Friday, August 7, 2009

St. Martins, NB: The Fundy Trail

If you look on a map of New Brunswick, you will see that only about 50 kilometers separate Fundy National Park and the seaside village of St Martins to the south. There is a road that connects the two locations, but most of the route is equivalent to a dirt trail, we hear. A paved road is under construction starting at St Martins, and currently 11 kilometers is complete. This paved portion is known as The Fundy Trail, and we were curious enough about it steer towards it.

But the route to get there required going way inland to the town of Sussex, and then back to the coast. And this required scaling a significant mountain ridge out of Fundy National Park. We left the park in a shroud of fog that stayed with us until noon. It was a cool blessing, because we went uphill for the better part of the morning. And the uphill was steep. At one point someone called out their window as they passed us, that they admired our courage. The ones who thought we were stupid refrained from verbalizing it.

We were rewarded for our efforts with the downhill into the valley where the the town of Sussex lies. This is a rich agricultural area, and boasts 26 murals throughout the town.

Little did we know we would need to cross that southern extension of the mountain ridge again on our way to St Martins. The first half of the day was a series of hills, mostly ups separated by some downs. We met another pair of bike tourists coming the other direction. They commented on the choice of the road -- I thought they were talking about the narrowness and traffic, but they were concerned about hills. They had already crossed Canada, and seemed a bit shell-shocked on this day, saying something about some good hills ahead of us. A short time after we parted we found out what they were talking about -- fortunately the 15% grade was downhill for us. John descended first, and within seconds he was a speck in the distance.

St Martins is a quaint village that is in transition. The current stretch of The Fundy Trail opened in 1998, and changed the fishing village to an out-of-the-way tourist destination. When the trail is completed in 2012, it will bring a stream of tourists that will undoubtedly change it even further.

We camped for two nights at the Century Farm Family Campground. The founder himself drove us around in his golf cart to select a campsite and administered first aid to a bee sting on my neck. There was a recreation room with sofas (!!!) where we could hide out of the wind. And we had our very own covered picnic table to stash our bikes and hang our laundry.

The harbor experiences the extreme tides of the Bay of Fundy, stranding boats twice a day,

We had spectacularly clear weather on our first day, with nice views of the caves, accessible only at low tide, and the wide beaches.

I was informed by the woman standing next to me while taking this photo, that this is the only place where two covered bridges can be seen from one place in
Canada. Impressive enough to share with you, eh?

On our second day we rode our unloaded bikes along the paved section of The Fundy Trail. We had overcast conditions, so the coastline views were impressive but not spectacular.

The route has parking lots for vista points and other interesting features, including this waterfall.

The Fundy Trail is actually both a paved road with a hiking/mountain biking trail along the same route. Both pathways intersect at observation platforms built along the way. Each viewing facility had lots of picnic tables, a large parking lot, and restrooms. They were often built just five minutes apart, and it puzzled us sometimes some of the elaborate structures were built in locations where the view was obscured by vegetation.

The Visitor's Center is located at the current terminus of the trail, along the banks of the Big Salmon River. Atlantic salmon no longer travel here anymore, virtually gone from this part of the ocean, for reasons not entirely understood.

From this vantage point we saw large trucks completing the grading and sealing of the future extension of the road that would open up one of the last sections of undeveloped coastline remaining in the province. The economic benefits will surely be great for some. But we were glad to experience St Martins and the region as it is today, ahead of the crowds that the surely will come in the future.
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