Friday, December 7, 2012

Christmas and Birthday Tribute

A couple of posts ago I talked about getting into the Christmas spirit.  I talked about old Christmas music and how it got me into the spirit.  I stated that I would be revisiting the topic again and that it would have family ties.  This post is a tribute to a wonderful woman in my life.  The woman who provided me with the love of Christmas and "Alabama,"  "Kenny and Dolly," "John Denver," and "George Strait" is celebrating a birthday tomorrow.  I want her to know how much I appreciated those childhood memories she provided. 

My Mom always played her country music loud and her country Christmas music even louder. I can remember going to bed at night with the smell of chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven.  I could hear wrapping paper crinkling and the whizz of the tape dispenser as she wrapped gifts.  She would be singing along with an Ann Murray carol and the sound of their voices was comforting.  Every Christmas would be the same and the only thing that changed it seemed were the presents we received...oh and I got older.  The familiar scene was comforting and it provided a solid foundation of what Christmas should be.  Family. 

Mom, you have made so many special Christmas memories for me.  I want to thank you and this short blog entry comes no where near demonstrating my gratitude.  I love you and those memories.  When I hear those country Christmas songs, you instantly come to mind and I can't help but smile and feel relaxed.   It helps me deal with the stress the season sometimes brings and it helps me slow down.  It is incredible how quickly the music you listened to and sung along with so quickly moves me and stirs those memories. 

Happy Birthday Mom and thanks for making a big deal out of Christmas.


Monday, December 3, 2012

A Great Christmas Parade with Exceptions

Did you see the number of people at the Sussex Christmas parade?  Main Street looked very impressive with the Christmas lights, music, people, and the parade.  Kids were laughing and having fun and adults were all chatting and from time to time warning the kids not to play in the street.  It was a great evening of family entertainment.

For those who feel I'm overly positive and never create enough controversy in my writing...guess what?  I wasn't completely happy with the parade.  Don't get me wrong. I loved the parade.  My discontent stems from the people who feel the need to parallel park, on a crosswalk, and leave the car running for the entire parade.  Onlookers of the parade were essentially forced to breath in the fumes the car was putting out.  I think the Town should consider a parking ban during the parade or consider a section where if you need to, you can park and idle if needed.  For me that isn't a great option because of the environmental impact.

Really why would anyone really need to idle their car for the entire parade?  The car doesn't get that cold over the hour long event.  If it does, pack more blankets so you'll be warm enough.

Just so I don't leave this on a bad note, I want to tip my hat to the Town of Sussex.  Well done with the one exception which I don't feel you should have to address, people should know better.

Friday, November 30, 2012

In the Christmas Spirit

Its official, I'm in the Christmas spirit.  While I did the dishes tonight I put on some Alabama Christmas music.  It started with a great post that I watched on Facebook this morning.  You may have seen it as it has made the rounds before.  It didn't quite bring me to tears but it did move me into the Christmas spirit and hence the Alabama and later Kenny and Dolly playing on my player tonight.

After finishing the dishes I took the kids to the basement to pull up some of the Christmas decorations.  Just so you don't think that I'm to much of a keener, my wife had asked me to get the hangers for the wreaths that arrived today.  I figured since I was down there I might as well bring up a few boxes.  It didn't take the kids long, especially my oldest, to start pulling things out of the boxes.  Before I knew it there were more empty boxes than full ones.  We were having a blast.  The kids had me laughing and smiling so big that my cheeks turned as red as ol' Saint Nick's.

I have a theory on the music that I'll write about later.  Let me just say it has family ties.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ranting Against Youth Nature Deficit Disorder

Our family uses Fundy National Park regularly for our vacations.  Its much cheaper than Disneyland.

BLOGGER'S NOTE: I had this blog published in the Kings County Record recently.  I hope you enjoy it.
I've heard it said many times that there is a "Youth Nature Deficit Disorder."  This disorder is tough to swallow for a guy like me and I try to ignore it as much as possible.  Recently that became difficult when some youth I was mentoring indicated that out of the group, less than 20% had spent time outdoors in a tent.  This blew me away and I couldn't believe it.  It gave me a new resolve to increase the writing I do about outdoor activities and such and try to mentor more youth in outdoor adventure.

As I try to understand the problem further I am starting to think that it is not the youth with the issue but rather the parents.  Sorry folks but I have to put the blame where I feel it lies.  Now to be honest you can't be fully to blame, after all our economic needs have changed and have required that we work harder so we can afford our lavish lifestyle and all the organized sports that we want to play.  Don't get me wrong organized sports have a role too, heck I'm a minor hockey coach, so I'm not against youth sports.  As our cost of living has gone up and families have moved from one income to two, it has meant families have less time to vacation together.  Oh and when they do marketers have us believing we would be better to go to Disneyland or somewhere extravagant like that.

This last point is where I really get frustrated.  I don't need to pay hundreds of dollars to wait in line so I can shake hands with an oversized mouse, I can go in the backyard and find a real one and not pay a dime.  I don't need to meet a certain weight or height requirement to enjoy a 3 minute, thrill ride.  I can jump in a canoe and take one that can last for hours and for a bonus I can see not just two ducks, but I can see a whole flock.

As parents we seem to think that unless we take our kids to Disney or Seaworld or some other notable location that we are a failure.  I have been waging this battle myself and I'm not sure I'm winning.  I will make an effort to get my kids out for at least one hour of exploration a week, even if it means I have to take them out after dark.  Already my son and I are planning to spend a night out in a quinzhee this winter and that is definitely something you can't do at Disneyland.

I encourage all of you, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, big brothers or sisters, take someone younger than you out to explore.  You won't just find adventure, you'll find your mind letting go of financial worries and work stress.  Even better you won't incur the un-needed increase in both just to have vacation.  The memories of Disney will fade as will those made in the local forest but won't fade are the bonds you create while spending time with family.  Do we really need to travel more than 5500km producing 263g of greenhouse gas for every kilometer on average.  If the environmental argument is good enough than take a look at the price of fuel today ($1.23 in Sussex) and consider that a car gets 12km/l, roughly.  That means that if you were to drive it would cost almost $590 just to get there…oh and by the way gas is cheap in Sussex right now.

So again get out side here locally.  Heck if you need ideas of where to go or what to do search out some of my old columns.

The video is rough but shows how even a puddle on a sculpture is like Seaworld to a small child.  There were no lines and everyone was having fun.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Words on Webinars

Yesterday was a slow day for me.  Especially when I look at the pace of the previous two.  That being said, I experienced something new yesterday.  I gave a presentation as part of a webinar series.  A webinar is a lecture or seminar that is transmitted to online registrants.  I'm no techie so someone else organized it and told me how and where to login to the seminar.

