Our trip to Kejimkujik National Park was planned based on input from our Winnipeg friends Kev and Andre ( and their dogs Burger, Belle, and River), social media contacts from Nova Scotia, and a fellow board member of Friends of Green River Reservoir. How to pronounce it? Well, the best I have been able to determine is Kedgie-ma-KOO-jik ; hence, we will refer to the park as Keji!
Plans were made in January 2018, so that we could reserve the back country sites we desired, and have front country sites reserved as “back-up”, in case we encountered stormy weather,injuries, or illness. We had to pack and plan for both front country camping with the GO, as well as back country remote camping…this meant different gear,cooking stoves,and food. We also had camping at Digby Neck on our Nova Scotia itinerary,and our trip was scheduled to finish up with a few days camping at Acadia National Park ( Schoodic Woods). Organization through the use of gear checklists, graphic organizers, and meal planning charts all helped us have very successful camping in all the locations we chose.
Off to Keji! I downloaded a free copy of “The Tent Dwellers” book to bring, based on recommendation of Andrew, an outdoor educator from Nova Scotia who has frequented Keji for 30 years…he actually reached out by phone, and he was able to answer a few questions we had ( i.e re: the need/not need for bear canisters), and also suggested trails, and this particular book, the story of two adventurers exploring the wilds of the Keji area in 1906. Thank you Andrew!
We left on a sunny day…would this be an omen of sunny weather for this year’s trip? It was, as we had glorious weather for two weeks ( except for one travel day, so that was okay). We stopped in Maine for our first night, and camped at a campground alongside a large lake. It was quite windy, but we were able to get in a sunrise paddle before we headed north to St. John, NB.
Our trip to St. John NB was uneventful; border crossing was without a hitch, and we were able to stop at a beautiful provincial park beach for lunch. The helpful park staff pointed us in the direction of the dog friendly beach, where we walked in the fog ( and reminded the dogs that they could not drink this water).
We arrived in St. John NB, a city we have visited before ( for youth fencing tournaments, bicycling trips, and taking our daughter to university in Nova Scotia), but which was really just a stop-over for us. Since we had to be at the ferry dock very early the next morning, we opted to stay in a motel! This turned out to be a fortuitous decision, since there was an overnight thunderstorm and heavy rain. The ferry dock was encased in fog, but we lined up alongside the tractor trailers, RVs, and other cars waiting to find our place on the MV Fundy Rose.
We carried the boats on the roof of the car,since the price for crossing is calculated by length, not height…we saved some money by keeping our total length to 26 feet. The dogs had to remain in the car for the 2.5 hour crossing….temperature and ventilation were not an issue, and they are quite used to spending long hours sleeping in the car. We did leave our cell phone number on the dash, should deck hands need to contact us.
The ferry crossing was foggy, but uneventful, and we arrived in Nova Scotia late morning. Our GPS wanted to route us on a 4 hour journey, up and around NS, to get to Keji…silly, since RT 8 crosses NS, and brings you to Keji in 90 minutes or so. I had a very good Nova Scotia map, so we decided that we would use old-school navigation.
We arrived at Keji, and recalled that about 35 years ago, we had bicycled into the park entrance roadway….no paddling on that trip!
At the visitor center, an extremely helpful Parcs Canada ranger helped us check in—a bit convoluted, since we had reservations for back country sites, and front country sites on some overlapping days. She efficiently got us all checked in, issued us our permits, took our information about emergency contacts, and we were all set! We made camp at our site at Jeremy’s Bay, within 100 years of the water, and headed off to explore some of the many trails in the park. Being a mid-week, after Labor Day, the park was not busy…a good thing, since the sites at this particular campground loop were very scenic, but do not offer much privacy between sites.
Hardwoods and Hemlocks Trail..hiking a beautiful trail amidst 400 year old hemlocks!
We walked along the shores of Kejimukujik Lake ( not where we were heading for backcountry), beginning to get a sense of the enormity of this park. We relaxed at the campsite, knowing we were heading off to the Big Dam/Frozen Ocean Loop in the morning.
The next morning, we packed up our gear into the GO storage crates, placed them in the GO, and with our car loaded up with our back country gear, headed off to the parking for Big Dam Lake. We do not have to portage very often, and we knew that most of our portages would be suitable for use with our canoe and kayak carts. We had chosen this particular loop because it was recommended as an introduction to paddling at Keji…and there are only 3 portages each way, important information when our boats are not lightweight Kevlar! We each had an enlarged sectional map of our route in a dry bag,and I had the entire Keji park map as well. Since we saw only a few other paddlers the entire trip, and we were definitely newbies to this location, we really did not want to get lost!
Our loop in relation to entire Keji NP…
Off we went, only to discover that the fist put-in was a bit mucky ( to say the least). The famous Keji boulders ( rocks everywhere!) also presented another obstacle, but this was a challenge we were up to, and were soon paddling on mirror-calm waters of Big Dam lake.
We had been warned about the dark water, and rocks just below the surface, a characteristic of many Keji paddling locations; we knew we would have to negotiate ‘the Narrows” , a 200 yards stretch of lake that can be tricky to paddle. Since water levels are even lower than normal, we did not feel too incompetent when we each got stuck. Can’t go forward, can’t go backwards, can’t go sideways….hmmm, really a paddling puzzle, trying to paddle and pole our way through the rocky water. This was when we first saw varying colors of paint, left by canoe hulls, on the submersed rocks. ( no portage or lining options) We contributed a bit of green and orange to the kaleidoscope!
