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What is life like in a cloud? Day 31

Home for the night: at Brent and Sandra's, Highland Road, Saint John

Distance: 2.5 (ish) kms hiking, 8.9 kms biking

Weather: morning, foggy...afternoon, foggier...evening, foggiest!

B: Crumpets with butter, scrambled eggs with bacon and brussels sprouts, yogurt with BANANAS and coffee with real, delicious cream

L: Monster naan bread sandwiches with boursin cheese, meat, spinach, avocado, onion. Tamari almonds, energy bites, chocolate and eventually a green tea from McDonalds.

D: Mint tea and conversation

 

always trust your gut

a promise is a promise

alive, open hearts

 

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooottttt!


wait a few minutes.


BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooottttt!


wait a few minutes.


BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooottttt!


repeat.


get louder.


get even louder.


keep going for hours and hours and hours...


Congratulations!! You're now a fog horn! To ensure you have successfully completed your training, find someone who is sleeping anywhere within a several km radius of you and make your best sound. If you have practiced enough, when the people will be startled awake by your call that will go in one ear, reverberate in their sternum and echo off into the inky distance for several beats. The next level of training will revolve around endurance and your ability to perform this feat for hours on end.


Once again, a sub theme of this adventure (being woken up by unique noises) showed up. This time, taking the cake for volume, consistency and ability to prevent sleep. The foghorn had sounded on and off for the evening around the fire, but the coastline had cleared enough to have it stop around bedtime. The fog had returned and it was thicker than ever judging by the fact that the volume of the horn which had sounded pleasant earlier was now making my heart race almost every few times it went off. I'm not sure if the horn is on a rotating stand and its blasts were only sometimes directly pointed at the tent or if it sounds at varying degrees of intensity on a pattern to help it be identified by mariners. Regardless, it was very successful in making us jump despite being a constant presence. Just as I'd relax and the peaceful, normal level "boooooots" would lull me back to sleep an extra awesome, super duper safety call would resonate through my body, continuing its important duty along the coast. I wondered if maybe this was somehow the same foghorn I could hear from my childhood home in Maine...this thing felt powerful enough to cover the distance! I joke....kind of.


For an unknown amount of surreal, woozy hours Mathieu and I made conversation and laughed when the "super blasts" would arrive. It was dark and could have been an hour after we had gone to bed or several, who knew. Tent fabric has never been celebrated as sound proof...but this was a whole new reason for somebody, somewhere to start working on a way to deaden noise from the outside in! It really was quite funny in a bizarre way...there was nothing to do but lay there and doze off, be startled awake and doze off again. Maybe this could be marketed by Tourism New Brunswick as an authentic, once in a lifetime (well, not really, because it's foggy A LOT on the coast) but certainly unique experience of a true maritime sleep experience. Although we were landlubbers, the foghorn was doing its duty as if we were on a boat, making sure that we remained safely offshore from the craggy cliffs that were out there somewhere!


Either the fog retreated slightly, or eventually fatigue won out because the next time I realized I was awake, yet again, it was light. Not bright, but not dark either and when I peeked outside it could have easily been 10 am or 4 pm. Such is life in a cloud. Varying stages, levels and thicknesses of misty fog. Mais, maintenant je sais le mot pour cette chose: brouillard! I believe whole heartedly in experiential education and there was no way I would ever forget this word, no way! Brouillard rolled down the tent, dripping onto the brouillard-covered grass that looked out over the brouillard-filled, sheltered cove that we would never actually see.


Here's a picture:










Pretty, isn't it? Use your imagination and it will be plenty accurate for what I never actually even tried to take a photo of. It was so foggy I kept blinking my eyes, feeling like my contact lenses were blurry even though I knew they weren't. The Bay of Fundy and it's many, many faces...some of them able to be captured by camera, others elusive and mysterious. Today would be the only day of my entire trip that I actually took zero photos, not a single one! It was kind of nice in a way, just to experience the land and a very common side of it. I began to tally in my head the varying levels of moisture as they came and went while I made breakfast under the tarp:


Fine Fog: what I imagine the inside of a cloud to be, white, cool and damp, but no visible droplets really and it doesn't necessarily get everything wet, but it doesn't let anything dry out either.


Blowing Fog: when somehow, against all odds there seems to be enough air moving about randomly to blow fog at you. Characterized by feeling slightly damper than when it's just fine fog, but again, you don't necessarily get wet. A true phenomenon because in my mind fog socks into the coast because there's no wind to move it along. Everything is still very foggy, but now with a breeze!


