Visit to Kouchibouquac National Park

Over the past few years I have passed by Kouchibouquac National Park on my way to Moncton every couple of months and each time I think about dropping in and having a look around. Although I have visited lots of parks in other countries during my years working abroad, I have not ventured out for hiking in my home province. Yesterday, on our way back from Moncton, I convinced Florian who is not really interested in hiking, to stop by the park for a quick visit.

The park offers several short walking trails, longer hiking treks and biking routes. Our time was limited, so after visiting the information center we opted for three short trails that the receptionist recommended for a day trip.

From the entrance we drove to the Kelly’s Beach, one of the most visited places in the park, according to the receptionist.  The large parking lot was empty which indicated that not many people would be enjoying the beach and we would have it to ourselves. The well-maintained wooden walkway to the beach protects the piping plover, an endangered species,  that return each spring to nest near the dunes and lagoon system. The boardwalk also has some informative plaques explaining the local flora and fauna.

We strolled 1.2 km along the walkway above the salt-marsh grass toward the lagoons and eventually to the South Kouchibouquac Dune and a view of the Northumberland Straight. There were lots of seabirds enjoying the cooler temperatures, but a few minutes at the beach was enough for me because the wind off the water was too cold, so we headed back to the starting point.

Next, we made our way to the Salt Marsh trail, an easy, short (0.9 Km), flat walk, that offers some pretty scenery. We could hear the sounds of birds chirping in the long grass and greenery, but we didn’t see them.

Lastly, we hiked the Beaver Trail (1.4 Km) through the forest. This trail included some parts that were on a path, but most of it is on a wooden walkway. We didn’t encounter anyone or any wildlife on this route. In the past, this was the spot to see beavers, but it looks like they abandoned their dam and it is now completely overgrown with vegetation. It was a quiet walk, similar to the walking paths near my house, so I didn’t take any photos.

We only saw a small section of the park, so I would definitely like to visit again to do the 10 Km trail along the Kouchibouquac River as well as some of the biking routes. However, Florian the non-hiker and non-biker will have to stay home or hang out at the interpretation center while I enjoy the trails.

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Visit to Metepenagiag Heritage Park

Last weekend I attended a ceremony to mark the return of ancient artifacts to Metepenagiag First Nation (formerly known as Red Bank). The artifacts, which are about 3,000 years old, were discovered on the shores of the Little South Miramichi River in the early 1970s by local historian Joe Augustine. Over the next few decades more than 50,000 items have been found and conserved in various provincial facilities across New Brunswick. Now, years later they are being repatriated to the Metepenagiag nation and the public was invited to take part in this event.

Metepenagiag Heritage Park

Although the Metepenagiag Heritage Park is located in my region, only a forty-minute drive, my husband and I left early to make sure we arrived on time to find a parking space and a good seat to watch the event. I expected a large crowd as the event was covered extensively in the media and an advert promoting the celebration was mailed to residents in the surrounding communities. However, very few people ventured out to celebrate the return of history.

The ceremony opened with a local singer, George Paul, singing O Canada in the Mi’kmaq language. It was an absolutely beautiful version of our national anthem. This was followed by an honor chant, speeches from government officials, band leaders, and finally the smudging and return of the artifacts. Then guests were invited to visit the main museum and park before the feast of traditional dishes prepared by indigenous chefs.

The museum is spacious, with carefully designed displays (photos below), highlighting the Mi’kmaq culture and its historical importance in the area. Additionally, it showcases the 3000 year habitation of the Oxbow site in Metepenagiag . The volunteers were enthusiastic, knowledgeable and very willing to share their culture.

Here is a photo of the food – not exactly my idea of a feast. I grew up eating Miramichi salmon, so I took a huge chunk, but it was raw and I couldn’t eat it. The seal flipper and sturgeon were pretty tasty, but the wild boar, under-cooked veal, seal stake, moose hamburger and dry bannock were not my cup of tea. 

After eating we decided to hike the trail to the river. Parts of the trails are overgrown with vegetation and a lack of signposts leads to several dead ends, but the weather was pleasant so we attempted various routes until we made it to the river.

There was only one  other hiker on the trails, but we saw a few people along the shores of the river.  From here we decided to walk along a mud road along the river until we hit a dead end. I took a few photos and then we headed to the lodge before making our way to the main park area to head home.