I am comfortable speaking in public and have likely given more than 100 talks.  I have spoken to many different audiences.  Young, old, male, female, interested, coerced, engaged, and asleep, I have presented to all of them.  This, however, was completely different.  I couldn't see my audience so I didn't know if they were asleep.  I felt like I was talking to my self and it was uncomfortable.  A joke was wasted as I couldn't tell if they got it.  I usually use a joke or humor as a way to gauge my audience a short time into most of my presentations and I knew I was in trouble this morning when I skipped the humor.

It was a great way to transfer knowledge, especially for someone working in non-profit like me.  There was no need to travel a couple of hundred kilometers to attend a workshop where I only want to attend half the agenda items.  It is a great way for an environmentally conscious individual to save on fuel and green house gas emissions too.

The networking opportunities missed by actually being in a room with people can't be replicated through a webinar.  If groups wish to network they'll still have to include budget money for such events.  Overall though I think webinars are he way of the future, especially considering the global manner in which we now do business.,

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Hobbies and Jobs

It is no secret that I love my job, or maybe I should say jobs.  I work hard to make ends meet while trying to make a positive impact on the environment and community in which I live.  It is rewarding when I see my kids exhibit pride in what I do.  Recently I was asked if I could attend my son's grade 2 class to discuss my job (I say job, as it is far from a career at this point) as a writer.  Now, before you start laughing out loud. I don't consider myself a true writer.  I have always considered my writing more as an enjoyable hobby that I can enjoy.  I use my hobby to prepare for my full time job as a Project Manager for a non-profit organization. 

This link between hobby and job came in handy as it gave me enough material to impress the eager minds of this engaging class.  The teacher, to her credit, had done a great job prepping the students with questions and they had no lack of stories to share.  I encouraged the kids to embrace their creative side which I didn't do as a young boy.  I related to them how writing is crucial to so many careers (jobs) that they might pursue.  From the hockey players who might need to draft and read contracts (Come on NHLPA and NHL Owners) or to the girl who was dressed as a designer who would need to write down ideas and proposals, I tried to connect to each developing mind.
Photo courtesy of Mrs. Davis :)

That morning my son had dressed up as a field ecologist and I had given him all he needed.  A camera, binoculars, a field book, polarized sunglasses, sample bottles, and an old conductivity meter I had. Oh and since its hunting season, I made sure he put on his hunter orange vest.  He loved it and looked awesome, but I might be a bit biased.  At the end of my brief presentation the teacher, Mrs. Davis, asked me to pose for a class photo.  I was so happy when she forwarded the photo to me.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Getting off the Trail in Sussex

What a fantastic day.  It is approaching mid November and the temperature today reached 16C according to the thermometer on my truck.  My wife and I took advantage of my rare day off and took the kids for a long walk along the nature trail from Sussex to Sussex Corner.  We met a friend and her two boys in Sussex and walked to Sullivan Park in Sussex Corner.  The warm temperatures meant that we could walk in t-shirts and enjoy the warm sun on our faces.

On every turn of the Trout Creek there were mallards swimming playfully and the kids loved watching them take flight.  Blue jays flitted low to the ground and their bright blue feathers stood out now with no leaves in the trees to keep them hidden.  The aging poplars, that are so abundant along the trail, provided a great lunch for a hairy woodpecker that my wife spotted while I was showing the kids the blue jays.  The whole day we were serenaded by chickadees but it took me a while to listen.

The trail was relatively dry and the older boys jumped at the opportunity to explore off the trail when I offered it up.  The flood plain was even dry and the well spaced ash, poplar, and birch allowed the boys to jump and climb what ever they could.  It was cool watching them explore.  The naturalist in me noticed how many poplar there were and how old they were.  I also noticed that there was very little undergrowth to replace the aging hardwoods.  There were lots of deer tracks around but I saw none but the number could explain the low understory cover.

It was a great day and it paid to get off the main trail.  We walked more than anticipated and it was a battle to put the kids to bed tonight.  When we have to battle like that it usually means they are really tired and it takes all of ten minutes for them to fall asleep.  That means that tonight I can do some writing.  I hope you enjoy what I wrote.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Birds are Resilient So Are We

I wrote this submission to the Kings County Record before the full reality of Hurricane Sandy was realized.  The NE coast of the US took a beating and now only a couple of weeks later they are picking up the pieces.  People are helping out from across North America.  The people impacted the most are showing a true resilience and I am impressed with how they keep pushing forward and how business sectors are quickly reopening.  Birds were heavily impacted by Sandy too I'm sure and their kind have been around a great deal longer than ours.  I enjoy observing birds and the challenge of trying to watch them from close up, unfortunately I'm not that good at it.  I hope you enjoy the read.

Hurricane Sandy is slowly fading out and trick or treaters are likely home and in bed.  I have had an up and down week but by far one of the highlights was a project that I carried out through my work with the Kennebecasis Watershed Restoration Committee.  We recently started going out to interest groups with the information and materials to build bird and duck boxes. 

Watching kids get excited about being able to use a drill or screw driver is cool.   Seeing the difference from one child to another is eye opening to how people's personalities and growth vary greatly.  Watching the pride they have when they complete the bird box and how they make a concerted effort to sign their name to their project is also rewarding as you know from the glow on their faces that they will likely remember the activity for sometime.

Bird houses are relatively an easy building project which makes it ideal for young kids but adults can enjoy such a project as well.  Most adults would take the time to place the box and watch the subtle excitement as birds move in and out.  No doubt an adult would place his box before the March breeding season to increase the likely hood it will get utilized.  They'll take the time to put it up on a nice pole to deter predators and place the pole along a tree line looking out over a pasture near their home.  Close to home is important, otherwise how would you watch it?

March is cold here in New Brunswick and many birds are known to use bird boxes.  Properly placed ventilation holes keep the birds from suffocating in the box.  They also reduce the risk of mould and bacteria buildup.  Make sure the entry hole isn't that big and contrary to you might think, a perch at the entry is not a good idea.  Why?  Predators could sit on the perch and reach in and have a snack while smiling back at you.  That would be unfortunate and hard to explain to the kids who were watching from two doors down. 

The unmistakable cry of the blue jay and the cheery chirp of the chickadee brighten any day, even a cold day in March.  When you look at a bird up close they almost look like a cartoon and how can't you smile when reading a cartoon strip.  Their tiny feet and knobby legs hold their light bodies onto a limb while the wind is blowing hard.  Their feathers keep them warm while a late April snowfall chills us enough to keep the heat on in the house another week or more.

Such resilient animals deserve our respect and our hospitality.  They keep insects in check, pollinate our food crops, give their life for food, and entertain us.  I think if we had to travel hundreds of miles we'd like to stay in a hotel instead of on the streets so a bird box is a great gesture to such an important part of our existence.

