February 19th, 2018
It was our first observation of family day in New Brunswick, and as I posted in When it snows, I plan, I wanted to go for a hike on the Maliseet Trail in Hay Settlement just south of Woodstock, New Brunswick.
I pack extra long johns, snow pants, a hat, mittens, socks, boots – you know the drill, winter travel preparedness items. A few snacks and some water, and I lock the door behind me. The sun is out, the temperature is a perfect minus 4 Celsius, no wind and a clear road. My Google map has the trailhead pegged at just over and hour away. I turn on the radio and Steve Perry is crooning Don’t Stop Believing, so I turn the volume just a little louder and sing the chorus with him, while I hop on the highway.
My last trip on the Temple Road was just about a year ago, when I went to Dumfries Farm for pancakes during the maple syrup sugar bush and I wrote You Traveled Alone? I don’t recall passing the trailhead that day, but I have a pretty good idea where it is, past Fort Meductic Road on the left-hand side.
Luckily, the province has seen the Maliseet Trail as being a worthy spot to mark with a road sign so I don’t have to search hard. The sign points to the parking lot and I back in between an SUV and a hatchback.
I step out of the truck and just as I start pulling on my snow pants after changing my footwear, a family group emerges from the trail. “Hello there, nice day for a hike?” I greet the group while zipping my pants. “Yes, it is a perfect day,” the man replies. I notice the four family members are only wearing regular winter boots. “Do I need my snowshoes do you think?” He answers back,” The trail is well packed down, you don’t need them unless you really want to. I did see others on the trail with them on.”
I decide to leave the snowshoes behind. I guzzle back some water, grab my camera and climb the snowbank and head up the trail into the woods.
Ten minutes on the trail I come across another family unit. Two of the older kids are running off ahead, falling into the snowbanks and making snow angels. I give them the trail as they push by. Bringing up the rear, mom and dad have two younger children dragging their heels. Dad shakes his head and smiles at me then says, ” I shouldn’t have let those two have all the Skittles.” I smile and let them pass.
Further up the trail someone has lost a glove and it has been left on a tree branch in case its owner returns to find it.
I come across a group of adults. They are carrying their snowshoes and I am glad I decided to leave mine in the truck. I ask, “Is the trail well-marked all the way to the falls?”
“Oh yes, well stomped down all the way,” one of the ladies replies. “Just don’t make the mistake of going down over the bank at the picnic table, it goes nowhere. Just keep straight.” I thank them and we continue in our opposite directions.
I hear chickadees tweeting and it sounds like spring. I can’t wait to get out and start bird watching again. I come to a division in the trail but there are blue markers tacked to the tree, so I follow them down the hill. It isn’t far before I hear another group rising up from below. Two adults and three children. I pull over to let them pass as they seem slightly winded from the incline. I trot down the final approach and come to a wide space. A mass of ice hangs from a natural abutment and I am impressed.
A couple is standing at the ice bridge and I stay back to let them have some time to enjoy the view. The lady shouts out, “We’ll be just a minute.” I wave them off and say, “Take your time, I am in no hurry.” I approach and say, “Hi, I am Kelly.” They introduce themselves as Roger and Christine. Christine eats a sandwich, and I ask if they wouldn’t mind taking a picture of me with the falls behind. Christine volunteers Roger, saying, “He is really good at photography.”
I align myself up to be able to show the scale of this place. Roger snaps a couple of close-ups and I ask for a farther back one to get the entire wall of ice.
I learn Roger is a local boy from Woodstock, and Christine is from Grand Falls. “Your falls must be pretty spectacular right now Christine,” I say. She replies, “Yes, but you can’t get this close to them.” We talk about other hikes and worthy places to see. I mention I write a travel blog, then tell them You Have to See the Midland Ice Caves, “They are special.”
I look upward to the top. It looks like someone has tried to start a path up the front. I look for local knowledge from Roger, “Do you know if the trail that splintered off to the left goes up to the top of this?” He says “Yes. There is a picnic table up there but it is fenced, off you can’t see anything.” I tell him, “I would climb up this side but when I hike alone, I have to evaluate risk verses reward, and my judgement is telling me that climbing the front of this is too risky.” He agrees.
I ask them if they wouldn’t mind if I took a picture of them for my blog. They give me an OK, them embrace for the photo. The first one, Roger wasn’t smiling so we do a retake and it turns out to their liking.
They shoulder their backpacks and head out. I linger to take a few more shots from different angles. I wish I could climb up the front. I give it a little try but concede it is too risky to climb. I will follow the upper trail to the top.
Roger and Christine are up at the top, seated at the picnic table when I arrive. I step around the fence and out to the edge. A large group of people have come after my departure and they look like specks from up here. I wave to someone waving from below. What a great day for families.
As I come back around the fence. Roger says,” You are more of a risk taker than you think, I wouldn’t go beyond that fence.”
I look back at where I just was. It looked fine to me, but after his words, I figured If I was a local and knew what it looked like in the summer I probably wouldn’t have ventured out over the ice ledge either. I wish them well and head back out the trail.
I meet two sisters on the return trip. We greet each other in passing but don’t stop to chat. The temperature has risen above freezing and the snow has softened, rain is forecast for tomorrow. I am glad I came today. With the warmer temperatures coming, the tower of ice will melt into a rush of water in no time. I must return in the summer to compare. I am off to Woodstock to see what I can find there.
Until next time, happy travels from Maritime Mac.
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