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.