Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Lights

Whalen’s Wanderings
Lighting up Christmas Traditions

Christmas is fully in the air at my house. The lights are all up and the tree is decorated. The smell of candy, ginger, and fir boughs is wafting lightly through the dining room as I write this and I get a bubbly feeling in my gut. Christmas for me has always been a time where family and friends come together and enjoy the season. It is a time of traditions.

One of the many traditions we have is the annual drive around to look at all the Christmas lights on the houses in our area. It is amazing the lengths some people go through to make their home look festive. Some houses are decked out in a variety of colors with thousands of lights while some have a single color, other houses use a flood light to accentuate certain features of their house while others simply light there windows with a battery operated candle.

No matter how you decorate your house, it is always great to drive around and see the colors and the spirit of Christmas. While I appreciate the lights and colors I also like the drive and the tradition. The drive is much more complete if it is snowing. We have even gambled on not taking a drive one night so that maybe we could get snow at a later date. The snow adds a surreal, snow globe feel to the drive.

The fact that we frequently receive a snowy white Christmas is a large benefit of living in this part of the world. I can’t imagine Christmas in a warmer, greener climate. I really couldn’t enjoy Christmas without the snow. It not only softens the topography but also the youthful celebration and places a sullen peacefulness over me that that helps me appreciate the true spirit of Christmas much fuller. The slow pace of tradition and the softening touch of the snow provide me with the structure I need to slow my pace down and keep me sane through the holiday season.

Another holiday tradition is the turkey dinner, but beyond that we often take an afternoon hike after the dinner. I think a part of this is to rid ourselves of the guilt of gluttony during dinner, but a bigger part is the simple enjoyment of the outdoors and family and knowing that we are continuing the tradition.

It is my hope that all of you have a white Christmas filled with great traditions. I hope you are able to enjoy the comfort of friends and family while gathered around a Christmas tree on the morning of Christ’s birth. I hope you are able to get out and enjoy the natural gifts Mother Nature has bestowed on us here in King’s County.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Living Manger

The Christmas spirit is at work within me again. My family and I went to the St. Mark’s Church in Sussex Corner tonight for their Living Manger. What a great event for family’s in this Village. This is definitely something I will be looking for next year. It was entertaining to say the least to watch my four year old son as he listened to the choir signing classical Christmas hymns. His eyes shone wide in the evening light and just when you thought they couldn’t get bigger, he saw the donkey. I’m giggling simply writing about it. “Heeeeehhaaaw” he laughs with excitement.

The night was crisp and cold, but calm. The songs rang out and lifted everyone who was there. The expected missed steps simply added to the event and made it memorable. The animals appealed to the young people in the audience while the story and music kept the attention of the adults. The makeshift manger and the hay bale seating just made it feel that much more like a traditional Christmas outing. By traditional, I mean one where people and community come together as one, where the message is more important than the presents, and where Christ is idolized more than the tree.

This night was one where we could sit and simply enjoy one another while the hectic pace of the commercial side of Christmas buzzed by behind our backs on the street. The parking lot of the church was its own little world for the entire length of the twenty minute show, and very little penetrated the Christmas mood it was setting. A slower pace is what we all need this time of year and I hope you can find it.

This time next year I recommend that you make time to take in this wonderful Christmas event. I thank those who organized this great event and I tip my hat to you all.

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 18, 2009

An old fashion Christmas Party

I am very fortunate to be able to serve my community in various ways. Often through this service I am provided opportunities that allow me to enjoy something that I might not otherwise been able to. I like food, so luckily for me these opportunities often allow me to eat at locations I might not normally try. This was the case recently when I met a committee I work with at the Sussex Tea Room (Jitter’s Café) for a Christmas meal.

To write about this evening of food and friendship is hard. I want to tell you about the food but I also want to tell you about the atmosphere around the Café. Which should I start with first? Which made the evening more? I guess the best thing to do is tell you right now that both the atmosphere around the Café and the food both were incredible.

The Sussex Tea Room is located in a small building on Maple Avenue in Sussex. It is an older building that appears drafty and in need of some TLC. On one side it has a large mural painted as part of the Kings East Development Partnership's Mural Project. Once inside, it is a cozy space, with older looking décor that matches nicely to the exterior mood of the building. In the back of the café is a big door that leads to the Don Stiles Museum and if small town history is your thing then this is a place you should visit. Older pictures, posters, newspapers, and paraphernalia are spread across the small back room. The museum easily fits into the feel of the building right down to some of the scratched up tables the items are displayed on.

On the walls around the eating area are paintings, photos, sculptures, and pottery by local artisans. These works are available to buy so you can shop while you eat. What I find great abou the art co-op being right there is the local flavor it adds to the whole place.

As my wife and I walked into the Cafe this night there were trays of hors d'oeuvres that filled the air with a delicious taste. A smell that suited perfectly to the many snacks that I consumed at a shameful pace. When the main meal came I was worried I would not have any room in my stomach, but the instant I saw the large plate in front of me, the fear was gone. I made short work of the home cooked ham and potatoes with all the trimmings.

Conversation around the table was jovial and laughter filled the air and I truly felt like it was an old time Christmas celebration. My wife and I enjoyed ourselves immensely and will surely make an effort to support this small local business more regularly in the year to come. We want to wish the staff at the Tea Room a very Merry Christmas and to all those who enjoyed the meal with us and shared in the laughter a Merry Christmas as well.

Monday, December 14, 2009

An older journal entry.

Note: I wrote this piece a couple years ago and enjoyed reading it the other day so thought I would post it. Enjoy.

Flipping Through the Years

Accidents happen no matter what you may be doing, but those of us who play, ride, climb, run, swim, etc. on a regular basis inherently take greater risks. The risk is part of the enjoyment; otherwise it would be a boring activity. I recently took a risk that resulted in me breaking my wrist and I will be home bound for a little while. No worries though, I have plenty of journals to draw from for my regular dispatch from the wilderness.

My journals are tattered photo albums with papers peeping out the sides, stains on the pages, and one has teeth marks where my dog, then a puppy, chewed at it. The older ones are crude and the written notes are brief with simple descriptions. The newer journals are more refined with notes that show the growing passion within me. All together they tell how a boy became a man.

“So, where do you want to go this week?” I often ask my brother this question when we decide to wander. This time we decided to head for a ridge we noticed long ago as kids. In our early teens we had built a “camp” that looked across the upper Mill Brook onto Misty Mountain. Just down stream there was a cirque with a steep ridge that had exposed rock. That was more than enough to stir our curiosity and so, a few years later, on a cold and snowy day we headed up the Mill Brook for a full day in the woods. We packed thermoses filled with tea and soup and enough cookies to feed a pack of starving coyotes. We headed along a trail that followed the west bank of the Mill Brook. The snow was deep but firm, so the going was easy in our snowshoes and we made great time. Before we knew it, we were at the home of an older friend. We stopped and asked if he would mind if we wandered across his property and chatted with he and his wife. After turning down a lunch we turned our attention to the steep hill that would lead us to our final destination.

The climb up the ridge was difficult and cold. The wind whipped the wet snow which coated our faces making us look like the sons of old man winter. We talked very little but often pointed out different things and exchanged joyous grins. As young men we were already bonding with quiet confidence. We reached the exposed rock ridge and looked east toward Misty Mountain and Waterford. We hunkered down and shared our lunch including every last cookie, still not talking, but knowing what each was thinking. At that moment we felt like we had topped Mount McKinley. We languished for over an hour before heading down into the small creek that had created this wonderful cirque. We crossed the Mill Brook and stumbled up to the road to home. Brothers, now tied closer through a silence shared in the wilderness, walked home down the Millbrook Road, young men acting like boys.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Tree Spirit

Do you have one of those events that happen once a year. Every year at a certain time you expect a phone call requesting your help (and not a call center.) I got this call a week or so ago and when I saw the name on my caller ID I knew what it was about. The request came and I gladly accepted and laughed with the caller before hanging up. The caller was asking me to help with a fund raiser. Last night I had the privilege of selling Christmas trees for the 2nd Trinity Scout Troop as a result of this seasonal call. This troop has been selling Christmas trees for over 15 years now and it is one of their big fund raisers and as a former Scout and leader for this group I feel a rewarding loyalty that painlessly obliges me to help with this wonderful effort.

It was snowing hard as I arrived at the tree stand and I couldn't help but be in the Christmas spirit as I whistled "Let it Snow." The snow flakes were big and fluffy and I was glad I had dressed for snow as I helped a number of customers pick out trees and load them into or onto their vehicles. Some folks loved the snow while others weren't to certain and this led me to observe the people I met that night a bit more than usual.

