Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas

From us to you, Merry Christmas
This morning I crawled out of bed still a bit sleepy.  I dressed with my eyes barely open; whacking my head on my closet door while I did.  I let the dog out of her kennel to take her out for her morning run and was brought to my senses when I realized it was snowing.  December 23rd and we were getting snow.  "We might have a white Christmas afterall" I said to the dog.  She bounded outside after the ball we've been using lately. 

My holiday started off nice and I hope it keeps going that way.  I have all my shopping and wrapping done, improving my best previous time by more that 21hours.  The tree is up and decorated and the kids are growing increasingly excited.

I hope that you have a great Christmas and a wonderful New Year.  Spend lots of time wandering with family over the holidays and if you're like me fridge to fridge.  All the best.  Ben

Friday, December 16, 2011

New Sweaters Bring a New Attitude

This is from my Kings County Record Column from December 13th, 2011.  Kids seem to really inspire my writing, I love how everything is so huge and exciting to them.
Hockey is once again underway for another season and once again I am coaching the 5-6year old kids.  It is proving very rewarding, especially since I have been able to take my lessons learned from my previous year's experience and put them to good use.  The number of kids playing this year has increased and to start we were short about a half dozen jerseys and a couple of coaches.  A couple of willing dads stepped up to take on the needed coaching spots and a local sponsor allows us to purchase new sweaters every three years and a big thanks goes out to everyone who is making a contribution.
The newer jerseys were identical to the old ones but, they are, new.  When we brought them out and let the kids know they were getting new sweaters loud screaming and hollering ensued.  Some kids wanted new colors, others wanted new numbers, others wanted the same color and numbers, while others were still wondering what was going on.  With four colors to work with we were able to organize the kids into comparable skill categories. 
With help from many of the mothers, we were able to get all the kids into their new sweater before the end of practice.  I rotated the kids through skill and game stations, with one of the stations being a sweater exchange.  After getting their sweater, the first year kids especially, were coming up and pulling on my old tattered sweater asking me to look at their new one with a big Christmas sized grin on their face.  After I acknowledged how great they looked they proudly skated away.  I swear many of them skated stronger, faster, and harder with the new hockey sweater.
Something as simple as a new sweater is a big deal to a young kid and for some could be the turning point of the season and that moment that triggers their desire to come back and play next year.  It is those moments or a number of smaller moments that build their confidence and make them feel like a true hockey player.
This could be a short edited version of our entire lives.  I know for me that my life has been formed by a number of small victories or successful lessons learned.  These victories often came during a time when I was feeling slightly defeated or uncertain about the next steps.  I have to give thanks to God that when I needed it most a positive experience was there to keep me moving towards my goals.  For a young hockey player, a new jersey may be all he needs to start scoring goals for his team. 
Just as a side note, I simply coach a team, but there are a number of people who work hard to organize Sussex Minor Hockey.  It is often a thankless job that results in upset parents calling you at all hours of the day, or a need to fill out multiple insurance forms, or having to spend consecutive hours at the rink.  This is true for many minor sport volunteers so if your kid plays sports, be sure to thank them.  I want to say thanks to Sussex Minor Hockey board members and volunteers, its an awesome organization.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Just random thoughts.

It seems to always happen to me this time of year.  My deadlines are looming and I still am not sure of what to write about.  Its not that I can't think of things to write about, it is more the fact that I can't sit down and put those thoughts adequately on the paper.  Like everybody else this time of year my thoughts are a bit scattered in preparation of the Christmas season.   I could write about the parties I'll be attending, the parade coming up this Saturday, and the wreaths we bought from the Sussex Corner Elementary School, or the fact that I still don't have winter tires on my car.
I usually use my writing though as a place where I can slow down and reflect on what I have been doing and those things I am looking forward to.  Don't get me wrong, I am really looking forward to the Christmas holiday, but I have never really enjoyed the hectic pace that has developed along with consumer greed this time of year.  I'm as guilty as the next guy, hence the reason I can't focus on writing this column.  My mind is racing trying to think of the perfect gift for my wife, my nephews, and my parents.  I don't want to disappoint them or show them how cheap I can be. 
Typically my column appears in the Sports section of the local weekly paper, so there is no way this will be my story but I truly needed to simply start writing to see what would come out.  My effort to focus is appearing futile however and so therefore I may have to change tactics.  
I could write about being a hockey coach and how we just handed out our new jerseys to our 5-6year old players.  Maybe I could talk about watching the torrential rain fall this afternoon and how I then started wondering about the effectiveness of rain barrels as a flood attenuation tool.  You should have seen the rain by the way…Wow!  We don't get rain like that here, all that often.
I think I have settled on a topic to write about for my column.  Thanks for bearing with me here.  You'll have to stay tuned to see what it is I decided on.  Oh and don't forget the Santa Clause parade in Sussex this Saturday.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

This is for the Birds

This hawk watched me as I investigated a stream a while back.
This time of year is great for getting out and exploring wilderness areas close to where you live.  Even if you don't live close to what you might consider a wilderness area, if you can appreciate the smaller wild things, this time of year is great to observe them.  From the geese heading south, the frogs burrowing their holes, the way a leaf falls to the ground as it separates from the branch on the maple tree, or the way that same leaf moves down a moss covered stream.  The colors, the air temperature, the lack of bugs, so many things make the fall a great time of year to explore the woods.

