Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Corner Christmas Carols

In past years my family has attended the St. Mark's Church Living Manger.  I was somewhat disappointed to learn that this year, due to renovations being done to the church, they would not be hosting it.  Members of the church however were also a little disappointed and wanted to do something for the community.  Coming up on December 2oth and 6:30pm they'll be hosting an evening of Christmas Carols in the Corner.  Come by the Sussex Corner Amphitheater on the Dutch Valley Road and lend your voice to the festivities. I'm betting it will be like an old fashion Christmas where members of the community can catch up, be merry, and spread good wishes.  If you can't sing, no worries, simply come for a cup of hot chocolate.

The amphitheater is Sussex Corner is a glow with Christmas lights and snow is on the ground.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Wandering Winter Tips

A first snow fall a few years ago during a camp out I had along Trout Creek.
So we've had the first snow fall of the season and so people are starting to talk about winter activities such as snowshoeing and winter camping.  I've been asked on a number of occasions if I could offer any advice for first time winter campers.  I'm not an expert but I have done a significant amount of tenting in the winter time.  I recently was reading Backpacker magazine and they offered some tips on winter camping and it was very informative and I thought, huh?  I can do that and put my spin on it.  So here are some points on wandering in winter.

1. Get to know your local gear stores: Some people don't like asking questions when shopping but I encourage you to build a relationship with your local gear store.  Don't be scared of asking them for help in getting the proper layers of clothing, boots, pack, or tent for your specific outing.  In Sussex, talk to the great staff at Outdoor Elements.  They are easy to talk to, treat you like family, and take great pride in outfitting you well.  If all you have is a Canadian Tire then try to make the most of the advice staff there can give.  For those who are more experienced, you may not need the advice given as far as picking out gear, but your local store staff can inform you on new technologies and trends for gear.

I hiked into these falls on Beatty Brook a couple of years ago.
2. Know your terrain:  It is always tempting to explore new territory when going out camping but your first winter camp out is not the time to do that.  I would even go so far as to say that your first winter camp out of the year is not the time to do that.  Camping, even in summer, is easier when you establish routines and are comfortable with your gear.  This is even more true in the winter time, when even the slightest gear failure can put you in a bad situation. Knowing your terrain improves your comfort level and leads to a more enjoyable outing and builds your confidence which means you'll enjoy your next trip too.

3. Avoid working to hard:  Hahaha I know this sounds funny but honestly, during winter camp outs, I strongly encourage working a little less.  Ok, so what I am really saying here is, avoid all costs.  If you're working up a sweat, then slow your pace to avoid cooling to quickly later.  Once you get your tent up and you go to snuggle into your sleeping bag, that sweat you worked up later, is going to give you the chills first and you won't sleep that well because of it.  This once again will lead to a less enjoyable outing.  While hiking or snowshoeing, take layers off to control your body temperature and when you stop the physical activity put another layer on to again control your body temperature.
During a winter excursion into Hidden Valley I had this fire.

4. Have a fire:  Heck have a big fire, but make sure you dig out a spot where your fire won't collapse into a deep snowdrift and go out.  When you pack your gear for the winter camp adventure make sure to add some type of fire starter to your gear.  Lighting a fire in winter is not easy and I've heard many stories of "experienced" campers getting into a cold situation because they couldn't start a winter fire.  Make sure when you start a fire not to deplete the wood resources for future campers.  The fire will do a couple of things for you.  The obvious thing is keep you warm but it will also warm your spirits and make your trip more enjoyable.  If need be, practice lighting a fire in your backyard to make sure your technique is right.

5. Don't eat yellow snow:  Okay so don't eat just yellow snow, don't eat any snow.  It can be full of bacteria and it won't actually provide you with sufficient hydration.  You are better to melt snow first and if you're using a camp stove to do so, again make sure to set up your stove so that its heat won't melt a hole into the snow you placed it on and not the snow in your pot.  Remember too that when you melt snow to drink or cook with you should bring it to a boil for about 10 minutes.  I know water is better consumed cold and I strongly suggest you wait for your boiled water to cool down before drinking it.  I once scalded my tongue when I tried to drink right from the recently boiled pot.  Don't ever, ever, do that.

So there you have it.  Five not so common tips on how to improve your winter camp out.  Maybe at a later date I'll discuss some more technical points about winter camping.  I think I have some time yet before we are in the dead of winter here in southern NB.

See you in the woods or on the water.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

For the Record

It may surprise you to learn that I have been contributing to the Kings County Record for five years. My kids have grown up and been a huge influence on what I submitted to the paper. My life has been through many changes. A change is often healthy and thus I have decided to pursue other writing avenues. I'll no longer be contributing to the KCR. The good news for those of you who enjoy my wandering stories is that I hope to continue my blog.
Over the past couple of months I have felt unsatisfied with my column submissions and felt lately that my heart just wasn't in it. So the time has come to make a change and that means you won't have to see my face in the paper as often. To those who have read my column, I thank you. For those who have taken the time to stop me on the street and discuss my mistakes or ask for details on a hike, thank you. It has been a great experience and I look forward to what my writing future holds. I hope you continue to check out my blog.
Coming up in the near future I'll be pushing my creative side more. I want to build my audience and expand my subject matter a little so this could be fun.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Hike in to Kinnie Brook

Following a great Remembrance Day ceremony in Sussex my kids and I joined two other families for a hike in Fundy National Park.  My wife unfortunately was not feeling well and had to stay at home.  Prior to today, I had never hiked the Kinnie Brook trail, mainly because it was always to short.  With the kids and a late start, Kinnie Brook was an ideal choice.  I was thoroughly surprised by this short but adventurous trail.  The topography and geology were intriguing and the rock escarpments were calling to be explored.  The well maintained trail was easy to follow and I felt comfortable letting the kids explore on ahead and this probably led to them having a lot more fun.  After the short walk into the brook, which by the way, flows underground at the end point, we dropped our packs and explored.  The karst topography meant there were some shallow holes and small caves, the Acadian forest meant there were twisted yellow pines on beds of thick mosses.  The protruding bedrock spires made you feel like you were in a place out of the "Hobbit" and as I sat and made hot chocolate I was smiling broadly.

