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Shoes and Coffee Drinks

 A little time for you

Sometimes all you have is a few minutes to squeeze in a little moment for yourself. This past weekend we had friends over, hockey games, singing performances and a myriad of normal life things to take care of like laundry and taking care of children. In every week I try to squeeze in a couple things for me, to balance out all of the other things I do for everyone else.

The Shoe Store

On Saturday we went for a walk to this great little independent shoe store we have. It is called the Urban Shoe Myth and it has a really neat little eclectic mix of shoes that are trendy and different. I like the store because they carry good quality items and I am a big fan of buying good quality stuff and taking good care of it. I have been wanting a little boot with a heel so I thought… lets go pop in and see what they have.

This may have been a mistake because within 2 minutes of entering the store my daughter sees a pair of $300 boots that she falls in love with and proceeds to try them on. Funny enough the boots do look great on her and of course she asks me to buy them for her. She is 11.  There is not a chance in heck (and no that is not the word I would use if this weren’t being published) I will buy her a pair of heels or for that matter spend $300 on a pair of her shoes, but I let her try them on and have the moment.

I then told her she could come back and buy the boots when she had a job and money of her own.

I did end up finding a lovely pair of boots for myself though and they were on sale which is always a bonus!

 Support Local – but beware of the Overlap Effect

I love supporting a local store when possible.

Sometimes shopping local you do run the risk in a smaller town of what I call the “overlap effect”. The first time I bought a pair of shoes in Saint John I was new to town and was articling. I was going to a dinner and I didn’t have an appropriate shoes for such a grown-up event. So, I went to the local shoe store, Manchester Shoes. Manchester is also a great little independent shoe store.

I found this very cool pair of black pumps that had cute little studs in them. They were professional but also a little fun and edgy.

The night of the event I was introduced by one of the partners in the firm to his wife. She looks down and we are wearing the same shoes (I was mortified)… The overlap effect.

Despite the risk of the overlap effect, when you find something you love and you can buy it from a local owner, it makes a big difference in your local community. I really don’t worry about overlapping the way I used to either. Now I am proud to be part of my community whenever possible. Even if it means sharing the spotlight with a fellow local spporter.

 Coffee Shop

After the shoe store we popped down to Second Cup, which is my favorite coffee shop in town. I used to go to Second Cup in Halifax and I always liked their coffee and atmosphere. I really like the staff who works there as well. They know us well and always take a minute to chat.

I indulge in the occasional fat free (which means made with skim milk/almond milk and skip the whipped cream – it is all about balance) Vanilla Latte or Peppermint Mocha. The mocha is hot chocolate with a shot of espresso and a shot of sugar free peppermint syrup. Not on the Canada Food Guide for nutritional value but it makes me smile.

The girls had their own version of this treat. A steamed milk with a shot of flavoured syrup. Then we walked down the street and talked about our day as we headed back to the car to go back to the crazy of the afternoon to come.

Now this little interlude would have been just as much fun if I hadn’t bought the boots, sometimes just trying things on in a nice store and feeling good about yourself can be enough. That being said… a $5 splurge on a latte (or whatever speaks to you) can change your day – I don’t do it often but when I do it makes me smile and it is a real treat!

 

 

My ode to tinfoil

I have a love affair with tinfoil. Okay maybe that is a little bit extreme but I use tin foil every day and it works in a large variety of situations. It really started long ago at girl guide camp when I was 12-13 and we made whole meals in pouches of tin foil. It was amazing how much you could cook over an open fire simply by putting it in a little tin foil pouch.

As an adult, my love of tin foil really started when Kirby pulled out the tin foil shortly after we met to cook our vegetables on the BBQ. What an amazing find, the vegetables steam inside the foil so they are well cooked but flavorful and all of the goodness isn’t boiled or baked out of them.

Recipe for Tin Foil Vegetables:

Vegetables (quantity and type you want)
Olive Oil (or other heat stabilized oil of your preference)
Salt
Pepper and salt to taste
Chopped garlic (optional, we use the stuff out of the jar because it is milder)
A chopped onion (optional, I especially like this with the potatoes or sweet potatoes)
Water, larger the package the more you will need, ¼ to 1/3 of a cup should do it

Cut your vegetables if necessary. Beans and Asparagus don’t need to be cut but potatoes and sweet potatoes will cook faster if they are 1 inch cubes.

The key is making the package strong. Using heavy duty foil helps. Take two ends of the foil and fold it over itself several times. Then go to each end and do the same thing. The multiple folds keep all of the liquids inside the pouch.

Once on the grill you have to be careful that you don’t stick your utensil through the pouch – trust me I’ve slit open many but you can get the grove and you can use the end pieces as long as you are careful and it is all wrapped in their securely.

As it turns out you can cook almost anything inside one of these foil packets and at the end all you have to do is rinse off the foil and put it into your recycle bin! I do my fair share of dishes and am always happy to be saved from a sink full of things to wash, especially in the summer when there are just so many other amazing things to do.

 

Foil Trays

The next thing I do it to make foil trays for the barbeque. This sounds silly but they are great and keep things clean, keep sauces and juices off the grill, avoid flare ups, etc. I start with a heavy duty aluminum foil. They decide how big my tray needs to be depending on what I am cooking on and what I am cooking. They start on each side and fold it in about 1.5 inches and then turn the folded part back ½ the way, this will leave you with a side that is about ½ inch high and is tucked under the bottom a little bit. Then go to the other side and do the same thing. On the ends you need a little finesse but you fold them in the same way but you have to fold over the corners and bend them securely around the side pieces to hold the whole thing upright and also ensure there are no spaces where things can leak out.

These trays are great to keep sauce and grease out of the bottom of your grill. I don’t do this all the time but if what I am making has a sweet sauce it is better to keep all of the sugary sauce out of the barbeque. I also find them really helpful when I make things like ribs (link to my rib recipe) to keep from losing the meat. My ribs are fall off the bone soft by the time they go onto the grill so if you don’t put something under they will stick to the grill and you will lose some of them!

Great for camping

The trays and foil pouches are also great for camping. You can cook right over the open fire and then it is very helpful to ensure your food won’t fall into the fire. We use a coleman stove for the bulk of our cooking while camping. Although they are designed to be cooked on and for the grease to drain etc. it cuts down on most of the cleaning and helps to keep the campsite from attracting animals etc. if you keep the grease in the foil and dispose of it at night (link to the Restigouche article where the animal got into the garbage) you are less likely to have a visitor.

It is also really helpful for camping to be able to keep things clean and cook more interesting and healthy food over the grill. My favorite is veggies (link to camping meals) which we tend to eat too little of when we are camping but it is much easier to eat healthy and delicious when you plan in advance and have the means to cook without a huge mess.