Proper Mist: when the air becomes full of visible droplets and they begin to collect slowly on every possible surface. Not necessarily enough to condense fully into a dripping mess, but mainly only because this level of moisture quickly reverts to Fine Fog or escalates into "misting torrentials", (see below).


Misting Torrentials: Mist that has become thick and dense enough that the saturated air has no choice but to let the water fall in the form of silky sheets of water that could almost, almost, almost but not quite be classified as rain. This phenomenon is easily identifiable by the constant puzzling over whether it is raining or not, and you really aren't sure.


And beyond! I felt sort of like I was on an unexpected sommelier course to understand the nuances and terroirs of the Saint John area's coastal air. I'm sure a meteorologist would find faults with my definitions...but I'm just a cyclist and I'm sure they'd forgive me.


After a delicious meal by the fire, which felt lovely because of the complete dampness of everything including us we packed up our fortress and re-loaded the car. It seemed that we'd do a bit better on the crazy potholes because we'd jettisoned some heavy stuff like beer, cheese and of course, wine. A secondary interpretive panel we had discovered the day before on our quest to find a campsite had revealed that there was a 4.5 km trail through the forest. With little day bags we set out to see what awaited discovery.


The trail guided us slowly away from the bizarre, old gravel quarry-esque vibe of the area where we had camped and eventually gave way to a beautiful and diverse coastal forest. The mist had made everything lush and once again I was reminded of how much more there is to smell in the forest when things are damp. Without the distraction of epic, coastal views this adventure was to be spent focused on the close at hand, doing one of my favourite activities: botanizing!! Compared to the stark and somewhat simple feeling coast I had experienced along the Fundy Footpath, this was a veritable jungle. Beautiful clumps of herbaceous plants, all well established changed throughout the hike as the subtle variations in forest type created completely different plant communities. It felt like every 10 minutes brought us to another world! From coastal spruce forests to upland swampy cedar pockets and through elevated, rocky outcrops covered with soft carpets of reindeer moss, we were amazed by the amount of flora was stuffed into one little trail. We also had learned that there was another good-sized trail on the other end of the Musquash Marsh protected area that I filed away in my mind for future exploration.


We found our way back to the parking lot, still as foggy as ever and bumped our way slowly away from the beach. The road didn't seem quite so long or crazy on the way out (a classic experience I like to call The Dirt Road Phenomenon). Back under the buzzing, creepy electrical towers and through the surreal and jarring industrial zone that were even more in contrast to the untouched and primitive forest we had just wandered through.


Deciding that since we were heading back to Saint John, we'd best go check out the famous reversing falls of the Wolastoq River. The tidal phenomenon of the massive whirlpools and rapids that form at the narrowing of the river is known to be quite impressive. Once again, I had passed in transit but never stopped to actually view the natural wonder. The river is now most commonly called The Saint John River and not by its first spoken name, but the influence of the Bay of Fundy on the river's flow remains unchanged. At high tide, the ocean floods into the narrow river gorge, overpowering the downstream currents of the river. The volume of water pouring into the river is so great that the river flows upstream, magically creating rapids and dangerous currents going in the opposite direction of the natural course of the river. For about 20 peaceful minutes at the top of high tide when the river has reached the same surface level as the coastal shore, the gorge can be safely navigated by boat in either direction. Following this grace period, the slackening tide begins to draw out of the river, once again creating a torrent of waterfalls and whirlpools that you would certainly not want to be caught unawares in.


From what I have read, there are certain times that are more dramatic at the falls than others and we seemed to be arriving at a decent moment in the river's cycle. Regardless of whirlpools and waterfalls and the like, what I was already amazed by without even laying eyes on the falls was the amount of water I knew to move through the area. I had travelled along the Kennebecasis River, which joins the Wolastoq, their combined volumes flowing to the sea. The gorge at the sight of the falls is not very wide and even without a physics degree, my brain knows that there are some serious forces at work. I'm positive that what we see at the surface of the water is only a fraction of the wildness happening in the river below.


The fog had decided to join our touristy trip and as we found the bridge spanning the river it became rapidly (ha!) apparent that we would view the waterfall through a blurry lens. Breakfast had been hours ago and in order to feel fully prepared for the wonder that certainly awaited us we dragged the cooler up into a park for a picnic. There was far more wind on the hill and the fine fog of below had turned into an fascinating example of a continual swing between misting torrentials and blowing fog. We noticed several giant sculptures in the park decided to investigate, wondering what the story was behind the giant figures that appeared to be humans. They were anywhere between 10 to 20 feet tall and carved out of huge logs.


