top of page
Search

Comment dit-on "fog" en français? Day 30!!

Home for the night: Black Beach, south of Saint John

Distance: 6.1 kms biking, roughly 35 kms driving in a CAR!

B#1: Reese's peanut butter cups and popcorn in the tent

B#2: Oatmeal, coffee

L: Cheese, dried fruit, granola bar

D: Boursin cheese, baguette, sausage, salad, sautéed vegetables, wine, beer!

 

in a misty nest

what note does the foghorn play?

long distance vision

 

Another day was dawning and geese flying overhead were my wakeup call. The sounds of their wings and peaceful, chatty honks were a reminder of the seasons changing...although they weren't in full migration mode, more like a social morning exercise flight. I rolled over marveling at how comfortable my thermarest was, it manages to turn even the rockiest, lumpiest beach into a mattress fit for the queen herself. Imagine that, out camping with The Queen Mother!! I giggled to myself as often happens when I've been spending days by myself. The image of trying to get in and out of a tent with a fascinator pinned to my head had me outright laughing, although maybe with enough mesh fabric it could double as a bug screen?? Something to ponder through the winter...


My mood was obviously 180 degrees from where it had been yesterday and I gazed out over the river as I enthusiastically prepared to have a morning scrub down. The sun had come through the clouds, warming the rocks and I stripped down, grateful to have a gorgeous site in which to get rid of the scum of yesterday's ride and emotional journey. The water was clear, but frigid and I stood thigh deep in the water for far too long trying to psyche myself up. Everything in my brain was yelling "DON'T DO IT!!! It's cold, can't you see the plants are dying back, it's NOT summer anymore, your hair won't dry and you'll get a chill!!" blah, blah blah. Silly lizard brain, thank goodness my modern mind that knows I have a towel and down jacket waiting for me!


Eventually.


Even though I was getting colder by the minute and I certainly wasn't getting cleaner, my thoughts turned to hot showers and fluffy bath mats...my earlier enthusiasm officially dwindling to a flickering level. I didn't REALLY need to bathe, did I? It had only been a couple of days, although I had gotten super sweaty each day. I thought back to my mornings as instructor on Sea School trips. Part of our programming is "morning dip" which asks all of us, participants and instructors alike to shed the comfort of our sleeping bags to toss ourselves into the waiting ocean. No one really wants to do it, but everyone usually gets in and out of the water without too much fuss, exhilarated and clean ready to make breakfast. It is audacious and a reminder every time that we're really good at making a big deal out of something that is truly only moderately uncomfortable. I love it on trip and I tried to picture the beach on West Ironbound Island offshore of Lunenburg and a group of teenage wimyn fearlessly running into the water.


I was jolted out of my head by the realization that it was raining. RAIN!? It had just been sunny!! I looked behind me where moments ago there had been blue skies to see a black wall of clouds. Shit. I plunged into the water, used my biodegradable shampoo bar and lathered myself as the rain slackened off....just a passing shower I optimistically told myself, knowing full well a downpour was on the way. Scrub a dub dub, I felt very, very, VERY alive and definitely clean rinsing off as the surface of the river danced with small rain drops. I used my cooking pot to pour chilly water over my head feeling the salty water get rinsed off my skin by the shower from above, how convenient!! Finished, the rain pelted harder, I gathered my things and scrambled for the tent. A stiff breeze blasted across the previously calm river and my now cold fingers fumbled to unzip the vestibule. With a towel wrapped around my head, gravel and sand jumped onto my wet skin as I began the process of drying off without soaking everything in the tent.


A note about packtowels...you know, those groovy, lightweight and super thin camping towels that help dry you off? Yeah, those things. Maybe I bought the wrong kind a million years ago or maybe it accidentally got used on the dog a few times but my packtowel makes me want to barf. No matter how much I wash or sterilize it, no matter how frilly smelling the detergent I use, no matter what I do....MY packtowel is disgusting. AND it kind of doesn't really work to dry me. What it does an excellent job of is pushing water around on my skin, leaving behind a linty snail trail for me to pretend I'm ok with. But boy oh boy is it light and small! I imagined that I was standing in front of a woodstove with the door wide open, drying me to the bone.


