Nomad and John O: AT Thru-Hikers
Thursday, June 1, 2000
Trail day: 9
Trail mile: 116
Location: Matapedia Motel, Matapedia, PQ Canada
Today will be a zero mile day on a bus and train ride from Gaspe to Matapedia. John O and I are served a fine breakfast prepared by Charlotte and served up by Raymond. Here at Mont Saint-Pierre Motel we have been provided the most kind Canadian hospitality. These generous folks would accept no payment for the room, services and fine meals provided us, but rather seemed most pleased in the pleasure of having us along with the true pleasure shared in their company. Raymond and Charlotte, thank you for your generosity and kindness. We will remain in your debt.
The bus ride back to Gaspe seems so short compared to the roadwalk. It is fun looking for little things again along the way, things one would only see while walking, like how the door is shaped and built on one of the neat little dwellings along the sea or a special little drive leading to the mountain. Soon we reach Gaspe and are immediately offered a ride to the train station, which is way across the bridge. Ever since I found out there was a passenger train still running up here I've wanted to take a ride on it. There's something about trains, the old fashioned coming out in me I guess, the nostalgia of it. A few passenger trains are still running in the states, but most are little more than a novelty. Up here there is actually a need for the train and there are folks that need a ride. The trip today takes us past Perce Rock, then along the bluffs of the Gaspe coast to finally pass through a most impressive tunnel before finally arriving at Matapedia around 9:30 p.m. Pete kindly greets us and has a room all set for us. This has been a grand zero mile day.
Friday, June 2, 2000
Trail Day: 10
Trail Mile: 116
Location: Restigouche Hotel, Matapedia PQ Quebec
This day is spent in much needed rest. We are late getting up and to the restaurant where we are greeted by Bruno. This is a day for working on journal entries and sorting equipment, provisions and preparing for our hike on to Squaw Cap and the canyon of the Restigouche.
Saturday, June 3, 2000
Trail Day: 11
Trail Mile: 138
Location: Glenwood Park Near Dawsonville, NB Canada
This day will be a roadwalk as we cross the Restigouche River from Quebec into New Brunswick where we will be hiking for the next couple of weeks. If plans work out we should be somewhere near the US/Canada border about time to return to Mont Saint-Pierre, Quebec to complete the hike there across the tundra. Immediately ahead of us is an uninterrupted stretch of trail the most demanding and technically difficult of any along the entire Appalachian Range, the Restigouche Canyon. Then it's on to the two highest peaks in New Brunswick, Mount Carleton and Sagamook. From there we'll follow the Tobique Valley to the St. John River, then around the Aroostock River to the border.
Before beginning our hike back on the 24th we had stopped in to meet Francois Boulanger, Director, Parc de la Gaspesie at the Provincial Park offices in Saint-Anne des Monts. The request was that we delay our entry into the Chic Chocs until June 24 due to the ice conditions on the tundra and the Caribou calving season, thus our plans at present and the reasoning.
Except for a few minutes walking through hail the roadwalk today is uneventful, which is always nice for any roadwalk. In 1998 part of this hike involved a climb over the third highest peak in New Brunswick, Squaw Cap, however due to continued timbering in the area the suggestion was made to take the alternate roadwalk route instead, so it has turned out to be a hammer the road day. I have been offered many rides today by the friendly people of Canada. The expressions are always humorous as the kind, perplexed folks drive away after I politely decline their offer. We are also offered much welcome and enjoyable conversation water bottle refills along the way as we meet people out working their yards on this beautiful Saturday. By early evening we arrive at Glenwood Park. Glenwood was the first Provincial Park in New Brunswick and has been officially closed for a number of years. The entrance is barred, weeds and brush have taken over and the whole place looks pretty well neglected. In the rear of the park remain a couple of buildings, one an old woodshed. I rearrange the place to make room for my bedroll while John O sets up under one of the old picnic table pavilions. This has been an enjoyable hiking day.
Sunday, June 4, 2000
Trail Day: 12
Trail Mile: 149
Location: Near Park Bench at Restigouche Canyon Overlook
The trail leads out of Glenwood Park to the mighty Restigouche Canyon. This day is a warm-up with a few ups and downs to get us prepared for the roller coaster that will greet us during the next few days as we hike south. The narrow, near-vertical cuts that interrupt the canyon rim are called gulches and we are introduced to a few today. It is through these gulches that the joyful brooks cascade to join the Restigouche, with the trail following along, straight down the gulch wall to the brook, across and just as abruptly straight back up the next, to continue on for miles and miles. Today we manage 11 miles. John O and I are both very tired and exhausted, so as we reach the main canyon overlook, complete with park bench, we decide to call it a day. Near the canyon but back from the wind, and with the aid of birch bark we are able to get a fine warming and cooking fire going.