It was amusing to see the different approaches to how people pick their trees. Some folks will look at a number of trees before picking the first one they looked at. Others simply pick a tree and fire it in the truck with a smile and a big thanks. Others take their time and look over various trees until they find one that is just right. To some people, picking out a Christmas tree is serious business, while others are light hearted.

Personally, I think, even Christmas trees are starting to contribute to the commercialism of Christmas. If you have a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree or if you have a huge full tree, your Christmas should still be the same. It is the spirit of the tree and that which surrounds the tree on Christmas morning that counts.

I still have to get my tree and I look forward to the family trip to the tree lot and the decorating that follows. If you're in the Sussex area and need a tree stop by the Scout's tree lot at Wayne's Convenience on Main Street. The trees are a great price and lots of Christmas spirit.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Winter is Exercise for the Mind

Whalen’s Wanderings
Pushing The Mind Through Winter Snow

It has been a beautiful fall with lots of mild temperatures and I have been able to get out and enjoy a good portion of it. I have been wading up and down streams for work lately and the ice is slowly starting to creep over the stream channel. Despite the great fall weather, the ice tells me winter is coming. I am sure that the skiers are starting to get the itch as bad as I am, even though I don’t ski.

For me winter brings about a whole new chapter in out door fun. The snow and cold temperatures add a whole new set of challenges when heading outside this time of year. Aside from the challenges winter also offers a smooth, white, landscape that begs to be enjoyed and played in. For some, winter is a time to stay inside and pass the time. Those people don’t know what they are missing. Even some, who claim to be outdoor enthusiasts, head to the gym in the winter time to get their exercise. Those of us who wander outside in winter know that the ice and snow make walking twice the exercise as what it is in summer.

I know the cold provides a mental obstacle to overcome but if you can push yourself out the door and shovel off the nearby pond and go skating, you will be well rewarded. If you can strap on a pair of snowshoes then your walk won’t even seem like exercise but rather a walk in the clouds. In Canada we are blessed with four well defined seasons and our winter months only need to be as long as you make them. As Canadians, many of us are well adapted at making winter a glorious playground. In New Brunswick and in Kings County especially, we have many great outdoor activities that we can partake in. Poley Mountain, once the snow flies, offers great skiing and snowboarding. Ski-dooing on our “white gold” is another way to enjoy winter and Adair’s Lodge and the Timberland Motel cater kindly to these groups. Elmhurst Outdoors offers those looking to snow shoe or cross country ski a variety of scenic, groomed trails as does Fundy National Park. Ice climbing is quickly growing in popularity in the area as we have places such as the Parlee Brook ice amphitheater and the Walton Glenn Gorge close by. For skaters any nearby pond or the outdoor rinks in Sussex Corner or Quispamsis can provide hours of cheap outdoor fun. Last, but definitely not least would be tobogganing or sliding and this can be done on any hill near you and easily becomes a party with the right friends and family.

So no matter where you are in Kings County there is no excuse for getting the winter blues. Simply push yourself to get out there and explore and wander through the snow covered playground. Hope to see you in the woods, on the trails or the well frozen pond.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Last week I got to do one of the favorite things in my job. I got to go electro-fishing. The Kennebecasis Watershed Restoration Committee is partnered with the Canadian Rivers Institute to do a riparian health modeling project. Part of this project is using sculpin presence as an indicator of riparian health and water quality conditions.

Electro-fishing is a method in which field staff collect fish population data. An electric pulse is sent through the water which, in a manner of speaking, forces the fish to swim towards the pulse where they can be netted. It has very little effect on the fish, if done properly, and once counts and measures have been completed the fish are released back into the stream. A crew of 3-6 can effeciently complete a population survey on a typical stream.

What is interesting about electro fishing this time of year is the water temperature. The air is cold and steam is usually lifting off the water while ice gently laps against overhanging branches and the shoreline. The ice formations hanging off the branches are like winter bells waiting for Christmas before they ring. But if a bell rings in the water, does any body hear it. Another cool thing about electro fishing this time of year is to see how many fish are actually still in the rivers and brooks. Trout, dace, sculpin, stickleback, were all caught last week and safely returned to their habitat. Some streams, which you might think would have no fish on a good day, surprise you with fish while others you think should have fish, don't.

Of course when you are on a river it is hard not to press around the next corner to see what is there. I think every site we fished, once we completed our site, I would head upstream to snap some pictures. We live in a great place full of natural scenery which many don't get to enjoy or even know exist. I get to find and see these places and that is just another reason why I love my job.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Changing of the Torch

I grew up being an athlete. I dreamt of winning the Stanley Cup, of competing for Olympic Gold. It was a great dream to have as it kept me motivated. For a goal oriented kid who struggled to keep his attention on anything for more than 3 months that was important.

In 1988, when the Winter Olympics were hosted by Calgary, I was a young teenager. I can vaguely remember the torch relay coming through my hometown. It is a blur. We were ushered out of our classroom, which was cool, and lined up along Main Street with the rest of the school. Kids were screaming over nothing as far as I could see. I thought they were simply just happy to be out of school. Then a person in a red outfit ran by carrying a torch and that was it. It was low key, there were no flags handed out, no big trucks or RVs leading the way. There was a police escort but that is the only vehicle I can remember. I’m not saying that is all that was there, but simply all I can remember.

Fast forward to November 24th, 2009 and the torch once again is making its way through my home town. There was a lots of color, lots of escort vehicles, plenty to cheer about, and a small community party, complete with a stage and music. We know how to celebrate in the Maritimes.

What a difference twenty two years make. Not just in the manner in which the torch was brought through Town but also on the impact it had on me personally. My childhood dreams have now been realized…well some of them have been anyway. You might say I even have focus now, at least enough to write a blog every once in awhile. But I’m getting off topic.

The Olympic Torch is a piece of history, a very old piece of history. Sure the torch being used this year isn’t the same one that was used at the first Olympic Games in Greece, but it carries the same spirit, the same meaning. As a kid I couldn’t understand this nor feel it but now as an adult it was a moment in time. The torch bearer seemed to run in slow motion as I watched and I could feel myself trying to etch this memory in stone. I managed to take a couple of pictures, and I will post a couple, but they will not do justice to what I hope to file in my memory bank.

Now the world waits for the Olympics to begin. Some communities still wait for the torch to reach them. If you happen to be in one of these communities I encourage you to get out there and even run along beside the route for a bit. I hope my son enjoyed riding on my shoulders and his memory was moving in slow motion and taking it all in. I know that once the Games begin, he and I will be spending sometime in front of the television watching TSN and CBC coverage of the hockey, bobsled, skiing, aerials and what ever else takes his interest.


Monday, November 23, 2009

ATV and Hiking trails?

I guess I can't sit quietly on the sideline any longer. There has been an ongoing discussion in the paper lately about the relationship between ATV users and hikers. It has not really been flattering to either side of the equation, which is unfortunate.

It may surprise some to hear that I am not completely opposed to ATVs. While I seldom ride one myself, I can see why some enjoy them. I would encourage the proper use of an ATV to enjoy mother nature, if that is your selected mode of travel. That being said, I want to stress the words "PROPER USE". This means that ATVs should not travel on fragile shoreline ecosystems, up and down stream beds, across bogs or wetlands, and definitely not on designated walking trails.

Now, I am a big hiker, but hikers, especially those in municipal areas must change the way we develop our trails. Why do they have to be 8ft wide, why not simply 2-4ft? Why do they have to have a gravel path or crushed stone? Why do they have to follow old rail beds, or old logging roads? If we were to put them through natural wooded areas, with a narrow tread way ATVers could not easily use them and our problem would be solved. Now I understand the so called need for risk management, but really, if you use your head then walking on a wilderness trail is no different than walking down a road, except you can enjoy much more scenery.
What I propose is that from this point forward, hiking and nature trails be developed near rivers, lakes and such, where they can utilize the mandatory watercourse setback corridors for forestry. This serves two purposes, the first being that forestry won't, or shouldn't clear cut over the trail, the second being the maximization of usage of space. Hiking trails are an excellent use of this type of riparian ecosystem.

Just outside the 30m riparian buffer, say at 70m from the stream, create an ATV corridor, that when needed, could be used for harvesting purposes or even rescue of stranded injured hikers. A "Trail Corridor" that includes the waterway, hiking, and ATV trails could be created and in instances where all three are combined it would further protect the environment of that waterway by increasing the setback, on one bank at least, from 30m, to say 75m.

