I cut my hands on barnacles, I slid down seaweed covered rocks, and I ripped the butt out of my pants. I balanced precariously on small, slippery rocks over salt water pools left by the receding tide, bending and stretching into strange poses until I felt like I was learning a new type of photographic yoga. My whole body was sore the next day but it was worth it.
It all started when I found out from Nature Trust NB that they had a new Nature Preserve in Blacks Harbour. The new Nature Preserve was called Connors Bros. Nature Preserve at Pea Point. They had done a lot of work building trails the previous summer but they didn’t yet have a map of the trails. That was all I needed for an excuse to head south for the day.
I waited until the kids got on the bus and then I was off. It was the first day of December and it was supposed to be a warm day getting up into the double digits. The forecast said slight chance of rain. I learned long ago to not let a slight chance of rain hold me back. It took me exactly two hours to drive to Blacks Harbour. I parked in a small parking lot at the top of the hill from the Grand Manan Ferry Terminal. I knew I was in the right place saw the brand new sign installed beside a gate.
I got my camera gear ready and started down the old road behind the gate. I knew that there was a trail somewhere along this road on the left that went out to the coast. There was another trail that went from the end of the road and followed along the coast to the ferry terminal. I somehow forgot that there is a lighthouse off the end of the road. If you have ever gone to Grand Manan on the ferry you may have noticed this lighthouse just around the turn on the left as you leave the terminal.
I wasn’t sure how well marked the trail was to the shore. After a few false starts I found it marked by orange ribbon. I walked down the short trail and dodged puddles (it was a warm December day after all). The fog was starting to lift and as it did it floated through the trees, crossing the trail like a ghost parade. The sun was breaking through the fog and an ethereal light was falling on the trail.
I broke out of the narrow trail and was greeted by the crashing waves on the shoreline. When I looked along the coastline to the right I could just see the top of the lighthouse on Pea Point Island. I had plans to explore the island but for now I explored the rocky shoreline. I took pictures up and down the coast but then just sat and enjoyed the sound of the crashing waves and the warmth of the sun.
I eventually made my way along the top of the rocks towards the lighthouse. Just over a large rocky outcrop I found a small bench just in the woods. Just in front of the bench was a green carpet of clubmoss that jutted out over the gray rock. There was also lots of brightly orange colored moss growing on the rocks. After exploring some more I continued on to the island and the lighthouse.
I crossed the seaweed zone between the end of the road and the island. The seaweed was a good reminder of how deep the water would be at high tide. It was now almost low tide so it created a slippery mat. After the short crossing I climbed up on what looked like an old cement road that had seen better days. The road skirted around the peak of the island. The lighthouse was not visible from this side of the peak. The cracked cement led to a path that soon crossed two small bridges. The lighthouse was just on the other side of the bridges.
The rocks to the right of the lighthouse had more of that bright orange moss so I headed there first. I figured it would make a nice foreground for my lighthouse pictures. I was soon bored with this composition so I started looking for something more extreme. Across a rocky ravine filled with seaweed was a taller rocky outcrop that was almost the same height as the lighthouse. I had to see how the lighthouse would look from there.
Once I climbed down into the seaweed zone it was almost impossible to find grip. I thought it was worth getting a little wet by sliding down the seaweed. It was a good idea until I heard a ripping sound and felt a pull. I had just ripped the butt out of my pants, again. I had done the same thing a month before on the sharp rocks at Irving Nature Park in Saint John, and now I did it on the sharp barnacles hiding under the seaweed.
While stretching into a weird position to climb the other side I dropped the GPS out of my pocket. My stomach dropped as I watched it bounce down the river of seaweed, finally resting in a crevice in the rocks. I climbed back down to get it and was happy, and amazed to see that it still worked. I climbed back up on the rocky outcrop that made its own sort of mountain in a sea of seaweed.
When taking pictures on top of the small cliff I noticed a large crack running from bottom of the cliff and up the other side towards the lighthouse. At the bottom of the crack was a long narrow pool of water. I started thinking about trying to get a picture of the lighthouse reflected in this pool. Then I started thinking about how crazy that would be, and about how no normal person would crawl down into that seaweed and barnacle encrusted crack.
Being a sucker for punishment I decided to climb down into the crack. It was like before but it was more treacherous with less footholds. I finally got down to the crack and tried to find a place on the steep wall of the crack to put a tripod leg. I had visions of the camera meeting its demise in the saltwater pool. I found a place for the tripod leg on the wall, then I had to put the other two legs on the same small rocks as my feet without touching them. I successfully got the camera situated out over the pool. I didn’t realize that was the easy part.
Now I had to figure out how to contort my body out over the pool to see the camera’s screen while keeping my footing. I also had to hold a filter in front of the lens close enough so it wouldn’t cause reflections. I got the shot along with many pictures of filter reflections and pictures of my fingers holding the filter.
After my strange game of seaside twister I climbed back up out of the crack. On my way up I found a few large rocks that were so encrusted with barnacles that the seaweed couldn’t attach. I put my hand on one of the rocks for grip and quickly found out how sharp barnacle shells are. I cut my palm in a few places and learned a valuable lesson. I had to use my tripod as a hiking pole to help me climb past the barnacles.
When I got to the lighthouse I went past it and followed the small trail up to a point on the other side. When I looked back I noticed a skipper and a barge coming close to the shore. I watched as they raised a buoy and put something in the boat. Then they headed off in the direction they came, presumably back to the dock with their catch.
I finished up at the light house and made my way back to the access road. It was still low tide so it was easy to cross. I found the trail that went into the woods on the left and followed the coastline to ferry terminal. I took pictures at all the viewpoints along the trail and after crossing a short steep section came out into a parking lot. The parking lot was near the Ferry Terminal.
I walked up the hill to the car and was sweating all the way. It was cool when I started but now the sun was really warm. Maybe my black winter jacket wasn’t such a good choice after all. When I got back to the car the gauges told me that it was 15 degrees out. It was a non-typical beautiful day in December with a chance of rain. It was just past lunch so I headed for the Caughey-Taylor Nature Preserve in Bocabec.
At the Caughey-Taylor Nature Preserve I had time to map out the trail to Berry Point, and attempted a time lapse of the tides coming in at the rock shelves at Sam Orr’s Pond, but I ran out of light before I could map the Taggarts Brook and Chickahominy Mountain Trails to the north-west of the road. That’s good news because now I have an excuse to come back some day soon. I may have to wait until next summer when the days are longer.