Monday, May 15, 2017

Goose River Wandering

The weather has been damp, unseasonally cold, and uninspiring for about  the last week.  Regardless.  I was itching to do some wandering and when a good buddy of mine suggested we take a hike on a Monday I was all game.  Usually I spend more time fishing with Robin but he is relatively new to the Fundy Footpath hiking trail and he wanted to explore one of the access routes.  I needed no reason to join him since I had some time built up at work.  So away we went.

We met at Adair's Wilderness Lodge around 9:30, I had to check into my office and take some rain gauge measurements before the fun started.  From Adair's we headed ESE towards Goose River and the boundary of Fundy National Park.  After approximately 40 minutes of driving over gravel roads of various condition we arrived at the White Car Trail or Goose River Access trail.  With gray skies we got out and started quickly down the trail with no certain plan but a desire to explore.

A short hike in a southerly direction brought us to the junction of the access trail and the FFP.  At the junction there was a wildnerness campsite with a steep stream.  The deep green mosses glowing with the moisture of the recent rains and this would be a common theme through the day.  The next leg was approximately 1.5km along the Fundy Coast where we were blessed with a chance to look out over the Bay towards Martin Head and from there we headed inland towards the Goose River trail crossing.

We sat and admired the boulders and trilliums while we ate a quick snack and discussed what to do next.  We looked over our GPS and decided that we could make possibly make a loop trip by hiking up Goose River and then heading up a small tributary that would almost get us back to the White Car Road.  With some hesitation about weather and uncertainty about what we might get into, we traipsed off up the river.






It was a fantastic choice as the Goose River is full of cascades and chutes.  There were a number of prime river side camping spots right next to deep, clear, pools.  This will be a place I remember to come back to for sure.  As we approached the triburary we were looking for the terrain got steeper but now our adrenaline and excitement were driving us on to see what lay ahead.

We climbed into the steep ravine and started clambering over bedrock shelves and large boulders.  Next to us large yellow birch and spruce trees stood and with the mist falling lightly I felt like I was truly in a rain forest.  The Fundy ecosystem always impresses.  As we come to a fork in the stream the area opens up a bit and I feel a sense of peace.  I recognize the feeling immediately and have felt it in a number of special places.  This is a spiritual place where God put his hand on my shoulder and says "See this, I made this for you, appreciate it, respect it."  Despite how steep and difficult the hiking was here, despite having wet feet, despite the rain that was starting to fall, we both climbed the hills with broad smiles on our faces and leaned into the challenge of the hike knowing we were blessed to simply be able to.

While it was not an ideal day for hiking we committed to getting outside and getting it done.  For that commitment we were more than adequately rewarded.  What is keeping you from wandering?  Get ouside.  Find your reward.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Blessed with Little Things

There is so much in this world that takes our attention from the important things. We often take for granted the little things in our lives.  We frequently give no thought to how if they were not there that our lives would be completely different.

To be able to live in this part of the world where, truly, we face only minor challenges.  If we faced things like starvation, I wonder if bilingualism would seem so important?  If we had to walk 2km to get water, would we notice the potholes on our road there? If we faced an Ebola outbreak would  a three hour wait for treatment seem that bad?

Personally I have been struggling with letting the little things getting me down lately.  I have let them cloud my perspective on what is important.  I watched the news as people in Peru struggle with a natural disaster and reminded myself how lucky I am and how miniscule my current troubles are.

With that being said...having a cold on a beautiful day like it was today sucks but I'm so lucky I could look out my window and see it.

I hope you can all find your silver lining and that God blesses you as he has continually blessed me.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Stormy Weather

Living in Canada means we have to regularly deal with winter weather.  It makes us resilient, tough, durable, and sometimes irritable.   Normally we face large snowfalls with a sense of childlike adventure and with a sense of humor.

February 13, 2017 called upon the biggest child in us and our funniest humor.  It has been a large nor'easter that has so far dumped over 70cm of snow, oh and it is still snowing.  I have shoveled out my driveway twice and will likely need to shovel it again before going to work tomorrow.  I couldn't get to work today so I spent time with my family.

This brings out an even bigger kid in me.  We dug into a number of snowbanks and made forts. We played outside with  the snow blowing hard around us.  The drifts were over my 7 year old daughter's head in some places.  We had a blast.

