Turtle Mountain

May 31, 2009

Turtle Mountain

Turtle Mountain

Turtle Mountain

May 16, 2009

Paul Maybee

Ross Curtner

Graham Waugh

Setting Out
Setting Out

We set out for Turtle Mountain at around 10:30 am by the side of the highway.  We have a vague idea of where we were going and the directions are patchy at best.  I am with my good friend Graham Waugh of Local Motion and his friend, and my new friend Ross Curtner.

Through the Gate
Through the Gate

We embark up the dirt road, that could easily have been driven, but we wanted to know how far it was to walk the whole way.  Also, this trip was about getting out and enjoying the weather, not sitting in a truck until we got to some place.  You miss out on a lot of the benefit of doing something like this if you drive the whole way.

Robin Hood Lake
Robin Hood Lake Camp

A short distance up the road we came to a few houses with nearly a dozen trucks parked in the driveways.  We met a man coming up the road who was walking and picking up garbage.  He owned one of the houses and confirmed for us that we were on the right path.  He said that we’d go between Robin Hood Lake and Little John Lake and then the trail would continue from there.  I thought it would be funny if there was a wooden food bridge crossing the stream between the two lakes and perhaps if a giant were there to collect a toll.

Before long we came to this camp above and could see the lake on the right.

Robin Hood Lake
Robin Hood Lake
Little John Lake
Little John Lake

Then we came to a bridge- a wooden foot bridge, that is.

Toll Bridge
Toll Bridge

We couldn’t pay the toll, so we had to duel Little John style.  This was also a good time to stop and cool off in the stream and reapply sunscreen.  It was getting quite hot.

Ross Cooling Off
Ross Cooling Off

Then we continue up the trail and it becomes much steeper, and the road turns into more of a trail.  We’re walking through fairly dense forest and there’s no real place to get a good look at where we’re going or where we’ve been.  We know that we’re getting higher though.  Our legs are telling us that much.

The Road Becomes a Trail
The Road Becomes a Trail

Having already seen spring happening in SW Nova Scotia, and watching the leaves come out in Fredericton, it’s fun to step back in time a few weeks and see the flowers just starting to come out here.  There’s a real sense that all of this plant life it still very new here.  We’re getting our first tast of the black flies as well.  Luckily though, they’re still too stunned to be biting very much yet.

Spring Again
Spring Again
Blossoms
Apple Blossoms
First Look Back
First Look Back

After an hour on the trail, we get our first glimpse of where we came from.  We come out into a field which offers us a beautiful view of the rolling hills and forests.  Robin Hood Lake can also be seen at the bottom of the hill.

It seems we’re not the only ones out enjoying the view…

Moose Tracks
Moose Tracks
Fiddleheads
Fiddleheads

We continue to climb through the forest and the landscape begins to change.  The road becomes more rocky and in places in the woods the road is completely flooded.

Up and Up and Up
Up and Up and Up

We manage for the most part to walk around these areas.

Obstacles
Obstacles

As far as wilderness goes, this trail is obviously one that was created by ATVers for ATVers and is not what I would call remote.  For that reason, it is obvioulsy a destination for weekend ATV rides and not so much catered to nature enthusiasts like ourselves.  This being said, we were still disturbed to see all the garbage that had been left behind by others who have used this area to enjoy the outdoors, whether they know that’s what they’re doing or not.  We came upon a fire that was still burning, and there was no one in sight.  We knew that there would be people on the hill already, because we could hear the faint revving of engines in the distance, but as we got closer, the signs of their presence became more and more frequent.  We stomped out the fire and poured water on the coals.

The First Disappointment

The First Disappointment

Rounding the Bend

Green Beetle

Flowers

Flowers

Trying to forget about the garbage and the fire, we continued along the trail road and made it to the base of the mountain.  Unfortunately, this was also a favorite stopping place for the motorists and the ground was torn up and there were several fire pits and an incredible amount of garbage here.  It was becoming harder and harder to enjoy the nature of the place.

