Day Four: Work finished much earlier than I thought. It was a good group of people. And I really enjoyed my time here in New Brunswick. Usually, this type of training gets me very depressed and reinforces the bitter hope that I harbor, but they have turned my bitter hope into semi-bitter hope.
Right off, discussion was about my latest discoveries about New Brunswick. I had to disappoint them by telling them that I didn’t venture too far but went on a small hike to the Grand Falls Gorge and the restaurant that I chose for dinner. I also said that I would be going to Nackawic to see the World’s Largest Ax. They all laughed of course. But I had already told my coworkers back home that I was going to go. I also said I was going to hike the Maliseet Trail and I got several nods of approval. Many of them commented that since the weather on this day was dreary and rainy, the waterfall would actually be really impressive. They even said that since I was in the vicinity, I could stop by the longest covered bridge in the world. I told them I would pass on that since I had already seen it many years ago. I also told them where Gollum’s cave was located, near Grand Bay-Westfield, which is very close to Saint Johns. They were kind enough to warn me about ticks and Lime disease. Yay!
I think I have made some new friends here in New Brunswick.
Anyway, Class was done. It was time to pack up and head out, to see the Largest Ax in the world. It was a dreary enough day for it. But the Weather Network mentioned the possibility of thunder showers the next day. I didn’t really want to climb up to Gollum’s Cave if there were going to be thunder showers. But maybe it’ll be okay.
So I headed out in my trusty little rental car, heading west towards Nackawic. And as I’m driving, I see lighter-less-stormy looking clouds ahead. I’m speeding down this highway and I’m thinking, maybe I can climb to Gollum’s cave today? I will definitely get there in time to climb it and get back down with the sun still in the sky. We’ll see what the clouds will be like the closer I get to Nackawic.
As I continue onwards, the dark clouds are disappearing. And there’s a nice little waterfall on the side of the road. And that’s a funny looking animal by the side of the road. Gosh it’s awfully close to the side of the road. Gee that’s an ugly-looking deer. OH MY GOD!!! IT’S a MOOSE!!! Hurray! I’ve seen a moose. A moose without antlers, but still a moose! And it sure was shorter than I thought it would be, but maybe it was just a teenager. Or maybe it was because it was standing in the ditch below the road and it was actually a big moose. Whatever! I saw a Moose!
Okay, the sky looks good. Nackawic? See you later. I’m headed to Gollum’s Cave, which is actually in Welsford, not Grand Bay-Westfield. Depending on which web link you choose, it states two different locations. But I found more than one link indicating it was at Welsford. As I get closer to Fredericton, I see this big blue sign by the side of the road: Highway of Heroes. Oh. I had no idea that the Trans-Canada Highway 2 was the Highway of Heroes It’s a good highway. Very smooth. Okay onwards. Passed Fredericton. Hmmm. Rain. Not pleased now. But I’m committed now. And finally when I pass Gagetown, the blue sky appears. I made a good decision.
When I was doing my research on Gollum’s Cave, there was one particular link that had some great pictures and a map of the route. The description of the trail was great, except for one thing. I could not find the start of the trail.
I knew that I would be crossing a farmer’s field. And this field would have sheep. It also had horses. There was the yellow sign telling us to contact the ranger before setting off (which I did not do. And Yes, I realize that was very stupid of me and it will never happen again!)
I saw the picture of the “amazing tree” from the link but still I could not find the start of the trail. I could see where people had been traipsing through the field, but then it sort of faded away. So I went back to the tree. And I saw a trail, with lots of animal droppings. This had to be from the horses. But the trail didn’t go very far and seemed to just stop in the craziest places. So what did I do? I headed into the forest. I know, very stupid! Again, this will never happen again. But I made sure to stay within site of the farmer’s field. But still, very stupid of me. And it was just dumb luck that I came across the actual trail made by human beings.
