Friday, December 31, 2010

Outdoor Rink: Part One

The boys helped clear off the space for the small ice surface.
Today was a sunny, snowy day.  The temperature never came above freezing so I thought I would try making my first outdoor rink for Seth to enjoy.  I have no grand illusions of boards and nets and all the glam.  In fact the ice surface won't be that grand.  Seth, a friend of his, and I cleared off a space about 10m X 6m to start flooding.  After we cleared the space I took the boys to Bill's Corner store for a hot chocolate.  The boys then played in the fort for a while before we went in for lunch.

The boys enjoyed their hot chocolate while
sitting on the steps of the St. John's United
Church Center.

I didn't put down plastic, I didn't build boards.  Seth, the other boy, and I shovelled off the space and put the pile along the edge to create the boundary.  We did that this morning.  I then fought all day with my hose and the pipes trying to get the water to flow so I could flood the ice tonight.  It was a bit frustrating but finally I got the hose clear of ice.  Just a note for those who might find themselves in this same predicament; I put the hose in the bathtube with hot water.  It took about 10minutes to melt the ice out and I cleaned the hose while I was at it...oh and then the bath tube.

Under the stars and a cool night sky I applied a generous amount of water straight to the grass snow mix area that the boys and I had cleared off earlier in the day.  Now I will wait and see what it looks like tomorrow morning and hopefully flood again.

There is nothing better than a kid's rosy smile while enjoying winter.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Winter Winds

Seth loves snow forts and snowballs, especially if
I build the fort.
Winter has finally landed with a thud...literally almost.  I think the snow landed all in one moment with a thud.  I went to bed at midnight on Sunday night and when I awoke at 6:00am there was a ton of snow sitting in our driveway.  When my son woke up he couldn't wait to get outside and play.  I love that he loves winter time and his youth keeps me young.

The two in one fort/sliding hill near the
driveway is a family favorite, after a talk
about safety near the road.

After a modest breakfast of toast and cereal we layered up and went out to do battle with the blowing snow.  My son saying to his mother "Mom! Dad and I are going outside so he can shovel the driveway and I can throw snowballs at him!"  Which he did while telling me where to pile the snow higher to make a fort and sliding hill...which I did.  It was a great morning but already this winter I have broken a shovel and am extremely sore from shovelling the driveway not once, not twice, but three times in one day.  
I am not sure why but it seems to be winter time when my son and I have the most fun together.  We camp in the summer but he doesn't seem to get the same enjoyment out of it.  Maybe because I don't let him throw rocks at me :)

I hope the New Year blows great things your way.

Cheers all.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Trees and Memories

The trees in downtown Sussex can put maybe
even the Grinch in the Christmas spirit.

It is that time of year when inspiration and hope is all around us.  All you have to do is look at the face of a child as he watches the Christmas parade, or watch an elderly woman singing carols as she searches for a perfect gift.  The life in young and old seems elevated during the Christmas season and it is contagious and only the coldest of hearts is immune to the warmth.  One of the longest standing traditions of this festive season is the Christmas tree and this is "one of my favorite things."
If you have a Christmas tree in your home it is likely because your parents had one and you have strong memories and rituals attached to your tree.  Whether you decorate a real tree or the more modern fake tree you likely have that old ornament that has to be hung just right by the specific family member.  Maybe you have to enjoy a box of chocolates or some hot chocolate while decorating the tree while Christmas music plays loudly in the background.  For some it might be a loud boisterous affair with laughter while others reflectively admire the tree before putting on each decoration.  For me and my family it is a rather loud affair, filled with laughter, the smell of chocolates and hot chocolate, mixed with balsam fir needles.  The music varies from Alabama's "Thistlehair the Christmas Bear" to Madonna singing "Santa Baby" but one thing is consistent and that is that it is played a bit louder than normal.

Seth loved being able to climb up on a
chair and decorate the tree this year.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Irony on the Lawless Road

The sign showing the Lawless Road

I have been able to put some extra time in at work over the last little while so I had some time coming to me.  I have always wanted to hike up Pickwauket Mountain just outside of Hampton for sometime now and today, I made the trek up the steep slope.  Work had taken me to Hampton for the morning and so I decided that while there I would explore the area a bit.  The weather was not looking promising, mild for this time of year but calling for rain.  I crossed my fingers as I parked my car along the Lawless Road and set a course for the rocky outcrop on the southern face of Pickwauket Mountain.

It was ironic to me that I was on the Lawless Road when just a few weeks ago I started a hike off on the Law Road.  The first obstacle that I would have to overcome on this hike would be to cross Pickwauket Brook.  After a short jaunt up the stream I found a spruce tree that was stretching its limbs across the brook.  I carefully stepped across the tree and landed safely on the other side.  It was all up hill from here but it would turn out to be a great walk.

This maintained woodlot near Hampton
made you feel like you were walking into
a postcard.
There are times when I envy some landowners for what they have and for what they have maintained.  It is not enough simply to own land but I really admire those who work their land and maintain its integrity.  As I left the flood plain with its scruffy alders, thick black spruce, and white birch, I moved into a well kept pine stand.  The forest stand was not so impressive but the road that led me around to the north side of the mountain was very picturesque.  It seemed to envelop you in a blanket as I walked along.  It made it very difficult to leave the road to head for the higher slopes. 
The forest had turned to thin yellow and white birch stands with the odd spruce and pine thrown in.  The final ascent to the top of the mountain was challenging but the biggest challenge I faced was which approach to take to reveal the scenic vista over the Hampton Marsh.  I raced up the slope and stepped onto the rock precipice and took it all in. The view was amazing, even with the gray overcast day, the site line stretched a long way across the Marsh to the far hills.  I sat on the south slope for a while, because the wind was cool on the north east, but I still took time to take in the view from that angle as well.  I took notice of a stunted spruce that was growing with a majority of its roots upturned.  It was a true testament of the will of nature to see that tree growing on such a wind torn and rock hard place.
With some hesitation I left the small mountain that juts out of the landscape like a volcano on the prairies.  It was a great hike that was overdue and it set my mind right again as I start to prepare for the holiday season.

Looking down onto the Hampton Marsh from the top of Pickwauket Mtn.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Hockey (or sport) is the Building Block for Life

I can remember, not that long ago, rushing to the rink in my parents van, fully dressed in hockey gear, which my mother insisted I put on.  My father was flustered as he had rushed home from work and was running behind, hence the reason my mother insisted I put on my gear before getting to the rink.  As fast as those days went by, they still consume a great deal of my memory bank and the smell of damp hockey gloves still invokes an adrenaline rush within my aging body.

I couldn't really remember my first years of hockey.  It took an enjoyable phone call with my Mom to remind me about those first important years on skates.  Through mine and my brother's first years of hockey it was my Mom who shuttled us to the rink and tied our skates. It must have been tough for her because if I was anything like my son is now it would have been a struggle simply to get me to sit down to get my gear on.  For that I thank you Mom.  Hockey played a big part in my family's life as I grew up and early indications seem to show that that trend will continue with the next generation, and it excites me, I am Canadian after all.

After a short time of consideration I decided to become the hockey coach for my son's Initiation team, and I have realized I owe my parents another huge thanks.  It is hard work getting my son out the door and to the rink, getting him into his gear, getting my skates on, and getting the practice organized but well worth the effort.  The young kids all have fun and their parents all look on with pride and it makes the early morning and rushed afternoons worth the effort.

It is astounding how quickly the kids learn.  They are learning to play hockey much faster than I am learning how to coach it.  I still scurry around before practice in a disorganized blur, while the kids now step onto the ice comfortably.  Where once most fell in a heap shortly after stepping on the ice, they now can't wait to get going and glide off with only a slight hesitation.  We spend less time picking them up off the ice now than we do trying to get them to stop and pay attention to the next drill.

No doubt my son will only have vague memories of this part of his life when he is older, but I hope to share with him the stories of my past and his past so that we can remember together.  I don't simply remember the game, I remember the little life lessons it provided and the lasting friendships it forged.  Like in all sports, youth hockey coaches, I'm starting to realize are not just coaching a player, they are coaching the future leaders of their community. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

High Water High

The weather forecast called for a great deal of rain and I got excited.  When we get rain like this I often need to go out and inspect some of the KWRC restoration sites and see how they are doing.  After a morning meeting, Chris and I headed out, not really approriately dressed for rain especially this much rain.  We laughed at the absurdity of the rain that was coming down.  I was impressed with how well the restoration sites were handling the heavy rains. 

This small tributary beats an angry path
towards Ward's Creek
Over the last 24hours it has rained a ton and the river levels have risen dramatically.  The hydrographic station in Apohaqui is nearly floating but still kicking out readings.  I was out checking out some smaller streams but even those were an unruly, riled, brown mass, rushing over the banks towards the larger stream systems.

The longer we trudge around the sites, the wetter we got and the harder we laughed.  The best thing about the day was that, despite being November, it was very warm.  We weren't cold and wet, we were humorous and wet.  As I mentioned in my Law Road hike entry, I get foolish when wandering in the rain.  This afternoon was no different except that it was raining much harder.

Earlier this year the KWRC completed assessments on a number of culverts within the watershed and we checked on some of these as well.  One that has been worked on, as a result of some input from the KWRC, was playing music as we approached it.  Large stones were rolling through the metal pipe striking lots of different notes as they did. 
Stones and sometimes rocks were rolling out of this culvert
that carried water towards the Kennebecasis.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Just a great day.

I just gotta say, if you haven't been to Cornhill in awhile, you should go and enjoy the long stretches of farm ground, the rolling terrain, and the slow pace of the gurgling brooks.  I had a great afternoon in the field today, first planting some trees with a grade three class from Apohaqui (thanks again to Mrs. Reicker's class), and then assessing a potential project site.  When the sun is shining like it was today it makes any place uplifting, but the ridges and fields around Cornhill possess something special.  Get out there and explore a farm field near you.  Be sure to wear your hunter orange though.

I got no pics sorry but just take my word for it.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Roots with a Purpose

I have been researching a lot lately as I have been starting to prepare funding proposals at work.  I have been digging up some cool facts on trees and the role they play in nature.  I find it interesting that we seldom notice trees until fall when they provide us with a colorful canvas.  Trees are so much more than a part of the landscape, they are the fabric that holds the balance of earth in the air.  For me I often utilize trees to improve riparian areas which in turn improves watershed health.  I see daily how valuable they are to water quality and the relation they have with aquatic ecosystems. 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Fighting The Law

Meg and Chris admire the view across the
man made pond as rain lightly falls.
For some time I have had a strong desire to rise up out of my office chair and take the Law on.  All I needed was a simple reason.  It didn't even have to be a good one.  I was anxious and the frustration of being cooped up in my office or at the mulititude of meetings I seem to be taking part in recently had me a bit on the touchy side.  Finally, I had been pushed to far, and I couldn't take it anymore.  I headed out to pick a fight with the law and there was no way the law was going to win this fight. 

Ok so I'm no rebel and the law I'm referring to is the Law Road.  This short, deadend, dirt road, has always spurred my curiosity, with the deep looking ravines and steep slopes.  I was certain, as I spotted it one day while hiking the Piccadilly Mountain ridgeline, that it had some exposed slopes and thus I knew I would have to go investigate it.  I took some work time to explore the headwaters of McLeod Brook, which runs out of the steep valleys in this area, in hopes that I could form an arguement to have these waters classed as an outstanding water through New Brunswick's Water Classification Program.

The small stream that flowed from the deep
valleys where McLeod Brook began.
The weather was not great as the sky was gray and there was constant drizzle.  It was going to take more than that though to keep me and a couple of colleagues from getting out into the woods.  We pulled the truck down Law Road and pulled up to the end of the road.  The road ended near a farm house on the left with a well maintained front lot and some expansive, worn fields, leading out the back.  Between us and the front yard a small stream flowed from the hills in front of us and we were all itching to find out from where it began.

The view over the farm below from atop the rock face.

Before you could sing the tune "I fought the law and the law won" we were on our way up the stream.  In no time we were standing on the shore of a man-made pond glaring through the fog and an impressive three faced rock outcrop.  With the rock staring down on us it made it hard to take the appropriate time to enjoy the pond which had a clear bottom and a green sheen to the clear water.  We took a few pics before heading further up the ravine so we could approach the rock face from the southeast flank.  A short time later we were stopping to take off a layer of clothes as the difficult climb was causing us to heat up.

In no time we had forced ourselves up the hill and pushed through the tree line and onto the exposed west facing rock.  Before us was an grand view that provided a panoramic greater than 180 degrees.  Even with the fog and rain it was a place that you simply had to sit and enjoy.  The massive hulk of the Piccadilly Mountain was west north west and further north was the looming cranes and construction of the new PCS mine while the old mine sat in the background.  The fall colors were just starting to appear and the hardwood ridge to the south west was glowing yellow as the sun played a short game of peekaboo. 

I found my pictures this day looked better if I
focused on the smaller things.

The rock was weathered and the hill was obviously losing its battle with time.  Large cracks and slabs littered the hillside below us and we youthfully tossed stones at various targets.  It was humbling to sit there and play in this large space where time was moving slowly while at the mine site man was frantically moving to exploit our natural resources for the mighty dollar.  It donned on me that no matter how hard we work to control nature, it will never happen.  If this rock face couldn't win then we don't stand a chance. 

We sombrely left the rock escarpment and headed to the top of the ridge to circle the drainage and come down its west flank.  We walked along the edge of a large clear cut and as we did I realized that with this huge scar on the landscape the small tributary could not possibly be considered an outstanding water class.  What was even more upsetting was that the clear cut was on Crown land.  I am not trying to harp on logging companies, there was no laws being broken that I could tell, but it was, I guess an unneeded reminder of the impact we do have on the wilderness.

The moss covered rocks provided some inspiring imagery
and of course I love playing in water.

We dropped off the ridge into the main stream of this small drainage and had some lunch.  I took sometime to photograph the stream a bit and the bright green of the moss on the rocks caught my attention.  Even on the gray day the greens seemed to stand out.  Every now and then a bright red leaf would also catch my eye and I realized that on an overcast day that the small things are easier to photograph than the landscape itself.  This is likely a no brainer for a photographer, but I have never made that connection before as I have never claimed to be a photographer.

After lunch we circled the two other small tributaries and I noted the great diversity of the forest both in species and age composition.  Huge hemlocks with younger spruce and pines were the stalwart coniferous present, while yellow birch, sugar maple, young elm, and a scattering of beech made up the hardwoods.  Before I was ready we were heading down the main stream again towards the truck and I was already planning my next exploration of the Little South Branch Kennebecasis River.

View Law Road Hike in a larger map

Friday, September 24, 2010

River Clean Up has big Impact

Clean rivers and river banks are important and over 50 volunteers gathered recently in the Kennebecasis Watershed to make sure the rivers there stay clean.  Over the last three years people along this river have been gathering on the 3rd Saturday of September to clean up litter along the river.  It is a great way to get involved in an environmental project and it is a relatively simple activity to take part.  People of all ages worked with the Kennebecasis Watershed Restoration Committee for this event and all had a great day and left feeling rewarded.

Everyone there aided in cleaning up a bit more than 6km of stream and removing 1300kgs of trash and litter.  Illegal dump sites provided a good portion of the trash that was collected.  The impact of this 1/2 day event is not just a local one.  When you keep trash out of a river you also keep it out of the ocean and that is a global impact.

Next time you see a piece of litter make a global difference and take the time to pick it up.  Waste management services now a days make it easy to get rid of your trash with little effort.  Most waste doesn't need to even go to a landfill because technology is making it possible to recycle so many different things. 

Thanks to all those who came out and helped out and made a great global difference.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Simply Fall

The view from Friar's Nose During a Late Fall Hike in 2009.

Simple Fall Offerings

"Time flies" they often say.  It seems like just yesterday that summer started and today my son went to school for the first time.  School starting up, the "Atlantic International Balloon Fiesta," the end of fishing season, and the upcoming "Sussex Fish and Game: Hunting and Fishing Expo" are sure signs that fall is flying in fast.  I don't know of anyone who complains about the fall season.  It simply offers so much that is so simple.

Fall is that time when we can step back and take a small breather after numerous hectic summer getaways or projects.  It is that time when we can slow down before we hectically prepare and anticipate the long days of winter and the joyous holiday season. One exception might be a farmer, but even they are rewarded for their hard work in fall when they harvest their crops. 

For me the fall season is best seen from ridge tops where you can sit and look out over a large expanse of colorful, ever changing, tree tops.  A cool, crisp, breeze blowing across an exposed ridge is relaxing and I can't help but sit and ponder life and my next journey.  Some of these ridges are easy to get to, while others are a challenge, but all of them possess a rewarding, simple feeling of fall.  You can easily find a seat to slouch down in and write a song while geese fly by over head, as might happen at Aiton's Hill.

For a great many of us, we enjoy challenging ourselves while reaching a destination.  The ridge along the north side of Route 111 between Upperton and Hillsdale, rewards the adventurous types with a great view of the Hammond River valley and the Saddleback Range as they change from green hues to yellows, oranges, and reds.  The challenge is finding your way to the small rocky outcrops along this ridge.

If you wish to find something a bit easier to reach maybe a drive along the Gibbon Mountain Road is more your thing.  This drive is a photographer's thrill as it provides far reaching vistas and smaller charming scenery for those artistic types who love finding different angles.  As you drive the ridges of Keirstead Mountain you can strain your eyes on a clear day and still not see where the horizon meets the sky.  A map maker with sharp skills could likely map all the hills to the southeast past Poley Mountain.

Speaking of Poley Mountain, the ridge on the opposite side of Trout Creek, offers a wonderful challenge that rewards the participant with great views of the mixed forests of the Upper Trout Creek.  This is a great location for hikers to stretch their legs before the winter season slows down their wandering.  It is a great place to simply pray for a winter filled with more rewards, or to be thankful for this great place we live in.
"See you in the woods or on the water."

Friday, September 10, 2010

Camp Story

Fishing season is coming to an end very shortly so I thought maybe I should post one more blog about fishing.  It has been a long tradition in my family do visit what was once my grandfather's camp and spend a weekend fishing.  The camp now belongs to my uncle, and since my grandfather's time, things have changed quite a bit.  One thing that hasn't changed though is the fun we have when we go there.  The camp has expanded from a one room shack with tar papered exterior to a two bedroom, steel roofed, getaway.  The woodlot has matured and the road in is in much greater shape.  Likely the biggest change though is the people who are now coming in with us.  This was my son's first time in and he now makes the fourth generation to be visiting the camp.

The road into the camp after a late snow storm in May.  The weight of
the wet snow bent the hardwoods well over the road.

Every time we go into the camp I can't help but read the journal that everyone is encouraged to sign.  I have written in the journal a number of times and it was great to remember those times. 

One memory that sticks out was a weekend my brother and I were to take a Scout Troop.  It was a weekend in May and we were hoping to take the Scouts on an early season fishing trip.  As it turned out there was a severe snow storm that weekend and the roads were in bad shape.  As responsible leaders my brother and I had to cancel the camping trip.  He and I though headed in and spent a night anyways, just he and I and the heavy, melting snow.  It was a simple but memorable night.

For this more recent trip there was no snow but plenty more memories.  The plan was to arrive Saturday afternoon and do some fishing.  My son and I packed a cooler, some sleeping bags, and some fishing gear into the truck.  He was excited to go but was playing it cool and was behaving very grown up.  My wife was having a hard time as this was to be his first overnight camping trip with the "guys."  She had tears in her eyes as we pulled out the driveway, but I'm certain they were tears of pride.  We had lunch at the camp and then my Dad, brother, his two boys, my son, and I headed to find some water to wet a line in.

Seth spent more time exploring than he did fishing.
We settled on South Branch Miller Brook and at first it didn't look promising.  We had split up and four of us fished upstream and two fished downstream.  My son and I wandered upstream and from time to time dropped a line in the water with no luck for the first 20 or 30minutes, not even a nibble.  My father and one of the other boys were up ahead of us and I knew our luck was about to change when I heard them clamoring with excitement.  Shortly there after we were catching lots of fish.  My son was more interested in simply playing along the shore and exploring mud holes and climbing alders, but he was having fun and when  I would hook one, he'd come running screaming "I wanna reel it in! I wanna reel it in!" It was fun just watching him walk along in front of me.  He kept humming a song and talking to himself. 

That evening we sat up and taught the kids how to play a couple of card games.  We let them stay up late and eat cookies as a bedtime snack knowing that they had played hard enough that day that once their heads hit the pillow they would be asleep.  I know that I don't remember hitting the pillow.

The weekend was about the beginning of new memories and starting new traditions at the "Ol' Camp."  It was a great weekend and we left a journal entry so that we remember it whenever we go back.
Sitting on the step at the camp we posed for a timed portrait.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Getting to Know a Watershed

Trout Creek and Parlee Brook are full of small waterfalls and deep
pools like this one.
The following is a column I submitted to the Kings County Record.  I have changed the pics and added a map to provide you with a bit more.  The Trout Creek Watershed is truly a beautiful area and one I suggest you get out and explore.

Whalen's Wanderings
If I want to find an adventure I usually locate a good river or stream on a map and then follow it to its source.  Rivers and streams can hold many surprises and are something I love to explore, so much so I have based my job around maintaining them. 

Trout Creek, from its headwaters to its confluence with the Kennebecasis River, is one of the most beautiful waterways in the province.  It is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream, a photographer’s paradise, an angler’s get away, and so much more.  I never bore of its landscape and am always finding a new point of interest to explore.  Over the years I have hiked many of the ridges, waded up many of the tributaries, climbed over many waterfalls, and swam in many of the pools that make up this scenic Creek system.

Recently I was able to wander around the headwaters of Trout Creek and one of its main tributaries, Parlee Brook.  The hills in the headwaters of these river systems are steep as the waters have carved narrow canyons out of the weathering conglomerate bedrock that dominates this area.  The steep terrain keeps the valleys shaded and moist, even with the warm dry weather we have been having, so a walk up these streams is not only appealing to the eyes but also refreshing. 

Steep valley walls result in deeply carved ravines
that frequently feed Parlee Brook and Trout Creek
Each of these rivers has a number of small waterfalls which many people have no idea exist.  I took some time recently, over two separate outings to explore some of these waterfalls and their associated pools.  The water is clear and cold in the pools at the bottom of the falls.  This is likely why no one bothers to search them out, as even on a hot summer day the water is very frigid and not ideal for swimming in, unless you have extraordinarily thick skin.   During peak summer months the flow is somewhat slow but the manner in which the pots and pools are formed indicates a powerful, watery, machine, carves out the deep cracks in the rock.  Because the water is so clear you can see the many trout sitting in schools on the bottom of many of these pools.  One or two pools however are so deep that shadow and darkness closes in before your eyes can discern the bottom substrate.

These rivers combine, along with Cedar Camp Brook, to flow through the Sussex Valley and provide a lifeline to those living, farming, working, and recreating, along the banks of Trout Creek.  Many however, still take its presence for granted and I encourage all of you to get out and learn about the river, creek, or stream, flowing near your home.  Where does it start?  Does it have waterfalls?  What fish are in it?  Simply wander its banks and get to know it like you would an old friend.  Just like you expect an old friend to be there when you need it, you also expect the river to provide.  The relation you have and the one you could develop might surprise you.

View Trout Creek and Parlee Brook in a larger map

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Great Way to Spend an Afternoon In Saint John

This is my column that appeared in the August 17, 2010 edition of the Kings County Record.  It was a great way to spend a day in Saint John, NB.  I've added a map to help you get there.

A few weeks ago I was planning on writing a column on how I spent my Canada's Parks Day, but other things became more of a priority for me.  I feel that it was a great day spent with family and we visited a park many of you have likely heard of but never taken the time to see.  The best thing about Canada's Parks Day is that there is free admission to all of the National Parks so if finances were keeping you from visiting a park, on that day you could move it up on your list of priorities.

My family had to go to Saint John on July 17th, which was Parks Day, and we were looking for a way to spend the afternoon.  We were seeking out something entertaining, economical, and family friendly as we had our kids and my Mother-in-law.  We decided to go to Carleton Martello National Historic Site, and was I ever surprised by what this small, but significant site had to offer.  I had driven by this Historic Site a number of times, in fact I lived in that part of Saint John for over a year, but never had I stopped to take it in before.

From the moment we stepped out of the car I could tell there was something special about the place.  You could smell the salt air mixed with wood smoke from a smoldering camp fire that was being tended by Site staff.  The weather was overcast and gave the site a more time appropriate feel.  We made the "mandatory" stop at the information desk and washrooms before making the climb up the short but steep hill to the Tower.  My son was anxious and it made it hard to enjoy the entire surroundings but his youthful excitement and continual exclamations "Mom, Dad, Nanny, come see this!" always peeked my interest and so I would move on.

The Barracks at Carleton Martello Tower National Historic Site.
Inside the Tower it was laid out with the time specific attire from cookware, army uniforms, cots, rifles, and model canons.  The cramped, but well organized quarters, likely provided a very respectable representation of what the Tower was like during war times.  The Tower is also well situated, at least I think it is, the fog never lifted the entire time we were there so we couldn't see the rest of the City of Saint John from the top.  Despite that we spent time talking to the informative interpreters and reading the educational sign panels.  It was a great way to expose our son to history and maybe peak his interest in learning history.
After leaving the Tower we spent some time exploring the rock outcrops and the rest of the site.  The topography lent itself to its assigned purpose as it was a steep rock outcrop but it also made for a modest playground for young and old alike.  If you have never visited Carleton Martello Tower I recommend you check it out.  Write it on your calendar for the next Canada's Parks Day, which has been held every year since 1990 on the 3rd Saturday of July, so in 2011 it will be July 16th.

View Carleton Martello Tower in a larger map

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Outdoor Elements: Racing Downhill to Set Itself Apart

In every community there is that place place of business that works hard to create a niche for itself.  It starts off as a small business with a single person who has a vision and a dream.  This weekend, Outdoor Elements in Sussex, will set itself apart in that Town as a successful, service diverse, market focused business.  I want to tip my hat to John and the staff at OE and wish them luck this weekend as they host a down hill mountain bike race at Poley Mountain.  I encourage you to get out and watch some of the racing and see what OE has to offer to the community and to you.  Good luck Outdoor Elements and keep up the great work.

Friday, August 6, 2010

A Tribute to a Great Hiking Partner

Good friends are a true treasure and very hard to come by.  For me a good friend needs to be loyal, honest, and trust worthy.  They must be these things when I am at my worst and of course when I am at my best.  Recently I lost one of the best hiking and fishing partners I have had the pleasure to "wander" with.  My good friend "Rosie" passed away surrounded by love in the home she knew, and I write this as a tribute to a great dog.
Rosie playing with a rock on the Bay of Fundy Shore at Telegraph Brook

For many of the columns I have written, I have written over 80 now, she was often by my side when I felt inspired.  She knew when to speak and when to stand quietly and simply take it all in.  In her prime she was full of energy and often prompted me to get my butt off the couch and go for a hike.  As she got older she simply went because she knew I needed a hiking partner, and as she got older still she went out of loyalty and tradition.

Rosie was a dark brindle, boxer-pitbull cross, and was the runt of her litter.  Being the runt only meant she was feisty and energetic.  These traits caused me more than a few headaches as I house trained her.  As a young puppy she would tag along on fishing trips, and on one such trip I almost lost her.  She got swept away in the Smith Creek while we were fishing.  She was trying to get to me in the middle of the river where I was standing in my waders.  She was not strong enough at this point to swim against the strong current and was swept down to a turn and under some overhanging vegetation.  When I finally pulled her out she looked like a drowned cat, and it took a long time before she ever stepped in the water again.

All dogs love to chase and chew on things.  Rosie's item of choice was often large rocks and if someone was to toss a rock into the tall grass, she would sniff around until she found it and then bark at it until she could find away to get it in her mouth and bring it back.  On one occasion she chased a stone a young boy had thrown over the Bluff.  She bounded down over the face and in about 10-15 minutes time came back with the same stone the boy had thrown.  Watching her go over the face of the Bluff just about gave me a heart attack as she was not usually one to enjoy rock scrambling or heights.  In fact, I had to carry her down a ravine one time in Arnold's Hollow as she wouldn't come when I called.

