Before I begin the story of the trail in New Brunswick, I think it is time to talk about 500 Days.
When the idea of this journey was born it needed a name; I knew that it would take a long time, and 500 days sounded like a long time. Now that I am 148 days on the trail I think I can state the obvious, the journey is going to take me more than 500 days. And in a way that is one of the ways the journey has already changed me.
When I first began in Newfoundland I plotted out my intended destinations, and then pushed hard to meet them.
After a few weeks I realized the futility of that exercise. I surrendered to the fact that my destination was wherever I was at 5:00pm.
All I can do is stay faithful to each day moving forward and be present with what unfolds. This ain’t the amazing race and I am not jacked up on some caffeinated soft drink racing against a clock. Think more Bob Marley riding a turtle. I was born in 1965 and one of my first memories is my mother singing a Doris Day song with a french accent, “ que sera, sera, whatever will be will be, the future is not ours to see, que sera, sera, what will be, will be. “
And so it is.
New Brunswick and the Dobson Trail
Since beginning the trail in New Brunswick on Dec.31st from the Confederation bridge I have cross country skied 7 days, mountain biked 2 days, hiked 2 days and snow shoed 5 days. I was able to do this because I had some logistical support from my co producer Ann Verrall, a local New Brunswick filmmaker, Pamela Gallant, and a basecamp in St Damien. I have been in contact with Poul Jorgensen, the Executive Director of New Brunswick Trails Council who has also been kind and helpful as I plot out my winter route.
Right now I am at the 25km mark of the Dobson Trail. This trail in winter is one of the best trails I have ever been on in my life.
And if you do plan on doing it, buy a copy of a small pocket book called, On Foot To Fundy. Hiker’s Guide Book. This little book is the holy bible of the 58km trail and comes with a great map. Buy one and then get out and hike this undiscovered gem in the winter. It weaves by brooks on a single track trail through snow covered tree boughs. It feels intimate because it is too small for any motorized vehicle or mountain bike, it has to be hiked or snowshoed in winter.
In summer months the marshes and rivers attract a lot of bugs but in winter the sounds of moving water are just part of natures lullaby. The first 20km I followed a narrow trail cut by a few snow shoer’s but then the trail became virgin snow so I followed the blue dots.
I have so much gratitude for the volunteers who made this trail, the carved signs, the small camping sites, everything feels like a home cooked meal not a fast food joint. I think painting the spots red or orange instead of blue would make them much easier to see. But I do like how the blue blends in better, not such a noisy presence.
I left five days ago and spent two nights camping and then hiked out Sandhill trail because my cooking stove stopped working so i intended to just go to St. Damien to pick up my back up stove and quickly return to the trail. But when I got back to the farmhouse I found my uncle’s house burning down.
He was cooking breakfast when he saw smoke coming into the kitchen from the cellar door. And for the next few hours watched his house, and the home his father had been born in burn down to the ground. That night he stayed with me and now he is staying in a cottage next to the house he was born in, Mamere’s house down the hill. St. Damien has only 50 people living here, but Walter has many homes. He lost everything but just a few days later and already he has five winter coats and 3 new pairs of boots. He cried when he told me how moved he was that so many people were being so kind. His daughters have set up a gofundme page to help him out. https://www.gofundme.com/phkgtdtj
So for the past three days, since hiking out from Sandhill, I have been hiking sections of the Dobson every day but coming back to St Damien. And I have been able to do this because of my cousin Ricky Leblanc helping me out with logistics. He was also the one who got me hooked up with a cheap 20 dollar sled to pull some of my weight on the trail. At first when the trail was hard packed it was easy to pull all my weight on the sled but as the trail became just a set of snow shoe tracks and the fallen logs and branches the sled became a bit cumbersome so I started carrying the backpack and just pulling 15 pounds on the sled so it floated on top of the snow instead of sinking down.
With all my weight I am lucky to do 6km in a day. But as a day hike yesterday had no problem doing 12km of the trail from Tower Road to Berryton. Shelly Steeves of Global TV Moncton came out and did a fun piece on the journey and filmed the first few minutes with my new sled on the trail. You can see the interview here. http://globalnews.ca/news/2461174/filmmakers-24000-km-journey-across-canada-passes-through-riverview/
I look forward to getting back to the trail this week with my camping gear but grateful my broken stove brought me back to St. Damien to be with my uncle Walter this week. When I left on this long journey I followed my heart not my logical mind. My mind says push, not stop. It looks at the time and consumes itself with speed and distance. But my heart says stop, be with this moment, this is everything.