As I returned to my shovelling, I couldn't believe how many people were out driving. A number of trucks went by and I couldn't help but think of a photo I saw on Facebook earlier.  Due to the storm an ambulance went in the Dutch.  The province has taken all plows off the road at noon so why and where would any one be travelling to on a day like to day?  I hope everyone made their destinations.

I write this mainly to remind myself of this epic storm later.  It will be one to remember.  Already they have cancelled school for the 2nd day in a row so it is looking like another child like day for me, even if I do have to go sampling.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Getting the Lead Out

Winter is a tough time to stay motivated.  Changing conditions and weather often give you an excuse to simply sit on the couch and watch the World Junior or eat the remaining M&Ms or take an extended nap.  As our community mourns the loss of a person who never sat on the couch I couldn't sit and do nothing today.  Ellen your smile and energy will be missed across the region and beyond.
This MSRWhisperlite has been a long trusted piece of equipment for my brother and I.


My brother and I took to the rugged hills around Waterford.  It is an area we know fairly well but today we were heading into a piece of it we hadn't yet wandered.  The high hills separating the upper reaches of Trout Creek from Parlee Brook conveniently have a road, Long Settlement Road, running across them and we would use this as our end point.  The slopes were going to be steep and rugged. We were up for the challenge.

We parked along the Walker Settlement Road and headed north down a stream we hiked before.  In no time we were at a small waterfall which we took time to appreciate. Literally seconds later we came to a tributary which we followed up stream.  This would be the unfamiliar area for us and we'd quickly discover that it was going to be tough and steeper than anticipated.  A number of cross drainages made our progress even more difficult but they made the scenery spectacular.

As we struggled up the snowy slopes we discussed the new season of "Alone" and whether or not we could complete such an adventure.  We also talked about past hikes and how a slight change in direction can make them seem completely different or how the season's can drastically alter the challenges you face.  The snow and ice we were experiencing today altered our perception of the area we were currently in and made it entirely different from when we were there a few summers ago.

We made lunch perched on a small bench along the stream.  A steep, rocky, slope, was at our back and we sat for a bit in silence as we waited for our water to boil.  We made some soup and some tea and gave my dog Bambi ample samples of the crackers which she seemed to prefer over her own food.  I didn't really want to leave our idylic setting and push up the slope but my curiousity and drive to finish what I started pushed me up the slope.

After our lunch the forest cover changed from mature softwoods to hardwoods and the snow changed with it.  From the hard, shallow, and sometimes icy snow pack it became deeper and much more difficult to push through.  We slightly regretted leaving our snowshoes in the truck but we managed to find our way through it.  To make it more challenging the slope became steeper but again we put on our happy face and slugged through it.

My brother and I enjoying lunch along a small unnamed stream.
We reached the top of the small stream and now set our sights on a nearby pond which flowed the opposite way into Parlee Brook.  Our path was now more downhill but we had to navigate through a spruce thicket, around the pond and then a wetland before we found the Long Settlement Road.  Once we got to the road, which is a snowmobile trail this time of year, we hiked back to the Walker Settlement Road and to the truck.  We spent roughly 4hours wandering through the woods and came out feeling refreshed and recharged.  The hike was a little over 8km, including the road walk.  Hikes like this give me a sense of calm and serenity that improve my social mood and attitude.  It is this reason why my wife encourages me to wander on my own every now and then.




From Whalen's Wanderings have a Happy New Year.  May 2017 bring you lots of opportunity to wander and find your inner peace.

Here is to the wind always being at your back, rest in peace Ellen.

Tracks from various animals were present near this rock escarpment.

This steep slide would be a great place to explore in the summer.  The slide was likely more than 40m long.

Bambi was leading the way as we returned to Walker Settlement Road.


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Christ, Christmas, and Traditions


For many people December is a busy and festive time of year.  As a christian I proudly celebrate Christmas and love the reason why we celebrate.  The birth of Christ was, and still is, a huge even to put it lightly.  It is played out across many communities across the globe.  Now I don't claim to be well traveled or cultured so take this next statement for what it's worth.  The best reiteration of Christ birth is done by the St. Mark's Church at their "Living Manger" and it is coming up December 18th.

I have watched this event for the last 10 years.  It has become a family tradition where my wife and I invite our family to park in our drive way and walk a couple hundred meters down the street to where they host the "Living Manger."  Afterwards we all come back and have some hot chocolate as the kids play rambunctiously in the back bedrooms.  The chill in the air, the smell of the tree mixed with slopped hot chocolate, laughter, and music, it is a family tradition where we put Christ at the center of our thoughts, where family is important, and where memories are made.

