Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Un Canadien Errant Part III: Chignecto A-go-go

Cape Chignecto Park: all these gorgeous views do get wearisome

Dear lord, I can’t believe I let that hideous birthday photo sit atop this blog for so long. Clearly, I have no shame.

In any case, I will dispense with the rest of my Canada trip over the next few days. At that point, I’m hoping to get back to my local adventures, such as they are, and possible turn over the blog to a very special guest blogger.

Every year, for the last several years, I have tried to go camping with my friends Tim and Jon. This year, taking advantage of my return, we decided to go to Cape Chignecto Provincial Park for a 51 kilometer, four day hike. Cape Chignecto juts out like an arrowhead into the Bay of Fundy, and has been a provincial park for only ten years.

Proof I didn't just download these photos from a tourism website

We arrived at the park about three hours later than planned (due partially to a truck stop waitress that decided to spend her shift taunting me, much to Jon and Tim’s amusement. I think it was the phrase “chicken weenie” that earned her the extra tip from them). The weather was perfect: unusually for Nova Scotia, there was not a cloud in the sky, and the temperatures were in the low twenties. Perfect for hiking.

Then we started walking.

Chignecto’s main appeal for campers is the view: stunning vistas of sandstone cliffs, topped with wind-warped evergreens teetering anxiously over the blue seas 200 metres below. Problem is, the topography is, how shall I put this delicately, uneven.

Of the 51 kilometers we hiked over those four days, 25 of them were straight up, 25 were straight down, and about one was flat. By day two, what conversation we could manage between gasps for air consisted of a) cursing out Jon, who had picked the route and b) searching for synonyms for “ravine.” (we came up with crevasse, gully, gulch, canyon, fiord, valley… we ran out of words long before we ran out of specimens). We were eventually informed by another hiker that the trail was rated “Level 5 Extreme” which meant that it had portions where one had to climb one meter up for every meter forward. This, with a bottle of fine Alsatian Pinot gris sloshing around in my backpack.

Refugee Cove. Being at sea level just meant we had to climb back up

Nonetheless, we did all eventually find our camping legs, and began to enjoy ourselves. In addition to its natural beauty, the park is redolent with history. Our first campsite at Refugee Cove was a place where the Mi’qmaq helped Acadians hide from the Expulsion. Later, we pitched out tent by a stream running though a former field, one of the few remains the ghost town of Eatonville, a shipbuilding hub killed by the switch to steam vessels.

As usual, I didn’t see much in the way of wildlife: a seal bobbed in the waves below the clifftop where we ate lunch on the second day, a hawk flew so close enough to us at lunch on our third day that we could here the wind in it’s feathers, and a rabbit reportedly saw us off on our third day, but I was too beat from the previous night's festivities (stargazing, throwing rocks at a log, making increasingly non-sensical "Yo Momma" jokes) to bother investigating myself.

The privy, in a ghost-field from Eatonville

In any case, it was gratifying for me to be reminded that while my hikes here in Europe do tend to be enlivened by castles and their fair share of beautiful views, Europe still has a way to go before they can catch up to North America’s wilderness advantage.

The inevitable sunset photo, on our own private beach


Travis said...

Were you smoking the entire time as per previous trips? That would take it to a Level 7: "Precancerous"

Your Mom

Mark Reynolds said...

No, no, no. Smoking is bad for you.