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One week, Four parks. Gaspe to New Brunswick. July 2011 Pt. 5/5 (Fundy)

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Kouchibouguac -> Fundy

Having lived in Nova Scotia for a few years, I’ve become well-acquainted with the drive through New Brunswick. NB is often referred to as the “pass through” province on account of the long, long stretches of the Trans-Canada highway and trees. Don’t get me wrong – I love New Brunswick, but driving through the interior isn’t the most dynamic, scenery-wise.

I had been to Fundy National Park the year before and drove down through the north end of the park, coming from Fredericton. This time, we came south through Moncton, following the river and then taking the more scenic Fundy view trail. If you can approach the park through the south-east at Alma, give that a try. It’s a beautiful drive.

At this point in our week-long trip, we were damp (and getting weary of it) and looking at another day of the same. The drive was mostly overcast with a few sunny breaks, but the forecast called for rain. Pitching a wet tent in the rain wasn’t in the cards, this much we were sure of.

We made a deal with ourselves at the outset to get a motel room whenever we felt that we needed it. Considering that a car camping “front country” tent pad (without electrical) in a Canada park only costs $25 – $50 less than a cheap motel room (depending on location and season), it has never been difficult to opt out of tenting in miserable conditions. The objective is to have fun, oui?

We stopped in the town of Alma, just outside of the Park gate and found a room at The Alpine Motor Inn for about $100. It’s a pricey little town, but there aren’t many options outside of the park or a local B&B. Alma is known as a fishing village where you can see the boats sitting on the floor of the Bay of Fundy due to the highest tides in the world. There is a diner across the street from The Alpine Motor Inn that serves a decent breakfast.

Town of Alma

We woke up the next day to sunshine and got into the park in the late morning. I had stayed at the Chignecto North campground the year previous. We chose a site at Point Wolfe this time that sat along a high ridge with a good view and fairly decent privacy. We were able to set up and start drying out in the mid-day sun.

Point Wolfe Campsite in Fundy National Park.

Once set up and bellies filled, we took a stroll down to Point Wolfe to see the tide while it was low. During my visit the year before, I had seen the tide while it was out, but missed seeing it while it was back in. I was familiar with the walk already and looking forward to doing it again.

It’s nice to have a site right at Point Wolfe if you’re planning to see both high and low tides. The parking lot is busy with day trippers and campers from around the park, so it’s a treat to just walk from your own site. During low tide, you can expect a good 20 to 30 minute walk out to the low tide marker if it’s at its lowest. The terrain underfoot is mostly rocks with barnacles which can be slippery and sharp. Choose good footwear.

Along the way to the water’s edge, you’ll pass by some very cool rock formations that spend half their time under salt water.

If you plan to explore, be mindful of the timing of high tide. You don’t want to get caught!

Point Wolfe beach at low tide.

Point Wolfe Beach at low tide.

Point Wolfe Beach at low tide.

To access Point Wolfe, there is a large, wide and well-maintained staircase. Book-ending the short hike (90 mintues) in the hot sun, this natural Stairmaster got us hankering for a swim.

We drove up towards the north end of the park to have a picnic and a dip at Bennett Lake. This is a sweet spot for families and paddlers. It’s a small, calm lake with beautiful water.

Bennett Lake

After a couple of hours spent lounging by the lake, we packed up and went back to the site for a change of clothes and some dinner. The tide was due back in for sunset and we headed back for Point Wolfe to see what high tide looked like.

The point that I’m looking at in the picture below is basically the point where the water is at low tide. The volume and speed of the incoming tide is quite something. It’s definitely worth catching if the timing is right during your trip.

Self-portrait at Point Wolfe beach during high tide.

High tide at Point Wolfe

The Bay of Fundy as seen at the main parking lot after the entry point near the town of Alma.

Another side trip worth taking is the short loop to Dickson Falls. At the trail head, there is a great lookout towards the Bay of Fundy. Also, you’ll find an interpretive sign that reminds hikers to take note of the climate change at the very bottom of the loop. It’s noticeably cooler due to the surroundings. This is a nice 20-minute hike. Short and very sweet.

Dickson Falls.

As the sun went down on our final day of our Gaspé to New Brunswick adventure, we opened a bottle of wine and celebrated with a fire under a clear sky that was full of stars. If you’ve never experienced a starry sky by a Maritime ocean: put it on your list!