Alas, the other side ( the northern end of Big Dam Lake ) was beautiful! Our first campsite was located a short ways along the second portage trail…when we realized the prior occupants had yet to break camp, we dropped of our camp gear, and took back to Big Dam, exploring the beautiful lake, marveling at huge rock formations, many of which looked like pyramids.
After providing ample time for the prior occupants to exit, we portaged the canoes and gear down to the site. The remote sites here are quite well equipped, especially for being in the middle of nowhere! There are two large tent pads on each site, an outhouse ( furnished with TP, no less), a picnic table, a small metal firebox, and a effective bear hang system, allowing for safe storage of food and other smelly items. There is even a woodshed with firewood located ear each site! Though this may seem a bit too close to “glamping” for some, it certainly helps preserve the natural environment, and protects the sites from being damaged or changed.
This was a very nice site, and we were able to talk with a nice couple that we had seen camping on site 2. They were heading up the portage trail for a day paddle on Still Brook, the pathway to our next site. They said they would give us a report on the water level in the brook when they returned. Their report? Good news and bad news. The river paddle was said to be beautiful, but they told us about a particularly rocky and nasty section in the river, equal to or worse than the narrows. Also, the next portage, though short, was so rocky and rooty that we would not be able to cart the boats. Oh, jolly, something to look forward to! But we enjoyed our stay at this site, particularly since we had managed to bring along a large 4-person tent which provides much more room and comfort than out small camping tent. I guess we really were Canoe Glamping! ( and confession…there is cell service in this area, due to a tall tower at the park. We were able to access wi-fi through use of a hot spot, but we really did not use the internet much)
The next morning, we re-loaded our boats,which were on canoe carts, and headed down the portage trail. Though there were a few tricky areas, we were able to roll the boats to the next put-in, using a dock/boardwalk for the last 100 feet. A sunny and warm morning awaited us as we paddled along Still Brook, which really was more of a small river. Very mild current exists, good since we were planning on a return paddle on the same route. We paddled through very different environments…marshy areas, large piney woods, and scrub brush areas. We did find the rocky section, and after a few cuss words and a few futile attempts before we found a passable route, we continued on to the next portage.
Our final portage going out was a few hundred yards long, but we had to carry each boat, and then make numerous trips to carry the gear. Oh, and getting the boats and gear across the exposed rocks, and up to where we could begin the carry was tough. The dogs were very well behaved, but were a bit confused as to why we kept going back and forth on the same trail! The put-in at the end of the portage trail was rocky, but a pretty easy access point. By now, of course, the wind had picked up, and thankfully, we did not have too long a paddle on Frozen Ocean Lake to get to our next campsite, home for 3 days.
Our site was pretty spectacular! Along with the amenities of the first site, it was well over an acre in size, with lots of open wooded area, large boulders, and waterfront access. And we appeared to be the only folks on the lake! We were able to get out an paddle multiple times each day, exploring this wonderful and scenic lake. The quiet was impressive,and the sky was filled with stars each evening. There were nearby hiking trails we could access, but we never saw another soul.
Filtering water, fungus on tree stumps, and frogging on the shoreline…
Life at Frozen Ocean Site 6
On our final morning, we were hoping for cool temperatures, since we had to paddle two lakes, a river, and make 3 portages all in one morning. We knew this would be a challenge, but we were able to compete the task in less than 5 hours ( below our target times!) We took it easy, took breaks, kept the dogs hydrated and plied them with snacks. The rocky crossings seemed less intimidating, and we managed to cross with less difficulty in both the river and the Narrows. Big Dam Lake was glorious, with sun shining and the water sparkling..we even exited at the mucky access point without issue…and we did have a feeling of accomplishment as we concluded that last final Portage Q!
Porcupine in a tree..as we paddled out Still Brook
We loaded up our gear and boats on the car,and headed off to get an ice cream cone for us and the dogs. Best tasting ice cream of the season!
After reclaiming our Jeremy’s Bay campsite, happy to see our GO waiting for us, we took advantage of the park’s hot showers, and then drove around to different areas of the park, impressed by the diversity of natural settings. We relaxed around the fire, and put up with the increased activity and noise of weekend campers. We were able to live stream our son’s choral concert from Alexandria Virginia…while sitting in the GO, in the middle of Keji in Nova Scotia,Canada. Sometimes technology is just amazing!
We packed up early the next morning, a bit sad to leave such a beautiful spot. But we had further Nova Scotia and Maine adventures waiting for us, and we were not actually finished with Keji quite yet.
Kejimkujik National Park also has a separate section located on the ocean, on the south shore area of Nova Scotia. So on our way to Digby Neck, we stopped off there on a fabulous bluebird sky sunny morning. There are many hiking trails, and we enjoyed hiking along the seaside trails, watching for birds (and bears…a bear was spotted on the beach the day after we were there). We encountered a few other dogs hiking, and other hikers enjoying the trails. We received many complements on how well our dogs were behaving.
I would return to Keji Seaside any time! What a gem, and so glad that Parcs Canada is preserving this special place.
So we left Kejimkujik….and drove around the south shore of Nova Scotia enroute to Digby Neck, where we were going to camp in the GO for a few nights before heading back to the states. Our Keji trip was great fun! We had fabulous weather, great paddling, well behaved dogs, and challenging adventures. The remainder of our vacation was also wonderful, but that will be reported in a future blog post.