Like many hikes, as we left the valley and headed to the parking lot, my heart felt heavy.  The dim sunset put a somber feeling on what, I guess should be, a somber day.  Thanks to the veterans and service men/women who continue to fight so I can continue to enjoy such a park.

Here is a short video of our hike.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Enhancing Flood Plains and Sustainability

Eroding river banks typically result in many ecological impacts as well as having negative impacts on man made infrastructure.  Our historical practices of settling in and around water are slowly catching up to us as our weather patterns are changing and the rain events, at least in our part of the globe, are becoming more intense. In my job I am continually seeing this conflict and the organization I work for continually searches for a suitable resolutions when these conflicts arise.  I wanted to highlight one of the projects completed in 2014.  This project stabilized an eroding stream bank, re-established woody vegetation to shade the river in the future, and improved river and flood plain connection.

Take a look at the rough video.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

True Leadership Requires Sacrifice

Note:  I wrote this a couple of weeks ago now and it appeared in the local paper.  The Jays came back and won the ALDS and then lost to Kansas in the ALCS.  The Habs won 9 games in a row while Kevin Harvick is still in the Chase while Kenseth is out.  Leadership is not something that can easily be learned, it has to be earned and maintained.  Many say it is a gift and they might be right. Enjoy.

It is one of my favorite times of year.  Hockey season has started, NASCAR is down to the Chase, and the Majors are into the playoffs.  My wife despises it, as we debate how long I can sit in front of the TV or how many channels I can watch at once. As I watch all these elite sporting events, I am always in awe of how elevated the personalities become when the pressure is on.

For example, take this past Sunday's NASCAR race in Dover.  Kevin Harvick was in a must win situation in order to advance to the next round of the Chase.  In true Harvick fashion, he pulls off the victory and advances to the next round of the Chase.  Throughout the race he was calm, cool, and collected and when it was over, he was already focused on the next race.

Speaking of calm, cool, and collected, the undisputed leader of the Montreal Canadiens is Carey Price.  As a goalie he is called on to make big saves and when you play on a team that relies heavily on defence, like the Canadiens, he has to make lots of saves in some games.  Realizing how important the first game of the season can be, Price made two big saves in the third period to lead the Canadiens to victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night.

So now I move to the Blue Jays.  Josh Donaldson, and I'll throw Jose Bautista in there too, are the leaders of the Jays.  In the first game of the playoffs though, they left the game early instead of playing through some pain.  I know I'm going to take some slack for this, but as the leaders of that team, it looked like they gave up early.  If it was me and I was in that situation, there was no way I'd want to leave the game.  Now I realize they may have been injured more than I realize so I'll give them the benefit of doubt. I hope this is not a sign of things to come in this playoff series though.  When your leaders don't elevate their game, it makes it hard for the rest of the team to elevate.  That being said, sometimes it gives someone new an opportunity to step up and Encarnacion looked really good today.

If Kevin Harvick stumbled then Jamie McMurray might be racing in the second round of the Chase.  If Carey Price had come out flat then the Leafs start the season off on a better foot.  If Donaldson and Bautista stay in the game, even if they still lose, it shows their teammates they are fighting and encourages someone else to elevate their game even further and sets a better mood for game two.  Just so you know, I'm proudly Canadian and therefore I am cheering for the Jays and hope they can overcome the challenges in front of them.

A team stands a much better chance of coming together when the leaders go to bat for the team.  If the leader doesn't go to bat, chances are the team will fall apart or the leadership will quickly change.  Go Jays Go.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Making an Ecological Difference

I'm an angler, a hiker, a camper, and adventurer but even more than
that, I love nature.  As a kid I used to love to play in mud puddles and
would create drainage channels for them and I always wanted them to
look like a mini stream.  Fast forward to my job to today and I have
been fortunate enough to gain employment as a Project Manager for a
watershed organization.  This is a job I have been able to sink my teeth
into for 8 years.  The Kennebecasis Watershed Restoration Committee
works hard at creating sustainable solutions to the regions ecological
problems.  The group has completed numerous riparian and flood plain
enhancement projects through its 20+ years of work.  In 2014 I managed a
project where we used georolls as a bank stabilization tool and then
planted the site with native trees and shrubs to improve overall
ecological health.  We've created a short video of the project check it

See you in the woods or on the water.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A Last Season Change of Scenery

This entry was actually printed weeks ago in the Kings County Record and I apologize for not posting more blogs lately but it is tough for me to find a balance between writing, working, and playing so I have something to write about.  Maybe work and writing should be considered just one if I truly want to blog more??  Hope you enjoy.

It is all over.  It went by in a flash.  Before it was over I t was able to send it off with a bang…or maybe more of a blub.  The season finale was similar to my season opener in the fact that I was out with the same wingman.  Like the season premier I was relying heavily on my wingman on making the season send off a success.  Oh in case you didn't figure it out, fishing season ended September 15th and before it past Robin Doull and I made it out on the river one last time.

I would typically fish a river by wading and casting a fly line looking for trout.  Robin had been trying to get me out in a kayak targeting some bigger fish for quite some time.  With warm water the trout needed a break so I took Robin up on some smallmouth bass fishing off Darlings Island from my kayak.  (Note: The smallmouth bass season actually doesn't end until October 30th) 

We didn't get an early start but the day was overcast and not overly warm so we we're hoping the fish would be active.  This would be my first time casting lures from a kayak in hopes of catching a bass or pike.  I was unsure as I cast my lure out a number of times as I let the kayak drift down the river.  Suddenly I watched as a couple of perch chased my lure towards the kayak. 

From my seat in the kayak I was amazed at how far down I could see into the water column.  It was cool to watch fish chase my lure and made the anticipation of catching a fish more exciting.  Robin was rewarded first as he landed two fish before I hooked one.  Ironically I didn't even see my first perch take my lure as it took the hook well away from my craft.  The fact that I had to reel it in some distance meant that the modest size perch had a chance to pull my kayak for a bit.  I snickered as I thought about my drag setting on my reel; I guess it wouldn't have to be set to tight.

I landed a small smallmouth bass before landing my biggest fish of the day, another smallmouth.  It was fun to watch the fish jump a number of times and to hear my reel whine a bit as it pulled my boat around and downstream at a surprising pace.  I laughed as I finally got the fish to my kayak and unhooked it from my Rapala lure.  It took no time for it to dive deep back into the channel after I let it go.

The leisurely pace which we floated down the river was enjoyable and it possibly had a negative impact on my casting rate so I was not able to catch as many fish as Robin.  That is my story at least and I'm sticking to it.  Before long Robin landed a pickerel and once again I had to bow to his superior tactics.  As I was bowing to take a photo of him and his catch my camera went blub.  I dropped it in more than 10ft of water and even though it was a waterproof camera, I didn't think I could find it so there it lies along with the photos I had from the day.

As noon rolled around we decided to call it a day and started the paddle back up river to our take out point.  The wind was light and in our face so the paddle back up was a bit different but no less pleasant that the trip down the river.  I struggled with my desire to cast the lure out a few more times but I had a conference call early in the afternoon so I kept paddling.

It was a great way to end the fishing season and I hope that next season I can expose a few more people to a similar experience.  Until then I'll start planning my ice fishing trip.

See you in the woods or on the water.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Golf Fever

So this has been awhile coming. but here it is.  The best thing is, there is still lots of time to get out on the links and shoot a round.  I know that my son is itching to get out again and I hope we can scratch that itch.

Sunshine has been a big part of August and so far September and this past weekend I spent a hot day on a golf course bonding with my son.  In his words "I see golf clubs in my future Dad."  The day proved to be a great success.  As a kid slightly older than he is now, I spent a lot of time at the Sussex Golf and Curling Club but over the past couple of years I have been searching for that sport where we could connect.  I think I found it.

Six people teed off the first hole at Midland Meadows Golf Club, well four of us took our first shot while the two youngest simply enjoyed the walk around the course.  Midland is a great place for beginners to take their first hacks at their golf ball of choice.  It is a short course with relaxed rules and luckily for us the other golfers had lots of patience.  While I may have spent lots of time on the golf course in earlier years, the other three golfers that day were all first timers.

My son, a left handed golfer, struggled while using a senior set of clubs.  My nephew, a right handed golfer, was more comfortable using a junior set of clubs.  The boys got lots of practice, and even the two younger kids took some swings from time to time.  It is always amazing to me how quickly kids pick up new sports.  I know the kids were impressive with how they adapted to the new sport and surroundings but the most impressive golfer that day was my sister.

Natural athleticism is a gift and my sister has that gift.  She had swung golf clubs in the past but her time on a golf course was limited, due to the amount of time she spent on a soccer pitch as a kid.  Her drive off the first tee was not entirely impressive but it was in the fairway.  Her second shot was another dribbler down the right side.  Her third shot however was ideal and she landed it just off the small green.  As we approached the sixth hole she was starting to gain confidence and with it consistency.  She stepped up to the par three hole and drove her tee shot straight and true, landing it on the green.

Anyone who plays golf knows that being able to putt for birdie is not easily attained but here my sister was on her first round of golf making a birdie putt.  She left the putt short but managed to sink her parr putt while I stood highly impressed and very proud.  Now anyone who knows my sister and I will realize that is a big statement for me to make. 

Before the round started I gave the boys a pep talk about how golf can be a frustrating game but all it takes in one good shot to make you feel good about yourself.  At the end of the round I asked the rest of the foursome "What was your best shot of the day?"  Each of them had an answer.  My son had a chip shot on the eight that he landed within a foot of the hole.  My nephew had a great drive on the ninth and out drove his Mom, while his Mom had the tee shot on the sixth.  My best shot was my tee shot on the seventh hole where I played my slice perfectly around the dogleg. 

The one shot each golfer remembered was enough to have each of them wanting to get out again.  I can't wait to see how many shots they remember the next round.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Some Tips for Beginner Fly Fishing.

One of my buddies testing the waters on Smith's Creek above the Oldfield Covered Bridge
There is a misconception out there about angling being a rich man's sport.  I am by no means a rich man, yet I consider myself an angler.  I'm not a professional angler, nor even an amateur.  To me it isn't necessarily a sport but rather an incredibly enjoyable hobby. 