One thing you should be aware of before you explore in the fall, is the local hunting seasons.  Be cautious and be sure to wear your hunters orange.  Even with this risk though I encourage you to get out there and walk into a field, up a stream, along a dirt road, or across a hardwood ridge this fall.  The numerous small rewards will tally up to a large bounty in the end.

The art of observing the smaller things can be difficult sometimes and I recently had this driven home to me.  I have been developing a project at work where we will engage outdoor enthusiasts to collect field data.  More specifically we are using avid bird watchers to count bird species and numbers along some stretches of local streams.  Trying to set up the research sites meant I had to establish them and perform a preliminary assessment to make sure it was suitable for the purpose of the study.  Doing this meant that I had to try and observe some of the bird species.  Much easier said than done I found out.

With two other staff members I walked slowly along an area we had identified as a potential site.  We moved quietly and spotted many birds at a distance but I couldn't get close enough to snap a good photo or make a positive identification.  I am not even a part time bird watcher.  The only time I watch birds specifically is when I'm at the McDonald's parking lot and there are gulls flocking nearby.  This experience was a bit humbling as I got a bit frustrated that I couldn't identify one.  It became a challenge and I found myself really enjoying the experience and instantly realized the appeal of this low impact activity.

I was able to identify some of the more common birds.  The murder of crows kept heckling me as I missed one photo opportunity after another on one of the many black capped chickadees we seen.  I heard the blue jay and the downy woodpecker before I seen them and I have to admit the youngest in the group spotted them first.  A number of robins played peek-a-boo as well and refused to sit still long enough to have their picture taken.  As I write this I remember the frustration I felt trying to photograph adult salmon not long ago and can't help but make some comparison.  

Throughout the various sites we visited we observed a number of birds and each site offered something different and that was a huge reward in itself.  If you think bird watching is for the birds, I challenge you to try and get a great picture of a downy woodpecker.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Right Time For Salmon

This is a column I had published in the October 25, 2011 edition of the Kings County Record.  On the day described I was at my full time job as Project Manager for the Kennebecasis Watershed Restoration Committee and I can't tell you how excited I was.  After the fact I was a bit embarassed as I thought how I must have looked to my coleague, Tanya Dykens.  Tanya actually provided me with the picture below and I thought it was kind of funny and would add a laugh to the blog.  This is made more likely by the fact that I couldn't get a picture of the two adult salmon swimming in the pool.
I was trying to catch an Atlantic Salmon here.  I obviously needed to practice my technique a bit more as I was unsuccessful.  At the time I blamed the camera...LOL

Fall is an impressive time of year with so much to witness and observe.  Obviously there is the changing of the leaves from the rich greens to the burning oranges and reds.  Look harder and you can see the geese flying overhead.  The tell tale "V" formation giving them away instantly and as they get closer the loud honking and black and white colors solidify your initial guess that they are indeed geese.  Sometimes when you're looking the other way, Mother Nature offers you up a true gift.  Recently, that is what happened to me.

My job requires that I spend a good quantity of time outdoors.  A majority of that time I am in chest waders wandering up and down rivers and sometimes into a local coffee shop.  Earlier in the summer I had placed a number of devices in area streams to get water temperature data.  The other day I went to retrieve them with a colleague from Agriculture Agri-Food Canada and after I collected one near a nice gravel riffle I thought I would wade downstream to check for Atlantic salmon redds.

I treaded carefully downstream on the gravel and boulder river bottom which was slippery.  The fall colors reflecting off the sun dappled water made the rural setting look like a tourism ad.  I struggled to see the bottom of the river which would have been impossible without my polarized sunglasses.  As I scan the river bottom looking for the subtle difference a Salmon leaves when it leaves it's approximately 25cm redd, my coworker starts to holler at me from a deep pool back upstream.  She is motioning emphatically with her arms, moving them in and out and then pointing into the pool.  I thought "No way?"

I stumbled as quickly as I could back up the bank opposite my coworker and looked into the pool.  She stated that she just saw two large fish but was uncertain as to what they were.  I couldn't see anything even with my sunglasses on.  I slowly crossed the river to the higher bank for a better look.  Just as it looked like they had been spooked off, suddenly they appeared again in the pool.  Two large, long, and healthy looking Atlantic salmon were swimming in a river I have worked to improve in hopes that trout and salmon numbers would improve.

Many times I have walked this same river when the conditions were right looking for Atlantic salmon and never have I seen one.  I felt like I had finally attained a clear identifiable picture of Bigfoot.  I was excited and felt so rewarded at that moment.  We tried to photograph the prize fish a number of ways but to no avail.  As I looked around and took in the whole scene, I once again came to appreciate how truly blessed we are to live in this country.  I gained a whole new appreciation of the fall season and what it has to offer.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Shale Gas Exploration in My Opinion??

I have placed two question marks in the title of this blog but in reality I have many questions in regards to the topic of shale gas exploration and development.  Many of the questions I have sought out answers for from industry.  Even the best salesman from the industry left me feeling uneasy and still uncertain about the validity of their claims of how safe the process is.  The local environment, specifically air and water quality, but also quality of life, health care, and tourism is much to valuable to our long term sustainability to risk for a short term gain.  With so many questions around the shale gas industry, the risk is easily understood.

So why I have waited so long to make my opinion on this topic heard?  This is one question I know the answer too.  I have been trying to be diplomatic and work quietly at making changes when I could.  I felt that government would work diligently towards making smart and safe decisions based on the public's best interest and the best thing I could do was aid in that effort when afforded the opportunity.  Now I hear that Windsor Energy has taken actions of disregard and disrespect against, not one, but two municipalities, in which I often work with.  I can no longer sit quietly.

I have heard that the Provincial government is working towards creating a "Gas Action Plan."  I think with the latest actions by Windsor the government now has to step up and halt any further gas development until such time that the "Action Plan" is completed and loop holes such as the one being exploited by Windsor are closed.  Strong regulations that are easily and economically enforceable by the Province, upon wealthy gas companies, should be in place, not to simply protect people now but many years from now.

As much as I want to blame the gas companies, they are not all to blame on these issues.  I think we need to hold the government accountable as well.  The people of NB have been boisterous on this issue and yet the government seems a bit slow in reacting and when they do react, I am not convinced it is in the best interest of the Province.

I don't claim to be informed about all the issues on this topic but I have an opinion.  Now you know my thoughts, take them for what they're worth...which likely isn't as much as gas.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

New National Park for the Maritime Region

The east coast of Canada has likely some of the best shoreline scenery and coastal features of this great country of ours so it was no surprise to me to hear that Sable Island was granted National Park status.  You can check out a more official document here.  I feel that any effort to conserve or preserve our wilderness areas, especially unique and valuable ones is a great thing but I wonder if the National Park designation in this instance is sufficient enough.  Nowadays a National Park is considered a tourism destination and in some instances, and I feel Sable Island may be one, the area designated is not large enough or stable enough to even withstand minimal tourism impacts.  Sable Island is a fragile sand dune ecosystem with a sustainable wild horse herd.  Add 100 seasonal travelers to the mix and the sands and associated vegetation may start to shift.  I am hoping the government investigated all these issues and I will give them the benefit of doubt so I will say cheers Ottawa for protecting the future of this great jewel in the middle of the Atlantic.  Some will take issue with the proximity of the off-shore drill rigs and the potential for impact they have but for now, lets stand up and celebrate the establishment of another Park in our Country.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Not Guilty

A while back I wrote about how I was given a ticket for crossing the railroad tracks in my home town.  Well today I went to court to fight the ticket.  I have never had to face a judge before and I have to admit it was a bit unsettling.  My heart thumped a bit faster as I approached the court house and my feet felt heavy as I climbed the stairs.  I made it inside where I immediately joined a line with those waiting to see the public counsel.  I was one of many that day contesting a ticket for crossing the railroad tracks and I was advised that all those present were pleading not guilty.  I took my seat in court and waited for the session to begin, still uncertain as to the process that would follow.

It turned out to be uneventful as the judge and a lawyer representing one of the other CN trespassers discussed the cases as a batch.  It was decided that all those present contesting the trespassing charge would need to appear in court again for a hearing.  We were then all dismissed.  It was a rather anticlimatic event actually but now I will once again have to go to court so stay tuned.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thanks for Following My Writing

October 10th is Thanksgiving this year and many people will come together around a dinner table and enjoy a fabulous turkey dinner.  I know that is likely what I will be doing.  As I thought about what I wanted to write about this week, I felt I wanted to cover an often overlooked angle of Thanksgiving.  I decided, instead of discussing football or food, I wanted to give thanks.

A few years ago I decided I wanted to try and do some writing and I approached the Kings County Record with a column idea.  From that day "Whalen's Wanderings" was born.  For that I want to thank the Kings County Record for allowing me to develop my voice.  Over the years my columns have varied in scope but a common inspiration has been family so a great deal of thanks and love is extended to them.

To those who read my column I also owe large thanks.  It has always been surprising when someone approaches me to discuss my last column.  It lifts me and pushes me to continue when I hear how someone enjoyed my column or that it led them to get out and wander.  When I started I didn't know if anyone would read what I had to say and now sometimes I'm scared I might not have anything to say. 

This region that we live in, and I write about, is a treasure of natural beauty, interesting culture, and full of artistic inspiration.  From the Atlantic International Balloon Fiesta to Friar's Nose to Dairy Town Classic to Poley Mountain, from Corner Stone to Chris Cummings, Kings County, New Brunswick, is lucky and blessed in so many ways.  I give thanks to the fact that I am able to live here and that I don't have to struggle with overcrowded living spaces and poor environmental and health conditions.  I appreciate the small struggles that we are faced with and give thanks for the lessons learned through these struggles.