The other issue is education of all parties. The ATV users have their bad apples but so to do the hiking and camping groups. People need to be informed as to how their activities can negatively impact the environment and how they can minimize that impact. If you bring all the user groups together I think these issues along with an understanding of each side can be created.

But hey that is just me. Hope to see you in the matter how you got there.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Home Mater Gaiters

Wow what a great turn out last night at the "Outdoor You" meeting in Sussex. Lets hope we can establish something from all that energy and interest.

At the meeting there was discussion about gaiters and coincidentally I was reading a web article on just that earlier yesterday. The article is brief and shows how to make your pants into a gaiter. This is great but sometimes you want a gaiter to protect your clothing (pant) layer. I have a suggestion on how to make a pair rather than buying them.

I like to shop at Frenchy's, or your local discount clothing store, to get my hiking and work clothes. It is cost effective and sometimes you can find great quality stuff there. For the task of making gaiters though all you need is a pair of gym pants with an elastic cuff, or a coat with elastic cuffs. The elastic cuffs are the key here, not necessarily quality. Also, look for something where the cuff will stretch sufficiently to cover the top of your hiking boot.

Cut the leg off the pants, or arm off the coat you find. Poke a hole, just above the elastic cuff, in what will be the back of your gaiter and thread both ends of an old bootlace through it, leaving a loop. Now poke a hole on each side of the gaiter, two thirds to the front, and thread each end of the lace through these holes. This completes the lower portion of the gaiter. For the top, simply loop a lace around the opening in a manner that will allow you to slide your leg through it. Fold the trimmed end of your cut off pant leg or coat arm over the lace a couple of times and voila, gaiter complete.

Now the downside to this type of gaiter is you will likely have to put it on before you put you hiking boots on. Once you have it on, attach the make shift gaiters to your boots via the ends of the laces you threaded through the cuffed end. The elastic cuff will keep the gaiter snug to your boot, while also keeping the lace from simly ripping through the material. Pull each lace from the gaiter through your boot laces, wrap it to the back of the gaiter, through the loop you left in the back, and then pull the lace end back to the front and tie off with the other side. Then tighten the lace at the top tight enough to keep snow, mud, falling leaves, twigs, etc out of your boot. I think it is easier to make this than it is to write about it. Sorry I don't have a fancy photo montage like the link does :(

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Just a reminder

It has been a very hectic couple of weeks for me for some reason. I guess if I look at it that is likely a good thing. I haven't stopped long enough to catch the H1N1 flu. I am excited about tonights "Outdoor You" meeting. I hope to meet some great people interested in getting out "wandering" If this is your thing you should join us above the Post Office on Maple Ave in Sussex, NB tonight at 7:00pm.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Watching the Night Sky

I have a memory as a teenager of a few friends and I hanging out one fall evening. We were sitting on the truck tailgate sharing stories and talking about life. The cool evening was lit by the moon and stars and our breath hung in light clouds of mist in front of us as we spoke. It was peaceful, calm, and maybe even somewhat grown up for what we were at the time. For some reason that night under the stars stayed with me and now on clear, cool, fall nights I often go back to that tailgate.

Star gazing is one of those activities that is hard to understand. Why would you enjoy cranking your neck and head skyward to view little dots of light in the sky? Who knows, but a great deal of us do enjoy it. Next Tuesday the sky could be very exciting as the Leonids meteor shower will be viewable and this adds a whole new dimension to star gazing. It is like switching from figure skating to hockey on the TV, there is a lot more action.

If you want to enjoy the Leonids meteor show(er) then I suggest you find a nice dark place away from the intruding lights of the city. Take a thermos full of hot chocolate, a few sandwiches, some cookies, and a sleeping bag, get comfortable and look skyward and enjoy the show. It may start a bit slow but you never know when the plot might thicken as a streak of light flies by overhead.

For more on this "Wow" inspiring event check out these websites

I encourage you to take your kids out, invite a friend, or go alone and enjoy this event. It might lead you to discover something about yourself, about one your with, or this planet we live on. In the end, I am sure you will never look at the night sky again with out a memory.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A copy of the latest Wandering column

Hey everyone. For some reason the Kings County Record isn't available on-line nowadays???

I decided to post a copy of my column here. I have also posted a poster that is being put up around local outdoor locales.

Whalen’s Wanderings
Looking for Some Enthusiasm

It is no secret how I feel about the Sussex area. I think we have a recreational haven that is centered a round the wonderful scenery, rural backdrop, and vast untouched wilderness. I believe that the more people who see what we have the more important it will become. If it is deemed important then we can more readily protect it. With that in mind, I was pleased to hear that there is a group of people looking to start an outdoor enthusiast group in Sussex. This is something that I have wanted to do for sometime but it kept getting shuffled in my list of priorities.

Outdoor enthusiast groups bring together eager people who organize various outside activities. Groups exist in Fredericton, Moncton, and Saint John and often times these groups come to this part of Kings County to get their wilderness fix. It only seems natural that an outdoor enthusiast group be formed here. The Sussex area has caves to explore, rock faces to climb, trails to bike, ridges to hike, rivers to paddle, and valleys to cross country ski. With a focused group bringing attention to these natural features maybe we can more adequately protect them and make them more valuable in their current state as opposed to a clear cut or roadway.

If you have an interest in outdoor recreation activities, even if it is simply walking along a groomed nature trail for half an hour a day, you should mark November 19th down on your calendar. This is when a group of enthusiastic individuals will get together to try and organize what they are calling “Outdoor You.” This will be a great opportunity for you to meet others who enjoy hiking, biking, paddling or what ever else you might do in the outdoors. You might be an old pro or a beginner, young or old, but one thing will likely bring everyone together and that is their love of the outdoors.

If this event is successful it could lead to other opportunities and a great number of outings to various scenic vistas in our wonderful region. Now you will have someone to show you how to get there and in exchange you might want to show them a location you know about. Gear swaps and exchanges, trail maintenance days, educational seminars and presentations, the possibilities are endless so if you have an idea come on out and share it with “Outdoor You” and let’s turn Kings County into a true outdoor wilderness destination.

The meeting is November 19, 2009 above the Post Office on Maple Avenue in Sussex. It will start at 7:00pm. I hope to see you there or in the woods or on the water. Another event you may want to take in is a Geocaching event. The details of this event can be found at

Hope to see you in the woods or on the trails. The water is a bit chilly.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Nova Scotia's North Shore

I had the opportunity to drive up the northwest coast of Nova Scotia today. It was a sunny day and I was ahead of schedule so I was able to take some time and appreciate what God and man had laid before me. The first place I noticed was Amherst. This place blew me away. I have been there before to play hockey or travelling through for work but had never noticed the number of stunning homes and buildings in this community. The masonry and rock work of the old commercial buildings was astounding and provided a crowded but very comforting look to the main streets. If not for the cars I would have felt like I stepped back in time. Almost every home seemed like it had a turret on one corner or another adding to the time warn feel of the downtown core. I really wanted to take more time but I did have a schedule I had to keep and I felt there was still more yet to come. The picture of the Tantramar Theater comes from the Town's website and is only a small example of what is there to see.

As I drove east through Amherst the landscape filled with slightly undulating pastures filled with various types of livestock. I was surprised, given the price of beef right now, to see how many beef cattle there were. The marshes and wetlands provided an unfamiliar characteristic to the farm land not seen in my part of NB. This was made even more bizarre by the number of seagulls and cormorants in the fields as well. The land looked well managed but worn and the livestock added a life quality that was greatly needed.

The direction of Highway 6 turned seaward again and I passed through Port Philip before entering Pugwash. This small seaside community was home to the famous Seagul Pewter and has a large Windsor salt facility. Despite these industries and a well protected harbor it is still a small town. It prompts me to think about how some areas boomed while others struggled to simply exist. Pugwash has beautiful scenery, seaside charm, economic resources which have all likely been preserved because it has been able to remain a small community.

I continued on along highway 6 and passed through Wallace and again enjoyed the small seaside charm of Nova Scotia’s west coast. I continued on to my destination at Tatamagouche where once again my preference for small town charms was tickled by this throw back in time community.

I spent a couple of days in Tatamagouche for a workshop. We stayed at the Tatamagouche Center and I was really impressed with this conference and retreat facility. The home cooking, the comfortable rooms, and relaxed atmosphere was a great spot to bring two sides of a working relationship together to improve future communication links.

