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.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day Fish

It was a wild day weather wise today.  One minute it would rain, the next it was sunny.  If you looked out the front window you wondered if you should build an ark but look out the back and you needed sun glasses.  I wanted to get out fishing and I ended up waiting until this evening to do so.  I was confident that with the rain and slightly elevated water levels the fishing would be hot.

I pulled my car over near an access point, tucked my pant legs into my socks, kicked off my sneakers, and donned my chest waders.  I grabbed my rod and gear out of the trunk and hit the water.  I put my fingers in to test the temperature.  The rains must have been warm because I was surprised at how warm the water was.  It was shortly after 7:00pm and I planned on fishing until about 15minutes before sundown, which I guessed would be a bit after 9:00pm.

I waded up to a small bedrock shelf with a gravel pool along the right bank and cast my line out.  I left the first cast short and blamed the reel.  The next cast was on target and I floated it down past my stance in the middle of the channel.  Nothing.  The next cast I put upstream a bit farther and as it entered the pool, a small brook trout tugged and I set the hook.  From that point on I had non-stop action all evening.  The majority of the fish were 7-8" variety but I was able to land 3 that measured out over 10.5" and I kept two of these for tomorrows supper.  By the end of the night I had landed 11 fish on my barbless hook and had a number of other fish on but couldn't land them.

Maybe the best thing about the night was that with all the rain today, I never got wet, nor did I get eaten alive by the flies.  As I cleaned the fish on a gravel bar the sun was starting to set down the river and the sky was a stark contrast of darkened blues and vibrant reds and purples.  It was a moment for sure and I tilted my head to the sky and thanked God for such a gift.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Recreation and Environment Link

Note: This is a version of a column I had appear in the Kings County Record recently.  I associate very closely with this one and feel incredibly blessed to live where I do, in a place where recreational opportunities can be found around every corner.  The upper Kennebecasis Watershed is a beautiful blend of thriving rural communities, bustling small town centers, and wide open spaces.  It maybe that this rural flavor has allowed the area to thrive during a time when other parts of the country are claiming hard times.  I have to ask myself "Do we need to boost our economy and compete on a global market?  Are we broken? Do we need to exploit our natural resources to survive?"  My answer usually comes to me as I wander down one of the beautiful rivers here in a resounding "No!"  With a healthy environment and recreational opportunities comes a happy and healthy community...what more do we need?  As you read this consider that the small piece of litter someone throws could represent any industry or individual causing environmental harm, we are all in this together, so lets all step up.

Wow…what do I write about this week?  Unlike the spring weather which has gotten off to a slow start, my spring has been anything but.  This is due in big part to my kids.  Thanks guys.  We have tented out for a night, been fishing on the Trout Creek, hit just about every playground in the Sussex area, played baseball and soccer, went geo-caching, roasted some marshmallows, and the first big family camping trip is just around the corner. 

All this activity got me thinking, why is the Sussex area so blessed with great recreation outlets?  As I continued to think about it I realized that it is likely due in good part to the healthy state of the local environment.  Without fish in the streams it is safe to say no one would enjoy fishing.  With poor air quality playing baseball or soccer would be less enjoyable and less healthy.  If our forests were disconnected or were a continuous monoculture hiking would be less entertaining and not nearly as enjoyable.  If our parks were poorly planned and our sports facilities were improperly maintained it is likely that they would not generate the needed revenue to be sustainable.

We are blessed to live in such a prosperous part of the world.  It would be a shame to see our recreation opportunities diminish simply because we did not show enough thought to our environment.  Many organizations are now striving to increase the publicly perceived value of the environment through recreational outings that also provide an education and outreach opportunity.  Fundy National Park for instance recently hosted their "Wings Over Fundy" bird watching event and also have incorporated ecosystem education in a geo-caching series they introduced about three years ago.

The idea of education through recreation provides the public with an enjoyable afternoon where they learn about the environment without even realizing that they are learning.  With a relaxed mind set they no doubt take in much more than if they were sitting in a class room.  Granted some people learn better when focused on specific topics so for those people there is the movement towards "citizen science."  This is where organizations organize volunteers to observe conditions, gather data, identify characteristics, or even take samples.  While the data may not be considered scientifically valid, it still provides excellent background data for planning and prioritization exercises by the various organizations using it, and the events are excellent outreach and educational tools.

Environmental conservation is everyone's responsibility and if we take a negative action towards the environment it potentially impacts everyone.  Take for example someone using the walking trail in Sussex.  If he throws litter into a nearby ditch it eventually ends up in the Trout Creek and then the Kennebecasis River and eventually into the Bay of Fundy.  The Bay could be considered the driving engine to New Brunswick.  It is the backbone of our tourism industry, it contributes largely to the fisheries, and affects the local weather that highly influences the climate that grows our trees for forestry.  If we continue to litter in it we lose the Bay, our economy, our Province, and maybe most importantly our recreation opportunities.

If you want to contribute to conserving our local recreation why not meet an eager group of volunteers on June 12th from 2:00-4:30 at the corner of Route 111 (Newline Road) and Church Avenue.  You can help plant some trees that will restore the stream banks along Ward's Creek.  Dress for the weather and wear something you don't mind getting dirty.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Yard Work as Sport

This is a version of the column I had published a few weeks ago in the Kings County Record.  I have been working hard lately trying to get my yard looking good.  Its almost complete and hopefully I'll have some pictures to post.  Enjoy.
It was with mixed emotions that I watched the sun come out this afternoon.  After a long rainy spell I was spiritually lifted to see the sun.  I then looked out at my lawn and realized that with the sun came the need to mow the grass 2 times a week.  In no time though I was whistling a tune as I pulled the mower out and made the first fresh cuts across the lawn.  I was dreaming of long hikes, campouts, casting a fly line, ball games, and lots more.

After the lawn I had to weed the flower beds out front.  I thought "I'll never get fishing at this rate."  As I weeded my mind started wandering and I was comparing gardening and yard work to other sports that I participated in.  Fishing is considered a sport but really I find gardening much more physical than fishing, and I find it harder to grow a good lawn than to catch a brook trout.  I don't dispute that stock car racing is a sport with it's continual left hand turn but I can easily compare that to mowing the lawn.

My mind stopped wandering and I came back to reality as I finished weeding the flower bed.  I went to the shed thinking once again of my fishing rod but instead grabbed the chainsaw so I could limb the apple tree and cut up a fallen limb from the ash tree in the backyard.  Timber sports are under appreciated, especially if your saw isn't working right.  I pulled on that starter for 28minutes before I finally got it to turn over for the first time this season.  I'm afraid I wouldn't make much of a lumberjack.  I used a step ladder to get up the apple tree just to prove the point further.

"Now" I thought, "I can finally go fishing."  I looked up though and realized the sun was setting so the fish would have to wait another day.  I headed back to the front of the house and worked until dark doing some more weeding.  When I finally called it quits and headed inside I was tired and sore.  That likely has to do more with my poor physical conditioning lately than yard work being physically strenuous.  Either way yard work is a great way to get outside and burn off some calories and we could all stand to do that regularly and why not get some work done while we do it.  Next time I'll try to enjoy the yard work a little more.

Coming up on June 4 is National Trails Day.  I encourage you to get out and hike, bike, or paddle your favorite trail.  While you're there why not do some yard work and leave the trail better than you found it.  If you wish to do more good for the environment, keep an eye out for the Kennebecasis Watershed Restoration Committee's "Water and Willows Day" coming up the following weekend.  This is a great chance to field work, which is the Olympics of yard work.