On the shore for sure (From Sandy Cove to Whale Cove)

As Simple as That -- a column by Jonathan Riley

Jonathan Riley, Digby Courier jriley@digbycourier.ca
Published on April 3, 2012
wild

Published on 03 April 2012

The wild and crazy coastline of the Fundy shore of Digby Neck, just east of Whale Cove.

Photos by Jonathan Riley

weir

Published on 03 April 2012

Sunrise over the herring weir in Sandy Cove.

Photos by Jonathan Riley

dawn

Published on 03 April 2012

First light on the Fundy shore of Digby Neck just west of Sandy Cove.

Photos by Jonathan Riley

flat

Published on 03 April 2012

The shore from Sandy Cove to White’s Cove is relatively level and easy going.

Photos by Jonathan Riley

driftwood

Published on 03 April 2012

The wind and waves organize driftwood, drift foam and drift plastic into neat piles.

Photos by Jonathan Riley

balloon

Published on 03 April 2012

A colourful balloon on the Fundy shore of Digby Neck.

Photos by Jonathan Riley

bell

Published on 03 April 2012

According to locals, this buoy was painted red and intact when it came ashore just west of Mink Cove 35 years ago.

Photos by Jonathan Riley

goal

Published on 03 April 2012

The Boar’s Head lighthouse on Long Island is visible for most of the hike.

Photos by Jonathan Riley

whites

Published on 03 April 2012

White’s Cove, the largest indentation on the coast between Sandy and Whale Coves, used to hold a whole community and government slipway.

Photos by Jonathan Riley

barrel

Published on 03 April 2012

A rusty oil barrel wedged between tumble rocks on the Fundy Shore of Digby Neck. A few seconds after I took this photo, I saw a mink under this very rock.

Photos by Jonathan Riley

tumble

Published on 03 April 2012

Slanting rays of morning sun hit tumble rocks west of White’s Cove on the Fundy shore of Digby Neck.

Photos by Jonathan Riley

boulders

Published on 03 April 2012

Tumble rocks litter the coast on the Fundy shore of Digby Neck just west of White’s Cove.

Photos by Jonathan Riley

puzzle

Published on 03 April 2012

It is fun to puzzle out a path among the rocks on the shore of Digby Neck.

Photos by Jonathan Riley

easier

Published on 03 April 2012

I found the easiest going here was down among the tumble rocks.

Photos by Jonathan Riley

road

Published on 03 April 2012

A straightforward stretch of walking among the tumble rocks.

Photos by Jonathan Riley

break

Published on 03 April 2012

Time for a quick break in out of the wind but where I could still see the waves.

Photos by Jonathan Riley

If you've read this column any, you might have picked up on my dream of a coastal trail running the length of the Fundy Shore from Point Prim to East Ferry.

This past weekend I hiked from Sandy Cove to Whale Cove and was surprised how little work that stretch would need.

I was able to stay on the shore the whole way—no detours around towering cliffs and deep gullies, no arduous climbs up thorny hillsides, no sneaking over private land—just pure, relatively level shore-walking all the way.

Don't get me wrong; it's not as if this stretch of shore is bland or monotonous. Quite the opposite: I was struck this whole trip by the unending variety of the Digby Neck shoreline.

To put it in terms more people might understand, imagine the beauty and energy of the rocks at Peggy's Cove, but imagine 10 km of it. That's the hike from Sandy Cove to Whale Cove.

I kept thinking what a shame more people haven't seen it, that more people from here aren't even aware it's out there.

That we aren't promoting that wild fun playground as one of our main attractions. That we aren't selling for example a package of nights where hikers spend the day walking down the shore. The hotels or inns or hostels meanwhile ship the luggage along to the next stop.

You could maybe do the whole of Digby Neck in four long, hard days—or half of the Neck if you took your time and stopped to smell the seaweed.

Point Prim to Culloden could be a day, Culloden to Gullivers, Gullivers to Centreville, Centreville to Sandy Cove and Sandy Cove to Whale Cove. Whale Cove to East Ferry looks like a half day but I don't know yet for sure.

Of all the hikes though, Sandy Cove to Whale Cove would require the least amount of work to make it a 'trail'.

Perhaps every 500m or every kilometre, a sign painted on a rock to let you know how you are progressing and maybe small interpretation signs in the coves to pass on history or geological or marine information.

Even that seems a little over-the-top. Maybe all we really need is to produce a good map with that kind of information on it.

Perhaps there are landowners out there willing to allow camping on a grassy headland.

There is very little development on this stretch of coast—nothing at all until the 4 km mark at Mink Cove. There are a couple camps there right on the water and a road out to the highway.

A few kilometres farther on is White's Cove—the biggest indentation in the coast between Sandy Cove and Whale Cove. I, for one, was happy there is no quarry and marine terminal here.

The noise and disruption would be one thing. But who knows if I would have even been able to get around the site. Perhaps such a walk would have no longer been possible.

The stretch right after White's Cove is the most challenging of the hike. There is a small rise there and it takes a little more looking and thinking to find a walkable route.

This stretch of shore is covered in tumble rocks – five-, six-, even seven-metre tall boulders that look like they are tumbling down the shore. They look like Rubik's Cubes or dice except you have to walk around, under or over them.

It's fun to puzzle and search your way through these fields of boulders.

Keep your eyes open for mink—they love this kind of habitat as it gives them sheltered access to the water.

You'll have to be quicker than me with the camera though. On two separate occasions last week I saw a mink and only managed the second time some fuzzy far away shots.

I would recommend this hike to anyone who wants to start shore walking. I did climb a bit, more out of preference than necessity.

Otherwise it is just walking, albeit walking over very uneven terrain and occasionally slippery rocks.

The distance, 10 km, is probably the hardest part about this stretch. It took me six hours stopping for lots of pictures but otherwise few breaks.

Pack plenty of food and water, wear sturdy footwear, be prepared for bugs in late spring, wind anytime of the year and wet feet are a possibility.

I started my walk a couple hours before low tide and found it helpful a couple times to be able to get down in the seaweed.

I have just one short walk left to do before the passage. And then I'm undecided: keep going round the Neck back to Rossway, or take the ferry over to Long Island and keep heading west, or take a week and walk the whole Fundy shore of the Neck again in one go.

One thing's certain: I'll be on the shore for sure.

jriley@digbycourier.ca