Not long ago I got started into fly fishing and to get going it cost me probably less than $100.  I didn't buy waders because I could go with some sneakers and shorts.  I didn't buy a fishing vest right away but just carried what I needed in my day pack.

To be honest I could write about it all day but someone else already created 5 fly fishing tips that I think are pretty solid.  The only other thing I might add is that don't let limited financial resources stand in your way.  Just get out there and keep casting, there is no better way to learn.  The link also has lots of good links to videos and such so check them out to.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Rescues on the Footpath

So there is another incident where some hikers need rescued off the Fundy Coast near the Fundy Footpath.  For some coverage on the issue you can check out the CBC NB.  I'm glad the hikers were rescued and that no one was seriously injured.  It would be  nice to know if these folks were actually hikers or simply day trippers who were out to enjoy Martin Head?  I find it hard to believe that anyone hiking the Fundy Footpath would need to resort to climbing a rock face at 9:00pm to escape the tides.  As someone who has hiked the trail for over 20years and completed many through trips in the area, it concerns me that we have people possibly hiking the trail unprepared.  I'm not sure how to work around it.  I know that one appeal of hiking is to test your own skills and abilities and to push your limits but maybe people have to be made more aware of the challenges of the Fundy Footpath. 

There are guidebooks, maps, websites, blogs (including this one), that provide a wealth of information on the trail so if someone gets into trouble it shouldn't be because of tides, it should be because of an injury or health concerns.  People need to better prepare themselves.

Sorry this is jumpy but I wanted to get it out there.  I recently wrote a column in the Kings County Record about being in a Catch 22.  I'll try to post it later as it relates somewhat to the issues that are developing on the Fundy Footpath.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Painful Lessons Learned

This blog was published in the Kings County Record on August 17, 2015.  My goal in this entry was to get parents to think about allowing their children to push their boundaries a little and by doing so pushing themselves too.  While I talk about the lessons the children learn, there are also lessons to learn for parents when their child gets hurt.  You may realize things about your child you didn't realize.  Maybe it will confirm for you how much your son still needs you, or maybe the opposite.  If it is the opposite, maybe you can take pride in how much he has grown.  By letting your daughter push her limits, maybe you'll see how athletic she is and maybe you'll realize you might have a major league pitcher on your hands.  Regardless, I hope you can take something from this.
My daughter teaching me a painful lesson :)
It finally happened.  My daughter had a wipeout on her bicycle.  I didn't witness it as I was at work, but apparently the whole block likely heard it.  Her hands and legs are pretty bruised and battered now but she'll be the tougher for it.  Following her bang up I started thinking about all those injuries and falls I've had in my life.  I wondered if kids today maybe don't fall enough.  I learned a great deal from the many falls and injuries I have experienced and I hope my kids learn from theirs as well.

One of the worst bike accidents I can remember happened when I was trying a jump on my BMX.  I over flew the landing area and ended up in a ditch up against an alder stump.  I cut my knee for, I think, 8 stitches.  What did I learn from this experience? Well for one, a cut on your knee is not likely going to kill you, even though I screamed like it might.  I also learned that nothing beats great neighbors when you're in a jam.  Thanks Georgette for taking me home and helping me to the hospital.

Playing sports I was usually quick.  I was a fast skater, I was a modest sprinter and a better long distance runner, and when I hike, I usually lead the group.  Being fast is not always better though.  Pushing my speed one night led me to severely breaking my wrist, but I lived and learned some limits.  Finishing a hike along the coast one afternoon, I decided I wanted to be the first to take a swim in the Bay and on my run to the water, I cut my foot open on a shell.  Those incidents have both illustrated to me that quick is not always better.

As a youth I was a bit of a daredevil and I'm sure every time I left on my bike or my skateboard my mother wanted to stop me but instead let me enjoy being a kid.  On one occasion my buddies and I stood at the top of Millbrook Road and decided it would be cool to skateboard down the hill.  Everyone hesitated to actually push off, except me.  I got part way down the hill and my wheels caught on a stone and head over heels I went.  I had to go the hospital again, this time to have the stones removed from the palms of my hand, but I lived.  The lesson learned was I don't need to prove myself to anybody.  Unfortunately, I frequently need reminded of this lesson.

As a parent today, I struggle to let my kids learn those tough, often painful lessons.  If I don't let some of those accidents happen though they will struggle to know how hard they can push themselves or realize maybe that they might be pushing themselves too far.  With every injury and mishap I experienced I found new boundaries and limits.  When I was able to quickly recover from a mishap I would realize that I could push myself a little harder and when the mishap was more drastic I would readily see that I was at my upper limit.  Learning these lessons on my own would eventually serve me as I became an independent adult and still serve me today.  Maybe the only way it didn't help me was I still have no idea how much freedom to give my kids, any suggestions?

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Sunny St. Martins

Everyone has that go to spot.  That place where you go when you need to get away from the hustle and bustle of the urban center.  For my family we like to go into St. Martin's, NB.  The quaint Village is becoming known as the jump off point for the Fundy Trail Parkway, but for me, it is more than that.  I have been enjoying the Village since well before the FTP was developed.  With small local shops, artisan galleries, fishing boats, and covered bridges, you can't beat it for appeal.  This entry, published in a recent Kings County Record, reveals how we recently spent a day there.

It is mid July and the mercury has finally pushed over 25°C.  You sweat by simply stepping out on your back deck so there is only one thing you can do.  You head to the beach.  Luckily in NB we are fortunate enough to have lots of beaches to enjoy.  We have water on three sides, the Bay of Fundy to the south, the Northumberland Strait to the east, and the Chaleur Bay to the north, , not to mention the Saint John River runs along a good portion of our western boundary and it also has many beaches.

