Saturday, February 21, 2015

Snow is Deep in the Holler

Today I went on a short snowshoe trek with my daughter and youngest nephew.  It was such a great day to be outside and we enjoyed as much of it as we could.  The snow was clean and deep and we were fortunate that the trail we planned to trek on was beaten down by snowshoes and other snowshoers.  The kids started off quickly, at times running up the trail ahead of me.  As I paused to take a photo of them I could hear a familiar tapping noise.  It took me a minute or two to locate the noise maker, a pileated woodpecker.  I was able to snap a couple of quick pictures of him before the dog scared it beyond our range.

We carried on our way with the Cotter Holler stream running quietly to our right and would only show itself occasionally through the snow pack.  The kids little legs managed to trek all the way up to the ice walls that are always there this time of year.  The kids were not as enamored with the  blue icy sheen on the ice as I was.

From here we turned around and made our way back.  I felt that if I pushed the kids to much further I might have a rebellion on my hands.  Along the way we passed a group of 4 cross country skiers and they seemed to be really enjoying the day too.  Shortly after they passed we found a sunny spot in the deep valley and sat for a small bonfire and simply enjoyed being outside.

No doubt this will be a day the kids remember and I know I will.  I hope that you all enjoyed your day today as well.

Here is a quick video I made to help remember the day or check it out on my YouTube Channel.

Friday, February 20, 2015

What is Wandering?

This entry was published in the February 17th edition of the Kings County Record.  I've now been writing for the record going on 8 years and every now and then it is good to remind my readers, and my self why I write.  This was the point of this entry.  As you read, let your mind wander, and when you get a chance wander with your body somewhere too.  Don't get completely lost though.

Capstick is a small fishing village in Cape Breton.  An easy place to wander.

Wandering?  What is wandering?  I was asked this question the other day and it got me thinking about what "wandering" is to me.  Ironically it took me some time to figure it out.  It led me to think that maybe I need to fill readers in on why I write this column.  You might consider this edition a bit of a reminder as to why I wander.  Many people would likely, for good reason, assume that for me wandering means me being lost in the woods.  Sometimes it is simply that.  More often though it is more than that. 

A walk across a snow covered field is not simply a way to get cold feet.  When you let your mind go free it can become a great deal more.  When you can look and use your imagination you can almost see every snow flake.  You can hear them gently land on the curling drift.  When I write, I try to take the reader to a place, not an actual physical place, but rather a place in their mind.  I want the reader to let their mind wander to a wooded path along a fast running, boulder strewn, fish bearing stream that rumbles loudly as it pours over a large, mossy, emerald green boulder.

Wandering, for me, is a manner, in today's terms, to reboot my mind, body, and soul.  It is a way to see things again for the first time. Google defines it as "traveling aimlessly from place to place."  I like most of this definition but I can travel aimlessly in one place too.  When I sit at the atop an old tree stump on the top of a ridge looking over a clear cut to small settlement below I can wander through time.  Back to when homes were more often heated by a wood stove and we travelled using a horse and buggy.  Or I can wander to the time when the clear cut in front of me was a mature stand of softwoods full of deer and squirrels.  So I don't need to travel from place to place to wander, in essence, I can wander in my own back yard.

One of the reasons why I started writing this column was to encourage people to get out and "wander" in their own backyards.  I don't simply mean in your half acre building lot but if that is where you feel comfortable then it is as good a place as any to start.  I have to be honest, that is how I started.  When I was a boy, 3 or 4 years old, I would wander around my parent's backyard, by the time I was 5 or 6 I was in the neighbor's yard and exploring the brook at the edge of our lot.  The progression and growth is great to see in yourself and just because you might be older now, it doesn't mean you can't wander and grow in new places.  Sometimes you might find a new place right outside the backdoor.  Suddenly you may have a bird's nest in a nearby tree or maybe a squirrel has found access under your back deck and you take note and let your mind and soul wander or even ponder these new places. 

Where ever you might wander I hope it brings you adventure and happiness.  I hope that you grow spiritually stronger as much as physically stronger.  As deep as the snow is this winter I hope that you can still find a way to appreciate all that nature has to give us.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Winter Carnival Wrap Up

So it is, unfortunately, over for another year.  The Sussex Corner Winter Carnival wrapped up yesterday with a great fireworks finale. 
The winter celebration kicked off on Friday evening with a snow shoe trek to the Bluff escarpment.  With a clear evening the weather was cold but more than bearable and I wasn't the only one who thought so.  About 40 people accepted the challenge from Outdoor Elements to make the stomp up the Bluff and they all came with smiles ready to go.

