30 July 1999

Shubenacadie & the tides

We had decided that we needed to be up at 7, to the airport by 8 and on the road by 9. Through some sort of mix up, we ended up rising at 6 and didn't realize we were an hour early until it was time to leave. We figured we'd just take the scenic route...

Got the rental car... We'd reserved a mid-size...Chevy Cavalier...and somehow ended up with a luxury-class, sporty, red Volvo...leather seats, electric everything...too, too chic! I also bought some Canadian money at the airport. Not the best exchange rate but I didn't have to go looking for a bank either. I gave them $120 US dollars and got back about $170 Canadian.

We hit the road in fog but had no trouble finding the way. We turned off of Hwy 102 at exit 10 and instead of heading to Maitland (to the left), we went right because we had lots of time to kill and hadn't had breakfast yet. We found a quaint little cafe in Shubenacadie where we could get bagel, eggs, bacon, juice, coffee, etc for both of us for barely $5 CA total.

We loaded us back into the car and headed for the Doane's at South Maitland.

We met them and got acquainted over tea/coffee and collected the packages that I had mailed ahead...the camp stove, (empty) fuel bottle and the tarp poles. Apparently, someone decided that duty needed to be paid on the items so we paid back the $10 that the Doanes had to pay to "ransom" my packages. Then Keenan and I got in Jean's car for a land tour of the tidal effect. We got on the little secondary highway in front of their house and headed north to bay coast. She took us to Burntcoat Head...a small park at the mouth of the bay off of the Bay of Fundy that eventually becomes the Shubenacadie river that runs along the Doanes' property. There is a lighthouse on the Head that is in the process of being reconstructed and turned into an interpretive center. We took the stairs up to the top, where the light would have been, to survey the whole area at low tide.

There was a treed "island" just off of the cliffs below the lighthouse. It reminded me of the island in "A Bug's Life" because, right now, there was a mud flat between the cliff and the island but at high tide, it was truly an island. Jean told us that the bay where we were is 20 Km wide and at low tide, it's all mud. At high tide, it's 20 Km of water between here and the far shore. That's a mind-boggling amount of water to image moving in and out twice a day!

We hiked out to the island...ok, "hiked" is too strong a word... But I was really glad that Jean had loaned us rubber knee boots because the term "mud" flats is all too accurate. The mud is very silty, very slick, and very thick in spots. It's also extremely dark and red...like tomato paste.

We walked all the way around the island. On the far side, we could tell the tide was starting to come in. At one point, I put my finger at the edge of the water with my hand/wrist/forearm straight above it. In less than a minute, my whole hand was covered with water.

We poked around in the little pools and puddles looking for critters. I expected them to be like tidal pools along the ocean, but it was very little like that. There were places where the rocks were covered with tiny barnacles, and in many of the pools we saw a lot of small hermit crabs but that was about the size of it. We didn't find any little shells that still had the original inhabitants in them, no little fish, no algae or seaweed, no crustaceans. There was some green, sort of slimy stuff growing on the rocks at the very bottom of the cliff but that was the only plant-type growth we really found in the mud-flat area. The top of the island was lush with green and trees and grass, though. It was a strange place.

We got back in the car and went back to the Doanes'. Jean took us to the top of the cliff by their cottage where we will be staying tonight. The cliff is about 200 feet tall and looks out over the Shubenacadie river across from Eagle's Nest Point.

We watched the river slowly start to flow the other direction (upstream) as the tidal bore pushed it's way toward us. There is a small riffle just upriver from the Doanes' that tells you when the bore has arrived because it begins to get quieter as the water deepens. The most amazing thing from this vantage point is that when the bore arrives, you can actually see the edge of the bore by the changing color of the water. As the tide comes in, it stirs up a lot of that red silt and the tidal water is very obviously more opaque than the fresh water coming downriver. Where the two meet, there is a very clear "edge" that shows the advancing tidal water.

Then the 4 of us got in Chalmers' van and we went to the bridge just outside of South Maitland to watch the main bore. We saw the Zodiac boats from the river runners coming upstream and plopped some stones off the bridge into the mud below. What a splat!! It gives a really good idea of what the consistency of the mud is like...sort of like pudding.

We got back in the van and headed for a smaller bridge over 5-Mile Creek. The "creek" was maybe a foot wide at the very center of the channel when we got there. A few minutes later, we could see the tidal bore just starting to come around a bend. I took a picture, then waited 10 minutes and took another picture. The water was about 10-15 feet wide at that point and still rising. If I'd waited another 15-20 minutes, I might have seen the creek banks filled but by then we were all starving so we went back to the Doanes' for lunch.

For dessert after lunch, Jean offered us a Nova Scotian delicacy that I developed a real fondness for...butter tarts!! They're sort of like pecan pie but without the pecans and just a few raisins or currants instead. Very rich, and very tasty!

After lunch, Keenan and I moved into the cottage and I think everyone but me took a nap. I wandered around the property, watched the Shubenacadie flow upstream at full tide, wandered past the tennis court to the far end of the golf course and found a stairway that went down the steep cliff to about where high tide comes to. The tide was on the way out and I sat there and watched the tide receding from a little side channel and the freshwater stream start flowing downhill again. I plopped some flinty stones into the muck and marveled again at the color, texture and consistency of the goo.

Later, after everyone rose from naps, Keenan and I played a round of golf with Chalmers on the 7-acre, 6-hole course he built behind his tennis court. Keenan had golfed some before so it wasn't completely foreign to him. I've never held a club before so I didn't expect to be any good. Chalmers is extremely competitive. He was gracious enough about instructions and being helpful and companiable but the important thing was the winning. Keenan and I didn't even bother to keep score, but Chalmers never lost track. I came to the conclusion that he doesn't enjoy competition (otherwise he wouldn't have been the least interested in playing with such rank amateurs as us), he enjoys the winning. It got to be a bit much by the end of the round. Thank goodness we had dinner reservations and didn't have time for a second round!

We went to Captain Douglas House in Maitland for supper. Maitland has a lot of beautiful, historic homes and Capt. Douglas House is one that has been made into a restaurant. The interior is beautifully furnished with period pieces and the staff are dressed in costume of the era. It's like being invited into someone's home for a very nice meal. The 4 of us really enjoyed the food...fish and bread and salads and beer and dessert. The bill came to $73 CA for all of us.
We returned to the Doanes' and Chalmers was eager to have us play pool with him. He has a "pool room" set up in the barn...a finished room outfitted with a table, some barstools and the necessary lights/cues/etc for shooting pool. We played me/Keenan against Chalmers. I didn't keep track, but I'm sure Chalmers won. He was still raring to go at 10:30 but I was whupped and really wanted to go to sleep. Keenan went back to the cottage with me and I sacked out immediately in the bedroom. I think he was up for a little while after that.