Our Grand (Manan) Adventure

Joel and I recently returned from a quick weekend trip to Grand Manan Island, located off the coast of New Brunswick, in the Bay of Fundy.

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In Blacks Harbour.  Here comes our vessel!
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Our first view of Swallowtail Lighthouse

For accommodations, we decided to try out our new MSR tent at the Hole-in-the-Wall Campground that I have heard so many wonderful things about.  Hole-in-the-Wall is a wilderness campground located in North Head which boasts cliff edge campsites where you can listen to whales playing in the Bay of Fundy as you drift to sleep.

We watched the ferry come and go
Cliff edge views

The campground is located on an old airfield.  The centre part of the park, once the site of landing strips, is now a place where dulse is laid out to dry in the sun and seabirds bath in a small pond nearby.

The campground was a little more rustic than I was expecting, with the only running water available at the entrance buildings.  But what it lacks in amenities, it more than makes up for in wow factor.  The views from the cliff edge campsites are spectacular. From our cliff edge site at the top of Fish Head, we had a nearly 270 degree view of the Bay of Fundy.  All campsites have fire pits and chemical toilets are available nearby. Small kids and dogs are, understandably, not permitted on cliff edge sites, for which the park also has cliff top sites, RV sites and camp cabins.

Mornings at Fish Head

The park has a walking trail that hikers can use to travel all the way from Swallowtail Lighthouse to Whale Cove, including a stop at the famous Hole-in-the-Wall rock formation, where the park gets its name.  We did most of the hike, but stopped at the Hole-in-the-Wall without continuing on to Whale Cove.  The trail to the rock formation is very well traveled and easy to follow.  The trail to Swallowtail Lighthouse is longer and a little more overgrown.  Keep in mind that the trail cuts through many of the cliff edge campsites, so privacy might be an issue for some people.  We didn’t mind, though, as it gave us the chance to chat with fellow campers and visitors to the park.

The famous Hole-in-the-Wall
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Views of Swallowtail Lighthouse from the trail
Amazing views past Swallowtail Lighthouse to the Bay of Fundy

One more thing I should mention about staying at Hole-in-the-Wall.  While on clear nights, it is pure magic watching the sun set and moon rise over the bay, with the sounds of whales breaching in the distance – and you can indeed hear whales – when the fog rolls in, be warned that the fog horn will go off, for as long as there is fog.  On our first night, the horn went off all night long.  While I wouldn’t let this keep me from staying here again, I would bring ear plugs next time.

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Sun sets over the cliff in Grand Manan
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The full moon rises over the Bay of Fundy

On our second day, we wanted to see a little more of the island, so we picked up a “Heritage Trails and Footpaths” guide, published by The Friends of Grand Manan Trails and headed south to find adventure.

Since the west side of the island is accessible only by foot or ATV – with the exception of Dark Harbour – we wanted to explore a little bit of that side, as well as the southern tip of the island.  We parked our car just above Deep Cove, at Bradford Cove Pond Road and headed out on an ATV trail across the southern tip of the island, to Bradford Cove.  For me, this was the worst part of the trek.  With huge puddles across the trail, and little for paths to go around, we were forced to bushwhack our way through, trying our best not to get soaked.  We eventually fought our way through to Bradford Cove, where we headed south on the trail, stopping for lunch at the fantastic Hay Point.

Views at Hay Point
Break time!

The trail south at this point is well maintained and easy to follow, with amazing sea views as you get closer to Southern Head.  We continued on past Southern Head to Pats Cove, via the Lower and Upper Flock of Sheep.  These are large, smooth rocks deposited on the shoreline by glaciers that apparently looked like flocks of sheep from sea, hence their name.  From Pats Cove, we hiked along the roadway a couple kilometers back to our car.  The whole loop was approximately 12km, easy to moderate in difficulty and had some amazing views of the cliffs and rocky shores of this gem of an island.

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Lower Flock of Sheep, so named because the rocks looked like sheep from sea
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Southern Head
More cliff views

Our weekend was a great introduction to Grand Manan, but there is so much more to see, including Ross Island and White Head Island, as well as Anchorage Provincial Park and Machias Seal Island, a puffin breeding site.  Joel already has plans to return to do an epic hike almost all the way around the island.  Me?  I’ve just added another to my all-time favourite islands list.

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Last morning in Grand Manan

 

 

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Surprising Finds in the Maritimes: Parlee Brook Ice Wall

If you are a Game of Thrones fan, then surely you are familiar with The Wall, the massive wall of ice that protects the Seven Kingdoms from the wildlings and White Walkers that live Beyond.  According to George R.R. Martin, it’s some 300 miles long, 700 feet tall and made of solid ice.

But, I bet you didn’t know that New Brunswick has it’s own version of The Wall, in the form of the Parlee Brook Amphitheatre.  The natural amphitheatre becomes encased in sheets of ice on three sides during winter.  And while it may not be GOT epic, when you’re standing at the bottom staring up at those massive ice walls, it’s pretty amazing.

Earlier this winter, Joel and I, our friend Mandy and her beagle Toby, decided to try to find NB’s elusive ice wall.  Armed with our hiking gear, we arrived at the Abbey (for directions, go to hikingnb.ca).  Just as we were arriving, the Saint John Outdoor Enthusiasts were gearing up to head into the amphitheatre.  They asked us if we had ice cleats.  We stared blankly back.  We did not have ice cleats.  “Do we really need them?” we asked.

Turns out, we really kinda did.  We survived the icy hike but we all fell on our asses at least once, too.  So yeah, ice cleats are highly recommended.  It’s probably not highly recommended for dogs either, with all the ice but we did see quite a few heading in with dogs and they didn’t seem to be having too much trouble.

This is an amazing winter adventure.  It’s not difficult, other than the ice.  If you prepare and have ice cleats to go over your boots, you should be fine.  You follow a dirt road in for the first few kilometers and veer off into the woods at the trail marker, following a frozen brook up into the amphitheatre.  And since winter doesn’t seem to be loosening its grip on us anytime soon, I’m sure there is plenty of ice still to be seen.  Just watch out for those White Walkers, would ya?

Here are some images from our hike earlier this winter:

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The Abbey, where the hike begins
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Winter Wonderland
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Following the brook into the amphitheatre
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The Outdoor Enthusiasts take a closer look at The Wall
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Good place for a break!

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Just part of The Wall
It’s massive
Looking back where we came from