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.