Sunday, July 22, 2012

Worth the Trip: Trekking across border to Campobello



Although technically not in Maine -- and a passport or ID card is required for the trip -- only a few hundred feet across the bridge over the Lubec Narrows, an annual summer visit to hike the myriad scenic trails of Campobello Island has become a 20-plus-year tradition for our family.


Herring Cove on Campobello Island offers 10 miles of spectacular scenery for hikers and non-hikers alike. The trip to Campobello Island could become an annual family tradition for those interested in hiking as well as history.

John Christie Photo

There are two ways to get to the island, the easiest being the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Bridge from Lubec. It's only about 10 miles down Route 189 after leaving Whiting on Route 1, some 15 miles east of Machias.

This year the bridge reached an important milestone, marking 50 years in existence as an international link.

To celebrate, and to re-emphasize the tie between the people of the mainland and the island, a rededication ceremony has been scheduled for 1 p.m. Aug. 5.

That's 1 p.m. Eastern time. Being in New Brunswick, Campobello is on Atlantic time, which is an hour ahead.

The rededication will be hosted by the Roosevelt Campobello International Park.

The other route to the island, which includes a couple ferry rides of less than a half-hour each, is one I'd highly recommend for either your trip to or from the island.

Slightly further for most Mainers, this alternate route begins in the small New Brunswick town of L'Etete, about a half-hour east of the border crossing in Calais and a short drive down a peninsula from St. George.

A free ferry runs 16 hours a day to and from Deer Island.

You'll have to drive the 12-mile length of the island to pick up another ferry that leaves every hour on the half-hour for Welshpool on Campobello.

The ferry runs from late June to mid-September, 10 hours a day.

Either way you'll end up in another country, and from the hiker's perspective, another world.

The alternatives in both the International Park and the abutting Herring Cove Provincial Park offer a wide variety of options, all easy enough for the casual weekend hiker and family, but varied enough for inveterate outdoors enthusiasts.

The International Park comprises nearly 3,000 acres, and Herring Cove Park nearly half as many again, with the most memorable feature from the hiker's standpoint being the seaside perimeter of International Park, which offers more than 10 miles of spectacular scenery.

Herring Cove Park has several more miles of both oceanfront and forested hiking.

In the International Park, the trails wind through and past natural habitats forested with both spruce-fir and a variety of hardwoods, as well as sphagnum bogs, fields and seashore.

Hikes can be planned for some of the shorter trails or, in combination, moderate to long excursions.

Several trails include observation areas and decks overlooking steep cliffs and ledges. Needless to say, caution is advised.

And if you're planning a perimeter hike, be aware that some portions of the trails that pass around points extending into the bay are covered at high tide.

Coastal weather conditions, and algae and moss, may make some of the trails, observation decks and foot bridges slippery, so be sure to wear your hiking boots.

Two short trails that aren't connected to the perimeter trail are worth visiting, one for the view and the other for a lesson in natural history.

The trail with the view is a relatively easy hike from the park visitor center to Friar's Head, a little more than a half-mile, and ends at an observation deck overlooking Eastport to the west.

I've found it to be a great spot to sight seals and the occasional whale. On a recent visit, I kayaked in the shadow of the head around some salmon pens that also appealed to a large number of circling seals.

The other short hike, also about a half-mile, is on a wooden pathway through Eagle Hill Bog, where interpretive panels explain the variety of flora and fauna. Masses of leather-leaf, sheep laurel, pale laurel and bog rosemary abound, as well as interesting shrubs that grow among the mosses.

Beaver ponds add to the scenic variety on the trail.

Your long hiking adventure will start at the Campobello Island tourist information center shortly after crossing the bridge on Route 774. It will pass around Deep Cove, out around Cranberry Point, and skirt two small bays known as the Upper and Lower Duck Ponds, named for the large numbers of ducks gathered there, and leading to Liberty Point, the southern-most tip of the island. From there, views of Grand Manan to the east are enhanced by the presence of seals basking on Sugar Loaf Rock.

Turning north along the shore, the trail leads for about 21/2 miles to Raccoon Beach, past Ragged Point and its striking Sunsweep sculpture, carved from a slab of Canadian black granite. It's a part of an international art project that includes similar sculptures in Minnesota and Washington state.

From Raccoon Beach, it's a short walk on a gravel road to link up with the Gibraltar Rock trail leading through the Provincial Park to beautiful and uncrowded mile-long Herring Cove Beach.

If you're not into hiking, newly launched Campobello Sightseeing has a van that leaves the Roosevelt Park Visitor Center at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily until Oct. 15 for an informative and interesting 2 1/2-hour tour of the entire island.

John Christie is an author and year-round Maine explorer. He and his son Josh write in Outdoors about places to enjoy the beauty that only Maine has to offer.

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