This trip was slated for back in May, but the rain made a mess of that long weekend, so it's the end of July, and we've returned to "bag the cape."
This is my third time around hiking the trail, and twice kayaking the region. Needless to say, it's a beautiful location with just the right mix of the Atlantic's land and sea to keep me coming back.
For an overview, Cape Chignecto is the largest provincial park located in Nova Scotia. It exists in a corner notch in the Bay of Fundy just past Advocate Harbour. Their website explains much of the history of the area and the background to the park. At the time I wrote this, there were 8 trails in total, but work is currently underway for a spur trail to the Three Sister sea stacks, and should be ready for 2006. Hopefully trailpeak will have an invitation to profile the additions next year.
Our excursion took on the park's major feature, a 50 (+/-) Km coastal and inland loop trail that routes along the park's perimeter. There are several back country or primitive camp sites along the way, giving the hiker choices of making the trek in three or four days depending on your style. We traditionally hike this trail in three days.
Our plan was to hike from the trailhead at Red Rocks to Little Bald Rock Brook, and establish that as our first night's camp site. That distance would total around 19Km. From there, day two would take us to Eatonville for a day two's distance of around 17K. Eatonville back home to Red Rocks would be 14 K for day 3. Probably a bit shorter with the beach return section.
With the amount of driving we seem to get ourselves into to get to these trails, we've devised a plan to always spend a night on site so that we can be at the trailhead early. Such was the case this time, and we stayed in Christie Field within the park. (at least near enough to it. It was pretty dark when we arrived!)
We set off by around 9:30 at Red Rocks with a destination of Little Bald Rock Brook. This section would be our longest day, as well as the toughest section of the trail. Looking at a topo map, there are several coves and gulches, and the trail winds around the former, and takes you down into and then makes you climb up out of later. With pack weights of over 30 lbs, these sections make for quite a leg burning exercise. The views along the way offer vistas back on Advocate Harbour, Cape D'or and ahead to Isle Haute and the miles of rugged terrain that lies ahead of you. Take a big breath and move on! Thank god, the mornings are cool in this area.
One really nice aspect of the trail is its tree cover. For pretty much the whole time, you shouldn't need much, if any sun screen. The tree cover keeps most of the sun off you, and light coastal breezes wick the sweat off your brow.
There are three big descents and climbs along day one. McGahey Brook, Mill Brook and Refugee Cove. The last two areas offer camp sites. The climb shortly after Mill Brook was pretty rugged with rock outcropping along one side.
We lunched and refilled our water at 1PM in Refugee Cove. Ahead of us would be the big view from Cape Chignecto itself. Passing that, we over shot our Little Bald Rock destination, and due to some confusion in signs, wound up in Big Bald Rock Brook, 2.2 K past our intended tent site. There was only one other couple there in the area, so we decided to stake our claim as far away from them as we could instead of hiking back to our registered spot. It was 5PM, and we didn't feel like hiking any further. Although we overshot our destination, I figured that it would make day two easier. Hey, we can now sleep in!
The sites at Big Bald were very nice, though a bit close together. The beach there is really nice, and we watched the sunset from above some rocks. Tide comes in quite a ways around here. It's cool in the evenings, so I was thinking myself pretty clever to pack my Mont Bell down inner jacket. It was just the thing to take the edge off the chill in the evenings.
With an extra 2K already banked from yesterday, sleeping in was no concern to us. It's about 16K from Big Bald to Eatonville. After a nice breakfast and getting our packs dialed, we were on the trail by around 10. It was another really nice day. Cool temps in the mornings made for a great start. No over heating on the trail.
The highlights for day 2 would be the tundra section just ahead, Keyhole Brook, the boxed in beaches, Carey Brook, Seal Cove, and the views of the Three Sisters before turning inland.
Not more than an hour out of camp, comes a change of scenery. Out of the tree cover, we find ourselves in what seems like alpine tundra. The trial goes through a more open area, with rocks and stunted forest growth. Things were more exposed to the cliffs and the rocks make this quite the photogenic area. Make sure you stop to take some pictures as you explore the rock outcrops.
Approaching Keyhole Brook, we heard seals. Soon enough, we saw them playing on the rocks below, and splashing in the water and swimming. It was a nice little break from the trail.
The air was very clear, making distant features seem very close. Occasionally there would be distinct views of NB across the bay. You can see the cliffs along both the Fundy Foot path as well as Fundy National Park. Both areas share similar terrain.
The second day along the coast offers views of boxed in beaches and several sea stacks. Though not as tough as day 1, this section still has its formidable ups and downs. At Carey Brook, we refilled our water, and by noon, lunched at Seal Cove. There, we took in the rocky cliffs with their basalt seams. There's even a basalt sea stack in the middle of the beach you can boulder at low tide.
