I have a rule to always complete what I start. At the end of March, I went on an overnight camping trip to Fundy National Park. There was still a large snowpack and I spent two days snowshoeing around the winter trails. One of the trails I attempted was Third Vault Falls. On that trip the access roads were not plowed so I had to snowshoe about a kilometer from the parking lot to the trail head. The sign posted (for summer hiking) says it is 3.7 km one way and to allow 3-hour return trip for this hike. I set out down the trail through the fog. It was above freezing, and the melting snow compressed with each step. I slogged on, one foot in front of the other, trying to follow the lone pair of snowshoe prints that were leading off into the woods.
It seemed a long time since someone had been this way. The silence was creepy. The occasional snap of a tree limb made me catch my breath and turn, fearful I was being followed by a hungry animal. My mind tosses over thoughts of what would happen if I came across a coyote.
I had been punching through the heavy snow for an hour and a half when it started to sleet. I stopped and strained to listen for the rush of a thawing river or the thunder of a waterfall. The only thing I could hear was my own breathing and the rush of blood pumping from my heart. I was almost out of water and decide not to proceed. Trust me when I say it was demoralizing to turn around without getting my prize, and then have to face an hour-and-a-half hike back.
Fast forward to the end of May. It is a perfect spring day for a hike, a sunny 11 Celsius. Today I will find the Third Vault Falls. The access road is open and I drive directly to the trail head and park.
This is a wide, flat, well-trodden trail. The birds are singing, my feet are skipping lightly over the ground. Through the underbrush a squirrel runs for his life, he or she is being chased by another squirrel. It crosses directly in front of me and gives a little scream of fear as it passes. I immediately step in front of the pursuer and stop it in its tracks. It turns and flees – more frightened of me than eager to chase the squirrel it was bullying. Finally free of its harasser, the little squirrel stops for a rest and allows me to take a photo.
I seem to be the only person on the trail. I cross a couple of wet areas but I easily find alternative paths. The trail is mostly uneventful – flat, easy. I start to hear water flowing and the trail takes a nosedive down a hill. Plenty of exposed roots and bare rocks to trip over, so I am careful. It comes to a staircase. In this picture it looks obvious that the trail is to the right, but there seemed to be a trail forward and since that is where the river sounds are coming from I go forward, down a steep bank. I do come out at the river but there are no falls and I question the sanity of taking hikers down this crazy bank. I bushwhack my way along the river bed, then ascend back up the cliff, hauling myself over rocks and gripping onto tree limbs as I traverse the terrain, sliding a few times down the muddy bank. I had to stop and take a breather and consider how lucky I was not to slide to my death.
I find my way back to the stair case to the real trail. It continues to go downward. At a fenced wide spot a group of hikers is standing. “Are the falls ahead?” I ask. One of the men says.”Off to the left, it is slippery and rocky be careful.” I nod and say, “I will be, thank you.”
Down another steep set of stairs and several rock cuts to crawl down and around and then, to an area where rock-hopping is the only way forward.
Finally at the landing two young men are taking pictures of each other and trying to get a selfie. When I get near they seem to think they are in my way I smile and say, “I am in no hurry, enjoy the falls”.
I offer to take some photos of them, and in exchange they do a couple for me. Then they decide to climb the rock ledge to the other side for a different vantage point. They take a half-hearted look at to how to across the pool but never give it a try, t wave good-bye as they depart.
I latch onto a few hand grips on the rocks and dig the toe of my hiking shoes firmly into the crease of the boulders and swing my way along the rock to firm ground. I take a couple of time-delayed selfies on the rocks that I am not satisfied with, and that is when I commit to finding a way to the other side where there is a gravelly area and a high wall that will block the sun and give me better photos.
There are only two rocks I can use – one is narrow and pointy, potentially slippery, the other is a long jump to the shore but I can make it, I think. I asess my risk: What is the worst that will happen? Looking into the river, it is flowing fast and cold no doubt, but I don’t see anything I could get my foot wedged on if I should slip, so getting wet to my hips is probably the worst. I accept the risk and lunge for the rock. Making it, I quickly jump for the second and make it too. The third jump to the shore isn’t pretty or graceful and my trailing foot lands in the water, but only a little splash, nothing life-threatening. I would never have attempted that before my hike on Grand Manan’s Red Trail. I am so pleased with myself.
Today I get my reward, A selfie at the highest waterfall in the Fundy National Park. On the far side of the river. Cheers to me. Please join me on my next hike from Bennett Lake to Laverty Lake, as I show you around the park. Happy travels from Maritime Mac.
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