Not only have I taken in this great event, I have also written about it here before.  Check them out if you want to know more about the event.  I encourage you to take it in December 18th with two showings in the early evening.

Corner Christmas Carols

An Alabama Rockwell Christmas Town

Living Manger

Friday, December 2, 2016

A Wandering Work Day

I am pretty fortunate to be able to work at a job I love.  It is different, not only every day, but every minute of that day.  Just like maritime weather my job continuously offers up something new.
A sign post from the Alphabet Ecology Trail
One project that we've been working on is an "Alphabet Ecology Trail" for a private school.  It is a trail slash board game where the students can explore their relationship with nature.  Using the letters of the alphabet and simple things found in nature we have developed a great learning experience.  Watching the kids engage while hiking this trail was a true blessing as I witnessed my humble idea come to life and the expression on the kids faces was as rewarding as any salary or pay check.
Getting ready to grab a water sample on the Kennebecasis.

This morning I was standing in the middle of the Kennebecasis River collecting water samples as a light snow fell.  The samples help identify threats or changes to the water quality of the river.  That in turn will allow us to better address threats, changes, and pollution.

If that isn't diverse enough, this afternoon I was writing proposals.  In order to complete projects I have to successfully apply for funding.  That means lots of proposals and writing.  It also means that my success depends on my ability to put good proposals together.  It leaves me with a strong sense of self dependence and I like that, however, it isn't for everyone as it can be stressful when the funds start to diminish.

Working for a non-profit has many rewards, none of which is the salary.  The idea of making a difference to the community you work and live in is an amazing opportunity.  It is a concept that seems to be harder to find in communities now a days.  In the Sussex area, where I live, it is common place though and those in the region should feel blessed to have as many volunteers and non-profit organizations working in their region.  As a non-profit manager, the organization I work for contributes a good deal of money to the local economy and we prefer to keep our money in the local economy.  I think most NPOs have the same ideal.  I only make this statement as some people would like to discard the value of NPOs without truly understanding not only the economic value we provide to the community we serve but also the social and (in my case anyway) ecological values.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Reconnecting with an Old Friend: FFP 2016



In the beginning there were 8, then it fell to 6.  Shortly it was down to five.  Before we actually started it was down to 4.  In the end there were only two people left.  This might be a strong indicator of how difficult the Fundy Footpath truly is.  Of the 8 that expressed interest in completing a thru-hike on the rugged 50+/-km trail, 6 had been across it before.  The two others had only done sections.  Now to be fair I have to explain how people dropped off the list.  One ended up with a fractured heal before we started while one had a family commitment come up.  Another candidate fell very sick the week of the hike and decided it would not be wise, while another got called into work during our expected time frame.  That left four to start the hike.

My brother and I have each hiked the FFP multiple times end to end.  At one point in our lives we were hiking it annually but as we tried to remember the last time we hiked it, we were surprised to realize it had been 4 years since we had completed a thru-hike.  This prolonged absence would soon show itself.  Starting the hike with us would be my brother's two boys who had hiked the trail with us the last time we completed it.

Martin Head appears just as you prepare to cross Goose Creek.
We got away on a Friday morning, as planned, and arrived at Pointe Wolfe in Fundy National Park at around 9:30am.  Our goal for that day was to hike to Goose Creek and tent near the beach overlooking Martin Head.  Our long absence from the trail showed itself several times.   Personally I struggled more than I ever have and I even stumbled 4 times through the day.  I had scrapes and bruises like never before but I still felt like I was having a conversation with an old friend; maybe an old friend I had neglected for too long but a friend nonetheless.

Like me, my old friend had changed as well.  We were pleasantly surprised to see the newly routed high tide trail at Goose River.  This new side trail allowed us to avoid the mud flats and having to rush to beat the rising tides at Goose River.  We came down into the valley at a small tributary and the new perspective was a great addition to the trail system within Fundy National Park.

A moment for reflection on the FFP.
I wasn't the only one struggling, the boys were struggling too and one was suffering some severe blisters.  A discussion that night in camp led to a decision the next morning that the two boys would pull out at Martin Head.  We hiked the beach from Goose Creek to Martin Head as the tide was making the turn.  While we hiked we were able to reach a ride home for the boys, 16 and 20 years old, and my brother opted to stick it out and continue to hike with me.  The need to re-organize packs and contact rides meant once we crossed Quiddy River, we were going to have to hike back to the trail and not navigate the beach to Telegraph Brook as hoped.

