Friday, September 14th, 2018
Didn’t get a long sleep last night, trying to wrap up work stuff so I could hike in peace. But wake-up time was fairly easy. My pack was all ready to go. Eat breakfast, feed the chickens and giddy on up!
I was nervous though. Not as much as Jason, I think, but still a little nervous. But like every other trip, I don’t really realize or believe I am just about to go on an adventure. I’ve always been like that. The reality always feels… sorta surreal. I remember back in 2000 when I bought my first plane ticket: destination Australia. One-way ticket. No plans. No place to stay. Just a ticket and a year visa. Everybody else in my surroundings had a “holy wow” moment or “that long?” or “that’s quite the trip” reaction. I wasn’t even thinking about what I was embarking into. Tomorrow was just going to be another day- but in Australia. And so last night, I felt the same. “I’m going hiking”. Simple. Same as before I moved out of Moncton. Same as when I sold everything to go work on a cruise ship. Same as when I went on the Camino.
Just another day. But different. Maybe.
My hips and feet and shoulders sure feel different right now!
So, back to this morning. Samuel dropped us off at Mont Carleton, near the Bathurst Lake camps. I wish he would’ve came with us. He probably would have been too fast, but I like doing stuff with my brother.
By us, I mean Jason Grant, Alfred Arsenault and myself. Samuel gave us a run-through of the GPS SPOT, took a group picture, and wished us well.
Off we go. Five minutes in, my pack is heavy. Urgh! It hurts. My hips hurt. I’m working hard. I didn’t do enough of hiking this summer. I knew it coming here. Jason didn’t.
“I’ll be ok….
…we’re walking too fast…
…Why so fast?
…Ok, you don’t have to follow them.
Walk slow. There’s no rush.
This hurts. I remember hurting when I did the Dobson Trail… and I was like 16 and very active. Oh, I’m gona hurt aren’t I? I’m really not active enough anymore. I do farm stuff, but is that enough?
I love being in nature. Life’s good. I’m happy.
Between re-adjusting my pack- pull this strap, pull that strap, loosen this one, try higher, lower… Here I am, finally hiking the Mi’gmaq Trail.
You walk about 3,5 to 4km on an old fire road following the Bathurst lake before turning into a single track, old beaten trail. The forest in here is so welcoming. I feel at peace. With some beautiful cedar trees and a floor covered with a lush green moss carpet.
We walked about an hour into the forest before reaching the Nepisiguit River. There’s nothing I love more than hearing the sound of water flowing down between rocks. Actually, I love a lot of things, like someone telling me I remind them of mom, or listening to beautiful music or finishing a wicked painting. I love being back-rubbed by Jason as I write these notes down.
I dove in the river a few times. The weather is warm today. No breeze at all, which would have been appreciated. But I can’t complain. I might in a few months when winter settles. Cold. Snow. Winter is not on my list of favorite things. So today, I am very happy and content. It’s warm. It’s sunny and it’s still summer. Add those to my previous list of happy things.
The cold river water was very refreshing. It resets your whole body and muscles. Thank you, river water. Thank you, mother nature.
I’m not a big talker when I hike. I’m not really one to talk a lot, ever. Ask Jason. I’m more of a listener and ponderer. I guess I live inside my little head sometimes, in my silent zone; quiet contemplation in my own little world. I’m comfortable there. It’s a happy place, for the most part. I think I’m like most, you get doubts, fear, stress, but I try not to listen to them thoughts so much. Focus on the positive. You’ll get ahead way better that way.
I doubted myself today though, on one section where I was ahead of the boys. I’m the slowest, but they were not catching up to me. “I took the right turn… right?” I stopped and waited. Nobody. The quietness of the forest settled around me. Doubting, but yet, I knew I was on the right track. Maybe they messed up. Maybe they are looking for me? And just like that, my peaceful mind is unbalanced. Funny how you can make up a whole scenario in your head from a simple situation. Didn’t last too long though as Alfred’s colours finally appeared in the far horizon of this beautiful old road. Jason whistles from out of sight, we signal back to let him know everything is good, and he eventually joins us.
We took a few short breaks. Probably not enough. Breaks are good. We took a nice short one in a meadow. Reminded me of The Little House on the prairie, except I’ve never seen House on the prairie. I just figure a movie scene could look like this.
My favorite break was at 69 miles brook. I think I fell asleep for a short while, after my dip in the river. The view was spectacular. Mount Charnisay was showing off down the river.