Monday, June 5, 2000
Trail Day: 13
Trail Mile: 153
Location: Ridge above Upper Grindstone Brook
Today we begin our hike through the canyon of the Restigouche, a remote, distant place, isolated except by boat to all those except the most footloose adventurer. This is indeed an enchanted land. For the next 30 miles the SIA/IAT follows the broken and interrupted rim of the canyon of the Restigouche. The mountains here along the Restigouche are not formidable by any standard, but the trail through this precipitous landscape follows the most rugged path that I have ever experienced. The strongest, most-fit cannot endure long without stopping to rest and to wonder, to rest the spinning head from spinning free and to stop the pack-driven body from pitching straight down the next gulch wall. And to wonder, ahh yes, to wonder! To wonder at the majesty, the rugged untamed beauty of it all, and to wonder if there'll ever be an end. Begins now the grand and indescribable challenge, for during the next three or four days we will have scant moments of rest from the rigors of near-vertical ascents and descents. Interspersed, and just for variety will be mixed ice cold fords and gulch wall side-slabbing. Each and every foot placement will be undertaken with total deliberation for the risk of falling out of control to the gulch below will remain a real and ever-present possibility. Bear scat and moose droppings appear along the trail today but see neither of these grand animals.
This day we have been blessed with beautiful weather again. We have hiked from 8:30 this morning until shortly after 4:00 this afternoon with only a few brief breaks to rest and to regain our strength. Certainly it will seem incredible but it is true, for during this 7.5 hours we have managed only 6700 meters, a scant four trail miles. Through here today, as Bruce Otto would surely say, "A man can stand straight up and might-nigh bite the dirt."
Tuesday, June 6, 2000
Trail Day: 14
Trail Mile: 161
Location: Woods Road near Gilmore Brook
We are greeted by a gloomy morning but by mid-morning the mush burns away to reveal a beautiful, warm day, and black flies and skeeters for real! The trail continues along the rim of the Restigouche Canyon. This river, over the countless millions of years, has cut out an amazing ditch all through these mountains. Where the mountains come to the canyon they abruptly end, their ridgelines plunging to the canyon floor. Into each gulch goes the canyon wall creating precipitous, interrupted cuts, and here goes the trail, up, down, and through. Today, again the bone-numbing climbing continues with some welcome interruption as the ridges widen some. But the gulches and ice cold fords keep coming.
The Nomad was the first to hike the canyon of the Restigouch. That was in the fall of 1998. It appears that there has been very little traffic through here since. As I hike along today I think of how this tread way must be much the same as was the tread way of another trail some 50 years ago. In the delightful book, Walking With Spring, written by Earl Shaffer, and within that book written about his 1948 thru-hike, Earl laments as to having to literally walk on wildflowers; wildflowers growing directly in the trail! Much the same is this trail today as was the Appalachian Trail 50 years ago, for it is impossible to hike the tread way here without stepping on the flowers and ferns, the beautiful and varicolored trillium and fiddleheads. So it is climb, climb, climb, trample, trample, trample for it is impossible, as there is just no way to avoid stepping on these fragile and glorious plants.
The two days of rest at Pete's luxurious Restigouche Hotel have turned out a blessing to my shin splints. I was prepared for some very tough sledding through this section of trail but the ankle swelling is settling down and the shin pain has lessened.
Well, it seems that today is the day to get lost. We are unable to follow the trail through Gilmore Brook. The trail first becomes very sketchy and difficult to follow with many blowdowns and scant flagging. As we search ahead, following the occasional blue and white survey tape flagging we arrive at what appears a worker's maintenance tail which leads to a nearby access road. Here the flagging ends. Backtracking, we're able to locate another flagged trail leading west toward the gulch, but after a little over a kilometer, and after climbing through countless blowdowns, and down and up another gulch, the flags end in an impenetrable wall of brush. So it's backtrack again to the woods road for a long circuitous hike around. After a mile or so on this we find a flat grassy spot and call it a day.
Wednesday, June 7, 2000
Trail Day: 15
Trail Mile: 169
Location: Grassy Woodsroad by Upper Thorn Point Brook
We are greeted again to an overcast morning, this one more presistently stubborn and it is late morning before the sun manages to push some of the local clutter aside. We continue on the old logging road which tends to be tacking NNW. The river and its tributary brooks are trending generally SSW, so we are hiking with the confidence that we will soon intersect the river and the trail again. The open vastness and blue haze of the canyon can be seen generally off to our right, so this plan is working. Soon we pick up the familiar blue and white flagging again indicating the SIA/IAT. I immediately recognize this spot, for it was here that I lost the trail in 1998 and was unable to continue without taking the same detour around. Now I know why so much of the detour route looked so familiar . . . I had hiked the same route, bumbling my way around, miraculously, the same way two years ago. It's just hard to remember a few steps out of ten million.