The rain pounded the tent and I did my packtowel's version of drying. I could feel my temperature dropping as I'd been out in the elements butt naked and wet for way too long now. If I could have just gotten my arse in and out of the water quickly I would have been fine. I've mentioned my circulation problem before and I watched my fingers and toes start to turn white as my capillaries constricted. It's so uncomfortable. I was mostly dry enough to put on clothes, which I did, trying very hard to keep my wet hair in my stinky towel. The double whammy with Reynaud's syndrome is that the functionality of my hands plummets and it's hard to grab onto things with any dexterity. I don't want to come across as dramatic, but I was tipping over the precipice into the place that is a huge, unhappy struggle to come back from. If I get too cold, I can't get my clothes on, function, my brain eventually getting thick and useless, meanwhile getting colder and colder. My body has shut down over this, a housemate finding me half asleep on the kitchen floor once from a backyard skiing adventure that was the first experience that made me realize I didn't just have cold hands...I had barely gotten myself in the door. Dan had to tell me to have a shower, force feed me chocolate and explained to me the next day that I was SO out of it I had no concept of time and was moving slower than a snail. I had no clue. I only remember having hands so cold I wanted to barf. Over the years I've learned how to manage it, hydration being the most important factor. Reynaud's syndrome is quite common, especially for wimyn and with enough care it needn't be a barrier to a life outdoors.


It's a real part of my considerations on trips both big and small, all year round and I knew where I was headed as I rapidly lost feeling in my fingers while trying to zip my down jacket up. On the rare occasions this happens, my lizard brain and lots of practice is what saves me. Here's a snippet of what happens in my head to get through these really crappy moments...everything gets very singularly focused and I only can think one thing at a time:


"shit. cold hands. shit. fingers numb. need calories. no, need clothes first so calories can make heat and heat stays inside clothes. put your toque on over your wet stinky towel adrien. good. stuff your hands in your pants against your belly for heat. breathe. breathe again. you'll be ok, get one sock on. blow on your cold hand. get your other sock on. it sucks, you'll be fine, keep going. stuff your hands in your pants again. put on your shell, don't worry about the zipper. now eat. light stove, hot food? no, need food faster. you bought reese's peanut butter cups...eat those. REALLY???? FOR BREAKFAST?! yes. shut up and eat them. ok. open the popcorn too....shit, the popcorn is too hard to open for your hands....put it between your knees and squeeze it until the bag pops open. eat. good. put your hands back in your pants....etc. etc."


And so, this was my life. What had been a beautiful, sunny day I met with exuberance was now singularly focused on trying to eat popcorn with cold, wet hands stuck in the tent in the pouring rain. Change is inevitable, but sheesh!! Slowly, but surely most of my fingers came back online over the course of a half hour or so. The rain petered out and the wind died down. A shaft of sun lit up my tent as suddenly as the rain had started. Frig! Two fingers were still completely white, but my metabolism was firing away on the sugar rush and cheesy popcorn goodness I had just loaded into my furnace. I was officially wearing all of my clothes, bundled up with the same exact layers I would be wearing in February and I crawled out of the tent into a freshly rinsed, dazzling world. What a trip!! Wearing full rain gear, I lay on the beach soaking in the sun like a snake coming out of my winter cave. Sunshine is magic, hooray for sunshine!


