Fog hovers low over the area shrouding the bay and upper part of the cape. As I exit the truck a raven is cawing repetitively from the top of a spruce tree. He jumps from his perch and flies away as I disturb the peace by shutting the driver’s-side door. I turn my head and watch his departure. Straight as the crow flies, as the saying goes. Walking to the back of the truck I pause to place a foot up to the bumper to double-tie the laces of my hikers, then retrieve my pack and cinch it around my waist.
Being the first to strike out on a trail in the morning is quite enchanting — until you get a face full of spider webs that have been woven across the trail. Still, constantly having to swipe away the clinging silk strands is a small price to pay to have this famous, yet remote, spot along the Fundy coastline all to myself. Cape Split is a piece of land jutting out into the Bay of Fundy, with the end portion splintered away, like a cap on the head of the point. It is an 8 km hike each way.
Five hundred meters up the trail a hare stands sentry. It holds its ground, nibbling on the grass but keeping a sharp eye on me. It doesn’t waver when I get my camera out and start taking pictures, just boldly stays, not wanting to give up the territory. When I move in closer to pass, it concedes and hops away into the undergrowth.
The trail is wide and obvious so I don’t need to look for blazes or trail markers. I can mindlessly hike and enjoy the sounds of the forest. For a fleeting second I see something black with a long tail run across the trail. I hear it scamper in the dry leaf litter. It was too brief a glimpse to get a clear look, sort of long and thin like a mink, but definitely not a squirrel — they start chattering when you get too close.
I do notice that the way is one long, subtle, upward grade. I stop to follow a few side paths to look offs, but the foliage is too thick in most areas to get a view. I can’t stop long at any spot, the mosquitoes swarm around my head and chew at the base of my neck, tangle themselves up in my hair under my hat, buzzing away, annoying me. If I am not swiping away webs I am swatting flies. I decide to keep to the main path and up my pace. I come to an old tree that is bent and snarled. Hikers have been carving their names in its bark for many years and the tree is like a living monument to all those that have made the trek. I touch its sacred bark but I don’t tag it with my name, it seems to have suffered enough.
I can tell I am drawing near the end. On the left and right I can see water as the land narrows to the point. The spruce and fir trees are stunted here, probably from low-nutrient soil and adaptation to the raw elements.
When I break clear of the forest there is a wide open field of long grasses. The trail resembles a spine and I climb the hump of the ridge. I take a sharp inward breath and my mouth drops open as I see the famous rock head of Cape Split. It appears so close but it’s too far to get to and the trail ends directly at the cut. (feature image) A colony of gulls is nesting on the rock. They glide on the breeze, their wings spread but not moving.
Several other paths drop down lower and I follow them all. An actual split in the rock opens to a view to the shore. What appears to be a trail down through the middle looks tempting and I jump down onto it but, once in the hollow, I realize the soil is very loose and it starts rolling down under my feet. I get a bit anxious but I don’t panic – this is not a trail, it is a landslide and I am slipping down ever further into it with nothing to grab onto, to stop myself. I stay really still and ride the rolling earth ’til I comes to a stop. Luckily I didn’t slide all the way to the bottom. A few careful, calculated steps forward and I get myself out of there. Note to self: Don’t do that shit again.
The next path has a large rocky ledge and I feel brave enough to walk out and get a video. I crouch low and cling to the rock. What a view. I am scared of heights and my legs tremble but I am not going to let fear stop me. It is too thrilling.
A couple of gulls circle overhead and flutter down to land on the rock beside me. They don’t threaten or screech, just stare me down like the hare did. They make a handsome couple. I take their picture and retreat to the next trail.
One more trail gives a look-off to the coast line. I see someone had a fire in a makeshift fire pit made of rocks. Not sure if there is camping allowed up here but it would be a nice spot.
Back up to the flat grassy area I set up my stove and start to make my lunch: vermicelli noodles and dehydrated vegetables. The wind picks up and dumps my pot over and I curse and mourn the loss of half my lunch. It is a good lesson to learn for when I do the Fundy Footpath. I salvage what remains and eat. A fishing boat floats on the calm sea, revving it engines and re-positioning itself against the current. Gulls are squawking overhead, looking for a free meal. I wipe my dish down, pack everything up and take a few more photos then head back down the trail.
It has started raining steadily now. I secure my camera away and get my rain coat out. A kilometer down the trail, I meet a couple with hiking poles and English accents. He says they hiked it 40 years ago, just before they were married. They didn’t say it was their anniversary but they left me with the impression it was a special occassion. So sweet. she smiles and says “The rain will keep the bugs away,” and he smiles back at her, “I don’t mind the rain at all.”
I meet another young couple hiking, with no water or backpacks or bags of any kind that I can see. “Are we almost at the top?” she asks hopefully.
“Oh another couple of kilometers at least.” They look at each other but keep going.
Next a father and his young son. “Happy father’s day,” I say.
“Oh thank you, Josh and I are going to the top.” He smiles and they move off.
It is pouring rain now, even the foliage of the tall trees can’t filter the rain away and I am drenched but it is warm so I am not uncomfortable. Finally emerging into the parking lot I see a group of young men just putting their packs on. I unload my pack and think to myself I am glad I went early.
“Have you been up to the top?” the one parked next to me asks.
“Oh yes, it is worth it. Make sure you check out all the paths, don’t just get awestruck by the first look off, each view is excellent but don’t climb down into the split,” I tell him with a smile. His enthusiasm is evident.
He smiles back while adjusting his pack. “Thanks for the advice, I am stoked to go up. I have been wanting to hike this all my life.”
“Me too. I finally got it done. Enjoy!”
I back the truck out while they head up the hill in the pouring rain. I wave to see them off. The rain clouds are heavy and low in the sky now, which will hinder their view. Rivulets of water run down the dirt and cross the pavement. My exploring is over for today. Time to head home to New Brunswick. Please join me again on my next adventure. Happy travels from Maritime Mac
Other post from the Fundy coast
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