I know these are all wasteful. That being said here in New Brunswick in my regional aluminum foil is recyclable, all you have to do it rinse it off and put it in the bin.

 

Tin foil is so helpful and saves a lot of the cleanup!

 

 

 

Canoeing the Restigouche with the kids July 2016

Kirby grew up in the heart of northern New Brunswick and spent lots of time on various rivers as a young boy with his father and siblings and friends. As an adult his happy place is on the river and a few years ago he went on a trip with his hockey buddies on the Restigouche. The next year year Kirby and I went with three other couples and I have to admit I was also hooked too.

I have done a fair bit of canoeing as well in my life. I started in Kejimkujik national park with my Dad when I was 13, that trip was the start of my lifelong passion for canoeing and hiking that has led me to this very place.

Last year Kirby wanted to share this amazing experience with the kids. I have to admit I was not sold on the idea. The kids were only 10 and 12 and being in the back woods and in a canoe with small children doesn’t always sound like a winning idea but since my whole goal is to not shut out ideas I bought in. I also want nothing more than for our kids to love the outdoors and to want to do these type of adventures with us!

I do love a canoe trip because you can take a lot more comforts than a backpacking trip. That being said you also add weight to the canoe and have to consider that. The weather looked wet and considering keeping the kids dry, and warm is a key to happiness for all of us I definitely over-packed on clothes and provisions to keep them dry.

Getting there

The drive from Saint John is a little more than four hours to Kedwick New Brunswick. Our plan was to drive up and stay at a local campground Chalets Restigouche. I did find this year that the campground was loud being a Friday night and this was tough because it was a very late night getting to sleep. This did make for a slightly less rested family than I would have liked but we did have fun around the fire and lots of great chat related to the trip.

There are campsite and chalets and the restaurant has one of the best Sunday brunches I’ve ever had.

We have found a lovely outfitter called Arpin Canoe Restigouche Inc., that is very friendly and accomodating, they know the river very well and they have all the gear you could require including 60 canoes of various sizes and brands.

The Route

We have found in the past that starting right at the Arpin site will lead to either two shorter days on the river or one longer day and a short day so we had them drive us up the Kedgiwck River to Eight Mile Brook which adds several hours of canoeing to the trip and makes for two full days on the river. It also allows you to see the more narrow and shallow Kedgwick river which is one of my personal favorites!

There is nothing quite as majestic as floating and paddling down such pristine wilderness. To marvel at the endless number of greens of the trees, the amazing variety of wildlife (in this trip alone we saw: fox, par, Salmon, mouse, beaver, dog, countless ducks and other birds, bald eagles, 2 black bears, squirrel, dragonfly, fawn and probably more I can’t even recall).

The mouse was notable because it was the drop off point before we even got on the river. I walked into the outhouse and this mouse scurried out between my feet. The black bears were amazing because they are amazing creatures but also because I have never seen a black bear in New Brunswick before, which shocks me considering the amount of time I spend outdoors. The fawn was the most amazing thing, we were sitting on the river bank cooking lunch when we saw a very small fawn probably two weeks old at the most across the bank, it got into the water and started to swim across, the kids were beside themselves yelling to Kirby to go help worried it would get swept away, amazingly that tiny creature swam with all its might and hit the other bank and ran away. The dog was at the end when we arrived at Two Brooks, being owned by the Warden and was a glutton for love.

Overnight

In the trip we chose there would be one night camping. There are lots of little spots you can stop and stay at the side of the river but there are also three established campsites with some facilities.

We were a bit nervous that there might be a crowd at the larger campsite but that would be the best place for the kids as it had as outhouse, picnic tables and a shelter.  We lucked out as there were not a lot of people on the river and we had the place to ourselves.

We had a great time camping, even with a bit of rain and the tables gave us somewhere to stow our coolers and buckets where animals could not get into them.

Sights to see

As you pass along the Restigouche you get to see lots of beautiful fishing camps. In particular keep your eyes open for Larry’s Gulch, which is owned by the province of New Brunswick and a number of beautiful privately owned camps. You will often see lots of fishermen as well in their boats fly fishing. Usually they will direct you which side of their boat they want you to pass on, usually it is behind where they are casting so make sure you pay attention – if you scare the fish they won’t bite.

The warden Ron was telling us that in the whole time he had been there so far he had only seen about 35 canoes pass. This is a marked decrease over past years but also means very few people are getting onto the river and experiencing this amazing territory. This is an easy canoe to get to and the facilities make it a very easy trip to organize. I would encourage anyone looking for a fairly easy paddle (there are some rapids and it is a good idea to have some canoe skills or take some lessons to be sure you and and all of your stuff stay in the canoe for the whole trip) this is well worth the time!

California #1 – The City – San Francisco

 

As you might be catching on I am game to travel. I have my group of travel buddies who will call me or send me an email suggesting a trip. This time the content simply said “California $400 return…”. That is a deal that is hard to pass up.

In 2014 Anne sent me that email and so we jumped on the amazing airfare and planned a 12-day trip to California. I had spent almost 10 years not travelling much between being in law school, building my career, paying off student debt and then meeting Kirby and the kids. My travel had stalled and I had forgotten how much I love it.

Last night three years later I sat down to drink one of the precious bottles of wine from that trip (see post #3 for lessons on importation of alcohol into Canada) and it spurred me on to write about that adventure.

The planning

The planning for a trip for me is almost as much fun as going on the trip. Anne and I sat down at a local restaurant Britt’s Pub with our computers and had a glass of wine and started to plan. We booked the airfare that started it off. The key with airfare is to keep looking on a regular basis and check airports other than your local one. This airfare came out of Bangor Maine, which is a 3-hour drive from home. The cost of gas was about 50 and the parking about 100 so for $150 we saved hundreds of dollars each on airfare.

We then talked through what we wanted to see and do. She wanted to see some of San Francisco, I wanted to do some hiking and we both wanted to hit wine country. So, there you go we had a rough plan.

I have to admit the biggest thing about travel is finding people you travel well with. Anne and I have now travelled several times together. We have similar travel styles and travel well together. We are both (fairly) easy going and we both are very fair about money. You need to find those people so that you enjoy yourself both planning and while you are away.

Getting there

The only downside to such a diverse trip is the huge amount of gear we needed to bring. We would be spending several casual days touring the city, several rustic days camping and a couple of luxurious days touring wine country. We each had a large backpack of gear plus a hockey bag of camping gear.

We drove down to Bangor and had no problem crossing the border. It is important to bring your travel documents and have a plan when doing that. Anne and I decided to go on a spontaneous weekend to Bangor without a plan one time and spent about 1.5 hours at the border basically bring interrogated because we had no hotel booked and no plan. I mean really come on, look at us, what trouble would we be up to?