Water dripped off the trees and more geese flew overhead. It was time for coffee to celebrate! I had caught a little bit of rain water in my pot off the fly of my tent, one thing that my lizard brain was able to make happen during the Reynaud's attack. Remember how I hadn't filled up my water at the general store after being so blissed out from doughnut and V8?? I guess the one night in Baxters Corner on a lake made me let down my guard and forget about salt water. Despite having asked Michelle at the store about the presence/absence of tides in this part of the river...I went against my better judgement and rolled into camp with only a litre of water. As I had set up my tent there was something about the beach that made me suspicious. The air didn't quite smell like the ocean, the surrounding plants weren't specifically saltwater plants and the shore didn't look like intertidal. But I had stuck my finger into the river anyway and tasted it. Definitely salty. Shit. Not super, full on Bay of Fundy salty but definitely brackish and not for drinking. I figured it would be ok for cooking supper with at least, and wound up eating the saltiest, disgusting version of my homemade dehydrated tomato stew. It almost burned my throat and I love salt, ask anyone. I needed to eat, so choked down most of it and then ate the cucumber I had bought at the store in one sitting like an apple. I didn't even scrub off the soil that was still on the skin figuring it was a good shot of minerals for my body. I felt like a dessert animal eating a cactus for water. As you can imagine, my dinner made me unbelievably thirsty and I weighed the cost of drinking all my remaining water now vs. trying to save some for the morning. This was the first (and only!) time for the entire trip I would find myself in this situation. I scoured the outside of St. Bridgit's Catholic Church across the road AND their community hall further up the hill for a tap. I found one, but it wasn't on. I will honestly admit I checked out a few 5 gallon pails of gravel that were filled with old rain water that looked to be used for holding open doors. The presence of a few cigarette butts definitively ended that idea. By this time, the evening was well underway and there weren't very many houses nearby to go trick or treating for water. PLUS I was definitely camped out on someone's property and didn't want to risk getting evicted in the dark.


This was when I remembered seeing a 4 litre water jug in the bushes down by my campsite. I went back to investigate if it was just garbage or may just actually be my saving grace. It was sitting on a small, wicker table near the cabin and didn't look old or grungy. It was about half full and if it had been glowing with a chorus of trumpets playing as I approached, I wouldn't have even been surprised. It was like it was waiting for me, placed for this exact moment. I opened the cap carefully sniffing the contents. Smelled like water. At least it wasn't paint thinner! I made the executive decision that whomever the water belonged to would be arriving in a vehicle whenever they returned and likely have more water with them. I felt like a victorious hunter (or successfully marauding pirate) and carried the jug to my tent, treating it with chlorine drops to be safe. Despite the chemical flavour from my pristine, I drank that water as if I had been lost in the Sahara for days....it was delicious. It was all a bit silly and I TOTALLY could have gone and knocked on a door, but for whatever reasons I chose not to.


With all of this in mind, I made breakfast and gratefully ate my hot food, stoking my furnace even further. Every sip of water was a gift and I sent little messages of thanks to the owner of this land. I had received everything I needed to be safe and well. I dealt with my tangle of wet hair and laid my stinky packtowel out on Black Beauty to dry. I was still chilled and kept my down jacket on while puttering around, even though I could see joggers on the road wearing tank tops and shorts. I walked across the street to the church to plug my phone in and call a whole bunch of friends back home to spread some voicemail cheer. I was definitely missing my community and it felt amazing to pepper a whole bunch of people out of the blue with love from the road. Most time sensitive though, I needed to book a ferry ticket for Monday morning and make sure everything was set for an afternoon adventure today with Mathieu and Skipper, the dog!


It being the weekend, and Mathieu wishing to continue his exploration of New Brunswick, he and his canine buddy had decided to meet up with me again! We had had a pile of fun at Hopewell and surely there must be some neat things to see or do around Saint John. I was looking forward to some companionship especially after the past two days of The Great Slump AND to be able to see some things by way of car that I wouldn't have encountered biking. We checked in and the plan was set for them to meet me on the Saint John side of the Millidgeville ferry, which was about another 6 kms south from where I was camped. I had lots of time to pack and get myself there so I wrote a bunch in my journal and eventually began to break camp.


