Saturday Morning Adventures: Bald Mountain Adventure Trail

The morning broke clear and cool, with rain on the way this afternoon.  So up and out the door we hurried to find some adventure and do some leaf chasing.  Our plan was to drive out to Clarendon and hike the Bald Mountain Adventure Trail.

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It was a beautiful drive, as the fall colours were reaching their peak this weekend.

The hike itself is a short 2.2km loop that ranges from easy to difficult.  The lead-in trail from the parking area and the upper part of the loop is easy to moderate.  The lower trail is difficult, with quite a few steep areas and boulders to climb over.  It’s well worth the effort however, as you come to a huge rock face that is apparantly very popular with local rock climbers.  No one there today though, just us.

Abandoned bird’s nest along the trail
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That’s a big rock

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A little farther up the loop you come to another rock face, this one with a large chunk of rock cut out of it and a nice little seat to have a break and check out the view.  This one is aptly called Nature’s Boardroom.

Joel checking out the view from Nature’s Boardroom

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From there it’s just a short hike to the summit where you are rewarded with a wonderful view of the surrounding area, made especially beautiful with the colourful fall foliage.  The summit is covered with snowy lichen mixed with raspberry-coloured blueberry plants.

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View from the summit

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Lichen and blueberry plants

The hike back down and drive home was equally pretty, with several photo op stops along the way.

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A golden wonderland

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Just as we were getting back in the city, the rain was starting to fall.  I’m so glad we got up early and took advantage of the nice weather while we had it.  As I’m writing this, we’re getting a thunderstorm and there are hail stones covering my back deck.  That’s the thing about weather in the Maritimes, you never know what you’re going to get, from minute-to-minute.  Happy Saturday!

The Magdalen Islands: Charm and Awe, Part 2

Our second day on the Magdalen Islands was all about working off that incredibly decadent seafood risotto and maple syrup souffle we had at La Table des Roy the night before.  And work it off we did.

Our first stop of the day was to explore the beautiful red cliff views at Le Gros Cap (you can never have too many cliff views).

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After that we drove down to the other end of highway 199.  We strolled around the marina among the quaint shops and cafes at the historical site of La Grave.


We then hiked to the top of the hill at Butte Les Desmoiselles for a panaromic view of the area.  It was starting to cloud over at that point.  Then back down the hill for lunch at the quirky and charming Cafe de la Grave.


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We needed a little rest after all this exploring so we made our way back to our room at the Auberge Madeli.  The Auberge Madeli is a very comfortable and modern hotel with a great location, almost a stone’s throw from the CTMA ferry terminal.  It’s located on Cap aux Meules, the most populated island in the archipelago and was a great home base for us on our travels around the islands.

After a little rest, we checked out Parc des Buck but as these are mostly forest trails and didn’t really have the sea views we were craving we quickly jumped in the car and ended south again, this time in search of the very southern tip of the island, Sandy Hook. We parked the car, climbed over the sand dunes and stood in awe of the miles of white sand beach that lay in front of us.  We started out, determined to make it to the end of Sandy Hook, where the islands meet the sea.  We walked for what seemed like forever.  I hate to say that there is such a thing as too much of a beach walk but I think we found it. After walking 6km we finally made it to the end of the sand dunes.  There is a nice view of Entry Island from here, as this is the closest point to it from the archipelago.
  
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After hiking the 6km back to the car, we were hungry and tired and really quite sandy so we booted back to Cap aux Meules and settled on Les Pas Perdus for dinner, which seems like a hot spot for locals and tourists alike.  I was really happy because I got to have a gluten free burger, hard to come by on the islands.  And after almost 20km(!) of walking that day, a burger and fries was well deserved.

That pretty much wrapped up our trip to the Magdalen Islands.  After dinner, it was time to return to the hotel and pack up for an early call at the ferry terminal the next morning.  If we had had more time on the islands, I would have made the short ferry trip over to Entry Island.  I would have loved to hike Big Hill and see Sandy Hook from that perspective.  There are some other things we would have liked to do as well, like the stairs at the Cap aux Meules port.  I don’t mind leaving a few things undone however, I feel it encourages a return trip.  And the Maggies are definitely worth a return trip.

