Sunday, January 31, 2016

Wonderful Winter Weekend

Thanks to the great person who offered to take our photo.
Being outdoors is second nature to me.  I am more energetic, I ache less, and smile a lot more.  With my two kids now  more easily able to get outdoors with me, my wife and I are finding it easier to get out and enjoy the wilderness.  While these forays into nature are not what I used to engage in, any outdoor time is rewarding.

This weekend I was able to be outdoors 3 consecutive days.  If you're a parent, you know how rare of occasion that can be.  Given we have karate, swimming, skating, guitar, and drama, I'm lucky to get two (let's call them adventure days) a week.

The first adventure was a night at Poley Mountain where my son wanted to try snowboarding for the first time.  Since his karate teacher at Two Rivers Martial Arts was away as a judge at a tournament, we had a night off karate and thought this would be a good way to spend it. I was not ready to try snowboarding my self so I went and watched.  My church was hosting a Holy Poley night so I felt I could find someone to chat with if need be.  Our pastor was going to provide Seth with all the gear he needed and gave him some pointers to get him started.

Once he had his boots, helmet, and board ready to go there was no stopping him.  I walked with him as he confidently strutted out to the bunny hill where he spent the evening learning to turn, stop, and control the board.  His second run down, he went the whole way without falling.  He was hooked.  As the snow fell that night I continued to watch him and created a bond with him as I would help him strap back into the board each time he came back to the top.  For the most part he was alone while his peers skied on the big hill and he worked away at getting better.  Now I guess I'll be checking Kijiji for deals on youth snowboards.

The next day was a beautiful winter day.  Much to nice to spend doing the laundry and dishes that were piling up in our house.  Instead we packed up some gear and snacks and went for a hike to the Bluff in Sussex Corner.  The sun shone through the trees as we made our way to the rock face.  The kids shook the fresh snow from the night before off each tree and played games.  Their laughter was enough to make you smile, no matter how cold your heart might be.  A very nice person offered to take our family picture at the top and it turned out great considering it was only a cell camera.  We had a cup of hot chocolate and some light snacks while at the Bluff and then headed back to the Jeep.

Following church the next day, the good Lord blessed us with another chance to get out and enjoy another snowshoe adventure.  This time we joined a large group from Go Outdoors Sussex and hiked along the Cotter Holler Road.  The steep valley has lots of ice walls along its rocky ridges and the group enjoyed a side trail into a small ice cave.  My family spends lots of time in this area and my kids took pride in the fact they could lead the group up the road and to most of the sites.  My wife and I enjoyed the conversation with numerous people and loved catching up with everyone.

Words and photos can't do a weekend like this justice.  This was a quick recollection of the weekend and I feel silly even putting it out here but this is for my kids so that maybe later they can come to this blog and remember fondly such a great weekend.

See you in the woods or on the water.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Trout Creek Snowshoe

Getting ready to cross the small tributary above the waterfalls.
Sometime ago I hosted a meeting with  some people interested in looking at developing trails in and around Kings County.  I left the meeting thinking I should look closer at the somewhat defunct section of the Catamount Trail.  From the Fundy Footpath to Adair's Wilderness Lodge, the Catamount, is in pretty modest shape.  The trail however is pretty much non-existent when you head northwest from Adair's toward Sussex Corner.

I reached out to some people who I thought would have some information on the intended line for the Catamount Trail and they were generous enough to give me some map layers to work with.  I took those lines and my personal knowledge of the area and considered some possible route variations to look at.  One area I wanted to check out was a section off the Pleasant Lake Road where a rock face would provide a great look out and destination for a trail line.

So with my brother and father on a sunny January weekend, we headed out to find a route to the rock face I thought was there.  We got a late start so time was not going to be on our side and this would come back to haunt us.
I had the camera on during the crossing but nothing funny happened :)
On the first section of the trek we crossed a stream I'm familiar with.  The small but steep stream has a spectacular set of waterfalls which actually cascade right into Trout Creek.  That feature in itself would be worth considering for a trail route.  If there is an issue with this area it might be the fact that after you cross the stream, you head up a steep and difficult hill.  If you stop to catch your breath while climbing he hill though, take a look around.  There is lots to see with some spectacular yellow and white birch trees, interesting geology, and views across to the other side of the valley.

Every now and then we could see Poley off in the distance.
Once we got to the top of the ridge I had to try and determine where the rock face was and how best to get there.  This is where our late start would hamper us.  I had hoped to make the ridge and then work slowly back out towards the rock face, unfortunately dark was moving in and so I didn't find it on this trip.  I do know it is there though and I will find it.  From all I saw on this trek, it is a great hiking area.  I have included a map below for you but keep in mind it is private property.

Now the challenge will be to find out who the landowners are and determine if they would consider having a trail navigate across their properties.
So blessed that my Dad is still able to be on these treks with me and blessed for the sunset behind us.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Cotter Holler Winter Fun

The Whalen family has a long history of enjoying the small, steep valley of the Cotter Holler stream.  We walk the old road up the valley and explore the small streams, rock faces, large trees.  We laugh at tall tales, we share secrets and stories, and we bond as we build memories in this scenic little piece of paradise.  On a recent Saturday we built some more memories as some of us ventured out for some winter fun.

Hot chocolate, crazy carpets, a hammock, and grandparents.  This was the recipe for a great day exploring and everyone had smiles at days end.  I do my best to let the kids explore and at times I even let them get their feet wet.  Sometimes my protective nature takes control and I holler at them..."That's close enough to the water!" or "Careful, that ice is hard if you fall!"  My Dad would mock me a bit and I'd ease up control and let the kids explore a little further.

I made a short video and I hope you enjoy it.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Snow Shoeing Into the Night

Dark slowly falls over the Mill Brook.
Winter is now fully on us with more cold nights in the forecast.  Winter time also means that in order to enjoy the outdoors, most of us will need to snowshoe, cross country ski, or even hike in the dark.  Unless you don't work a typical 8 to 5 job, the only time to get out and enjoy the elements is when it is dark out.  It is hard to be motivated to get outdoors this time of year and for some, fear of being in the dark is enough of a deterrent to dissuade you from going.  I'm hear to say that your missing out and the dark is no reason to be scared.  The same animals, insects, trees, and plants are in the wilderness at night as in the day time.

I enjoy the  rush of overcoming that fear of the dark and exploring the wilderness at night, especially in the winter time.  Sometimes I use a light and others I don't, tt really depends on my mood, the phase of the moon, and the weather.  I always have a flashlight and extra batteries with me.  Well usually, except once when I didn't have the batteries.  That was a rough hike out which resulted in a few scratches to my face and head but I made it.

Tracks across the Bluff during a winter snow shoe outing.
When the snow is on the ground and the moon is full with a clear sky, the woods at night can actually be quite bright.  Typically though on such nights it is really cold and the shadows can play with your mind.  Dress warm and keep your wits about you and the perspective is incredible and it truly is a different perspective every time out, even if you snow shoe the same trail night after night. 

Personally, I like the calm, warmer, nights when there is a light snow falling.  The snow gives a surreal feeling to the night and usually creates a calming sensation because it mutes out the sound of moving branches and other things that might be otherwise easily heard.  For couples, it can be a romantic setting and because of the warmer temperatures you don't mind laying down in the snow and cuddling a little if the mood hits you.  The warm temperatures also make it easier to stay out longer and enjoy more of the night.

Go Outdoors Sussex is hosting regular outings here in Sussex and if you haven't been out with them yet, you should make a date to join them.  I'm embarrassed to say that I haven't yet been out snow shoeing with them so I'm hoping to get out soon.  For those looking to gain experience hiking during the evenings, this is an ideal way to attain that needed experience and possibly meet new friends.