Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Foster Brook Retreat

One my favorite movies in recent times is "We Bought a Zoo" and I found myself watching it recently.  The scenes where just days before the zoo is to open it starts to rain hard and it is expected to last for days.  All the zoo's hard work to make opening day could be washed away and you hope the rain lets up for them as you don't want to see the plan thwarted.

I then quickly thought about  how the best laid plans can often be thrown quickly out the window when the weather doesn't cooperate.   I recently had this experience.  When a dry summer gets a much needed rain fall you hate to complain and you do your best to grin and make the best of it, especially when you planned a good overnight hike.  When the rain persists for hours and you're soaked to the bone, it becomes extremely hard to grin.  When your pre-teen kids have hiked 4.5km into the campsite but are now miserable and angry at you for making them come along it is extremely difficult to make the best of it.

Sometimes the best way to make the best of a bad situation is to simply remove yourself from the situation.   Following a quick conversation with my father, and brother, who also followed me through the rainstorm, we decided that our best option was to hike 4.5km back to the truck and hit up Harbourview Restaurant for some mussels.  So we tightened up our straps, pulled down our hats, and headed back to the Foster Brook trailhead.  While I was feeling heavily  defeated, I could easily see my kids were much happier this way, so I took solace in that.

So how did we get there?

Starting out on the trail into Foster Brook.
The well laid out plan of hiking into the Foster Brook back country campsite in Fundy National Park seemed easy enough.  The trail is a moderate 4.5km hike and I was confident my kids could easily tackle it.  We would spend time at the campsite and explore the Point Wolfe River and even swim in some of the deep pools.  We would enjoy an evening hot chocolate and look up at the stars, and everything would be awesome....but not if it rained hard the whole time we were there.

As we left home and headed to Fundy National Park the weather forecast was calling for 60% chance of showers.  I was doing my best to be optimistic, even when the rain started to fall as we turned onto the Fundy Park Road.  "Oh it won't rain long" I told myself.  When we reached headquarters in the Park we registered and paid our fees as the rain seemed to intensify somewhat.  Our crew stayed optimisitic though saying "It's gonna let up when we get to the trail head."

We decided to make the first alteration in our plan by heading into Herring Cove, where we could use the cook shelters to do one last gear check and have a snack.  Our hope was the rain would let up and we could make our way into Foster Brook.  The cook shelter in Herring Cove was a good move and we made some hot chocolate and played some cards while we waited for the rain to at least slow down.  The shelter didn't have any firewood so as the kids and I prepped hot chocolate and tea, my Dad and brother went to Alma to buy a bundle of wood. (Note:  I think the Park should put firewood back in these shelters...just sayin')

When the guys returned with the wood the rain was letting up.  We made the choice, maybe to quickly looking back on it, to pack up, chug our tea and hot chocolate and hit the trail.  At the trail head the kids were reluctant to get out of the car as they knew what lay ahead.  We donned our packs and headed down the trail with my daughter leading the way as she sang a song.  As we climbed the first hill the rain started to fall harder again and the kids moods started to deteriorate like the weather.


Seth making his way up the trail.
We started the steep descent into the Point Wolfe River with the ground at our feet slippery and wet.  Every step had to be calculated and unfortunately for my son, he took a mis-step and fell hard with his pack landing on top of him.  He no longer wanted to push himself and no longer wanted to be there and honestly I couldn't blame him.  He did push further though and trudge through two small stream crossings before finally making the campsite.

Under better conditions the Foster Brook backcountry campsites are ideal for tenting.  The river in the foreground with beautiful forested hillsides as your backdrop.  Today though, for all of us, it felt like a cold, wet, wool sweater, with moths flying around your head.  We rigged up a tarp and started making a plan as to how to set up camp but then the rain started pouring down hard again.  My daughter was doing her best to keep positive by trying to look forward to crawling into a tent, while my son was longing for his own bed and his computer games while feeling some resentment towards me for bringing him along.  My Dad and brother understood the position I was in and truly helped me through the next 10 minutes of making the decision.

Despite Foster Brook being a great place, I know because I have camped there before, the rain beat our spirits.  Even if it had of let up in those 10 minutes, the evening camp out would not have been enjoyable, so my decision to remove us from the bad situation was made.  The seafood chowder and steamed mussels in Alma made the choice a good one.
Foster Brook with boulders shining in the rain.

At home that night I pitched my tent in the living room and my daughter and I watched a short movie before I tucked her in.  My son quickly retreated to his room and fell asleep, very happy to be in his own bed, but before he dosed off, he said "Dad, I want to go back to Foster Brook when the weather is nice."  I was ecstatic to hear that as it meant I hadn't killed his love for camping completely.  What a retreat!
The kids and I made it back out to the trailhead able to force smiles.
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