I’ve spent the majority of my 30 years in New Brunswick, and I thought I’d hiked most of the province’s mountains and hills. Somehow, though, I only heard about Bald Mountain for the first time a few weeks ago. I guess it goes to show that while we live in a small place, there’s always something new to see and do, even in the rural areas.
And it doesn’t get much more rural than Bald Mountain. I set out on the first really spring-like day in April with my partner, Alex. We drove from Fredericton about 40 minutes, which landed us in Welsford, near Saint John. From here we were relying on directions we found on hikingnb.ca — this site looks a bit dated but it’s actually quite comprehensive and it’s never steered us wrong — that were mostly accurate, but something about the wording threw us off. The part reading: “After another 1.4 kilometres you will pass a road on your right” was fine — check — but then it says: “You should find a sign for the trail head in a small parking area just past this road.” Hm. “Just past”? More like after another 15-minute walk. We did find this sign eventually, but only after getting the car stuck in mud and losing our sense of direction (and our phone signals).
We probably jumped the gun, going this early in the year. Obviously if the road hadn’t been alternately muddy and snow-covered, then landmarks, signs, roads, etc., would have been more visible. Still, I’d say go by the HikingNB directions; just allot some extra time in case you get as sidetracked as we did, and unless you want to wade through snow, go on a dry day in the summer or fall.
So, back to finding that sign reading “Bald Mountain Adventure Trail.” Once you make it here, the fun begins. You enter the woods on the right, then a short but very steep trek puts you halfway up the mountain. Here the path diverges: another sign tells you to choose the lower or the upper trail. It doesn’t really matter which you choose to do first, because you’ll walk them both during the trip.
We opted for the upper trail that led us to the wide-open, bare (thus the name “bald”) top of the mountain. If you’re an expert hiker you may find yourself disappointed by how easy it is to get to the top, but don’t be: the view is dramatic. We sat for a while on the cliff’s edge and took it all in. We noticed a hawk in the distance, swooping back and forth in the valley below
And while that vista is impressive, I found the lower portion of the trail to be even cooler. From the top, we continued downward on the opposite side from where we’d emerged half an hour earlier. We carefully lowered ourselves between large, slippery boulders as it started lightly raining. We both had our eyes glued to the narrow footpath directly against the base of the mountain, when suddenly we looked up to see what’s been named “Nature’s Boardroom.” I doubt anyone could adequately describe it, so I’ll just say it’s a massive, carved-out ledge embedded into the mountain. Its shape made me think of some kind of prehistoric amphitheatre. We clamoured up onto the ledge, tentatively clinging to any grippable rocks.
The next portion of the hike — which circles you back to where you originally entered — involves climbing down (or up, if you did the lower trail first) a sturdy rope that some considerate person previously attached to help hikers on their way to or from “The Face.”
“The Face” is the name given to the open, flat, sculpted rock spanning a few dozen metres along the side of the mountain: a slate panorama. Like the place’s other parts, The Face gives the impression of having been carved intentionally rather than just by time, water, the elements.
Since it was raining, these perfect stone walls were slick and dripping, with an occasional crevice deep enough to climb into. All we could hear was water falling on cold, wet rock. It was beautiful.
The whole hike, including lots of sitting around and chatting, took only an hour and a half: it’s a bit tricky to find, but relatively easy to hike, and a pleasure to explore.