"And finally the ocean comes in again, and they go, 'Yipeee!' Then the doors open and the barnacles sweep their legs through the water to pick up microscopic plankton, which they lick off their legs." Karen did a nice imitation of a barnacle licking its legs. "Did I used to, when I was younger, do a demonstration of a barnacle on my talks, standing on my head and waving my legs? I'll never tell." Then she moved on to the immoral way whelks eat barnacles by injecting them with a roofie-like muscle relaxant, "and the barnacles just can't keep their doors closed." The water had moved up 1.2 metres in 10 minutes. Karen gave a zesty talk.
I said goodbye to Karen and hiked back to Alma along the shore trail. The park maps say it's a difficult two-hour hike, but the trail's so wide and well maintained you can run it in half an hour. The hike in the other direction, to Mathews Head and beyond, is as beautiful a wander as you'll find anywhere, like strolling through fresh salad, the trees breaking regularly to remind you of how high and close the cliffs are.
You can do it alone, or you can do it with others: There is an Edible Forest interpretive hike, a CSI Salmon hike (to find out where the salmon have gone), even a Forest Therapy hike ("We're trying to appeal to the Toronto crowd," Bronwyn Pavey explained). You can also call Fresh Air Adventures in Alma and paddle the Fundy coast in a kayak.
In four years, if the federal government delivers the money New Brunswick thinks it will, a 40-kilometre, two-lane coastal parkway to rival the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton will link Fundy National Park, in the northeast, to former premier Frank McKenna's dream, the stunning and luxurious but less-used Fundy Trail that has already been completed beyond St. Martins, to the southwest.
Of course, the Fundy footpath, a rigorous shoreline hiking trail, already goes all the way down the bay. But it's a serious three-day hike. You can do that, or you can stay on the multi-use path and never need a map. New Brunswick doesn't mind. New Brunswick's just grateful that you're here at all.
The Burgundy Yurt/Yourte bourgogne, one of three (and soon to be five) yurts in Fundy National Park, was nearly nine metres across, had two windows, an all-season gas fireplace on an adjustable thermostat, two bunk beds, a robust table and chairs for meals, wall lamps, a fold-out futon/couch, a deck with two Adirondack chairs and terrorist black flies, and a full-course view of the Bay of Fundy and Cape Enrage, where you can climb serious cliffs and rappel down again if you are of that bounding ilk. I was not. A yurt is not roughing it. But I was beginning to conclude that roughing it can be overrated.
The yurts even had Wi-Fi, not a feature in the Mongolian originals. There were showers and flush toilets five minutes down the path, next to the camp and trailer site, and a cookhouse across the path. I climbed into my car instead (parked in Burgundy Yurt's handy parking spot) and drove to dinner in Alma.
Alma is famous for its sticky buns and its chowders - creamy clam at the Parkland Village Inn, milky fish at the Harbourview Market across the street. I ordered chowder, scallops and a blueberry dumpling, a local dessert New Brunswick should make a lot more fuss about, while contemplating the possibility of a game of golf on the park's pretty but testing nine-hole links. After dinner, I did what tourists in these parts do and walked across the tidal flats, their grey redness shining wetly in the gloaming. The tide was out and the world was resting. Then I walked back to the Parkland, watched two periods of the hockey game (by which time it was 4-0 for Boston), and drove home to my yurt. By now, I thought of it as "my" yurt. The canvas was lightly insulated, but I shut off the stove and opened the windows to the night air.