Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Stay in a Fundy Yurt!

A new option for staying overnight at Fundy National Park is to stay in one of the newly constructed yurts.  My first exposure to yurts was during a winter trip to the Gobi Desert in Mongolia in 1998, when we stayed in one (they actually are called gers in Mongolia, from a word meaning home). There is evidence that yurts go back well over two thousand years in several cultures.

These circular high wall structures are usually placed on raised platforms, and are surprisingly roomy (the Fundy ones are about 6 m in diameter, roughly the same as some traditional Asian yurts/gars).  The Fundy yurts are on a raised wood base, and are covered with thick plastic, and have doors and windows, and an acrylic skylight.  Yurts have been an option in some parks along the west coast of the U.S.A. for some time, more recently Algonquin and several other parks in Ontario have them, and it is nice to see them now available in Atlantic Canada too!

There are six Fundy yurts, and the two nearest the bay have truly outstanding views of the Bay of Fundy, Alma harbour and the Chignecto cliffs.  They include a propane heater with ceramic viewing window. Each yurt has a bunk bed that has a double on bottom and a single over it, as well as a double sofa bed.  They have a very nice wood table with two benches and a couple of chairs.  There is natural light through a central roof window, as well as two battery storage solar lights for night operation.  You are not allowed to cook inside the yurts, but the recently renovated kitchen shelter nearby is reserved for those staying in the yurts.

Check with the park about the cost of the yurt, and they can be reserved by telephoning 506-887-6000 or emailing Fundy.Yurts-Yourtes@pc.gc.ca. More details on the Fundy National Park yurts is available here on the park website, as well as a checklist of what to bring (including sleeping bags, slippers and cooking/eating dishes).

For those familiar with Fundy National Park, they are located in what was once the overflow area of the Headquarters Campground.  As such it is a great location for those who prefer to walk to attractions - it is a relatively short walk to the Alma beach, the headquarters amphitheatre where many evening interpretive programs are hosted, the playground and golf course, the village of Alma, the swimming pool, and the beginning of several trails.  Each yurt has a picnic table and (according to the website) will soon have deck chairs as well.  Two of the yurts have ramps and are wheelchair accessible (although the nearest washrooms are some distance away).

As mentioned at the outset, the view from the first two of the Fundy yurts is truly incredible.  Why not try this unique way to stay overnight in Fundy?  If you really like your stay, a Canadian company will sell you a yurt for your own backyard or vacation experience - see details of Yurtco here (they also have information on the history of yurts).

Friday, June 3, 2011

Joggins Fossil Cliffs

A highlight of any Bay of Fundy vacation is a trip to the Joggins Fossil Cliffs.  This area, designated a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site, has been one of the most important areas for fossil discoveries in the world, and is a "must explore" for any bay vacation.

The natural history of the region (long ago this was a biologically rich and diverse swamp), combined with the constant erosion due to the Fundy tides, result in a particularly rich area for fossil discovery.  Interestingly, at the times the fossils were formed (about 315 million years ago), this area was near the Earth's equator.  The swamp was bounded by mountains on each side, which contributed to the biological richness.  The fossil finds here are righ in tree, fern and amphibian and reptile fossils.  As the document naming it a UNESCO site said "The classic coastal section at Joggins, Nova Scotia, is of outstanding universal value. It contains an unrivalled fossil record preserved in its environmental context, which represents the finest example in the world of the terrestrial tropical environment and ecosystems of the Pennsylvanian 'Coal Age' of the Earth's history."

While the scientific value of the area has been  scientifically studied for more than one hundred years, it is only recently that a full interpretive centre has been established.  Plan on at least several hours here, and try to time your visit so that tide will be relatively low.  It is surprisingly easy to find fossils here after a bit of guidance, and almost every one will find at least one along the beach (this is a protected area and all fossils must remain on the beach).  I have visited with groups several times, and the staff are superb.  One interesting aspect is that the centre is a research as well as educational operation, with various ongoing scientific studies. 

The interpretive centre includes static and dynamic displays, and cover the geological, scientific, historical and cultural importance of the area.  This area was once a rich coal mining area, and the history of that industry in the village is well covered.  The interpretive centre, which features green technology, has a lunch room and gift shop at the site. It is open from late April until end of October each year (check their website for hours of operation).   It is well off the major highways, so make sure you are clear on driving directions.