“Oh my goodness, oh my goodness, this is amazing, quick, take a photo, ahhhh!…quick take another photo. Oh my goodness, this is amazing. Where has everyone gone? Oh, I had better catch up….quick take another photo….oh my goodness!”
This is the mental chatter you would have heard if you were present inside my head at Hopewell Rocks. My mind was racing from the beauty, my body was frozen (in awe, not the cold) and as a whole I was feeling alive and delighted by the heightened sense one can get when incredibly impressed. I almost became frantic, everywhere I looked I saw something I wanted to photograph. I was struck by the resonating beauty, and while everyone else walked on, I lagged behind, suspended in awe.
My brother Tate and my sister in law Natalie had planned this outing in advance for Grandma, Anthony (our cousin) and I during our trip to Canada for their wedding. With knowing this I did some research about Hopewell Rocks, but I was unable to find any images of it during the Winter. Anything I looked at about it was pictured during the Summer, with people in shorts, hats and flip flops – and often images of people kayaking around the rocks at high tide. Natalie grew up nearby, and she had not ever before visited the rocks in Winter. I had sort of expected, due to the weather that we may not have been able to see them at all. Thankfully my thoughts proved wrong and I experienced one of the unofficial wonders of the world.
Hopewell Rocks are located on the shores of the upper reaches of the Bay of Fundy (known for having the highest tidal range in the world) at Hopewell Cape near Moncton, New Brunswick. Due to the extreme tidal range (up to 16.3 meters) of the Bay of Fundy, the base of the formations are covered in water twice a day. However, it is possible to view the formations from ground level at low tide – which is exactly what we did.
Natalie planned it so that we arrived just at the right time for low tide. The park was officially closed for the Winter, and so we did not have to pay an entry fee, but ‘Enter at own risk’ as the sign stated. I want to reiterate, we were not breaking the law, the sign says you may enter during the off season, but be warned it may be dangerous. Part of this danger – which kept Grandma seated comfortable at the look-out, was that the stairs down to the mud flat were covered with snow and ice, and the final set of stairs were raised and shut. We had to climb over the railing and down the safety ladder to the mud flat. All of this contributed to the spirit of adventure – I loved every moment. It was absolutely stunning, the snow, ice, caves, icicles, rocks, trees, mud and the seaweed – it was awesome, and one had to wonder how it all came about?
What I know: The formations consist of dark sedimentary conglomerate and sandstone rock. The large volume of water flowing in to and out of the Bay of Fundy modifies the landscape surrounding it. The advancing and retreating tides and the associated waves have eroded the base of the rocks at a faster rate than the tops, resulting in their unique shapes. What I do not know is exactly how the white ice/snow layer was formed. I can assume it had to do with perfect freezing conditions while the tide lowered, and bit by bit an ice layer formed…like icing. I felt like this made the rocks look so pretty, and on comparing them to how they look in Spring, Summer and Autumn, I felt privileged to see them like this.
Another positive aspect of going in Winter was that we were the only people there. Tate and Nat had been to Hopewell Rocks previously together in the summer, and Nat said there were so many people sightseeing, that it was hard to get a good photo as someone was always in the shot. They also rope of sections to keep people at a distance, but in Winter…it is like I said…at your own risk.
Nat added that in Summer she wore flip flops and her feet became very muddy. For this visit we all had snow boots on, that also became very muddy. Lucky for us though the mud was cleaned off our boots in the miraculous way snow cleans things. By the time I walked back up the stairs covered in snow, my boots were once again perfectly clean.
I wished I could have spent hours exploring the coastline, but it was not possible as the tide comes in at a fast pace. We had also left Grandma at the top, sitting at the look-out alone. Grandma, with her broken foot was not able to move around in the snow and ice and it was important to get back to her so she did not freeze. I was the last one to mount the stairs, and did so with dragging feet. All the while savouring the brief but brilliant visit to Hopewell Rocks.