As I was rustling around in the tent a voice from behind me called out "Hello?!"


Busted.


I backed out of the tent, turning around to see a smiling lady with an arm full of stuff. I sheepishly asked if this was her land after saying good morning. She assured me that it was, but that she also didn't entirely understand how anyone ever actually owned land. I liked her immediately. Her name was Sandra and she had come to put a coat of stain on the new little camp she had built this summer before the forecasted rains/mist of the next few days. She was genuinely super happy to see me camped out and asked how long I was staying. I explained my whole story and she was thrilled! She and her husband lived in Saint John and she was supposed to be sailing in the race going by, but had gotten busy at home with her kids. She pointed to the far shore, way upstream where a group of boats was racing downwind. They had gone by so fast I had completely missed them while I was packing! If her plans hadn't changed, we wouldn't have met.


I eventually asked her if she knew off hand of a good place that Mathieu and I could camp out for tonight...we had a car to deal with and couldn't be nearly as sneaky as on a bike. Without skipping a beat she offered their land in Saint John. To go from illegally squatting on someone's land to them offering their OTHER property and to sleep in the house if we wanted to is something pretty unique. I was knocked over by her generosity, but knew we wanted to be outside of the city somewhere, preferably on the water. I thanked her profusely and said if we got stuck I'd get ahold of her. We exchanged numbers and she offered wholeheartedly and so genuinely that I asked if maybe instead I could stay with them the night before I took the ferry to Digby. If I didn't have to break down my tent in the morning, I'd be way less stressed and stand a much greater chance of actually making the boat. No matter how fast/organized I try to be...there is only ONE way everything fits onto the bike and it takes time. Or at least it takes me time. A lot of it.


Sandra was delighted by the idea and said I didn't even need to reach out, just show up to their address and there would be a bed and a roof over my head. She went off to stain the cabin and I finished packing amazed by my good fortune, once again. Before I wheeled off, I went over to say goodbye. We chatted long enough for her mother, Didi to show up and I got to meet her too. They were both so lovely and amazed by my trip it didn't even occur to me that the circumstances of us meeting were kind of ridiculous. This life is something I'll never quite understand and I'll forever be amazed by the magic that is waiting around every corner. SANDRA! If you're reading this, I drank all of your water!!! I forgot to tell you :) Thank you!!!!

Waiting for the ferry! This would turn out to be the only photo of the day....thank you fog!

Off I rolled, finding enough hills in the 6 kms to the ferry that I could finally ditch my jacket. I made it about 15 minutes before the next crossing which gave me time to eat some cheese in the sun and take in the sight of the Saint John and Kennebecasis Rivers meeting. It's a lot of water in one area! I truly had no idea how much shoreline was to be discovered, and there were at least a thousand reasons to come back in the future. The ferry chugged into view, having come from Kennebecasis Island, a spot I'd been eyeing on the map and was curious about camping there. As Black Beauty and I gingerly wheeled onto the boat over the large ledge that is the ramp fit for car tires I figured someone working would likely know. I leaned up against an exhaust stack and struck up a conversation with a woman who had helped load all of the cars. Her name was Desire and over the 15 minute crossing she shared her story with me, had two cigarettes and assured me that most of the land on Kennebecasis Island was private. But, if we wanted, she had a piece of land towards the north end of the peninsula with a fire pit on the river and we could stay there. She acknowledged that she had spewed her whole life story at me covering topics of being very close to obtaining her captain's license for the ferry, working in a male dominated industry, having children with a less than ideal person, stepping out of a terrible relationship, meeting the love of her life who was killed only a few years later in an accident, to being a single mom to two teenagers who were eating her out of house and home. She had only travelled once...and she had hitchhiked across Canada and all over British Columbia. She got it. She knew the freedom of the road and the serendipitous joy of meeting new people. We didn't need to talk about my trip...the 15 minutes on the ferry were for her and her only. She gave me her number as we began to dock and I wished her the best luck possible in this life, knowing I likely wouldn't see her again. Thanks Desire, maybe next time I'm on the ferry, you'll be the one driving!