My drive home after day two days of workshops was not as enjoyable. The weather had turned poor and I had to focus more on my driving. The seas were a roiled brown mocha topped with a frothy white cap. Despite the snowy weather and my white knuckle grip on the steering wheel I made the best of the drive but was happy when I pulled into my own driveway.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Geocaching Event

Hey this sounds like a cool event. I have to admit I am not really heavy into geocaching but I do try to include it when I'm outdoors from time to time. This is a great way to meet new people, be outdoors, act like a kid, and just have plain fun. Check out the event here. I won't be around that day to do this one but maybe someday soon will get a chance to meet in the woods or on the water.

Also if you live in the Kings County, NB region; this weekend is your Household Hazardous waste day. If you have some paints and stuff you have been wanting to get rid of this is the time. Stop into the Sussex Transfer Station on Saturday from 8:00-12:00 and they can handle your paints, oils, varasols, etc.

Hope everyone had a great Halloween. I know my family enjoyed it and will be eating chocolate for days now.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Volunteer wonders

I heard a term earlier this week. It was "Radical Generosity". Volunteers often give radically and expect nothing in return. Their efforts very often result in amazing feats. Those who volunteer often don't get enough praise or recognition for what they do. Today I want to tell you about the "House that Apples Built". Apparently the manse at the St. Johns United Church on Needle Street, in Sussex Corner, NB was refurbished using money raised selling apple pies. Volunteers gather annually to bake apple pies in the Church's hall kitchen. The first time they did this they sold approximately 200 pies. Now they prepare over 1200 pies.

This is not a large church but the congregation is dedicated. They maintain a manse, the church, and a large center. So for this group I tip my hat. If they can do this imagine what a whole village could do. If everyone volunteered one hour a week I bet the place you lived would be much happier.

If you want a great apple pie stop by the church hall on Needle Street and place your order.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A different view.

I often get asked to present outdoor recreation and environmental topics to people and I always like seeing other stories on it. here is one that I feel is really cool. There are places in most areas where teachers and volunteers can take youth to learn similar types of relations. Check out this cloumn in today's Gleaner

Enjoy and get out there and wander.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Getting rid of unwanted material

This is probably a bit late in coming but as the saying goes "Better late than never." This Saturday in the Kings County Region of New Brunswick there will be a "Household Waste Free Day." The Kings County Region Solid Waste Commission is hosting this Free Day as a way to reduce illegal dump sites. If you have larger garbage items that you can't put to the curb then this day is for you. You can take a half ton full of garbage to the transfer station on McLeod Drive in Sussex and dump it for free. You have to be from Kings County and ID will be required. This is a great initiative to reduce illegal dumping which the KCRSWC started back a couple years ago with huge success.

Of course I like this project because it also helps keep river banks and shorelines clean as well.

The event runs Saturday, October 24, 2009 from 8:00am - 12:00noon. It must be residential waste, commercial vehicles will be charged their regular rate. I know I'll be taking advantage of this.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Trail Maitenance Day

Hiking and backpacking trails often depend on volunteers for various things. Promotion, marking, mapping, and maitenance often depend on volunteers in order to be completed. The various trails near the Fundy Coast in New Brunswick is fortunate enough to have a modest supply of dedicated volunteers. This weekend the Fundy Hiking Trails Assoc. Inc. will be hosting a training session for those interested in learning what trail maitenance is all about. The group, which is based in Moncton, will meet at the Dobson Trail Parking lot on Pine Glen Road in Riverview at 8:00am on October 24th. From here the group will drive to Sussex Corner and then past Poley Mountain before stopping at Adair's Wilderness Lodge around 9:30am. Here everyone will meet and begin the introduction to the events of the day. Work will be done on the Catamount Trail which connects Adair's Lodge to the Fundy Footpath. The Catamount is a developing trail that someday will connect Sussex Corner to the coastal wilderness.

If you want to learn about these trails or help out meet the volunteers at one of the meeting points and join in. The day will be spent marking, pruning, and flagging the trail so wear appropriate clothing and footwear. You should also pack a lunch to eat along the trail. Rain gear might be beneficial too as lately this region has been wet.

If you can't make it out make sure you thank the many volunteers. The pic I posted with this is near the Catamount Trail, it is actually just a small pond. I thought it looked kinda spooky so in honor of Halloween I posted it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Losing "That" Feeling

The air was cold and crisp as I woke up this morning. For the first time this fall the mud puddles were frozen and I had to work at scrapping the frost off my truck window. The orange-red tinged leaves on the maple tree in my front yard were glistening as the rising sun cast its light over them. It was an incredible fall morning and I couldn’t help but smile as I drove into work.

Even my stop at Tim Hortons seemed special this morning, even though nothing exciting happened. The sausage and egg sandwich tasted good and the tea was awakening as usual. I read the paper and was glad to see nothing bad had really happened in Kings County over night. It is actually comforting to know that this is quite often the case. I acknowledge and say “Hello” to a number of people who come in to get their morning fix as well. I head over to the office looking forward to doing stream surveys.

I sit down at my desk, prop open my lap top and turn it on. It has 17 updates to run. Crap! Now I have to wait for close to an hour before I can check my emails, send out an important one, and then head to the field. Ahhhhh. Eventually though my colleague and I are heading to a small stream with a deep valley and I am once again smiling as I park the truck along the road side. As I hop out, I notice the temperature on the truck mirror reads -1◦ C. This causes me to shiver as I put on my chest waders and don my orange vest. The weather man was stating there was a slight chance of flurries in the afternoon and at that point I thought he might hit the mark.

I walk off the road following an ATV trail down the stream valley to a point where we had previously left off. Suddenly it hit me. The smell of the woods crashed through my nostrils and I stopped for a second to rein it in. The odor of the musty, decaying leaves, the moist heavy mosses, and wet, rotting wood were all racing franticly in the cold air simply looking for a place to get warm. I was glad to be back to this stream as I had really enjoyed our previous survey of the upper half. It was a relatively intact ecosystem with a well maintained forest. ATV trails, some historic logging, and recent select cuts were really the only noticeable human impacts. We had completed most of the steeper portion of the stream and were now heading to a flatter stretch to work towards a beaver dam where we would end our assessment for this stream. I stop to photograph a small run-off stream that was running due to the recent rains we had had. It is a small channel of water that appeared as if it was actually flowing over and through the leaves. Even this small little run-off was impressive and I wondered how many people would appreciate the contribution it made to this steep hillside ecosystem.

We arrive at the first reach that we intend to assess and pull out our gear. As we start working our way down the stream channel it doesn’t even feel like work. The sun shining through the remaining leaves of the maples and birches warmed us not physically but spiritually. The health of the stream ecosystem was almost natural as we continue down the valley.

Eventually we reached a tributary coming in on the right bank. We took some measurements and notes then glanced upstream. We were very surprised to find a great, tranquil, moss covered, waterfall. It was so idyllic that it felt very surreal. We took time to explore the falls and the small stream that created them. It was at this point that we noticed a large clear cut nearby. It actually encroached well within the 30m buffer strip that logging operations are supposed to maintain.

From this point forward my mood began to change and with it so too did the mood of the stream. An old gravel pit had created a berm on the left bank and the clear cut was still very evident on the right bank. The stream was now shallow and the substrate was loose, unnatural gravel. It started me thinking about how my mood is often times impacted by the environment around me. I wondered if maybe the mood and feeling of natural environments are similarly impacted. Does the environment have feelings? Can a river change its mood to suit its environment? On days like this I would believe it if someone were to tell me “Yes they can.”

We finished our assessment that day near a beaver dam and my colleague and I both felt a bit disheartened but more determined than ever to continue our efforts to improve the aquatic and riparian habitats within the Kennebecasis River.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

My latest column

Check out my latest wandering column in the Kings County Record.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Don't Let the Rain Get You Down

It's been raining incessantly lately and Environment Canada is calling for still more rain. It has put, literally, a damper on many things. The woods are soaking wet and the rivers running full. This keeps me from doing my field studies and monitoring but luckily I have lots of writing to do and book work.
All the rain got me thinking though. What are the funnest activities to do when the rain has you down? I had to think about this for sometime and in order to come up with sufficient material to write about I had to go back to being a kid. Let's face it, it isn't kids that don't like the rain, it is often their parents.

So here is my list of outdoor rainy day activities. I warn you though that you may have to let yourself feel young again. I have always enjoyed #3 the most.