Nice and dry, we crawled into our tent with the rain fly off and fell asleep with a view of the stars.

Early the next morning, we woke to… rain pelting us in the face. We jumped out of bed and broke camp with record speed. We ended our trip by, once again, throwing our wet gear into the back of the car. Luckily, our destination was Fredericton, only a 2 hour drive away (taking the scenic route, of course). The clouds broke and we were drying our gear out on our friend’s lawn in the early afternoon, already recounting stories of the fantastic week that we had just experienced.

Part Four: Kouchibouguac

Part Three: Forillon

Part Two: Forillon

Part One: Le Bic


Written by canadianparkhound

September 26, 2012 at 1:08 pm

La Mauricie Nat’l Park (Les Deux Criques Trail), Shawinigan Quebec, August 2011

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About six weeks after my “One Week/Four Parks” Gaspé to Fundy car camping trip, I took a quick stop in La Mauricie National Park in the Laurentian Mountains. I was heading back home to Toronto with a friend who wanted to join me to hike Les Deux-Criques Trail.

We stayed at one of the campgrounds and, as is with all campgrounds in Quebec, the sites were very well maintained. It was busy but not crowded. The sites are well-treed and give enough privacy so as not to feel like you’re on display for all passersby.

The campsite at La Mauricie

Les Deux-Criques Trail is rated as “difficult” and I would agree with that. The difficulty has more to do with the 17km length and several demanding up and down climbs, sometimes over difficult rock. For the most part, it is very passable and well-maintained. Be sure to leave room to check out every lookout.

Les Deux-Criques Trail, La Mauricie, Shawinigan Que.

At one of the waterfalls along the trail.

One of the lookouts along Les Deux-Criques Trail, La Mauricie, Shawinigan Que.

Les Deux-Criques Trail, La Mauricie, Shawinigan Que.

Les Deux-Criques Trail, La Mauricie, Shawinigan Que.

Another small waterfall along Les Deux-Criques Trail, La Mauricie National Park.

A lookout on Les Deux-Criques Trail, La Mauricie, Shawinigan Que.

Not every lookout has a platform and a bench, but there are plenty of spots for a rest break along the way.

Lunch at a lookout.

Les Deux-Criques Trail, La Mauricie, Shawinigan Que.

A lookout along Les Deux-Criques Trail, La Mauricie, Shawinigan Que.

Les Deux-Criques Trail, La Mauricie National Park

We had perfect weather for the entire day and the entire hike lasted about 7 hours. If the weather is against you, the hike would be quite difficult through certain passages. It’s a great choice for a full day hike.

One week, Four parks. Gaspe to New Brunswick. July 2011 Pt. 4/5 (Kouchibouguac)

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The Part 4: Kouchibouguac

Kouchibouguac National Park, New Brunswick

With a car full of wet gear, we continued our drive along the Gaspé coast, heading south for the first time in days. Since you’re on a two-lane, often under construction highway, the drive can take a few more hours than you might expect. The scenery is stunning and, at times, beautifully bleak.

We made it to Kouchibouguac by early afternoon and the campground was the emptiest that we had seen yet. It seemed that we’d have our choice of site. The sites range from wooded to wide open. Our gear had been festering in the back seat all day, so we requested a site that was good and open to dry out.

Being July, it was bug season. We broke down, drove to Miramichi, and bought what we saw on just about every other site over the past few days: a bug tent.  We may be slow to learn, but we do learn.

After setting up camp, we went for a sunset stroll along the boardwalk to the beach.

The boardwalk in Kouchibouguac

Fox on the beach

Fox on the beach take 2

We had a clear night, and were able to dry out.

Day 2

We had a lazy morning the next day, drinking coffee and sorting our gear. The plan was to walk the length of the dune.

Beach dune

We had flirted with the idea of renting a kayak or canoe, but the weather was threatening rain so we decided just to walk and take our time. We walked south along the dune about 3/4 of the way to the tip until the rain started. The rain wasn’t terrible, and it let up by the time we got back to camp… for a little bit. We made dinner in our bug shelter and attempted a fire.

Our site in Kouchibouguac. #24, I think.

Even though the fire looks decent in the picture, it didn’t last long. We found, consistently throughout this trip, that buying wood directly from the park often resulted in wet wood. Lots of hissing and very little flame.

