Thursday, October 16, 2014

Old Roads

I had this entry published originally in the Kings County Record and it received some positive feedback.  This was one of those endeavors that came together nicely and I hope you enjoy the read.  I was inspired after I hiked along a couple of roads that would be hard to discern now.  The scenery and mature woodlands were peaceful and the remnants of days past added to the peaceful mood I found myself in.

New Brunswick has a long history.  Part of that history is wrapped up in our roads.  Our logging and forestry activities resulted in many roads being developed and, subsequently once they were no longer needed, abandoned.  Traces of these roads can still be recognized and I love wandering on these trails. 
Sometimes it is easy to tell you're hiking on an old road.

In the early 20th century the larger roads were called King's Highways and now when I hike along them I feel like the king.  This time of year it is great to walk these roads as trees often hang over them and during the fall, as the sun shines bright in a crisp blue sky, you feel like you're walking a fragrant hall way in a colorful castle.

One such road runs between Sussex Corner and Waterford and I recently had a chance to walk a short section of it.  If you have ever driven the present road between Sussex Corner and Waterford you know that it is a beautiful drive but to walk the old road is another type of experience.  There is history embedded in the landscape, enormity in the topography, and excitement in the wildness.

As I started the hike my senses immediately heightened and my mind instantly slowed down.  I felt like I could see and anticipate everything.  As I approached an old meadow I instinctively slowed my pace and kept low.  As if on cue a couple of deer bounded away from the old spring they were enjoying.  I wished, rather oddly, that I could share the space with them, but I realize their animal instincts make that unlikely, and I wouldn't want them to lose their wild heart.

To find an old road might not be as hard as you think, especially if you head out to the Fundy Coast or any of the hills that were historically logged around the Sussex area.  If they happen to have a small drainage, try along there and look for a hard pack shelf.  There might be some gravel still showing or some old tracks still slightly visible.  Depending on the last time the road was used, the vegetation will provide some tell tale signs it was a road as well.  Alders and young spruce indicate that the road had been used not long ago, likely as a harvest or farm road.  Older roads might have birch or maples growing up.  The trees will be leaning to the center of the road, not because of the shoulder but because that is where they readily could find the sunshine that feeds them. 

Old roads, like roads of today, connected logging camps to mills, farms to summer pastures, and neighbor to neighbor.  These anthropogenic land marks leave behind clues to their past vitality and with a little imagination you can picture what the road may have looked like in the past.  I have a pretty wild imagination so I readily enjoy this aspect of these types of hikes.

Exploring the landscape around you can be rewarding for so many reasons.  Gaining an appreciation of the past and of the value of the landscape of the present might be one of the best rewards.  If you struggled with history in school then maybe this will be a great way to catch up.  See you in the woods.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Learning Lacrosse

This entry was published in the Kings County Record and at first I wasn't going to post it here.  It keeps speaking to me though and I keep hearing the message in my head.  I'm sure there are other dad's out there who struggle similarly with the differences in personalities between themselves and their kids.  For me it is important to remember that as long as my kids are happy and that I continue to encourage them to explore nature and themselves, then I should be doing an okay job as their Dad.

As a father I have struggled to find ways to bond with my kids.  They are different than I am and have different interests and I don't always understand them.  I have realized that it is better for them, and me, if I simply let them explore their own interests rather than try to push them towards mine.  I am also realizing that they have to explore their interests at their own pace.  I have really struggled with this last point and at times and it has resulted in struggles.

Sport is not always the best avenue for me and my kids to bond on.  I am a competitive individual who always tries hard when playing.  I always was eager to try a new game and find it unthinkable that my kids don't.  Recently we were invited to play lacrosse with some friends.  I had never played lacrosse before and so I thought maybe I could learn with my kids.  While I couldn't wait to play, I found myself surprised by my kids' unwillingness to even try.  After the game was over, my son did pick up a stick and throw the ball around with me, he was actually a bit of a natural with it.

The lacrosse experience led me to realize that even if someone has natural athletic talents, they might not desire to use it.  This leads to another question, what makes some people competitive and others not?  For this I have not yet found an answer, but in my son's case, it might have something to do with being over competitive.  He seems to be afraid of failing or not being able to compete, so instead, he chooses not to play.  With this in mind I wondered "How many great athletes simply chose not to play?"

With team sports not on their radar, I am getting familiar with new activities.  For instance, I now consider guitar players amongst the toughest people I know.  How they stretch their fingers across the frets and press on a single string without wincing is amazing.  My son has been teaching me how to play guitar and my poor fingers are as sore as my legs used to be during two a day hockey practices.  I'm hoping that my fingers will become conditioned and that my son continues to enjoy playing the guitar with me.  One thing is certain, he won't have to worry about me competing with him on the guitar, because I would be scared to lose. 

If you are like me though and enjoy team sports.  If you get a chance, try lacrosse.  It is a challenging sport that combines many athletic skill sets.  I have some of the skills but will need to work on some others.  Unfortunately my age is something I will have to learn to compensate for when I try lacrosse again.  I hope to try again, and there are some others who are much better than I, looking to create a local youth team.  For now I'm hoping they will let me play pick up with them from time to time.