“Are you fellas from around here?”
“No,” I replied to the man who had his camper set up in the site next to ours in Coles Island, New Brunswick, Canada. “We sold our home in Ohio and are traveling in this thing while our new home is being built in Massachusetts.”
“I thought you weren’t from around here once I saw your license plate. That’s a really nice rig you have there,” he said. “My name’s Earl.”
"Well, thank you!" I said, and then invited him to sit down at our picnic table where I was having a beer and poring over a map while Bruce had run up to the washroom. It was our first night in Canada and in between learning all this new vocabulary, we were trying to plan where to go next. We’re discovering that our camper, or “rig” is quite a curiosity at the campgrounds, so it helps us start a lot of conversations.
Our home on wheels is known as a rig in Canada.
It turns out that we hit the mother lode having Earl as our neighbor. He’s a retired trucker who has driven all over the Atlantic provinces (or “Maritimes”) for 30 years. He knows every road and scenic highway on New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, all of which we had on our very loose itinerary! One of Earl’s cousins, who was camped on the opposite side of our site also knew the provinces quite well, and pretty soon another of their relatives joined us from across the way. Although the newcomer claimed that he didn’t know the provinces as well as the others because of his work in stone monuments (“people were dying to do business with him”), he offered suggestions and comic relief just the same.
Bruce returned to the table in the midst of all this, and we spent the next couple hours meeting the rest of our neighbors’ extended family at the campground, most of whom also provided input as to the must-see spots in the three provinces. Two of the wives had been playing bingo when our impromptu get-together started and arrived as things were winding down. They were ecstatic to report that one of them had won $95, a claim that drew lots of cheers and jeers in good fun. With a few more tips from the ladies, Bruce and I had an entire route planned for the next ten days or so for three of the five maritime provinces, and even had an offer of a share of the bingo winnings to help make the trip more affordable! The women gave me hugs and wished us both safe travels before we called it a night. And that is exactly how the Canadians are: Super friendly, nice, helpful, and funny, even if they do call us “fellas.”
Bruce and I headed out early the next morning (Saturday) for breakfast in Sussex, following our new itinerary. This quaint little town apparently had better days when the potash mines were still running, though it is holding itself together pretty well, at least based on what we saw. One of the ways Sussex keeps itself looking respectable is through its murals! These works of art are painted by various artists on the sides of old stone and brick buildings all over town and depict different times of the town’s history. They even include local people in the renderings, which adds to the authenticity and beauty of the works.
The murals of Sussex, NB
After grabbing breakfast there (unfortunately the Off the Rail cafe that Earl recommended is closed on weekends), we headed down to Fundy National Park to see if we could get a campsite for the evening and then go see the Hopewell Rocks in the Bay of Fundy. The national park was a bust. There were no sites available at all and no way to get on the waiting list for a cancellation, and the one trail I really wanted to walk on to see cascades was blocked by--of all things--a wedding! We also learned that Monday would be New Brunswick Day, so everything was pretty crowded with people taking advantage of the three-day weekend. So instead of hiking, we had a picnic overlooking the Bay of Fundy and Nova Scotia to think things over, and decided to head on up the coast toward the famous rock formations after lunch. We took time to take photos of some beautiful flowers at Fundy National Park and along the side of the road.
I noticed on the map that there was a place called Cape Enrage along the way to Hopewell, so we white-knuckled our way up a very curvy, narrow road along the coast to a lighthouse that has been preserved by a unique collaboration between a local teacher, some students, private donations and an adventure company that provides environmental interpretation, zip lining and rappelling down one of the fossil-laden cliffs along the bay. It is a remarkable place and an intriguing endeavor to have such a collaboration to save the lighthouse that was previously destined to be destroyed.
Cape Enrage Lighthouse
The guide who met with us knew an enormous amount of information about the site, its history and its geological formation. She showed us several fossils and then set us loose down on the beach where we could walk along and try our luck at finding more. Which we did! Just like the many paleontologists that visit the site every year to do the same.
Two rocks with fossils along the beach at mid-tide, Cape Enrage, NB
Next, we headed over to Hopewell Rocks, New Brunswick’s main claim to fame. This is the place where tidal changes up to 50 feet per day occur, revealing the bases of eroded rock formations during low tide, and covering them during high tide. There are many warnings posted throughout the location about the dangers of the rapidly changing tides, and at least one includes the exact time visitors are able to safely start their ascent back up to the visitor’s center. Obviously, that time changes every day with the tidal calendar, and it is scheduled right down to the minute.
Fortunately, we arrived at about 5:00 PM (1700 h)
Despite our lack of detailed planning for this trip, we got to the Hopewell Rocks right at low tide. So, we had plenty of time to descend “down to the sea floor” as advertised, and take lots of photos of the exposed rocks. The admission price for the site is for two-days, so we returned again on Sunday for high tide to really see the comparison. It is, indeed, as impressive as advertised. What do you think? We look forward to reading your comments!
Hopewell Rocks at low tide (Saturday evening)
Hopewell Rocks at high tide (Sunday morning)