I think it is easier to fall in love with the wilderness than with a city. A city takes time to discover and adjust to, but nature is much simpler. Nature is not a construction or a compromise or a work in progress, it simply exists. When we first arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick, I didn’t think much of the city. Yes, it had a couple charming buildings, but beyond that there was little to capture my attention. We had arrived late in the afternoon and because of the summer sun we still had too much daylight on our hands so we decided to drive to nearby Irving Park. Unlike the city, this natural oasis instantly charmed me.
Irving Nature Park sits on a thin crooked peninsula that stretches out into the Bay of Fundy. Only a couple minutes outside the city, Irving Park is 600 acres of pristine natural habitat made easily accessible through a number of trails and boardwalks. The coastline alternates between harsh wind cut rock and sandy beaches, occasionally slipping into marshlands.
We didn’t go more than five minutes from the parking lot before we encountered our first surprise. Sitting on the sloping shore bank we saw a young red fox. Completely nonchalant towards us, he stretched out in the sun and played with some bug he had spotted in the sand. We also saw plenty of other animals around the park, such as birds and squirrels. There were even seal spotting trails further into the park that we unfortunately didn’t have the chance to check out.
There was a wonderful sense of serene intimacy walking along the quiet trails of Irving Park. The ground was covered in lush green moss and between the trees the ferns gently swayed with the breeze. The trail we were on meandered through the forest, occasionally coming out to the coastline to breathe in the sea. In the woods the sound of waves fell away. Everything was very still as though time had simply sunk into the marshes. There was only the smell of pine sap and the warmth of the sun filtering through the tree tops.
As we began to circle back towards the parking lot we came out onto a long stretch of smooth land. The fading sunlight played over the mud flats making it appear as though there were streams of silver between the mounds of black soil. When we had first driven up to the park the mudflats had been mostly dry but by the end of the day the tide had slowly crept back in.
I can’t really say what it is that I love about the wilderness. It is impossible to pin down something that manages to be both ephemeral and unchanging at the same time.