For Jim, Miles, our mascot, had led us to the highlight of our trip…The area he was born and spent the first eight years of his life! We arrived in Tide Head, NB in the late evening. Lee and Henny got settled into their little house at Sanfar Cabins while Dave, the owner, guided us into a spot on the grass behind. There had been so much rain in the area over the last few weeks that our van sunk right in! Unable to move forward or back, a tow truck was called to pull us to higher and firmer ground a few meters away! And that’s where we parked for the next four nights.
Original plans were that two of Jim’s sisters and a granddaughter each would be joining us for a few days, driving from London. Due to some unfortunate last minute circumstances, Shirley Ann was looking for a flight as she ended up being the only one of the four that could make it. After much planning, she was able to coordinate four flights to get her from London, ON to Bathurst, NB the following afternoon. Thank goodness! Jim and Lee were only young boys when they moved from New Brunswick to Alberta so they needed someone here with more knowledge. Shirley Ann had been back a number of times and is older so she is a wealth of information when it comes to family history…not to mention she’s a whole lot of fun to have around!
We took a quick look around the area the first morning, finding the spot that their house used to be in Atholville. It burned down back in the 60’s and was replaced by a small bungalow. A house two doors away is still standing that would be indicative of the style of the house his family lived in except that their’s apparently never saw ” a lick of paint”. From the hill they used to live on, we could see the Restigouche River and the lumber mill that their Dad had worked at as a log jammer.
We decided to take the scenic highway along the Baie des Chaleurs to Bathurst to pick up Shirley Ann. Thankfully, Lee and Henny had mistakenly been given a van from the rental company…they had requested a compact since Shirley Ann had planned to drive her car from London…five of us would fit comfortably in the van for the next three days of touring around.
Before arriving at the airport in Bathurst, we made a stop at the little town of Belledune and wandered along the shore of the Chaleurs Bay. So peaceful and scenic. The downtown area of Bathurst was closed for a parade but we found a great ice cream shop while we waited for the plane to arrive.
She arrived on a small prop job…we were amazed how many people got off the plane! Apparently, many people from this area work in Alberta and come home on their days off. The job situation around here is very depressed.
The next two days were a whirlwind of re-living memories by visiting with family friends and relatives we had never met or not seen for a very long time. We visited many graveyards, tracing the roots of Jim’s parents back a few generations.
We wound our way up McDavid Mountain to see where the clan originally settled when they came from Ireland in the 1700’s. The original home of one of the earliest McDavid settlers is still there and now owned by another relative who uses it for storage.
There are still a couple of McDavid families on the mountain but the little community that used to exist with a school, store, and church is long gone. One of their relatives has a two hole golf course on the mountain but we didn’t pull our clubs out!
We visited their Uncle Bill’s farm in Flatlands, now vacant, and their Aunt Lucy’s farm in Upsalquitch which is now occupied by their cousin and has never seen any paint or changes in over 50 years!
Everywhere we went we met someone with some sort of connection to the family. We even found out about some of the shadier bits of family history that we’re not so proud of, like murder suicides and horse thieving. Many of the older people remembered the family when they were kids and offered tidbits of information about their lives in the area. We learned the local dialect too…a person could “take sick”, be “dead as a nit” and then “get planted” and it didn’t matter if “they was a bastard”…they all came from “nice f***ing families”!
When we were back at the cabins in the evenings, we were visited by friends and relatives.
All in all, a very emotionally charged few days for Jim, Lee and Shirly Ann…and a chance for Henny and I to get things straight in our minds. All these little towns that our husbands had alluded to over the years…Tide Head, Flatlands, Atholville, Glencoe, Campbellton, Upsalquitch, McDavids Mountain, Mann Settlemennt and Matapedia…now made sense to us.
Wednesday, July 27, was Jim’s birthday…quite exciting for him to be in his home town with a brother and sister on his birthday. They were leaving after breakfast and we hung around for most of the day in Cambellton.