From Sussex Corner, I recently drove the scenic Route 111 into St. Martins where my family and I spent the better part of a day simply lazing around on the long cobble beach near the caves.  It was amazing how well the whole day went.  It was high tide so we couldn't explore the caves so we had misplaced concerns about whether the kids would enjoy the day.  We had no need to worry as they easily entertained themselves with rocks, driftwood, and one another.

We lathered sun screen on the kids and set them free.  Instantly their imaginations took off and they were playing games in the waves and throwing stones at various targets.  It was inspiring to see the way they readily developed different little games.  It was like the sea breeze instantly prompted their previously dormant imaginations and sent them into overdrive.

We set up a picnic area complete with coolers, Coleman stove, and camping cutlery. When I stood back and looked at the scene, I felt like I was looking at a picture out of the 1960s.  I think the Coleman stove made the scene, along with the tin plates and cups painted red with white flecks.  St.Martins definitely added to the old time feel with its older homes and covered bridges.

After some great grilled cheese sandwiches and soup, the kids were re-energized and went to work building their version of seawalls.  Their imaginations moving towards more industrious ventures as the tide shifted and started moving back out.  Their enthusiasm started to noticeably waver and the kids started drifting apart as they got tired.  I watched as each of my kids wandered away from the group a bit and each became reflective and I noticed a maturity in them that I hadn't noticed before.  I was oddly proud in the moment and committed each of them to memory. Okay so I took a digital photo so I'd remember it later.

We decided that we should leave our mini-paradise on the beach and check out the Quaco Head Lighthouse.  The short drive makes the lighthouse a great change of scenery when in St. Martins and it too is a mini paradise.  The high rugged cliffs and rocky island outcrop just off shore leave no doubt of the need for the majestic lighthouse.  The old foundations and remnants of old fields hint at the location's history.  It would have been a great site to see when it was in its prime, but even now it is a scene that has that special feeling, a spiritual aura.  It was a windy afternoon at the lighthouse so we didn't stay long but the whole day will long stay in our memories.  If you get a chance you should take the trip to St. Martins and make some memories of your own.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Laverty Falls Adventure

On Saturday, July 11th we got together with some friends and decided to take the kids on a hiking adventure in Fundy National Park (FNP)  FNP is a great hiking destination with trails for all skill sets.  The Moosehorn/Laverty Falls loop is a 7.5km +/- loop that is considered challenging.  All on this trip were up for the challenge though and we made a great day of it.  We took off around 9:00am and went down the Moosehorn trail.  Once on the river it wasn't long until we took a swim and played in one of the smaller falls and pools.  I put together a short video of the trip.  Hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Therapy At Hopewell

Bloggers Note:  This blog first appeared in the Kings County Record, like many of my entries.  I have long wanted to visit Hopewell Rocks and recommit the beautiful scenery to my memories again.  Words can't bring this place to life so I encourage you to go and make your own memories.

The rocks at Hopewell  look good from any angle, but nothing beats being up close and personal.
You hear a lot about it.  It is one of the cornerstones of New Brunswick's tourism advertising.  Hopewell Rock's are an impressive creation of nature.  Sculpted by the hand of the creator they are incomparable and unattainable by anything man made.  I was too young to remember the last time I was there.  I have drove by the access road to the park but was always on my way somewhere else.  Thanks to my wife's effective planning, we changed this recently.
The lookout in Fundy National Park is always great for a photo op.
Following church on a recent Sunday we made the drive through Fundy National Park towards Hopewell Cape.  The drive was part of the adventure as we passed by other scenic areas that we now wish to go back and visit, Cape Enrage, Mary's Point, and Crooked Creek to name a few.  We rushed by them on this day so that we could beat the tide at "the Rocks." 

Tides are crucial for many along the Fundy Coast and planning a trip to the Rocks meant we had to arrive before the tides came in and restricted our access to the beach area.  More by good luck than good management we timed our arrival perfectly.  We arrived as the tide was coming in and were able to sit on the beach and watch as the "Flower Pot" rock became surrounded by seawater. 

The kids played in the puddles and waves and despite our efforts to keep them from getting their sneakers wet, we ultimately knew it was a losing battle.  In fact, I think we got our shoes wet as well.  We couldn't help it really.  Stacking rocks, giggles, laughter, rolling gravel, and crashing waves, the sounds were all blended together in the wind as I sat trying to take in the surroundings.  The place had a relaxed and joyous feel to it and I'm certain that if you were in a bad mood, you could go there and sit and have your mood changed.  All you would have to do is try to keep the smile off your face.

As I sat, I tried unsuccessfully to recall my trip there as a child.  Unable to bring it back to focus, I made a vow not to wait so long before visiting again.  Before long the tide chased us up the strategically placed stairway to the headland.  From there the trails took us back to the interpretation center but not before we had a mini-water fight at the foot/sneaker washing station.

We spent some time at the interpretation center before retreating to the parking area.  Here we got our barbeque out and prepared some hamburgers.  Oddly, we were interrupted by Park staff informing us the park would be closing in 20 minutes.  It was only 5:00 and there was lots of daylight left so this confused me.  No matter.  We hurried through our barbeque supper, loaded up the van and headed for home with more laughter and lots of memories. 