1. Seriously play in big mud puddles. See who can make the biggest splash while running through the mud puddle. If your puddle has a soft bottom why not do a belly flop in it. I dare you. When you're done you may want to go back inside and have a nice warm shower followed by enjoying a hot cup of tea.

2. Have a contest to see who can collect the most rain water in an ice cream bucket. Dipping your bucket into a puddle is cheating so too is putting your bucket on the ground and leaving it. You have to hold your bucket in your hands but creativity is encouraged :)

3. Carve a small boat into a stick or find another floating material and race different items down a nearby ditch or stream. Better yet, see if you can divert the water in your puddle into a nearby ditch and have it float to the ditch.

4. If its a warm rain go for a swim. Heck you're already wet so why not. Swimming in the rain is actually reviving. I strongly suggest you do this in mid-summer rains only. It might not be suitable for this time of year.

5. Simply go for a walk in the woods. Be sure to wear good rain gear and to take your time. Smell the rain, the moisture in the leaves and forest floor, permeates your sense of smell and it is very memorable.

There is nothing keeping you inside on a rainy day so get out there and enjoy it. The picture by the way was taken by KWRC staff near the mouth of the Musquash Brook, a tributary to the Kennebecasis. Typically, I would be able to stand there in sneakers and not get wet.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Looking for roots.

Last weekend I spent some time in Fredericton, NB for a conference. I was able to stay in a fancy hotel, the Delta, and enjoy some fine dining. This goes against my typical, daily routine, and against my biological makeup. My mind and body are not use to finer things. This became really apparent to me when I took a walk on Fredericton's great river front nature trail. This trail follows along the banks of the Saint John River where kayakers and anglers often enjoy the best mother nature has to offer while the rest of the city races from one mundane task to another.

As I walked one evening from my hotel room, along the trail to where the conference was, I had a strong realization. I was dressed up, or at least dressed up for me. I had nice shoes, pressed shirt, and pleated pants...yet here I was hiking along the trail as though I wasn't out of place. It was kind of a funny, yet enjoyable feeling. My life has become more professionally focused you might say as of late. This walk however, demonstrated to myself, that I still haven't forgotten my roots.

I hope next time your out for a walk that you can find your roots.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

AES Leads the Way!!

Here a week or so ago I wrote about the TD Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup hosted by the Kennebecasis Watershed Restoration Committee. I hinted at my disappointment with how some people carelessly dispose of trash in our rivers. This is especially disappointing considering how easy it is to get rid or your trash in our region. If you need tips on how to handle your waste maybe you should ask the kids at the Apohaqui Elementary School. These kids seem to have it down pat.

The teachers there are aiding children from kindergarten to grade 5 in many environmental projects. They are composting food waste using vermi-composters, recycling batteries by the box full, and now they are incorporating a wet/dry recycling program into their day to day school activities. I recently spoke to these children and introduced them to how the wet/dry, or blue/green, waste diversion program worked. It was incredible seeing how enthusiastic the kids and teachers were, to not only try this program out, but to protect the environment as well.

I am hoping that you can follow the example of these young kids and make that extra effort to fully follow the waste diversion programs being offered in your area. Before long you will be so accustomed to making that extra effort that it will be no effort at all and you will be making large strides in protecting the environment.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My latest column

Check out the fall colors in my latest column in the Kings County Record.

Before you go to far with these directions though I have noticed that I made a bit of an error on the drive from Berwick to Snider Mountain. You should go left at the first intersection and then left again onto the Steen Road at the second intersection, not right as I state in the column :(

This will link you to a map showing the area in question.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Geese galore

I was out mowing my lawn, for what I hope is the last time this season, when all of a sudden I could hear this raucous nearby. I checked on my son and he was still playing away with his Tonka trucks in the sandbox. Then I heard it again, this time over my head. I look up to see about 30 geese flying above me. The make a circle over the field behind the house, where the wheat had just been cut off. They like what they see and make a flapping landing. That is when I notice that the field is full of geese. What is more, in the distance there is an hot air balloon drifting quietly along. A great scene for our pastoral little Village. I run back into the house as my wife hollers to let me know supper is on. I take Seth in but can't resist the urge to take the camera out and snap some pictures. It is impressive how loud geese can be. The noise of their beating wings as they slow up to make their landing reveals just how powerful an animal they truly are. I watch for some time and by the time I return to the dining room my plate of dinner is cold.
It was a great scene and one that not everyone gets an opportunity to witness or appreciate. I hope these pics and short video illustrate well enough for you.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Mercer Brook Habitat

I know I have said this before but do I ever love my job. Yesterday we were doing aquatic habitat surveys on a small stream, Mercer Brook, that flows off of Dickie Mountain. This is a relatively large hill that rises up from the northern banks of the Kennebecasis River just west of Norton.

For some time I had been wanting to explore this area as the "Mountain" seemed as though it might possess some interesting topography. We headed out in the fog, hoping the rain would hold off for the day. As we drove up the Dickie Mountain Road the visibility was very poor. As the saying goes "The fog was as thick as pea soup." We reached the location where we thought Mercer Brook started and easily found a drainage to confirm our guess.
Doing these habitat surveys can be challenging as you have to stick to the stream bottom. Sometimes this can lead you through some pretty tough bogs, thickets, or what not. Mercer Brook started out to be not so pleasant as it was muddy and lined with alders, hawthorne bush, and young birch. Shortly though it started dropping rapidly and the trees and the stream substrate changed dramatically. I first noticed a big yellow birch that I could not reach around, and then bedrock dominated the stream bottom. To match this change the fog had lifted and the sun was warming the small, deep, valley.

We measured out 100m reach after 100m reach. We noted the substrate, stream width and depth, riparian vegetation, bank conditions, temperature, dissolved oxygen, and flow patterns. These things were required observations, but we noted the big maples with their changing leaves, the huge aging birch, the ironwood, and the odd spruce and plentiful fir. It is a great thing when you can do your job and enjoy these God given gifts at the same time. On that small stream, in that big forest stand I felt small but so alive.
As we head back to the truck I can't wait until the next day when I get to go back and finish the assessment. The short times I sepnd in the field more than make up for the seemingly long hours I spend doing paperwork at my desk.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Great Effort to Reduce Foolish Acts

Through work recently I aided in organizing a shoreline clean-up. The Kennebecasis Watershed Restoration Committee (KWRC), along with TD Friends of The Environment, and a multitude of volunteers cleaned up the river banks of various streams in the Kennebecasis Watershed. This is not the first time I have been involved in this exercise and it always astounds me how much garbage we can pull out of the river. The amount is not the only surprise, the various items are just as surprising.

We pulled out tires this year again. There is no need for anyone to throw their tires into a dumpster let alone the river. Thanks to New Brunswick's Tire Stewardship Porgram we simply have to return the tire to the local tire shop. The guys at Adair's Tire in Sussex Corner have always been friendly when we take scrap tires to them.

Another item we often pull out of the rivers are drink cans, bottles, and boxes. This again is ludicrous. We pay a dime for every drink container we purchase (milk products being the exception) and we stand to get back a nickel if we return it. This again is part of New Brunswick's effort to reduce litter (you have to check out this website), yet people still throw it out. When the KWRC returned the cleaner and unbroken containers collected from the rivers we received $6.90 from Norrad's Recycling. This is money that others simply threw away.

Bicycles might be the biggest surprise for those who worked the shoreline clean-up. We removed three bike frames from Trout Creek. A bicycle is not easy to destroy, especially the frame, so I do not understand why we keep finding bikes in the rivers. It is my guess that thieves make off with these bikes, take their joy ride and then ditch them in the river. Meanwhile a young boy is wondering what happened to his bike and his parents are still trying to pay for it.

Electronics, used diapers, plastic bags, fast food containers are all frequent finds as well. I know your car is your pride and joy people but if you can't get out of your car long enough to enjoy a meal then don't eat. If you do eat in your car then atleast keep the trash there until you get home. I recommend reusable grocery bags to those uncaring litter bugs that throw plastic bags around, now a days reusable bags are cool and hip so why not? The Kings County Region Solid Waste Commission works hard at reducing litter and illegal dumping. They often host Household Hazardous Waste Days and E-Waste days, where people can drop off such waste at no charge so there is no need for volunteers to pick out aerosol cans or computer and tv monitors either.

