Time and tide wait for no man*

Today’s goal was simple: see the Bay Of Fundy.

As anyone who’s taken Canadian Social Studies should know, the Bay of Fundy is home to the most extreme tides in the world. Seeing the tides was the one thing that I said, at the outset of this trip, that I wanted to do. So today, that’s what we did.

First things first: Deciding where to see the tides. The Bay of Fundy is a big place, bordered by New Brunswick on the north and Nova Scotia on the south. As far as I know, you should be able to experience the tides anywhere along those shores; after all, it’s all one bay. Still, might as well find a nice scenic place.

Luckily, when we were at Peggy’s Cove, I was talking to a traveler from Pennsylvania who mentioned a place called The Hopewell Rocks, and highly recommended it. Lo and behold, this appears to be the place to see the Fundy tides, and it’s in New Brunswick, less than an hour from out hotel. We had our destination!

Hopewell Rocks, at low tide.

Hopewell Rocks, at low tide. The seaweed on the rocks on the right shows how high the water gets.

I checked the tide tables, and low tide was around 9:30, with high tide about six hours later, around 3:30. So, we went down to Hopewell, paid our admission fee, and started walking the trails.

Oh, the trails.

This is one of those things that seemed like a good idea at the time.

Here’s how it works. The Hopewell Rocks are a bunch of rocks that have been eroded by the tides over the years. At low tide, you can walk down among the rocks and explore them. At high tide, that entire area is underwater.

So the way it’s laid out, you start at the interpretive centre by the parking lot. There’s a trail that’s around 700-1000m long (depending on how you do it) along the top of the cliff. It leads to a few lookouts where you can get a nice view of the rocks, and then ends at what the park guide called “the 99 stairs” (though when I counted them, I only got around 85). These stairs lead down to the bottom of the cliff, and then you can walk along the bottom of the cliff about the same distance as you could at the top (though there’s no defined trail here, you’re just wandering around).

This seems like it's bound to collapse sooner or later.

This seems like it's bound to collapse sooner or later.

All in all, it’s a pretty nice walk. Parts of it are quite steep, and of course there are all those stairs, so it’s kind of tiring. If you do the whole thing, on the top and bottom of the cliff, it’s probably about 4km. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing, and shot a bunch of pictures.

If you’ve been paying attention, though, you realize that we’ve got six hours between high tide and low tide, which means we have to go kill time somewhere. That somewhere was Cape Enrage.

I forget how I found out about this place. Somewhere it claimed that it was the most picturesque location in Canada, and it’s fairly close to Hopewell, so we decided to head out there while waiting for the tide to come in. This took us down about 15 km of steep, windy, narrow highway, through Absolutely Nowhere County, New Brunswick. Guided by GPS, a poorly-labeled map, and crossed fingers, we made our way to a “beach” covered in smooth round stones about 10-20 cm across, with huge waves crashing on shore. Seemed like a nice place to get out of the car and take some pictures.

Until the wind almost took the car door off.

Turns out that, today at least, Cape Enrage was living up to its name. The weather had turned cloudy and cool, and the winds were unbelievable. If they were under 50 km/h, I’d be surprised. They were blowing straight inland, and combined with the tidal forces, they were responsible for those huge waves we saw. Still, we got out, admired the view, and took pictures.

Mom and Dad braving the wind and cold near Cape Enrage

Mom and Dad braving the wind and cold near Cape Enrage

We then continued up the road to the Cape Enrage lighthouse. We expected to need to pay a $10 fee for entry, but everything was closed (presumably for the season), so we just parked the car and walked past the locked gate (why not?) to explore.

“Explore”, in this context, means “walk up the path to the lighthouse”, and then “walk down the stairs to the beach”. Both of these walks included necessary return trips, and in the case of the stairs to the beach, especially after all the other walking we’d already done, the climb was not insignificant. Still, I considered it entirely worth it. The view was amazing, the cliffs breathtaking, and the ocean spectacular. Photography was challenging, but I think I got some good shots — though many of them will require some extra work to deal with the exposure problems I was having.

(Side note: A couple other people were there at the same time as us; it turns out they’re from Manitoba – one from Winnipeg and one from a small town I forget – and they had flown into Halifax on the same flight as us. Small world.)

The "beach" at Cape Enrage

The "beach" at Cape Enrage

Cape Enrage is also on the Bay of Fundy, just a short distance from Hopewell Cape, and the tides were still coming in. It was pretty neat to see people standing and having a conversation, and suddenly having to step over because the water was lapping at their feet. It was just about high tide, and people were complaining about the cold, so, back to Hopewell.

Be wary!

Be wary!

We were all pretty tired when we got there – just walking around in the stiff winds at Cape Enrage was exercise, and the uneven ground and steep climbs made it worse. By the time we got back to trails, nobody really wanted to do the 1.5 km round-trip hike, but we didn’t want to wuss out and pay for the shuttle service either, so hike we did.

Sure enough, from up on the cliffside we could see that all the places we had been walking before, on a nice broad stretch of beach, were now completely underwater. When we got to the “99 stairs”, we were surprised to learn that the park staff had not roped them off — you could still walk down the stairs all the way to the bottom (well, the last couple steps were submerged). Just standing there was risking getting wet, because the occasional large wave would come in and splash a few steps that were normally above water level.

Hopewell Rocks, at high tide,

Hopewell Rocks, at high tide,

Dad testing the limits

Dad testing the limits

This story is taking longer to tell than it should, especially since it’s not that exciting. To sum up the rest: We got a little separated, and met back at the interpretive centre after I did a short extra hike to get some more pictures from the lookouts that we had been at before. My knee was really bothering me (it does sometimes when I’m doing a lot of stairs or inclines), and everyone was exhausted. It’s impressive that we got to the hotel without falling asleep in the car, and then actually went out for dinner instead of passing out in our beds until morning. Still, this day was exactly the sort of thing I love to do on vacation. If you don’t get back to your hotel room dead on your feet with a camera full of pictures, you’re doing it wrong.

Potscript: We held a vote after dinner, and unanimously (with Dad conspicuously absent) agreed to go back to Magnetic Hill and give it a second chance (we were definitely unimpressed the first time, but had mis-understood what we were supposed to do and see). It was…pretty weird, actually. Here’s how it goes: There’s an old road that goes over some rolling terrain, and you drive down to the bottom of this small valley, put the car in neutral, and it rolls up the hill to the top. Accelerating the whole way, so that by the top, it was actually moving dangerously fast for a car in reverse, and Dad had to hit the brakes. Ok, so logic tells us that it was an optical illusion, and that the “downhill” slope was actually uphill, but it was incredibly convincing. I’m glad we decided to go back — it’s one of the very few tourist attractions around here (seriously, Moncton is a terrible city for tourism), and it was actually pretty impressive.

* Footnote: Rejected titles for this post include: How High’s The Water, Mama?; I Would Walk 500 Miles; Green Grass and High Tides; Are We Having Fundy Yet?. I thought of a really good title earlier this afternoon that I wanted to use, and for the life of me I can remember it now…

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Posted on September 22, 2009, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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