Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 9.8.19
Stanstead, Quebec


Sharks are the least of your worries, Mom

Before Deb and I left (alone!) for our vacation in New Brunswick, my mother sent an e-mail warning that sharks now frequent the Bay of Fundy, our destination, including great white sharks, even in shallow water. Also, there are seahorses now, which, by the way, awwwwwww!

What Mom didn't realize was that in order to get attacked by a shark in the Bay of Fundy you have to step foot in the absolutely frigid waters. In other words, you don't have to be crazy to get eaten by a shark in the Bay of Fundy, but it helps.

It's a very mom, very human thing to do -- think about the sensational perils that are statistically unlikely versus those more certain to do us harm (see: terrorism vs. climate change). If Mom had only known the other stuff Deb and I got up to (alone!) during our trip.

We spent three days on Grand Manan in the middle of the bay, tenting at the Hole-in-the-Wall Campground, which is named after a natural rock formation that looks like -- you guessed it -- a hole in the wall. Nearby were dozens of rustic campsites perched on the windy edges of the cliffs. Deb and I looked at each other and thought: we would totally camp here.

Alas, the owner died a few years ago and his widow felt unable to keep it all running, so she closed the cliff sites, and we were forced to take a boring old site with level ground and zero precipices.

We made up for it by hiking the trails along the rugged western perimeter of the island. We were virtually alone for miles and miles as we peered down towering cliff faces to the jagged rocks below. Slipping and plummeting to our deaths wasn't probable, but it wasn't impossible either. A seaside hike as a life lottery, if you will.

There was greater likelihood of getting lost. The markings along New Brunswick's trails are virtually foolproof, but fools do find a way. I tended to lead on the hikes, and a couple of times Deb said, "Uhhh, isn't it this way?" just before I blended Field-of-Dreams-like into the brush. Or the time I thought Deb was behind me and I heard, "Ross?" from, well, not behind me.

Indeed, there were moments when I thought to myself, "Absolutely no one knows we're out here (alone!). This could go badly. Also: is that mushroom edible?"

Did that stop us? Well, it didn't stop Deb, who's never seen a trail or spur or Enchanted Lane of Doom she didn't like. I was just happy to be on vacation.

Back on the mainland, we found a trail that led to a marshy pond. Cute. But then there was this other trail, one not advertised on the map we were using. So we followed it, not knowing where it would lead or for how long it would be or whether there were sharks at the end. There were no sharks, but I did look down and wonder, "Isn't that bear poop?"

Along a rough path, over tumbled boulders, past sheer rock faces, bears undoubtedly peeking at us through the pines, we eventually made it to the top of what we later learned was Mount Chickahominy. Don't get excited; this is a New Brunswick mountain, which is basically a hill with aspirations.

We were taking small risks, as one does any time one ventures outside. But generally it's not the outside you have to worry about...

So imagine me cooking dinner over a camp stove. I have ravioli ready and am preparing a sauce of fresh tomatoes and basil, chopped garlic, onions and mushrooms. I reach for the jar of oil and pour it into the frying pan, adding the mushrooms, onions and garlic. Funny, I'm not smelling it. I lean closer, sniff. Do I detect lemon? Is my oil bubbling?

I look at the jar of oil. It's not oil. It's dishwashing liquid. I am sudsing my veggies.

I try rinsing them, but the thing with mushrooms is they absorb. I know this because I am still tasting the soap a week later.

My point is not that I ruined supper (I didn't; tomato, garlic, basil, dried oregano, a little wine was just fine) but that I did a very stupid thing. What if it hadn't been dish soap but carbolic acid? I don't know what carbolic acid looks like or what it does but I bet it makes a lousy sauce.

The moral of the story is you don't have to worry about sharks. But you do have to worry about me.