Day two! I climbed a mountain! That’s right! A mountain! Located in Mt. Carleton Provincial Park, Mt. Carleton has an elevation of 820 m. It is the highest peak in the Maritimes. Yes, I know. The Grouse Grind has a higher elevation than that, by only 30 m. But this is New Brunswick. It’s a smaller province, hence smaller mountains. Besides, wait till you see the view. AND I climbed this by myself. No personal trainer to prod and poke me. Just me! Now, back to my story.
I finished work early on this day and I decided that I would have enough time to head over to Mt Carleton. It took me over two hours just to drive to this park from Grand Falls. All along the way there were the standard “Attention, Moose” signs, but did I see any? I saw rabbits. The closest I got to seeing moose were on the signs. And this one’s just a regular sign. There are larger signs with the big moose standing next to the small car and there are flashing yellow lights to remind us about Moose on the roads at night.
So after travelling all this way, passing all these moose signs, going bumpity bump on these pock-marked roads and then travelling on gravel roads, I finally made it to the park. I parked the car under the sign which said the park was open from 8am to 10pm. No problem. It was 3:45pm when I arrived. I’d have plenty of time to walk the trail. There was an $8 registration fee. No problem. I head in to the office and I’m greeted by the ranger. I told her I was going to hike the Mt. Carleton trail and then probably go see Williams Falls. She suggested I do the Mt. Carleton hike first and then on my return, go see the falls. She was even kind enough to tell me which trail to head up first, there are two. She said to just follow the green markers and sometimes it would be blue. Not a problem. She then told me that the park was closing early today at 8pm. Hmmm. I could still do it. The map said it’s two hours up one trail and the other trail is 1.5hrs. Not a problem. Then she told me that it was another 13 km to the Mt. Carleton trail parking lot. Hmmm. I paid and registered. She lifted the gate and I headed in. The drive in was slow and slightly nerve racking. Lots of pot holes and a few downed branches. If there’s on-coming traffic, then one of us is veering into the trees!
I see the signs leading to Mt. Carleton and finally reach the parking area at the start of the trail.
Okay. Time to test out the backpack. According to the map and the ranger, there are two trails. The ranger said to take the west trail to go up. It was also the longer trail at 5.2 km. Again, according to the map it’s about a 2hr hike. Right away I saw the green markers. There weren’t a lot of blue markers until about one hour into it. Along the way, I saw a lovely brook heading down as I was heading up. There were lots of stops, for the view and to catch my breath. And that’s when I noticed it. Scat. Animal droppings. Hmmm. I probably should’ve asked the ranger about wild animals. That was a lot of droppings in that one spot. Hmmm, there were lots of spots along the trail with droppings. And then I started to notice other things, such as the sound of birds. I noticed them before, as well as that wonderful smell of the outdoors. I think it’s called pine tree smell. But the sounds of the birds. It was fine when I heard then. It wasn’t so fine when I didn’t hear them. And of course it was probably all in my head, but when I didn’t hear the birds, I didn’t hear anything else. And then I started to think back to all those wilderness movies where the person is lost and then there is sudden silence, not even a bird chirping and that’s because there is a big, ferocious animal stalking the lost person. That thought lasted for about 2 minutes and then I started to walk a little faster. That lasted for about 15 minutes and then I had to stop and catch my breath again, I mean I had to stop and take a picture.
Not only was I testing out my backpack, but also testing Mini Aunty to see how she enjoys being in the photos. So far, so good.
Now as I’m getting higher, and more tired and out of breath, time was ticking. I reread the description of the trail on the map and begin to wonder if I’m ever going to reach the top. And that’s when I saw the sign, the indicator that I was almost there.
