Sunday, August 25, 2013

Day 39: The Bay of Fundy at High Tide

Fredericton to Moncton
180 kilometers, 1:48 hours

Many years ago a friend of ours who liked to travel got both Dan and me interested in the Bay of Fundy because of its extreme tidal action. Depending on the season, the weather, and the location, the tide may rise and fall as much as forty-five or fifty feet in twenty-four hours. One of our major objectives for this trip was to observe this tidal action, both at high tide and at low tide. My research indicated that the most dramatic place to observe this phenomenon was at the Rocks Provincial Park, near Hopewell, usually called Hopewell Rocks.

After a short drive from Fredericton, we checked into our motel then drove another half hour to Hopewell Rocks. The weather was perfect, sunny with a mild breeze. The road follows the border of a river that was the color of chocolate milk; the water was thick with warm-brown mud. The level was low, showing that the banks of the river were just reddish mud with no visible rocky support. It was yucky. I mean, after the beautiful blue Saint John River that had been our companion for a couple of days, or the wonderful Saint Lawrence in Ontario and Quebec, a muddy river is a let-down. For tourism it is known as the Chocolate River, but its real name is the Petitcodiac.

At the cliffs overlooking the Bay of Fundy, where the Petitcodiac meets the Atlantic ocean, we looked down on porous rock formations known as the Flower Pots. The soft rock has been worked by the action of the ocean into hour-glass shapes with conifer crowns. It was about four o'clock, an hour and a half to high tide. Kayakers were circling the formations and even threading the arches; shallow strips of beach were still visible against the cliffs. I didn't get good photos of the flower pots; these shots are from other points along the cliff.

About 1 1/2 hours to high tide at Hopewell Rocks

This staircase is not open to the public.
The Bay is near high tide. The beach is under water.

To get to the staircase that gives access to the beach at low tide, we had to walk about a half an hour. The path had several interesting points with views of the bay, but it was so steep that I began to worry about the return climb. By the time we arrived in the tourist area, I was panicked, but we soon learned that a shuttle was available for $2, so I relaxed and had fun.

We descended the staircase as far as was allowed; a chain blocked access to the beach and the staircase was crowded with gawkers watching the water creep slowly up the little beach at the bottom. You can't exactly see it rise like water in a bath-tub, but by checking various markers every few minutes, you see the water is rising. You can also see the current flowing forward in little ripples.

We walked farther down the cliff to a shore that was closed to the public and occupied by a mighty tribe of sand-pipers. They were too tiny and far away to be very interesting. I tried to get the ranger to run down there and scare them so I could make a movie of them in flight, but she said the birds needed to rest so they could make it to South America.

We walked back up to the staircase to the beach about ten minutes before the tide peaked, and looked at the views from the landings of the staircase; we could see the water was very high on the formations and the little beach was completely covered. The ramp the kayakers had used to access the bay was completely inundated. I watched the water until the tide started to recede. I felt the change right away. The current started to flow outward; the sound of the water changed; soon I could see that more of the formations and beaches was exposed than before. I found the whole process exciting and calming at the same time.

Our reservation at the Best Western Motel in Moncton was upgraded to an executive suite because we are Diamond members (I should bloody well hope so). This gives us two rooms, with a door between them, two TVs, two easy chairs, and a couch. Unfortunately the walls are the color of muck, making the rooms very cave-like and claustrophobic. Ironically, though we have more space, we have fewer places to put things.

For dinner we went to Pisces, a pretentious fish place next door to the pretentious Chateau Moncton. The interior was that same mud color as our room and the banks of the Petitcodiac, making it very dark and claustrophobic. The food and the service were first rate. Dan had local scallops and shrimp with roasted vegetables that he liked a lot. I had mixed seafood croquettes that were okay and a nice salad.

I couldn't help observing a fat and loudly dysfunctional family play out their drama over dinner, finally resulting in the louty, fat father marching the pouty, fat pre-teen daughter to the car for offending her haughty, fat mother.

Suddenly I burst out of the purgatorial eatery to enjoy the evening air along the muddy Petitcodiac. All along the bank of the river is a strip of park and a bike trail. By then I had accepted the muddy river, and by then, blue and silver reflections flickered in the muddy water.