A few parting thoughts on our trip:

  • We didn’t have to pay an entrance fee to any of the parks, beaches or attractions that we visited.  I absolutely love that and think other provinces should take note.  It encourages visitors to explore the islands freely and at their own pace.
  • Speaking a least some french is helpful but not required.  Most Madelinots speak at least a little english and are very friendly and welcoming.  Thankfully my husband’s french is very good, so we got along just fine.
  • The Maggies are the kind of place that encourages you to go further – we were determined to venture to the furthest edges of the archipelago that we could reach.  It’s a wonderful place for those with an adventurous spirit.
  • If you haven’t made a trip to the Magdalen Islands yet, what are you waiting for?  I would encourage anyone from the Maritimes and beyond to visit this paradise-like gem a least once.  You won’t believe the surreal landscape you find yourself in, and you won’t ever want to leave.  Thank you to everyone who made our trip such an memorable experience.
A keepsake of our trip by artist Marie Marto

The Magdalen Islands: Charm and Awe, Part 1

Yes, I’m aware that the Magdalen Islands (also known by its proper french name: Iles de la Madeleine) is not part of the Maritime provinces.  Geographically located in the Maritimes but technically part of Quebec, this little hidden gem of an archipelago is close enough for me.  The powers that be in Quebec seem to think so too, because the islands are classified as part of their Quebec Maritime region.

The Maggies charm and awe from the very first moment you glimpse Entry Island from the CTMA ferry: with those treeless, grassy hills, those towering red cliffs and those tiny, colourful houses dotting the countryside.  It sets the tone for the rest of the islands.

First glimpse of Entry Island. The only island in the archipelago not connected.
Those cliffs and grassy knolls…
Coming into the Cap aux Meules harbour
Our arrival is so well timed at sunset.

With our home base on Cap Aux Meules, we decided to take our first day to drive east on highway 199, which stretches from tip to tip of the archipelago.  It was an incredible drive. Between each towering, green island lay kilometres of sandy dunes, with white sand beaches and crashing waves just beyond.  I wanted to stop the car every other minute to get out and take pictures.  It was a wonder we made it to the end at all.

Lots of long, flat stretches between islands.
Colourful houses.

We drove all the way to the east end of the 199, finding most restaurants closed for the season. However, local artisan Marie Marto was still open and we bought a couple of her pieces to take home.

We also hiked across the (very windy) beach to Boudreau Island (actually more of a peninsula) where we trekked through wildflower meadows and stood cliff side, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in all its ferocity.  The views were certainly worth the struggle crossing the beach against the wind.  A benefit of coming in September is that we had the whole island to ourselves.  I didn’t want to leave that place.

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Entering Boudreau Island.
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Hiking across wildflower meadows.
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Lots of cliffs.
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A WOW moment.
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A place to take a break…and never leave.
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Lots of great views on this hike.
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The wind fought us all the way across this beach but it was worth it.

A great first day was capped off with drinks at local microbrewery A l’abri de la Tempete and a delicious meal at La Table des Roy.  We can’t wait to see what the Maggies have in store for us today.

New Brunswick Is Not A Drive-Through Province

Happy New Brunswick Day!  I love seeing so many photos of people enjoying this beautiful long weekend outdoors.  It gives me a feeling of nostalgia for my childhood, when summers meant nothing but running free, fresh air and the smell of sunscreen.

I’ve heard it said that New Brunswick is primarily used by tourists as a highway to Nova Scotia or PEI but I say that NB is NOT a drive-through province but a destination in its own right.  Here’s some reasons why:

Culturally Unique – We are the only province in Canada with 2 official languages.  And while this sometimes creates friction in our province, it also makes us culturally unique and attractive to visitors.  I think we need to embrace and celebrate our unique culture; it’s one of the things that makes us stand out among Canadian provinces.

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Hiking – NB has some terrific hiking.  From the challenging and breathtaking Fundy Foot Path to Seek the Highest Peak at Mount Carleton and everything in between, we’ve got those nature lovers covered.  For more info on hiking in NB, visit nbhiking.ca.

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Beach Love – From our beaches along the Bay of Fundy to the Mac Daddy of them all, Parlee Beach on the Northumberland Strait, there are plenty of places to get your summer beach day on.

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‘Dem Bay of Fundy Views – From the uber-charming St. Andrews by-the-Sea to Hopewell Rocks, no visit to NB is complete without exploring this stunning shoreline and everything this natural wonder has to offer.

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City Buzz and Country Charm – We’ve got the best of both worlds.  Whether you are looking for a night on the town or a quiet cottage in the woods, we’ve got them both. You can even sleep in a treehouse in Miramichi, which I think looks really fun.

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East Coast Hospitality – Just like Nova Scotia and PEI, we’ve got that east coast hospitality thing down.  We love sharing our beautiful province with visitors and we’re more than willing to help you make the most of it.

