On July 3, from noon to 6 p.m., people are invited to head to Tomlinson Lake, near Perth-Andover, N.B., to take a hike into history, either in person or virtually.
The National Trust for Canada named the Tomlinson Lake Hike to Freedom in Carlingford, N.B., one of eight Canadian heritage gems. As part of the launch of Historic Places Days on July 3, it will include the trail which in the mid-1800s served as the final destination of the Underground Railway system, which helped carry American Black families to freedom.
Joe Gee, historian and organizer of Hike for Freedom events, encourages people to join them for the July 3 walk or take in the virtual tour hosted by National Trust for Canada.
"As for the Historic Places Days event being hosted by the National Trust For Canada," said Gee, "it's a real honour to have been asked to participate with the kick-off on the first day."
He said knowledge about the historic trail has grown since the non-profit group formed to operate and maintain the historic trail. He said the group has organized hiking events at the site since 2013.
The site's big annual event, the Tomlinson Lake Hike for Freedom, is held in October of each year. Gee said 2019's annual hiking event attracted around 1,000 hikers over three days.
Because of COVID-19, he said the event was limited to only a group of 200 participants. Most of the food or congregation activities, such as the pop-up museum tent, were not available.
In addition to the July 3 event, Gee said, they plan to host the annual event during the first full weekend of October, but final plans depend upon the pandemic situation at that time.
"We hope to have a good turnout," he said.
Gee said they are excited to showcase the historic trail to hikers on hand and the cross-Canada viewers online on July 3.
He said volunteers and heritage groups would be on hand to help share the historical significance of the trail leading to Tomlinson Lake.
He said the 5th New Hampshire Volunteers Co. H, a U.S. civil war reenactment group composed of folks from around Atlantic Canada, will be on-site portraying some of the 50,000 Canadian men and women who crossed the border to fight for the Union cause.
Gee said Graham Nickerson would be on hand portraying an early Black Loyalist settler at the trail's pithouse structure.
Tobique First Nation artist Kisuhs Perley will be on-site demonstrating Maliseet basket weaving.
Gee said New Beginnings, an organization that promotes mental health and community inclusion, will hand out water bottles to hikers.
He said additional volunteers would also be there to help with the ongoing construction of the squatter's cabin located along the trail.
The July 3 event will include a self-guided hike, informative nature exhibits and live interpretation. The free event is ideal for all age groups.
Gee said that food stands and a pop-up museum would not operate during the July 3 event, so he reminds hikers to bring their own snacks and drinks to adhere to self-distancing rules. Organizers also recommend those taking the 2.5-kilometre hike along the trail to the lake and back to bring good hiking shoes, a sweater, first aid kit, backpack, hat, sunblock, tissues, whistle and lighter.
Gee said COVID-19 regulations include maintaining a family bubble and six-foot distancing from others on the trail. They ask hikers to avoid congregating into groups, adding volunteers will take names and contact information of participating hikers upon their arrival.
Visitors can access the site at 250 Glenburn Road in Carlingford, which sits just seven minutes outside Perth-Andover and 170 kilometres north of Fredericton.
The location of Carlington, a small farming community, which sits east of the New Brunswick-Maine border, proved an ideal location to be part of the northernmost route of the Underground Railroad. This secret network helped enslaved Black people escape from the United States. The Tomlinson Lake hiking trail leads through forests to its namesake lake.
Gee hopes to see a large turnout for the special event on July 3.
"We are encouraging families, friends to join us during this celebration of Historic Places Days by hiking the trail," he said. "A hiking trail isn't a hiking trail without any hikers."
Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun