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The Bay of Fundy tides make it a contender for the Seven Natural Wonders contest. (J.Pleau/Parks Canada/J.Pleau/Parks Canada)
The Bay of Fundy tides make it a contender for the Seven Natural Wonders contest. (J.Pleau/Parks Canada/J.Pleau/Parks Canada)

Discover a 'wilderness for everyone' at Fundy National Park Add to ...

I woke up at 3 a.m. to the sound of the wind roaring. From my bed, looking up through the skylight in the middle of the roof, the lens around which the lid of the yurt was organized, I could see trees arguing wildly against the pale night sky - as if I were a barnacle, attached by the head to the rock of the Earth, looking up and out my open door. It felt like a stable rock, one that wouldn't turn over - the illusion and blessing of comfortable wilderness. I fell back to sleep.

******

The days passed. I drove west to St. Martins at the other end of the Fundy Trail, saw the future of New Brunswick tourism (which hopes to boost visitor numbers fivefold, to 250,000 a year, so go now); hiked into Hearst lodge, the former fishing camp of the Hearst Corporation, where for $99 you can eat a planked salmon and spend the night next to what were once famous salmon fishing pools. It was beautiful and peaceful but kind of sad without the salmon. I recommend it. But eventually I had to leave, and before I left I wanted to visit the caves.

The caves are what they sound like - deep sandstone invaginations formed by the tide in the ancient sedimentary rock of the Fundy shore. At St. Martins, the routine is to have a bowl of chowder (creamy and cheesy) at The Caves restaurant while you wait for the tide to get low - allowing an hour either side of the farthest ebb, to avoid getting trapped by the incoming water.

But I was late: The tide was almost turning. I wanted to go around the point, out of sight, to the deepest cave of all. I figured I had 10 minutes.

I set out quickly, scrambling over shore rock and jumping down onto seaweed ledges slippery with water that had just receded. I made my way around the point, found the cave, and was about to go in when I noticed how far the bay had risen. In 10 minutes, it was more than a metre closer. Then I looked back.

My route home was blocked by water. I noticed how quickly I was suddenly breathing. It wasn't serious: I still had the option of swimming. Eventually I found a route and clambered back over the rocks on my hands and knees, back to comfort and safety.

It was the intensity of my brief panic that took me by surprise, after all the comforts of my stay. It wasn't much as crises go, just the Bay of Fundy's well-washed, seldom-heeded lesson: I would have taken in all there was to see, but the tide turned quickly, and I ran out of time.

For more information, go to votemyfundy.com or pc.gc.ca/fundy.

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