So how do we show thanks on Thanksgiving.  Can we volunteer at a soup kitchen?  Do we clean up a section of bike trail that we enjoy every week?  Do we visit a senior's home for a friendly visit?  Maybe we could visit our grandparents and let them know how much influence they had on us.  Giving thanks doesn't just mean saying "thank you" it also means you give back to the community you live.  For many, these actions occur as a Thanksgiving ritual, but our community is blessed because many people in this area try to incorporate thankful living into our daily lives. 

Again I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to read my column and who have provided me with feed back or inspiration.  Thanks too to those who live a thankful life and therefore have made our community a great place to live.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Film Night - Sept. 22 @ 7pm - Play Again

Here is a film I think that many parents should watch before purchasing their child the newest video game or before putting a Television in their bedroom.  I hope to make it to this screening and I want to tip my hat to Cinema Politica Fundy for making us think about our choices.  See you outside.

Sept film Play Again

This month Cinema Politica Fundy is pleased to partner with The Fundy Model Forest to bring you a special screening:

Sept. 22
@ 7pm
701 Main Street @ the corner of Magnolia Avenue
Sussex, NB
entrance facing the library


New media technologies have improved our lives in countless ways. Information now appears with a click. Overseas friends are part of our daily lives. And even grandma loves Wii. But what are we missing when we are behind screens? And how will this impact our children, our society, and eventually, our planet?
One generation from now most people in the U.S. will have spent more time in the virtual world than in nature. At a time when children play more behind screens than outside, this documentary explores the changing balance between the virtual and natural worlds. Is our connection to nature disappearing down the digital rabbit hole?
The film follows six teenagers who, like the "average American child," spend five to fifteen hours a day behind screens. Play Again unplugs these teens and takes them on their first wilderness adventure - no electricity, no cell phone coverage, no virtual reality.
Through the voices of children and leading experts including journalist Richard Louv, sociologist Juliet Schor, environmental writer Bill McKibben, educators Diane Levin and Nancy Carlsson-Paige, neuroscientist Gary Small, parks advocate Charles Jordan, and geneticist David Suzuki, Play Again investigates the consequences of a childhood removed from nature and encourages action for a sustainable future.
Watch the trailer here.
Visit the website here.
Approx. 80 minutes
Directed by Tonje Hessen Schei
Produced by Meg Merrill
Music by Sigur Rós and Kimya Dawson
Original Music by Andreas Hessen Schei
Produced by Ground Productions
Free Admission
visit our website for upcoming films:
Sept. 29 - Vanishing Of The Bees
Oct. 27 - You Don't Like The Truth: 4 Days Inside Guantanamo
Nov. 24 - Garbage Warrior
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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Dangerous Beauty

Often in nature some of the prettiest things can be harmful.  Apparently this is the case with caterpillars.  Here is an information link from Fredericton I thought I should share on the Hickory Tussock moth

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sussex Fish and Game Hunting and Fishing Expo

So over this summer I have been promoting angling a little bit and have caught a bit of a fly fishing bug.  I haven't got a lot of disposable income so finding a good deal on a fly fishing setup has been difficult.  Hope is not lost though and I hope to hit the Sussex Hunting and Fishing Expo this weekend to maybe inform myself a bit more.  This expo has been growing in popularity since its inception and the Sussex Fish and Game Association should be commended on how they have organized this event and brought it to Sussex.

If you have some time this weekend and your are in the Sussex area you should check it out.  If you have a hunting or fishing need then you should definitely come to Sussex this weekend and take in the Expo.  Maybe I'll see you there.

Tubes to Tires

Below is a column I had published in the September 13th, 2011 edition of the Kings County Record.  It was a great day on the water of a river I take great pride in.  The lower reaches of the Kennebecasis River are a great paddling or floating destination as it has a leisurely pace, and cool, clear water.  I have made a career out of trying to maintain this watershed so it was a great to take some time and enjoy it at a slower pace.  

It has been a wet summer so far and the rivers have been running full throughout most of the season.  These wet spells with their sporadic intermissions of a few hot and sunny days have made it great for enjoying the rivers.  Lucky me, I am able to do this on a regular basis as part of my job with the Kennebecasis Watershed Restoration Committee (KWRC). 

Every year, as the summer students the KWRC often hire, get ready to go back to school; they are provided with a recreation and science based field day as a bit of a reward for their hard work through the summer.  This year the students were given a chance to tube down the Kennebecasis River with a mask and snorkel and prepare some notes on what they saw.  The seemingly continuous rains had the water high enough that it promised to be a rapid float from Sussex to Apohaqui.  On the day of the float the weather was surprisingly sunny so the students were eager to go.

With pick up vehicles arranged and a supply of water and snacks, snorkels and masks, the KWRC staff made our way to the water.  I snickered at the various techniques used to get onto the tubes.  Some were graceful and hardly got wet while others had no worries about getting into the cold water and aggressively threw their tube into the water and jumped onto the tube.  Of course the latter just as quickly slid over and off his tube into the water as well.