The extra bag cost $100 to ship each way but the camping would save us 2-300 per night rather than being in a hotel so we figured it was worth it for the saving of money but also for the experience of camping and hiking.

The flight is long covering the country but we arrived and happily made our way to our hostel for night #1.

Hosteling

Yes, I said hostel. I had never stayed at a hostel before. Anne had and suggested that for San Francisco to keep our costs down we would stay at a hostel. I was open to the idea as long as we had our own room and she assured me it was just like staying at a hotel….

After a long day of travel, I was very excited to get to the hostel. We wanted to take a nap and then go out for dinner and see the city.

I have to admit that when I first walked into the room it was like returning to university dorm life. The bed was small and on a metal frame, the bathroom was shared and down the hall and worst of all is was SO hot. The weird part was it was really cool outside and there was a beautiful breeze that evening, but inside the room we were sweating just standing there…

Lesson #1 from San Francisco – I do not hostel. Perhaps this decision is based on one bad experience and I should give it another try but after all of my amazing experiences with AirBNB and other places to stay I’m going to stick this one in the lesson learned and not to be repeated column.

Alcatraz

I am usually not a big fan of tourist traps but this is a case of a historical site that has such a cool story but we both really wanted to go. Down by the water you buy a ticket for a boat to take you to the island and your entrance fee. We went with Alcatraz Cruises and they had series of boats and the wait and cost was very reasonable (I think it was about $40). The boats leave from Pier 33 and there are a few different reputable companies who you can order tickets from.

Alcatraz prison is on an island about a 20-minute boat trip from San Francisco. It is famous for being on an island, it was a maximum security federal prison and it was in operation for about 30 years. It was notorious as a place to send the worst of the worst and having been there is was a very depressing and seriously strict place. The prison boasted that no one successfully escaped from Alcatraz. Being on an island with strong currents surrounding it the very few prisoners who went “missing” were presumed to be drowned.

I have to admit it was a great tour and was completely worth the visit.

 

GOcar

One of our friends suggested that we rent a GoCar to tour around for a day. We looked it up online and I have to say it looked neat so we booked one. When we got there we realized the cars were TINY. Looking at this tiny gocart and the huge trucks and traffic on the streets we asked the attendant whether we could take it for only a short while and whether we would have to pay for the whole day.

We had decided I would drive so we hopped in. I had to ask Anne to give me a minute because I was SO scared pulling out onto busy downtown street in this tiny little vehicle.

 

Well that didn’t last very long! That go car was so much fun. We took it all over the city, to the golden gate bridge, down the worlds twistiest street and even a stop over to REI to pick up camping supplies.

We pulled into the depot to return the car just a couple of minutes before they closed. It was such a great day and so easy to park.

The only thing I have to say is that the sound system was broken so we couldn’t hear the tour (and directions on where to turn etc.). Luckily we had a map and made our own tour but it was a bit disappointing that they hadn’t maintained the cars. I would suggest you aks for a car with a working sound system if you want the guided tour.

The Golden Gate Bridge

One of our stops with the gocar was at the Golden Gate Bridge. We had decided to walk across the bridge and have lunch on the other side in Sausilito.

I had such a hard time on the bridge. I have a fear of heights but I was almost paralysed as I tried to walk across. Anne was hanging over the edge taking pictures and I was limping along as far from the edge as I could possibly be. Photo credits 100% to Anne.

It was beautiful and when the fog subsided it was such an amazing view.

On the other side it turns out that Sausilito is a lot further from the bridge than we anticipated so we decided to go back and have lunch in San Fran. I couldn’t tell you where we had lunch but that day was all about conquering fear.

Pride Festival

We were lucky enough that while we were there it was one of the cities pride festivals. We decided to walk to the festival and listen to some music.

Walking in San Fransico is a bit daunting. First off it was very hot that day. As you walk along one moment you are in a high end shopping area then a block later you could be surrounded by the drug trade. We were walking along and all of a sudden we had a woman standing next to us that was very high on drugs – we made some distance but decided to hightail it out of there when she threatened to kill us… A few minutes later we walked by two guys and their dogs, the dogs went at one another and we almost got caught in the middle of it. Poor Anne was having a rough time in the middle of all that excitement.

Arriving at the pride festival the area was alive with excitement, colour and entertainment. We moved around having an icy cold beer and watching the interesting sights.

That afternoon we went to a movie. The day called for a little less excitement and a lot more air conditioning. The last night we also pulled the shoot on the hostel and made our way down the street to a hotel so we could get a good night sleep with air conditioning and proper beds.

 

Next thing we knew it was time to get the car and head to Yosemite. We had a great time and enjoyed what the city had to offer and I’m glad I went.

 

Mountains here we come!

Strawberry Picking in Kingston, NB

It is Strawberry season in New Brunswick, these are the best strawberries in the world in my humble opinion. They are sweet and so very flavourful! When I was little growing up in Nova Scotia my mother would take us berry picking every summer and then we would gorge ourselves on the spoils. In particular, I would look forward to opening a jar of her strawberry jam in the winter and remembering the summer sun. I guess all that sugar wasn’t a bad thing either.

As I did with many other things during my university and apartment living days I hadn’t picked berries in years until two years ago when someone told me they had just been out to the u-pick. At this point even though I had lived in Saint John for 7-8 years I didn’t even know there was somewhere to u-pick nearby so off I went.

Early morning 2016

Last year I decided to pick some berries before work. My friend told me that she thinks I’m the only person she has ever heard of to “run out and pick some berries before work”. In my world you have to get in the experiences when you can and when the berries are ripe you need to pick them (especially since we were away the following weekend canoeing). I am very lucky because my job is flexible and I have no set time I need to be sitting at my desk in the morning, that being said I was still at my desk writing emails and working at 11pm last night.

That morning was one of those perfect summer days, perfectly sunny and at 7:30am very warm but not yet oppressively hot, the perfect time to pick. I took my time driving (which takes about 40 minutes but I always think will take me 20) and enjoyed the windy drive of back country roads. Our local u-pick Bates is a great little family business that has a number of fields and has picking available for several weeks each summer. Even if you are not a berry picker taking a little drive on a beautiful summer day can be enough to boost you through the winter misery.

Late season 2017

This year we were a bit later getting to the fields because we had been away. There is always a first pick with this year (I heard) yielded a huge crop of huge delicious berries. By the time we got there the berries were smaller, sweeter but a bit less flavourful. It will also depend on what field the berries come out of as (like most crops) the soil etc makes a huge difference on what you get.

