The lady at the gas station had warned me, “It is a long way into the falls on a narrow dirt road.” As I turned off the Glooscap Trail, I see a sign that states Economy Falls 8 km. I reset my odometer to zero and mentally do the math: If I travel 30 kilometers an hour I should be there in approximately 15 minutes. The lower part of River Phillips Road is wide with homes and manicured lawns. There is not a cloud in the sky and the weather forecast is for above normal spring temperatures. Should be a perfect day for a hike.
I have been looking forward to seeing these falls since I saw a picture of them on the Nova Scotia See and Do website. There had been a description plaque at the Age of Sail Museum showing the Cobequid-Chedabucto fault line that separated Nova Scotia from Africa eons ago. Some of the oldest rock in Nova Scotia is here as well as some rare plants such as red painted and nodding trillium. However it will be too early in the season to see them in bloom.
With two of the eight kilometers behind me I start to feel the truck sinking into the tracks left by other vehicles but I’m not concerned. I’m enjoying the view. I cross an area with a wide open field where someone is cultivating blueberries or cranberries.
Then there are several cottages and camps, their private drives splintering off to the left and right into the forest.
With four kilometers to go, I am starting to wonder if this is such a good idea. Patches of lingering snow force me to accelerate hard to clear through them, so I don’t get stuck, but speed on this road is dangerous. I am now becoming aware that our first hot spring day is creating heaving: where the frost is leaving the ground my wheels are sinking in.
The road has shrunk to a single lane and the spruce and birch lining the way are so closely packed there is no room to turn around. It is forward or nothing. Now deep in the forest, I am feeling very alone and vulnerable. Visions of the truck breaking down creep into my thoughts. That would be disastrous, how would I get towed out of here?
I give the dash a pat and say, “Keep going Blue,” slowing my speed further, crawling along at 10 km an hour. I can hear the lady at the gas station clearly now, “You will start to second guess yourself when the road deteriorates into a trail.” Why did I think she was exaggerating?
I get bogged down in a greasy patch of ground, the wheels spin furiously, fighting for traction and the back-end starts to fishtail. I start clucking to the truck like she is a horse. “Come on girl, giddy up, you can do it.”
The truck struggles free and I would be relieved if the next batch of potholes wasn’t so treacherous – a four-wheel-drive would be more suited to these conditions. I start speaking out loud to my truck. “Please Blue, get me there and back and I promise I won’t make you go through a road like this again. I will give you a nice bath when we get back.” I can’t risk taking my hands off the wheel to get photos.
Finally a divide in the road. A hand-painted sign says Falls and an arrow points to the right. Rivulets of melt water erode the topsoil, leaving only a rocky path. I keep a heavy foot on the accelerator to bounce over it. A wide spot presents itself where several other vehicles are parked. I have made it, thank goodness, 30 minutes after turning onto the road. Just as I pull in a small older sedan follows me in and parks beside me. I am in awe. I was so focused forward I never checked my rear-view mirror.
I get out and speak to the driver and his two senior companions. “How the hell did you make it over that road? I barely made it and my clearance is higher than yours!” He agrees with a nod, and says ” I had no choice, I kept following you, thinking if you can do it, I can too.”
I question him further. “Have you been here before and do you know how far it is down the trail? Should I take my backpack with water and snacks?”
“I have been here several times. It is about 2 km, maybe bring water, there are stairs down the steep side of the gorge.”
I grab a bottle of water and head out down the path.
I slip around on the snow and hop on my tippy-toes through flooded areas with running water. It seems like just minutes to the stairs leading down the cliff to the falls.
I am not certain how much charge is in my camera battery so I don’t take any photos on the way down. The stairs are steep with a few wobbly boards that have shifted over the winter. I follow the sound of the rushing water.
The river is very swollen, cutting off the path that goes up the rock face. There are several trails in the area. One of the longer day hikes requires the hiker to ford the stream. I will not be doing that hike any time soon. I stay and take numerous photos from all angles.
About 20 minutes after I arrive, my parking-lot companions arrive with walking sticks and packs. They rest on the rocks for a few minutes, then they get their phones out and start taking photos of each other.
“It was worth the hassle getting here,” I say out loud. The man I was speaking with earlier says, “Yes, it definitely is.”
I take some more photos, but all I can think of is how muddy the road back is going to be with the temperatures climbing every minute. I take a look up the ridge then back at my new friends and say, “I guess those stairs are the only way back.”
He chuckles and say ” All 189 of them, unless you want to swim.”
I wave good bye and head upward.
Once I get back to my truck, I remove my fleece and pause for a drink. The temperature is warm now. and with more and more traffic coming across the road it is going to be deep like quicksand now.
A mud-coated truck pulls in and takes my spot as I pull out. I reset my odometer back to zero once again to judge where I am and how far I have to go to get out. My GPS doesn’t work out here. The truck rocks from side to side as I drop into a muddy hole and splashes water up my driver-side window. More wheel spinning and fishtailing. Someone is going to get stuck on this road today, I think to myself
With less than three kilometers to the main road, a car comes towards me and I squeeze as far over as I can to let it pass. A young lady is driving with a child in a car seat in the back. I roll down my window and she does the same.
“It is getting really soft and muddy, if you are going all the way, you’ll have to gun it in spots. Be careful.”
She smiles but gives me no reply. Perhaps she is only going to one of the cottages nearby. In any case I hope she makes it. When I get near the end is it drier from the sun beating down. I can see all the way towards Five Island Provincial park. My truck is coated in mud, my nerves jittery. I will find a car wash somewhere, but I have another stop to make on this journey – Thomas Cove Park.
Please join me as I continue to Thomas Cove Provincial Park. Nova Scotia. Happy travels from Maritime Mac.
If you missed the other installments here are the links
Parrboro, Nova Scotia
If you like this content you can tip me to show your appreciation.