Once home I couldn't resist, I had to look up the hours to the Park and sure enough for that date, it was scheduled to close at 5:00 (17:00).  While this had put me out of sorts a little, next time, and there will be a next time, we'll plan a little better and maybe include time to take in some of those other destinations.  Come to think of it, I bet I could make a whole weekend out of it.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Love Affair with Nature

I've heard it cast about jokingly many times.  "I'm a fishing widow" or "I'm a hunting widow."  As I was reading a book on the life of John Muir recently it hit me how true statements like this can be.  I love nature in so many complex ways but honestly not as much as I love my wife and family.

If you want a long distance relationship; nature is great at that.  You can view it from your car or train window as you zoom by.  It can consume your mind as you drive to a destination and you dream of wandering across a rocky ridge.  Maybe you need more distance?  You can love pictures of nature while sitting on your laptop or tour mountain roads thanks to advances in Google map applications.  I know I'm guilty of this last one.
Maybe you need a broad social circle.  Nature can easily fill that void with its various animals, insects, reptiles, plants and landscapes.  Some of those friends you can get right up and personal with.  Some of my more science minded friends get very close up to ferns and know every detail about them while he keeps the other plants in outer social circles.  Yet another friend encourages whitetail deer to know him on a personal level, while I'm sure they keep their feelings for him a bit more hidden.

If you like drama, nature has plenty of that, especially with the wild weather we've been experiencing lately.  You can watch as the sun battles clouds or trees ward off insect invasions.  Nature really does have lots of drama, maybe even more than your daily soap opera.  Thunderstorms, hurricanes, snowstorms, predator versus prey, these are age old soap operas that have been playing out long before television was even around and we don't have to pay the actors to perform.

I'm not big on drama and I prefer more intimate and quieter contact in my affair with nature.  I like to sit on a large boulder overlooking a broad, slow moving river, as the sun sets in front of me and the daylight slowly fades to light.  We can sit together quietly, me and nature, and get to know one another very well without saying a word.  I can watch a coyote trot along the edge of a meadow or a moose much on sedges from a still pond and feel a sense of respect and a great amount of love.

 From up close or from afar, from an emotional or rational state; nature can generate strong emotion from anyone.  It won't turn its back on us and we can't turn our backs on it, even if we wanted to.  It will test us and make us stronger.  It will make us more resilient just like the best relationships we have with our families.  If you are willing to respect nature it will hone your senses and readily make you stronger and more receptive to other relationships.  So to those who are widows to angling or hunting, hiking or camping, I encourage you to go out and start your own love affair with nature.  You'll be surprised where it might take you.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A Good Template Helps Event Planning

So tomorrow night I am helping put on a "Beginner's Fly Fishing Workshop."  I can remember when I first hosted this event.  The night before I was in complete panic mode and I was worried that it was going to flop.  Thanks to the strong template we've developed I will get to sleep tonight.

I have a full registration sheet thanks to good social media templates and generous local papers.

The educational presentation was easily updated and barring a power failure should go off without a hitch.

All the materials and handouts are packaged and ready to change hands.

The event location and a key are in hand and ready to go as are the tea and coffee perks.

One thing I can't control is the weather and unfortunately the forecast is not ideal but it should fair well enough thanks to the rest of the event.

If you didn't get registered for this event, keep your eye out on the Kennebecasis Watershed Restoration Committee's sites for our "Introduction to Warm Water Fly Fishing." There is some technical differences.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Small Contributions Add Up

This blog entry is emotional for me.  It is a tribute to a member of the church community I grew up in.  I have many ties to his family, but my relationship with him was only minimal due to a number of factors.  However, his small contribution to my life can't be truly put in words.  I made an effort in my latest column in the Kings County Record.  I have posted that column here and I hope the family and friends of Harold see this as a fitting acknowledgement of how he contributed to our community.

Life is made up of many small contributions.  Life is a mix of random encounters, puzzling experiences, and surreal situations.  In one moment it all comes together and can be understood and in the next you're left crying and confused.  All of these contribute to make us who we are and shape how we deal with the next situation. 

This past week I was reminded of small contributors in my life when I heard of the passing of an elderly acquaintance of mine.  I use the term "acquaintance" purposely, as I did not know him well, but he helped frame my life to this point.  Since I started writing this column he would often stop me in the mall or at church functions and tell me of a spot I should wander.

Harold Arnold liked to stop me and tell stories and I would often listen as he had lots of tidbits on the back country around Parlee Brook where I like to venture.  I remember he had a firm handshake and his large mitts reminded me of an old fashion ball glove and to me his mustache and glasses made him the epitome of an old fashioned man's man.  Though limited my meetings and conversations with Harold heavily influenced me and I hope to continue to explore the Parlee Brook area and make it to the falls he often described to me.  Maybe someday I will be the epitome for a young man's "man's man"

The manner in which I remember Harold left me thinking about how I might be contributing to this community; how we can all make small contributions to better ourselves and our community.  Picking up litter, or better yet, not throwing out litter is one small but very visible way we can all make a difference in our community.  I challenge you to pick up the next piece of litter you see on the ground and properly dispose of it.  It will make you feel better about yourself and our community and it is a small act.

Another small contribution many of us already likely make is to charities.  We buy a coffee and place our change in a donation box.  That small change adds up when so many people buy coffee.  It is a small contribution but it will feel good.  Oddly, the donation may perk you up more so than the coffee and it goes to help someone else so it's like getting two coffees for the price of one.

