Snuggled in my mummy bag, I am warm but the cool air bites at my nose, indicating this will probably be my last night camping for this season. I reluctantly crawl out to meet the crisp morning and my senses are rewarded; a misty fog hangs over the pond beside my campsite at Adair’s Wilderness Lodge. A distinct cooing from a pair of loons floating by draws my eyes upward. I would have though they would have flown south by now. A collect of crows are making a racket putting the run to a hawk that has come to close to their territory.
I reach for my camera, that is never far away, to snap a couple of early morning shots. I check the time 8:15 am. The lodges restaurant opened at 8 am and the image of a steaming cup of coffee pops into my head. Before I know it, I am seated in the lodge with a mug in my hand. Ida and Larry Adair are the co-owner of this sweet place. They are well-known in the area from everyone I have met from Saint Martins to Sussex. and with good reason. they are excellent hosts in this perfect retreat close to everything wonderful in southern New Brunswick; wildlife, wilderness and hiking. Ida greets me with a smiles and asks “how did you sleep?” she says she was thinking about me camping outside. “The temperature fell to 4 Celsius last night.”
I recall waking up with a full bladder and wishing I didn’t have to get out of my sleeping bag, “It was cool out for sure, especially when I had to go pee.” I reply “Did you hear any animals?” she questions. I nod no, but think about that for moment. My waitress approaches carrying a pot of coffee and tops up my cup, and laying down the plate of toast I ordered and asks me, “what are your plans are for the day.? “I am going to try to find Walton Glen Gorge”. She smiles and returns to the kitchen.
I access the wi-fi, and comb Hiking New Brunswick for a plausible way of getting to the gorge, the instructions are a bit convoluted and I have some apprehension. This is my second attempt at finding it. Two summers ago I had a failed journey on a road, me and my truck, hope we never have to drive on again. I veered right before the lake when I believe, I should have stayed to the left. Today, I have been given a local map and some verbal directions from Ida, along with a wish of “good luck”, to help me reach the gorge.
I turn right out of the lodge, and within a couple of hundred feet the pavement ends and it is gravel from here on in. Creek road past Crawford lake she had said, “keep going up the hill, follow the power lines. it becomes Little Salmon Road. Follow it till you see the gate.” The directions seem easy enough, the words etched in my mind. I keep going the road starts narrowing and resembling a logging road. Swaths of forest have been cleared, I start second guessing my decison to come here. I navagate the truck through eroded wash outs and around sharp tire piercing gravel. If you puncture a tire out here Kelly, you better be prepared to change it yourself, it’s a long walk back to the lodge. This ever-present though has me slowing down further to 18 km an hour. I failed to ask Ida what I coud expect as far as distance and times to arrive at the gate? I am close to abandoning this adventure for a second time.
I see a sign for the Sentier Trail New Brunswick, a couple more kilometers, I see a sign on my left that says detour, Walton Glen Gorge 5 kms. It is on the hiking trail weaved through the wilderness but never far from the road. The sign is meant for backpackers. I am not prepared to hike that far. I make a deal with myself I will keep driving on this treacherous road till quarter to the hour or till I reach the gate what ever comes first.
More tricky gravel more washouts. A dilapidated wooden bridge stops me cold. Like in the show Ice Road Truckers, I have to get out and walk the bridges; checking its condition. It is soft and rotted in spots. My mind drums up a vision of it collapsing and my truck dangling by it’s front wheels while the rear end swings. Not a predicament I want to figure out how to get out of. I waver in my decision to continue or go back but, I commit to crossing. I lean on the pedal and scoot fast clearing the Iffy bridge Three more minutes till my promised time is up. A few more bends in the road and wow a big open groomed gravel road and a wooden latched gate. It was about a 20 km journey I would say from the lodge but took me and hour due to road condition and fear.
There is another car pulled over to the side. On opposite side of the gate, is a man walking to a pick-up truck. I shout out ” Hello, excuse me, I am looking for Walton Glen Gorge. can you tell me if I am near it?” He spreads his arms open and looks left and right and says, “You are here.” I ask ” where does the trail head start. He says “it’s a long way. You have to walk about 2.5 km to trail head.” It is about a 10 km hike round trip. I grumble with a few curse words ” I was under the impression, there was a look out maybe just a couple of kilometers in and back.” I tell him I have limited water and just my camera. I am not here to hike the eye of the needle trail as it is called. He says he has a couple of bottles of water he can give me. ” if you only want to go to the look off, I can drive you to that trail head. Hop in the truck” We introduce ourselves, he says he is Kevin, we shake hands. This new road is the continuation of the Fundy Trail Parkway. ” this section will be opening next year with access from St Martins entrance only. It will take a few years to complete that road you just drove over”
I tell him I just completed writing a piece called The Fundy Trail Parkway, Is Not The Fundy National Park. We drive a ways maybe two kilometers and he stops the truck at a construction site. He points to an opening in the trees, ” go into the clearing” He reminisces about the first time he hiked it. “Everyone tells you don’t go to the edge, so of course that is the first thing you do” He says it made him nauseous “its a good three hundred foot drop.”
He gives me the lefts and rights of the trail but says if I follow the ribbons and stakes with Walton written on them pointing towards it, I should have no problems. He says, “we find people lost in there all the time looking for the trail”. Construction has changed the access.
He says ” it shouldn’t take you more than thirty minutes to hike in” I shake his hand again. True to his word the trail is marked, and I am impressed with the condition of the it. New cable stairs and a wooden bridge are excellent. Only the last stretch is a narrow path through the wild Rhododendrons and shrubs. I am in awe at the view, pictures can’t duplicate it. Kevin had told me there was a path to the lower area you can walk to; “It gives a view of the top where you were standing” he had said. A large slab of rock has splintered away from the main rock. I am actually afraid to go out on the end of the path, what if today is the day, it calves and spirals to the bottom with me on it?
I buck up take a selfie and skedaddle off the shelf.
I want to hang my feet over the upper ledge but I can’t, I’m afraid. I wonder how much will be fenced off when it opens next year. I feel luck to have seen it, before it gets watered down for the every day tourist. I scan the length of the gorge one last time. The sun is blinding and I know it will over expose my photos, but the image will never be smudged in my minds eye. It is so beautiful, I will have to return next year on the new approach from The Fundy Trail Parkway.
It is time to leave. I meet a fellow hiker on the path hauling a backpack. He asks if the trail is marked all the way to the water falls? I tell him I only went to the look out. He says he was here before but it has all changed with the construction. I tell him I got a drive to the trail head, he says ” lucky you, I had to walk it” I wish him good luck and he turns away. It dawns on me, I wouldn’t have Kevin to chauffeur me now, I will have to walk the 2 km back to my truck.
I am almost to my tuck when Kevin comes driving up. I am animated as I tell him how amazing and terrifying it was. He smiles and agrees. He wishes me luck on my trip back on that horrible road, and warns me to be careful. He says “at least you have truck tires” he doesn’t know how people make it in small cars “it is a long hike back”. I thank him again and to keep up the good work. I look forward to seeing it completed next summer.
Hopefully you will take my recommendation and wait to come visit next year on new road. If you do decide to tackle Little Salmon Road, be prepared, have good tires, go slow, let someone know where you are going, and when they should expect you back. There is no cell service and stop at Adair’s Wilderness Lodge and say “hello”” from Maritime Mac.