I want to acknowledge our veterans as well.  With Remembrance Day around the corner it is important that we all take the time to reach out to our Troops and thank them.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Hey everyone tomorrow is a special day for me.  A day that should be celebrated.  It is also a day that should be like every other day.  Tomorrow is "Take Me Outside" day and I hope to celebrate it by doing what I love to taking a trip outside and up a river somewhere.

It's funny because just recently I had an opportunity to talk with some middle school boys and only 1 in 5 had spent more than 5 nights out in a tent.  This shocked me.  While I am aware with the "Youth Nature Deficit" I was surprised that this group I was talking to might suffer from that problem.  These boys were, in general, farm boys by nature and thus it would be expected that they might be regularly exposed to such activities.  Not so however.

This recent talk furthered my resolve to encourage others to get outside and explore nature.  From the expansive river valleys to what sits under a decaying leaf in your backyard.  It all has something to explore.  Get out there tomorrow.

Though we won't be fishing and he is in school, his Phys Ed class will be outdoors tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Fall Timing

Just had this published in today's Kings County Record.  Hope you enjoy the read and sorry for not posting more recently but the weather has been great and I've been spending a lot of time in the woods.

 Fall is now in full swing and I have been driving from Sussex Corner to Alma to witness it over the last three days.  It is amazing how trees in different areas have been turning at different paces.  The maples as I leave the Kennebecasis valley are a crisp red and the birches and poplars are yellows.  As I close in on Alma the maples are still clinging to the last remnants of green in their leaves and the birches and poplars are only slightly yellow. 

The drive into the sunshine and fog in the morning is challenging as I squint against the glare in the windshield.  I pull the visor down just as a moose crosses the road in front of me, no doubt just happy to have made it past the previous weekend.  A brown oak leaf with a purple tinge floats towards my windshield before flying over the cab of the truck.  The floating leaf takes my eyes towards Wolfe Lake where I notice a loon lazily swimming on the fog shrouded surface.

It was one of those mornings where everything seemed to be moving in slow motion.  This is not the first time that I had felt this type of sensation and I was never able to explain it.  Recently I read through a random web site that discussed an interesting study on how time slows down for people who experience a sense of "awe".  It illustrated three different experiments and all had the same result.  So now I have an explanation for that feeling that has now become familiar when I explore our wondrous part of the globe.

That feeling of awe can often be found when exploring our natural ecosystems.  To further enhance the slow down effects of "awe" in nature consider this: because you have to literally slow down to explore nature, time is in super slow motion.  No doubt your heart, blood pressure and many other physical conditions will improve in this altered state. 

"Altered state?"  This brings up another feeling I have come to know.  I often feel a natural high when in nature.  When I am pushing my body to its physical limits by climbing a series of tough hills it is baffling how I can smile and laugh at the end of the day.  It isn't simply from the sense of accomplishment but the awe and physiological reactions to the physical activity. 

In the fall, for me at least, these sensations are elevated.  I think this is mainly due to the colors and the rapid tempo at which the season of those colors moves on.  If you're looking for a way to slow time, fall, and your mind down, you should consider attending one of the many fall events in our region.  Sussex Corner is hosting a new Fall Harvest Day on October 20th and they anticipate a great celebration of local talents and food.  With the Bluff as the back drop at Sullivan Park the good time should move last a long time.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Trails Versus Trails

 The Balloon Fiesta has now come and gone with a great weekend hosted by that incredible organizing committee.  Even though the weather didn't cooperate all the time, when the balloons go up it is special.  Below is a column I submitted to the KCR which was printed in their September 11, 2012 edition.  I spend more time chatting with hikers than ATV riders but it has often frustrated me when I listened to hikers lament how bad ATVs are for trails and the environment as if all hikers were excellent for the trails and environment.  I can't argue that when a hiker damages a trail it is usually less visual than an ATVs but I think if both user groups work together then both trails and the environment could benefit.  I recently worked on an ATV trail project that improved both the trail and environment and I know of hiking trails that could use similar work.  Feel free to let me know how you feel.

Working for the KWRC, I'm putting the finishing touches on a bridge we built in partnership with the SVATV Club.  The bridge will keep the bikes from crossing a small stream.

The Atlantic International Balloon Fiesta is just around the corner and our household is pretty excited for all the excitement that weekend brings to this great region.  Originally I was hoping to bring you a column on a great balloon ride but alas, my ride was postponed and thus I am left with a scramble to find my inspiration.  Thankfully my job often provides me with many topics that are worth discussing.

At present I am working at separating a recreational trail from an ephemeral stream, one that runs part of the year.  The trail is used by hikers, bikers, and ATV riders.  So what is inspirational about this?  Is it the fact that by separating the trail from the stream I am improving the natural ecosystems while improving the trail?  Is it the scenery in the remote location I am working in?  In fact it comes from the fact that this trail is mainly an ATV trail but in reality it serves as a trail for many uses.

Hikers and ATV riders in the province have been feuding over trail space in the recent past and I feel that more could be accomplished if the tense feelings were set aside.  One of the partners on this "Trail and Aquatic Corridor Restoration Project" is the Sussex Valley ATV Club and already some of their members have worked a tough 10 man days on the project which should wrap up later this week.

A log crib wall helps separate the ATV trail from the stream bed.
As a hiker I understand some of the issues hikers have with the ATV riders but I feel that many are unfounded.  In my mind the only viable argument is the loud noise of the bike engines.  When used properly though a bike can be quiet and have little impact to the environment, especially if on a well developed and properly designed trail.  A good ATV trail also makes a great hiking trail or mountain biking trail.  Even better than that, a protected trail corridor could also serve as a protective corridor for watercourses or sensitive habitats.

As a hiker I don't always use trails and even when I use trails, the terrain they cover wouldn't be suitable for an ATV.  In fact ATV trails provide access to some of the terrain I backpack or hike across.  Without the ATV trail it would mean a lot more hiking to access the area I wish to explore on foot.  In a way I owe thanks to ATV trails or old logging roads for allowing me to more readily explore some wonderful stream valleys and ridges.

The biggest detriment to this issue of hikers versus bikers is those who don't properly use the trail we should share.  Hikers are not entirely innocent here but ATVers who abuse the trail typically have a more noticeable impact on the experience for all.  There are some ecosystems ATVs should avoid, such as stream beds; except at established fording sites, beaches, and areas with plant species with special status.  Hikers can more effectively access such habitats without impacting them.  It is truly about the mindset of the rider or hiker that determines how much impact they might have on the environment.

