The Fundy Footpath is an immensely difficult trek, especially for non-hikers such as myself. I should have listened to the advice of others. “The trail is not for beginners” they said. “You look out of shape” they exclaimed. “Have you ever actually done any hiking?” they asked. These are all valid points; yet last weekend I successfully traveled the 50+ kilometre wilderness trail from Fundy National Park to the Valley of the Big Salmon River. What a hike it was. Truly something to remember and an accomplishment to cherish.
The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness. – John Muir
The first clue that this was to be no ordinary “Walk in the Woods” was when I discovered that you don’t actually start from kilometre 0 on the Fundy Footpath (FFP). Instead, the path is located 8 kilometres from the Wolfe Point “entrance” at Fundy National Park. Now, it seems to me that running a marathon is fairly ambitious though no one expects you to also jog from your house to the starting line. This initial walk takes about 3 hours, give or take, and is by far the easiest walking one would do for the duration of trip.
The second clue that the footpath is no easy ride comes immediately after crossing “kilometre 0” at Goose River (that’s 8 kilometres for those scoring at home). Kilometre 0 introduces a stark contrast from the easy wood road and instead offers a glimpse into what the next 3 days would bring. A series of switchback trails carries you up 250 meters over the next kilometre. That is steep and a real punch in the gut to the hiker carrying 30+ pounds of gear in 30 degree celsius weather. It is also only the beginning.
Depending on how you count the valleys, there are no less than 11 descents from 250+ meters to sea level and back up. The footpath website actually states there are “countless ups and downs – 0 meters at sea level ascents to 300 meters, descend to 0 meters and back up to 300 meters”. Even by conservative estimates that approximately equals hiking up 2,500 meters over the length of the trail. Gruelling.
Thankfully, I was blissfully ignorant of all these facts before embarking. If I can offer any one great piece of advice about making this hike it would be to go with an experienced partner who, while being acutely aware of the oncoming challenges, will also do his/her best to shield them from you. I had my buddy Nick for this role.
All kidding aside, however, it is of critical importance to be prepared for the trip even if being slightly unaware of us how daunting it may be. A few days after we exited a pair of hikers had to be rescued by HELICOPTER. Thankfully this pair were fine and as much as I would have enjoyed a ride in a helicopter, I am also thankful that we needed no such rescue.
“Jumping from boulder to boulder and never falling, with a heavy pack, is easier than it sounds; you just can’t fall when you get into the rhythm of the dance.” Jack Kerouac.
The trail has a rhythm with the ascents and descents, the Appalachian blazes, the river crossings and water-fill-up opportunities, the stunning vistas and remote beaches. It is a truly a wilderness hike though current road development, which will make the area more accessible to the masses, is starting to encroach on the isolation. Progress I suppose. Nonetheless, standing in the delta river valley of Little Salmon River at sunrise, with 300 meters of stunningly green peaks on either side and not a sound to be heard, is a beautiful reminder of the picteresque qualities of this Province. There are many more reminders.
The Goose Creek campsite provides breathtaking views of Centurion Point and a birds eyes view of Martin Head. The Telegraph Brook descent reminds you just what isolation really feels like and the vista at Big Salmon River offers a reminder of why you hike in the first place There are countless more views though Nick reminds me that these do not lend themselves to a photographers whim. Instead, they need to be experienced first hand to appreciate their true beauty. Have you ever looked at someones pictures of the Grand Canyon? I have, and I am always disappointed. The camera cannot capture the beauty of magnificent places.
The guide recommends a four day through hike though we did it in three. We also met a few hikers along the trail though the majority were making shorter day trips. I was jealous of all of them. I also became dehydrated on day two and spent the next 16 hours and 18 kilometres trying not to
vomit or perhaps stumble off the 50 foot embankment due to my dizzy state. I checked with Nick and though I had a severe headache, was nauseas, suffered from weakness and dizzy spells, and also experienced rapid shallow breathing, I did not act irritable and/or bizarre. Thank goodness.
“Speed is not a priority, just enjoy your hike – Keep smile” ― Barry Perdana Putra
I did however keep putting one foot in front of the other. Sometimes that was difficult and there were more than a few times when I thought I really could go no further. But then, again, I put one foot in front of the other. And as miserable as I felt I realized there really was no alternative. This I suppose, is one of the many lessons the a difficult Walk in the Woods has to teach. That no matter how difficult the walking may get, putting one foot ahead of the other is the only option and this option produces tremendous results.
“Do you hike much?” they asked.