Kickin’ back in front of the fire.

Despite the wide open spaces of the campground, for some reason, a family of four was sent to the site directly beside us. There were loads of sites available, but they (or the staff) chose the site beside us. It’s not that we’re anti-social campers, but a little bit of privacy is always welcome. What made the situation more difficult was the constant arguing and bickering that went on between the parents. Who wants to hear that when you’re looking for a bit of solitude?

As our mediocre luck would have it, it rained again on our last night in Kouchibouguac. We were beginning to identify a pattern in the weather: 1st day dry, 2nd day and night – rain.

In the morning, we did what we do best: load the car full of loose wet gear and head to the next destination.

Part Five: Fundy National Park

Part Three: Forillon

Part Two: Forillon

Part One: Le Bic

Written by canadianparkhound

September 1, 2012 at 12:59 pm

One week, Four parks. Gaspe to New Brunswick. July 2011 Pt. 3/5 (Forillon Nat’l Park))

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Part 3: Forillion Day 2

Battle of the St. Lawrence, memorial plaque.

I find Forillon National Park to be exceptional. It is well maintained and though relatively small, it has a lot to offer. Seeing as we only had the day (and one more night), we chose to hike the trail to the tip of the park. The trailhead is at the parking lot at the end of the road, past the campgrounds. You really can’t miss it.

The trail starts at the look out point by the memorial plaque. It’s a quick ascent up the rocky path with the view of the St. Lawrence fading as you start to cut inland to cross to the other side of the point, heading towards the small community of Grande-Grave. This trail was once a portage for fisherman getting supplies between Grande-Grave and Forillon. What a treacherous portage when you consider the weight of the gear at that time

Hike route to the tip of Forillon

It’s a little over 9 km from the trailhead to the tip. Once you pass through Grande-Grave, you can follow the footpath that takes you closer to the water than if you were to merely walk along the road. We had plenty of whale sightings from the footpath, though, they don’t show up in any pictures.

Trail to the tip of Forillon

It was an overcast day, which made it pleasant for a long walk but, like any good Maritime day, it threatened to rain most of the way.

View along the Gulf of St. Lawrence

When we neared the tip, the reality of rain was beginning to set in and we were started to worry about the 9 km return trip, while having to cut back through the forest and end with a challenging rocky descent back at the trailhead at dusk. Ah, the things you wish you would have thought about at the start of the hike…

View from the tip of Forillon

The rain held out for our visit to the tip, where we rested for a few minutes and had a snack. It’s an impressive view and worth the effort. It is possible to take an easier route that can be done by driving to Grande-Grave and through to the parking lot at the very tip of the park, skipping the hike from the campground side of the park altogether.

About ten minutes into our return trip, the rain started. It started out fairly gently, and quickly opened into a steady downpour. We were lucky enough to catch a ride with a sympathetic solo photographer who was camping nearby us. I’m happy to be ending this part of our blog by not having to recount a harrowing journey in the rain and dark, full of misery and blisters.

We spent our second and final night in Forillon playing cribbage by candlelight, sharing the communal building by our site with a young family, waiting out the rain together. Luckily, it didn’t pour all night, but it stayed wet. The next morning, we woke up and threw all of our wet gear, loose, in the back of our Honda Element. We’d dry it out in Kouchibouguac.

What I liked about Forillon:

– well maintained tent sites with more privacy than any park that I’ve experienced yet. The facilities are very well maintained.

– the viewpoints and sites are all worth visiting.

What I didn’t like about Forillon:

– nothing, it was all good!


Part Four: Kouchibouguac

Part Two: Forillon

Part One: Le Bic

Written by canadianparkhound

August 30, 2012 at 6:03 pm

One week, Four parks. Gaspé to New Brunswick. July 2011 Pt. 2/5 (Gaspé coast to Forillon Nat’l Park)

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Tuesday July 5th, 2011 (Le Bic -> Forillon)

9:30 am. Break camp at Le Bic after a cup of coffee and we begin the first day of really driving the Gaspé. Wow. In a word, that’s all you need to know.

The long version though, is this:

Gaspésie is one drive that every Canadian should make in their lifetime. The north coast of Gaspésie is right up there with driving the Cabot Trail. The main difference between the two is sea level. On the Cabot Trail, you’re high above the water. In Gaspésie, you’re right on the water.

