Fundy Footpath Day 2
Seely Beach to Telegraph Brook - Monday, August 22
We woke up well before dawn on Monday, August 22 - the second day of our west-to-east traverse of the Fundy Footpath.
One of the reasons for the extra early start was a concern about the weather. This morning was again beautiful - clear and calm. But we knew from the detailed forecast -- to which we had been continuously listening -- that a change was in the works, and a period of rainy weather was coming our way, and scheduled for the following day. We therefore wanted to make as good distance as we could today, while the weather and trail conditions were good. Getting a bunch of distance out of the way today meant that, if we needed to, we could have a lighter, shorter day durinng the rainy stretch, and maybe, if we were lucky, we could mostly avoid hiking when the rain was the most intense. And so, getting an early start maximized our chances of achieving a good long distance today.
Pre-sunrise Breakfast, Day Two
The secondary reason for an early start was as a hedge against the more difficult trail that we knew lay ahead. From Seely Beach eastward, the elevation profile of the Fundy Footpath becomes distinctly more difficult, with many steep ups and downs into and out of the deeply-cut watercourses that cut through the coastal bluffs in this area. Relative to the previous two long-distance coastal trails that our group had done in 2021
, we were looking at ascents and descents that were about three times as large.
The conditions were very pleasant for a pre-dawn prep. Calm, no wind, and with a beautiful view of orange and pinks against the coastline ahead - the coastline that awaited our exploration today.
We were pretty much all packed up and ready to go a few tens of minutes after sunrise. We were actually on the march before 7 a.m., and although not a record-breaking Ginotime(tm)
, was quite respectable given our 5:30 a.m. wakeup time.
We walked out onto the beach in the low-angled light. The first few minutes of the Fundy Footpath from our campsite were along the beach. Then, before reaching a band of cliffs and the end of the sand, markers at the treeline indicated a return to the forest. Immediately, a long set of steep cable stairs led up a sun-dappled forest slope.
At the top of the long set of cable stairs, the trail immediately flattened out and turned right. The beautiful early morning sunlight streaming in at a low angle made this next bit of soft forest path through coniferous tree trunks quite magical.
We soon began a long, gentle climb up a ridgeline clad in white birch and small bushy evergreens. The ridgeline separated the coast on our right from the ravine of Seely Beach Brook on our left, and following its crest up to the plateau top was the most logical way to proceed eastwards (and hence why the footpath goes up this way). This climb was long but steady and moderate in grade. This was a larger climb than what we had experienced at any time during the first day, and when the grade eased, we were not too far away from 500 feet (150m) above sea level (in comparison, at no point on the first day did we exceed 250 feet above sea level).
Coast east of Seely Beach
From the top of the ridge climb up from Seely Beach, the trail meandered eastward along the edge of the high plateau that bordered the bay. The forest once again was almost entirely composed of tall coniferous trees with skinny, branchless trunks. There was virtually no understory - just soft pine needle-covered forest floor. Mostly everything was brown - the trunks, the needles on the ground. The only splashes of color came from intermittent patches of moss. Our progress was pretty good along this stretch - still gently climbing, and very easy hiking.
The easy, open conifer forest hiking continued for about an hour as we made good progress eastward. Then there were a few more strenuous spots where there were some short but steep ups and downs on cable stairs. We reached a high point (650ft / 200m ASL) in the forest and then started a steep descent down towards Cradle Brook - the next major watercourse to cut its way down to the Bay of Fundy from the north. More cable stairs (now on the descent for us) on this section, including some bits that were starting to need some repair.
Cradle Brook Access Path Jct
After one or two small ups and a lot of steep down, a final set of steep cable stairs deposited us out onto the west bank of Cradle Brook. The waters of the Bay of Fundy were only a few tens of metres away to our right. The whole scene was one of a quiet little pebble-beached cove bordered on each side by rocky cliffs topped with forest. Very, very nice. And also of note, this was our first true view out over the Bay of Fundy since leaving Seely Beach.
Final stairs down to Cradle Brook
Final stairs down to Cradle Brook
Beautiful Cove at Cradle Brook
Cradle Brook is by the far the most scenic spot one encounters during the first few kilometres after heading east from Seely Beach. It is also the location of a creek with clear, drinkable water. It was therefore a very appropriate place to stop for our first sit-down, packs-off break, and to filter some water to replenish our supplies using the Hatkos' most convenient gravity-fed filter. We had covered just under four kilometres from Seely Beach and it had taken us just over two hours. A reasonable pace, all things considered.
The day was warming up. Like the day before, the air was again sticky and humid, and although it wasn't truly hot out, we were all pretty soaked in sweat. We lounged about for twenty or so minutes and managed to dry ourselves out a little. Of course, we knew from looking at the elevation profile of the footpath in this area that any feeling of dryness would not last: We would soon be heading steeply back up right from the moment we left the beach here (meaning we were going to for sure be all wet and sweaty again within a few minutes of starting off).