Off the ferry and soon I was loading Black Beauty onto the bike rack of Mathieu's car and stuffing my gear into a very full car. We were off!! TO THE GROCERY STORE!!! Wisely, I made a shopping list while Mathieu navigated the confusing streets of Saint John. We had no idea where we were going to camp tonight, but both trusted we'd figure it out. What was mandatory was provisioning of food and beer. As we pulled into the parking lot of the Superstore my phone buzzed in my hand....Jim, from River Bay Adventures (remember, the kayak guide I'd been in touch with?) was calling! I had texted him while waiting for the ferry to see if he had any recommendations for car camping tonight. I hadn't expected a response, but here he was phoning from a show his singer/songwriter daughter was playing in the city having just returned from camping in Kouchibouguac. He outlined three options for camping, pausing to have a social cheers with his tablemates. The sound of clinking glasses and laughter was so lovely and somehow, I felt like I was papt of his family. Option three, Black Beach about 20 minutes away sounded like our winning choice given the high forecasted winds and with much gratitude and surprise that I'd even heard my phone (or that it had been on in the first place!!) I thanked Jim with a promise to hopefully connect in person on another trip. Hopefully in boats! Once again, humans and their generosity. Thanks Jim!!


With a home for the night, I went into the store with Mathieu's wise words of "STICK TO THE LIST!!!!" following me as he went off to buy beer. Wow. The store was huge (I guess that's why it's called the Superstore) and there was so much to buy!!! The produce section made me miss home and the farm markets that would be bursting this time of the year with local goodies. Apples and brussels sprouts from the USA just seemed so wrong to buy when just across the bay, there was more food than anyone knew what to do with. I digress. I wheeled my cart around, filling it with everything from Haloumi cheese to crusty bread. I picked up a few things to have for my next day or two of riding as well along with EGGS. Oh man, I was already excited about breakfast in the morning.


Mathieu had finished his beer run and caught me, red handed with something in my hands that was definitely not on the list...could I eat a whole jar of peanut butter??? No. Stick to the list. Off to the cash register and despite his concerns that I was spending more money or buying food I couldn't take with me I didn't care in the slightest!! This was a celebration!! The last few times I had been in a grocery store I had been limited by my energy and space of what could be carried on my bike. NOW there was a car AND A COOLER to fill!! Emerging from the store, we noticed a bank of fog having rolled in, beginning to obscure the sun. Life by the sea changes constantly and mist, showers and rain were in the forecast for the next few days. We expertly fit everything into the car, piling stuff around Skipper who was patiently (sort of) waiting to get the show on the road.


Off we went! Driving south of Saint John a few more highway exits following directions on the GPS. The fog got thicker and thicker and thicker. We rolled through some heavy duty industrial areas complete with all of the power grid running to the city. The hum and snap of electricity through the moisture in the air was enough to make the hairs on my arm stand up. I've experienced this before and it's wild. Where were we?! The road turned to gravel and became full of potholes big enough that we weren't sure the car was capable of handling. Maybe if I hadn't bought so many groceries we wouldn't be riding so low?! The fog became even thicker still, the windshield wipers allowing us to see the low spruce trees along the road observing like ghostly sentinels. Bump, bump, bump, we crawled along at 5 kms an hour.


A slightly brighter shade of fog indicated an opening up ahead and with a final lurch we rolled into the parking lot! There was a beach, that was most definitely black and an interpretive sign explained the rarity of this beach in the whole Bay of Fundy area. It had originally been thought that the black sand was volcanic in origin as it is in other places around the world...but analysis had revealed it was coloured by the presence of magnetite instead. It was unique, a completely different beach compared to all of the other ones I had seen in my 30 days of exploring the region. The sign also revealed that the beach was part of the Musquash Marsh protected area, a huge tract of undeveloped land along the coast. The area had been deemed the most ecologically significant and biologically important part of the entire Bay of Fundy and here I was, magically transported to its shores. I had no idea! In all my driving by for 17 years I had known there was a protected area, but didn't even realize that Jim's recommendation to camp at the beach would plop us right in the middle of it.