As I continued along the trail, I finally came to the “First Aid” tree with the map telling you where to go. There were some notices as well, telling you what was out-of-bounds and what to stay away from. I looked at the map and was thinking that this was not a very good map since some markings looked very faded. But there it was on the map. “The Cave”. And there it was on the tree near the “First Aid” tree. The sign pointing towards Gollum’s Cave. And here’s another really stupid thing that will never happen again. I didn’t sign in at the “First Aid” tree.
It wasn’t long before I came upon rocks. Again? But I knew that there would be rocks. I also knew that I would have to do some searching for the cave as well. What I didn’t know was how high I would have to go. Now as I’m climbing up these rocks, reason and doubt started to seep in to my mind. For one thing, no one knew where I was. Everyone in the class thought I was going to Nackawic and then to the Maliseet Trail, which was an hour and half east of where I was. And everyone thought that Gollum’s Cave was near Grand Bay-Westfield which was 30 minutes or more west of where I was. And I didn’t call the ranger. And I didn’t sign in at the “First Aid” tree. I was an absolute moron. And what good is a cell phone if I’ve fallen from the rocks and been knocked unconscious or worse! Well, I’ll just have to make sure I don’t fall!
I’ve come this far, I have to keep going up. But it’s more because I haven’t figured out how to get down yet. And then I think I see it. Rocks set up kind of like the Inukshuk back home. That must be it. So I head in that direction, but there are downed trees in the way so I have to go around. And I make it…to the wrong cave. Where the heck is Gollum’s Cave? And which way do I go now to find it? Do I keep going up? Or do I go down? But then I see something that looks somewhat man-made. Is that a trail? So I head over there. But the only way down is on my butt and I’ve got to duck under the fallen tree. And I really wish I hadn’t left the insect repellent in the hotel room. One layer of repellent does nothing. My poor Lululemon capris. I’m gonna have to find more climbing friendly pants next time. Finally I’m down and that’s when I see it.
The cave entrance! There’s the sign. Gollum’s Cave! Hurray! It was pretty neat to see. It’s definitely not a cave, but still, someone gave it this name, so I had to go see it. There are shots of the cave standing from the outside looking in and then there are shots from the inside looking out. Looking at the pictures again now, I wish I had turned the flash off. It would’ve made for a much more interesting photo and more true to what I was actually seeing. Because there really is no light inside, except what comes through from the cave entrance. Looking out from the inside, all you see is the light in the crack. Everything else is dark, dark, dark. Oh well. I’ll still have my experience, even if it’s not captured properly in the photos.
Here are shots of the view from the cave. There was probably more to climb up to see, but anything further up would’ve required climbing gear i.e. ropes, which I did not have and would not know how to use even if I had it. Plus I had done enough dumb things today and managed to survive so far. I didn’t want to push my luck. And really, I wasn’t done yet. I still had to get down from the rocks. What I’ve noticed so far with rocks is that it’s easier to get up than it is to get down and there is a real possibility of getting stuck.
Well, since I’m writing about this adventure, I clearly made it back down, but let’s just say, I made it down to a different trail, which ultimately reconnected with the main trail. And my downward journey involved a lot of sliding butt.
Following the trail back down, I reached the beginning and realized where I went astray. The trail across the farmer’s field was slightly hidden by overgrown grass. I guess the sheep didn’t like that spot. Had I gone a little further, I would’ve reconnected with the trail in the field. Had someone mentioned that I should look for this tree, then I would’ve kept on going. Yes that “amazing tree” was amazing, but not helpful when looking for the trail.
Now that my hike was completed and I made it back to the field safe and sound, I could stop to admire the sheep. I don’t think they liked me. There was one that really didn’t like me. He was staring at me the whole time and “baa-ing” at me the entire time I crossed the field back to my car. This time around, I brought an extra pair of shoes to change into for the drive home. When I looked up after changing into my runners, the sheep were on the road right in front of me and crossing over to the other field. I couldn’t help but think that this might be a small taste of what New Zealand would be like, with sheep on the roads. Good thing I wasn’t headed in that direction, but the opposite direction.
And hey, the sun is still in the sky. I wonder if I’ll have time to go do the Maliseet Trail on my way back?