The first sculpture we came to appeared to be an indigenous figure...and an interpretive sign revealed a story of Kluscap and the creation of the falls. There are thousands of stories of Kluscap and his interactions with the first peoples of the land in what we now refer to as the Maritimes. Wabanaki (land of the dawn) encompassed all of the different peoples of the region including the Mi'kmaq, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy, Penobscot and Abenaki. With many different spellings of Kluscap according to different dialects, I found myself reading about Glooscap as he is referred to in the region of Nova Scotia I live in. An accompanying figure was beaver, who got in big trouble with Kluscap for damming the Wolastoq river and flooding the peoples out of their fishing, hunting and camping grounds. At the time, Beaver was giant and the people feared him. Despite negotiations, Beaver refused to stop his actions and left with no choice, Kluscap made Beaver and all of his relatives the small size we see today.


Excitedly, I walked towards the next giant figurine in the mist...here was the full display of Mi'kmaq history I had been hoping to find on my whole trip!! As I approached through the mist, I realized the outfit on the sculpture was certainly not indigenous and I found myself staring at large paragraphs of the story of a British settler to the area. I can't remember his name or the many impressive things he did with his life for the region. The next sculpture was much the same, and the next and the next and the next. All white guys who came to the land and did various things from establishing logging operations to leading soldiers into battle, to building the first bridge over the river. There were stories of peace treaties with the indigenous peoples after days of discussion, but little else regarding the people who had no choice but to absorb the impact of strange humans and cultures from a land far away. It was a chronological history of man's achievements alongside a river not even called by its original name. Oh, except there was ONE statue of a woman and her entire story was dedicated to how she had to go rescue her husband who got hauled back to Europe for whatever reasons. I'm probably not being very subtle in how I felt about the whole display, am I?


With no disrespect to the accomplishments or the creators of the Saint John we see today, I felt a bit disheartened. We did come across some of the more modern stories about the guy who invented of all things, THE FOGHORN! There was also a man who was an internationally recognized speed skater, despite an injury to his leg in the war. OH! and there was a nod to the Oland family and their legacy of beer making which originated not far from where we stood. We clinked our cans of sneaky beer together, feeling that our beverages for the tour of art en plein air were suddenly very appropriate! We toasted the fellow who was responsible for keeping mariners safe and us awake all night before moseying back to the cooler to make sandwiches. Thanks to the Irving Pulp and Paper corporation who were behind the construction of the whole park we had a little roof over top of our table that looked out over the river. Their clever logo inlays on every vertical surface were a great reminder to the megalith operation just over the hill, obscured by fog.


Sandwiches consumed, blowing fog still very much present we went to see the magic of the falls. There was no one else around thanks to the weather and between a lookout by the parking lot and wandering along the bridge we were able to watch the swirling water below. The visibility was impressively bad, hiding houses and the skyline of the city, and I was able to squint my eyes to pretend I was looking at the falls 5,000 years ago. The noise and vibrations of cars rumbling over the bridge challenged my powers of imagination, but I could certainly still appreciate the incredible forces at play below. The river swirled, whirlpools appeared and disappeared in the blink of an eye and my whitewater paddling experience told me that what looked kind of bland and unexciting from way up here would likely feel VERY different if we were to try and run the chute. Which people do, and we obviously weren't at the exactly perfect viewing time...but it was still cool to see.


The afternoon was beginning to tip towards evening and we still needed to get back to the Millidgeville ferry terminal that Mathieu had picked me up from the day before. He double and even triple checked that I was certain I wanted to bike the 8 kms to where I would be staying that night. He offered to take me right to Sandra and Brent's promising he wouldn't tell ANYONE if I interrupted my human powered loop just this once. I definitely considered it as the windshield wipers flicked away the misting torrentials...or maybe rain? I had texted Brent and Sandra a couple of hours earlier to confirm I could still show up at their house and hadn't heard back. The sky grew darker. We stopped for a coffee for Mathieu's 2 hour drive back to Sackville and a tea for me. Still no word from Brent and Sandra. I shared that I was feeling a bit anxious about not knowing for sure that it was still ok to head to a pretty well complete stranger's home for the night...and anxious about making the ferry in the morning...and anxious about biking off into the city in the dark/rain. Sandra DID say to just come by. Sandra DID say I didn't have to reach out to double check....and she DID say there would be a cozy bed waiting for me when I arrived. But, my worries were making it hard to believe with any conviction that her promise held true a few days later.


