Map of Points of Interest Midland area of New Brunswick
The January thaw has melted the snow back but the temperature has dropped overnight to -6 Celsius, and the air is calm. One of those perfect winter days I mentioned in my story, Off Season- Tourism and I plan to make the most of it.
I grab my backpack and fill it with snacks and water, check that my camera batteries are fully charged and my SD card is inserted. I throw some spare clothing and my travel play book in the truck and I am out the door in 10 minutes. The drive will take me through familiar territory: Cambridge Narrows. I visited here for my post It All Started With Love. and I will drive past the road to The Cuts Quarry; A Swimming Hole Secret.
Two weeks earlier I had gone in search of the trail head. There had been a stretch of freezing temperatures and with the snow cover, I thought it would make for a pretty hike. But I wasn’t 100% sure where the trail head was and I decided not to proceed. It was already 3 pm and if anything went wrong I would be returning in the dark. However, that reconnaissance trip will be useful today – I know where I am going.
I pull over briefly on highway 695, where a cranberry field has caught my eye. It is clear of snow and the reddish, undulating field should make a nice photo.
My GPS directs me to Midland, but I have drawn a map and written down instructions from the Hiking New Brunswick website to get me to the trail head. I see a BMW parked in the field and I pull up along side it. I secure my truck, shoulder my backpack, loop my camera around my neck and start hiking toward the tree line.
I pass a juncture where a tractor has made a path to the left at the edge of the field. I check what I have written as trail instructions, “…the trail climbs a steep section into the woods.” I keep hiking into the forest for about 700 meters, then I stop for a photo.
The trail is not well marked and I second-guess myself several times. At the top there is a bit of a wide space and footprints moving off to the left. The main road keeps going. My notes say take a left at the junction about 347 meters past the top. Have I gone that far from the top? I decide to follow it, and within half a kilometer I see a sign for the caves to my right and I hear two voices coming towards me.
I meet up with a couple on the path, and ask, “Did you make it to the ice caves?” They said they had. She said it she didn’t make it down the path – it was all icy and even though someone had put a rope up, it was too slippery. I take notice of her boots – they are calf-high leather dress boots, better for walking around the city than the woods. I reply, “Well I am alone so I am not going to take any chances, if it’s too dangerous I wouldn’t go.” They assure me I can get pictures from the top.
I keep going, they walk away.
Three minutes later the trail sort of ends and I am not sure where to go. There are no markers or trail signs and I look for foot prints or trodden areas. I go off to the left but it ends in a tangled mass of alder trees and I retreat, not wanting to become lost. Standing back at the same place, I see a coffee cup and I walk towards it. Right in front of me is a cliff rimmed with ice and I know I have found it – in fact, I am on top of it. I need to get to the other side. I pick my way down the bank to the narrowest area and jump the stream, then follow the rope path. I am stopped in my tracks at the fantastic view.
I stay low, using my hands to guide me to the stump of a tree at the bottom. A pole has been placed to help you shimmy yourself up into the opening of the cave. A large hunk of ice at the top makes a good hand grip and I heave myself up and inside, slightly shaking at the exhilaration and fear. If I get hurt it might be tricky getting out of here.
Inside the the cave is quite magical. It is illuminated by the ice sheet. Water droplets form on the end of an icicle, they swell and fall to the floor of the cave. It is a shelter and a coffin with not much room. I set my camera up for a timed shot and then plan my approach back down the the pole.
Just as I exit and make my way back across the stream, I hear voices approaching from the other direction. Two couples with walking poles stride up. I ask,” How did you get in from that direction?” They tell me it is a short hike out to the main road. I must have taken the long route.
They invite me to follow them out, if I can stay for a few moments while they go into the cave for a peek. Gisele decides the ice is too risky for her and she will stay back and be the photographer. Dave, Pam and Dennis proceed cautiously. They too find it tricky even with ice picks on their boots. I take some group shots for them and we make our way back out.
Sure enough, I discover that if I had kept going on the main trail to the second junction, my hike in would have been much easier. We share adventure stories while we walk, I suggest Welsford, New Brunswick. The Best of and Walton Glen Gorge…….ous. I always enjoy meeting new, like-minded people.
Once back at our vehicles we exchange information. They ask if I know anywhere good to eat. I regrettably have to say no. With a wave they depart, turning off towards Sussex. one of my favourite places. You can read in my story Sussex New Brunswick- Don’t Just Pass Through.
I put the truck in drive and turn in the opposite direction. I may stop at the Cuts Quarry on the way home and see if it is used for skating in the winter. Until next time Happy travels from Maritime Mac.