Beautiful Cove at Cradle Brook
As predicted by our Fundy Footpath hiker guide, the trail did indeed angle steeply uphill as soon as we left Cradle Brook, continuing our eastbound journey. Although moderately steep, the footing was good and there was nothing of the tangled mess of roots we had seen in some photos and videos. Those sections must be yet to come!
We regained virtually all of the elevation we had lost descending down to Cradle Brook (as well as regaining our wet sweaty clothes), topping out at roughly 500 feet (150m) above sea level. From there we hiked along a nice forest path, once again mostly tall coniferous trees with an open understory and a forest floor carpeted with moss or ferns here and there, and bare pine needles elsewhere.
The next few kilometres were quite easy. We were hiking a short distance inland from the edge of the dropoff down to the bay, entirely in the forest, and as a result had no real view of the water. There were only small ups and downs and we generally stayed between 500 and 600 feet above sea level (150m to 180m). Along this length were several junctions with side trails leading away from the coast, presumably connecting with various forest roads that criss-cross the forested wilderness to the north.
Connector Trail Junction sign #2
Just under four kilometres east from Cradle Brook, we finally started a pleasant traversing descent down a forested slope towards the next major location along the Fundy Footpath - the gorge and watercourse of the Little Salmon River. This is one of the larger drainages along this coastline, and we started to see the wide river mouth and its associated flats quite a way before we actually reached it - at first just a sense of open-ness through the trees on our right, and as we got closer, glimpses of the light-colored gravels of a wide, braided streambed.
Given the rather monotonous two hours of flat forest hiking immediately preceding, it was actually kind of exciting to emerge onto the open flats at the edge of the Little Salmon River. Nice open meadows bordered a wide, braided watercourse, and steeply sloping forested walls made for a very distinctive gorge-like valley. Looking upstream, we could see a deeply entrenched split in the valley, where the waters of Duston Brook came in on the right and the waters of the Little Salmon came in from the left. Downstream, a final bend in the valley prevented us from seeing the actual mouth of the river and of the Bay of Fundy. This was therefore a very "inland" feeling locale.
Arriving Little Salmon River
Beautiful Riverside Meadows
The Fundy Footpath took a sharp left after emerging onto the open meadows and headed north, on a grassy little path through river meadow. It was very nice to be hiking in this wide-open space, with long views up and down the valley and of the steep slopes above us.
The open meadow trail led north for perhaps only 250 metres before coming out onto a wide gravel area of outwash. We could see markers on the far side of the watercourse, indicating that this was the point where we would have to ford the river.
Beautiful Riverside Meadows
Little Salmon River Crossing
Fording the Little Salmon River
On this calm and beautiful sunny day, and with a very modest flow of water in what was a fairly major river, it was a simple ankle-deep splash across the waters of the Little Salmon River. And since it was precisely noontime, this also made for an excellent spot to stop and have a nice, long, well-earned lunch, followed by enough rest time out in the warm sun and a gentle breeze in order to fully dry out.
We had come eight and a half kilometres since leaving Seely Beach. A decent distance, but for five hours of elapsed hiking time, not a particularly fast pace. Having a close look at the Fundy Footpath guide's elevation profile, we knew that one of the biggest (if not *the* biggest) and steepest climbs along the entire trek was before us. We also started to ponder what our final destination for the day might be.... perhaps Wolf Brook? Telegraph Brook? maybe all the way to Quiddy River? We of course wanted to maximize our distance in advance of the next day's rainy weather, but our progress along this more difficult segment of the footpath would ultimately determine where our stopping point would be.
Lunchtime at the Little Salmon
As enjoyable as it was to laze around on the riverbank in the warm breeze at Little Salmon River, the time had come to make another eastward push. We shouldered our packs and headed off through the riverside bushes shortly after 1pm. Nearly immediately, we came to a (in the same large metal-sign format as the kilometre-markers) large warning about having arrived at a "Switchback Challenge". Aha - so we had finally come to one of those spots we had seen in various trail videos.
Definitely steep and rough
The trail led up steeply, and then started to switchback. Steeply switchback. And yes, many sections were indeed rough, bouldery, and full of roots. Seeing it up close, I'd compare this ascent to something you'd find on a big eastern Appalachian or Adirondack mountain.
I mostly lagged behind on the ascent. Partially that was because I was stopping to take a lot of video, partially perhaps due to my load of A/V junk I like to carry on these backpacks, but possibly also because I was simply dragging a bit on this hike. The Hatkos, in comparison, were way up at the front, periodically turning and waiting for the rest of us to catch up.
Little Salmon River Mouth
We took many tiny breaks on the way up the steep switchbacks out of Little Salmon River. There was one particularly nice lookout downvalley from a point about halfway up the climb, and from here we could actually see the mouth of the river and the Bay of Fundy beyond.
The steep climb topped out at just about 750 feet above sea level (230m or so), over the course of only about 900 metres of trail distance since leaving the banks of the Little Salmon River. We took a bit of a longer breather here, waited for everyone to gather together again, and let our heart rates drop back to normal.