There are so many memories made through her 14years that I could never list them all.  Some of them are good, some, well, not so good, but isn't that the way it is even with humans you love.  I think sometimes we lose our ability to love unconditionally but Rosie never did.  No matter how far I travelled, or for how long, when I came back she would always meet me at the top of the stairs waiting to stretch her front legs up to my shoulders and give me a big kiss.  I'll miss you Rose…but I'll see you in the woods and on the trails.
Rosie as a one year old puppy.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Releasing Fish and Stress

Wow are the rivers ever running low and warm.  I was out for a fish a few evenings ago and when I stepped into the water with my trusty, worn out, fishing sneakers, I couldn't believe how warm the river was.  In this part of New Brunswick we can usually count on 3-5 days of above 30 degree Celsius for the entire summer.  This summer we have had a couple of stretches with a number of days in a row having that kind of temperature.  I was still surprised at how warm the water was, especially since the Trout Creek is usually to cold to swim in, even on a 30 degree day.

Despite the warm temps, the evening shade was enough to bring the brookies out to feed.  Within my first 3 casts I hooked a chunky 8" trout that had more fight than I anticipated.  The evening wore on as I fished upstream from near Sussex Corner and I hooked and released 14 trout.  They ranged in size from 8-11" and all were on the chunky side.  I couldn't help but feel rewarded for all the work I have been putting into restoring the Kennebecasis River.

It was a great way to "de-stress" and after I decided to give the fish a break, I sat on the river bank, above a deep pool, and watched the sun go down back down the creek valley.  Further up the valley I admired the ridge that creates the Bluff on the creeks right bank while on the left was the massive "Jack's Hill."  It was a peaceful evening that left me, once again loving this great area I have been so fortunate to grow up in.  Where I sat was on the edge of a farm field under a maple grove and on this night it was very quiet and peaceful.  As I begrudgingly left the farm field I followed a trail back down the Creek valley to where I parked my car.  After a long day at work doing data analyses and project budgets this would be great therapy for anyone.

I hope you're able to get out and enjoy a river near you.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sitting Atop Hay Bales and Enjoying the View

This was my latest edition of my column in the Kings County Record.  I've added some pics that I took while hiking with my son recently.  A couple of these appeared with the column.  I hope you enjoy it.
Round hay bales near Foxhill, NB
I have a vivid memory from when I was younger.  I was maybe 8-10 years old and I can remember my friends and me biking down to Mac's Grocery to buy a treat.  Back then you could get a soda, a chocolate bar, and a bag of chips for no more than fifty cents.  We would then bike back towards home and stop at a nearby hayfield to enjoy the treat.  It is the memory of the hayfield on the hill and the large hay bales that make this memory stand out in my head.  I was taken back to that time earlier this week and it prompted me to write about it.
There is something crisp about a freshly mowed and baled field.  The birds know it.  They circle around a freshly cut field looking for scurrying mice or other food morsels.  The air is filled with a cleanliness that a grown field doesn't possess and you can feel a lightness as you walk, unencumbered, across the field.  The tall grass is no longer there to hold you back, but yet if you stretch out your hands and close your eyes, you can still feel it there tickling your finger tips.  When you open your eyes the birds will still be circling over your head, and your head will feel light and dizzy.  At this point you will need to sit down for a second or two and instinctively you will seek out the highest point in the field and climb onto the nearest hay bale there to rest.

My son looks over the valley from atop
a round bale near Foxhill
Sitting on top of a hay bale and simply looking over the remaining golden grass that was left in its wake is relaxing now.  As kids though, we used the bales to play hide and seek or as obstacles in a race course.  It was a place to explore and find adventure.  It was a place where we could go and let our imaginations run wild as we played wild, west adventures.  We tested each others strength and quickness as we would often try to roll the big round bales or simply wrestle each other to get to the top of the highest bale.

A CN Train rumbles in the distance
On the day my son and I explored a local hay field, it was too hot to wrestle or play tag so we simply sat on the bales and chatted and ate a snack.  We pulled out some binoculars and watched the tree tops for birds and spotted a hawk that was far enough away I couldn't identify it, but close enough that my son thought it was "cool."  He was also impressed with the constant singing of the beetles and wondered why he hadn't heard them earlier.  When the train rumbled up the valley below he was excited to watch it go, so much so he almost fell off the hay bale he was perched on.    
It was a great afternoon and getting out and exploring nature is that simple.  A science lesson for your kids and maybe even yourself is likely right out your back door.  I know my son and I are learning something every time we get outside together.                                                
Looking down on a corn stalk, not sure why, but why not.