The best part for me is the process of working in the field and eating a few berries right off the vine. Not that I don’t love going on my own but being with family also makes it a lot of fun. Kirby meticulously picks from a seated position and gets more berries into a basket than anyone I know. Ingrid on the other hand eats one and picks one, takes a long time but picks the best berries. I am all about speed, I want good berries but I want to get as many as I can.

What to do with all those berries

Given my berry picking tendencies I have a habit of picking a lot more berries than I ever plan to. It doesn’t take long when the bushes are full to have huge piles of berries picked and it seems like the best idea in the world to get as many as possible when you can. That is until you get home and you have to deal with them all fairly quickly before they spoil.

The first thing I do is freeze a bunch! We love smoothies and in the middle of winter there is nothing like pulling out berries that you picked yourself and that taste so much better than the ones from the greenhouse.

Before they go in the freezer I lay them on a cookie sheet on top of parchment paper and then put them in the freezer for a few hours. This freezes each berry separately so they don’t stick together. Then they go into large Ziploc freezer bags, put the date on them and you are done.

I always make the kids a batch of strawberry muffins. They love them and sometimes I will even add in some chocolate chips to make them extra fun. Stay tuned in 2018 for a post with muffins!

Jam! I only make jam every couple of years. We don’t eat very much but I love to give it away as gifts and it really is delicious. I always use the old method my mom taught me and it lasts for years – the biggest key is not to cut the amount of sugar no matter how much it calls for. The only times I have had batches either spoil or separate are when I tried to make them “healthy”. Jam is what it is, full of sugar and delicious as a result. Jam in come in 2018 as well!

Tips for strawberry picking

I find that the berries earlier in the season have more flavour, I’m not sure why. They are sweeter later in the picking but aren’t as packed with the strawberry taste.

Picking early in the morning is better for the berries because they aren’t as hot and don’t get as damaged in transport.

Bring something to kneel on. You can sit in the field but there is a good chance you will end up with strawberry mush on your clothes and car as a result. The fields usually have straw in the aisles to keep down the weeds etc. but it is SO hard on your knees.

Leave yourself a LOT of time to deal with the berries. Even in you just plan to eat them fresh and freeze them they do take a long time to prepare. I enjoy standing and cutting off the tops and inspecting the berries but it still takes a lot of time and the downside of the workday picking was that I then needed to deal with the berries that night when I was tired…

What happens at 5am

I have always been a morning person. I have always gotten up between 6 and 6:30 (I do have the ability to sleep to 11am the odd time and have once stayed in bed until 2pm just because I could). I have found over the years that it has gotten harder and harder to get up at 6am though and every morning I was hitting the snooze button more and more time (one of my favorite things to do).

When I am busy at work and stressed I will often wake up at 4-5am unable to go back to sleep so I get up and head to work as I find it more productive to tackle the work head on than lay in bed and stress about it.

The writers group

When I started writing I would get it in when I had time, which meant here and there when I had a window. It was not consistent and was often when I was tired.

One night I was having a beer with some ladies after work and they asked me what had I been up to. I told them I had been doing some writing. As it turns out a couple of them had just joined a writing group and they asked me if I had any interest in joining.

Of course I said yes. It was a group of 8 women all either doing some writing or aspiring to be writers. We decided to meet every 2 weeks and work our way through a book called “The Artist’s Way”

The Artist’s Way

The premise of the book is to unleash creativity and to find your inner artist. The book is definitely getting aged and it is written from a very “all creativity comes from god or the creator” perspective. For some people in our group this works and others found it difficult to frame this particular discussion through that lens.

All that being said the book itself contains a lot of really great tools which are worth investigating if you are looking to start a journey of creativity or self-discovery.

I have to admit the book is pretty kooky in some ways but for me it has given me some great insight into my own creativity and has taught me some great skills around consistency of the artistic process and allowing yourself the freedom to be artistic (said no lawyer ever, well at least not out loud).

The morning papers – what got me up at 5am

One of the first lessons in the Artist’s Way is the morning pages. The author says to get up ½ hour early every morning and to just write whatever comes to your head. It is very much like a journal but is a stream of consciousness that is meant to let out all of the crap clogging your creativity and also to let you leave all the creative blockers on the page and move through to the creativity hiding under the surface.

I started to do that. I started to set my alarm at 5am and you know what? I actually find it easier to get up at 5am than 6 or 6:30 – I have no idea why but even in the dead of winter when it is pitch dark every morning I still find it easier. I suppose the fact that I started to set the coffee timer and get up to fresh coffee doesn’t hurt either…

As a consequence, I also need to go to bed earlier, which I have always done or wanted to do but I am swapping wasted time at night when I have no energy to do anything for really good for productive time in the morning.

I get up every morning and spend the first 30 minutes of every morning writing these pages. It is meant to be three full pages but I find 30 minutes is how much I want to put into it and sometimes that means 3 pages and sometimes if I’m really tired and aimless it may be 1-2. Hand written, on paper, every thought that comes into my head as a stream of consciousness. It is interesting to write on paper as the vast majority of what I write is on a computer, but the author of The Artist’s Way is very specific that these pages should be done by hand. I seem to connect more with my thoughts and I realized how little I actually write by hand in my day to day life.

I have never journaled and this feel very much like journaling without directing your thoughts and words. This process feels different but also like finding those words I never seemed to have before, maybe that is what other people are journaling about and I was always trying to make it more complicated… Often I end up with lists of things that I need to do but after a period of time I also found that a lot of amazing ideas started to flow on those pages.

These pages are meant to be put away and not reviewed, I have read that a lot of people destroy them immediately. It is meant to be a place for your brain to dump the garbage and then you can be more creative and focused during your day. I really find them very effective, in fact when I don’t do them for a while I do find that I feel less productive and more scattered. On the best days I spin off into ideas for articles and other things I want to write.

The outside world

 

What is funny is I find myself looking out the window a lot and keep waiting for other people to discover this blissful quiet time. So far not many takers. The man across the street leaves early but always comes back so he must be going to the gym. The one down the street leaves and doesn’t come back so he must have to work early. Often I simply see no one.

No one else appears to be stirring. No other lights are on in houses. It is very dark (especially in the winter) and very quiet.

What I have found the most amazing has been to watch the seasons change based on when the sun rises. In spring everyday it seemed that the sun would rise earlier every day and it was fun to see the sun before anyone else did. In the summer it is often sunny before I even get up and that definitely makes it much easier to pop out of bed. This is the same time of day just 4-5 weeks apart!

So the answer to the question “what happens at 5am”. Nothing and amazing things.

