Climbing a snow covered rock face and sliding down through a deep ravine on a frozen waterfall made for a great adventure.
It all started after we dropped the kids off at their grandparent’s house. It is rare that we find ourselves on a Saturday with no kids and no plans so we decided to make the best of it. We hit the highway in search of adventure. Would we go north to Mount Carleton, south to the St. Andrews and St. George area, or east to the Saint John area? All were places that had trails yet to explore. We decided on Saint John, not because of the trails, but because at this time of year it would be the best location to find a place to eat when we were done. That would be the perfect way to end date.
Now we had another choice to make. Do we explore the Kingston Peninsula, do we explore the trails between Saint John and Sussex, or do we attempt to snowshoe across to Minister’s Face Nature Preserve on Long Island? We decided on Long Island because we had a perfect window where the weather had been cold for the ice but was warming up quickly. We would soon need a boat to get to the island or have wait for another year. The rest of the trails in the area we could access in the summer.
We drove out to Rothesay and went down the road the Rothesay Yacht Club. From google maps this looked like our best way to access the river. There were several cars there from people presumably out on the ice but the sign reading “Warning Thin Ice: Deicing units being used” made us think twice about accessing the river here. We continued on Gondola Point Road to see if we could find a better place to access the river. We drove out through the next subdivision on Maliseet Drive. There we found a small lane between the houses that accessed the river. We parked the car along the side of the road, packed the camera bag full of snacks and water, and put on our snowshoes.
The sun was starting to break as we came out of the lane and onto the ice. It was a beautiful day with temperatures reaching 7°C. This was quite a change from the -25°C to -30°C weather we had been having most of the winter. The first thing we noticed beyond the imposing cliffs in the distance was the amount of people. There were ATV’s, snowmobiles, dune buggies, people walking, people skiing, and people snowshoeing. In every direction you could see small groups of people crossing the ice. Most were on their way to or from Bridal Veil Falls on the island, which were clearly visible from the shore. Like everyone else we headed directly for the falls.
The closer to the falls we got the more impressive they became. It’s about 1 km across so they just kept getting larger and larger as we walked. The people coming and going at the base of the falls were dwarfed by their size. We eventually got to the falls. Vicki was perfecting the use of the panoramic function on her camera while I explored around the base of the icy falls. The rock cliffs were an interesting conglomerate of larger rocks held together by what I am assuming was lava (I only had one geology course in University so correct me if I am wrong).
Once we were done exploring the falls and taking our pictures we continued up river to the right. We knew there were two trails on the island above us on the cliffs. We just had to find a way to get up to them. There is an old road that runs from one tip of the island to the other. The trails were usually accessed from this road. We decided to try to find another way up to the trails without having to walk all the way around to the road. In a small cove just below the peak for the Crow’s Nest Trail there seemed to be a reasonable slope. It looked like it could be climbed on snowshoes so we started into the woods. It was a strenuous climb but workable until we came nearer to the top. From the map on the Nature Trust website we could see that the Crow’s Nest Trail followed along the top of a ridge. The problem was that the side of the ridge was made up of a rock face.
We continued along the rock face going in the opposite direction as the trail to the Crow’s Nest Lookout. We eventually came to an area that wasn’t a rock face but only a really steep climb up to the top of the ridge. Instead of backtracking anymore we decided to attempt the accent. A couple of small spruce trees were the only thing to hold onto other than the snow. A few banged knees and curse words later (all from me) and we made it to the top with no trail to be found. We debated on which direction to go to look for the trail. From the Nature Trust map (a rough estimation on the location of the trail) we decided that it looked like the trail crossed the ridge between where we were and the Crow’s Nest lookout so we headed in that direction. We finally found the white painted soup can lids and old orange ribbon that marked the trail close to the Crow’s Nest lookout.
We made our way to the lookout and enjoyed the views through the trees. We could still hear the faint sound of ATV’s, snowmobiles and dune buggies racing up and down the river below. We had a snack and some water and discussed our plan of action. It was about 4:30 PM so we were slowly running out of time. We decided to work our way back the Crow’s Nest Trail to the junction. We would then start the Minister’s Face Trail and evaluate our time before we had to find our way back down over the steep hill to the ice below.
The Crow’s Nest Trail actually followed just below the ridge to the west. It passed through large hardwood and spruce trees. There were a few places where we had to search for the trail but it didn’t take long to find it again. Some of the spruce thickets were quite dense. Maybe with no snow you could walk through them but we had to duck down and almost crawl. We reached the trail junction and turned left. We were glad to see that we no longer had to break trail since someone had been on the Minister’s Head Trail before us. It made it a bit easier walking but the real benefit was that we didn’t have to search for the trail anymore. The trail for the most part descended back towards the river.
When the trail dipped down into a ravine and started to climb up the other side we decided it might be best to find our way down to the river. The closer we got to the cliffs of Minister’s Face the more difficult that search would become. We decided to try to descend the ravine we now found ourselves in. It looked steep but not impossible. After slipping down a stream bank and ending up upside down with the camera in the snow I decided it was time to put the camera in the pack. The stream became increasingly steep and deeper as we got closer to the river. The last section was quite steep but we could see the shore of the river so we knew if we made it down we wouldn’t have to climb back up.
We took off our snowshoes and threw them down, then we started to slide. The stream was frozen into small icy waterfalls that went back and forth across the narrow ravine. It has been a long time since I have slid like that and it made me feel like a kid again. There was enough snow to slide on and land in. I wouldn’t want to have to climb up this way but coming down was a ball.
We finally came out of the ravine and onto the river and headed for shore. The sun was setting over Long Island so I kept looking back to take pictures. There were still a few vehicles on the ice but nothing like the amount that were there in the afternoon. Once back to the car we packed up our stuff and started towards Saint John discussing where we were going to go and eat.
I found out after this posting that Minister’s Face is named because of the shore to shore profile of the island if you are looking at it from up river. It looks like a face looking up in to the sky. Next time I will have to go to the north of the island and see if for myself. For more information about the trails go to the Minister’s Face Nature Preserve page.
2 thoughts on “Minister’s Face on Long Island”
About 60 years ago in winter a friend and I were walking along the top of the Minister’s Face and we could hear people trying to climb up the waterfall area. He suggested that we take this route as a shortcut, rather than walk the island to the gentle slopes west of the Face.
As we neared the cliff face, I noticed that the ground was ice covered beneath the snow, so refused to go further, and we walked out the long way. As we walked east on the ice, past the Minister’s Face, we saw that the fire department had come out to rescue the climber ( high school kids like us) from the icy face on which they were stranded, since they could not go any higher and in climbing had knocked away the snow and left their return path a sheet of ice too step to descend.
I am glad that the area is well mapped now and you were able to make the descent (perhaps in a slightly different area) safely.
I have a property on Long Island that I rent for camping if anyone is interested. It is listed with