Friday, August 30, 2013

The Magic of Youth

I'm no spring chicken and I'm okay with that.  It is great for the soul and the body to act like a child from time to time.  I recently had an opportunity to act like a kid and I took full advantage of it.  Friends of ours provided us with some free passes to Magic Mountain in Moncton, NB. Our traveling partners for the day would be the Burke family whom we often hang out with at other sporting events.  Our kids are relatively the same age and get along really well and all were excited to spend time together at this great water park.

We left early on Saturday morning and the weather was very promising.  We had no worries heading into the day and our moods were light and fun.  We got our passes and made our way into the park and instantly applied sun screen.  See, I bet you thought I was going to say ran up to the top of the slides.  Don't worry, while I went to the washroom the three other guys raced to the top of the "Tornado."  When I made it back to our chairs I saw Seth come down with Connor with a big smile on his face.  He was hooked and I could easily see a building excitement in his eyes and an eagerness to do it again.  I was in for a great day.

I didn't hesitate to grab him and take him up for another ride down.  We did the "Tornado" again and I was surprised at how much of a rush it was.  We then tried a couple of the other intermediate slides but I could tell, and I was slightly scared, that Seth wanted a greater rush.  "Dad, let's go over to the taller slide." he hollered without knowing he was hollering.  I looked at Terry and I could tell that he and Connor likely wouldn't be joining us on that slide.  I truly thought that Seth would chicken out when he got to the top.  I was sadly mistaken.  He first tried the "Turbo Tunnel."  He listened to the attendants instructions and then stepped up and away he went.  When he got to the bottom I seen him hop up and give Terry a high five.  Terry had to restrain him and tell him to wait for me before he could rush back up to the top.  It took me less than 5 seconds probably to get to the bottom and out of the slide.  Seth was eagerly waiting and likely saw that I too had a big grin on my face when he said "Ok let's try the other one!"  His voice now an octave higher than it had been earlier which indicated a growing sense of excitement.

Next we went to the "Torpedo."  On this slide they put you in an upright tube, close you in, and then yank the floor out from under you.  I have to be honest, I wasn't sure I could make myself do it.  Seth on the other hand showed no hesitation and was at the bottom in 2 seconds.  I stepped up and as they counted me down I was thinking "Heck just push the button before I change my mind."  Before that thought processed however, I was at the bottom.  I instantly realized that there was no way I could do the "Kamikaze" if Seth asked.  The torque on my aging and often aching, lower back would be to much.  I quickly informed Seth before he could ask that if he wanted to do the "Kamikaze" I would walk him to the top but he would be on his own from there.  This was enough to keep him from pushing it any further. 

We did go up and do the "Racer" and I gave him a big head start but at about 2/3rds of the way down I
passed him.  He loudly hollered "Hey! No fair.  You weigh more than me!!"  At 8 years old I was surprised he knew about the physics of gravity and I was further impressed by his ability to voice this while racing down the water slide.  We took a couple more runs down the intermediate slides before taking a break.  I think if I would have stayed with him he'd of kept going all day.  Honestly I was grinning as well and if not for my parental and partner responsibilities I could have hung out with him all day.

We found Michelle and Shaylee and they wanted to try one of the intermediate slides and were waiting in line.  This gave Seth a chance to make another run as well while I waited at the bottom for Shaylee to reach the bottom.  Her introduction to the intermediate slides was not nearly as joyous as Seth's.  When she hit the pool at the bottom she briefly went under and when she came up she was just out of my reach and turned away from me.  Scared, she started to cry, and vowed she wouldn't do that again.

It was off to the wave pool next, then the "Lazy River" which Seth and Connor turned into Bristol Motor Speedway.  If, indeed, it was a race, Terry and I were definitely off the pace.  From Bristol we then went to the splash pad to find the girls again.  Seth tried every slide there as well.   He was like a pin ball bouncing from one obstacle to the next.

I asked Michelle if she wanted to try the "Tornado" and she agreed before fully understanding maybe what she was getting into.  We waited in line with our double tube and the whole time she asked if it was scary.  I stated that I didn't think it was scary, not entirely a lie.  As we got to the front she realized it was a tunnel and she started getting nervous.  That is the best thing about adrenaline rides, the way it messes with your head.  We boarded our tube and as we floated through the slight waterfall at the entry of the slide Michelle let out a little scream.  The rest of the way down she screamed louder with every tight turn and drop.  I had to focus on keeping my mouth closed while laughing.  When we got to the bottom, like Shaylee, Michelle said she'd never do that again.  God bless her for trying.  Did I mention Michelle is not an adrenaline junkie whatsoever.

The lines started getting really long and so we decided we'd call it a day.  A bit earlier than I thought and I know Seth was disappointed but he didn't make a fuss.  It was a great day and I felt like a kid the whole day through.  I'm not kidding I think that one day made me feel about two years younger.  Letting loose and acting like a kid has that psychological effect on your mind which I think reflects positively on your body as well.

I love this photo because you can see Seth already wanting off to go again.
I have to send out a big thanks to Terry, Amanda, Connor, and Ava for providing us with the chance to act like kids for a day.  I also have to thank Amanda and Terry for the photos in this post.  They take some great photos and have started their own photography business.  

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Whalen Getaway

Earlier this summer the Whalen family all got together and took a family trip to the western shores of Nova Scotia.  We were fortunate enough to know some fine folks with a cabin along the Northumberland Strait just outside of Trenton.  When I say this was a family trip, I mean multiple generations of Whalens all heading to the same location; three generations to be exact.  Even though there would be a cottage, some of us would end up sleeping outside and likely be all the better off for it.

No vacation can start without first reaching your destination and the drive to Chance Harbor, our planned paradise, would take about 3.5hours.  Since the kids, the dog, and enough bedding, clothing, toys, and games for 5 days were all in the car with us, it was going to be a long drive, or at least I thought it would be.  We made stops in Salisbury, Sackville, and Tatamagouche but the time seemed to fly for us.  The kids were incredibly patient and even the dog traveled well.  We only got turned around on one occasion just before we arrived and only because I missed the private road sign to our cottage.

The cottage was a small two bedroom, one bath cottage nestled on a point overlooking Chance Harbor.  We didn't actually have a view of the harbor, but then again, it isn't really a harbor as it is a small river that is backed up behind a sandy isthmus.  In the end it wasn't going to matter as we'd spend most of the time at the mouth of "The Harbor." The weather was almost too hot but trust me we were not complaining.  We soaked up the sun, the sand, and the waves.

Our first night was spent exploring our new surroundings and getting comfortable in our home for the week.  For me that meant setting up a tent and spreading out sleeping bags for five.  My son and daughter, my two nephews, and my father would all be sleeping in the tent the first night.  We enjoyed a brief bonfire that first night but everyone was tired and bedrolls and bedrooms called. The dog would sleep with my wife in the cottage along with my sister and my mother.  It would later prove advantageous to be sleeping outside as the cottage was extremely warm through the night.  The dog added a further frustration to those in the cottage as she paced back and forth wanting to check on those outside.

The next morning we lazed around and knew we had no where to be and relished in that reality.  When I say we lazed, I mean we didn't eat breakfast until close to 10am, we walked a slow pace to the beach where we tanned and used as little effort as possible to entertain the kids.  Just a note, hermit crabs will entertain 7-16 year old boys for well over 2 hours.  The beach was expansive with the river coming in on our left and the beach head on the other side a large isthmus of sand.  We couldn't resist crossing the river and exploring the beach there.  The water on that beach was now the Northumberland Strait and we could wade out a long ways but had to be wary of the currents and under tow.  We kept a close eye on the kids here and after a short time and swim we moved back to the other side of the river again and started building sand castles and chasing crabs again.