Base of the Mountain

Base of the Mountain

But then we came to where the ground turned to granite, and the forest changed to exclusively coniferous and we knew we were nearing the top.

The Final Ascent

The Final Ascent

 Looking Back
Cairn

Cairn

And then we were there, the top of the Turtle.   It was the first time we could see where we’d come from.  From up here we could see Saint John, several lakes and just the expanse of rolling hills and forests with varying shades of green, grey, red and blue.

On Top of the Turtle

On Top of the Turtle

Turtle Mountain

Turtle Mountain

Then we came out around the NorthWest side of the mountain where we found what we had been hearing earlier and who had lit the fire we put out and who presumably also left behind some of the beer bottles, cans and plastic we saw along the trail.

The Ultimate Disappointment

The Ultimate Disappointment

If that wasn’t enough, they had spray painted on the rock and thrown garbage over the edge of the mountain into the forest below as well.  The side and the top of the rock had been spray painted, ruining the beautiful view for anyone else who may come along (LIKE US) to enjoy this place.

Insult to Injury

Insult to Injury

We tried to not think about it too much and just enjoy being here.  We started exploring the top of the mountain and all of the sides as well.  We found that we could see the Welsford climbing area from here too!

Welsford

Welsford

Graham and Ross climbed around on the rocks while we explored.

Climbing

Graham Climbing

Ross Climbing

Ross Climbing

From the top of the cliff, you look down over the forest of Birch which turns into fir just before the lake.  There is a distinct line where the leaves haven’t started coming out yet.  They are likely in the shadow of this rock for most of the day.

Eagle's Eye View

Eagle's Eye View

On the side of the cliff, Graham found some holes that were used by some lady bugs as a home.

Holds

Home Sweet Home

Slopes

Slopes

West Face

West Face

My Cheery Travel Companions

My Cheery Travel Companions

Tenacious

Tenacious Maple

Ross

Ross

Around the South side of the mountain (the same forest pictured above in the Eagle’s Eye View) we found several huge rocks that had apparently chipped off the large rock face above.  There were still some huge pieces, and there were some smaller rocks that had apparently broken off these pieces in impact.  It is such a neat place to explore and there’s something mystical about walking through a forest and coming upon these huge sharp rocks every 100m or so, and hundreds of smaller shards in between.

Crumbling Mountain

Crumbling Mountain

Impact

Impact

Out of Place

Out of Place

Shards

Shards

Rhodora

Rhodora

The top of the mountain was just as interesting.  The Granite has been smoothed by centuries of wind and exposure to the extreme elements.  The trees here are stunted and only the most resilient plant life exists on top.

Granite Formations

Exposure

Quartz Vein

Quartz Vein

Once back on top again, we took the time to find some solitude.  We each went to a corner of the rock to write, think, nap, or just sit and be for a while.  There is something near perfection in finding absolute quiet in a place like this.  I just sit and look out over the tops of hills and imagine what life is contained within it, and imagine what lives before me have been lived within these hills and valleys.  I think about the history of the area- the First Nations people who lived here for thousands of years before us.  This rock must have always been a landmark, a place of power, a sacred place.

Turtle Mountain Panorama

Turtle Mountain Panorama

Then after a while, I stop thinking about it and just smile and breathe the air, feel the cool wind on my face and I have to laugh.  The silence outside mirrors a silence inside and for one everlasting moment, I surrender to the infinite present moment.  This is perfect.

Vision Spot - Graham

Vision Spot - Graham

Vision Spot - Ross

Vision Spot - Ross

Vision Spot - Paul

Vision Spot - Paul

I wrote in my jounal that there was nothing that was stunningly beautiful about this place.  It’s not the kind of place that’s easy to photograph either.  When you look in every direction and see the same rolling hills and colors, you can’t give the impression of the place just by taking a photograph in one direction.  I wrote that the beauty of this place comes through the cumulative effect of all the rolling hills and the colors of the second, and third sets of hills in the distance.  It’s the distance you can see, too, in every direction that creates the sense of remoteness here, and that’s hard to show.