It was great though to see how many people turned out at the clean-up. 30 people showed up and signed in with others who took part without signing in. They braved the cold waters and a cool fall day to make a difference and to those people I tip my KWRC hat. A special nod goes to Rosemary Moorehead who at a youthful looking 70+ years old collected three garbage bags of waste on her own. Way to go Rosemary.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Flying high

The Balloon Fiesta in Sussex last weekend was very well attended. This was probably due in large part to the incredible weather. Wow you talk about a great weekend. The balloons were up frequently and the fair grounds were a constant buzz. I figure many people have already written a great deal on the Atlantic International Balloon Fiesta so in my latest column I wrote about another aerial display of color. Check it out.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Enjoying a long weekend

We are heading into a long weekend here and the weather is looking great. If you don't know what to do you should look into these fun filled activities.

Hike the Bluff - this fun little hike is great this time of year. If you time it right you can watch the sun set over the Trout Creek Valley.

Bike around Fundy National Park - the steep hills are a challenge yes, but the views and vistas are a worthwhile reward. Not to mention just think of the nice speed you'll get coasting down into Alma.

Explore the sea caves in St. Martin's - Don't just go out and say "oh yeah that's cool" Stay an entire day and see them at high tide and low tide. Have a lobster lunch, throw rocks at the waves. Maybe even take a boat tour or scramble around a bit. Enjoy them.

Have a great dessert at Adair's Wilderness Lodge - the homemade cooking there is amazing and dessert taste so much better in a wilderness setting. For you single guys this might even be a great date. Drive and dine you might say. After dessert take an evening stroll and do some star gazing. (picture from

So there is lots to do in and around Sussex this long weekend. If you're not here you should be. If you're not out enjoying it, you should be.

Have a great long weekend all.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Swimming into spring

This is my latest column in the Kings County Record. The weather has, since I wrote the column, cooled quite a bit but the 7 day forecast looks good. We might get lucky and be able to spend one or two more days swimming. Check out the column. and enjoy.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Every now and then a song comes along that hits me. It speaks to me and pulls at me. I am a big fan of country music and the messages many country songs send out. Recently I heard a song by Joe Nichols titled "Believers" and man it felt like a freight train running through me. Everyone needs someone to believe in them and through my life I have been very fortunate to have great parents, wonderful siblings, and now a caring wife and two innocent children of my own. All of whom have shown belief in me at one time or another when I needed it most.

As much as we need someone to believe in us, we also need something to believe in. I believe in my family, especially my kids. They have such a great future ahead of them and my belief in them will hopefully provide them with strength and courage to make tough decisions and perform tough tasks. It also inspires my work, my writing, and my life.

I also believe in protecting the environment and I have been fortunate enough to make a living out of this belief. I think more people need to start putting the environment over thier pocket book. If this doesn't happen then someday we won't have a world to believe in.

One other belief, and likely my most important one, is there pushing me as well. That is my belief in God. It keeps me moving forward in the right direction and gives me strength to face some of my flaws as well. I also believe God will allow me to make mistakes and help me learn from them and this allows me to live with more passion and more belief. Now I won't preach, because I am no preacher for sure, but I hope you all have something to believe in or someone who believes in you.

Give the song a listen...I think it says it all.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

No reason to be bored.

So what is happening here in the Upper Kennebecasis valley in the next little while? Well let me see...

Atlantic International Balloon Fiesta - Sussex, NB - September 11-13th.
I always enjoy this colorful event. It always seems to bring friends and family together for a last hurrah of summer. There is always lots to see and do, even if the balloons aren't in the air.

TD Great Canadian Shoreline Clean-up - Kennebecasis River - September 19th
The staff of the The Kennebecasis Watershed Restoration Committee is planning a party around this annual, nation wide, shoreline clean-up. There will be prizes, food, and fun, not to mention some great work cleaning trash out of our scenic rivers. Challenge your municipal council to get involved, challenge your neighbor. The KWRC wants to clean up 5km of stream this fall and with your help this will be an easy task.

After your done helping clean the rivers you can stop by and visit the booths at:

The Atlantic Hunting and Fishing Expo - Sussex, NB - September 18-20
This event will put all you need for outdoor adventure under one roof. Demonstrations, door prizes, and great conversation. If you like hunting and fishing or simply want to learn more about them, this is the place to be. The Sussex Fish and Game have worked hard and have made this event a huge success.

So there is no reason to fear the end of summer here in this beautiful province. September brings lots of activity and color to the landscape. I hope you can get out and wander and hopefully find yourself in a great place.

I thought too that with fall coming I would show you a nice pic of some fall colors.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Family Addition

Well I have been really busy lately. That is no excuse though for not keeping my blog active. My life though has been crazy busy with lots of excitement. Most of that brought on by the birth of our second child. My wife and I are very happy to have added a healthy daughter to our family. Many of my macho friends asked me "So what are you gonna do with a daughter?" I didn't even hesitate when I answered "Teacher her to bait her own line."

I am looking forward to camping with both of our children. Our 4yr old son will be a pro by next summer and eager to teach his younger sister lots. Camping has always been a bonding experience for many families. No matter your family's skill, everyone can bond while out camping.

Ohh...I gotta go tend to a crying baby girl. Stay tuned though and I will provide a few family camping tips.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Step it up a notch

Well, as you may have read in an earlier blog I was recently recognized for my efforts in enviornmental awareness. Well I've decided that I have to step it up a notch. For sometime I have been reading about "One Million Acts of Green" in fact I had posted a link to it on an FB Group we created at work. I never made the leap to actually join the effort as I was a bit skeptical about its actual impact. Recently my thoughts about this site though changed. I started thinking that it doesn't really have to be measuring real reductions as long as people are at least becoming more aware of their potential to minimize their impacts.

I encourage you to take a look at the site and join in. You might be surprised to see how simple it is to reduce your green house gas emmissions.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Thanks for noticing :)

It feels good to be recognized for your work from time to time. This weekend I was very honored to accept an NB Merit Award for my efforts in Environmental Awareness and Conservation. I want to thank the Town of Sussex for this award and thank my family too for their ongoing support. It was really cool to be acknowledged in this manner and something that I never really expected.
Thanks again.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Poison in the woods

I spend a great deal of time in the woods and fortunately I have never been affected by poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac before. For a crew of students working under my direction this summer they were not as fortunate. Recently, somewhere, somehow, they all came in contact with one of the three poison plants. None of them recall seeing the plant but they all have visible proof on there arms, gross looking, reddish blisters, of various sizes.

So why am I telling you this? Well I always encourage people to get out and explore the back woods but I would be neglectful if I simply sent you out there without showing you what these three poisons look like. The only true way to avoid these poisons is avoid them so learn how to identify them.

Poison ivy: This poison is found throughout most of North America but is rare in desert and mountain terrains. Typically for this plant use the old addage "leaves of three let it be" but it is a versatile plant and can look like a shrub, a flower, or a vine. The leaves can vary in color from green, red, orange, or yellow depending on the season and location of the plant. The leaves will have a waxy texture with two leaves opposite and the third on a longer stem to the top. Poison ivy also produces various berries which can be hard to see thanks to the leaves which can be up to 4"long. If you do not know what poison ivy looks like I suggest you do a Google search for it just to be safe. (Photo courtesy of

Poison Oak: From what I can find, and keep in mind I'm no professional so I encourage you to look for yourself, poison oak is not found in eastern Canada. It is found in western Canada however as well as the Eastern US, as far north as New Jersey. So just to be safe I have posted a picture of it here. (Photo courtesy of

Posion Sumac: This poisonous plant is found in Atlantic Canada and differs from the previous two in that it does not have a trifoliate leaf structure. It typically has 7-13 leaflets in a compound opposite formation. It often grows in wet areas near bogs or rivers. The branches of the poison sumac, not to be confused with staghorn sumac, are often reddish in color and the berries are a hard white color. Staghorn sumac leaves are serated while the poison sumac leaf is smooth, the berries are also different as the staghorn has reddish fruit. (photo courtesy

I strongly encourage you, if your worried about coming into contact with any of these plants, to investigate them. If you do come into contact with them be sure to wash your clothing as the urushiol (the oil that causes the skin irritation) can also be spread through secondary contact of clothing or tools that come in contact with the substance.

Cures for these poisonous plants are typically anti-inflammatory creams (hydrocortisones). I'm no doctor so I suggest if you come in contact with any of these plants that you seek out medical help.

I hope this helps you feel more comfortable in the back country of Atlantic Canada.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

NB DAY Celebration

Well the long weekend is nearly upon us here in NB. What to do? What to do? There are celebrations going on everywhere so search one out and have fun. I'm sticking close to home as I am hoping to blessed with our second child that weekend so I'll be celebrating our great province in Sussex Corner. They have some great fun planned. Vanessa Packman, the Village's Public Relations Coordinator forwarded me this information:

New Brunswick Day

Monday, Aug 3, 2009
Sullivan Park, Sussex Corner

1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Games! Races!