Backcountry Camping with my 10/11 year old – Fundy Footpath, Dobson Trail and Bennett Lake

Two years ago I took Cohen (our then 11 year old) to hike a portion of the Fundy Footpath and last year our 10 year old daughter Ingrid (not to be outdone by her older brother) wanted to take a stab at back country camping and asked me to take her on her first solo trip. How could I say no to that cute little face, or to the promise of another little hiking/camping buddy in the making. This year it has become a traditional and I have multiple overnight hikes planned with my family in different combinations.

2015 Fundy Footpath – Cohen 11 years old

I can only say that the Fundy Footpath is not for the faint of heart or the unprepared (Fundy Footpath post to follow!). It is a very challenging hiking and when our 11 year old son wanted to go on an overnight hike and that is the hike he chose to do I guess I should have talked him out of it… But I didn’t and with some proper planning he did just fine.

We hiked in from the St. Martins end because in my experience it is the easier of the two ends. Also, we did an in and out so that if we didn’t make it as far as we thought we would the first night we didn’t have to go all the way we could just build a fire and stay the night where we stopped.

The hiking was hard as he had moments of doing amazing and a few moments where it got fairly hard but all in all he did amazing.

2016 Bennett Lake

Last year I forgot that I had told Ingrid I would take her on an overnight hike and we got to the last weekend of the summer. I went out the Wednesday before and bought all of the produce to do pickling and relish (again look out for a post in the fall!). Of course, Ingrid comes home and looks at me and reminds me this weekend is our last chance to go on our trip together so when are we leaving…. Oh goodness! I have 50 lbs or more of fresh produce and a 10 year old that I made a promise to, so what do I do? I work like crazy for 2 days pickling while I send her on a mission to compile all of the stuff for our trip and I just make it happen…

I finish the canning on day 2 at 3pm… I pack our bags and off we run… I seem to do everything at this speed these days… Need to get it all in of course…

We arrive at Fundy National Park around 4:30pm. Ingrid has picked the Bennett Brook trail and I looked at the length etc. and it appears to be perfect for our trip and timing. Approximately 9 km of mostly moderate hiking with 2.4 km of strenuous hiking. Ingrid has a pack of 13lb which considering her weight of 72ish lbs is pretty ambitious but compared to my back of 35ish lbs is doable… And we are off.

The trail starts as a road which is very level and picturesque. It starts to occur to me that this hike might be quite easy and we will have lots of time to get to the campsite before it gets dark (something I have not adequately considered before this moment). Until we hit the 2.4km of strenuous…

At this point we slow down significantly and I start to really worry that there will be a scared and tired little girl stopping in the middle of the trail refusing to go forward in the pitch dark. So we push on and to be honest Ingrid is a trooper, she does start to break down a little on the other side of the river crossing as we hit the uphill portion of the river crossing. What in the world am I going to do if she stops altogether – the thoughts you don’t have before you and are in the middle of the woods with your 10-year-old and you no have ability to carry both packs (or the child for that matter up a large hill…

Luckily my motivational words of encouragement (you don’t stop, keep moving, we have no choice, we need to get there, move, move, move) manage to get this amazing little kid to the campsites at the other end of the trail. It is dusk but not dark yet. Lots of time to set up camp. Luckily despite my lack of planning there is an available campsite (which for the record in a national park should have been booked in advance and it was only by luck that we have space to stay!!) with wood and fresh water nearby. I have to say at this point Ingrid shines, she goes to work on the tasks I send her on and doesn’t appear to be scared or uncomfortable in the least. A cup of hot chocolate and a few chocolate covered raisins and she is beyond happy and so am I. What a great little companion!

We cozy into bed early (9:15ish) to be warm and cozy and we both read until we are close to sleep! We then slept until 6ish when we both woke up, looked briefly at one another and then promptly went back to sleep for a couple of hours until it was warmer. We got up and off we went. The trip home was more leisurely as we did not have the time pressure of it getting dark.

2017 Dobson Trail

After a couple of years I have started to get better at the kid hiking trips. This year Ingrid asked first and so she got the first hike of the season. We started early and bought her proper hiking boots. This was a hard pill to swallow because hiking boots are not inexpensive, she now wears ladies sizes and will grow out of them. That being said it really improved the hike overall!

The initial plan had been to do a hike inside Fundy National Park and hike out of the park onto the Dobson to camp. Unfortunately, with it being Canada 150 the park was packed and the gate to get through to where we wanted to start the hike was closed.

So, we moved to plan B which was to drive around to the Shepody Road and start at the Dobson Trail. The first section (or section 7 in the NB Hiking Book) is about 10km and has a great campsite at the end so it was a great alternative to our original plan. The hike is also very moderate so it wouldn’t be too much for Ingy.

The complaint I have about the Dobson trail is that it is very boggy (which means bugs) and a large portion of the trail follows logging roads and is not actually in the woods. That being said the portions that are in the woods are beautiful and the campsite was gorgeous.

Once again I was so impressed as our now 82lb girl carried 18lbs this year and was a complete rockstar! This time we had lots of time when we got to the campsite and we managed to get everything set up and have a nice leisurely dinner before a roaring fire. The thing I like most is that there are no devices or outside distractions, it is 100% captive time to bond. Some of the best times I have had with people have been hiking / camping and this was no exception.

Hiking in May was much colder than last year in August but we kept warm by the fire and then snuggled into warm clothes and sleeping bags and we were snug as a bug in a rug. The next morning Ingrid made the fire to warm us up and she really amazed me by how once again she was so capable for such a little person.

The trip home was a little bit harder, a few complaints about sore feet and how long it had been but again such a wonderful experience for both of us!

Tips for Hiking with Kids

Keeping kids happy and safe on the trail is my focus. For this reason I only take one at a time which gives all of my focus to one of them and not to have any of their interactions with one another affect the trip. There are a lot of lessons to learn about safety, respect, no trace etc to teach them and the more one on one time you have with them the more time I have had to share those things.

The first thing I have learned is that you need to spend the money and buy them proper footwear. This is hard to do because hiking boots are not inexpensive and to buy them for a child who will only wear them for one season is a kick in the teeth. But that being said this year with proper hiking boots the trip was much easier for all of us.

The second thing is not to forget they are kids. They are smaller, their legs are shorter, they are less resilient, they will need more encouragement but as long as you make it fun and bring fun snacks, my kids are pretty easy to turn around and keep happy on the trail. They are kids, don’t plan to go as far as you would without them. If they are struggling lighten their pack a little. Hot chocolate and cookies go a long way and celebrate the successes.

The night with Cohen we stayed close to the lower salmon river and I have to say the sound of the water kept us awake a good portion of the night. This is general advice to not sleep too close to the water source because if you are like us you won’t sleep well and it will dramatically impact everyone’s coping mechanisms the next day.