Something else that I took away from Harold is time.  He made a point of talking to me and I found it rewarding.  On the other hand, I took time to listen, and perhaps we each contributed to one another's day.  It is a small thing to take the time to talk and listen to someone, even someone you don't know that well.  In the end you might make a new friend or at the very least contribute to their life in some small way.  The interaction also strengthens the community in which you live by removing barriers and showing others you are receptive to meeting new people.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Growing Up Big in a Small Town

In my younger days I spent most of my time in the back woods of Kings County.  I am a confessed "country boy" who has limited global traveling experience.  Recently I was walking down Main Street in Sussex and suddenly it seemed larger than normal.  I looked at some of the houses nearby and started reminiscing.

As I walked Main Street I noted the large older homes.  Some were well maintained and elegant while others were showing their age but if they could talk, they would all have a heck of a story to tell.  I was surprised at how many of those homes I had been in to at some point in my life.   There is the house where I picked up my date for junior prom.  That house there used to be a dentist office.  A friend of mine lived in an apartment in that house.  That was a heck of a party at the upstairs apartment in that house.
Small town Main Streets possess a character that can provide a wide array of experience to young people. (Dreamtime photo)
Admittedly I am a small town boy who has spent a limited number of nights in large cities.  I want to demonstrate though how a small town can provide global experiences, even if on a small scale.  Have you ever had a moment in your life when you were outside your comfort zone?  Maybe you thought "What am I doing here?"  Arguably that would happen more often in a big city where you have an opportunity to interact with a larger array of people.  It does happen in small towns, just less frequently and maybe with less people.

If I go back to the party at the upstairs apartment I can remember being with a group of people who were well out of my league normally.  No better or worse than me, just different.  They interacted with each other differently than I normally would and participated in things that I didn't.  In that moment, through that night, for some reason, I was comfortable hanging out with this crowd though.  Looking back on that night now, I see how my mind was expanded and how later it helped me adapt to a similar scene in a big city.

I can remember my first time visiting a friend at an apartment building.  I wasn't very old and I was nervous as I searched for the right apartment door to knock on.  While this is a small event, it prepared me later for seeking out business offices in bigger buildings and allowed me to do so with confidence.  I could stretch this one a bit further by saying that by finding my way through a forest to a specified camp site could prepare me similarly.

While small towns may not have the constant excitement and crowds of bigger metro areas, they still offer great opportunities for growth.  Arguably they provide a safer environment to learn about big city living while also presenting a chance to learn about things you can't learn in metro area.  You can't learn how to milk a cow while riding a bus or how to hunt for deer in a parking lot.

Growing up in a small town for me has been a blessing.  I have learned tolerance and acceptance of others and I have learned how to navigate various social situations.  I have learned outdoor skills and survival skills that serve me not simply in the backwoods but on a busy city street as well.  The buildings on a small town street have as long a history as the buildings on a big city street and when you open your ears and listen to what it's history is teaching, growing up in a small town can be a big experience.  Don't be scared to push your comfort levels especially in a small town.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Shaylee's First Campout

The Victoria Day weekend is one of my faves.  It is one of the best weekends for camping, hiking, or fishing.  So this Victoria Day weekend is wrapping up and my kids and I went camping.  My daughter has been begging for a chance to go tenting and despite poor weather forecasts, I decided to take her and my son to a spot along Trout Creek.  Check out the vid below.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Fiddlehead Frenzy

Well it is here.  It is a couple weeks later than normal but it is here.  Fiddlehead season is here.  For me there are few things better than a feast of trout and fiddleheads.  The best part of such a feast is that is sustainable.  You can pick your own fiddleheads and then a couple of minutes later catch your own trout.  That same night you can fry and boil your dinner.  Now that is what I call fresh. 
There is nothing better than freshly caught and picked trout and fiddleheads.

Now when I started this post I thought I'd write my how to on fiddleheads but I got lazy and have since decided to share someone else's work.  Check this out. FIDDLEHEADS

Note: Image taken from

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Early Season Warm Up

So we have been anxious to get on the water and cast some flies but water conditions have been high and fast which has made getting a fly to the feeding area of the trout has been difficult.  I have to admit, I'm not the best fly angler, and my area of preference so far has been top water flies.  I have a ton to learn yet about early season flies and how to present them.  With a friend who is more experienced than I, I tried my hand at a flop and float approach using a beaded nymph.  I think it might serve me well when the shad start running as well.  I hope you enjoy the short video.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Fishing Forms

It has been a tough start to the fishing season here in southern NB.  With still a foot of snow in the backwoods as of April 28th, water levels may stay elevated for a while yet.  This makes it hard to fish many of the rivers in this part of the globe.  I  say "hard" but not impossible.  There are some changes for many anglers this season and some long standing restrictions still in place.  The online fishing forums have been alive with chatter on all these management strategies and there are as many opinions on the topic as there are fly patterns.  If you don't fish then you'll have to take my word for it, there are a ton of fly patterns.

I caught this Atlantic salmon in 2013 and released it saftely.
One of the biggest changes for this angling season will be the fact that no Atlantic salmon can be caught and kept this season in NB.  For those who ply the waters in the Sussex area this is not really to concerting as our local waterways have been closed to salmon fishing for a number of years now.  However, for those who make regular trips to the Miramichi or maybe the Restigouche Rivers this will mean a huge change in attitude.  Personally I fully agree with the changes implemented by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. 

The intent of the change is to give the salmon a fighting chance at recovery.  If we keep fishing and taking fish out of the system, it is very hard for nature to recover.  In order to make the $40M (a rough guess) a year industry sustainable we have to make some sacrifices. A catch and release fishery is still very rewarding for the angler and let's face it, who really fishes for sustenance now a days.

