Fundy Footpath Prep
Saturday, August 20 and Sunday, August 21
We ended up picking late August for our attempt on the Fundy Footpath. I have several friends and relatives who live in Southern New Brunswick, and they were all eager and gracious to help us with logistics and accommodation before and after our attempt.
The drive east from Ontario to Southern New Brunswick took most of the day. We arrived at the hamlet of Hampton shortly before sunset. Hampton New Brunswick is the childhood home to two excellent friends: Luke, my enthusiast car buddy, and Shannon, to whom both Luke's and Jenn's families have ties. Shannon's family had graciously offered to let us stay at their cottage not too far outside of town.
Shannon's family's overnight offer was far more posh than we had expected. Not only did they have a bunch of food waiting for us on arrival, but our expected tent-on-the-lawn scenario was upgraded to a huge above-garage group sleeping area with beds, lofts, kitchen, shower, and a great view over an arm of the Saint John river.
The Shannon Shuttle
As everyone was enjoying the accommodations, Brian and Shannon and I ferried two of our cars to the far end (the eastern end, for us) of the Fundy Footpath, located close to the visitor center in Fundy National Park. There's a lot adjacent to the visitor center (the upper Salmon River trailhead lot, to be specific) where, after registering at the visitor center (which btw closes at 7:45pm on summer days), we left the two cars. Amazingly, the park only charges for one night of parking, even though we were leaving two cars for five (or six or even seven) days in that lot. A very good deal.
Back at the Rector family cottage, the remaining two members of our group (Chris and Gillian) had arrived, and everyone was enjoying a kitchen table full of sundry snacks and hors-d'oeuvres and cold drinks from the fridge. Shannon brought us over to the the recently renovated space above their 3-car garage, complete with custom-made wooden beams and beautiful hardwood flooring and a bedroom and tidy sleeping lofts and a beautiful deck overlooking the lake, and, well.... you get the idea. Very upscale and very nice. And more than able to accommodate us. And a far cry from pitching tents on the lawn (which had originally been the plan).
We did a little bit of pre-packing organization, but mostly we were pretty tired from the long day's drive from Ontario and soon headed off to bed.
Morning arrived and lit up the huge main living area. Looking out from the loft over the wide inlet of the Saint John River at Long Point, all was still and white. A bit of morning fog had rolled in on this first day of our Fundy Footpath backpack. We were up soon after it was fully light, and started completing the final packing of our backpacks. Shannon arrived with a tray full of tea and cappucinos and maple syrup and honey. First class service at the Rector compound.
The fog had burned off and a sunny and muggy day was developing when my brother Carl's Nissan came down the cottage's long driveway. He and Shannon had graciously offered to ferry the six of us from Shannon's Cottage down to the western end of the Fundy Footpath.
It is an approximately one hour drive on curvy and hilly backroads from the Rector Cottage at Long Point down to the western end of the Fundy Footpath. Along the way we stopped in Hampton (ancestral home of both the Rectors and the Wards), where Shannon's Aunt Sonia was taking over the morning's shuttle duties. From there, we travelled in convoy southward to the Fundy Coastline at the small village of St Martins, where we got our first glimpse of the big tides (it was low tide and the moored boats in the harbour were sitting on dry ground). Even though I was born and grew up in New Brunswick, these southern backroads and this section of the Fundy Coastline were places I had never visited.
Stopoff at Shannon's House
Turning east along the waterfront, we drove through the coastal hamlet of St Martins and soon came to the entrance kiosk of the Fundy Trail Parkway. This parkway (which my brother Carl had been involved with during his job at NB Tourism) was fully completed only very recently, in 2021. The whole project was many decades in the making, from start to finish.
After paying the entrance fee to use the parkway, we continued east towards the visitor center, enjoying both the way the road wound over the landscape and how it visited many excellent high lookouts over the waters of the Bay of Fundy.
About 5 to 6 kilometres east of the entrance is located the Big Salmon River Interpretive center. We stopped briefly here to enter and get guidance and to perhaps register for the footpath itself (the current material online is not entirely consistent or clear on this point), but we were told that no, there was no official registering to be done. One travels along the Fundy Footpath without a permit and campsites are claimed on a first-come, first-served basis. Very nice - I appreciate that there are still locations and routes where this sort of arrangement is possible.
Big Salmon Interpretive Center
The Big Salmon River area, in addition to being where the main interpretive center is located, is also the current official western endpoint of the Fundy Footpath. The trailhead itself was adjacent to a large parking lot on the western banks of the Big Salmon River itself. As a small point of reference for others: in addition to looking for signs for the Fundy Footpath, look for signs for the Suspension Bridge Trail (as an additional clue, by dead reckoning the trailhead and the Big Salmon River parking lot are about 100 metres northwest and downhill from the interpretive center).
Big Salmon River Overview
Shortly before 11 a.m. Carl and Sonia unloaded us next to some picnic tables at the Big Salmon River parking lot. A few yards away to the north was the first of the bright greenish signs that we would soon become used to as we hiked along the footpath. This particular initial sign marked the access point of the western end of the Fundy Footpath.