The truth about kids and hiking

The truth is that there is nothing we do with our kids that is as carefree as if we did it without them. They have fewer coping mechanisms and are little people. That being said what hiking with my kids has shown me is that they are very capable and amazing little people. They don’t need to be catered to, they can carry their own weight (obviously less than I can carry but not an insignificant amount) and one on one time with them is so valuable. They crave it and they just want to be near their parents.

 

I have to admit the trip out of the woods for each of these hikes took a lot of encouragement and more stops than I would have liked, there was complaining and the hikes were shorter and less challenging than I am capable of. That being said what a great experience which each of them and what great character they are building. Not to mention I have my own little gang of hiking buddies growing up around me, AT here we come!

Greece Post #4 – Schinoussa to Santorini and getting home (the long painful way)

So by now you must be almost sick of hearing about Greece. I am almost tired of writing about it, although it really was amazing! Let me tell you though you don’t want to miss the end of the story which is the epic saga of how I got home and the epic failure of our national airline to care that I exist.

Amorgos

Amorgos was my favorite of all of the islands we visited. It was larger than some but smaller and less touristy than some of the others.

We rented cars and went up the hill to an amazing little coffee shop and sat on a deck with amazing views, sipping Russian Coffee and seeing the ruins of ancient windmills. The nicest part about having Alex with us was that we did get exposed to some of these little places. Alex disappeared at some point during coffee though (as he was apt to do) and it was decided that I should drive, mostly because I know how to drive standard transmission and all of the Australians and Tasmanians were used to driving on the other side of the road. We survived…

The following day we went to the Monastery of Hozoviotissa which was built into a side of the mountain and is still managed by a group of monks.

To get there you have to climb a lot of steps and it was a very warm day. Adding to the fun there is a strict dress code and everyone must be fully covered and women need to wear skirts, which lead to all of us borrowing from the supply located in the entrance of the monastery.

This spot was amazing to see and it is a wonder how they worked at this location on the side of a mountain. The monks were very nice and served jellied candies and hard liquor when you reach the top. The liquor is similar to paint thinner and being already overheating from the sheer quantity of clothing I was wearing I managed to discretely leave it behind.

Schinoussa to Ios to Santorini

I wrote less in my journal as these days whiled away. The islands largely blended into one another and the days became less remarkable. I don’t remember a time in my life when I felt as comfortable and relaxed as I did in these final days on the boat.

Ios was more of a party island and we toured around the central core but we were late in the season and most businesses and shops were closed. We didn’t feel like we had missed too much.

The night in Ios was our last night together and had the most amazing meal of the trip all together as a crew at the The Mills.

 

Leaving the Boat

The next morning we were to get off the boat. Alex told us to be ready to go for 8am. This is the guy who up to this point we were hauling out of bed to start things moving at 9… But this morning he bounded out of bed and had everything ready to go for our departure (he was REALLY ready to get off the boat).

The original plan was to sail to one of the ports on Santorini and leave us there to find our way to our various destinations. Alex informed us that the seas were too rough and so he dropped us on a tiny side island, Theresa,  and we took a ferry over. We got off the boat into a little skiff and let me say it left a lot to be desired in the stability department.

I really enjoyed the people on the boat. I was sad to say good bye to this amazing group of people but I was so looking forward to a bed, a nice hotel and some time to relax on the most famous of the islands.

We spend a large part of the time in Santorini dealing with how we were going to get home (see below for the fantastic story) but when we did finally get it all worked out we enjoyed an amazing sunset on the balcony of our hotel.

 

We had very little time in Santorini but I got to see a lot of the island and we walked around a fair bit and I honestly felt like I have been there and seen it. It was very touristy and the busy season was behind it, I would not want to be there when it was actually busy.

Getting back – The debacle – Oh Air Canada why do you try my patience so!

I actually wrote this part of the post first even though it will end up coming last. Travel is not all glamour and excitement. Much of the time it is stress management. Getting home from Greece was a great example of this!

We got off the boat in Santorini, ready for a couple days of rest and relaxation in a nice hotel before travel home to Canada. As soon as we got off the boat everyone starts checking their phones (a theme of the trip) and the notices started to arrive that flights within Greece were cancelled because the air traffic controllers were planning to strike. Unfortunately, this included our flights from Santorini back to Athens and Athens back to Canada.

The strike was set to be 4 days – Sunday & Monday and Wednesday & Thursday. We were booked to fly back Sunday and that meant if we couldn’t get on flights Tuesday we could have been in Greece for almost an extra week. Despite my initial elation of the extra time away I had been away for 10 days at this point and I missed the family and my bed, not to mention didn’t relish the idea of having to pay the costs of an extra week abroad.

You always have a choice in how you will deal with these situations. My first thought was “lets go to the hotel and relax and figure it out later” but the group affected were all heading to the airport to try to re-book flights so we jumped in a cab. The airport was pandemonium as people were trying to get out and also change their flights. Air Aegean gave us one option – cancel the flights and get a refund. Unfortunately, that didn’t get us home we decided to cancel the flight to Athens and figured we could take a boat and figure it out there…

So off to the Port. The main Port in Santorini in at the base of a large cliff and once you are there you really need a cab to get you back to the top, especially if you have luggage in tow. We got out of the cab and went to see the office to try to book a ferry. No one seemed to understand what we needed and at this point we were very tired from not sleeping the last night on the boat and didn’t really know what we were asking for.

While I tried to book the ferry Anne called Air Canada to get our flights changed to Tuesday. Now this is when my blood really started to boil. After waiting 1.5 hours on hold – at international rates for the call – we were told there was nothing Air Canada could do to help us because they didn’t have the issue in their system and it wasn’t their airline that cancelled the flights… Which we both had a problem with since we had both booked the entire trip through the Air Canada website.

I said to Anne lets get to the hotel. Lets take a shower and relax and deal with this when we have wifi and a little rest.

We had to call Air Canada again (this was our 2nd call which lasted over 1.5 hours) and again it took over an hour to get through to an agent but at least we finally got someone with some experience and she managed to rebook us on Tuesday which made us feel much better and we were able to enjoy

Guess what! The next morning at 9am I woke up and saw the story that said that the strike was cancelled… On the phone we got again with Air Canada – another 1.5 hours on the phone and we got rebooked back onto our original flights except for the Santorini to Athens leg which we had accepted the refund for from the airline and which was now not available with all the stranded passengers…

 

So off the to port we went again… This time we knew we were looking for a high speed ferry to Athens and booked it and were off shortly thereafter. The ferry was 8 hours long and what was remarkable was when Anne and I both finished our books after a couple of hours we stopped and started to talk and realized with all of the people on the boat and excitement of trying to get off the island we hadn’t really talked all week. So with that we chatted all the way back to Athens.