Tubing is unlike other modes of river transportation.  It is more relaxed, much less active, than say canoeing or kayaking.  That can be true but for me, I can't help but kick and paddle with my arms and legs.  Many times I would leave my tube floating as I would dive to the bottom of a deep pool to see what was there.  It was an active float to say the least.  It was a rush to feel the speed I could get when I swam under water with the current.

The only disappointment of the day was the fact that the water was murky and visibility through the water was minimal, even with the mask and snorkel.  We were able to spot a few trout and almost as many tires.  Speaking of tires in the river and the KWRC, don't forget about the "Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup" being hosted by the KWRC on September 24th from 1-4.   This event will aim at cleaning up 500lbs of waste and litter from the Trout Creek below Maple Avenue in Sussex.  Interested volunteers can meet behind Baird's Plaza, 654 Main Street, Sussex.  Once there you will be appointed to a team and asked to work at cleaning up a section of shoreline.  Refreshments and a small social will be held from 3:30-4 to tally the results.  Come help improve the fish to tire ratio on the Kennebecasis River.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Railroaded at the Tracks

This is a column that I had published in the Kings County Record recently.  There were a number of people fined locally on the same day for the same offense, but there were also a number of people let go with warnings.  There was no bulletin to educate people or let people know that CN would be more strictly be enforcing this law either.  Suddenly what had been accepted practice was no longer accepted and I was not happy to be made an example of.  
It has been in the local news lately that CN Rail has been issuing fines to those who trespass on their right of way.  It has created a bit of controversy, although, most I talked to seem opposed to the manner in which this whole issue of trespassing has been handled by CN.  Now, before I can discuss this any further, I have to make something clear.  According to CN, I am a criminal, or at least that was the way I was made to feel the day they issued me a ticket for $124.50.

The day had been going smoothly and I was in the downtown doing my weekly banking and mail run for work.  I parked my car out behind the bank with the railway tracks behind me.  I walked toward Main Street and the front of the bank whistling a country tune I had been listening to on the drive.  The ladies at the bank were friendly as always and I left carrying my mail that needed some postage.  I went back by my car and over the tracks toward the Post Office on Maple Avenue, like I have done a hundred times or more in my life.  I paid for my postage and sent my reports off to the government departments I answer to.  I come out the door and break into a light jog back across Maple Avenue to build momentum to carry me up and over the hill on the tracks, still whistling, with no criminal intentions on my mind.

Suddenly a car horn beeps and I see a police car with an officer beckoning me to come to him.  Thinking nothing of it I walk to the car, despite the fact that my car was closer.  I thought maybe he wanted some help with something.  To my surprise he greets me with a gruff and abrupt "Do you speak English or French?" without even leaving his car.

"Excuse me?" I ask.  He explains that I was breaking the law by crossing over the tracks and that people who walk along the tracks are often "irresponsible and stupid."  I explain that I have walked the same route a number of times and only to cross and that I never walk parallel to the tracks.  He asks if I had seen a sign stating it was an offence.  Of course I never did because I didn't even look as I didn't feel there was a need to.  The discussion led eventually to me receiving my ticket as I watch two youth cross over the tracks with no action taken against them. 

The whole situation was discomforting and I was a bit frustrated by the way in which the officers treated me.  The passenger railways have been on hard times and if this is the way they treat passengers then I can see why.  I would think instead of taking a confrontational approach to the issue they would work with the public to solve the safety concerns.  My recommendation would be to hold public consultations to develop safe pedestrian crossing areas and establish fences to maintain the right of way.  Currently there are not enough crossings for pedestrians and these could be tunnels under the tracks or bridges over them. 

Personal safety is important and I understand CN's concern about people crossing their right of way.  It is not the respectable people going about their daily business that typically result in accidents on CN's right of way and because I voluntarily approached the officer I feel that I was wrongly made an example of.  I will gladly offer to help CN develop a more public friendly, locally designed solution to the safety issues they face in Sussex and in the process maybe help them increase their client base as opposed to shrink it.  Of course I would have to ask for considerable leniency on my ticket.

Broadening my Horizons

Recently I was encouraged to send some material to another out door based website that was seeking bloggers for some writing.  They asked me to do a top 10 list and so I did.  Check out for my newest endeavor and let me and them know what you think.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Basic Baseball

Ball season is almost over and it struck me that I haven't yet submitted a column about baseball.  I have been helping out with the "Rally Caps" program and often help the develop skills and proper techniques.  In this setting, inspiration is easy to come by.  These young kids are eager to play, not always to learn, but at least to play.   The enthusiasm is contagious and I often find myself excited and encouraging them more loudly than likely necessary.  Helping kids in this type of surroundings is physically and emotionally rewarding.  Here is how I recall the practice from a few nights ago.

It was a hot evening and I was lobbing some pitches to the 6 year old kids.  I was already tired and my enthusiasm was waning when a young girl who had been struggling to hit pitches came up to the plate.  I lobbed a pitch to her and she swung hard and immediately I noticed improvement in her swing from the previous week, but she missed.  I seen her facial expression change to that look of "Oh no.  Here we go again."  She stepped back up to the plate and I threw another pitch to her.  This time she swung and rapped a hard hit down the first base line.  The hit was great but not nearly as inspiring as the surprise that came across her face.  Her face lit up with pride and lifted confidence.  I hollered at her to run to first and she quickly ran down the base path with teeth showing a large smile the whole way. 