Maybe you have impacted the environment recently and are looking to offset that impact.  If so, come out on September 22nd to the KWRC's Great Canadian Shoreline Clean Up where you can clean up litter from local river banks.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Refreshing Seasons

Fall is definitely in the air.  I sat at lunch this afternoon amidst the maple and spruce and could smell the moist mud and falling leaves.  I drank a freshly made, steaming, cup of tea and relished in my surroundings.  I loce fall mainly because when I'm in the field working there are few to no bugs, and the temperatures are much more bearable. As the leaves fall you are provided a different angle of the hills that lay behind the trees and you notice little, interesting, aspects of the topography.  A hidden rock face, that you vow to come back and tackle, appears, where before all you could see were the lush leaves of a stream side stand of ash trees.  The stream which days before was only a trickle is now a strong eroding force that carries stones and debris downward to the larger rivers.

As I sat an finished my tea I couldn't help but turn my head skyward and say a brief prayer of thanks.  The cycle of the seasons is a true gift that keeps us feeling refreshed and new.  As fall starts to fade into winter I will likely feel the thrill of winters treats.  I am blessed to work outdoors on a regular basis and I don't know if I could handle being stuck in my office all the time.  Being outdoors is refreshing in itself but the changing seasons further enhance that cleansing feeling and cause me to continually smile with a child like grin.

Where ever you were today I hope that you too enjoyed the day.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Skipping Stones

Stacking and skipping stones is one of my favorite past times.  It can easily be shared with my kids.
This blog entry was originally published in the August 28th edition of the Kings County Record.  I have now had more than 100 columns published there and owe them a debt of thanks for continuing to print my material.  I hope they continue to do so and I hope you will consider supporting the KCR when you can.  I want to send a special thanks to David Kelly who is moving from the KCR to accept another position within the newspaper industry in southern NB.  David was always available and more than flexible with my columns.  Thanks Dave.

I have referred to this topic many times in past articles and it speaks very highly to my affinity for water.  One of my favorite past times is skipping stones and I have had this since I was a young kid.  We have so many great areas to take part in this hobby that I often get a chance to practice.  Not only do I skip the stones I sometimes take fun out of balancing them. 

Recently I had the chance to spend a rare evening with just my daughter and I took full advantage and shared my love of skipping stones with her.  We started the warm August night sharing an ice cream cone and after our ice cream we drove to a parking lot that put us next to a gravel bar along Trout Creek. 

Now when skipping stones the location is important.  The first thing you need is a great, cobble beach with lots of flat stones.  Trout Creek, Grand Lake, and the Bay of Fundy Beaches are some of my favorite places to skip rocks.  The next thing to look for is a place where the water is flat and smooth.  Skipping rocks on wavy or fast flowing water is a challenge and requires good timing and aim just to get the first skip in.  Flat or wavy, it doesn't matter, skipping rocks is a great way to kill time and get some exercise.

On flat water, with a light to modestly weighted, flat stone, and a modest throwing arm, you can get more than 20 consecutive skips.   Our location on Trout Creek offered a long stretch of flat, slow running, water where I could throw rocks upstream.  The upstream approach helps get more skips and I was easily getting 15-20 jumps from the good stones. 

The cool ripple effects are cool to watch but for my daughter she simply liked the splash the rocks made.  She struggled to throw the rocks let alone skip them but we were having fun simply being on the water.  I decided to change it up and showed her a target close by and we tossed stones at it and she was excited when her rock made the water and more so when she finally hit the nearby target.

After my arm tired out we searched for "cool" stones.  My idea of cool was a bit more sophisticated than my daughters but the joy she took out of finding different colored and shaped stones was entertaining.  She put a couple of pounds of stones in her pocket to add to what she called her "Snows collection."  Me, I pretended to put them in pocket only to take them out later when she wasn't watching.

After I got tired of walking we sat on the gravelly bar and as we chatted I built her some rock towers to know over.  Building a tower out of rocks is not as simple as it might seem.  You need to consider how the rock is shaped and how it might sit on the rocks you already have in place.  A rough surface rock is easier to balance than a smooth surface as it doesn't slide around as easy. 

The only down side of this evening was that darkness came way too quickly.  As we left the gravel bar we picked up a number of pieces of trash on the way out.  It was a great night ending with our good deed for the day.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Bit of a Pet Peeve

I was driving down Main Street in Sussex today and witnessed something that frustrated me.  I was driving my work truck with the Kennebecasis Watershed Restoration Committee magnets on the side.  If it was the first time this summer I had seen this it might not have bothered me so bad but this was the third time.  If I had a more confrontational personality this environmental crime would not have gone unpunished.  Luckily for the woman committing the crime I let it go, after all, it is not actually criminal but in my opinion it should be.

So what did she, and two others, do that frustrated me?  She was emptying out a bucket of wash water directly into the storm drain.  So why should this be an environmental crime?  Well, when you empty anything directly into the storm drain it usually has a direct path to a natural stream or river.  This means what ever grease and oil you cleaned off your car, windows, or whatever and throw down the storm drain it could potentially pollute your nearby stream.  If every one did this can you imagine the impact. Who knows what was in the bucket the lady emptied out but even the cleaners you might use are harmful to water quality and fish and other aquatic species.

Even when we park our cars at the grocery store, if we have fluids leaking, they will find their way into the storm drains and then into the rivers.  Next time when you're in a large parking lot find a storm grate and look around for the telltale sheen of oil following the low drainage areas of the parking lot.  Then look at all the cars in the lot and consider if every car leaked how much oil or gas that could be entering the local streams.

There are programs that try to draw attention to this issue but the results are hard to quantify and so to is the impact that such actions have.  As for a car leaking fluids, I know it is next to impossible to stop, but if you can keep your car tuned up to reduce such leaks.  Every bit helps.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Biking Down a Back Road

Coming up on Saturday I'll be at the Apohaqui Rec Center throughout the day.  I'll be manning an information tent for the Kennebecasis Watershed Restoration Committee at the Back Roads Bicycle Festival.  You can register the day of the event and there is lots going on.  Check out the links.

There are a number of activities that I don't get to take part in as often as I like.  Golf is one of those and I wrote about it a couple of weeks ago.  Kayaking or canoeing is another one and I have only been able to do that once this summer.  There is one activity though that I have not yet been able to participate in at all this summer.  Cycling is a sport of speed and daring where one wrong move can lead to injury, just ask Simon Whitfield.

Cycling, whether on a road or on a trail, is a thrill.  As a kid I spent lots of time in the saddle taking risks and pushing my limits.  I usually rode trails in the nearby farm fields where we built jumps and ramps to test our skills on our BMXs.  This likely developed my preference for trail riding versus road riding.  My mother can attest to the numerous scars and bruises I came home with after my many bike wrecks.

Coming up August 25th is a chance for me to relive some of those glory days.  The "Back Roads Bicycle Fest" will give me a chance to sweat and feel the wind in my hair as I move up and down through the gears.  The event will be held at the Apohaqui Lower Millstream Recreation Center and I hope to get there and take in the activities.  Talking to some of the organizers there will be lots of informative workshops to go along with a number of bike rides.