The sun was shining all day, but the clouds are starting to move in.  Tonight, there will be rain, but before there is, the sun breaks through to cast the last shadows of the day.  I can see dark clouds moving in- seemingly from every direction- so it’s time to get camp settled in.

A Beautiful Thing

A Beautiful Thing

It may just be me (although I doubt it) but there’s something quite beautiful about well stacked firewood.  We collected dead wood from the surrounding area and I was even able to locate some dead hardwood to bring back.  We stacked the wood in neat piles organized by size and I couldn’t resist taking this photo.  You may think it’s funny, but tell me this isn’t a beautiful thing!

Ross' Catch of the Day

Ross' Catch of the Day

Giraffe

Giraffe

I found this piece of rotten stump that looked just like a giraffe’s head.  It reminded me of a trip ten years ago with HeartWood called Beyond Boundaries where, on top of the plateau in the Cape Breton Highlands, we found driftwood and made two dragons out of it.

Anyone remember this?  Here are some scans of the old photos:

Beyond Boundaries - Dragon

Beyond Boundaries '99 - Dragon 1

Beyond Boundaries '99 - Dragon

Beyond Boundaries '99 - Dragon 2

Now, back to Turtle Mountain.  We got the fire going and began supper preparations.  Food is so important on trips like this.  We all know that food tastes better outdoors, but that’s all the more reason to eat well on camping trips.  For supper we had a quinoa bean salad with avacado, tomatoes and cheese.

Supper Preparations

Supper Preparations

Quinoa Bean Salad

Quinoa Bean Salad

Table for Three

Table for Three

I can’t think of a better place to sit and eat supper.  We brought my thermarest, and the food around to the South West face of the mountain and sat there to eat our supper.  The sun was getting lower in the sky and the blues had just started to turn to pink and purple in preparation for a sunset.

Sighting

Sighting

We sat for a while and watched the sun go down.  The rain was threatening to come our way so we headed back to the camp side of the mountain.  I came back out with my camera and tripod to get some photos of the sunset.  It had begun to rain so I went back again to get my raincoat, but the light was too good to not brave the cold wind and rain.  This one looked like the sky was a watercolor painting.  The symmetry of the lone cloud over the lake, the hill in the distance and the rock was perfect.  And the colors were impossible to describe.

Sunset (watercolor)

Sunset (watercolor)

Sunset (raining)

Sunset (raining)

This is a look back in the Eastern direction when the sun is setting.  The rain changed the colors of the hills to deep blues and greys.  Our camp was just on the other side of this stand of trees and the lights on the right are Saint John.

East at sunset

East at Sunset

Sunset (Last Light)

Sunset (Last Light)

This was the last bit of light that broke through the clouds.  At this point it was raining quite hard and I figured I could only stand in the rain with my camera in the cold for so long.  It was time to say goodnight to the sun and head back to the warmth of the fire and the comfort of friends.

In the morning, I woke up early to the sound of my tarp flapping fiercly in the wind.  The pole I had used to hold the end up had fallen in the night and I left it down to hold the tarp down against the oncoming wind.  It was raining hard when I woke up, but I was warm and dry in my hammock and tarp system.  What I like about the hammock is that I’m still sleeping outside.  It protects me from the wind and rain (and snow in the case of the Boundary Rock trip) and keeps me warm, but when I wake up, I am outside and can see all of my surroundings.  This is the morning rain and mist on Turtle Mountain.  I got out just long enough to take this picture before retreating to the comfort and warmth of my hammock and tarp.

Morning Rain on Turtle Mountain

Morning Rain on Turtle Mountain

Once the guys got up, I took down my hammock and left the tarp up so we could all sit under it for breakfast.  We had pancakes, cardamom buckwheat pancakes, just like the morning at Junction Lake, and coffee.  I make some drip coffee (Just Us Italian Roast) and Ross said it was the best cup of coffee he’d had since arriving in Saint John.  I smile at the compliment, but when I take the first sip, I must say I am in complete agreement.

Pancakes!

Pancakes!

