Unlike so many other forests I have seen, the forests in Atlantic Canada can be thick and short, crowded and scrubby. Balsam firs, white and red spruce, alders, pines and hemlocks vie for space and air. The winds off the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the Northumberland Straits, and the Bay of Fundy seem to twist and stunt their growth.
In New Brunswick, a province I have been told, with only 750,000 people living in the entire landmass, you can drive for miles and miles on roads just like the one in the above picture, without seeing anything but a wall of conifers leaning out as if to say, “Watch it, buddy.”
Our route from Acadian side of New Brunswick, the east coast, to the provincial capital, Fredericton, turned out to be a race against the setting sun. We drove and drove without seeing anything but a viridian timberland wall on both sides of the road.
In many instances, the roads had been shaved on both sides by a cadre of barbers–heavy excavators swinging their boxes back and forth, knocking small trees to the left and right like toothpicks.
There are 500,000 to 1 million moose in New Brunswick, and every year, on certain stretches of highway, unsuspecting motorists and moose collide in a nasty dance of death and damage. Just learning this statistic caused incessant warnings to my driver “…to watch out in case a moose steps out of these woods.”
“Cheri, moose are shy (albeit huge–850-1500 pounds) animals who have no interest in us, so be glad that there is daylight and stop worrying, ” he admonished, tired of my drama. My research told me that September is mating season, so moose are infused with hormonal energy.
Behind schedule and halfway across the province on a rural road that festered with potholes, we learned that the road had been closed. We needed to take a different route. My driver thought it exciting; I became preoccupied with moose.
Would we make it before nightfall?
In the lounge of our hotel in Fredericton that night, over a glass of wine, we marveled that we had not seen one moose.
Well, OK. I did see one.