Based on the success and model created by the Cornhill Bicycle Fest, this festival will showcase the great back road routes in and around Apohaqui.  The organizers hope that the success of last year's event in Cornhill will translate into similar success for this year's event. The rides being organized will have various start times and will be of various lengths.  The event has something for everyone; whether you're a seasoned cyclist who puts in over 100km per week or a newbie who would be lucky to have cycled 10km in their lifetime.  The routes will highlight some of the many great places within our great county. 

Sign in for the event is from 9:00-10:00am on that Saturday morning or you can pick up advance registration forms at Outdoor Elements.  For the kids there will be a bike rodeo, for the history buffs there will be a presentation on the history of Apohaqui, workshops on bike maintenance and proper shifting of gears for the die hard cyclists, and for those who might prefer to paddle over peddle information on the Kennebecasis will be available.

Also coming up on August 15-16th is the Kennebecasis Watershed Restoration Committee's "Beginner's Fly Fishing Workshop."  This free event still, at press time, had space available and if you are interested call their office, 433-4394, today or tomorrow, to inquire further.  Last year's event was very well received with all participants walking away with something.  This year, a lucky beginner will walk away with a fly rod and reel combo from  If you can't get into this event keep an eye out for next years.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Grads of '92 - Go Sonics

My first day senior year with two other influences.
It seems like just yesterday now.  I wore a black leather coat with red shoulders and a white armband.  I had dark wavy hair.  I had no worries.  High school is mainly a blur now with only the highlights standing out.  I played hockey for the Sonics, who won the regular season and a couple of tournaments along the way.  I played soccer, dated, partied, lived, and learned.  In the end I graduated 20 years ago and this weekend we celebrated our 20th reunion.

What was really cool for me was the changes among people.  I sat with my wife at one point and observed the interaction between old classmates and was entertained by it all.  The subtle differences are what stood out because a great deal hadn't changed.  I'm not talking the physical differences either.  Maturity, family, marriage, success and/or failure had altered the social hierarchy.

My Gram was also a huge influence, love you Gram
I graduated with some great people and throughout high school I felt there were very few social lines unless imposed by ones self.  This was even more obvious at this recent reunion.  I want to say to the Grads of '92 from Sussex Regional High School - "You all are awesome and helped provide me with a great structure for life."  Those days meant a great deal to me and I may not have known it then but now as I often look back on those days, I was learning a great deal and most of you had a major role in that and all of you had at least a minor roll.  Thanks so much.

I think I realized too that my enjoyment through school is a key factor that brought me back, or maybe kept me here, to raise my family.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Re-Evaluating how We Develop Recreational Opportunities

This entry was published in the Kings County Record a week ago.  My hope is that people who read it will think about how we promote and develop outdoor recreation infrastructure.  I hope it makes you think.
Was this bridge and river side parking lot necessary to improve recreation and tourism along the Fundy Coast?

I'm hoping this column will prompt you to consider the value of future developments in our pursuit of greater tourism dollars and outdoor recreation for everyone.  Sometimes, in the name of recreation, people justify altering nature so that they might better enjoy themselves.  This might come across a bit harsh, but I want people to think about, and possibly re-evaluate how, we develop nature. 

In the Sussex area we are blessed to have a beautiful walking trail.  A couple of years ago they decided to "develop wetlands" along the trail to improve the experience.  My question is; what was wrong with what was there in the first place?  Why couldn't we just appreciate what was already there?  I will enjoy the wetlands that are now there, and indeed I think they may actually serve a modest natural function as well but so too did the landscape that was their prior to the wetlands.

After the wetlands went in the Town decided to develop a dog park, which is rumored to be further enhanced soon.  I have a dog and I can understand the need for a space to take my dog.  Trust me my dog needs space and the poor trees in my backyard can attest to that.  When I go for a hike the dog is now a solid companion.  I still need to work on her fishing etiquette but she has lots of time for that yet.  Sorry, I'm off track.  Nature provides us with an excellent dog park so I don't know why we would spend resources on creating a fenced in, un-shaded, dog park. There is no better place to exercise your soul, body, and your dog, than in nature.  Your dog likely still feels constricted behind the fence of the dog park so why not let him run a little in the woods and fields around Cornhill or Apohaqui.

Similarly, I would say that we need to re-evaluate how we invest resources into building trails.  Those resources might be better spent elsewhere. This might seem a bit odd coming from someone who promotes hiking and active living but I also promote natural ecosystems and sustainability.  I'm not saying there isn't a need for groomed trails and dog parks.  I am suggesting that we need to re-evaluate our infrastructure and development needs before altering what Mother Nature has created.  Bush whacking through a spruce thicket is better exercise than walking a nicely groomed trail and gives us a better sense of where we came from as well.

One of my biggest pet peeves is the Fundy Trail Parkway.  A number of years ago there was a push to increase tourism in our region.  To do so we have potentially altered the natural area that we seek to promote and made it very unnatural.  It is very unlikely that this development will truly have a financial gain, with the exception being to the maintenance contractors who will continually pave and upkeep the roads and other infrastructure. 

I do not stand opposed to development but would like to tip the scale a little to give nature a greater weight when deciding what type of development we need.  Cities and towns in recent years have built expansive one story buildings on prime agricultural ground or flood plains when two blocks away there might have been derelict buildings or underdeveloped lots.  As we move forward we need to consider how future developments will impact our natural surroundings and when possible we should fully minimize any developmental footprint created.
Stairs such as these create maintenance costs and if not maintained a safety hazard.  As a tax payer how do you feel about maintaining them?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Relaxing Walk While Competing

Thanks for the pic Jamie Roach

Through past experiences that led to other columns I often have come to realize how I am aging.  One sport that I recently thought I'd like to try again is golf.  As a kid I spent my summers at one of three locations; the ball field, a good fishing hole, or on the golf course.  Once I had to start paying intermediate membership rates however, my golfing heavily decreased.   The majority of golf I play now is on the computer that I use to write my columns.  On the online World Golf Tour, I play as a pro with a 6 handicap but hardly burn a calorie through 18 holes.  Even with the online opportunity I still only play maybe 3 rounds a month, after all my lap top is for writing not playing.

A little over a week ago I was able to take part in a one day golf social as part of the local Chamber of Commerce tournament.  I was a bit nervous heading into the day as I was scared I would not be able to reach my own expectations or those of my own teammates.  The tournament was a four ball scramble which means we take the best ball for each shot with some exceptions.  My biggest fear was that we wouldn't want to ever play my ball.  Luckily my golf game was not as rusty as I thought it might be.

I struggled through the first two holes but my drive on the third hole was long enough that we used it for our first shot on the hole.  My next shot was terrible however as I shanked a five wood.  Golf is frustrating that way but when you hit a sweet shot you are hooked once again.  It is an up and down relationship for a player like me and it is that roller coaster and the challenge of keeping my emotions in check that has always got my competitive juices flowing.