Another struggling hitter stepped up to the plate or maybe I should say, stepped on the plate.  I gave him pointers on his stance and the batter's box, which I am sure I have instructed him on before.  When I at last had him positioned he whispers "This is uncomfortable."  I quietly snicker as I head to the pitchers mound and lob in a couple of pitches.  After a few pitches he makes contact with one and stands confused at home plate.  I holler at him to run to first base and his response was "Where is that?"  I couldn't help but laugh out loud as I pointed and encouraged him towards first base with a high five when we get there.

Another young batter, who is stronger than most kids at this level, steps up to the plate.  He is brimming with confidence and I decide to throw a couple of harder pitches to him.  No matter to him, he watched the first one float to far outside, and as I piped the second one he whacks it out deep to left field.  This player too smiles the whole way down the first base path and I can see him thinking to himself "Yes I beat the coach.  Wooohooo!!"

The evening was filled with moments like these and every player wore a smile as a badge of honor at the end of the night.  I realize once again how great it is when we simply play for the joy of it and on this night I was back in mosquito ball myself and enjoying it through them.  I bet I threw over 90 pitches that evening and if the kids weren't tired out.  I sure was.  If you have a son or daughter, a niece or nephew, a grandchild, or simply a young friend playing baseball, I encourage you to get out and watch him or her play.  It is a great way to spend an evening out and the child will truly appreciate it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

All over it

I've been real busy at work lately.  It has made it difficult to provide a regular blog but that doesn't mean that I haven't been writing.  I have had a couple of press releases picked up lately and will actually disrupt someone's sleep tomorrow morning through a live interview on NB Maritime News Radio.

All this has been very rewarding as I am starting to see the fruit of my labor really blossom.  We have had a successful summer so far and still have a number of projects to pull off yet.  This might mean it will be a while before I get a full post up here but when I do it should be a good one.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Family Photos

My wife has been wanting to get our family photo done for some time now.  She had searched out a photographer and was anxious to work with her.  After the first sitting had to be postponed, the anxiety was heigthened even further. The evening finally came and we drove out to one of my favorite spots to have our pictures taken.  It was a great evening and now that we have had a preview of the photos my wife is now excited to get the finished product.  Genevieve Flynn was great a catching little moments with our kids and we really enjoyed working with her. She has a blog with her website and here is what she thought about our shoot.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Fishing again

Kids are great fun. It takes very little to entertain them for hours.  A couple of weeks ago I decided to take my son and a friend of his fishing.  The original intent was to take them camping out for a night but the day we were to go it rained.  Now normally rain doesn't bother me, but I mean it rained hard and I wasn't going to take two six year old boys out in the woods with that kind of rain.  I'm getting off the point though.

I postponed the trip and made it a day of fishing instead.  The boys were game from the get go and when I asked if they wanted to turn off onto the back road, they hollered a resounding yes.  I turned onto the back road with Rodney Atkins playing over the radio, the windows down, and the sunshining.  Cold water was on my mind as the weather the past few days had been warm so I was thought the ice cold Cedar Camp Brook might be a good spot.  Another bonus was that it was not an overly deep or large river so the boys would be safer while fishing in and around it. 

When we finally pulled up by the old church the boys could hardly wait to get out of the truck.  I slowed them down long enough to get sunscreen and bug spray on them.  We then made our way down to the brook and fished down stream towards an old beaver pond.  Before long they were tangled in the trees and shrubs that lined the banks and I made an effort to show them how to keep their lines in the water.  It took some practice but before long they were dropping underhand casts into the cold pools along the brook.  Shortly after that, I hooked a 9" brookie, and let my son reel it in.  He was really excited and was only slightly disappointed that we let it go.

The morning moved into the mid-afternoon and we caught plenty of trout and I decided to keep two for a shore lunch.  We made our way out to the road that runs parallel to the brook and the boys chatted back and forth, and dragged their feet from time to time as they walked up ahead of me back to the truck.  None of us were quite ready to head for home yet so I took the boys to a spot along Trout Creek where the boys could fish or swim if they liked.  It was also a nice spot to cook the trout, the hot dogs I had packed, and boil some tea.

My father who had hoped to join us earlier, met up with us along Trout Creek, and this helped me as I prepared lunch.  I was cooking the trout on a stick and I thought this would impress the boys but they only stopped briefly to say half heartedly "Thats cool."  They then decided they had enough fishing and went swimming instead.  When lunch was ready the boys quickly came and devoured their share of the trout and hotdogs and then splashed back into swim. 

When I finally joined them in the water we all laughed and splashed.  At one point, my son's buddy was sitting on the shore.  His lips were blue and he was shivering and out of concern I asked if he was alright.  His response "I'm just loving this."  That pretty much summed up the day to a tee.  I loved watching my son and his friend bond.  I loved watching them explore the river and the nature that surrounded us all day.  Maybe most of all, I loved the memories that we were all making together.  It was a great day and worthy of being shared here.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Anticipating the Next Cast

The Kennebecasis River is a scenic river and participants enjoyed casting throughout the evening.
The air was un-seasonally cool and a steady breeze was blowing.  A swishing sound could be constantly heard as I stood along the banks of the Kennebecasis River as my eyes watched flies skit over the water and a number of birds flit through the willows.  It was an idyllic scene as participants in the Kennebecasis Watershed Restoration Committee's "Beginner Fly Fishing Workshop" practiced fly casting.

