Wow! What a cool place! We had no idea what to expect, as this is one place none of us had ever been to. On the east coast of New Brunswick, this park is a bicycling and nature walking paradise!
As we entered New Brunswick from Quebec last Friday, we realized we wouldn’t get too far that evening. We had spent too much time enjoying Quebec City to travel much. We decided to find a motel in Grand Falls, which offered a few places to stay. We chose the least expensive, with some trepidation, but the Motel Leo, despite its name and unassuming appearance from the outside, turned out to be perfect! The two young people at the front desk were friendly and talkative, and they handed us an actual key to our room. Our room was spacious and clean and quite comfortable. We woke up to rainbows, literally.
Before we left Grand Falls, we had to check out the falls. Of course, once we saw a farmers market across the street, we needed to check that out as well. We had a great time meeting food vendors and artists. We spent quite a while at Jacky’s Snack Shack talking to the two women who run the place. They were so friendly and proud of their stand, where everything was homemade and tested out by the two of them. They provided samples and asked for Jon’s “professional” opinion on several of their menu items, as neither of them were trained as chefs. They were very cool ladies and we thoroughly enjoyed our breakfast!
The five-hour drove across New Brunswick was accomplished on a narrow road with almost no other traffic and a number of moose crossing signs. Other than those signs and some logging roads, there were no other indicators of human habitation. For more than two hours, we never even passed a house or gas station! Just trees, trees, and more trees along the bumpy country road.
We were glad that we had plenty of gas and had decided to stop when we did the night before, because stopping for the night anywhere on that road would not have been an option!
We finally hit a sizable town about 45 minutes from our destination. We were able to stock up our cooler with a trip to an Atlantic Superstore. After getting supplied for a few nights of camping, we drove into Kouchibouguac National Park minutes before 5:00- too close to closing for us to explore the visitors center and pay for a campsite, but well before our usual, late-evening arrival time. We were told to pick a site and pay in the morning. With 350 sites and only about 10 other campers, we had a good selection to choose from! We found a beautiful, wooded, water-front site and settled in for an early evening.
Our two full days in Kouchibouguac (pronounced koo-she-boo-gwack) was spent riding bikes and enjoying nature walks. The park is relatively flat and includes woods, bogs, beaches, lagoons, and rivers. There are over 40 miles of biking trails and, given the time of year, the paved roads were empty, making those great for biking as well. We had a blast!
We also enjoyed a lovely nature walk through a bog, and an evening hike through some woods along the water. We didn’t see any moose, as we had hoped. We did get up close and personal with a black bear, which we had neither hoped for nor expected. We’d seen plenty of moose warnings and not a single mention of bears! However, there it was, relaxing next to a tree behind the truck as we walked back from our waterfront hike Monday evening. Luckily, the kids were well behind me as I walked up to open the truck door; I didn’t see the bear sitting about 10 feet behind the truck, until that moment. I just backed up and walked quickly back to Jon and the girls. We were the only people around and the bear wasn’t moving. Jon beeped the car a few times. The bear yawned and licked his lips.
Finally, Jon just had to walk up to get in the truck and drive forward to pick up me and the girls. We stayed standing at the trail head nervously watching him and the bear. Once he started the engine, the bear just stretched and walked off into the woods. That was an experience I’ll never forget!
Seeing the bear was just a great end to an adventure-filled two days in the park. When we got back to camp, we showered off trail grime in the (very nice) bathrooms while Jon cooked tacos on a wood-burning stove in the camp kitchen. We ate a great dinner, checked out shooting stars, and packed up as much as possible for an early start. We’re heading to Nova Scotia for another few nights of camping in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. The weather may not be as nice (rain is predicted), but hopefully the mosquitoes will be less plentiful. I can’t wait to be back in Nova Scotia after 14 years away!