Despite my online WGT ranking, I'm no where near a pro so I can't give anyone tips on golf.  I can say that it is a game that everyone should try because you don't have to be good to enjoy the walk.  In the Sussex area we are blessed with many courses and each has its selling features and no doubt everyone can find a course they enjoy, even if it is just for the walk.  Walking is the greatest exercise and after carrying your clubs and walking 18 holes you'll believe it.  After my first 18 holes of 2012 I know I sure could feel it.  My right wrist ached, my back was as tight as a drum, and I was exhausted, and we had taken a cart. 

If I recall, I always played better when I walked than when I played out of a golf cart.  The reason for this was that I could stay more relaxed when I walked.  I could let my mind wander away from golf for a bit and take the competition out of it.  The biggest competition in golf for me was myself and when I relax I play better.  I encourage everyone to get out on your favorite course and relax.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Fishing For a Future

This is an older column that I had published in the Kings County Record.  I thought it would be good to share it here.  The "Hooked on Conservation" workshops were a huge success with over 60kids taking part.  I felt proud of the job all the partners did to make these happen.
For a young boy there are very few adventures that top going fishing.  As a kid it isn't just about fishing it is about exploring new horizons, discovering new ground, and learning about various ecological cycles and habitats, even if, at the time, you don't realize.  There are many documents that demonstrate how kids who are active outside live a healthier and fuller life.  They no doubt also grow up with a greater appreciation of our natural world and place a greater value on keeping it natural and pristine.

As someone who works hard to protect and restore the natural ecosystems of the Kennebecasis River having people value the watershed is important.  One way to improve a person's perception of their surroundings is through helping them connect with it.  To form the way a young child perceives the watershed is a great place to start and will have a lasting and growing impact.  An upcoming event hosted by the Kennebecasis Watershed Restoration Committee (KWRC) hopes to increase the value young kids place on the health of their local rivers and streams.

"Hooked on Conservation" is a workshop that focuses on kids ages 8-14 who want to try fishing.  The hope is that the KWRC can educate the youth on methods of fishing that help maintain the fish populations while also increasing the child's understanding of fish habitats and habits.  The KWRC will host an event in Sussex, one in Apohaqui, and are planning one in Hampton.  Already a number of kids have registered and will learn some great techniques on how to catch the big one, not to mention how to find them.

While the day long workshops will teach kids how to fish, the best thing the kids will get is to actually spend an afternoon on the water fishing.  More than that they will dig their own worms, bait their own hooks, and release the fish they catch with their friends.  This is a memory maker for any kid.  In the future those who attend will value the Kennebecasis watershed more than they might have if they didn't attend the workshop. 

If they continue to fish beyond the workshop they will likely utilize more "fish friendly" techniques.  Catch and release fishing is just one of the techniques the KWRC will promote.  Using a barbless hook, minimal fish handling methods, along with other practices will aid in creating a more sustainable recreational fishery on the Kennebecasis River.  Cooking and cleaning trout will also be demonstrated as part of the workshop and the kids, although possibly a bit grossed out by this, will still take it in and remember it.  Another aspect of the workshop will be to encourage the kids to maintain and submit fishing journals that will help the KWRC monitor fish populations and health and provide government officials with better information to develop future management plans.  Through this workshop kids of today will learn so that kids of tomorrow can continue to make memories.

Monday, July 9, 2012

FFP 2012: The Beaches

Looking over the Fundy Coast from Martin Head shows how many beaches could exist here.
This is my last look at my spring 2012 hike across the Fundy Footpath with 3 generations of the Whalen clan who I introduced in the first hike entry - The Hikers.  It was a great trip and one that will be remembered for many years.  The parks, the tidal flats, and the waterfalls, are all notable on a global scale.  For me though, the best thing about the Fundy Footpath is it's beaches.

The beaches are full of a variety of tidal life.
When most people think about beaches they think about warm glistening water and long ribbons of white sand but, typical of the FFP, in this wilderness the beaches are even rugged.  The tides are the highest in world and so the beach changes dramatically every six hours.  With the constant flow of the Bay of Fundy the water never gets that warm and even during a hot day in July it takes thick skin to be able to swim.  If you could stand the water temperature, in order to get to the water you typically have to navigate over large boulders to get there.

Just about every time the FFP crosses a river it comes to the mouth of the Bay to do so.  Each time, the hiker is rewarded with the sound of crashing waves on rocky beaches.  Wolfe Brook and Telegraph Brook each have a steeply sloped, boulder covered beach, where wave watching is an awesome experience, especially on windy days.  At high tide along these beaches you are hemmed in close to the shore and it is hard to find a spot where ocean spray can't find you, but during low tide, you can explore the rock faces and smooth boulders.  Regardless of where the tide is on its cycle, both of these small, unconventional beaches offer something to see and explore.  If your into collecting stones, skipping stones, or as one acquaintance of mine does, balancing them, these beaches (as most FFP beaches) are a stone lovers dream.  If you like scrambling and playing on boulders these beaches are great during low tide as you can find crevices, caves, are passages that are fun to play around.  I like all of this stuff but what I truly love is finding that low lying boulder that has the right slant and smoothness that I can comfortably lean back into it and use it as a chair to watch the waves crash in.

Wolfe Brook has lots of rock and boulders to explore.
The beach at Martin Head is one of the most iconic locations on the FFP.  It is a long beach that resembles the more typical image of a beach, especially at high tide.  The long isthmus that forms the "Head" is very gravelly with well rounded and weathered rocks.  The Quiddy River delta is a mud sliders paradise and is full of thick, slippery, mud.  For those who like to build sand castles, there is lots of sand too.  There is no poor time of year to explore this beach but on long weekends through the summer it can be busy with off-road vehicles who like to use the beach as a camping area.  Why wouldn't they?  It's a beautiful spot to watch the tides and soak up the sun.  With the history of this place exposed at a number of locations it is easy to get lost here.  Your mind drifts over not just the scenes in front of you but also through those you can imagine from years gone by.
Martin Head  can be viewed from a variety of angles, none of which are bad.

A beach similar to Martin Head would be Long Beach.  As it's name implies this is a long beach.  Small airplanes have been known to land here.  There is history here as well, although not as obvious as Martin Head, it can be seen if you know where to look.  At high tide this beach is a long ribbon along the shore where in places it is impassable while at low tide there is an unimaginably wide beach over 2km in length.  The highlights here change after every storm as new drift wood floats in and old rocks are covered over.  It is worth exploring over and over again.

