Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Fundy Footpath Continues


None of us really knows what lay ahead of us. We hope Mother Nature looks kindly on us and provides us with ample sunshine. We hope the tides ( roll gently and that we can time our trip efficiently around them. Hopefully, with fingers crossed, no one stumbles or falls and injures themselves.

A backpacking trip across the Fundy Footpath is not to be taken lightly and we are all well aware of that fact. None of us are adventure racers and we are planning on taking our time to hike across this rugged, carved, forested, coastal, trail. It will take us four days to hike the 50km linear trail that runs from Big Salmon River through to Point Wolfe, approximately 7.5km inside the Fundy National Park boundary. We plan on doing some extra exploring up some of the dozen or so river valleys when tide, time, and our bodies permit.

Our first night destination is Seeley Beach and the anticipation of getting there and the excitement of just getting out on the trail had us all hiking a modestly brisk pace at first. Shortly, we were stopping to shed a layer of clothing and to take in the scenery. Many times the Bay of Fundy appeared before us as the trees gave way to sheer cliffs. Every time the scene was inspiring, mind clearing, and entirely rewarding. Whether we were standing on the edge of the rock outcrop looking towards Quaco Lighthouse, or we stood at Tuft’s Point looking over Long Beach. We stood silently every time until we took it all in. Then we would stumble over words trying to describe the scene and our feelings to each other. Eventually we would result to corny humor and simply let the scene speak for itself.

The morning moves on rather quickly and as we move along the coast we hear the roar of an excavator on the top of the ridge. While the sound was disturbing the sight of a large cut line that paralleled the trail for quite some distance was downright frustrating. We all made a pact to not let it ruin our weekend though. I think this was much harder for me however than the others.

We reached Long Beach before noon and settled on the beach for a relaxing break. The sun was starting to break through the fog and we enjoyed a good lunch. The tide was almost at high tide and this is a great area to simply sit and watch the waves. The different layers of sand and gravel create wild, unpredictable, wave lines that are hard to predict but it is fun trying. It is hard to simply pick up and leave the beach because it is so serene, so surreal. I have yet to camp at this beach and someday soon I hope to. As we start the hike out of Long Beach we again are disappointed to see a cut line for what we assume will be a look out for the Fundy Trail Parkway. If I want to tent here I will likely have to compete with day users and car campers, despite this, I think it would still be a great spot to spend an evening watching the waves from my tent door.

The section of trail between Big Salmon River and Seeley Beach is a great warm up for the remainder of the Fundy Footpath. From Long Beach to Seeley Beach is a walk through rock outcrops and interesting geology, including a place I call “Football Rock” as the large, somewhat oval shaped rock seems to be teed up for a kick off. I always use this rock as the homestretch indicator for the hike into Seeley Beach and before I know it I am descending onto the expansive boulder and cobblestone beach.

I truly love this place and if I had to make a life from the wilderness this is where I would choose to do so. With the Bay of Fundy at my door and rugged wilderness as my backdrop, how could I ask for more? Well, I suppose I could ask the good Lord to restore the fish populations but that would just be greedy.

Since it is still early in the afternoon I leave the group at Seeley Beach and explore Seeley Brook. I rock hop close to 2km up the small stream as the sun beats down and glistens off the water. The large boulders seem like numerous empty chairs in a theater and I decide to sit and watch for awhile as small trout scurry up the clear stream. The warmth on the rock is soothing to my tired muscles and I find it hard to believe that such a hard surface can feel so good.

It is closing on supper time and since I am cooking I have to head back to camp. When I get there 2 of my 3 hiking buddies are sleeping on the beach. They look like they had hardly moved from when I left them. We all decide to move up to the northern end of the beach to camp for the night. The tenting is better there, but you have to go further for water. I have brought frozen trout, which my father and I had caught a week or so earlier, for supper. I fry these over an open flame and compliment them with instant potatoes and some vegetables. It was a feast fit for a king and we all sat around the fire content and happy that night. The conversation was relaxed as the fire crackled and the waves crashed less than 20m away. We discussed future trips and the future of the Fundy Footpath. We talked about family and friendship. We bonded.