We had made this bushwhack through the birch and spruce stands before and despite the steep uphill climb we made our way back to the white blazed trail.  Before long we were headed downward toward the mouth of Telegraph Brook.  We paused leisurely there and enjoyed a good snack and the waves, glad we had made the choice to hike the trail as the beach was pretty much impassable now.  In my brother's words "Let's not be the idiots in the paper who have to be rescued from the cliffs", and we were satisfied with our decision.

A smoother part of the FFP.
The rest of the day would be a tough slog as we still had Hunter, Wolfe, and Rapidy Brooks to go in and out of before we reached Little Salmon River.  We buried our heads and climbed out of Telegraph Brook saying very little until we reached the plateau.  We were finding our hiking legs now and so conversation started to pick up.  When we dropped into Wolfe Brook we shed our packs for another rest.  We explored a campsite which was new to us and we thought maybe in future trips it would be a good place to stop.  It was surprising to both of us how many changes had occurred in the last four years.  Many new campsites were visible and we wondered how the ecosystem and trail were with the more intense use.

A new bridge greeted us at Rapidy Brook, although we knew it was there as we had seen photos through social media.  It was here that we caught up with some fellow hikers we had met the night before.  As they moved on, Luke and I sat and filtered some water and explored the falls and rapids in this torrent of a stream.  We then buried our heads once again and made our way out of this steep valley.

When we reached the valley bottom of the Little Salmon River, I felt a wave of complete exhaustion come over me. I took a few minutes and sat in the shade and snacked on some bars and before long I was well enough to start setting up camp.  The cool waters of the Little Salmon River ran clear and I sat and watched for some trout while I filtered water for my supper.  I had a goulash on my menu and ate well as the sun started to drop below the steep valley wall.  Luke was in his element as we made a bonfire and hosted a cool couple from northern NB.  He made hot chocolate and a hot juice drink which went over real well and he made sure the fire stayed stoked.  We could have sat at the fire well past midnight but we all knew we had some tough climbs ahead the next day.

Our streak of good weather continued on day three and we enjoyed the estuary of the Little Salmon before we started the long, burning climb up the west side of the valley. I have always loved the plateaus along this stretch of the trail and the big birch trees that provided much needed shade on this day.  Before we knew it we were sitting on the shore again at Cradle Brook and we each decided not to sit too long in the sun.  That was a hard task because we really wanted to explore the rocks and the beach.  However we donned our packs and started, what I consider the toughest climb on the trail.  It is also one of the most rewarding as you can sit and the top and look out over the ground you just covered.
Our tent site at Seeley Beach.

The trek down into Seeley Beach seemed to fly by and felt easy.  My hiking legs were back under me and at that point I felt whole again and my "old friend" and I were getting along great.  As I stepped out of the woods onto Seeley Beach the sun shone incredibly warm and it reflected off the Bay.  I instantly took a few minutes to sit on the beach and take it all in.  We made our way down to where the brook runs into the Bay and made camp up on a shelf in the woods.  This location also had changed since my last visit as there were many more places to set up my tent.  We sat once again on the beach but this time we sat up quite late as we knew our next day would be a short one.  Conversation with two couples who were on the beach that night was enjoyable and the aura of trail magic was wrapped thickly in the moment as I made connections with everyone.

On day four we woke up and dallied around as the sun rose higher.  We stepped off the beach at around 9:30 and headed towards what I call football rock.  The stretch between Seeley Beach and Long Beach is a more leisurely hike but at Long Beach reality starts heavily creeping in.  Hiking can have that effect.  Our moods were lifted as we approached Big Salmon River and discovered our Dad coming in to meet us.  He had been sick most of the week leading up to the hike and had to back out.  The fact that he came in to meet us meant a great deal to both my brother and I, even though we're both 40+ year old men.

The trail is like that.  It will make grown adults appreciate all that is around them from both a social and ecological perspective.  As I walked across the suspension bridge over the Big Salmon River I looked down on the river and simply noted, I don't want to wait another four years to get out and hike a trail again. Check out the video for some more on our hike.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Invasive Technique

I work as a watershed practitioner.  My job is to understand, monitor, conserve, and restore the Kennebecasis River.  The non-profit group I work with has a great understanding of this exceptional waterway and have taken a logical and practical approach to reach their goal.  We do not want to manage a fishery but rather work with nature and help Her combat man-made issues or problems.  The goal is to create a balance where nature and man can live in harmony.  Unfortunately there are some occasions when man tries to manipulate nature and creates more problems.