The Kennebecasis River has a catch and release section for all fish species and anglers should know where this is.  It is the responsibility of the angler to know where he or she is and what regulations apply to the water he or she is fishing.  The catch and release section on the Kennebecasis River is above the McCully Road bridge (by the potash mine) and extends up to Ketchums Brook near Portagevale.  This management tool was established to protect superb breeding habitats.  

A further management section was created on the Hammond River and a delayed season opening exists on a portion of that river as well.  For more on angling regulations check out the 2015 Fish Guide.

Not all anglers understand the need for habitat and species conservation.  In fact some see conservation as an infringement on their valued hobby.  Some anglers, either knowingly or unknowingly, have negatively impacted the streams they call their home.  There are concerns like introducing non-native fish into streams or maybe diseases or insects or worms that might impact the natural ecological balance.  An example of this on the Kennebecasis River is the recent presence of small mouth bass which are not native to the Kennebecasis.  While many people love fishing for small mouth bass, these aggressive feeding and prolific breeding fish can readily out compete speckled trout and Atlantic salmon for space.  This shifts the natural balance within the river and makes it harder for the trout and salmon to survive.

There are approximately 26 species of freshwater species in the Kennebecasis River but the health of these various species is not fully understood.  Many groups, including the World Wildlife Fund, the Nature Conservancy, and the Kennebecasis Watershed Restoration Committee along with government departments struggle to better understand all aspects of our waterways.  This requires a great deal of effort and to ensure the management policies are effective and sustainable the more data these groups have the better informed the policy makers are.  The Department of Fisheries and Oceans – Gulf Region (this is the north and east coast of NB) has an on-line creel survey.  This survey will help determine management strategies for striped bass.  The Kennebecasis Watershed Restoration Committee has a similar on-line form that will assist them in directing restoration efforts for salmonid species.  The websites for these are:

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Unwinding Road

Some time in the woods alone is what I needed to recharge a little today.
There are times when you simply need time to yourself.  Today was one of those days for me.  I have been battling pneumonia and needed some wilderness prescription.  Because of the pneumonia I wasn't going to be able to push myself so I picked a short trek along a trail I know well. 
This lookout has been a regular destination of mine for many years.
 The plan was to simply take a short snowshoe trek and then enjoy a cup of hot chocolate and a snack while enjoying the view from a rocky escarpment.  I left my car and deliberately set a slow pace to test myself a little.  I stopped frequently and let my senses expand and take in what I can.  The moisture from the melting snow, the cracking of the tree branches as they adjust to changing temperatures and the flitting of the birds through the undergrowth. 
An old blow down made an ideal table and the snow shoes made a great seat.

When I made my destination I set about packing down an area where I could sit and take in my surroundings.  One misplaced step meant I was standing in snow up to my crotch and required that I work my way out of the hole.  My hot chocolate tasted great and I loved the time I had to unwind.  Quiet time like this has always been a way for me to recharge a little and I really needed it today.
It doesn't get much better than this.

This MSR Whisperlite has been my go to stove for more than 15years now.

The twisted grain on this old pine caught my eye.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Random Games

This entry was originally published in the Kings County Record on March 17, 2015.  It was heavily influenced by the enjoyment I got from watching more than 60 kids playing simple games with simple toys.  It demonstrated that kids still know how to have fun and that computers and i-pods and the like haven't completely ruined their imaginations.  A huge thanks to the staff at Atlantic Community Church for organizing "Super Kids."
Random games are a wonder aren't they?  Have you ever thought "Who the heck thought to put a rope through two golf balls and throw them at a ladder?"  Maybe you question the mental state of the person who first threw a lawn dart.  Recently I have been helping out at the Atlantic Community Church with their "SuperKids" program and it is amazing how entertaining and how much of a workout small random games can be.

For a number of Wednesdays now the super kids at "SuperKids" have been engaged in random games.  These games include props from beach balls to rubber chickens and we have been able to engage up to 40 kids at a time.  Now, I admit, these games may not engage an overly serious adult, but if you can embrace the inner child you have lurking deep down inside, these games will get you laughing and exercising.

Next time you and your friends are hanging out and having some social drinks, why not blow up a couple of balloons, place some glow sticks inside them, turn out the lights and see how many long you can keep hitting the balloon up in the air.  With the right mind set this game can be very fun and requires very little investment in equipment or materials to play.

That game didn't interest you, then this summer when you're enjoying the beach, take a couple of rubber chickens from the "Dollar Store" and have chicken races.  I know rubber chickens can't actually run, but if you put the chicken between your knees and race your buddy 50m down the beach without dropping the chicken.  I bet before you get half way, you'll be wondering why it's so difficult while laughing so hard you can't keep your knees pinched together to hold the chicken.

Seriously, how bored do you have to be to think of the multitude of card games that exist?  How do you think of a game like volleyball, which I love by the way? When you put people on the banks of river, how long is it before someone picks up a rock and throws it, but who threw the first stone?  I've killed a lot of time, and likely threw out my shoulder a couple of times skipping stones but I find it almost therapeutic.

I know, I'm asking more questions here than I'm answering but it is a sense of curiosity that likely led to a great deal of these games.  Some games were derived out of a necessity.  I would even hazard a guess that lawn darts may have been derived from a need to practice spear throwing by a hunting tribe or clan.

 I don't think I have ever invented a game but after "SuperKids" tonight I have decided to challenge myself to create a game.  Since I like being outdoors I am going to create a new game outside for winter time.  It might be a race to see who can stack snowballs to a certain height from ten feet away.  Hey I think I just invented a new game.  Now I challenge you to get outside and invent your own game.  Don't do it alone though, engage your friends to help you.  I like solitaire but I love 45s.