And what was my choice? I don’t need to cut short a mere 200 m. I stuck to the path. But hey! What’s with all the rocks? I still had to climb rocks, but I’m gonna guess that these were the easy rocks. But even then, it wasn’t easy. Even from the start of the rocks, I could not see the top of the mountain. Hmmm. And time is ticking. I’m already at the 2 hour mark. Not too much of a problem, I’ll just have to hurry down. Dammit there’s a grouse in my way. On the rock that I need to climb on too. Good! It’s moved on. Thank goodness it didn’t fly away and just waddled away behind another rock. As I’m huffing and puffing to the top, I have to stop. Really to catch my breath, but when I turned around, to sit on the rocks (yes it was safe to do so) I had a magnificent view.
But time was ticking. Time to get up from the rock or I’ll never move. And that would be a bad thing, or at a minimum embarrassing when I have to report back to my boss and explain why there is such a huge bill to pay for the search and rescue team that had to come and save me.
So I kept on going and finally, I could see the top. I knew it was the top, because the ranger had said, that I could climb up behind the cabin. And there was the cabin!
Now it was time to head back. According to the ranger, the shorter trail would start in front of the cabin. Not a problem. Found it. Saw the green spray paint on the rocks. I followed it all the down to the regular trail. She also said that there would be a connection with the pink trail (don’t go there) and then another connection with the black trail (also don’t go there). So I found the pink trail and then turned around and found the green spray paint and the trail. I started to follow it down, but after awhile, I didn’t see any green marks anywhere. Hmmm. But this was the only other trail. And it’s even on the map. As I’m continuing down this debris trail which is super rocky, I see up ahead that this debris trail is not very dry anymore, but there is a trickle of water headed in the same direction as I am, down hill. Hmmm. I continue on, since there is no other option, but to head back up. And the last thing I’m gonna do is head into the forest in search of a trail that may or may not be there. I finally reach a cabin and I think, well, if it’s not a trail, then there wouldn’t be a cabin and then I start to notice shoe prints in the mud. I knew from the start that someone else was walking this trail, because there was another car in the parking lot, but that didn’t necessarily mean this person was doing the exact same trail. But it was reassuring to see the foot prints in the mud. As I continue down hill, the trickle of water comes and goes and sometimes comes back like a little brook. Thank goodness my hiking shoes are waterproof. Shame my socks aren’t. Thank goodness my shoes are mud proof. Serious shame my sock aren’t.
Time is ticking. I probably should’ve asked the ranger what that means, that the park is closed at 8pm. But there was nothing I could do about it now. I keep going and finally I see the sign pointing towards the black trail and the one for the green trail. The good news was, I was on the right trail! The bad new was, I still had 2.9 km to go. REALLY?? I was never gonna get out of the park by 8pm. But I’ve got to keep going. I’ll deal with that ticking time issue later. First, I still have 2.9 km to go. And Damn it was rocky! But like the ranger said, this route would’ve been easier on the knees as compared to the one that I started with. But I wish she told me about the little brook I was now tramping through. Of course, walking in the brook cleaned off most of the mud so my car would be relatively clean and free of muddy shoe prints. Probably should’ve brought an extra pair of shoes.
Anyway, I finally made it to the car by 8pm. Of course I got a little lost trying to get out of the park, but I finally made it back to the park entrance at 830 pm. Any consequences for being late? No. It was a different park ranger that let me out and she was super nice about it and said that as long as I enjoyed myself, it was all good.
I CLIMBED a MOUNTAIN! I didn’t just enjoy myself! I OWNED that mountain! And of course I have a song playing as I’m driving away and this song will forever remind me of my first mountain! “We Own It (Fast and Furious)” by 2 Chains & Wiz Khalifa. Yes, I know it’s from the Fast & Furious 6 soundtrack and No I have no plans on seeing this movie nor any other in this franchise. But I still like the song. And it sounds great playing in the car!
Still no moose on the return trip. And even funnier is the ranger warned me to be careful heading down as there were lots of moose on the road. But that’s okay. I climbed a mountain!
Oh, and backpack? Failed the test. I’ll have to find another one when I get home. I think I’ll actually have to go buy one. Because all these tests are killer on my back and shoulders. Shoes? So far passed the test. And it was a pretty good test too.