Day 1 – The Hike In
It’s the simple things that give a deeper meaning to life. The busy-ness and constant distractions of our day-to-day rarely provide us with deep fulfilment. It’s only when you stop and look (really look) up at the billions of stars, or sit in front of a fireplace and talk to someone for hours on end, that you realize what we are missing during our hectic lives. Our two night stay in Fundy National Park helped us remember that there is more to life.
When we reached the parking lot at South Chignecto campground there were several groups of people just finishing up snowshoeing and cross country skiing. By the time we were ready to start they had all departed for their evening plans.
We started to snowshoe up a long, slight grade. We quickly realized that we had once again packed too much, as our hats came off and our jackets were unzipped. When we reached Hastings Road we turned south. From here it was a long, steady downhill. A 3.5 km hike is usually a nice walk but on snowshoes with 50 pound packs it is a real workout. When we saw the garbage bins marking the small parking area next to the cabin we were happy.
We came out of the trail behind the cabin and were amazed by the view. As always it was much more spectacular in real life then it was in the pictures we had seen. We could see the valley below and the colorful cliffs beyond that mark the shoreline beyond Alma. Beyond that if you looked closely you could pick out the lighthouse on the long arm of land that ends at Cape Enrage. An amazing way to start our adventure and we hadn’t yet gone in the cabin.
We went into the cabin and took a look around. A very spacious cabin with two wide bunk beds, a table and benches, a kitchen type area, and a small stove in the middle of it all. Our goal for this trip was to go somewhere without cell phone reception. We thought it was pretty funny when we looked out the window and saw the blinking light of a cell phone tower on the hill above the cabin. We unpacked our stuff and then started a fire. We were getting cold fast now that the sun was gone and we had stopped moving.
Once the fire was going we started drying out our stuff. We had worked up quite a sweat on our way to the cabin. Once we were dry and warm I decided to go outside and try out some star photography. When I walked out into the yard of the cabin the sky opened in front of me with billions of stars. At first I just stood there and marvelled at how many I could see. There were the bright ones that were obvious, but if you looked closely you could see many more dimmer ones filling the gaps. I then set to work on trying to capture as many as I could in a picture.
I tried different shots including the lights of Alma. I then went down in front of the cabin and looked back up at the cabin surrounded by the dark sky. The warm glow coming from the windows of the cabin were such a contrast to the dark sky. I light painted the cabin from different angles as my camera took long exposures. Once I felt I had the shot I returned to the warmth of the cabin.
Vicki and I sat in front of the fire for several hours and just talked. Even though we had cell reception we put our phones away. Vicki said jokingly that this is what quality time felt like. I agreed. It had been a long time since we had last had quality time and it felt good.
We noticed it was getting late so we filled the fireplace full of wood and climbed into our cold sleeping bags. It was much colder than sitting in front of the fire but still much warmer than outside. We listened to the wind in the trees as we went to sleep.
Day 2 – A trip to Dickson Falls
I woke up at 4:30am and got the fire going again and then I went back to bed. My alarm went off at 7am. The night before I had big plans to get up and take pictures of the sunrise. Now I just laid in my somewhat warm sleeping bag debating whether I should get up or just stay in bed and go back to sleep. The deep, orange sky I could see through the windows called to me. I told myself that I may never have this chance again. I finally climbed out of my warm sleeping bag and into my cold jacket and ski pants. After I got the fire going again I went outside.
The skies were clear and there was a slight breeze. Again I started behind the cabin to include the views. The deep orange color along the horizon transitioned to yellow and then a deep blue higher in the sky. The smoke from the chimney danced back and forth on the changing breeze.
After taking a few pictures I was starting to get cold. I loved the color in the sky but it alone didn’t make a great picture. The sun was getting close to the horizon now and I moved to the other side of the cabin to include it in a shot. It always amazes me how fast the sun moves into the sky when you are paying attention to it. I clicked away as it climbed above the horizon and the deep orange spilled out over the landscape.
When I was done I went back into the cabin and once again climbed back into my sleeping bag. I knew it would be a while before Vicki got up and my only other option was to sit in front of the fire. We woke up later in the morning, had some breakfast and planned our day. As always I had big plans but by the time we were ready I was happy with the idea of just going to visit Dickson Falls and then coming back to the cabin to hang out.
