When a road appears passable on google maps only half of the day, and is "subject to extreme tidal conditions" one has to take it! So Mia and I paused on the road to Ministers Island, in Saint Andrews by the Sea, New Brunswick. She was far less excited than I was by driving out into the Bay of Fundy
The Celtic Cross Memorial at the southern end of the town of Saint Andrews by the Sea commemorates the many Irish Famine immigrants who passed away on Hospital Island in the Passamaquoddy Bay awaiting freedom in the America's.
The island was a quarantine station for the many hopeful looking for freedom and a better life in Canada, and nearby America, but many made it no further and are buried unknown on the island.
Saint Andrews has a uniquely European Colonial history, a mix of French Colonial Loyalist, Scottish and Irish heritage. Many of the houses in town are originally from Castine, Maine which in the 17th and 18th century was a part of the French Colonial Region of Acadia reaching far up into what we now know as Canadian New Brunswick, and even briefly the capital. At the end of the Revolutionary war when the outcome was clear many of the Loyalist families dismantled their homes and floated them up on barges to Canada and founded Saint Andrews; an unimaginable feat in those times, but the town is proud of its clear New England look.
Further north up the coast we headed to Saint Martins. This is pretty much the entirety of downtown St Martins, once a key industrial ship building town and now reduced to minimal inhabitants, this is the story of so many towns in New Brunswick. Key but unsustainable industries like logging destroyed other critical industries such as fishing, and so in spite of once having had a boom period, commerce and the population down the turn of the 20th century. Skeletal evidence of piers on beaches once bustling with shipbuilding, apple orchards amid silent woods, beaches and rivers with names like Herring Cove and Salmon run are all that remain of this era.
Saint Martin is now the entrance to Fundy Trail Parkway, but be sure to give the drive at least a half day, as you will want to stop and explore along the beautiful drive. Sadly I didn't know the road closed at 5, and so we were going 40 mph, instead of 40 kmto see it all before they closed (I know, super responsible, getting locked in there to camp actually would have been rather ideal really, but the beauty of off season-we had it to ourselves). It's an out and back road also, which is sort of odd.
We have to go back, the beaches, cliffs, and views were all stunning and doing this badly is the only regret of my trip. There was one beach straight out of Goonies which we could have spent an entire afternoon, but that is why I always plan on going back to places.
The Sea Caves in Saint Martin are a part of The UNESCO Fundy Biosphere Reserve and absolutely worth a visit (like all things here with an eye to low tide.) The tiny red dots on the left are people.
Visiting the caves, and the stacks of Hopewell Rocks (at the top of the Back of Fundy) brought to mind a story from when I was little, of a town, drowned beneath the sea. All the inhabitants slept, and in storms main landers could hear the church bell ring (that is not a bell buoy you hear at night, but church bells) And at the fullest harvest moon low tide the town was uncovered and the people awoke & went about life as if nothing usual had occurred.
The story stuck with me, clearly, and at the Bay of Fundy where the tides are 4 stories tall, and on the upper cape the tides pull in and out miles across the clay flats daily, the old story seems entirely plausible.
Such a mind bending place - I love when nature is even better than the imagination.
From Saint Martin we headed to Alma and the Bay of Fundy National Park a few hours north. It was the opening of the lobster season in Fundy. I sat in camp listening to music from the Harbor below in Alma as they prepare for the blessing of the fleet in the morning. It is striking how the threads, the core even, of the music connect so clearly east to Ireland but also west to Montana (that I know personally and have lived) but many more places I'm sure. We are all so connected, more than we remember. Traveling on this trip, around election time, with so much hate and divisiveness, and seeing so many reminders of our collective immigrant history and our global cultures was an important reminder, even for me.
Time and tide wait for no man… never was that truer than in the Bay of Fundy. Life revolves around the tides here. It is amazing to see the boats rise and fall 45 feet or more at the docks, to see the sea retreat miles in some places.
On an entirely humorous tack, I had flashbacks to the scenes in the Proposal (love that film) upon seeing the billing for Thursday nights local entertainment in the town Alma; it said “Part time comedian, full time cardiac surgeon…” In a town this small everyone pitches in and wears many hats. It went on to explain that the local surgeon was also a natural as a comedian, and almost like the real thing, and really had to be seen to be believed. I love this aspect of traveling, the human unique stories which you simply need to see to believe and remind everyone's story is of value and has great texture.
Mia and I spent a full day exploring the sights of the Fundy National Park, but stuck mostly to the coast, for obvious reasons. Poor bean was feeling a bit creaky from the cold nights of camping in spite of wearing my Marmot jacket so we took it easy on hikes and just chilled on beaches and soaked in the sun and views.
I am completely smitten by the Salt Marsh ranches on the Cape of New Brunswick, south of Hopewell Rocks, and north of the Fundy National Park. It is so extraordinary to see the sea pull miles away daily and cattle and horses grazing out on the salt fields. Just another world. And no doubt a hard way to make a living, but it looks so lush and unique I just sat on the hill taking it all in, and a photo cannot do justice to the view.
All in all, I was ready to point the car North, East or West and just keep on going and become a part of the #vanlife movement, or in our case #volvo, but either way I am absolutely hooked on how easy it is to drive away from ones house and into adventures and new places.