During the summer of 2009, my friend Dan and I decided to take an independent road trip through the southeastern side of Canada to mark our graduation from high school. Our goal was to spend three weeks camping every night, and hiking every day, and discovering what was up there to explore.
Our trip began Monday, June 15, with a ceremonial shaving of our heads. This was a dramatic change seeing as both of us previously had hair grown to our shoulders. The feeling of baldness was the main topic of choice during the 14-hour drive to our first destination, Fundy National Park, New Brunswick. Music was often interrupted by the over-dramatic tossing of a head and an exclamation of “I feel so much lighter!” We arrived in Fundy at around 2 in the morning, and passed out in the car without even a thought of pitching a tent. We awoke early the same morning to start our first hike, the Coppermine Loop. This was a fairly easy way to start the day with a few scenic views over the Bay of Fundy. A side trip brought us down to the rocky seashore, where we rested before lunch. After a second, easy hike to Dickson Falls, we headed back to the car and started our drive to the Hopewell Rocks, where we stayed the night.
Hopewell was an amazing park where we were given the chance to literally walk on the sea floor for a few hours while the dramatic 3-story tides of Fundy were at bay. The erosion caused by the tidal changes made for some unique rock formations, which we admired for a short time before the tide began to return and we were rushed back to the safety of the elevated trails.
After another long drive we arrived at the Cabot trail and Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia. One of the most amazing things about this part of the trip was camping in an area so dark, we didn’t even realize we were next to an enormous rock face until we woke the next morning. That day we hiked the 1,200ft Franey Mountain, an intermediate loop that gave us a spectacular view over the northern tip of the Cabot Trail.
Next stop was Forillon National Park in Quebec. This beautiful seaside park offered a great place for some leisurely walks along the ocean and a side trip to a waterfall and a lighthouse. We spent the night camped next to an old bunker. We felt cool.
Next on the list was Gaspésie National Park, where it rained the entire time of our stay. Originally we had intended to hike the Mount Albert Trail, but because the trails were completely flooded, we were advised to take a shower instead, which we did. This stop wasn’t without adventure, however, a drive up the side of a mountain treated us to a beautiful waterfall and a daredevil moose, who decided it would be fun to try and play chicken with our car.
It was at this point we realized that we were about a day ahead of schedule, which called for a side trip to Sugarloaf Park, New Brunswick. The drive there was spectacular and the park offered some fun trails and a great spot for lunch.
From there we headed over to Parc Du Bic, my personal favorite on the trip because of its beauty. The ocean was spotted with humps of land emerging from the sea. It was a natural beauty I had never experienced before (that was before I met Katie, of course). One that you just can’t help but sit and try to commit to memory. However, the trails here were uninspiring, and paled in comparison to the simplicity of viewing the park from ground level.
The next few days were spent in the city, where we split our time between Montreal and Quebec. The change in habitat was a little odd at first, but we soon transitioned and were awed by what the two cities had to offer. The culture was lively, the people welcoming, and visiting was a fun experience.
Gatineau Park was our final hiking stop on the trip, and it was by far the coolest. After a long hike through the woods, we were rewarded with the Lusk Caverns, a limestone tunnel carved through the earth that is just big enough to hike through. This was an unexpected treat for the area, and was a great way to end the hiking on our trip.
Next stop was Toronto and, of course, the Toronto Zoo. This, again, was quite a transition, and it was becoming increasingly hard to find camping spots in the city. The Zoo was awesome, all day affair. We probably burned just as many calories trying to see each and every animal exhibit as we did hiking After the zoo we headed out for the last stop on our trip, Niagara Falls.
This trip was an amazing way to experience our new post-high school independence, and reignited my passion for hiking and adventure. Oh, and Dan liked it, too. Go Canada!