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Surely the hills can't be THAT bad, right?! Day 25!

Home for the night: Mac's Beach Retreat

Distance: linear: 12 kms GPS: 14 kms

Weather: frost in the morning and chilly, chilly temperatures! Clear, blue skies all day eventually warming to yet another perfect, autumn day. Clouds rolling in around sunset...

B: advil, granola with apple chunks and coconut milk made with hot water, coffee

L: trail mix, granola bars, lots and lots of chocolate, reconstituted hummus with cheese on tortillas, super spicy ramen, normal ramen and Vietnamese instant super coffee!!

D: Eric's homemade dehydrated chickpea coconut curry (AMAZING), two bags of chips all washed down with two bottles of red wine

 

westward bound to end

this spectacular pathway.

gratitude abounds

 

The alarm went off. I could feel Eric rustling around next to me, and tried to manifest that he had improperly set his watch...and we had at least another hour of sleep. It was still dark, after all!!! He nudged me, with a cheery good morning confirming my fears that I would have to extract myself from my little cocoon. I fumbled for my zipper and eventually the hood of my sleeping bag opened and the light poured in...it wasn't dark at all, I had just retreated to the deep recesses of my cave to hide from the cold.


I could see my breath and the air was sharp where it touched my skin. Oof. Knowing it would be sunny later helped...but getting dressed in a cold tent is never a joyous experience. Wanting to get a good start on the day, we all uncomfortably packed up our personal gear before making breakfast. The frost was beautiful and covered everything, especially our tents. Osa was the happiest of us all, grateful to have the heat of summer behind her...being part husky, she lives for the frozen season!

Cold hands, cold feet, but with warm and grateful hearts we stiffly moved through the motions of wrangling all the seemingly millions of things that spread themselves everywhere once released from a backpack.


We all perked up with the smell of coffee ready to be drank....and perked up even further at the rattle of a bottle of Advil. It was going to be a great day! Warming our hands with our cups, we watched the sun slooowly make its way down the western hillside of the river valley until it reached the gravel near our camp. HOOORAAAAHH!!! We all scampered over and plonked down on the ground with our breakfasts and coffee, warming ourselves like lizards. Even before the sun has any actual heat to it in the morning, the psychological magic of knowing its shining on your face does wonders!

The frost melted in a flash, leaving everything very wet, tents included. Packing away the rest of our stuff after a second cup of coffee, we shouldered into our bags (Osa included after the usual extensive convincing) to begin our climb out of the valley. Goodbye Little Salmon River, I'll be back!


The trail seemed much more used on this side, and the terrain was actually far more gentle than Eric and I had experienced coming down into the valley yesterday. France and I traveled at the same speed and we gabbed and gabbed and gabbed, catching up on life, love and everything in between. Up and up, eventually gaining the top of the shoulder that would carry us down to Cradle Brook, our original planned campsite for the night before. Thank goodness we didn't push on, and stayed where we did....the descent was a doozie and we certainly would have arrived in the cold and dark....and eaten raw steaks for supper!

Making memories!!! Adventuring with France and Osa is one of my greatest joys!

After a brief break on the beach, the fun began. A set of stairs/ladder loomed on the west side of the brook, disappearing out of sight above us. Onwards and upwards! The design of the ladder was brilliant, and very safe despite how much it moved around. Long cables stretching down the hill were threaded with lengths of 4 x 4s, that were shackled in place. The whole thing was draped along the side of the hill and anchored off various trees along the way. Very simple, it certainly preserved the bank and made it physically possible to climb the hill. The only problem was that it just kept going. When it finally ended, the forest flattened out for a bit before another ladder, another ladder, another ladder, another hill, more of the same hill, still more and FINALLY the top!!! Choice words flew in all directions from all three of us and I was very impressed with how humbling this land was. We snaked under and along rocky cliff faces, clambered over them with yet another ladder and slowly made progress. I could hear Eric above me on the hill, somewhere in the stratosphere talking to Osa, himself and certainly, gravity but didn't see him for ages. We all travelled at different paces and victoriously reconvened at the place we thought was the top. A peek at the map revealed that we had a ways to go...yippee!! Left. Right. Left. Right. Left. Right....


If I'm honest, I actually really love these sick moments. The hill is NOT impossible!! The brain and the body will try to convince you otherwise, but it's actually incredible what we are all capable of. It was awesome to be this challenged, especially in the maritimes and know that we would all succeed in completing the trail....eventually :)


Lunch was decided for Sealy Beach and we all fanned out at our own paces, having some solo, quiet time, the last two kms taking at least 3 years. At this stage in my trip, my metabolism is pretty high and the precipice marking the edge of "hangry" is easy to fall off. All that was gojbg through my head was "ineedtoeatineedtoeatineedtoeat" something more than trail mix. We had been going for hours and a proper break was in order.