When we left, apart from dreading lifting the backpack, I felt like a million bucks… for about 5 minutes. Only 3,8km to wrapping up the day.
You have to realize that the Mi’gmaq trail is not like walking the Dobson Trail or any other trail that’s been patted down by many many hikers boots. Although the trail is old, some sections have new cuttings and have barely been walked on, making it a real tough back-country hiking. The ground can be moss-soft, messy and rough; there’s no red carpet rolled at your feet. The path is pretty, none-the-less. It’s raw nature. It’s wild. It’s very challenging. I like it.
There’s no shortage of animal droppings- lots of moose, some deer- several big bucks and one cayote. I bet they are watching us- wondering who are the intruders. Hopefully we’ll get to see some wild life. We didn’t see any today apart from a bald eagle, but fresh markings made us believe they were close.
Jason saw it first: “Cross the river. Supper time. Day’s over”. A little note from Alfred hung next to his yellow handkerchief.
Day 1 is over.
Saturday, September 19th, 2018
My night sleep wasn’t too bad. Had weird dreams though! All about trying to help a blonde little girl with curly hair. I like when dreams have a meaning but I don’t have google to help me with this one. Off the grid… and I am loving it! I think everybody should do something like this on a regular basis- just to get off their cell and tv. No blue light- Pollution to the soul. There should be a no-power-reception day once a week for all society- that would be cool.
My legs feel great this morning but my lower back is growling at me a little. Though I get up that way every morning even at the comfort of my own home. Age? Gosh, I’m still too young to blame it on age. I should probably stretch more.
Took us forever to leave camp- we laughed and called ourselves the amateur hikers. I think it was close to 9:00 by the time we got going. Unlike at the end of a long hot day, the water was cold crossing the river first thing in the morning. My boots attached together hanging around my neck. Good thing I have a pole. This was gona be the last crossing for a long time.
The terrain is tough. Soft mossy ground, uneven surface, going over logs and rocks. Just tough. Add on the heat to the mix. Another very warm, sunny day, without wind is upon us. Just like mid-July. The great thing about mountain forest hiking, is that it’s shaded most of the time, but at Poples Depot, we are walking on a bigger road where the sun can easily hit us, and hard.
We had a nice break by the bridge at Governor’s pool- another perfect opportunity for a river dip. A few ATV’s drove by- weekend fishermen casting their lines for the last time this year. Another fishing season at its end. Another sign that winter is around the corner.
Forty pounds of purple on my back. That’s about the same weight I lost the past 3 years. Hard to believe my bodyweight 4 years ago, was all this. I had an epiphany about my pack today. I haven’t had to actually hike with a backpack in a long time, so I’m almost a newbie at this, but not. I should have known better. Usually I wear my pack lower on my hipbones. But I realized that if I wear my backpack higher, it releases more pressure from the shoulders. Tah-dah! Freedom!
Just as we thought we were winning some grounds, we kind of got lost around Governor’s Pool. We spoke to the sweet couple who owns the old Governors lodge and quickly accepted their offer for a cold ice water bottle. We sat and chatted with the misses while the man went hunting for our trail. There’s no way I was going backwards. I was admiring the river, down that cliff, from the deck and that was going to be my direction, whether the boys followed me or not.
After giving us permission to walk through their land, off we went again on the old trail. But within 200m, we got lost. Not lost lost, but couldn’t find the trail or the ribbons. I wanted to follow the old trail- but the boys were persistent in trying to find the new cut. We climbed in an uncut forest, up and over and around dead trees, in hopes of finding blue ribbons, but to no avail. It was decided to go down towards the river again. And bam, blue ribbons. This was a “I told you so” moment. Long story short, I was accused of not speaking up- cause, need I say, I was right- but I figured I wouldn’t argue with Mr. Trail Master and Mr. volunteer-who’s-been-cutting-trail for 4 years. Who was I to say anything! It’s all good, we laughed it out.
** Updated Post facts: we found out after the hike that the new trail – the Old Governor’s Lodge bypass- was only flagged the day after we were there. Jason and I went and cut the trail a few days after we got home.
We’re camping out not too far from where we met our new friends, at Blue Ledge Ridge road. Cutting it shorter than expected. But it’s ok. You just have to accept it and move on. Bottom line, we’re not in a race. I was able to wash and cool off in the river. But I’m too tired to write in my diary. Even though the company is great, it took every ounce of energy to stay up by the fire. I stayed long enough to admire the wonderful sunset colours up the river.
