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.