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Family getaway

I sit outside chalet number 21 ( looking down the hill towards the Bay of Fundy. Across the Bay I can see Cape Chignecto ( and its massive red rock cliff line. Much closer I can see a gleaming birch tree as the sun is reflecting off its white bark just right to make it seem almost angelic. To my left and down the hill away I can hear children and adults laughing. The clink clank of a washer game going on is to my right further down the hill. All around me birds are chirping but mainly the white throated sparrow as it calls out “Cheeeezeeburger, burger, burger, burger. With all this distraction I still think I can even hear the white, fluffy topped, clouds moving. It is one of those moments where you feel like you stepped back in time.

The cozy chalets are old looking, yet well maintained. The camaraderie I hear, seldom exists in local neighborhoods anymore. So what is it about Fundy National Park ( that takes me back in time? I think, for me, it is because when I am here I tend to slow the pace down. I no longer feel the need to rush through things. Even as I golfed an horrendous 18holes of golf today I felt as if I was moving in slow motion.

I admit this is not my usual style of vacation, but now with a family, I find that these gatherings are just as much a step back in time as my backpacking trips. Maybe it is because they take me back to when I was a kid and we always got together with Aunts, Uncles, cousins, and grand parents, and everyone shared in games and lots of laughter. Being so close to Fundy National Park just provides us with the idyllic setting for all these memories to be formed.

We played with the kids at the big playground near the golf course earlier tonight and every kid there had a big smile on their face, even when they fell hard into the sand, off the zip line, they came up smiling. Every adult acknowledge one another and had no issues or worries in their eyes and laughed easier as their child did or said something funny. In reality I think I was watching my life take another step towards fulfillment, a step towards what I always wanted, a step towards being more like my parents. This filled me with a sense of pride and so maybe it wasn’t everyone else. Maybe it was just that I was in one of those moods where nothing could ruin it, not even the sand in my sandals as I pushed my son across the zip line for the 59th time.

Earlier in the day my wife, son, and I made time just for us and spent it exploring Cannontown Beach. The tide was nearly in and so it made for a great lesson for my son on how the tide moves in and out. He screeched with laughter as the cold Bay of Fundy Waters swept up over his toes while my wife and I laughed at him. We both wished we could be so easily entertained.

Earlier still, my son and I, along with my brother-in-law and his daughter, went for a canoe trip on Bennett Lake. It was another lesson in nature for Seth. The two kids showed great patients as their fathers paddled clumsily over the water. They each took turns paddling and splashing the water. There were loons, ducks, beavers, tadpoles, and some fish and the kids took it all in with big smiles.

Needless to say, everyone slept great at the end of the day. I hope your family gets a chance to get away this summer. Enjoy.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The latest lobster adventure

Here is the follow up column I did for the Kings County Record on Lobster Fishing.


Friday, June 12, 2009

2009 Fundy Footpath - Part One

It started with a simple question from my Dad. He asked “So when are we going to hike the Fundy Footpath again?” It led to a conversation that had us looking at a weekend early in June. It ended with four family members all heading to the Big Salmon River along New Brunswick’s Fundy Coast, near St. Martins ( As often is the case with these types of trips it came together rather smoothly, at least until we went grocery shopping.

Four men in an Atlantic Superstore ( where they have no idea where anything is can lead to confusion and frustration. It was comical if you were someone else in the store watching us bicker over what kind of cereal or peanut butter to take. You would have thought we were all nuts if you had witnessed us fight over who and how we were going to pay for the $145 worth of groceries. All in all though, the humor and good hearted ribbing started the family bonding off on a very well.

I volunteered to sort the food into manageable and closely equal weight loads that night in preparation for our departure in two days time. It was promising to be a great trip as the weather man from Environment Canada was calling for four days of straight sunshine with only a 40% chance of showers forecast for our third day. We all could live with those odds and everyone was accounted for as we headed down Route 111 towards St. Martins.

As we approach the gates of the Fundy Trail Parkway ( the debate starts over the expansion of this tourism gem. Will it pay for itself or will it become a burden on the tax payers of New Brunswick? How will it affect the wilderness experience we are hoping to attain along the Fundy Footpath? Can we charm our way into the Parkway without having to pay a fee? The lady at the ticket gate was gracious enough not to charge a vehicle pass or a park pass for the driver, but the four backpackers had to pay the fee. At one time it was stated there would never be a fee for the public to enjoy this park. That was a short lived promise. It does not bother me having to pay to enjoy the wilderness but I want it to be just that “wilderness.” Time will tell whether the Fundy Trail Parkway will produce the economic boom the government is predicting. For the sake of the destroyed wilderness and diverse coastal ecosystems, and that of the tax payers I hope they are right.

