By Fran Wyman, Hike NS board member
Hike Cape Chignecto on 61 year old knees? It’s a challenge, but still do-able in smaller chunks … if you stop for three nights and hike for four days, and well worth the effort.
The three of us agreed to do the most brutal walk the first day, Red Rock to Refugee Cove, twelve kilometers with two severe ups and downs. Cape Chignecto’s saving grace is the beauty: long views down the coast from which you came, short views down into coves below, or onto waves crashing on rocks, the variety of forest habitats. The high hardwood forest of sugar maple and beech was a pleasant surprise that first day. The trail there was high and dry, though what we had heard from hikers who had completed the journey, was of mud. Travelling down into Mill Brook and then back up again was the hardest part. We arrived at Refugee Cove tired but content with a good day’s effort. Squirrels chattered at us to share our food as others may have done, but seeing their boldness in approaching pack pockets, we chased them away and hid our packs in the tent (food removed and safe in water-tight bear bags). Camp made, supper eaten, we wandered the nearby beach at sunset and contemplated the displaced Acadians all those years ago who had sheltered here. With wind and surf and falling temperatures, it was less than hospitable. We could imagine their desperation.
The next day took us to Big Bauld through ten kilometers of one hundred year old red spruce forest, old fields growing in, crossing many brooks. We were able to look down on the point of the Cape from one of the many look-offs. We saw sharp fins of orange-golden rock several stories high reaching out into the blue waters of the Bay of Fundy. Big Bauld Brook is close to the campsites, so water gathering was easy. The nearby beach was metre high with water-rolled granite rocks and driftwood. We found a cone-shaped piece that could hold a scoop of ice cream rock, or be a torch for the challenge we faced, or be “the whole world in His hands”. A pair of fellow hikers from New Brunswick shared their log and stories as sunset fell.
Climbing out of Big Bauld in the morning, we found ourselves in a treeless barren, the ground covered with cranberries. There was a mist and crashing waves below sending sea-foam snow floating up onto the cliffs. What a different mood for our world to assume! The violence in the water made us glad to be on dry land, not in sea kayaks for this journey. We could see how sand was made, how rocks rounded, in this environment. Near the cliff-edge, noisy sea; inland trails sheltered moist softwoods with Irish green moss filled only with busy birds’ songs and trickling brooks. Keyhole Rock, its hole surging with heaving sea, Carey Brook, another long down and trying climb up, and then to Seal Cove for our last night on the trail. Here, we were greeted by a sandy beach and flat campsite furnished with driftwood cooking table and benches through previous campers’ generous efforts. But still the relentless wind drove in the waves so loudly that they provided white noise through half the night. Full moonlight made sleep elusive.
Rain a few days earlier had made some parts of the trail into a mire of black goo. We did what we could to stay on the trail, but sometimes had to find alternate ways as hikers had done before us. We hiked the remaining six kilometers to Eatonville in good time, sharing our life stories, marveling that we’d had no rain, that the sun was once again shining brightly, that our bodies had stood up to the challenge.