Seeley Beach seems to enhance everything, including fog banks.  How cool is that?
The last beach is probably my favorite.  I try to camp here whenever I can and I have never had a bad night.  Even when the weather is poor, it is like the old saying a bad day at Seeley Beach is better than a great day at work.  On a rainy day the sun seems to glisten off the millions of rocks and make it sparkle like the jewel it is.  The topography of  the beach extends it out into the Bay more than other beaches so you can look north up the Bay over all the ground you have or will hike over if you're hiking the FFP.  If you place your tent right and conditions are perfect, you can watch the best sunrise in the morning while you can count the Nova Scotia lighthouses in the evenings.  I watched lighting one minute here, double rainbows, and storms move up the Bay.  

As I finish this entry up I think about other aspects of the FFP and I've decided that I'll add an entry of photos with captions at a later date.  I hope that these entries have peaked your curiosity and you'll get out there and experience some of the locations I have wrote about on your own.  Happy trails.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Firefly Frenzy

Laying in the grass looking up at the clouds as the sun set.
There is something that I can never remember doing as a kid that I wanted to do.  I had lots of opportunity as a kid to pursue this adventure but just never made the time.  In fact I never much gave it much thought until I was too old to truly enjoy it and not being embarrassed if I was caught doing it.  Well here a few nights ago I had my dog Bambi out in the field behind the house doing her last deed of the evening and suddenly I noticed the tell tale sign of fireflies every where.  There were tiny flicks of light just above the tall grass that provided a small and silent light show.  I sat in thought about these tiny bugs and debated waking the kids right then and there for a firefly catching extavaganza but thought better of it.  I'd wait until the weekend.

SHHH! Daddy be very quiet we're hunting fireflies.
So last night the kids and my wife and I all lathered up in fly dope and headed to the field to see if we could catch some fireflies.  It was an adventure for the kids and the dog who bounded through every inch of the field and made it very difficult to catch our bug of choice.  As the sun set and darkness fell the kids watched as more and more fireflies started lighting up.  After a great deal of effort we managed to catch one firefly for each of the kids.  We also caught moths, mosquitoes, and slugs which our daughter really seemed taken by.  At the end of the evening, well past the kids bedtime, we let all the bugs go safely back into the field.
Hey!  Where did the dog go?  Has anyone seen...hey where is everyone?

It was a memory making moment and one I wish I had of made time for when I was a young kid.  I hope my kids look back on it and laugh.  I know I will.

Monday, June 11, 2012

FFP 2012: The Waterfalls

Mike crosses the top of one of the falls located east of Seeley Beach.
This is the fourth in a series of blogs on my recent trip across the Fundy Footpath.  The first entry was about the hikers.  The second entry was about the Parks and I held back nothing on my dislike of the way the Fundy Trail Parkway is being developed.  The previous entry was about how much I enjoy the mud flats along this undervalued coastal trail.  I have been attempting to describe the iconic features of this jewel studded, 50km hike, and the next icon I want to showcase are the numerous waterfalls.  I am likely to leave a couple out but there are so many that I couldn't possibly include them all.  To be included here I evaluated on a personal level whether the waterfalls would be considered iconic or not by others.  Certain locations speak to people more than others so if I leave a waterfall out, I encourage you to still try to get out there and witness it and see what it has to say to you.

A small set of falls inside FNP is worth checking out.
Our hike would take us east to west and the first waterfall we would encounter is found a bit off the beaten path inside Fundy National Park.  Since it is in the Park you need to tread lightly to get there.  To be honest the only reason I know it is there is because on a previous hike I needed to take a pee break and wandered into the woods below where people were filling water bottles.  On that previous hike, I didn't go down to the falls but I could hear them, and this time they were still beaconing me.  These falls likely vary in size depending on the amount of rain or snow melt that is feeding them.  On this hike they were a modest falls where the water had sculpted the dark conglomerate rock into two steps before scurrying off towards the Bay of Fundy through a steep, forested, gully, green with mosses and ferns.  What makes these falls iconic to me is the fact that very few people know they are there and they are unnamed (as far as I can tell.)  To me this makes them more valuable and thus iconic.

After leaving the park you cross a number of steep valleys and small ravines.  No doubt every one of them has a small waterfall or chute and I struggle not to clamber up each little water course in an effort to maintain the loose schedule that we have set.  Unfortunately, we all need to return to a hectic life based on needs and wants after the weekend.  The next set of falls though removes all thoughts of that life.  Tweedle Dee Tweedle Dum Falls is a large set of falls and can cause even the most negative among us to smile and raise his voice an octave higher as we share our thoughts on this great wilderness we are so privileged to take in and enjoy.  The modest pool at the bottom of these falls are irresistible and you have to wade in and have your picture taken.  Once done there your curiosity will compel you to climb to the top and explore further.
Tweedle Dee Tweedle Dum Falls is a short hike off the main Fundy Footpath but well worth the hike.  There is nearby camping that makes this an iconic location on the Footpath.

The falls at the mouth of Telegraph Brook have eroded down over time but are still impressive.
The next stop on the waterfall tour is slightly less voluminous but no less impressive.  Maybe what is so iconic about these falls is the fact that they sit right at the mouth of the brook.  It is imaginable that in recent geologic times that the falls used to fall directly into the Bay of Fundy.  Now the plunge pool is separated from the Bay by a boulder and cobble berm.  Telegraph Brook has a small campsite right next to the pool at the bottom of these falls and with a tent pitched there it is the iconic image of the Fundy Footpath.  The small Telegraph Brook contains a number of falls and chutes above this final falls but to explore this Brook is difficult as it is a very narrow and treachourous ravine.

The unnamed falls along the true right bank of Wolfe Brook.
For me one of the cool things about waterfalls is the fact that they may not always be flowing.  When you find these running it's like hitting the jackpot.  As we continued east on the FFP we were blessed to see water flowing over the high rock face that greeted us as we crossed Wolfe Brook.  On past hikes I have seen this fall completely dry while on others I have seen it with much more water.  Maybe the interesting aspect of this waterfall is as you continue the hike, you make a challenging climb to the top of the small unnamed stream that provides it with its fuel of force.  The green mosses, lichen, and ferns indicate the boggy area where a small spring bursts from the ground during wet times to feed the waterfall.

As icons go there are few along the Fundy Coast Wilderness area that compare to Walton Glen Canyon and the associated falls.  Although they are not on the FFP, they are worth taking the time to see.  Approximately a 2 hour hike from the Dustin Brook campsite these impressive falls are made all the more impressive because of the wilderness you need to traverse to get there.  The Eye of the Needle and Walton Glen Canyon are narrow slots with large rock faces all around.  A hiker spends more time looking up instead of down which in this location can be dangerous.
The Walton Glen Falls as photographed during a 2009 trip.

There are many more falls but these are some of the best.  Below are some pics of other falls along the hike.  Note the shadows on some of the photos and how they change the mood of each of the locations.