We say our goodbyes and thanks to my mother who graciously volunteered to drive her two sons, her son-in-law, and her husband to the trail head. We check in at the interpretation center and do, one final gear check. Finally we are off as we walk down the hill toward the new bridge spanning the Big Salmon River. The Fundy fog is moderately thick but that is common in this area. The fog masks the roadway as it heads up over the hill on the northeast side of the Big Salmon River. We cross over the old suspension bridge and head down river toward the Bay and towards the true wilderness.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Love my job

I love my job. A great deal of people say this but do they really mean it? Well when I say it, I mean it. My job is diverse. I can work inside prepping proposals and maps one day and the next be outside taking stream measurements or water samples. I can be in an urban setting or a wilderness setting all within an hour. Being the outdoorzy ( type though I really like the work I do outside. I live in a rural setting with some beautiful, old, farm land and I have come to appreciate the look of some of these farms.

I was doing some stream habitat assessment work recently on a farm near Pleasant Ridge and man was it beautiful. As the name suggests it was ridge country and the view from the top was astounding. I could see for miles for 270degrees. Farmland and forest with the odd road here and there dotted by houses and church steeples. The weather was sunny and boy did I love my job.

The small stream we were assessing was no wider than a meter but small fish darted constantly from rock cover to tree cover and back again. We worked away measuring the width, depth, and conditions while the changing scenery took our attention from time to time. The job allows me to see wildlife such as the porcupine we saw in a nearby spruce tree or gophers scampering back to their burrows, deer darting into the nearby alder thicket, frogs leaping under sunken logs, or unknown beetles munching on leaves. All the time there is something new and yet there is the stability of having a purpose to be there too. Anyone know what kind of beetle these are by the way???

It is truly amazing how the old farms still maintain their charm in todays modernization trend. Some farmers hold on to the old way of doing things and this makes them even more charming. The old rock piles piled in the middle of a field just provide the scene with a touch of character that would be lacking without their presence.

The shining birch bark from a rounded wood pile next to the tree line adds just the right contrast to the sharp lines of the field and trees. The farm scene is one that not only deserves respect but almost politely begs for it. The best part about it all is that I get to work in that type of scenery on a regular basis and it makes for great pics and blog material :)

Most farmers appear gruff and tough on the outside, and for the most part, that is true, but they also are welcoming and willing to talk about their land. They are often very proud of what they have accomplished and who can blame them. It is no easy task making a living off the land, tending to stock 24hours a day, seven days a week. But like me, I bet most farmers do not work because it is easy, or because they are going to be rich but rather they do it because they love their job.

There must be a good country song in there somewhere :)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Lobster fishing lifestyle

Check out my latest Whalen's Wandering column in the Kings County Record

This is the first of two columns that will appear.
I hope you enjoy it and thanks a bunch Neil.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Gear List

I'm planning a trip for four days across NBs Fundy Footpath. I have done this trip many times but I have a first timer going with us and he has asked for a gear list and menu. So this is what I have suggested he take for gear. At first I wasn't going to post it here as I dislike gear lists and always find them more of a personal preference but then I thought...why not. Maybe there are others out there who would like to know what I think. Look at it this least you don't have to pay me a penny for my thoughts. :)


- Tent
- Sleeping bag
- Air mattress
- Blanket
- Toque
- Long johns
- T-shirt
- Camp stove
- Fuel
- 2L pot
- 1L pot
- Frying pan
- Spatula
- Knife/fork/spoon
- Bowl
- Cup
- Lighter
- Spices
- Water filter
- Dish towel
- Dish soap
- Tooth brush
- Tooth paste
- First aid Kit
- Tweezers
- Nail clippers
- Towel (optional)
- Boots
- Wind breaker
- Sweat shirt (1)
- Polypropelene shirt (2)
- T-shirt (2)
- Shorts (2)
- Windpants
- Hat
- Gloves
- Socks (4)
- Underwear (3)
- Maps
- Compass
- Water bottle
- Flashlight
- Book
- Camera
- Binoculars
- Candle lantern
- Hiking stick

I know lists are boring but hey it sure helps when you go to track down all the gear you have stashed all over the house.

I'll be sure to let you know how the trip goes. It's the FFP so I'm sure it'll be a blast. I've posted a video of me babbling like a brook just to show you how goofy I am, but also to illustrate some of the FFP.