One of the smartest choices we made was to book the airport hotel for the night before our 8am flight. It is always more expensive but being right at the airport when we had so little time was brilliant and the next morning was a breeze.

No, it is still not over

The flight out of Athens was delayed… So when we arrived in Munich to see our plane at the gate but it was already closed and they would not reopen for the 14 people who were supposed to connect on to it (a direct flight to Toronto)… So we went to the desk…

Anne let me take the next flight (because she knew I was dying to get home to the kids) which was through London, Toronto to Saint John. She was going on standby on a later direct flight to Toronto . Funny enough she made it onto that standby flight and got home several hours before I did.

I on the other hand flew to London but my London flight was delayed into Toronto and so when I raced through customs in Toronto I was thrilled to get to the gate and was there before my flight boarded – yeah! I sat down and waited for them to call the boarding of the Saint John flight.

BUT when I went up to get on the flight and they told me I had been removed from the flight because my other flight was delayed and they didn’t think I had time to make it. I said no problem, I’m right here, put me back on the flight… BUT NO I had to go to the customer service desk… Do you feel my frustration yet?

By the time I got to the desk and they realized they had filled my seat on the Saint John Flight I noticed a Moncton flight leaving 15 minutes later. I made them put me on it, at least I was getting closer to home. I figured I could rent a car and drive home.

Then I got to Moncton and realized I had not taken my drivers licence to Greece and therefore I could not rent a car! ACK! I won’t ever travel without my driver licence again! Which meant at 1:30am I had to get in a cab, in Moncton, to get home – at a cost of $200. It turned out to be a blessing though because I could not keep my eyes open on the drive and I don’t think driving home would have been the best thing at that time of night after the crazy travel day I had. That being said I made the right choice because when I got home and climbed into bed (at 3am) I felt SO good!

The one good thing was that Monday my baggage arrived in Saint John. There was no note on the system as to why it was there or who it belonged to. Luckily I had my business card in the pouch and the staff at the Saint John airport gave me a call and even had it delivered right to my office. So a shout out to the Saint John staff!

After all that I contacted Air Canada to see if at least they would reimburse me for the cab fare. I figured if I had stayed in Montreal they would have had to feed me and put me up in a hotel and all of that would have cost more than $200… And you know what… All I got was a lousy 30% off voucher, only good for the next 12 months…

Air Canada – epic fail!  I am pretty excited to take Westjet to Ireland – not to say they will be perfect but I’m glad to spend my money elsewhere after such a horrible customer service experience.

Moral of the story is that you need to relax, take it all in and realize you can’t control everything. It will all work out in some way and don’t stop travelling because these things happen – my time in Greece was worth it and now I have this crazy story to tell!

Camping Meals – Chicken, sweet potatoes and vegetables (paleo)

Your first thought will probably be how do you make chicken work out of a cooler. Well I had to try because I love to camp but since I try to eat Paleo and I don’t want to eat hotdogs all summer finding a way to take healthy, and more importantly delicious,  food with us on the go.

You also don’t want to be at a campsite trying to cut up vegetables and fumble with meat packages, making a mess and leaving “attraction” for the local wildlife.

All it takes is a little forward preparation and excellent camping meals can be yours without the hassle and mess.

Chicken (Bone in and Skin on)
  • Bone in, skin on, chicken breasts (as many as you need)
  • Minced garlic (I prefer out of the jar as it is a milder flavor than raw)
  • Pepper
  • Paprika
  • Chili powder
  • Any other spices you might want to add, I like to add fresh cilantro chopped!

Drop the chicken in a Ziploc bag or vacuum sealer bag with all of the ingredients.  Shake it around, take out the air, seal and pop in the freezer overnight before you go. The chicken will be frozen and then can be put in the cooler next to the ice before you go. I find the chicken is perfect for dinner on night #2 as it will be mostly thawed and will have really marinated in all those yummy ingredients.

Then all you need to do is pop it onto the stove grill side on a tin foil tray and cook to 165 degrees (with a meat thermometer to ensure proper food safety), or my professional method (not recommended by anyone promoting safe food handling)- until you cut into it and it is cooked all the way through and not pink. The length of time depends on how hot your stove is and how many things you are cooking but it is usually about 20 minutes.

Obviously you need to be sure you are careful with handling and cooking of poultry, keep it properly refrigerated and cook it properly to ensure you don’t end up with Salmonella etc.

Sweet potatoes

I don’t know about you but trying to prepare vegetables at a campsite has always been a real pain and makes a big mess that no one wants to have to worry about. The key to my veggies on the trail is a little forward planning.

  • Sweet Potatoes (about one per person or a bit more if you want leftovers for hash)
  • 1-2 onions
  • garlic (again I like the bottled minced garlic because it has a lighter flavour)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Start by cutting up the number of sweet potatoes you think you will need and cut them up the night before you go. I also add in an onion as I love the flavors, especially the way the onion caramelizes and adds that little flavour with the sweet potato.

I know “how in the world will that work, they will turn black and gross”…. They key is then to pop the onions and sweet potatoes into a vacuum sealer bag (I LOVE my vacuum sealer) with a little olive oil, salt, pepper and minced garlic (the kind out of the jar is best because fresh will make for a much stronger flavour that your tent mate may not appreciate in the middle of the night). Then seal up the whole thing.

The beauty is the next night when you are ready for dinner you just cut open the plastic pouch and dump it into tin foil, add a little water and  put it n the stove to cook. It can cook while you are making your protein and usually takes about 20 minutes.

Vegetables

In addition to the sweet potatoes I like to have some other vegetables. You can cook most vegetables with the tin foil packet trick but the ones that I find stand up the best to being in a bag and outdoor cooking are:

  • Asparagus
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Beans
  • Beets

Then you just prepare the same as the sweet potatoes I’ve explained above.

Mount Khatadin

Living on the east coast of Canada and being an avid hiker you hear all the time about Mount Khatadin. A challenging mountain hike in Baxter State Park in Millinocket, Maine. Baxter Peak is the highest peak in Maine and it is the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. The park is fairly accessible and the mountain has a variety of access points which allow for multiple hikes with different levels of challenge depending on your ability level and available time.

Kirby and I hiked Khatadin a couple of years ago. It was on my bucket list so I added it to our schedule which meant one very wet Friday morning we took off for Maine. The drive from Saint John was 5-6 hours, the roads inside Maine become fairly small so make sure you have lots of time. We planned to have lunch in Millinocket when we arrived and then head to park to pitch the tent and take a short hike before bed to shake off the day in the car.