One such issue occurs when we introduce a preferred game fish to an area with no consideration as to the impacts that species might have on the native stocks.  This is occurring right now in the Kennebecasis River with small mouth bass.  While this game fish is a worthy adversary for anglers, it is this same tenacity that creates issues for native brook trout and Atlantic salmon in the Kennebecasis.  I don't want to argue about pros and cons and the watershed group I work for will continue to manage the watershed and not fish and if the SMB take hold then we carry on.  The situation has come to a point, however, where the Department of Natural Resources, whose job it is to manage New Brunswick sport fisheries, have made some changes to the management of the small mouth bass within our river and this is important information no matter what side of any argument you are on.

A small mouth bass caught on the Kennebecasis River.

To insure you understand these changes I encourage you to learn how to identify small mouth bass and know the rules in your area.  Anglers on the Kennebecasis River, provided you are above tidal waters, can now keep up to five bass which is a large increase over previous years.  Further, the season for small mouth bass has been extended as well.  You can find out about the regulations for your part of New Brunswick by checking out the Fish NB Guide.  The Kennebecasis is part of the Lower Saint John drainage and in the 2016 guide can be found on page 28.

As an angler I have enjoyed a few evenings where I have targeted small mouth at a local pool, the photo above is a fish I managed to take on a blue smurf.  I have also managed to hook a few fall fish as well in the same reach.  Both species can be fairly large and entertaining to catch on a fly rod.  If you can get the SMB to take a top water fly...that is fun.  Remember that if you're fishing the mainstem Kennebecasis that it is fly fishing waters only and the river between McCully Stn Road and Portagevale is also catch and release.  Typically you won't catch small mouth up that high on the river... yet...and this new management approach implemented by DNR should allow trout and salmon to maintain a balance with the small mouth bass. I will likely try to do my part to help maintain the balance of the fishery and the watershed.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Last Minute Parties are the Best







My brother Luke casting his first flies over Trout.
There are times when you throw a party last minute and you have the best time. Those parties are always memorable. This evening at 5:10 I made a call to 2 good friends and told them I was going fishing. An hour later we were deciding what waters we wanted to cast on.


For my brother it would be a learning experience as he had only been fly fishing once before. For my buddy Troy and I we were glad to be on the river together again. My brother, Luke, was quickly hooked on fly as he caught his first trout within 1minutes. Ironically, when he did, Troy and I were in the trees.


As we cast over a large pool, the sun slowly fell behind the trees. The air temperature changed too and a mist formed over the water. The fish started rising all over and things got exciting. Each of us landed and released a number of healthy brook trout and smiled every time.


On a turn in the river a beaver swam leisurely as I cast my fly into his pool. I couldn't believe how calm he was. It wasn't until I hooked into a heavy 10" brookie that the beaver slapped his tail and took cover.


As the sun fell further we reluctantly decided to start our hike back to the truck. All of us wearing smiles that could readily be seen in the fading light.
Troy keeping the trout wet as he prepares to let it go.


Thanks for the party boys. Tight lines.

Healthy Brookies like this were caught and released all evening.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Creating Tradition


A lot has been written about traditions.  People find themselves in one of two opinions about traditions.  Some firmly stand behind doing the same thing over and over again.  They believe if it works or has been successful then why change or why not do it again.  Others think that tradition is safe and that it lacks challenge or ambition.  For me, I fall in the first of these mind sets.  I like creating memories and building family traditions.  My parents created traditions for my siblings and I and it provided me with a sense of family, security, and love and I want that for my children.

I've written before about how the Whalen's have a long affinity for bonding during fishing and  hiking trips and so it should be no surprise that one tradition I am try to build for my son is a birthday fishing trip.  For the last four years I have taken him and some of his friends on an overnight camping/fishing trip.  This year was no different.  Words can't adequately describe the trip or the pride and emotions it conjured up within me.

The fishing was slow to say the best but the laughs and memories were plentiful.  What is really cool is that this tradition frequently falls on the Father's Day weekend and I couldn't think of a better way to spend Father's Day.  Even better, my Dad has been with us on every trip so far. Here is hoping this is a tradition that continues for years to come.