cruises Whale Watch. Hoping for yet one more try for a chance at seabird watching, we contacted the owner to reserve a space. However, once again, our luck ran counter to our hopes. This time it wasn’t the weather. Now, with the end of the tourist season near, they were down to running one trip per day. They needed a minimum of five participants and it turned out that we were the only two who had shown any interest that day.

East Quoddy Lighthouse and access
Another stop was at the East Quoddy Lighthouse located in Head Harbor at the tip of Campbello Island. Said to be the “most photographed lighthouse in the world” (we wondered if that was akin to a restaurant advertising “the best ____ in the world”). The only way to get to the lighthouse by foot was to wait for low tide, pay a small fee, then hoof it across a spit of land connecting the mainland with the island. But by the time we had arrived, the tide had already begun to return. Given how quickly the Fundy tide comes and goes, we were not allowed to proceed. Just as well. We didn’t fancy to be stranded at the lighthouse for twelve hours no matter how photogenic it was.

Deer Island ferry landing - more like a beach head
However, the woman at the kiosk made two very good suggestions. The first was that we jump on the ferry from Campobello island to Deer island. For a very small oneway fee, (we would stay on the ferry for the immediate return trip) we might have a shot at some seabirds. Not nearly as far or as long as the Grand Manan ferry ride, but hey, we were by this time pretty desperate.
We arrived at the landing to await the ferry. But, all too quickly, a fog bank arrived well ahead of the ferry. Curses. No sense taking a ferry ride to stare into the fog no matter how inexpensive. But the woman’s second suggestion worked for us. We settled for an early dinner at the Family Fisheries Restaurant. More Haddock, killer chowder and supreme pies for desert. Oof.
For full time RVer’s the Maritimes are well worth the effort. In spite of more costly fuel and food prices, the Maritimes have so much more to offer. In fact we would have stayed longer were it not for our bucket list of stops in Maine and New Hampshire. We’ll be taking away loads and loads of memories as well as the new friends we’ve made. We’ll miss our friendly neighbors to the north...

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