We had idyllic weather and a fantastic view of the St. Lawrence, but I can imagine that the warning signs should not be taken lightly in bad weather. You’re completely exposed to the water on one side and have a sheer cliff on the other. Thrilling! And unbelievably beautiful.

Our first stop for food was in Sainte Maxime-du-Mont-Louis. There is a town in every bay that provides a natural harbour. Their borders are dictated by the landscape. It’s quite the sight to see. You can’t help but smile when you come around a corner and see a little town that looks just like the last one. Guess what they must do for a living?

We pulled over for a lunch of lobster poutine. Fries, cheese, béchamel & lobster. Yes.

From this point, it still took us the better part of 5 1/2 hours to get to Forillon National Park. The highway is two-lane, often under construction and follows the coast. Leave lots of time and enjoy the journey. Forillon is located right at the north-east tip of Gaspésie with the southern border of the park following along the Gaspé harbour.

We were hoping to get a campsite at Cap Bon Ami, which has sites right by the water, but unfortunately it has been closed for the entire season due to cliff erosion. We couldn’t even hike the area, it was closed off. Instead, we stayed at the Des-Rosiers campsite (A-16, for those keeping score).

As with all car-camping, you don’t have a ton of privacy between sites, but Forillon is the best I’ve experienced to date. Our site was tucked back from the road a bit, and had good tree cover between the car and tent. The tent pad itself was grass, which is a nice change from the dirt and/or limestone pads that you usually get.

The facilities were well-kept and clean, if a little dated (though, that doesn’t matter to us at all). The communal building in our loop was big enough to hold at least 10 families if necessary and provided a good place to sit and eat in bad weather or play games at night if you didn’t want to be stuck at your campsite for whatever reason.

After setting up camp, we walked down to the beach and did what everyone else seemed to be doing: watch the sunset with a bottle of wine.

Part Three: Forillon, Day Two

Part One

Written by canadianparkhound

August 25, 2011 at 8:42 pm

One week, Four parks. Gaspe to New Brunswick. July 2011 Pt. 1/5 (Le Bic Nat’l Park)

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Monday July 4th, 2011 (Toronto -> Le Bic)

4:30 am. The car is already packed and we hit the highway for the long drive that takes you through Ontario and Quebec. Our first park is Le Bic. The nearest town is Bic. The closest town that you’ve heard of before is Rimouski. We arrived in the park by 3:00pm. Jill & I were only going to spend the one evening in Le Bic, in favour of getting to the park that we really wanted to get to, Forillon. That said, we wanted to get to Le Bic early enough to see what we would be missing. The park itself is very beautiful, as is the town of Bic. One thing that we regularly caught ourselves saying out loud was, “Well done Quebec!” The people of Quebec really take pride in their property and facilities and it shows. Take the rest stops along the Trans-Canada for instance. These small stops are perfect for the long drive and have nothing to do with selling you corporate crappy fast food. It’s about picnics, resting and relief. I sure wish we had those in Ontario…

If I had the chance to return to Le Bic (and I would), there would be plenty of trails to explore, on foot or bike, but I think that I’d be most tempted to kayak. It’s on a pretty magnificent stretch of the St. Lawrence Estuary. We took about two hours to check out some of the lookouts before heading back to the campsite for dinner.

Dinner @ Le Bic: Israeli couscous w/mushrooms.

What I liked about Le Bic:

  • Well maintained trails, great views
  • Great bathroom facilities, very clean. Laundry as well.

What I didn’t like as much:

  • Small campsites that are very close together (we stayed at #82)
  • Busy, busy, busy

One other thing that should be noted about Le Bic “National” Park; it’s not run by Parks Canada. Turns out, every park in Quebec is called a “national park”. Le Bic is run by Sepaq. This probably explains a lot about the attention to detail that we witnessed throughout the park. Not that Parks Canada does a bad job, it’s just that Le Bic was the swankiest of all of the parks that we visited on this trip.

But this was just Day One. We had no idea what the other parks were going to look like. We were ready to settle for half as nice if we saw half as many people. All the same, it’s great to see people enjoying the great outdoors!

Part Two: Forillon

Written by canadianparkhound

August 25, 2011 at 7:48 pm