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.