Labour Day 2016
Near the end of the Appalachian Range route, a conical-shaped mountain starts to dominate the skyline. It is an extinct volcano located inside Sugarloaf Provincial Park near Campbellton, New Brunswick, and I’m here to complete one more peak for the summer.
It’s late afternoon by the time I walk through the doors of the park office and approach the service counter.
“Hello, can I have an unserviced camping spot please.” The lady behind the desk asks, “What is the name on your reservation?”
Reservation….? Reservation! My mind snaps shut at the implication of that word. “Ah ah .. no… I .. I don’t have one,” I stutter. I forgot that there are apparently other people on this planet who also like to camp and travel, especially on the last long weekend of the summer. How did I miss that?
I back-pedal, “It’s just for me, I don’t need much space just a truck and a single tent. Any spot you have will do.” Her eyes scan back and forth on her computer screen, lips tightly pursed, head moving side to side. Then her eyes light up and her head nods as she says, “I have one spot left with the RV’s.”
“I’ll take it,” I say with fake enthusiasm, reaching in my purse to fish out my wallet, knowing full well that it will be tough to get any sleep in amongst RVs. The hum of generators running, the glowing patio lanterns, and the dogs. RVers would never leave a pet at home so there are bound to be barking dogs. Not to mention a gravel parking pad under my tent. That is going to feel just awesome.
“Which direction is it?” I ask with my same frozen smile. She gives me a map of the park and draws arrows pointing out the turns I must make. I thank her and exit, heading to the truck. I set up my tent, locate the bathroom, eat some dinner and plunk myself down in my chair with my map and a beer and study the hike to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain.
As soon as there is enough light to see, I stick my head out through the zippered opening of my tent to check the weather. The sky is overcast but a sliver of widening blue sky promises a clear day ahead. I crawl out and stretch, working out the kinks. As expected, I slept intermittently. Besides the generators humming and the glow of lights hanging from awnings, a raccoon had tried to unlock the lid on my cooler in the middle of the night. I flailed my arms and called, “Get! Go! Shoo!” from the vestibule of my tent, and finally the critter retreated to another campsite.
I pack up, and it is only a short drive to the parking lot where the trail head begins. It starts as a wide dirt trail that rings the base of the mountain. It gives me an excellent opportunity to get some cycling in before my hike. When I reach the side path up, I chain my bike to a pole and shoulder my backpack.
The path is wide to start, and narrows as the incline increases. It is a rocky, well-used trail. Some portions have metal stairs to climb. Occasionally I come to a gap in the trees and I get a few pictures along the way. I am sweaty and slightly winded, planting and pushing myself upward. I had completed Mount Carleton a few weeks earlier and although this hike is not quite as long or tough as that one, it is challenging in its own way. The last few steps my legs burn, but when I arrive at the rock-covered top and stand under a Canadian flag, I am so happy I completed it. A few selfies and I head to the look-off platform to get a the view down to the city of Campbellton and across the Restigouche River to the province of Quebec.
I take a few more pictures from various angles and breathe in the fresh air, enjoying the solitude of the early morning. Out of nowhere, I see a Jack Russel skip up the rocks, followed by the head of an older gentlemen emerging from trail. We greet each other and comment on the lovely clear day. He tells me he and his dog climb up every morning for the exercise. “Good on you,” I say. He smiles but says nothing more.
I wish him well and start my descent before the trail gets clogged with approaching hikers. Downward is quicker but harder on the knees, so I take my time.
I stop to chat with a couple on the way up, who ask about the rest of the hike. They look a little bedraggled, glistening with sweat and swatting flies. “You are approaching a steep part, maybe another 15 minutes and you will be there,” I say. Further down I come across another couple of ladies pausing to have a drink and a snack. The one closest to me is bent over with her hands on her knees catching her breath. I encourage her, saying, “You are almost there, keep going, it is worth it.” She stands and says, “Oh, I am going get there, I haven’t come this far to give up.”
The rest of my hike down is uneventful. I meet one more family of five coming up the low end of the path, the oldest of the three children looks no more than seven and I think to myself, Not sure this is an appropriate hike for such little kids, good luck. I smile and wave at one of the youngest and he gives a shy smile back. I keep going down the side trail to retrieve my bike and pedal back to my truck. With my hike completed and the day young, I have lots more to see in this beautiful area of Chaleur Bay. Please join me for my next story Campbellton area, New Brunswick. Happy travels from Maritime Mac.
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