Despite all of that, I felt committed to my mission and ignoring all practical, sensible (normal) thinking I assured Mathieu that I did, indeed want to get dumped on the side of the road. He pleasantly acknowledged that I wouldn't ask for something that I wasn't capable of handling and figured that if I was so bent on the goal of an uninterrupted loop, that my motivation must come from a deep place of confidence in my abilities. Well shit, if it's put that way...yes! I can do this! It will be fine, it always is.


While unloading my gear on the shoulder of the road a little voice in my head told me to double check the number I had texted. Sure enough, yours truly had typed in the wrong number!! No wonder I still hadn't heard from Brent and Sandra!!! Relieved, I copied my earlier message to them, updating them with a better estimated arrival time: 8:00 or so. Feeling better, the soothing heat of my tea helped me settle into the rhythm of doing what I do best under all manners of brain capacity and energy levels: pack my crap. I encouraged Mathieu to get on the road as soon as I knew I had all my possessions out of the car so he could get his drive started and I could pack without an audience. He conceded and recognized how crappy his drive was going to be on the highway in thick fog. We said our goodbyes, grateful to have had a fantastic 30 hour adventure together, foghorn included. We promised to let each other know that we were both safe and sound at our respective homes that night. Personally, I would way rather bike off into the fog than drive!


After 20 minutes I was locked and loaded, tea fully consumed...but still no confirmation from my hosts for the night. With no other choice, I shoved off into the night with my lights and reflectors glowing/blinking in all directions. It's always moments like this that I'm glad my parents don't exactly know what I'm up to, because they'd surely kill me if I survive whatever mess I might get myself into. Not actually, but parents love their kids. A LOT and mine had stood by, wringing their hands (but knowing I would be ok) as I set off and completed expeditions and all manner of adventures over the years. They're also so much of the reason I have the confidence to do the things I do. Their support and encouragement (and the occasional very thoughtful gear purchase) have certainly paved the way for me to live a beautiful and adventurous life.


I thought about my family back in Maine and wondered what they would think of this bike rided. It was beautiful, in a ridiculous and exciting kind of way. It was still quite warm, so I rode along not really knowing if I was going uphill or down and adjusted my speed to how far I could see in front of me...which wasn't very! I could feel the presence of the river off to my right as I snaked along the shore, wondering what on earth it actually looked like. Just another reason to return! The road was practically empty, it being Sunday night after all and it didn't take long to settle into the misty, winding rhythm of a short, 8 km ride.


Eventually I found myself nearing the first turn I needed to make which would take me up into the suburbs on a direct, biker friendly route to Brent and Sandra's. I turned onto the suggested road and ground my way up a very steep hill. A few turns later and I was on a cul de sac that wasn't part of my route. I pulled out my phone and THERE was a message from Brent saying "come on over, we've been waiting for you!! want us to come pick you up in the van?" HOOORAYYYY!!!! I quickly typed back (my battery was getting dangerously low at this point, of course) that I was only 3 kms away and should be there in no time. Spirits lifted, I merrily checked the map, realizing I'd simply made a wrong turn and rolled onwards.


My next turn wasn't where it was supposed to be, according to my directions. Hmm. I pulled out the phone, once again, saw my error and turned around. I rolled past houses, made another turn and after going suddenly uphill I recognized a house I had already been by. ?!?!!? I was certain it was the same place that I had messaged Brent from, even though all the houses in suburbia look the same to me. Confused, I looked at the map again and realized that the original street I needed to turn onto (which I had) was a crescent or something a rural girl doesn't understand and it entered the main road in two places. I had simply turned onto it at the first intersection and was supposed to go on the second. Done! Problem solved, I'd be at Brent and Sandra's in no time.


Back down the hill, just a little bit, but then once again I had NO idea where I was...the street names didn't line up and I truly had no sweet clue where I was. How embarassing!!! Back UP the hill to where I was so damn certain the map told me to go for my next turn. I hoped my 8% phone battery had enough juice for me to turn on the GPS (which I have barely done on this trip) and tell me where the hell I was. I've never been lost in the wilderness, only in places like this! My phone reassured me I was very close to the road I needed to find...like so close it should be exactly where I was standing. There was no road. What the hell Google!?! I've heard of map apps leading people astray, but this seemed too weird. I looked around, turning my headlamp up to its brightest setting. THERE!! A bike path pitched off of the road I was on at such an angle down the bank I couldn't actually see it until I went up onto the sidewalk. Surely this must be it, even though it was very clearly marked as a road on the map. Weird.


