The name of this look-off suggests all kinds of imagery and honestly, I had no idea what to expect. When I did the Parlee Brook Amphitheatre, Sussex New Brunswick. hike, it was a side hike from the main trail. (click the link or see below for directions) The trail has been flattened and widened since my hike here in early January but the long ascent up the path is getting familiar. When we finally arrive at the flat open plateau cross-roads, we swallow some water, breathe deeply and remove a layer. The sun feels so good with hints of spring in the air. A man and women take their final strides down the path towards us, finishing this hike and heading to the amphitheatre now. They tell us the trail is easy to follow and they were the only ones on it. Krista and I thank them and head up the path less travelled.
It is a steady upward incline, each step a little higher than the last. Krista’s doodles are frolicking chasing each other back and forth, zipping about, having a marvelous time. The Incline increases and Krista yells, “I’m sweating like crazy!” She pauses to take off her scarf and vest. “Well slow the hell down it isn’t a race.” She flips me the finger and we laugh. She is newish to hiking, having done her first hike with me only last May, to Bald Mountain in Welsford, New Brunswick.. Since then I have chosen hikes to help increase her distance and up the appeal of the sport. She is very fit- a cross-training competitor – but Covid has changed everyone’s lifestyles and hiking has become her newfound weekend joy.
This trail is well marked and she is a natural leader and generally happy out in front so I let her go, but I keep an eye on her. Part of this outdoor education is pointing out ecology, geology, weather observation and wilderness survival tips. She seems only interested in the challenge of the hike and getting her heart rate up but I figure she is bound to pick up a few things. “Look at the size of that white pine over there.” She looks over for a brief moment. When we did the Maliseet Trail to Hay Falls, N.B. I drilled her hard about which trees have good boughs to sleep on, or which can give you a nutritious tea. I pointed out the fir and hemlock, the deformed beech trees infested with a bark fungus. “Cedars are best best for burning if you should need to make a fire, they are generally dry wood.” I mention cedar shakes used as siding of some homes, hoping the image will make her remember. “There is a lot to know if you are going to take on Mother Nature, she isn’t always so kind.” Krista trudges on and her pups whip by her close.
I keep talking telling her when I was a child my mom would take us out into the forest. She would pick the spruce gum off the bark and hand it to us chew it. A resin you never forget the taste of. She showed us the paper birch, good for fire starter. “Service berries were the first tree fruit I learned to love. I don’t see them much now.”
Snoopy starts digging in the snow. We see a splatter of blood and several animal organs exposed. The dogs investigate and Krista yells, “No, gross, no!” and yanks them off. Coyote must have taken down a deer. Tufts of fur and I think a a kidney are poking out of the snow.
Krista grew up in New Brunswick but spent most of the time playing basketball on her school team. A very different upbringing from mine. I ramble on. “When I was young the woods and the Bras d’Or Lake was the main source of entertainment.” She is too far ahead of me now, dragging the dogs away from the remains. I don’t think she heard me. I sound like the story my parents told me of marching through four feet of snow to school.
We come across a sign warning of a steep grade. “No motorised vehicles” – Risk of tipping. We are nearing the top now one last push upwards. Even the pups are walking now. out through the last of the trees to an open shelf. What a view.
Looking back down the ridge of the trail
“Wow!” she says and I utter the same words. She stands and looks outward- impressed. And I can feel the admiration for our wonderful province soak in.
She tells me, She likes the place better than the other one” I am not sure if she means Bald Mountain Adventure Trail, Clarendon, NB, Sussex Bluff. The Hike Part 3, or Parlee Brook Amphitheatre, Sussex New Brunswick. but I agree with her. “I want to camp up here,” I say and I wonder if it is allowed, who owns it and who I have to ask to make it happen. She looks at me sideways, she is not a camping type girl … not yet anyway. We trade off taking photos of each other at various spots. I check the photos. “Take another, you cut my feet off. ” She takes another and nails it this time.
She has to pee. I take the leashes of Teddy and snoopy and she follows the trail down out of sight. I yell out “Spruce are spiny, fir are friendly when you grab them and there might be some old mans beard if you should need it”. I didn’t see any paper birch so I don’t bring it up.. She comes back giving the thumbs up, and I make a joke about telling her friends she peed on Friars Nose. We have a laugh. then it is my turn to to step off into the trees.
While I pee I shout out,”The eastern hemlocks and the fir both have flat needles that lay outward but fir needles are much longer.” She giggles, “You are crazy!” I emerge again to take a few more photos of the area. This is a beautiful spot.
We head back down the trail The snow has softened in the sunlight and we sink in just enough to get a firm foot hold. no ice picks required.
Once back at the bottom plateau to decide we will make an encore stop to the burned out tree we visited during the amphitheatre hike. A supposedly 400 year old white pine that was struck by lightning and is hollow and charred which makes for great photography.
A family friendly hike. round trip it was just under 5 KMS from where we parked on Parlee Brook Road.
From Sussex Corner take Route 111 follow signs for St Martins. (You can follow the Poley Mountain ski signs if you prefer). Keep going on Waterford road for just under 6km you will come to Glebe road turn right. Glebe road will veer left, keep straight it will become Parlee Brook Road. This is a dirt road and it is narrow with pot-holes and a sprinkle of houses on each side of the road.
Drive slow, you’ll be on this road for 5 KMs. Parlee Brook will be running along the left side of the road. You’ll come to a distinct left turn over a bridge. There is a chalet style home facing the road. You have reached your destination
“Take only memories leave only foot prints”-Chief Seattle
Happy Birthday Krista- March 15th. Safe Travels from Maritimemac