Campbellton today is the major hub for the area and has a lovely waterfront and bridge connecting it to Quebec over the Restigouche. It is a favorite destination for salmon fishing, canoeing and kayaking. It is very mountainous, with houses built on hillsides and Sugarloaf Mountain standing behind it proudly!
By late afternoon we were heading east to Bathurst again. This time we were able to cross the bridge to the downtown area for a quick look around and then onto the Acadian Trail past the small fishing villages that line the coast of Chaleur Bay. Tiny houses, weather worn, had wood piled for the winter and lobster traps piled for the summer. Fishing boats sat ready, colourfully painted. The lobster season in this area is just recently over.
We camped on the beach at Caraquet, a tiny community on the bay. We were treated to more than an hour of splendid heat lightening over the water with a few sharp strikes in the distance and rumbling skies overhead before the storm blew in on us, cooling us off for a good sleep. Such a perfect end to Jim’s birthday…Mother Nature’s light show.
On the road early the next morning, we wound our way along the coast and up the Acadian Peninsula through the islands till we got to Miscou Point, the north eastern tip of the peninsula. This is where the Chaleur Bay meets the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Standing at the point is the second lighthouse built on the shores of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, completed in 1806 and still in use today.
A mid morning snack of warm tea biscuits served with homemade jam accompanied by tea in China cups was wonderful on the deck overlooking the water. I mentioned to the waitress that Jim had celebrated a birthday yesterday and next thing we knew, the waitress and the cook were singing “Bonne Fete” to him and offering him a piece of cake with a candle!
Everyone here in the Maritimes is so friendly! Even on the highway, when we had to stop for construction, the young lad holding the stop sign saw our Edmonton Eskimos licence plate and sauntered over to chat with us! Life seems simpler here and much less hurried. We love it.
By afternoon, we were back on the Acadian Trail with a stop at Neguac, headquarters of Beau Soleil cocktail oysters, for any of you oyster lovers. This is the oyster hub of the Atlantic and they are farmed here year round. We also saw the simple home of Otho Robichaud, a man from the 1700’s who had a huge impact on the re- establishment of the Acadian community after the Great Expulsion (1755-1763)
The Acadians are a group of people who settled this area in the 1700’s, coming up from France and sharing their cultures with the Micma’q who were native in the area. Mainly fishermen, they used their big canoes in the waters throughout the Maritimes and enjoyed a simple life. When the English conquered the area from France, they were allowed to remain on their land and then 45 years later they were asked to sign an oath of allegiance to the Crown but they refused, wanting to remain neutral. Consequently they were expelled from the area, many going to the Thirteen Colonies and Upper Canada. Those who remained are extremely proud of their heritage. Their homes display their flag and are decorated with banners…even the telephone poles are painted in the colours of their flag. The government has proclaimed July 28 as Grand Expulsion Day in memory of the events that took place so long ago but Acadians celebrate their heritage on August 15 with parades and parties.
By late afternoon we were booking into Kouchibouguac National Park to camp. We no sooner got our awning out and our table pulled under and the rain came! It rained all evening, stopping around 11 pm, forcing us to stay under the awning or in the van all evening. I was beaten badly at Yahtzee too many times! The campsites are beautiful in the park, each site surrounded by lush green forest and lots of hiking trails.
We packed up our wet campsite in the morning and got back on the Acadian Trail through more pretty little fishing villages, the Gulf of St. Lawrence to our left. At Lower Kent, just past Bouctouche, we hit the 10,000 km mark in our journey! That means we’ve averaged about 150 km a day…perfect pace for seeing this great country.
As we travelled south, we noticed that the closer we got to Moncton, the wealthier the area looked. Instead of simple fishing villages, we were seeing big homes and summer cottages. Small farms and vineyards were still dotted with lobster traps but that was obviously no longer the main source of income.
We stopped at Cape Caissie and walked through the water at low tide. We saw giant blue herons and plenty of evidence that gulls feast on what gets left on the beach as the tide goes out. Open clam shells and crabs litter the beach along with seaweed. We spoke with someone that has a cottage there on the strait and found out she has a friend in Fort Macleod! Small world!