Since 1998 the trail along the Restigouche has been marked to a great extent with the new metal blue and white SIA/IAT blazes. These have been nailed to untreated dimensional eight foot length 2x4 spruce studs that have been pointed and driven into the ground as best can be driven at strategic points along the trail. The original flagging in blue and white has survived amazingly well and some sections have also been blazed with the white paint blazes much like the venerable AT.
You sometimes have sort of a funk of a day? Oh yes, looks like this might be one of those days, for the cold and haze are hanging tight and much as I hate to admit, I'm reverting to my old, familiar thought patterns this morning...negative thought patterns. I'm thinking about the fact that this Restigouche section of trail now bypasses one of the most incredibly beautiful views anywhere along the trail in Canada, the view across and onto the sheer rock bluffs that form the Restigouche oxbow at Cross Point. In 1998 it loomed forbidding and gray in the stark mist-driven swirl of that morning, and I recall my thought being that I must forgive it this unwelcome gesture as it must surely be a pleasant and grand place in the comfort of the rays of a warm, radiating sun, but alas, even as the sky is clearing and the day turns most pleasant this much anticipated vantage never comes as I find this section has now been bypassed for the sake of saving a kilometer or two and eliminating one of the gulch pops. I don't understand this . . . I just don't understand.
Thursday, June 8, 2000
Trail Day: 16
Trail Mile: 184
Location: NB Trail KM243 near Saint-Jean-Babtiste-de-Restigouche, NB
A good hiking day appears in order. The night was cold but I kept warm and slept well. I really like the luxury of the room in my Wanderlust Gear Nomad tent provided by another of my very kind sponsors, Kurt Russell, from Myrtle Beach, SC. The tent was designed and built by Kurt in order to fill a void in the lightweight gear market. At well under two pounds it is by far the lightest and roomiest one person backpacking tent on the market. Thanks, Kurt, for providing me your great product for"Odyssey 2000" and thank you for your friendship.
We don't get far today until the trail wanders into a large clear cut. Here there are no blazes and no flagging. We manage to beat around the brush in the clear cut and find a couple of flags which seem to indicate the direction the trail once went, but when we check all along the clercut border for over an hour and a half we are unable to locate where the trail goes back into the woods. Reluctantly, we finally turn to the logging road and follow it to the little village of Saint-Jean-Baptiste-de-Restigouche. From here we pick up the NB Trail and head for Kedgwick where are many dear friends. The Restigouche hike is now history. There have been many memorable moments and we are through safely.
Friday, June 9, 2000
Trail Day: 17
Trail Mile: 193
Location: Home of Maurice Simon and Anne Marie Pallot, Kedgwick, NB Canada
The NB Trail is an old rails-to-trail running across New Brunswick. We picked it up yesterday at Saint-Jean-Baptiste-de-Restigouce and followed it to Kedgwick, pitching for the evening by a little stream near a lovely meadow. We'll be hiking this very same NB Trail as it is shared with the SIA/IAT through part of the Tobique Valley.
We hike out with the rain this morning but it isn't long until the wind and sun drive it away to reveal a delightfully pleasant day. The rail grade soon crosses NB17 as it cuts the long side of a right triangle on a beeline to Kedgwick, so we stick right with it. At this crossing however, there is a little homemade sign pointing to the building nearby . . . Mom's Bed & Breakfast. Oh yes, we'll make this little side trip. A SUV is parked in front with a NY tag and a big luggage bin on top; so it looks like Mom is open for business. Through the front window I see three hunters at the breakfast table . . . so far, so good! I open the door and one of the hunters motions me in. Mom hears the door open and comes from the kitchen to see me standing with pack still on, "Would you like some coffee?" is her hello! Looks like I'm in as I answer with an enthusiastic, "yes." The hunters are from Buffalo, come up every year black bear hunting. They've had great success this year, one more bear and they head home, each with his own bear shootin' story to tell. As Mom fills my cup for the second time I'm asked if I'd like some breakfast. Well now, this is working fine! John O comes in and is also served a fine breakfast. Great conversation with Mom (Diana Bolduc) and the bear hunters from Buffalo.
As we head for Kedgwick, Maurice Simon, NB SIA/IAT trailbuilder and great friend from '98 comes up the railbed to find and greet us. What a joy seeing Maurice again. Of course John O and I are immediately invited to stay at his home in Kedgwick. So in we head for a wonderful evening with Maurice, Anne Marie and their children Fannie and Jerome.
Also living in Kedgwick are two other dear friends, Suzanne Bailey Co-editor of the neat little bilingual glossary, and Marc Mainville (Rainbow Bright GAME 1999). Get to spend a few minutes with Suzanne but Marc is not home.A shower, clean clothes, warm bed, hot meal . . . great day!
What are they carrying? Check out John and Nimblewill's gear lists and pack weights
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication