I couldn’t believe it. I had just hiked to remote Slack’s Cove to try to get away from it all, and here, against the glittering backdrop of the Bay of Fundy, was a sign with a QR code. At first I was annoyed; then I realized that if this hidden inlet was online, perhaps I could discover other places to explore. And I did.
The code opened the website of the UNESCO Fundy Biosphere Reserve, a 442,250-hectare stretch of land along the New Brunswick side of the Bay of Fundy that includes coastal cliffs, Acadian forest, salt marshes and freshwater lakes.
From the website, I learned about the geological history of the cove. But I also found links to scenic lookouts, waterfalls and much more — all part of the Trail Amazing Places program, which highlights 50 sites of spectacular natural beauty within the biosphere and promotes the use of 47 hiking and biking trails to reach them. Half of the sites are less than an hour’s walk from a road (a few places require a two-day backpacking trip from either St. Martins or Fundy National Park). Locations of the trails and places can be downloaded onto computers or smartphones as a Google Earth file, making it relatively easy to plan ahead or access information while on the go. Be warned, though: cellphone reception in the biosphere isn’t always reliable. Paper maps are also available.
The project’s second phase will see the addition of canoe and kayak routes to the website by the spring of 2014, along with short videos that show sites in different seasons and conditions.
Both tourists and residents use the program. It helped Ryan Arndt find a place to hike and a place to live. He and his partner were so impressed by the Amazing Places website that they decided to buy property in the biosphere. They now farm near one of the sites, the renowned Hopewell Rocks. Arndt continues to use the website. “It gets you to hike in new places,” he says. “It’s a great way to get people out and off the Internet.”