Monday, June 4, 2012

FFP 2012: The Tidal Flats

Beginning the crossing of the Goose River mud flats
The Bay of Fundy is known for its high tides.  In fact it has the highest tides in the world and during the spring months they are at their highest.  At the upper end of the Bay they can reach a height of 16m.  As the water recedes each time it leaves a number of large tidal mud flats and during our hike along the Fundy Footpath we were required to cross three of them.  Each has its own challenge and rewards and the reward is always more than worth any challenge.  I would even say the challenges are rewarding.

The butterfly that greeted us on the west side of Goose River
The first mud flat is likely the most challenging and illustrates the height of the tide really well.  Goose River, at the western boundary of Fundy National Park, has a narrow valley where Goose River and a small tributary come together before entering the Bay of Fundy.  This means that we would cross two watercourses before getting on our way.  The mud here is deep and you can easily loose your footwear as my sister learned the hard way.  As we made our way along the river bank we had to watch the sharp shale bedrock that was exposed all the way around the crossing.  As we neared the top of the mudflat we looked back and absorbed the scenery and were amazed by how low the tide now was.  Not an hour earlier, as we ate lunch on the beach that contained the tidal flat from the Bay, the water was much deeper.  We crossed the river a final time above tide line and above where an old dam was once located.  I snapped a picture of a butterfly that was flitting among the boulders and grasses along the shore.  This was the official start of the Fundy Footpath and we were no longer in Fundy National Park.

Looking up along the shore of tributary to Goose River just before we crossed.
We had to hike approximately 5km in order to reach our next tidal flat crossing and we had to do it in less than 3hours in order to avoid having to cross way up stream above the trail.  Where the mud at Goose River is the problem, the issue at Goose Creek is the length and the water temperature.  I have found that, no matter what time of year you make this crossing, the water is always numbing cold.  As you approach the 3/4 mark of the crossing you can no longer feel your toes.  When you make it across the flat you sadly realize that you still have to wade through deep grasses that grow along the many spring fed streams before you get to the campsite you so long for.  The cold springs move the numbness from your feet clear to your hips it seems.  Once we cleared the tidal flat we made camp at the Goose Creek campsite and in short time we all donned dry socks.  From time to time we checked to see how much water had flowed over the flats we had not long ago crossed.  For those of us who hadn't seen it before it was likely surprising to see how much water filled the river valley.
The cap of Martin Head beyond the cold mud flats of Goose Creek as seen in a trip in 2009..

From Goose Creek you can actually see the next tidal flat we would be challenged by.  The scenic Martin Head isthmus is an iconic location and I will likely discuss it in a later post.  From Goose Creek we would spend our morning heading towards it through the wooded trail.  Before getting to the road we make a trail down to the long sandy beach for an early lunch as we wait for the tide to recede far enough to cross the mud flats and gravel of Quiddy River.  The muddy portion of this crossing is much shorter than the others but that does depend on where you cross.  There are mud flats at Martin Head that are great to play in and explore.  In some places there are strong indications of the settlements of years gone by and the mud flats no doubt hide much more.

The mud flats at Martin Head are covered by water in this 2007 photo.  Luckily we crossed a much narrower section.
The mud flats are just one of the great iconic features of the Fundy Footpath and I hope you continue to watch for future posts on this great hike.  I will continue to describe the iconic features of the FFP while providing you with a look into my personal views of this great wilderness area.  If you want to help with this great trail you can check out the Friends of the Fundy Footpaths or the Footpath website.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

FFP 2012: The Parks

This is the second in a series of blog entries on my hike across the Fundy Footpath in the spring of 2012.  The first entry about the hikers, introduced you to the people I was hiking with.  This entry will tell you a bit about where our hike started - Fundy National Park. and ended - Fundy Trail Parkway.

This small stream is one of many along the section of trail in Fundy National Park.
The Fundy Footpath is a grueling exercise that tests a person's resolve and determination.  Our plan was to move from east to west.  We would start in Fundy National Park (FNP) and hike towards the Fundy Trail Parkway (FTP) while covering 50km of steep coastal ravines and forests.  I prefer to hike the trail this way as I find it more rewarding to end at the Big Salmon River.  The 8km of hiking inside FNP is along old logging roads and while it is scenic, the road walking makes it seem anti-climatic when you end there.  Every hike needs a beginning though, and the Park would be ours for this years rendition of adventure on the Footpath.

The hikers were dropped off at the Pointe Wolfe parking lot at the southwest corner of FNP on a cool but sunny Friday morning.  Everyone was in good spirits and wore tired smiles as the night before likely was restless with excitement and anxiety.  Adrenaline and enthusiasm would carry us through our first day in which we would hike 17km to Goose Creek.  The red covered bridge we drove over to cross the Pointe Wolfe River was just an indication of what lay before us.

 Lately there  has been a great deal of debate over the roles National Parks play.  Some feel they should serve as a showcase for our nation's natural beauty while others feel they should act as a sanctuary that protects natural habitats and beauty.  Depending on how you frame your opinion, it may hinder how you view Fundy.  As a relatively small park, Fundy has little infrastructure, outside the golf course, so if a urbanized, full service escape is what you are looking for, Fundy is not likely your destination of choice.  It is for that reason though, a frequent destination of mine.  I hope that, as more and more Parks are moving towards high end, service oriented, tourism development, Fundy can resist that demand.

As I mentioned earlier, the hike in the Park is along an old logging road, but the end is a spectacular beach surrounded by tidal mud flats and steep valleys.  Goose River acts as the western boundary of Fundy National Park and this could be unfortunate as the entire River deserves protection.  As we leave Fundy we play the "In Fundy, Outta Fundy Game near the signs marking the Park border.

The next Park we encounter is the linear Fundy Trail Parkway.  A number of years ago some people thought it would be a great idea to promote the Fundy coast here as an undeveloped coastline by developing it.  It is unlikely that the tax payers of New Brunswick truly know, or understand maybe, what they are paying for in regards to the Fundy Trail Parkway.  The road is built over steep valleys that are prone to drastically changing weather conditions not just seasonally but daily.  The steep valleys create high volumes of runoff when the weather brings rain or snow, and when you put a road in a steep location such as the area around Big Salmon River, controlling run off, and maintaining roads becomes a large undertaking.  Unforunately some of this has resulted in the development of large washouts along small streams and Long Beach Creek.  In many places you can see where the FFP has been impacted and become impassable due to this washing and slumping.  I don't place all the blame on the development of the Parkway as some has to be attributed to more intense rainfalls by nature lately, but I still don't agree with the manner in which the FTP was developed.  I think New Brunswickers, especially those who love nature and wild spaces should be upset that their tax dollars are being spent on creating this environmental degradation and more so that we will continue to pay for it as it will likely never pay for itself.

The next entry will be more cheerful and showcase the beauty of the FFP.  I promise.  I just really needed to let people know again about the threats to the FFP in the name of tourism.  In my mind we would have been much better off to promote more backpacking and wilderness excursions to the area.