I caught up to Eric, who was laying sprawled out on the beach....and Osa joined him after I took off her pack and she enthusiastically rolled around on the beach for a bit. Frig! What a wonderful, beautiful, challenging slog! The brook for the beach was another .3 kms from where we sat and knowing we needed to fill water bottles and make soup, we dragged ourselves down the beach, me carrying osa's pack for her to give her a break.

By the time France arrived, hot food was ready, wraps were made and all three of us, like wild ravenous beasts devoured everything in sight. Eric had made two packs of ramen...and deciding we could all eat more, France made her first ever packet of Mr. noodles for us to share. What a momentous occasion!! Then! For the grand finale and morale booster, I had three packs of Ca-phe Hoatan in my stash for just such a moment. It's an instant coffee from Vietnam that my father found online from a backpacking company. They are magic. Despite the ingredients being suspiciously simple "coffee, milk and sugar".... the boost they give you rivals Red Bull's ability to produce wings. I have incorporated them into every big trip I've ever done, since they were discovered by dad.


Stuffed to the gills and caffeinated to the max, our spirits were much higher as we clambered on to our next benchmark, Long Beach. Based on energy levels, it was looking like France and potentially Eric would happily end the hike at the beach and I, being the crazy committed person to an unbroken, human-powered loop around the bay would trot out the last 6 kms to retrieve the car at Big Salmon River, to then come collect them. I would ditch my big pack with France and travel with just a few essentials, speeding up the time it would take. It was all good and everyone of us was truly content with the plan.


Eric, once again the warrior that he is got to the beach long ahead of France and I and as the two of us gingerly descended a flight of stairs to the parking lot below, he announced there had been a change of plans. Apparently the Fundy Parkway (not part of the National Park) which allows access to all the beaches and trailheads in the immediate area locks its gates at 5 pm. 5 PM?!?! It was only 4. This meant that even once I had reached the car, gone to collect my comrades and driven out to the edge of the parkway, we would have been locked in.


While Eric had been waiting for us, a fellow named Tom who turned out to be the assistant general manager for the parkway had spied Eric and came to tell him the news. He would give us all a lift to the visitor centre where our car was and then escort us to the edge of the property where the gate was. Damnit! What an unexpected turn of events! I had been gearing my brain for the last phase of the hike and suddenly, we were done. Poof. Hike over. We were happy, although jolted and without any time to absorb the news, Tom returned and we piled into his car.

The closest thing to a group shot we could get while laying in the grass, waiting for Tom

We drove along what looked to be an almost brand new road. To create the Parkway, a scar had been blasted along the hills, carving out a path for automobiles complete with bridges, shiny guardrails for kms and signage everywhere. Once again, I found myself confronting the old access vs. environmental stewardship argument and couldn't help feel there was a touch of irony in demolishing a large portion of the natural world for the sake of being able to see the natural world. From the seat of your pants. Convenience wins again....and one of the biggest reasons I had hoped to experience the Footpath sooner than later was the ever progressing development of the Parkway itself. Construction began in the early 90s...and it will eventually run through the wilderness that we had just hiked through, running parallel to the coastline.


We collected the car and drove the final 10 kms to the parkway boundary. Waving goodbye to Tom on the side of the road, we began an epic round of car Tetris. Three grownups, one dog, one bike, three giant backpacks PLUS all of my resupply bags/items and extra camping gear from the first night Eric and I slept at the headquarters campground in Fundy....all stuffed miraculously into one Honda CRV.

Off to St. Martins to find wine, chips, showers and clean clothes for us. We had an air bnb booked which was maybe some of the best foresight possible. We wound our way along the hilly roads and I painted a picture of how beautiful the sunset was on the red sea arches for France who couldn't see a damn thing in the back seat. Finding all we needed at the store, we made our way to our home for the evening and happily celebrated our accomplishments. Osa snored under the table on the deck as we ate dinner looking out to the bay. Clouds were moving in...the forerunners of hurricane Teddy who was apparently barreling towards us. It seemed impossible that a storm would be in our laps in less than 24 hours as the world was as still as could be. The calm before the storm, it seemed....and knowing we wouldn't be hiking through it made our wine taste even better!


Not long for the waking world, we all crawled off to bed, squeaky clean and beyond grateful to have shared such a special experience. Suddenly, the hills didn't seem like they were so bad!


Thanks for reading, more to come soon!

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