A little shorter day than expected today. Tomorrow will be a new day!
Sunday, September 20th, 2018
The tent is dry this morning- no dew- packing is going to be perfect!
Those are hopes that lasted 2 minutes. A few drizzles came down, just enough for the universe to make a mockery of my thoughts. Had to pack everything in the tent in order to keep things dry. We decided to pack up and leave- we’ll have a snack on the road.
The Mi’gmaq trail follows the Nepisiguit River. When in doubt, find the river. The trail is probably not too far away. I like hiking by the river. The sound is comforting, and I never get sick of the beauty it portrays. Sometimes you don’t see far ahead, and other times, there’s a shadow of a mountain at the foot of the river. Nature never cease to amaze me.
The terrain is rough today. Again. Going over mossy glacial deposit of rocks… or something like that. Jason is always full of interesting historical facts, which adds to this experience. He explained the turtle sign to us in details earlier. The Mi’gmaq Trail Turtle logo has four colours: white, yellow, black and red, representing the people of the land from four directions- the white people, up in the north territories, yellow is the Mi’gmaq people from the far East, the black people from the south, and finally the red ones from out West. Intriguing how the Mi’gmaq knew about the East people. How did they know? But they knew. In the upper center of the logo, is the silhouette of the ancestors facing the rising sun, also showing as a mountain ridge, where you find the flowing river at the bottom.
This is just brief explanation. I’ll leave the details to the experts. I have a very deep respect for our native ancestors. They knew the land. They respected it and learned how to live with it, not against it. Wish I could have a chat with some of my great grand grand parents. They were native.
Thank you Mother Earth, Father Sky and Grandmother Moon for looking after us.
As I am carefully walking over and around these mossy rocks, I am remembering my Grosse Morne hike with Samuel and Dad about 5 years ago. The long range trail. The memories are forever printed in my memory. We nearly pressed the “panic” button that week after being mis-informed. Trying to find our way by crossing over tuckamore trees, up and down numerous valleys… of tuckamore trees. It was painful and frustrating. But still one of my best memories of all time. I am trying to see if this compares to Grosse Morne. It sure is tough. I think I’m driven by this kind of challenge though. It’s hard- it’s tough, but I am truly enjoying every step. Jason says it’s in the Daigle’s blood. We’re weird that way.
Walking for hours will stir up funny conversations. As we’re walking by tons of droppings, naturally, we start talking about poop. The human species is the only animal who wipes their ass. As far as we know anyway. Maybe there’s a monkey species in a jungle somewhere that also likes keeping their privates cleaned. Weird conversations.
We played the alphabet game, where we take our turns in naming something that starts with each letter. Category was “something you eat”. Apparently, Jalapeño starts with H. The game only entertained us for one round. Weird conversations.
I spotted a partridge. And another. It’s a family. Pweeot pweeot pweeot. We are disrupting their little venture. One of billions of other living things in this world, just going on with their busy lives. We can tell we scared them, our apologies… we’ll just keep going our merry way. I got no pictures. I tried but you couldn’t see clear. You’ll just have to believe me on this one.
We also hiked by a few abandoned moose stands. How the heck did they carry all this stuff all the way up here anyway? And, WHY would you try to hunt a moose on a lake, THIS FAR? I havn’t hunted moose yet, but I’m already learning from Jason.
We climbed up to this incredible ridge trail. Though we couldn’t see the river, we knew it was far down on our left, with a peak of the sky view between the trees. On the right, we came to this lake. Lakes on top of mountains amazes me for some reason. And then there it was, Mount Denys. The famous Nicolas Denys- a courageous soul that is almost forgotten and under-appreciated. Climbing Mount Denys would be a 3 hours detour. We’ll save that for a colourful fall day.
So, I had my second epiphany. My hip bones have been hurting from my bag and I was trying to protect it with my towel. But then I realized that by putting the towel on my hips, it probably created even more pressure. Law of physics. So, to counter balance the pressure, I place the towel on my belly, imitating a fat belly, I suppose?, and it did the trick! Freedom #2.
We took a break at Indian Falls Depot. We are just about to do section O-P… ? I’m not really taking track or paying attention to the section letters and names or km’s we are doing. I’m just hiking. One step in front of the other. I came less than a month ago for a group hike. If my memory serves well, it’s a nice hike. I told the boys there are a few ups and downs, but not bad. Should be easy.