Along the parking area behind the Church center participants were able to practice their casting without getting a line caught.
I was very fortunate to aid in putting this great event together and couldn't help but smile as twenty participants lined the banks of the Kennebecasis River to try their hand at catching speckled brook trout using fly.  Most participants had never cast a fly until the night before when we all met to go over some basics at the St. John's United Church Center.  The purpose of the event was to give anyone who wished to try fly fishing an affordable and enjoyable means to do so. 

Some people learn quickly while others a bit less so but one of the best things about fly fishing is that if the fly is on the water you have a shot at catching fish.  Another enjoyable fact about fishing is that it is great just being on the water.  Many of the participants were smiling even as they untangled their lines for the umpteenth time. 

There is something simple yet difficult about fly fishing and it reminded me somewhat of golf.  I can play a whole round of golf and curse the whole way around the course but if, suddenly I make a great shot, I fall in love with the game all over.  Similarly with fly fishing, just as you are tiring of it, you'll suddenly make a great cast or see a trout turn on the bottom and you make that next cast and then another and another.

Fly fishing is healthy for you and for the fish, especially if the angler uses conservation based angling methods such as barbless hooks, catch and release, and active retrieve.  These methods also make it more sporting as it makes it harder to catch the fish.  Let's face it, in today's society if angling was about truly catching dinner, it would be easier and cheaper to go to the nearest grocery store and buy fish.  Fly fishing also forces you to observe what is going on around you.  What are the trout eating?  Where is the best trout habitat? And what kind of nymph are under that rock you just accidentally kicked?

The twenty participants at this event signed up with no illusions of being able to take a trout home.   They all wanted to come and learn the artistic skill of feeding brightly colored, floating line, with a small hook dressed to look like a fly, through tiny eyelets spaced along a thin, light rod.  When done right, there is a tight loop of line and a rhythmic swishing that result in a feeling of anticipation every time the fly hits the water.  I think many of those who were on the river tonight were not only anticipating the bite of a trout but also the next time they could try fly fishing.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Near Perfect Sunday II

A perfect spot for a Sunday lunch.  I don't know if it can get better than this.

"Note: This is a version of a column that I had published in the July 5th edition of the Kings County Record.  It is part 2 of 2 part series on a hike my brother and I completed across the Parlee Brook and Upper Trout Creek watershed.  It was a great day and I hope you enjoy the read.

You'll have to wait for my next column to hear about it though."  That is the way I ended my last column where my brother and I were hiking across the Parlee Brook watershed.  We had walked from Friar's Nose across a open rock ridge and just explored a great waterfall on an unnamed tributary to Parlee Brook.  We took some photos and video of this waterfall and now I can tell you about the rest of our near perfect Sunday.

There are 5 sets of falls through this short reach of Parlee Brook, each with a deep cold pool
We continued down the tributary until we met Parlee Brook and headed upstream to have lunch at the large waterfalls I knew were there.  The cold, deep pools, at the bottom of the falls were crystal clear and looked like an impressionist's painting.  We enjoyed our lunch and thought briefly about taking a swim but knew the water was much to cold and the air not near warm enough.

One of about 20 grave markers in the old cemetary, this grave held a two year old girl who died in 1883..
After our lunch we made our way down Parlee Brook to the Donaldson Road crossing.  We struggled up a small tributary with some interesting geology that if it was a larger stream would lend itself to a great water slide.  We came out to the Walker Settlement Road and paid our respects at the old cemetery there.  It was humbling to read the grave markers and see how young some of those who died were and how long ago it was.  We wondered what the area would have looked like back in the late 1800s. 

These falls are scenic no matter the time of year you venture in to see them.
We were now heading into the Upper Trout Creek watershed and were going to follow yet another tributary down to the Creek.  I have walked this tributary twice before in the winter and I was looking forward to seeing it under spring conditions.  A short distance down the stream we encounter another waterfall that cascades down more than 25ft in two stages.  The topography and geology are rugged and steep on both sides and we are continually drawn down stream to see what is around the next turn.
Sometimes when you venture down an unknown stream, you have no choice but to get your feet wet.

Suddenly the already steep terrain narrowed in and the only way to continue down the stream was to get your feet wet.  We pushed a bit further until suddenly we looked over yet another waterfall.  We had to back track to a point we could scramble up and around the steep valley and then we could resist sliding back into the ravine to view the falls from the bottom.  The narrow ravine held a deep pool that is well hidden like natural jewel and I was again feeling blessed on this nearly perfect Sunday.