Seal Cove marks the next leg where views of the Three Sisters become apparent. The sea stacks were named from a native Mi'kmaq Glooscap legend where Glooscap, upon leaving the area, turned his sisters into stone so that they would be there on his return. This part of the trail also marks the final section of trail before it turns inland.
The last views of the sea stacks ends near Green Point as the trail begins to head inland. From here, the trail takes on a richer more heavy growth forest. GPS reception was spotty at best it seemed. Due to the rain lately, there were many boggy areas where even the raised gravel beds just weren't enough. There were still several climbs and descents to undergo, but nothing like those of day one.
After coming down one very steep switch backed section, we stumbled onto what seemed like a pretty posh trail. I was thinking that we were on the "yellow brick road" to Eatonville, complete with a well built wooden bridge, but such was not to be for long. Just as soon as we were on this section, we were off it again with a turn to the right and back onto single track, climbing back up a hill, and back into the wilderness. Eatonville was about a Km away when we finally settled to a straight section with Elliot Brook to our left. That's pretty much how it finished as we made our way into the tent site area by 2:45. We spent the rest of the afternoon dipping in Elliot Brook's cold waters to soothe our aching feet and lounging in a field on our sleep mats under the afternoon sun. I took some macro shots of butterflies in the clover. Finishing day two was sweet!
With most of our food stuffs gone now, our packs were the lightest they were going to be. Ahead of us lay 14Km of inland undulations through the forest. Shannon had noticed wispy clouds the evening before, saying they were indicative of rain. Sure enough, rain befell us that day. It started well after breaking camp, and didn't really bother us in the woods due to the tree cover. We left Eatonville around 9, and headed for home.
No real highlights to suggest on the final leg. There is a crossing of Dry hollow Brook, but not visually memorable. There were climbs and descents through the woods. Most of the trail followed brooks and land contours. There is evidence of a wooden railway system which they used for the ship building operations back in the early 1900's, but we thought they were just dams along the creeks.
The path isn't a cakewalk even compared to the previous two days, but it does make a rather good B-line back to Red Rocks, and certainly is a change of scenery. We covered ground quickly. When we got back to the junction, we decided to take the short cut and go down the stairs at McGahey's Brook to take the beach back to Red Rocks. Now out in the open, did we feel we need rain coats. My Lowe Pro camera bag had a rain cover on it, and my SLR was kept bone dry, which left me very happy! Shannon's Mont Bell jacket kept her dry along the way as well, only needing her pack cover out in the open for a hood to finish the trip.
We returned to our car by mid afternoon, to ditch our packs in the trunk and to visit the registration office. We chatted up the desk and trail staff, inquiring about the nearly finished trail from Eatonville to the Three Sisters sea stacks. They hope to have it officially open by next year, along with a new access point and office for the park at that end as well. Hopefully they will invite Trailpeak back in the Spring to profile the latest editions to this wonderful park.
Looking back, one must give them credit for a well constructed trail system funded by little government money. They use a variety of surfacing methods given the ground problems facing them. Bog sections use narrow boardwalk planking, or raised gravel beds. Other areas simply use rocks to hop across while letting creeks maintain their natural routes. Signage is very well done in most places, with distance posts provided when necessary. No regular mile tickers along the way. The scenery is really breathtaking, and worth the physical challenge.
Cape Chignecto is a sample of Atlantic Canadian hiking at its best. I compare it in some ways to hiking the Long Range Traverse in Nfld, though not quite as hard on the brain or the body.
From Parsboro, take Rotue 208 along the coast, and drive until you reach West Advocate. You'll see signage for Cape D'or along the way. It's a nice spur sight seeing trip.
When you reach West Advocate, look for Cape Chignecto Provincial Park.
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Posted By: FOGGY
- Mon Jan 22 20:53:08 UTC 2007
UpsideA great coastal hike with lots to see, wonderful streams to play in DownsideTrail is well used now as it is becoming more advertsied CommentI was fortunate enough to hike the trail during a high wind event which created huge surf and spray. We had a great time playing along the numerous coves while trying to keep our hats on. Key Hole Brook is a truly magical place, special for sure. I hope to get back again.
Posted By: emptyname
- Mon May 29 15:41:24 UTC 2006
Upside-The trail runs near the cost giving you a nice view. -The trails are well maintained -The washrooms at the registration building are nice and heated. Downside- You can't set camp anywhere -We ran into alot of hikers -We saw alot of garbage in the camp sites. CommentGreat time hiking this trail. I would recommend it to anyone. The trail was in good shape even if it rained. I recomment good hiking boots vs. hiking shoes if it's wet. I think they need to inforce the carry in/carry out policy or make trash depots available on the camp sites. We did it in four days. Having a 21 KM hike out on the last day made it a good workout. Thanks to everyone we saw on the trails and everybody responsible for the park, Keep up the good work.