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Guiding your spirit through wilderness into a state of grace
Friends of the Fundy Footpath
hen we first
took a walk through the coastal forest, we were taken with the primitive beauty of the
mighty Bay of Fundy. Over a period of ten years, Edwin Melanson, trailmaster of the Dobson
Trail, my brother, Gilles, and I had scouted various areas of this wilderness, not always
arriving where we intended to arrive. While getting lost in the thickets and ravines, we
discovered waterfalls, cliffs that appeared abruptly on our proposed route, small streams
that disappeared in the moss, and scenic vistas overlooking "la baie fendu",
"la baie francaise".
(photo: Mathew Betts)
"The damp smell ... the wind blowing ... the scent of the salt air
We submitted the "Fundy Footpath" project proposal to the recreational
committee of the Fundy Model Forest. One of the many new terms that was uttered frequently
at the recreational committee meetings that we attended was "non-consumptive
recreational activity". Eventually we learned the definition of this new terminology
- "non-consumptive recreational activity" is an activity that does not consume
the resource but can provide a continuing economic benefit and therefore is measurable.
During one of our interesting meetings with forestry engineers, Mr. Melanson mentioned he
was feeling somewhat troubled. "I think we've been hanging around these guys too
long; I'm starting to understand what they're talking about. It's time for me to go out in
the woods." Enough of non-consumptive recreation; we're here to build a trail.
Generally, over the next two years, we preferred to spend our spare time in the woods,
hacking away at the trail, painting blazes, meeting new friends. For our 2 x 6 inch blazes
(the official Appalachian Trail size) we even found a paint that would stick to the trees
in rainstorms and falling snow! "The trick of a perfect blaze is to get it squared
off equally on the top and the bottom," as Mr. Melanson, painter of a thousand
blazes, demonstrated. Volunteers from the Outdoor Enthusiasts Club, the Dobson Trail
committee and the communities of Petitcodiac and Sussex contributed their time and effort
towards the construction of the trail.
It was an interesting experience building the Footpath; sometimes it seemed unending.
Occasionally we stopped to admire the scenery. At one point the trail building was halted
as we were dodging the attacks of a Red-tailed Hawk; we were no doubt infringing on its
territory. But we still missed the quiet and casual pace of the long hikes through the
coastal forest. The damp smell of the forest floor, the wind blowing through the tall
firs, the scent of the salt air rising above the cliffs, were not as well appreciated when
you were busy working.
"The thick fog generated by the mighty tides of Fundy..."
(photo: Mathew Betts)
We attended more recreational committee meetings and had the opportunity to enrich our
language with new forestry terms - "verifiable indicators, assumptions for generating
outputs, forest biomass growth", and of course, our favourites, "consumptive and
non-consumptive recreation". But sometimes we're not really at the meeting. We're
daydreaming of being out in the woods, meandering silently, with a few friends, soaking up
the atmosphere of the place, and, at night, admiring the heavenly vault of stars and
constellations that can be only seen far away from city lights.
That wonderful forest has been travelled many times. It has enchanting powers, the Bay
with its strong tides, the coves and waves, the decaying remnants of an era when logging
was done with teams of horses and stories of men's lives lost on the log drives abounded.
The ambience of the Fundy Wilderness invades your senses after a few days. The thick fog
generated by the mighty tides of Fundy, the rhythm of the waves and your breathing. When
you return home all of this stays with you for a few days, and someone asks you questions
which may seem important, and they think you're really home again and you're not ...
The Fundy Footpath starts at the Fundy National Park Boundary and continues to
Little Salmon River.