This narrow ravine held a cascading ribbon of white water that likely has been cutting away at the conglomerate rock for centuries.
So why was the day only nearly perfect and not perfect?  Well, once we finished up the hike just before sun down we drove into where my brother and parked his truck only to realize, for some reason his electronic lock wasn't working and we had to break into the truck.  This was just the right amount of humor and humility we needed after such a great day.

The last stretch to home was through some scenic farm fields that overlooked the Chamber Settlement area in the upper Trout Creek watershed.
Are you looking for a near perfect way to spend a couple of evenings?  There is a Beginner's Fly Fishing workshop being hosted by the Kennebecasis Watershed on July 13th and 14th.  For more information, check out the Kennebecasis Watershed Restoration Committee on Facebook, or call 433-4394.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A cool link to find new trails

I feel like I have been trying to provide this service for years but now someone else found a way to get paid to do it.  This is an awesome resource for those looking to get out and explore some of our great trails and amazing places.  Remember when you're out there though to respect it and trash it in trash it out.

The Bay of Fundy has been getting lots of accolades lately with the "New Seven Wonders" and the UNESCO designation on the New Brunswick side.  Hopefully this will lead to more people wanting to conserve its biodiversity and wild places.

Check out the link here.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Not Just Another Day

I feel blessed to be Canadian and to live my life, but even more so on Canada Day 
Canada Day is not just another day.  It has become a day that I anticipate every year.  It is a day that always turns out to be enjoyable and eventful, no matter the weather, or circumstances.  For the last number of years I have spent it with virtually the same people.  A combination of family and friends come together to catch up, swim, and eat their fill at the Reicker residence.  This year was no different for my family, but that doesn't mean it was just another day.  Canada Day has become THE day for summer fun.  We cram an enormous amount into one day.  A good breakfast, a parade, bouncy castles, water balloons, music, swimming, swings, food, and last but not least fireworks,  Yep no doubt about it, Canada Day is just another day, but just a bit more active than normal.

I hope you had a great Canada Day. 
We had a full Canada Day and all of us from the smallest up felt incredibly fullfilled but tired in the end.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Near Perfect Sunday Part I

NOTE:  This is a column I wrote for the Kings County Record which appeared in the June 21st edition.  My brother and I had an amazing afternoon hike across some well forested, deeply carved hills.  It was a very rewarding day that left us in awe of the great  Trout Creek valley in which we get to live.  Every time I explore a new wilderness in this area I find something beautiful and scenic and if you live in this area, I strongly encourage you to get out there and explore, no matter how old or young you are.

Sometimes all the planning in the world just doesn't prepare you for your day.  You can pull all your maps together and plan a great route.  You can pack all the gear you need and the food to see you through.  You get the right team together and organize drives and meeting times but still it all falls apart.  Every now and then though it exceeds all your expectations and a near perfect day results. 

The view from Friar's Nose looking across the Parlee Brook Valley.
  Two Sundays ago my brother and I had planned a day hike across the Parlee Brook watershed, a distance of 11.6km.  We planned to bush whack along ridges and down small streams from Friar's Nose to Hawkes' Bridge on the Trout Creek.  It had been sometime since my brother and I had been out together on a hike and neither of us had followed the route we laid out before so we were both excited and edgy about what the day would hold.

Even small wonders were amplified on this beautiful Sunday afternoon.
It was sunny with a light breeze as we reached Friar's Nose and we took a moment to enjoy this familiar, yet inspiring location.  The Nose is one of those places you have to see to fully appreciate.  From the open rock face we started a steep descent over the south east face of the Nose.  We followed a dry stream bed until suddenly it was a babbling stream.  Shortly it entered into Purtill Spring Brook which we only descended for a short distance before climbing a steep ridge.  Using my GPS we navigated towards what we hoped would be another rock face.

At the top of this unnamed ridge there were 5 raptors floating on thermals.
The climb up this ridge was steep and required some scrambling on all fours just to stay upright.  The hard work paid off as we managed to find our way to a high rock ledge which looked southward over a forested valley as a number of raptors flew below us.  We sat for a time and took in this new vista, scanned the area with our binoculars and snapped a few pictures.  We would have stayed longer but the black flies were pushing us off the ledge.

A small shelf acted like a walkway that led directly behind the falls.
The next leg of the hike took us from the Purtill Brook drainage and into the main stem Parlee Brook drainage area.  We planned on accessing Parlee Brook via a small tributary that flowed off the east side of the Donaldson Road.  On the map there appeared to be nothing special about the stream but we were in for a great surprise.  As we worked our way down the stream the valley became steeply incised and we scrambled over some small chutes.  Suddenly we looked down over a 20-30' drop off and we had to work our way out of the ravine and around the drop off.  As we did this we noticed that a rock shelf led back towards the bottom of the drop and we were able to walk directly behind the waterfall.  It was a great discovery for the both of us and a spot we will be sure to bring others who will appreciate it in the future. 

I had to get my brother to snap this shot of me beside the small falls
We lingered at the newly found waterfall for a while and quietly enjoyed each others company and the natural beauty God put in front of us.  Maybe the best part of the moment was that the day was only half over and we couldn't wait to see what else He had in store for us on this near perfect Sunday.  You'll have to wait for my next column to hear about it though.