After breakfast when the rain died down, we decided to go on a walkabout.  We put on our raingear and walked out around to the SouthWest side of the rock.  The wind was incredible!  We stood on the edge facing the wind and braced ourselves against the gale.  It was exciting, and freezing cold!

Headwind

Headwind

Water - the stuff of life

Misty Mountain

We extended our walkabout to the Eastern face of the mountain and we walked down into the forest below it.  Suddenly, we entered a completely different world.  It was as though we had been transported to a different time and place.  On this side, we were protected from the strong Western wind and the trees provided some shelter from the mist and rain.  The groundcover was mossy and bright green and the place seemed enchanted.

Moss Understory

Moss Understory

The rocks created intricate patterns where pieces had fallen off in layers and created a labyrinth of stone and moss that hardly looked unplanned.

Labyrinth

Labyrinth

We returned to the protection of the tarp just in time for the sky to open up.  It rained and rained and we were essentially storm stayed.  We talked about how a day like this really keeps people inside (and for the most part- miserable) and here we were hanging out under my tarp, happy as could be.  We’ve done some exploring, and had breakast, and we’re content just to sit here and watch the weather.  It’s interesting too how we stayed within such a small space for such a long time.  We sat comfortably under that tarp for hours which, in any other situation would make us restless and want to move around.  We sat so long, that we decided it was time for lunch, so we made falafels.

Falafels

Falafels

After lunch we decided it was time to move.  We packed up and headed down the trail for home.  About half way I noticed the sound of running water to the right of the trail.  I figured it was too far to go to look, so I kept walking.  A while later we stopped to have some apples and carrots and we all heard it again.  We decided to put down our packs and go check it out.  We came to a beautiful little stream with some falls.  I had brought my tripod just in case, so I set it up and got a few photos of the stream.  It could be Echo Valley Brook, or even a tributary of it.  Either way, it was just beautiful.

Turtle Mountain Falls

Turtle Mountain Falls

Apple Blossoms

Apple Blossoms

Before we knew it, the road widened and we were back to Robin Hood Lake and getting closer to the road.

Slow

Slow

The End

The End

We hop back in the truck and head back to Welsford where I left my car.  Still here, I am in awe of the beauty of the place.  The mist hugs the hills on either side and I am grateful to be living in such a wonder-full and beautiful part of the world.  We don’t need to travel to exotic places to find that sense of wonder, to experience that awe inspiring beauty.  These are the places in our backyards.  So buy yourself a raincoat and go outside!

Welsford Mist

Welsford Mist

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3 Responses to “Turtle Mountain”

  1. Brent Bethune said

    Hi Paul,
    I just finished reading your journal from the Turtle Mountain Trip. Myself and three running buddies ran to the summit and back last night. I’m pleased to tell you that I found not a single piece of trash or burning campfires. The grafitti has been covered up on the rocks at the top. It was as close to printine at the top as one can get. It was a special place. We had a great run and were in and out in 3 hrs which included a 20 minute walkabout at the summit. I very much enjoyed your photos and thought that I’d let you know things were cleaned up. I know the off road clown do that run every year and put a real hurt on the trail, unfortunate but it still is one of the best hiking trails I’ve found. Have a good one.

    Brent

  2. graham said

    That’s Great to Hear! Do you think the spraypaint was covered with more paint?

    I reported this to DNR the week after it happened. I followed up with the DNR Enforcement Officer last week. He told me that the owner of the Jeep in the photo was tracked down and given a formal warning for being on the top of Turtle Mountian (as no motorized vehicles are permitted up there). The officer grilled him about the spraypaint but the Jeeper would not admit to it (obviously) nor would be give the names of the other guys. However, the office told me that they both know he did it because his initials were spraypainted on the rock (bone head move hahaha). It was very disapointed that charges were not pressed. The DNR officer was wishy washy about this and tried to convince me that going to court was not worth it.

  3. Brent Bethune said

    Well, I’m afraid so…….. the black paint was less noticable. Honesty I didnt even notice it until I saw your pic’s and recognized the shot.

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