Published March 2018
Mount Carleton has been in our dreams lately. One brief encounter two years ago in the summer only left us wanting more time in New Brunswick’s largest, and only, wilderness provincial park. It’s over 170km² in size (for comparison’s sake, the capital city of Fredericton is 132km²), with pristine lakes, forests, plants, mountain peaks and an abundance of wildlife. But one thing has been missing...until now.
For the first time, Mount Carleton Provincial Park is now open to the public in the winter! HURRAY!
Situated within the best snow belt in the Maritimes, Mount Carleton enjoys some of the most consistent snow conditions in the whole of Eastern North America. That was music to the ears of some very snow-deprived blue-nosers. Once again, winter was a complete dud in Nova Scotia, an ongoing trend that’s very much making us reconsider our winter home-base.
Upon our arrival to Mount Carleton, we were thrilled to see piles of snow everywhere. We were also thrilled to see piles of people out enjoying the park in the winter. And as we would soon find out, not only does this park deserve to be open in the winter, but it’s arguably the best season to enjoy it!
We arrived in the park on the Family Day long weekend in February, with lots of fun activities in the park for all to enjoy. Snowshoeing, sliding, dog-sledding (with our friends from Sled Dog Adventures), cross-country skiing, ice fishing, winter workshops, maple taffy-on-the-snow, plenty of amazing food and most importantly...FUN. We watched as kids and families tried all these activities with big smiles and lots of laughs, and we thought to ourselves: This is what winter is all about!
As the sun set on the bright sunny day, we put on our snowshoes and hiked 1.5 hours back to a rustic cabin on Nictau Lake for the night. We were lucky enough to stay in one of the summertime rental cabins, as we are testing them out to see if they are ‘winter worthy.’ Nestled in the snow-dappled forest overlooking the lake, with wood stove roaring, we can happily report back that it was a cosy and peaceful night. We hope that these cabins will be available for rent next winter *hint hint*.
The next day we woke to soft snowflakes dusting the ground. Just after breakfast, the sun poked out and we donned our snowshoes again. This time bound for the top of Sagamook peak. We definitely need to give a HUGE thanks to the group who broke trail before us that morning. Snowshoeing up a mountain while carrying camera gear is no easy task, but it was made considerably easier thanks to being able to follow their tracks. Sagamook, being the third-highest peak in the Maritimes, is a challenging hike. As you’d expect, it’s straight up for 2 hours… or at least it would be if it was summer! Snowshoes are a different story, given that it was waist to chest deep snow it took closer to 3.5 hours to make the peak and another 1.5 hours back down again. Like many things, the effort only made the reward that much sweeter. When we emerged from the woods to conquer the lookoff we were greeted to a perfect view. I immediately understood why someone would say that the best of this park is often found in the winter. For countless miles in every direction, the world just sparkled.
Back at the cabin that night we cooked up a huge meal. Despite exhaustion, we still couldn’t resist trekking out onto frozen Nictau Lake to gaze up at the stars. We weren’t there for 2 minutes before a shooting star raced across the sky. Our sleep that night was one of the best of winter.
Throughout all of this we were joined by our friend who was visiting from the south of England. A winter, like that of one on perfect display at Mount Carleton Provincial Park, is something he had never experienced before. He was in awe of the landscape, in the literal sense. At times, he couldn’t seem to believe it. We often forget that not everyone has the chance to experience such wild places and that winter truly is a privilege. You could see across his face, as he repeatedly scanned the scenery, that he knew this place was special. Yet, it’s also lost on many people how incredible winter can be. If you, or anyone you know, needs a reminder of this, just send them to Mount Carleton. It’s a place where you can easily fall in love with winter, for the first time or for the 100th time.
A for Adventure is all about inspiring people to get outdoors and be adventurous. Follow along with Jan LaPierre and Chris Surette as they share all the wonderful things to do in Canada’s great outdoors.