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Rhonda Herrington Bulmer
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August 12th, 2014
Better than Rivendell
by Rhonda Herrington Bulmer

Yesterday was a perfect day for my first road trip through the Fundy Trail Parkway, near St. Martins, New Brunswick.

rest-stop-overlooking-Melvyn-Beach

Rest stop overlooking Melvyn Beach

The day was warm and sunny and the lack of wind made the waters of the bay uncharacteristically still. The Bay of Fundy rarely laps gently against the shore, but it did yesterday.

The Fundy Trail Parkway is a 16-kilometre network of trails and low-speed roadway snaking eastward from St. Martins along the rugged Bay of Fundy coastline, home of the highest tides in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It offers hikers, bikers and touring vehicles panoramic views of unspoiled coastline that were previously inaccessible to visitors.

The ambitious idea was first conceived in the mid-nineties by the Fundy Trail Development Authority and is slated for completion in 2018, when it will continue all the way to Fundy National Park—creating a spectacular, seamless link between the communities of Saint John, Sussex and Moncton and connecting to the park, Cape Enrage and the ocean tidal exploration site at Hopewell Rocks.

The trail, with its guided walks and interpretive center, welcomes visitors from Canada, the United States and a small percentage from Europe. Such visitors often hike into the Hearst Lodge for a meal, the 60-year old fishing camp built by American newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst—but we didn’t get there yesterday. Another time.

We spent a full afternoon on the parkway, beginning at Melvyn Beach.

Lunch

We had lunch at the rest stop overlooking the beach and then began our steep descent, down some slippery, moss-covered asphalt.

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There were signs encouraging walkers and bikers to use the right hand lane except to pass and reminders of hairpin turns ahead. (I wondered, timidly, how fast a biker would end up going down the hills and briefly pictured myself as a pile of broken bones beyond some twisted metal. I’m a glass-half-empty kinda girl, I guess.)

DSC_0543We stopped to get a closer look at the beach below and spied a cave. The tide was out…perhaps we could go have a look inside?


We kept descending…DSC_0469

Until we reached a beach composed entirely of rocks worn smooth by the twice-daily tides. We wandered at leisure…

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…skipped stones into the water (and pilfered one or two)…

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and then made our way to the cave we spotted at the rest stop above us.DSC_0506

Deep inside, we found the remains of a campfire above the waterline. If you were caught in the cave at high tide, you would be stuck there, in a small space, for several hours.


Inside the cave

It was a lovely beach.

But what comes down must go way back up—at least in our case. So we huffed and puffed back up the trail and I felt sorry for the bikers who would have to do the same. (This was considered an “easy” trail.)


SEcond bike

We also spent time on the Big Salmon River and walked across the suspension bridge. The water looked like a great swimming hole, but there were many signs prohibiting fishing, camping and swimming.


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Big-salmon-river

Five hours wasn’t enough time to see every look-off or venture down every trail. Even a full day might not be enough time to see everything, because so much depends on your stamina. Organizers heavily promote the trails as suitable for biking, but quite frankly, I think you’d need to be a professional mountain biker, imbued with performance-enhancing drugs, to complete some of the hilly terrain. Most of the trails are very steep indeed.

The breathtaking views, the road’s proximity to the sheer cliff drops and its many hairpin turns remind me of the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island, and I was thankful for the beautiful day. There was no chilly fog or rain to obscure the cliffside view, as is often the case here in August. In that instance, you wouldn’t see much of anything.

At the end of the trail is a rest spot overlooking Long Beach, but as yet, there is no accessibility to the sandy spot more than 157 metres (515 feet) below.

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After such physical exertion it was disappointing not to end our trip with a cooling swim.

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Unfortunately, there will be a two-year wait for that. Another eight kilometres will be added in time for the 2016 tourism season, providing access to the beach, a parking lot, an information centre, self-directed learning and wheelchair accessibility.

We often look to other less-familiar places to be inspired by beauty, such as New Zealand, for example, which was shown to spectacular advantage in the Lord of the Rings movie series. But on a day such as this one, travelling around the Bay of Fundy, I believe that my own province of New Brunswick boasts some of the most beautiful sights in the world.

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