We snowshoed down the hill to Point Wolfe Road. It was a beautiful, clear day and the temperatures were warm for January. Even going down hill we were soon too warm for our coats. When we reached the road we found a very icy plowed road. From what we were told at the visitor center there was a contractor doing work at Point Wolfe campground all winter and the road would be plowed but closed. We took off our snowshoes and tried to walk on the parts of the road that weren’t pure ice.
On our short walk to the falls we passed several trucks going to the construction site. We made sure we were well off the road when we heard them coming. When we got to the falls parking lot we were drawn to the view of the coastline from the lookout platform. The coastline was lit by the sun making it much brighter than the lookout platform that was in shade. This made the view stand out but made it impossible for us to get a selfie with us and the view in proper exposure.
We started down the trail by sidestepping our snowshoes down the first set of stairs. At the next set of longer stairs I decided to take off my snowshoes. Someone had slid down the stairs on their butts, which looked like it would be fun, but it froze the stairs into a smooth slide. Vicki dug her snowshoes into the snow to get grip and I had to kick my heals into the edges while I held onto the railings tightly.
We made it down to the valley below the falls and stood and enjoyed the view. There wasn’t much snow yet this year so the stream was open. After a few pictures we climbed up through the valley, carefully navigating the stair slides. When we got to Dickson Falls I set to work taking pictures while Vicki read her book. She had learned long ago that I can lose track of time while taking pictures. She now makes sure she has something to do when we go somewhere photo worthy.
After I explored every angle of the falls we had our lunch of tuna snacks and trail mix. There were several people who passed on the boardwalk while we were there. Each said hi and had the same look of awe on their face. We stopped and helped a couple out who were struggling to take a selfie with the falls. We then made our climb back up out of the valley and back to the cabin.
We got back to the cabin just in time to watch the sunset. After taking a few pictures of the sunset we went in and restarted the fire. We then lit our new mini propane stove to boil water for our dehydrated supper. On the menu was Kung Pao Chicken. It was really spicy and quite fancy considering that we were in a rustic cabin in the woods.
After supper we did some more hanging out in front of the fire and talking. The temperature was colder outside tonight but there was no wind. This made it warmer in the cabin because the wind wasn’t there to suck the heat out through the cracks. While I was out taking pictures of the sunset Vicki had become the fire queen. She figured if she kept the stove as full as possible at all times, and set the stove damper in a certain way, she could heat the cabin more. That night we slept through the night.
Day 3 – The Long Climb
On our last day we woke up late, had some breakfast and coffee, and then started packing up our stuff. We were not looking forward to the long climb back up to the car. Our packs were lighter now but they were still heavy. Not only was it a climb back up the hill but we first had to drop down to Point Wolfe Road to get to the Maple Grove Trail.
We started down to Point Wolfe Road. We were sad to be leaving behind the cabin and the quiet but we were already planning our next trip back with the kids. It was another beautiful, clear day but it was noticeably colder. When we got to the Maple Grove Trail we were warm enough to take off our jackets. We then started the long climb.
On our way into the cabin we paced ourselves by walking 100 steps and then taking a break. We fell into this same pattern on the hill. When the trail levelled out on one of the large switchbacks we continued without making our 100 step breaks. Once we reached the hardwood ridge we were glad we chose to go back this way. The blue skies, white snow and grey, bare trees made this a beautiful hike. Once we were up the initial hill the trail was more flat with intermittent hills at the ends of the large switchbacks.
We eventually made it back to the car and were happy to take the packs off. We met a young couple in the parking lot who were getting ready to put on their large packs. We asked them if they were going into Hastings Cabin for the night. They told us that they were and looked pretty excited about it. They didn’t have the same amazing weather we had but they would still have had the quality time in front of the fire.
We headed down the hill to the visitor center to check-out and return the key to the Cabin. We also asked about getting our free discovery park passes. We got one for each car. We then headed for Sussex for some much needed fast food. While we were eating I got a text from CBC asking if I wanted to be on the radio to talk about our trip. I sent them back a message saying I would. If you missed it you can listen to it here: Winter Camping at Fundy Park on CBC Shift.
For more information on trail conditions at the park check out this Facebook post or go the Fundy Park Website.