The trek along the well beaten trail was peaceful, even with 40 people.  The snow was hanging thick off the fir, spruce, and hemlock and it muffled any sounds and gave the landscape a feeling of reverence.  As we walked up the trail, the tall white spires made it feel like we were walking up the aisle of a well decorated cathedral.  When we made the face of the Bluff, the lights of Poley were shining bright as were the lights of Sussex Corner and Sussex beyond.  The stars above were bright and you couldn't help but look up towards them.  It was a great evening and when it ended I was excited for the next day.

The next morning started off early for me as I volunteered for the Corner Cup Pond Hockey tournament.  We had 6 teams registered to vie for the Cup and they were going to earn it.  The temperature was a chilly -24C when a team from Home Hardware and one from the PotashCorp Civic Centre took to the ice for the first game.  When the tournament ended it was "The Boys" from Moncton who get to place their names on the Cup.  The action was fast paced despite the very hard and choppy ice.  By the end of the day the puck was bouncing a lot but the players all played on the same ice and the talent raised to the top.  Congrats to "The Boys"

By mid noon the hockey players needed a break so we turned the ice over to the kids and families.  The broad smiles hidden under large toques and hoods couldn't be hidden.  As I had a chance to take in more than the hockey game, I was surprised to see how many people had come to the carnival site.  There were kids clambering up and sliding down the large snow hills we had formed, Sussex Minor Ball had their barbeque cookin', the sleigh rides were gently sliding along, kids faces were glittering with paint, snowmen were popping up all over and hot chocolate was flowing.

The excitement around the site was contagious.  Kids were laughing and parents were chatting amongst themselves and the sun was shining.  Maybe the magician spread some magic over the grounds, I don't really know, but like in past years, the atmosphere was electric.  As the championship game of the Corner Cup finished, night started to fall but the cake was keeping spirits high.  People were anticipating the fireworks and they would not be disappointed.  With the new amphitheater acting as the back drop for the carnival people milled around the cozy environs or waited in their cars babying their hot chocolate and cake.

As I wound down my day with my family, I admired the reddened cheeks and thought how blessed we were to be able to spend such a day.  Winter should be celebrated and in Sussex Corner they celebrate it in style.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Sussex Corner Has Cure For Winter Blues

This blog first appeared in the Kings County Record on February 3rd.  The Village of Sussex Corner puts on a great winter carnival that is packed with lots of fun and various activities for all.  You should check it out on Saturday, February 14th from 1-7 which is when the fireworks are scheduled to go off. 
Winter kind of hit us with a wallop recently and it now feels like a true Canadian winter.  Come on?  Admit it.  It had been a pretty easy winter before last week.  Now you are likely going to fall into one of two categories for the rest of the winter.  Where you fall might depend on whether you shovel your driveway or you plow it.

For some people you are already tired of winter.  You are counting down the days until spring or until your flight leaves for southern climes.  Your idea of recreation this time of year is cuddling up with a book or maybe going for a swim at the local pool.  People in this category usually can be identified by the multiple layers of clothing they wear to keep warm, even when the thermostat is set to 20°C.  For people in this category, cabin fever is a reality and by the time February rolls around they have stretched the cuffs and neck lines on every sweater they own.  Their desire to go for a run or cycle or their urge to cast a fly has them cleaning their bikes, their running shoes, or tying hundreds of flies just to calm the fever.  Take heart though, there is a cure, but I'll get to that.

The other half, are those who embrace the cold and the challenges it brings.  This group likes having frozen boogers dripping from their noses.  They enjoy seeing the cloud of steam come from their nostrils as they plough through another 5' snow drift with their snow shoes on.  Their wardrobe consists of more than one pair of snow pants and multiple sets of wicking longjohns.  To them a toque is an in fashion accessory from October to April.  When it snows they can't wait to get out and make tracks across the nearest trail and if they make the first tracks, it gives them bragging rights until the next snow storm.  For a good portion of this group, their ideal cruise wouldn't be in the Caribbean but rather in Alaska among icebergs.  The only thing this group struggles with is finding something new to try.  There is a solution to this dilemma as well.
If you think we are having fun here, the Corner Winter Carnival is even better.

Nowadays every municipality is hosting a winter carnival of some kind.  Lots of these are geared towards those in the second group but for those in the first group, take heart.  The Sussex Corner Winter Carnival will have a little something for you too.  There will be skating, hockey, snow shoeing, sliding, and the regular winter fun.  If you are more passive though in your winter recreation you can come out and enjoy a horse drawn sleigh ride, a magician show, and fireworks. If you don't want to cook come on out to the Carnival and support Sussex Minor Ball by buying some barbequed hotdogs and a drink.  There will be hot chocolate and cake as well.  This year's carnival will be held at the Sussex Corner Sports Field where better parking, facilities, and play grounds are available for a greater number of visitors.  A tug of war and the Corner Cup Pond Hockey Tournament will insure there is always something to keep you entertained regardless of which category of winter person you fall into.

See you in the snow drifts..