The Climbs - The Maritimes: Mount Carleton, Glen Valley
& White Hill
James and Len set out in mid-May for
the highpoint of the three Maritime Provinces: New Brunswick,
Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. Atlantic Canada provides
visitors with a unique Canadian culture of friendly hospitality
that is honed to near perfection over generations of people who
have carved out niches among beautiful landscapes and multitudes
of picturesque oceanic coves. Highpointing the Maritimes is about
taking in what Atlantic Canada has to offer, setting time aside
to smell the forests and the sea, and of course consuming a lobster
… or two.
The journey first took the boys to
Mount Carleton in New Brunswick. Despite its relatively low elevation
of 820 m (2,680 feet), they did manage to get into the clouds,
as tradition would have it. After all, what’s a summit that
doesn’t involve piercing the clouds? Doing a reconnaissance
of the area the day prior to highpointing Mount Carleton paid
off with finding a quick route that linked into the Park summit
trail via a logging road that tapered into a nice short-cut trail.
Moose, grouse, the odd black bear and, of course, white throated
sparrows were featured residents. The old fire tower that was
utilized by the Forest Service until 1968 was close to the actual
highpoint. This is definitely a hike worth taking, especially
when one realizes and ponders the fact that 400 million years
of mountain erosion have reduced the Appalachian mountains from
Himalayan sized proportions to an altitude that is very manageable
in a couple of hours of hiking. Mother Nature is a truly tireless
Crazy as they are, as soon as they
completed Mount Carleton, James and Len then decided to drive
directly to PEI, and were able to highpoint this beautiful island
the same day on May 14. This trip also included another lesson
in how bad the placement of villages can be on Google Earth. Do
not depend on Google Earth for locations of towns or villages
as reference points; just use the imagery. High-pointing on PEI’s
potato field (142 m, 466 feet) is one thing, driving over Confederation
Bridge which spans 13 km of ocean to get to PEI is another! This
internationally famous Canadian bridge really is amazing. Most
of the curved bridge is 40 metres (131 ft) above water, and it
contains a 60 m (197 ft) high navigation span to permit ship traffic.
A resident potato farmer informed us that a number of islanders
still take the ferry instead of the bridge. This can involve substantially
more driving time to get to the ferry (plus time on the ferry)
than simply driving over the Confederation Bridge. Why do they
do this? He mentioned it’s because of their fear of heights.
If you spent a lot of time residing on PEI, you could see that
such a perspective is possible given the island’s low profile;
regardless, the ferry crossing is also a must for either coming
or going just for the added experience of the crossing.
After summiting two peaks in one day,
the evening was spent sleeping on the dunes of the north beach
of PEI and being entertained by spring peepers (frogs) …
of which was definitely the highlight for James; he loved the
playback feature on Len’s tape recorder so that it would
be twice as deafening! But where were James’ earplugs for
Len’s snoring when he needed them?
As a bonus, we
include here a sample of what these noisy lil critters actually
sound like. This recording is only 47 seconds long, but ... hmmmm,
it's difficult to imagine James & Len actually got any sleep
this night considering how much louder this must have been in
person and considering how long this "chorus of frogs"
probably went on for.
"PEI Spring Peepers (Frog Songs)"
The third summit of this trip was White
Hill of Cape Breton Highlands, Nova Scotia via the Lake of Islands
trail (old fire road). The weather could not have been better
and the snow had disappeared from the highlands. This is a trek
that should be taken when the black flies are not in force, unless
you truly are a masochist, so our timing was good. The mud holes
that can pull your boots off are a bonus feature (not), along
with an abundance of more moose antler drops. The bulls grow a
new set of antlers every year, just to impress one another and,
of course, the opposite sex.
If it wasn’t for the old fire
roads, getting to White Hill through an unbelievable never-ending
entanglement of small, densely packed spruce trees would be an
undertaking that would have to span a week (if one was lucky)
rather than a full day trek one way. Along the way, we were wondering
why most of the cow moose were heading in the direction of White
Hill; would calving season have something to do with it? If so,
caution would be in order. Len recalled having narrowly survived
life threatening storms and plummeting, bone-chilling temperatures,
and having avoided being taken out by avalanches and dangerous
falling glacial seracs while on previous expeditions in the pursuit
of the summits of Canada. But this time we almost bit it a mere
couple hundred meters from the top of White Hill when we suddenly
came across and startled a cow moose that had just given birth
to two twin moose, the next generaton of highpointers. Now that
would have been a truly Canadian way of meeting our creator. Fortunately,
Mama Moose remained still despite all indications of a potential
charge as we cautiously retraced our steps and circled around
to carry on with our quest. And as such, the Royal Canadian Geographic
Society flag was once again raised on May 16 atop White Hill,
with a perfect breeze to keep it aloft. It was then twenty-two
kilometers back to the vehicle with another overnight bivy thrown
in for good measure, and completion of the Cabot trail with a
hearty lobster feast waiting in Cheticamp.
Back in Cheticamp, we recalled the
fun & adventures from this trip, and while easy in terms of
actual “highpoint” climbing required, it was not without
its challenges. We also started looking forward to a few of the
remaining peaks yet to be experienced on our journey to bring
this great country’s peaks and its natural settings and
cultures to Canadians and the world. At this point, we asked the
waitress serving us clam chowder and lobster dishes, “What
unites us as Canadians despite the extent and diversity of our
country”. Her reply was thoughtful and quick, “It’s
because we’re friendly and we tolerate people that span
this nation of ours”. She’s right of course. And what
more can we say except: Oh Canada!? :)
James atop Mount Carleton, New
(817 m, 2,680 ft)
James: flying the colours of the
Royal Canadian Geographic Society
Confederation Bridge - 60 m (197
ft) above sea-level at its highpoint
James: atop PEI's "highpoint"
in the middle of a potato field (142 m, 466 ft).
(And no ropes, tents, oxygen bottles, parkas, gloves,
crampons, etc. required. Nice!)
PEI - North Shore
James’ attempt to avoiding
losing his boots in the muck on the way to White Hill!
Len: Canadian Highland Moose Antler
Unhappy mama moose with her hackles
up, ready to protect her 2 young calves.
"Nice moose, Niiiiiiice Moose-moose. We'll just
retreat back the way we came in."
Len atop White Hill, the peak
of Nova Scotia (532 m, 1,745 ft).
Le Gabriel Restaurant @ Cheticamp
– highly recommended for its sea food dishes!
Prince Edward Island
the Summits of Canada Expedition Team - Since 2006
"Teaching Canadians and the World about Canada
- One Step At A Time"