Chignecto 1998

Hiking is a very pure sport. You provide all the locomotion, carry your food and shelter on your back and are self-contained in a very real sense. The elements and the lay of the land have a direct effect on you. They can sometimes force you into situations that you are not quite prepared for and can learn a lot from.

People hike for all sorts of reasons, to see certain sights, stay fit, spend time in the outdoors, share time with friends. I hike for all these reasons, but mostly for a sense of adventure. I like seeing things I haven't seen, getting in situations that are new to my experience. Not all hikes will give you this buzz, but the Chignecto Hike definitely qualified. There was some hard work, great weather, dramatic views and a hike to took you through a little known section of Nova Scotia, along a trail that at times was very back-country.


We started out as 9 guys and 2 dogs, staying Friday night in a cottage close to the trail-head, hiking all day Saturday and Sunday, with a little hike back out to the cars on Monday. After losing Wayne early Saturday, the crew this year, for the Gonzo spring hike included the 2 Bruces, Gordon and son Jeff, Rosco, Norm, Greg and Skip, whose family had the cottage at Spencer Island. Skip is new to the group, but knows Greg and Gordon from scouting. Some people socialize quite easily into a group, and the Gonzos love new blood, so it was a quick match. Skip's family has quite a bit of history in the area, which was known as a refugee area for fleeing Acadians in the 1750's and for lumber and shipyards in the 1870's. Skip showed us quite a few pictures, some dating back to his great grandfather. My favorite was one of his grandmother on the deck of a locally-built ship, taken in Sydney, Australia.

The 2 dogs on this trip are special in their own right. Chelsea has been on a number of our trips, plus a bunch more with Gordon and family, including the full Long Trail in Newfoundland. She weighs in at about 10 pounds and hardly eats. But she stays on Gordon's heel in all the situations we've encountered, including snow, mud, dense brush and skinny log bridges. Louis was on his first big hike and was an immediate star. Lots of youth, vigor and toughness, matched with a little immaturity. Louis led on any trail he could easily decipher, and ran a very tight second or third the rest of the time. He dug more holes, ate more vegetation and did more pet tricks than your average bear. It was a real treat to have both of them on the hike. So, Friday night put us close to trailhead, with a last chance to check our gear, razz Greg about his and get some quality shut-eye


It took us a bit of time to place the cars required to get us back from this one-way hike, so a few of us spent some time on the beach (Red Rocks), and seeing if there was any literature or maps for the hike. We lost Louis the Wonder Dog for a bit when he jumped off the 100 foot cliff at the start. I think he saw a rock that he really wanted, so over the edge he went, spilling down about 40 feet before he even slowed down. Gave us all a scare, and of course, we had to slide down to rescue him. By then he was on the beach. One of the crew wouldn't slide down that way as it was a bit dangerous, so he opted to clamber down a little farther along the cliff. Crazy dog.

The groomed part of the hike lasts about 6 km and takes you to Refugee Cove. There is a fair bit of climbing, up to 700 feet and back down a few times until you end up at the beach for good. There are stairs and railings, but no hiding the fact that you are dragging your butt up and down some fairly stiff hills. As all the land slopes towards the water, it's not long before your right ankle and left big toe start to complain.

The weather was outstanding. Clear blue sky, mild, cool breeze. Perfect hiking conditions on a great trail. It was too early for the bugs and the woods were alive with the sounds and smells of early spring. There were streams with cold, clear water in the gullies and beautiful views from the top of the cliffs. You could look back along Advocate Bay or out to Isle Haut. The Bay of Fundy is always a gorgeous sight and this day was no exception.

We made Refugee Cove our lunch stop, and the Gonzo Swim Team got into the ocean as soon as possible. The sun was warm and the food great. We even discussed staying there for the rest of the day. As it turns out, we made the right decision to press on, as there was quite a bit of tough hiking ahead, but the desire to stay in this beautiful spot was great. The hill out of the cove could easily kill a grown man, especially after pigging out for lunch.

We planned to make the Cape in the afternoon, then hunt out the first campsite after that. The stop at French Lookout was my choice for the view of the trip. You could see all of what we had hiked, plus Advocate Harbour, Spencer Island and a peek at Cape Split. I can't imagine a prettier picture. Made the price of admission worthwhile.