That night we gathered around the camp and told stories and laughed.  We let the kids sit and listen in and I'm sure this will sit in their memory banks for a long time.  I still have memories of such times with my parents and they have had a large influence on how I've developed, whether positively or negatively.  Oddly this type of gathering, away from home, is rare for our family.  Moments like this are usually had at the Whalen homestead.  I'd like to have more of this type.

The room in the tent for night two was a little greater as Shaylee slept with her Mom.  This was quickly compensated for when it was decided the dog might sleep better outside.  The dog quickly found a spot next to Seth and was asleep in no time and stayed that way the whole night.  Before the rest of us were asleep my youngest nephew also decided to move inside to sleep closer to his mom.

Hot is the best word to describe the next day.  There was no way of sleeping in as the temperature in the tent was stifling and sticky.  It was only an indication of what was to come.  The temperature rose to over 30 degrees celsius and all we could do was sit in the shade of the maple tree next to the cottage.  It was too hot to do anything.  It was even too hot on the beach as the sand instantly burned the bottom of your feet, even with sandals on.

Weather was a key factor in the rest of the trip and I think the sweat in my eyes made it all a bit of a blur.  Washer toss, bonfires, smores, more beach time, and an enjoyable drive home.  It was a great way to spend a week and I felt truly blessed to have the chance to spend such quality time with my family.  I also felt very blessed in the way the kids all behaved throughout the week.  My own kids in particular bless me every day.  I love watching them grow and over this week I could witness that growth literally.

I want to thank everyone who made that trip so great.  You are all a blessing to me.  Thanks to Lindsay Thorne for the photos.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Have you Met New Brunswick

"Hi.  I'm New Brunswick."  That is the new slogan for Tourism New Brunswick.  I can't stand it.  Don't get me wrong, I think the slogan is pretty clever.  It speaks to those who have never been introduced to what we have to offer.  My problem with it is that I thought I knew New Brunswick.  That was until I watched the commercial and seen all those great activities I haven't had a chance to do yet.  Watch the commercial next time and I think you'll agree.  This Province has a ton of fun stuff to do.
I have driven the entire perimeter of this Province and when possible I have stayed along the coastal shores.  If you have never done this, I suggest you do it.  Just within an hour drive of Sussex is some amazing scenery.  Check out Duck Pond Road near Black River if you need proof.  Despite this tour of our great Province, I realize, I need to get out even more.  There are so many camp grounds, beaches, tours, and activities that I haven't done yet.  There are places, Kings Landing to name just one, which I need to get back and visit   with my kids so that they appreciate what we have here.  I live near the Fundy shore and have never taken a whale watching tour, I have never taken a jet boat ride on reversing falls, and, this one hurts, I have never been to Mount Carleton.  In my defence I have seen a whale off the shores near Halifax while in a kayak, I walked onto the Digby ferry once, and I have topped Mount Katahdin in Maine. 
What I'm trying to say is that even if you think you have done it all, explore some more and you'll find something that you haven't yet done.  If you're like me and made the transition from a single wanderer to one with kids, then share your experience with your kids.  I remember when I hiked in Katahdin seeing kids about 6-8 years old traversing the "Knife's Edge."  At the time I questioned the parents thinking and wondered if it would be safe.  Now as a father of 8 and 4 year olds, I think those parents had it right.  I need to put a disclaimer in there.  If you take your kids exploring make sure you are super prepared and make sure you can physically handle potentially carrying one or both of the children across the terrain you're exploring.  I have had to do this on more than one occasion, but wouldn't take that experience and those memories from my kids at all.
Le Pays de La Sagouine, Grand Falls, Tree Go, New River Beach, those are simply some of the summer locations that I have yet to see.  Maybe one of the best things about all these locations and activities is that they are relatively, close by and in expensive.  So I have to ask myself, why I am I not undertaking more adventures.  I have found inspiration again and will need to get serious about getting out to some of these great events.  I need to step away from my reliable fishing trips and hikes and get my family out and see more of what our Province has to offer.  I challenge you to do the same.  Who knows, maybe I'll see you on the road and we can share the experience together.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Watching them Grow

As a kid I was always fishing and from that time I grew and learned to appreciate my natural surroundings.  I credit the time on the river for helping form who I have become.  On Friday night I took my son, and three of my nephews out for a short fishing trip.  We didn't go far but we stayed in the tent in a place where I used to tent as a kid.  Just so I wouldn't drown one of the kids my father joined us to help provide balance.

