The morning is cool and overcast. My husband Dennis and I are perched on the edge of a small deck in front of a cabin in the woods, clutching thin plastic mugs like talismans against the damp chill of the morning. We’re gazing over shrubs and treetops to the dark grey finger of land jutting out into the Bay of Fundy, which is equally grey but textured like an oil painting. A dense, translucent mist hangs over them both like gauze. In front of the finger, the wisps of land that shape Advocate Harbour are just discernible.
We catch each other’s eyes and grin over our steaming instant coffees. It’s a melancholy view, but one we’d earned.
How It All Began
We’d started camping a few years before at the campground where my parents keep a trailer, then quickly graduated to camping elsewhere. We also started hiking – first while camping, then by taking day trips from home to try different trails. Eventually, we felt ready to try hike-in camping.
Deciding Where to Go
We chose Cape Chignecto Provincial Park in West Advocate Harbour, Nova Scotia because we’d hiked there before and were comfortable with the terrain. It also offers bunks along the trail, lightening the load we’d have to carry.
Although the park boasts a three-day, 52km loop, we planned a single night’s trip. We chose the first 8.5km leg of the Mill Brook Canyon Trail to the cabin at Arch Gulch and reserved one of the four bunks.
In the following weeks, we voraciously consumed YouTube videos and articles about “roughing it.” We practised packing our backpacks and found the essentials were easily accommodated, once we figured out how to roll our pillows into our sleeping bags.
We did not buy hiking boots, however, which was our biggest mistake. Even though we had been tackling tougher trails we’d stuck to our sneakers without issue, but they did not provide the necessary support for carrying a load for so long. Rookie mistake!
On the Trail
We arrived at the Red Rocks entrance a little after noon, checked in and hit the trail starting on the beach. A few minutes in, we conducted our regular ritual of claiming our ‘walking sticks’ from the available beach wood. Smooth and creamy, they were some of the most exotic walking sticks we’d ever used.
The beach was a bit of a trudge, but we managed to find the stairs up the cliff without much issue. Ironically, I think those 65 stairs were the toughest part of the hike even though the trail itself consisted of many “ups and downs.” The trail wound through the woods, but there were also many beautiful coastal views.
We stopped at a brook to collect water, which required a bit of pack reorganisation and serious negotiations pertaining to foot rubs. We clearly labelled the brook water to ensure we didn’t drink it before we boiled it.
When we came upon the outhouses located about 100m from the cabin in the late afternoon sun, I had never been happier to see one – not only because I needed it, but also because it was relatively close to where we’d be sleeping.
We arrived at the cabin in the late afternoon, about three hours after we started. After enjoying our Kraft Dinner and exchanging the aforementioned foot rubs, we explored a bit, walking a couple kilometres further down the trail without our gear. Night was just falling as we arrived back at the cabin.
And that is how we came to view the greys-upon-greys of the Bay of Fundy on a misty morning. The hike back went a bit quicker, with lighter loads and a slight knowledge of the trail. Hours later, back in the city, the experience felt almost like a dream. This summer, we look forward to a longer trek into the woods.
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