Let me rephrase that. It’s an absolute gorgeous part of the trail, following the river, with A LOT of BIG ups and downs… and ups and downs… and oh, another up… and more downs. My memory failed me. It often does. I have a bad memory. Maybe it’s a selective memory. Bottom line though, I guess there’s a big difference between a day hike and a multi-day hike… with 40lbs on your back. My 40lbs of purple. I should call my bag Popple. Remember those stuffed Popples dolls? You could flip them in a ball. I had a purple Popple. It fits.
The trail is well beaten here up to the 44 Mile Brook, making it a great “clean” walk, but we were all very happy to finally set camp. The loud river almost called us there. Allen’s rocks.
I found a private spot and stripped down naked to take a river bath. Me, nature, river, forest, I felt freeeee.
Monday, September 21st, 2018
I fell asleep and woke up to the sound of the river. I could easily live with that every day. Almost a waterfall. We practically have to yell to hear each other talk.
We took time to eat breakfast this morning. Another one of those “add-water” backpacking-food thingy. Surprise in a bag. Some are good. Some are gross. It’s a hit or miss. It’s food, calories. I don’t know why I opted for the pre-made meals. I kept it simple the other times I’ve hiked trails. Jason and Alfred are already dreaming about pizza.
Seemed like the perfect spot to camp… until take off. We slept at the feet of a big climb. Definitely a heart pumper within 20 feet. But the extra physical work brought me to a moment of gratitude. I am super thankful I am able to do this hike. A lot of people can’t- whether physical limitation, health, or time, etc. I have my health, good friends, family, freedom…and these legs to get me up this mountain. I’m lucky.
I like hiking with good company, but I do enjoy being by myself too. It’s never really silent in the forest. If you really listen, the trees talk…the leaves. It’s windy today, so the trees chitter-chatter is louder. “Gaywatq”- Jason says. But even yesterday when there was no wind, you can hear them talk. So much life here on the trails. It’s soothing.
And then my own mind breaks the peacefulness. Guess what- those weird conversations? I have them in my own head too. I’m walking by all those droppings… or animal pool… or animal sh**… I remember when mom would say the word sh** and cover her mouth right after- in shame of saying a bad word. I use to tell her, “but mom, we sh** every day, it’s natural, it’s not swearing.” Weird conversations.
I wonder if mom would have done something like this with me. I bet I could have convinced her. She would love it. I should take more pictures. I need good pictures. For work. I shouldn’t be thinking about work here. Back to present moment. Back to present moment. Breathe. Big deep breath. Did I mention anything about the smell out here? Another thing to appreciate about nature. Nature’s fragrance. *Big deep breath. Sigh of appreciation.
I stumbled on a rock and landed harder than usual. I think I peed my pants a little. My pack is finally molding to my body. It feels good. But I am annoyed with my water bottle situation. Since I started wearing my pack higher, I can’t – or barely- reach my water. I should have brought my hydration pack. Oh well.
I hear the boys chatting not too far behind. I’ll take a breather and wait for them to catch up. We eventually reach the 40 Mile Brook and took a nice break before our last stretch to Heathe Steel Bridge, where Alfred’s truck was waiting. Another refreshing dip for moi- mainly a feet soaker in the cold river, followed by a semi-nap- mostly starring at the trees and sky, while Jason and Alfred conversed by the water.
The trail is full of surprises. Chimney, core samples, moose stands, old rusty cans left behind by loggers most likely and this random blue safety hat carefully placed on a dead log.
Although it’s windy, the weather is extremely hot today. Once in a while, the forest creates this natural conditioner- it’s usually darker, where minimal sun penetrates through. Need lots of water. A lot of the brooks are actually dry. But with this water purifier, you can grab water from the river. We got the MSR Trailshot Microfilter. For the price, you really can’t go wrong. It’s light and easy to use. You might have to be a little patient as it does take some time to fill up a water bottle, and when you’re tired, you can easily get fatigued and annoyed with the pumping action. Details.
We filled up our bottles on a beautiful creek just before reaching Alfred’s truck, where he welcomed us with a big smile of accomplishment. His journey was done. We estimated another 3 good days of hiking before Middle Landing. Things are going well. We savoured an electrolyte drink offered by Alfred and decided to keep going another 4km for camp.