Millinocket Maine

I am not sure what we were expecting of this town but it was a very sad story. Millinocket was a robust town powered by industry. Unfortunately, in recent years the paper mills in the town and area have closed down and that has forced many of the businesses to close and many people to leave the town. As we drove around we saw many for sale signs both on real property and chattels (cars, boats etc.) which showed the need in the community.

We ended up eating in a dinner where the population was white haired but the food was old school and delicious.

 

Camping and a short hike

As you enter Baxter State Park there is an information centre you need to have a park pass and the rangers were very friendly and help show us around the park and suggest a hike for us to take that evening. They also mentioned there were some bears or moose in the area and just to be aware…

That night we camped at Roaring brook campground because that was our starting point for the hike the next day. The brook is truly roaring and it is actually better to book a site a little ways away from the water because personally it would have kept me up at night.

The campground was well kept and very clear. We got set up and took off for the hike suggested by the ranger around the lake. The evening was warm and the sun was shining by this point and it is still a couple of years later one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

Khatadin

 

The next morning we got up early. We had a big hike planned so we wanted to be on the trail for 8am, to try to miss the crowds if nothing else but also because we expected to be on the trail for about 10 hours.

We packed up the campsite (because the plan was to stay at a nearby cottage that night) and moved the car to hiker parking. There is not a lot of hiking at roaring brook so I would suggest buying a parking pass in advance.

At the ranger station at the start of the roaring brook trail there is a sign-in sheet and they do ask people to sign in so that they know everyone is off the mountain at the end of the night, otherwise I am told they head up to find anyone who hasn’t signed out. It is interesting at the end of the day to see how long people were out and where people came from for this hike – they come from all over.

From Roaring Brook you can go west and along Helon Taylor and along Knife’s Edge to Baxter Peak or you can head inland on the Chimney Pond Trail which is a tried up creek bed, which means it is all rocks.

We decided to go up Hamlin Ridge, across Saddle to Baxter’s Peak and back down Cathedral (See note below) which takes you back to Chimney Pond and eventually roaring Brook once again. FYI – There are other ascents possible that will take less distance and will be challenging over a shorter period of time.

 

Hamlin Ridge

Hamlin Ridge takes you off to the right. You are in the trees for about 1/3 of the climb and then you emerge above the treeline to amazing views and large rocks. I have short legs so it was interesting to get up and over some of those larger rocks. Kirby on the other hand must be part goat because he was bounding up that mountain like it was nothing. Then again at one point I was also passed by a 60ish woman (who encouraged me and then then went up to Kirby to ask if I was okay…) with her 3 similarly aged friends…

The view from the top was breathtaking and the peak is 4756ft compared to Baxter’s 5267ft. What Kirby loved the most was that after accomplishing this not insignificant feat we then came down over 1000ft through the saddle trail only to climb again up to Baxter’s Peak – really he was “thrilled”.

Baxter’s Peak

This is where the action is. Baxter’s peak is the location of the sign that ends the Appalachian trail. You see the sign a lot in pictures of anyone who makes it to the top – and really they deserve it, it is not for the faint of heart.

Along Saddle ridge you remain above the treeline so it is all rocks but the rocks are much smaller and the path is much smoother. The final climb to the peak is granular, grapefruit sized rocks that have you slipping and sliding around, just in case you needed an added challenge at the end of the day.

That being said the view from the top was worth every moment on the trail. We completely lucked out with a perfect day that was clear, warm and sunny. We sat at the top and enjoyed the view for a while… But what goes up must come down…

 

Getting Down

I would suggest that you read lot of materials about your route and make sure that what you have chosen is doable. I had planned to come down Cathedral but in speaking with some fellow hikers along the way we were advised that Cathedral is only good for going up as it is far too steep and unstable for a descent. So we opted to come down Saddle, which turned out to be hard enough and steep enough as it was. There are also a lot of loose rocks so you have to be careful not to kick one off and hit someone in the head.

Just for the record where Kirby excels going up I excel getting down. Not sure if it is the flexibility from yoga or the motivation for a cold beer and a burger but I scooted down that rock face at a pretty good clip.

Footwear

Hiking this mountain was very hard on the feet. It is mostly rock the whole hike. There are many places where you are scaling a 1 metre tall boulder. I would suggest making sure you have good quality footwear with solid ankle support and a good solid base. I have a leather hiker with a ½ shank of support under the foot and I really wished I had something more solid. Kirby’s Solomon’s with a full shank were more supportive and he didn’t find it as hard because he had a bit more support on all of the rocks.

Water

I’ll be honest I have not done a lot of mountain hiking. One of the key differences with most of the trails I have done in the past is that on a mountain there is very little water. We had brought 3 litres with us which was not enough. By the time we got to Baxter’s Peak we had about 300ml left which we shared and then wished we had more.

On the way down the mountain we found a stream and luckily were able to refill be but it was a good reminder that you need to take enough water with you to get through your hike and be hydrated.

There was a group of 6 20somethings behind us coming down Saddle. They were French (from France) and spoke very little English. We tried to shake them (they were loud) but they kept ending up behind us. They had nothing with them and had very bad footwear (one girl was in sandals) for the terrain.

When we stopped to refill our water they were finally behind us and as they went to pass us they stopped. They had one water bottle between them (probably 1.5 litres in size) which was empty. They huddled off nearby watching us fill our bottles. Finally the girl came over and asked if we could fill their bottle for them, which we gladly did. It made me want to smack them because without proper gear they could have gotten into real trouble but instead we wished them well and waited a while. Even behind them a ways we heard them sing and talk all the way back to the campground.

There are a lot more trails that we could have taken and because we had already done Hamlin we didn’t have time, water or energy for Knife’s Edge. Guess we just have to go back and tackle that one!

 

New England Outdoor Centre

After a very long day of hiking we had booked a cabin at the New England Outdoor Centre. This lovely facility has a main lodge with a restaurant on the edge of Khatadin Lake and with a spectacular view of Mount Khatadin. When we first arrived we learned they have cold beer on tap and plastic cups which meant we could take a cold beer back to the cabin as we got ready for dinner.

Their cabins are lovely and we were glad after such a long hard hike to stay in a bed and take a shower. They had two big bedrooms and a lovely kitchen, I could have stayed there longer and would have loved to go back and take advantage of more of the activities within the park.

The restaurant was lovely and the view was perfect as we discussed the day while looking at the mountain we had just conquered. As an added bonus there was a wedding in the tent out on the lawn in front of the lodge so we also got the show of watching the wedding reception, which included one (apparently very drunk) “uncle” dancing up a storm.

It was a hard day but a gorgeous place that I would definitely recommend to anyone looking for a challenge and to see something amazing!