Since I didn't have Friday off, we didn't get to the river until almost 7:00pm.  Seth and I arrived first and set up the tent and fire circle and no sooner did we finish than two of my nephews show up.  We got them settled and then hit the brook for a short fish.  The water was a little low and the fish weren't really active.  Despite this, Seth managed to land two fish; one a real nice 10inch trout.

The highlight of the day was the campfire right next to the brook.  The boys chatted over their hot chocolate and smores.  As I took it in I couldn't help but see them all growing right before my eyes.  This became even more evident when they went to sleep in the tent.  I didn't have to sit in the tent with them until they went to sleep and they all chatted like young adults as they slowly drifted off to sleep.

The next morning we moved down to bigger water and everyone had some action with Seth landing two real nice trout and my nephew Kyle landing his first ever trout on his own.  The time flew by way to quickly and because some of the party had to be elsewhere that afternoon we had to head for home.  When I announced it to the boys they all groaned "Do we have to?"

It was an awesome time, even if short.  I look forward to the many more growing moments yet to come with our great family.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Rods and No Lightning

Seth and I were able to return to the river we were chased out of a week or so ago.  If you remember from my last post thunder and lightening chased us off the river.  This time the skies were clear and we enjoyed a long evening of fishing and bonding.

The Whalen clan has always seemed to be able to bond while fishing.  I'm not sure what it is that allows us to form relationships and memories while hardly talking but we do.  I should say that rather loosely because Seth talked a geat deal that night.  He talked about how he wants to learn how to fly fish soon and how his next Lego pack will be the biggest one yet and he only has to save five more weeks of allowance for it.

All the time he talked he walked or casted.  It was impressive actually.  I was struggling with my fly line in the trees as he pulled out his sixth or seventh trout on his bait rod.  We caught a great deal of fish but only kept two.  It was a great place to take an eight year old fishing because he never got bored.  I never got bored taking in as i watched my son literally grow before my eyes.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Rods and Lightening :)

Thunder and lightening are an amazing part of nature.  It is incredibly loud and bright and surprises you every time it lights up the stage.  When you're in a narrow valley surrounded by big hills it can be amplified.  For an 8 year old this can be more of a horror story than a drama.  This was very evident a couple of weekends ago when I took my son fishing.  We were on the middle reaches of Parlee Brook and he had caught three fish before I even got my muddler tied on. 

He was giggling and having fun at my expense and I was proud and frustrated at the same time.  Every time he hooked a fish with his bait rod, I had to help him release it.  This meant I couldn't get my fly tied on.  My son thought this was very funny.  We fished for about 10minutes and a light rain started and some thunder could be heard off in the distance.  As rain started to pour down, I thought we could wait out what I thought would be a short down pour in the truck. 

We spent longer in the truck than we did on the water but Seth wanted to wait it out.  The wait lasted about 20 minutes and we then went back to the brook.  The thunder and lightening then crashed over the hill and Seth got spooked.  Even though he was catching fish, his level of enjoyment immediately dropped.  He no longer tried to put space between us but rather wanted me close by.  After a particularly loud clap of thunder I caught Seth almost shivering and I could tell he was no longer having fun.  When I suggested we head back to the truck and call it a day, he didn't hesitate to reel up his line and head back up the bank.

I was proud at how well he handle himself that day.  His pride kept him on the river without complaining and I started to see the young man he is slowly becoming.  Even though he is moving slowly to becoming a man, it is still too fast. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Garden Harvest, Prizes and Memories

The other morning before I left for work I made a quick stop in the garden.  I was able to thin the carrots and take some good sized legumes for my lunch.  While I was at it I also grabbed some beans, which we have an over abundance of.  Our peas are now pretty much done with only a few of the plants re-blooming after the first harvest.  I need to check on this to see how I can improve this.

I had forgotten how much work went into prepping veggies after you harvest them.  I cleaned the carrots, about a bowl full, and topped them.  It was enough for one meal but it took about 15minutes to prep them for consumption.  The thought that I grew a portion of my lunch however was very rewarding.  Since I also had warmed up salmon I could also convince myself that maybe I could actually provide an entire lunch from off the land.  I had to ignore the fact that I was eating a farm raised salmon and Uncle Ben's rice.  No he is not really my uncle :)

Beyond the eating of the fruits of your labor, the other rewarding part of our garden was the learning opportunities it provided the kids.  They ate most of the peas right off the stalk.  They would raid the garden and then go sit on a nearby hay bale to chow down on the big peas.  The whole time they wore big smiles as they felt comfortable in nature.  It made me smile as I slaved away at weeding and mowing the lawn.  Speaking of the lawn...I think I need to go mow it again.

Hope you have a garden you can learn from and build memories in.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Taking in the Lines

This is my most recent publication in the Kings County Record.  I have to tip my hat to this publication for faithfully publishing my bi-weekly submission.  Through this experience I have learned a great deal about writing and about my self.  One of my favorite topics is fishing and so this column follows my passion.  Hope you enjoy it.  If you want feel free to follow my blog or leave a comment, I'd love to hear from those reading my writing :)
It was an incredibly entertaining day today.  The Millstream River was flowing deep and peaceful and people were enjoying the gravel beaches near Lester Bridge.  It had been sometime since I had been on this stretch of water and I forgot how nice it was.  It winds gently toward Apohaqui with curves and lines that entice you like those of a sports car.  The serenity of the scene was slightly wasted on my fishing companions today though.  It was this contrast that made the day so entertaining however.
You see, today I hosted a "Youth Angling Camp" where kids were instructed on some of the ins and outs of fishing for trout in the Kennebecasis watershed.  There were 19 kids who came out to take part and they ranged in age from 7-16 and their attention spans ranged as broadly.  Some of the kids might have only cast their line into the water 5 times before splashing into the nearest dead water to catch tadpoles or dace.  Others would cast their line over and over.  The bugs wouldn't bother them.  The heat didn't irritate them.  The fact that we didn't catch any trout didn't upset them at all. 
We started the day with some class room style discussion where we talked about safety on the water, how to set up your tackle, where to find fish, and conservation values.  The kids patiently listened to the diatribe even though all they wanted to do was hit the water.  Once we had the discussion out of the way we took them out to find some bait.  It was laugh out loud funny to watch them interact with nature and some of the exchanges between kids.  They were trying to one up one another on gross bug stories, trying to find a bigger worm than their buddy, or, even funnier, coming up with the coolest name for their new found pet slug.  Sorry to any parents who may have found pet worms or slugs in their kid's pockets?
It amazes me how kids tend to see and appreciate the smaller things.  While they didn't appreciate the gentle curves of the river, they sure liked all the stones on the gravel bars.  They even liked the leeches and showed no fear of getting close to them and even picked one up.  It might have been the biggest catch of the day.  It might have been a slow day as far as catching fish goes but I'm certain the kids caught the bug.  Many will likely pester their parents to take them fishing again.  If your kids ask you to go fishing, you should take them.  Even if you don't like fishing, all you will have to do is sit and watch your kid for a few minutes and you too, will be hooked.  The lure and leisure of sitting on the banks of a river are appealing to most people I know and trust me, the kids won't cover more than 200m of stream, so you won't have to walk that far.  Take in life while the kids take in line.