The trip out to the Cape did not go as planned. We got a little separated and everyone missed the split to go back up the west coast, so we wandered a bit and spun a few circles in a field before getting back on track. You can't really get lost on a hike like this, with the water always on your left, but it will be nice when the real trail markers are setup. A few of us did go right out to the point, but the view is blocked from having any great range. It was still very nice to look down both coasts at once.

The rest of the day was spent trying to locate a place to camp. We over-estimated where we were and ended up picking a nice bluff with pretty close access to water. Of course, we found the likely campsite within the first ½ hour the next day, but by 5:00 PM on Saturday, we were done. The bugs finally got a chance to get at us, and we had to live with them for a few hours , but any breeze off the water gave a bit of respite.

Gordon, GregF and Jeff slept out under a tarp, facing the water, and BruceM just put his sleeping bag on the ground. We also had 2 tents and numerous stoves. There is always the never-ending battle between owners of various stoves, and we had 4 separate types on this trip. Let me say right here that the Apex II is the best overall.

A few of us hiked out to a farther bluff to catch the sunset. It got cold pretty fast, and we were all in bed before it got dark. It dropped below zero during the night, so the morning broke pretty cold and anyone who had to get up in the night had quite a decision to make.


Here we were, trying to eke out a nice, warm breakfast at 6:00 in the morning on Sunday, and along comes a few lobster boats, checking their traps. They gave us a toot and we gave them a wave. It looked like cold, hard work even though it was already getting to be a nice, sunny day. As it turns out, there would be no bugs today and there was a little nip in the air. All in all, a perfect hiking day.

Sure enough, we found multiple camping spots along the way as we started out, with one being as picturesque as you could imagine, with beach access and a great coastal view thrown in for fun. The hiking was less severe, but only in comparison to the day before. We were still covering a fair bit of elevation changes.

There were lots of birds in the sky and in the water, and we started seeing seals in almost every cove. It was a real treat. They were swimming and laying about on the rocks, minding their young. Definitely another high point of the trip. It seemed like every kilometer brought another sharply defined cove with crystal, clear views of isolated beaches, rocks and driftwood. Each cove was as pretty as the last and the desire to go rest on the beach was intense. Of course the 300-400 foot sheer drop made the reality quite unlikely, which was a big part of the charm.

We were lucky enough to run into beach access at lunch time in Seal Cove, with a fast stream coming out of the cliffs and disappearing under the rocks just before the beach. BruceM hiked up the stream to a nice 20 foot waterfall for a swim and some lunch and everyone took it easy for an hour or so. Of course we had to deal with a stiff climb just after lunch, but that's the price you pay for such beauty and isolation.

By 3:00 we weren't really sure where we were or how the trail would end. All we had for maps were the 1:50 and a crude trail map. There was some talk of trying to finish the hike that day and just camp in Spicer's Cove or let a few people skip off home. We didn't stay with the trail along the coast, as it looked like a long spur that stopped just before the Three Sisters, so we started heading towards Eatonville. Norm was having a lot of trouble with his feet, so the pace dragged a little, meaning the rest of us could rest as we pleased. No complaints here. By 5:00 it was clear that we would have to spend the night, which was fine by me. I think that 2 overnights is a much better hike, as it forces you to be able to sustain whatever setup that you have, including food, fuel, wet clothes and gear, etc.

We were very lucky in finding a nice, flat, sunny spot along a brisk stream. Dinner went very well and we were all in bed before 9:00. BruceM learned a new trick from GregF about staying in one spot all through supper, which was easy, as Bruce's stove was a little temperamental on this trip. It rained a little in the evening, but other than that it was pretty warm and night-time pit stops were less of a bother.


The morning was a little overcast, but pretty warm. Everyone had a pretty slow breakfast and we packed up for the last time. BruceM jumped in the stream so that he could say that he swam every day. The hike did not last long, as all we had to do was follow an old logging road along the stream, and then a left on the dirt road to Eatonville towards Spicer's Cove. BruceD lost his camera, but at the speed Norm was moving, he easily saw it on the trail. We chatted with a local at the beach, let Louis have his last bit of fun and piled back into the vehicles.

The drive back through Apple River, Advocate Harbour and Parrsboro was pretty quiet. We stopped in Five Islands for an ice cream, then Truro for Harvey's and Timmie's. Back to Fall River and home to family, hot bath, tunes and a few beer. All in all a great Gonzo hike along a trail that I will definitely return to, hopefully with some of the family.