Time for a group walk to Red Head

As Simple as That -- a column by Jonathan Riley

Jonathan Riley, Digby Courier jriley@digbycourier.ca
Published on March 28, 2013
Red Head walk

Published on 28 March 2013

<p>The Merry Pisser is a sometimes waterfall on the beach in Rossway.</p>

Photos by Jonathan Riley

Red Head walk

Published on 28 March 2013

<p>Matthew Raymond, Ben Cleveland and Gixer try to keep their feet dry on the beach in Rossway. We later learned it’s easier to cross the stream via the bridge on the road.</p>

Photos by Jonathan Riley

Red Head walk

Published on 28 March 2013

<p>Matthew Raymond and Ben Cleveland examine the 200 million-year-old sediments that make up the cliffs at Red Head in Rossway.</p>

Photos by Jonathan Riley

Red Head walk

Published on 28 March 2013

<p>How many faces do you see in the cliff face of Red Head?</p>

Photos by Jonathan Riley

Red Head walk

Published on 28 March 2013

<p>A tough spruce tree hangs on for dear life to the actively eroding cliff in Rossway.</p>

Photos by Jonathan Riley

Red Head walk

Published on 28 March 2013

<p>Ben Cleveland walks on the beach towards Red Head.</p>

Photos by Jonathan Riley

Red Head walk

Published on 28 March 2013

<p>Eroded sandstone ledges on the beach reveal 200 million-year-old patterns in the hardened sediment.</p>

Photos by Jonathan Riley

Red Head walk

Published on 28 March 2013

<p>Gixer waits patiently for Matthew Raymond to come down from atop the waterfall.</p>

Photos by Jonathan Riley

Red Head walk

Published on 28 March 2013

<p>Ben Cleveland waits for the light of the rising sun to hit the waterfall.</p>

Photos by Jonathan Riley

Red Head walk

Published on 28 March 2013

<p>Ben Cleveland explores the icy recesses behind the waterfall.</p>

Photos by Jonathan Riley

Red Head walk

Published on 28 March 2013

<p>With windmills and a waterfall barely visible behind them, Ben, Matthew and Gixer continue up the beach.</p>

Photos by Jonathan Riley

Red Head walk

Published on 28 March 2013

<p>Sandstone ledges and cliffs east of Red Head.</p>

Photos by Jonathan Riley

Red Head walk

Published on 28 March 2013

<p>Walking under the cliffs of Rossway.</p>

Photos by Jonathan Riley

Red Head walk

Published on 28 March 2013

<p>Looking from Red Head towards the head of St. Mary’s Bay and Beaman’s (above Digby) in the far distance.</p>

Photos by Jonathan Riley

Red Head walk

Published on 28 March 2013

<p>Gixer enjoyed her day at the beach.</p>

Photos by Jonathan Riley

Red Head walk

Published on 28 March 2013

<p>The last couple kilometres over the beach to the dykes at the head of St. Mary’s Bay.</p>

Photos by Jonathan Riley

Who wants to go for a walk?

Under the red cliffs of Seawall in Rossway?

I’d like to go with a group from the beach in Rossway to the cliffs around Red Head on Saturday, April 20.

A flat level walk of about 4 kilometres with a big break in the middle for a picnic or snack. I’m working on arrangements for a geologist to accompany us and tell us what we’re looking at.

It’s a shore walk I’ve wanted to do for a long time—part of me always thought I might leave it for the last, after I’ve walked every other stretch of shore on Digby Neck and Islands.

But, then a week ago, mid-March, I was headed home from the Islands when I saw it—something I’d heard about, but never seen before.

In fact I barely believed the stories. Of a waterfall that flowed in the spring after heavy rains—a Merry Pisser like the one north of Victoria Beach on the Bay of Fundy.

I parked at the Seawall wharf and got out for a good look through my zoom lens.

Sure enough—a fat white arch of water was shooting off the red cliffs a kilometre and a half up the beach.

I checked the tides for the weekend—low tide at 7:30 a.m. I only later realized I was looking at the tides for Digby. I still don’t know the exact relationship or how to calculate an exact low tide for Rossway. Please write or call if you can help me with that.

Three of us and a dog set off around sunrise on Saturday from the wharf in Rossway.

Such a beautiful walk – the red stone cliffs towering over us, the long height of Digby Neck and Islands running off to the horizon, seagulls and ducks flying over the big blue expanse of St. Mary’s Bay.

Up close the beauty of the red sandstone cliffs is even more vibrant.

The sediments that form Red Head settled in

in layers 200 to 250 million years ago – in the Triassic era – when the first dinosaurs were evolving.

And it seems every couple million years, God or whichever power created the cliffs, would chose a new colour, a new fabric, a new texture.

Below the cliffs on the beach we walked over sandstone ledges – where erosion allows you to look down through several layers at once – we saw 200 million-year-old wavy sand, we saw what looked like 200 million-year-old chicken tracks and other beautiful patterns.

Some quick internet searches reveal that fossils have been found here—phytosaur jaws and skulls—big pre-dinosaur crocodiles.

But I’m no geology or fossil expert.

All I know is the sandstone is gorgeous, its layers clearly delineated in bands of dark red, pink and white.

And what’s more, sandstone makes a great surface for walking on. This beach is level and firm with lots of occasional boulders to rest against or sit on.

The Merry Pisser falls off a relatively short cliff – at its highest Red Head gets close to 20 metres– but at the waterfall it’s 6 metres or so.

The falling water has eroded the cliff behind the base of the waterfall allowing you to stand behind the curtain of water. On this day in early March, ice and icicles added to the wonder of the spot.

The waterfall was all the more special to me knowing that it was an occasional thing – that you need the right conditions to see it.

If you have any pull with Mother Nature, a lot of rain leading up to the April hike and a sunny Saturday with light winds is what we’re looking for.

The cliffs are at their most vibrant beyond the waterfall, at Red Head where the coast turns and runs east towards the head of St. Mary’s Bay.

Around the head the cliffs continue and change offering an endless variety of colour and shape to marvel at. We saw four or five other smaller waterfalls too.

My friends and I walked all the way to the dykes on the Marsh Road – a total of 7 kilometres – but a shorter walk of 4 kilometers is possible.

For now, I’m going to plan on 4 k but if a group of strong walkers show up on April 20, we can maybe arrange something.

If you’re interested in joining, give me a call at the Courier office or drop me an email. Or just show up at the Digby area arena at noon on April 20.

Bring sturdy walking shoes, clothing to keep you warm and dry and something to eat and drink.

Who’s in?

jriley@digbycourier.ca