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.