New Brunswick Day Spelling Bee
Paint the Town Read
mural contest

Cake and refreshments!

New Brunswick Day Merit Awards

And so much MORE!!!
9:30 p.m., Sussex Corner Ballfield

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Wandering in the KCR

Here is my latest column for the Kings County Record. This is the last in that series and with the expected arrival of our second child I won't be submitting any column for August. I will continue my blog though so check in from time to time.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Thoughts on Food and food for thought

I was asked the other day about food that I take backpacking and so I thought I should write a bit about it. I do not profess to be a great cook at home and that doesn't magically change in the back country. Things in the back country though simply taste better, and since I like to eat, I have enhanced my camp cooking skills out of necessity. I have made bad meals while camping and I have made some really good meals, but regardless they all served a function.

When backpacking, food is not extravagant, it is simply sustenance. You have to eat in order to carry your pack and continue hiking. This means your food must be light weight, packable, and durable. Some things are better to pack than others. I find it hard to advise people on what to take for food because it is taste dependent, but ultimately if you are hungry enough you'll eat anything so here are a couple of things I like to take along.

Lipton Soupworks or Lipton Sidekicks - These make for great meal starters. I often will add canned meat, veggies, instant potatoes or rice to these to make them stretch a little farther. One of my favorite meals is a can ckicken, a package of Lipton Chicken Nooodle Soupworks, 3-6 mushrooms, a half a pouch of instant potatoes, and a half a cup of rice. Boil the soupworks and reduce the heat, add the mushrooms, rice, and chicken. Let it steam for five minutes and then add the intant potatoes. The result should be a thick creamy casserole that will feed to hungry hikers.

Flat Bread is the ultimate for making sandwiches on the trail. Spray it with some butter and add your Sussex Cheese and toppings and hmmmmm yummy.

For my snacks I enjoy eating from a bag of "Oreo minis" or a bag of "Smarties" or if I don't need the sugar rush I will eat a blueberry nutrigrain bar or a new found snack that my son enjoys "Fruit to Go". All these help provide me with a quick energy boost or help balance my system out.

Check back another time and maybe I'll add a few more recipes or backpacking meal ideas.

Happy wandering.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A Different Wandering

Well this post will be a bit different than what I normally write about. I don't normally talk about movies or pop culture type topics but I had such a great time last night I have to tell you a bit about it.

My wife, who is very pregnant and looks amazing, had a Doctor appointment in Saint John and she wanted me to drive her. We don't get out often anymore just the two of us so we decided to make an evening date out of the trip. Am I ever glad we did as we had a simple but wonderful time.

Our first stop after the hospital was dinner at the Saint John Alehouse. The food was absolutely great with a relaxed atmosphere. Each of us dined on different seafood plates and were very full and content at the end of the meal. On most nights that would make for a great date on its own but we decided we wanted to see a movie as well. We had a gift certificate that was likely almost 2yrs old so we thought it was about time.

We headed to Empire Theater to see what was playing. Neither one of us had a clue about the recent movies. What can I say I'm not really into pop culture. We eventually settled on a movie and proceeded to buy our tickets. Well for two people who didn't know what movie to watch did we ever pick a great one. At the risk of sounding like a softy, remember this was a date for us, we chose "The Proposal". Honestly, I laughed my ass off the whole movie. Just when you think they were going to get soft and serious in this romantic comedy they would have you busting a gut again. It was funny listening to the crowd in the theater, one moment silence as it gets a bit serious and then full out laughter. The best thing about watching a movie in a theater is that laughing is contagious, so a piece you might find mildly funny at home is hilarious at the theater. was an awesome movie...and an incredible date. Love you babe.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Final Days on the FFP


The morning of day two started with a gray sky but the air and water was calm. The space inside my head was empty but filling rapidly with the various sensory triggers that are now very familiar to me in this wilderness. My brother already had the fire going again and before long we had a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs ready. We had managed to carry in eight eggs safely the first day and I always insist on Maple Leaf Ready Bacon. It is precooked and lightweight, two ideal traits for backpacking food.

After breakfast I go through my regular routine as I break camp and repack my backpack. First my sleeping bag and bedroll go in. Then my clothes, packed into a couple of large zip-lock bags, followed by whatever fits best until it is all in there. Last is my tent which I attach to the side of my pack, tent on one side, poles on the other. It works well for me. My stove and water filter, along with my snacks, camera, and journal go into the top bag to round out my gear.

Like when I leave Long Beach Creek, the hike out of Seeley also brings sorrow. I often fear that I may never get back there before it loses its wilderness appeal to the planned development of the Fundy Trail Parkway. Alas, I have my own reality and non-wilderness issues that I need to deal with. So, for the sake of keeping somewhat of a schedule, we all head up and out of Seeley Beach. We amble towards what, I think, is the toughest part of the Fundy Footpath hike.

The steep climb out of Seeley Beach takes you from sea level to an elevation of slightly over 200m. The first part of the climb is through lush softwoods, mainly spruce and fir, of various ages. The next stage is a small walk along an ATV trail, (not my cup of tea) before turning back towards the cliffs overlooking the Bay. For a short time here the walk is level and you are granted many great views of the Bay. On a clear day you can easily make out the shores of Nova Scotia and Iles d’Haut. The climb then gets very steep again as you scramble up around exposed rock faces that seem haunting. This eventually brings you to the south ridge of Cradle Brook, which is now 200m+ below you to the northeast.

Now some people think that walking uphill is tough, but for some downhill is just as hard, especially if it is steep enough to make even an able foot mountain goat wary. The descent into Cradle Brook, while maybe not really tough for a mountain goat, is no walk in the park. You will cling tight to some smaller rock faces and zigzag down into the Valley. Suddenly, you enter an old meadow where, no matter the weather, the temperature always seems a degree or two warmer. The walk then levels off for a time before the final steep drop into Cradle Brook. In approximately 4km you hike from sea level to 200m and then back again, none of it easy.

Needless to say we take a well deserved break at Cradle Brook. The sun is shining and our stomachs are hollering for sustenance. It is amazing what the human body will endure and how quickly it can recover. Backpacking has taught me this time and time again. In a short time we humped up out of Cradle Brook and because of the intense hike earlier we made light work of this steep climb. We were now heading to Little Salmon River and I had it in my head to take an alternate route to get there.

As the group approached the McCumber Brook access trail we halted to consider our options. I really wanted to see the Walton Glenn Canyon. I thought, to save time, we could hike the access trail to the road; follow it to the Walton Glenn Canyon Trail; hike that to Little Salmon River; and follow the river to the campsite for that night. The group although hesitant, seemed agreeable to that plan. As we left the FFP though, I had a line from one of my son’s newest cartoon favorites ringing in my head. “Oh oh Zigby, I think your trotting us into trouble.” I shrugged it off though and headed down this new route.

The new route would take us into Walton Glenn Canyon, where waterfalls and massive rock faces were the norm. We first had to get there though. I had never done this portion of the hike with a pack on before and I was in for a reality check. Typically, I accessed this area by coming up Little Salmon River to the confluence of Walton Glenn Brook and then hiking through the “Eye of the Needle” up to the Walton Glenn amphitheater and onto the top of the valley. Usually, when done that way, you get wet numerous times, so I often wear sandals to hike in. I equated therefore, that I could hike down with a full pack with little trouble. Boy was I wrong.

The four of us left the ATV trail along the top of the ridge and quickly descended to McCumber Brook where we snacked and applied copious amounts of bug spray. Here the trail looked okay, but it quickly became so steep that some generous and thoughtful climbers had placed ropes to aid the descent deeper into the canyon. This trail was simply a track made by various types of wildlife and used time to time by humans. It was narrow and often obstructed or falling away down the slope towards the brook. The brook itself was a fast, sinewy, flow that churned around car sized boulders, before dropping off bedrock ledges landing in white foam. Dramatically a waterfall appears before us and to the left is a large rock face that hems the waterfall in. A truly wild scene seldom found here on the east coast, but would be comparable to the dramatic mountain valleys of the Rockies. It is heavenly and so spectacular that the provincial government has set the area side as a “Natural Protect Area.”