I swear, I’m not getting paid to say this stuff.  I’m just passionate about this province and I think it deserves to take its place as a premier tourist destination on the east coast, alongside NS and PEI.  If you would like more information on tourism in New Brunswick, please visit tourismnewbrunswick.ca.

I’ll leave you with a video that was released by the government of NB for New Brunswick Day, entitled, Why Do You Love New Brunswick?

These have been some of the reasons I love NB, what are yours?

New River Beach Provincial Park

Just a 30 minute drive from Saint John is the New River Beach Provincial Park.  I had not been there before and it had been quite a few years since Joel had.  We had beautiful weather a couple Saturdays ago so Joel and I decided to grab our backpacks, a picnic lunch and some sunscreen and headed out to hike the nature trail.

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I’m so glad we did.

The New River Beach Nature Trail highlights everything I love most about living along the Bay of Fundy.  The salty sea air, the cool bay breeze, sandy beaches and magical forest paths.  I find there is something so peaceful about a walk in the woods.  When you combine that with the soothing sounds and sights of the ocean and you have complete bliss.

The trail is made up of two main loops that meet in the centre, like a figure 8.  It’s well maintained with lots of boardwalk and follows the coast most of the way, offering really stunning views of the Bay of Fundy and the New River Island Nature Preserve.

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There are lots of places to stop and take a break along the way with several lookouts and wooden benches built along the trail.

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On the way back, you hike through a bog where you can see carnivorous Pitcher plants.  The trail was pretty soggy with all the recent rain we’d had but it’s probably dried out quite a bit since then.  It’s an easy trail with perhaps some moderate sections further out.  We hiked the whole trail and the footstep counter on my phone said that it was 7 km in total.  Plus when you’re finished hiking, you can walk over and soak up the sun at New River Beach.

The weather looks great this weekend, ideal for checking this trail out.  If you would like more information about hiking trails in New Brunswick, check out hikingnb.ca.  It’s a wonderful resource for all things hiking in New Brunswick.

Happy Trails!

Sunday Snowshoe to the Midland Ice Caves

The best way to survive a Maritime winter is to try to find some enjoyment in it.  That means getting outside and spending a (hopefully) not too cold day doing some winter activity.  This Sunday started out sunny and eventually went overcast but the temperature was comfortable at around -5 Celsius.  So we hopped in the car and headed for the Midland Ice Caves.

Joel and I usually try to make the hike into the Ice Caves at least once a winter and we decided that today was as good a day as any.  One of the truly wonderful things about living in the Maritimes, and New Brunswick in particular, is all the great hiking you can find close by.

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Making our way to Midland.

Apparently many others had the same idea.  When Joel first took me into the Ice Caves several years ago, there was hardly anyone else around and there was very little signage.  People have caught on now and the trail is heavily traveled and the way is well marked with signage.  I can’t blame them.  A trip to the Ice Caves is great family fun. Kids bring their crazy carpets and sometimes the family dog comes too.

The Caves are a good hike across a field, up a hill, and into the woods following a snowmobile trail.

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It’s a long climb all the way to the top of the tree line.
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Starting to regret all those hours binge watching Netflix instead of going to the gym.
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Getting closer!
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Last part of the hike into the caves.

Snowshoes are helpful but not really required, since the trail, at least from the top of the hill, is well groomed.

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Once there, it’s a steep climb down to the base of the caves, made easier by the use of a rope strung from tree to tree.

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The caves are not really caves at all, but are formed by water running over the edge of a cliff, creating a thick sheet of ice that walls in a small ledge.  Nevertheless, they’re quite impressive.

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Several entrances are usually hacked out so that you can get inside.  The ice glows greenly from the inside and is layered in sheets.  Careful walking inside as it’s a sheet of ice from top to bottom!

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Looks a bit otherworldly in here.
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View from the other side of the cave.

We set up a hammock at the top of the hill leading down to the caves and enjoyed a nice rest and a snack before starting the long hike back to the car.

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A place to relax with a great view.

We felt we earned a treat, so when we got home we had a delicious hot chocolate and a piece of cheesecake.  If I always get this kind of reward, I’ll make the hike to the Ice Caves every day!

IMG_0193UPDATE: As an update to this post, I would like to remind everyone that is heading out to the Midland Ice Caves to give the right of way to the snowmobilers while on the snowmobile trail.  The snowmobilers pay to maintain this trail so please move off the trail when you hear or see one coming through.  Be safe and have fun!