I’m in a short section that is breathtaking. Although I hiked it over a month ago, I don’t think I appreciated it as much as I am now. Again, this lush green colour all around. No shortage of moss. A green carpet-covered rocky trail. This gigantic old cedar has died after a very long life. Probably over 300 years old. The size is impressive.
I’m soaking in every bit of energy I can from this place. I feel like I’m in a fairy tale. I love cedars. I think they are my favorite trees. The big ones. If only these trees could talk- they have seen so much. I talk to them all the time. I know they are listening. And if you pay real close attention, it’ll give you advice. Yep- a tree hugger. People would think I’m nuts!
According to Jason and Samuel, this section is one of the hardest parts of the trail. And we had the brilliant idea to do it at the end of a very warm day. Smart or stupid. Regardless, we did it. Around 24-25km today. Am I ever happy to take these boots off!
Another short night: set up tent, bathe, eat, pull up food in tree (cause it is bear country right in this zone), foot care… bedtime. Jason and I share the tasks. I set up camp, he makes the fire. Funny how you can make a home anywhere. One minute there’s leave, dead branches, trees and nature, the next minute, there’s a “house”, clothes line, “kitchen” and fire. It feels normal.
The wind suddenly shifted. Not a good sign. There was forecast of the tail end of hurricane tomorrow. Maybe we’ll be lucky and it’ll bypass us.
Tuesday, September 22nd, 2018
The rain was on and off through the night. It woke me up a few times. But we have a dry start to the day, which is promising. We’re starting to be very good at packing up fast- compare to the first morning. I have it down perfectly now.
The trail follows the river for a while this morning. Then it goes across a beaver pond. You can see the trail a bit, but you can tell it hasn’t been travelled much, yet. Follow the turtles, or the ribbons. Lots of hiking on and around mossy covered rocks again too. Some would call it the ankle twisters. Knock on wood that we’ve bypassed and avoided all injuries. A few blisters and that’s it.
Do you ever feel like the river is talking to you?
Didn’t take long to find our first climb… what goes up, must come down. Cliché. No switch-backs. When they cut the trail, they decided, straight up, straight down. No mercy on the ones carrying 40lbs. Ha. I never thought I’d like hiking with poles. THANK Goodness I have one (sharing the second with Jason). It would have sucked without poles. I like climbing way better than the descents.
Annnnnnd, here’s the heavier rain. I feel like the trees are opening a pathway for me and protecting me from the rain with their arms. It’s almost majestic.
I love snowshoeing during huge snowstorms- it can be a complete white-out in open fields, but yet, a beautiful day in the trails- a natural shelter. I use to love golfing in the rain. When you can’t do anything about it, might as well make the best of it, right?
Hopefully it won’t get worse. I can handle this weather.
Just as I was saying that, I spot a partridge on the trail ahead of me. And two, and three. A whole family again. I keep going. Jason reached me not too long after and told me he spotted them too. As we’re climbing up a ridge, we stop to take a bite of an energy bar, and we both spot movement down in the valley. At first, I thought it was birds, but quickly realized it was a few deer. At least 4 – jumping through the trees. Man, I wish I would’ve been closer to them.
That made our day. The ferns however, did not. The rain is getting worse, and to top it off, we are hitting fern country. Ferns are super pretty… usually. But when they are wet, everything else is just…WET. Luckily, I have my gaiters. I’m dry. Relatively dry. My feet are dry.
Jason went ahead as I had to re-adjust my bag and take a leak. And, just like that, Jason is out of sight. I have to admit, this is not my favorite part of the Mi’gmaq. Not because it’s pouring rain- but just the terrain and surroundings. I’m almost running to catch to him. He must have switched it to 5th gear. I feel surprisingly really good though. I was tired but seems like I just got a second wind. It’s wet, but I’m still enjoying this.
“I’m siiiiinging in the rain…..”
I caught up to Jason, but no words are exchanged, until we finally reach and stop at the J access point. Jason takes a decision to call it quits and walk the 2kms out. His feet are SOAKED and cold. I either come out with him, or keep going alone. I don’t really want to stop, but I also don’t really want to hike without Jason. Doing it together was the fun. So, I guess that’s it, 14kms in the rain got the best out of a hiker’s equipment failure. 90 to 100km is not too shabby.
As we walked up the road, we pondered on what we loved the most about this experience. I just love being out here- in the wild, the odour, the tranquillity of the forest- out of civilization and responsibilities. There’s nothing superficial about it here. It’s pure and peaceful. It’s what life should be.
We hit the SPOT- and waited.