After just a moment of considering plotting a totally different route at this point, my tenacious/stubborn explorer brain wanted to know what google was referring to. Down a steep hill, avoiding loose chunks of pavement, around a chain link fence and then VOILA! I rolled out of the bushes onto a road that had the name I had been searching for! I shouted with glee out into the mist, knowing everyone in their right mind was cozily in their houses. I officially was back on track. Every turn from there on out made sense and victoriously I turned onto Highland Road, where Brent and Sandra lived, apparently at the very end.


Highland Road turned out to be very aptly named. Sandra had warned me there was a doozie of a hill, but it probably wasn't any worse than others I had seen in my travels. Surely not! My shortening breath and burning muscles told me I was headed uphill and the lights of houses above showed me how far I had to go. Good gracious it was a BEAST!!! I huffed and I puffed and used every bit of muscle I had to get within 20 feet of the top and I gave up, totally blasted. This hill, along with the crazy intense one in the campground at Five Islands and the mushy, gravel bike path on The Fundy Parkway would be the only hills I would walk on the whole trip. Frig! I squelched to the top, heart pounding and climbed back onto Black Beauty hoping for the love of all things in the universe I was almost there. Destined for #500 I was dismayed to see I was at #48. Onwards Adrien, keep going!


Up and down, up and down, this little road packed a heck of a late night punch! Suddenly the houses that had stood shoulder to shoulder all along the road disappeared and I rolled off the pavement onto gravel. It was dark...no streetlights here. The gravel was soft and large ruts had me on my toes to not slide out of control. Three deer darted across in front of me, causing me to slam on my brakes and stick a foot out to catch myself. FRIG! SO glad my dad doesn't know where I am, where the hell am I going???!!! I bumped and slid my way through the fog, the road forking with one branch posted as #423. Getting closer. I could see lights coming through the trees as I passed a boat in the bushes and a few piles of miscellaneous life stuff. I rolled up into the parking area hoping that if this wasn't #500 the owners would let me stay with them, I was totally fried from the past hour's adventure.


A golden, glowing 500 tacked next to the door took all my worry away and soon the door opened and a huge, goofy dog named Charlie was sniffing me all over. Home sweet home! And how sweet it turned out to be. Sandra and Brent welcomed me as if I were one of their own children and in short order Black Beauty was tucked away in the garage and I had a cup of tea placed in my hands. Plopped in a rocking chair, I took in the artwork and cool vibe of the home I felt so lucky to have come to stay in. The three of us chatted, covering all topics from family to travels to everything in between. Sandra teaches English to newly arrived children of immigrant families and Brent turned out to be a prolific singer/songwriter whom I've probably seen his name on festival posters. We laughed a lot and I felt a deep similarity in world view, creative pursuits, and the realness of what an awake and open life feels like. We got along like a house on fire and the time passed quickly, as it always does. With all of my misadventures in finding their house I hadn't arrived until close to 9 PM and pretty soon we were yawning and ready to call it a night.


The warmhearted energy of my hosts was so lovely. I had a shower, brushed my teeth and was able to hang my filthy, wet rain gear on the drying rack in the kitchen suspended over the table. Sandra insisted on me helping myself to any of the food in the fridge I wanted either tonight or in the morning and I assured her I would. We said goodnight and I sank into a warm bed with 4 different alarms set for myself to hopefully guarantee I wouldn't miss the 9 am ferry to Digby. The sound of my door being pushed open and the sudden rocking of my bed announced Charlie's big, hairy presence and I happily snuggled into him, feeling completely at home. Cats (of which Brent assured me there were approximately 700) galloped around in the living room, being goofy. The sound of fog dripping off the roof onto the bush outside my window reminded me how dry I was. Charlie's sweet, snoring self made me think of my own, stinky Osa dog waiting at home. I knew I was ready to draw this adventure to an end, and tomorrow would be the day I would finally set foot and tire back in Nova Scotia!


With such gratitude for magic, adventure and wonderful humans I dozed off surrounded by the cozy sounds of a living, breathing home.


Thanks for reading everyone, I promise photos will return for the remaining posts!

Love,

Adrien






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