We move slowly down the canyon taking in the vastness of this small piece of nature, but more slowly due to the difficult terrain. We enter the Walton Glenn amphitheater where Walton Glenn Falls drops close to 100m on your right while on your left McCumber Brook cascades steeply into a pool where the two brooks join. All around there are shear conglomerate rock faces reaching 100m towards the clouds and in places it seems as if it wants to fall in on you and keep you there. Further down the Walton Glenn Brook you enter a narrow canyon known locally as “The Eye of the Needle.” The entire bottom of the canyon is wet with the brook and is only about 10m wide at its widest point. The walls of the canyon reach heights of around 35m and the sun rarely reaches the canyon floor.

The water is now clear and more settled, but it is bitter cold on the feet. The hike has leveled out some and we soon reach the larger Little Salmon River. We will cross this River 8 times before reaching the campsite near the head of tide. The valley walls of the Little Salmon River are an immense, deep, forested green. Like most hillsides along this stretch of Fundy coast they are rugged and steep and thus it is easier to walk down the river rather than climb up the hillsides. Since I enjoy and work on the rivers, I was always looking for fish, especially salmon since the population for both Brook Trout and Atlantic Salmon, are critically low in most of the rivers we will navigate throughout our hike. It is therefore a good thing that this river valley too, is part of the “Natural Protect Areas.”

None too soon, we reach our campsite. Everyone has their aches and pains and we all flop on the ground with a sigh. Again though, our bodies show resilience as we all get foolish and take a swim in the deep pool close to our campsites. Laughter erupts as we realize how foolish we are but we are all feeling very much alive and the aches and pains for the time being have disappeared. We laugh as we put up our tents and cook supper.

That night the campfire was oddly quiet with little conversation. Our tired bodies and minds were still trying to comprehend the raw beauty of the natural surroundings we witnessed today. There was no need to talk and we had no energy to do so anyway. It was fitting that the day would end with a wonderful moon reflecting off the water in the estuary as the tide moved in.


Mornings on the FFP are an exercise in determination. To backpack the Footpath you can usually count on having a steep hill to climb first thing in the morning. The toughest of those is the hill you face when you leave Little Salmon River heading to Rapidy Brook. There are quite possibly as many switchbacks on this one hill, than one you might face on any other complete day. You can continually greet your companions as they pass on the switchback below or above you as you all move along like a train moving up a mountain side.

The entire portion we planned to hike that morning is likely the longest, gruelling, section of the trail. That morning we climbed in and out of 4 steep stream valleys. Rapidy Brook is a small stream where you cross above a narrow waterfall and gorge approximately 100m above sea level. You enter Wolfe Brook where a small waterfall enters the valley, and then you walk by the old dam site, before walking out to the shoreline. Hunter Brook is a small stream with big boulders that are carpeted with lush green moss. The last plunge is into Telegraph Brook where a waterfall crashes down less than 50meters from where the waves crash onto the shore. Even though this is a tough section of trail it hardly registers with the body because the mind is overwhelmed with the beauty and immensity of the Fundy coast.

From Telegraph Brook the Footpath heads up hill towards a crossing of Quiddy River. When the tide is right though, you can choose to walk the beach from Telegraph Brook to Martin Head. Since we had hiked hard the day before, and that morning, we decided we would wait on the tide awhile and walk the beach not just to Martin Head but all the way to Goose Creek. The best thing about that choice was that we were able to goof around and relax on the cobble shore of Telegraph Brook. We threw a lot of stones at various targets; we climbed various rock faces and boulders; we argued about landforms and geology; and we kicked around a stray buoy we nicknamed Herman.

Eventually, the tide receded far enough that we could comfortably hike along the shore to Martin Head. We ambled along the shoreline as the sun shone bright and warm on our right shoulder. The geology changes, and a small outcrop of beige sandstone, seemed out of place. The rocks and boulders rolled and clacked under our feet as we made the climb up over the isthmus. From the bottom of the isthmus I can’t see the Quiddy River and it is a short, steep climb up the rocky shore where you take two steps forward and one step back. The Quiddy River is a swift, cold, running river with a mud and gravel bottom. The beach on the other side of the river is a long, wide, sandy expanse used by many outdoor enthusiasts with various interests. On most weekends there are lots of people running bikes or trucks up and down the beach but on this weekend there are only a couple of trucks and bikes on the beach. We give them their space and they respect ours, not because we don’t like one another, but simply because we don’t want to intrude on each others wilderness escape.

We reached the far end of the Martin Head Beach and here we had to rock hop and scramble over large boulders in order to make Goose Creek campsite. I always enjoy this part of the hike even though it is very risky. One wrong step could leave you with a concussion, a broken leg, or even worse. The rocks are often times wet and slippery so caution, patience, and awareness are needed. We make Brandi Brook in good time and I take a minute to take a picture of the waterfall that comes down right onto the crashing waves at high tide. Then we make the long beach of Goose Greek where we will camp that night. The beach leads up to the boulders above tide and we have fun playing in the sand as we sink a couple of inches with each step.

The day was a very playful one on the Fundy Footpath and we had an incredibly relaxing day. This is especially true compared to the challenging day we had the day before. The atmosphere around supper and the evening campfire was relaxed and our bodies were starting to really settle into the rigorous routine of backpacking. This always seems to be the way on a four day trip. The day your ready to head home is the day when you are most comfortable on the trail. PART FIVE

The start of our last day on the trail required that we walk across the expansive mud flats of the Goose Creek estuary. This is a sticky, muddy, wet, and often cold crossing. The best time to cross Goose Creek is at near low tide as this will allow you to stay somewhat drier. If the tide is higher you must hike upstream and cross near the head of tide. This adds approximately a full kilometer to your hike. We were fortunate that morning as the tide was just starting back in. This was great here, but later, at Goose River, we were required to make a difficult bushwhack over two steep, large hills, as the tide was not in our favor there.

Once across the mudflats we climbed up the south facing ridge of Goose Creek. This area was boggy in places but the forest was interesting with large moss beds, colorful flowers, and large forest meadows that provided great lookouts to the Bay. The weather was warm and sunny so the hike was enjoyable. We relaxed a bit at Jim Brook, where if you needed to you could pitch a tent and have a nice inland camp site. From Jim Brook the next river valley was Rose Brook.

At Rose Brook we again took a breather and explored the beach a bit before heading on. The topography north of Rose Brook is impressive as there are many sink holes and rock outcrops to explore although we had to be careful as some of the holes could have been unstable. We walked along forested meadows and near Edwin’s Peak where we were offered a great view back down the Fundy Coast to Martin Head and beyond. It was hard to believe as we looked back over the land that we had hiked that in simply four days we had come so far.

The last climb before we entered Fundy National Park was the climb into Goose River. It is a modest descent where you tend to follow an old cart road. The road symbolizes the history of the area and its connection to logging and maybe even farming. Our legs were well stretched now and our pace had become faster and we made good time getting to Goose River. Unfortunately because of the timing of the tide there was no way we would have made the hike in sufficient time to allow us to walk the mudflats here into the park. Instead we crossed the river above the dam and hiked up and over a steep but short hill into Rossiter Brook. This still left us on the Goose River estuary with no way to cross to the trail and so again we had to navigate up a steeper more challenging hill to meet the Goose River Trail of Fundy National Park. I used the GPS I was carrying and made both bushwhacks with little trouble, well except for the fact we had to make very difficult climbs out of each valley.

Our last meal of the trip was had sitting on the wood pile chatting to some Park staff who, had come to check the sites after the weekend. Once lunch was completed we started the last 7.5km hike out to the parking lot at Pointe Wolfe. I always find this old road walk a bit anti-climactic for such a wonderful hike. It seems that I always rush through this portion of the trail as there is little to see and this time was no different. It is funny though, as much as I consider myself an avid outdoorsmen who could likely survive for weeks alone in the wilderness, I always smile when I see the parking lot, It could be the thought of the famous sticky buns in Alma, or a tall ice cream cone, but whatever it is I always giggle when I reach the curbed, paved, non-wilderness area. It is ironic and sometimes I feel guilty about this appreciation of the man made comforts that are so intrusive to the wilderness I often try to seek out.

We were able to spend four days in relative wilderness but each of us is concerned that it maybe the last time we can complete that hike and attain that feeling. The Fundy Trail Parkway, forestry practices, and increased development of ATV trails will likely change this wonderful coast line and remove that surreal sense of wilderness. Regardless, the immense beauty, ruggedness, and the heavenly feeling I get when there, will call me back many more times I am sure and I hope to someday share a backpacking trip with my kids across this great coast line.