Despite the thick fog, it was quite warm and we wandered around heading along part of the 4 km trail that explored the area. We were all happy to be out of the car and put on our best tent-site spotting eyes. There was one car in the parking lot when we pulled in and the folks who owned it had set up a tent in the simplest, most accessible spot. We didn't want to cramp their turf, so onwards we went. The forecast was calling for fairly high winds and showers overnight so we didn't want to get ourselves into a pickle by being too exposed. The area surrounding the parking lot seemed to have been a stone quarry at some point with weird piles of rock/ATV trails, feeling quite disturbed and not exactly protected. The further we went, we started to see glimpses of coastal forest habitat and looked forward to exploring further tomorrow. For now, our priority was to find a spot to hunker in for the night.


We made our way back towards the beach, still not having found anything that looked promising for a campsite. The fog thinned just enough to see a bit more of the coast, revealing part of the bay we were protected by. Out in the open, the winds were gusting to 40+ kms an hour, but here, it was only the occasional breeze and hopefully it would stay that way! I had experienced the ferocity of the bay enough to know how much everything can change in an instant and didn't want to risk a repeat performance of Driftwood Beach back in Advocate.


A little side trail that overlooked the beach appeared, one we hadn't noticed earlier on our walk in. Rounding the alders we found a fire pit and a level, grassy area plenty big enough but not so large to feel exposed and vulnerable. PERFECT! We joked about how great the view was too...mist on mist, with shades of mist accentuating the mist. The bushes were high enough to offer protection and we began the process of lugging our stuff from the car to the site. Fast forward many trips later, we had a cozy home complete with kitchen tarp in case the weather got nasty and a beer in hand. It was getting dark early from the thick fog and I began my multi hour attempt to remember the word for fog in French. Without seeing it written down, I just wouldn't stick in my head! Plus it was a tricky one to pronounce: "broulliard"...like broool yaaaard. Simple enough, but I couldn't get the right sound in my throat for the "rs" and fumbled with it no matter how much I tried. Practice makes better, right??


From the looks of it, the site had been used very recently as evidenced by the vodka cooler cans, mushy bag of marshmallows and general garbage left behind by folks we determined to be quite young. I went around with a doggie poop bag as a glove cleaning up the trash, including the toilet paper, keg cups and tin foil helping to restore some semblance of respect for the land. One positive thing left behind was a few chunks of store bought hardwood, haphazardly scattered about. I gathered what wood I could find, very skeptical of the heat rating of punky alder trunks and Mathieu split up the big wood. I was so excited to cook dinner on a two burner stove that I dumped a few hauls of branches by the pit and set to work making a delicious meal.


Fire lit, food made, mist still present, but not proving to be a problem, we settled into a night by the fire talking about adventure and the natural, beautiful world. The nearby fog horn began to sound, indicating how poor the visibility was off shore. With every call of it I was reminded of my childhood in Maine and so many nights camped out by the Atlantic ocean. For the second time today I thought of West Ironbound Island and the privilege it is to bring young wimyn to its shores. More often than not, we sit in a fog bank the entire time on a Sea School trip....the fog horn droning away, all day and all night. It could be annoying, I guess. But for me? I personally love it. It is a feature to this landscape as unique and wonderful as the red mud, long intertidal rivers and generous souls who inhabit the shores. With a belly full of tasty food and the warmth of a fire at my feet I thanked the stars above for the opportunity to have this rich experience. Despite the thick fog overhead, I was confident my messages would still find their way to my astral companions.


Brooooollllyyaaaarrrrd-y love to you all!






41 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page