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!

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!

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!

Walton Glen Gorge (the Grand Canyon of New Brunswick) and a little good samaritanism

Last summer we went to Sussex Corner to hike the Walton Glen Gorge which is on the edge of the Fundy trail parkway system, is adjacent to the Fundy Footpath and is approximately 60 minutes from Saint John. It is also known as the Grand Canyon of New Brunswick.

I read a few websites before we went and I found the instructions a little lacking in some places. It didn’t help that there was construction on one end and the signs tell you to stop and go in at a different place than all the maps suggest.

Good Samaritanism – A rescue mission

Just before we reached Adair’s Wilderness lodge a woman was standing at the side of the road waving us down. As we approached I have to admit my first thought was a little fear wondering what was going on and if something bad was about to happen. Don’t horror movies start with someone pulling over to help a stranded stranger? Despite my fear we stopped and the lady told us that she had gotten her motorcycle stuck in the sand on a dirt road because she had been following her GPS. She was sure she could not move it on her own. We went in to look at the bike and it was indeed WAY off the beaten track, stuck on a hill and definitely too heavy for her to move on her own. We offered a drive and decided to head forward to Adair’s which was five minutes ahead instead of 30 minutes back to Sussex.

By the time we had reached Adair’s we had learned that she was from Florida and this trip was on her bucket list and she had taken all her vacation to travel on her bike to New Brunswick, PEI and Nova Scotia. I wish I had taken a little more time in hindsight to speak with her about her trip especially since in some way she also impacted my desire to write this blog.

At Adair’s we were welcomed with hugs and water for this lovely lady who finally broke down in tears once we all assured her we would take care of her. I could not have been more happy to have chosen to go to Adair’s and could not speak more highly about how kind and gracious everyone was there!

A little brawn does the trick

Kirby and I went back to the bike with a young guy who had stopped at Adair’s for lunch (100% eat coast hospitality). Between the three of us (the young guy Sean is a bike guy and Kirby and I being the muscle – haha) we managed to turn the bike around and bring it back up to the main road. A couple of minutes later one of the ladies from Adair’s brought our biker back and she was off back to continue her adventure.

Then we were off! Wow what a way to start the day!

 

The Hike

Following along we turned onto the Shepody road and then onto the Little Salmon River Road. There is an orange sign that points to a detour – we decided to take this route and there are some spots to park on the road. This route takes you in an ATV trail which is well marked and by following the signs will take you to a spot to merge with the remainder of the trail coming in from the McCumber Road.

I plan to hike again from the primary entrance this summer because I’m hoping the trail is not an ATV trail.

When the trails merge, after about 4 kms, head to the left and you will end up at a fork. To the right you will find a lookout over the gorge which is gorgeous but because it is so steep you can’t see very far into the gorge.

We then backtracked to the fork and went left which connects to a couple of different trails down into the gorge. Then you just need to follow the water down to the bottom. The hike is very difficult and dangerous along the water, the rocks are slippery, the slope steep and the ground is difficult. That being said you will be rewarded with amazing views and a gorgeous spot for a quick dip.

We will definitely be heading back to this spot as we are sure we missed the highlights of the trip, it is close to home and was a really nice spot.

Adair’s Wilderness Lodge

On our way home we swung back into Adair’s for our post-hike beer and a snack. Adair’s is a family run place. It is a lodge with cabins that cater to outdoor enthusiasts like ATVers and snowmobilers. The Adairs have owned the lodge for more than 20 years and it has grown significantly over that time to include a large restaurant and quite a few cabins.

Everyone working there were very friendly and the food is homemade and we were disappointed that we weren’t hungrier! In particular, the desserts looked amazing, they are all homemade and enormous!

Such a great experience at Adair’s, we will be back!

Parlee Brook Ampitheatre and Friar’s Nose

Last weekend we went hiking. It was the first time I wore my hiking boots in 2017. It felt so good. I am not a winter adventurer, we get out a bit but not in the way we do in the summer. This year I have been a complete hermit and am officially suffering from cabin fever.

This week I really noticed that the days are getting longer. It is 8:30pm and dark but it hasn’t been dark for long. This morning it was bright and sunny. I felt the joy of spring and the new life that is coming as the snow starts to melt.

Since the ground is still snow covered we decided to find somewhere that is best accessed in the snow. I read a great blog post on hikingnb.ca about Parlee Brook Amiptheatre and Friar’s Nose which is near Sussex Corner and shortly before Poley Mountain ski hill.

Getting there

Take the exit at Sussex Corner and head towards St. Martins on Route 111. Stay left / turn left on Waterford Road, following the signs to Poley Mountain.

Take a right on Parlee Brook Road (after approximately 6km), which turns into a dirt road after 2.5km. Then keep straight until you see the Arnold’s Hollow Road. It will seem longer than it should and like you might have missed the turn but you will see it on the right but before a funky little house that looks like a hobbit house out of lord of the rings! There is also a little bridge just past the funky house so if you pass over that you know you have gone too far.

A car stopped as we were getting out of the car and advised us to move our car because vehicles drive in and out of Arnold’s Hollow Road. He told us that when they drive out they often slip and can run into those cars parked on the road. Better to be on the other side of the bridge or well before the road – just in case. What great advice!

Parlee Brook Ampitheatre

The sun was shining and we headed up the Arnold Brook Road. The snow was hard packed and icy but there was some snow cover which allowed for a little traction. I would suggest taking a set of crampons or ice grippers, my boots are a bit slippery and they would have been really helpful.

The trail starts on the road and in total is about 3km in to the amphitheatre. It is easy to follow and just goes straight to the spot. The walk was beautiful. We passed a frozen lake and what looked like a beaver dam in the lake, I love thinking about a little family of beavers living in there and just waiting for the spring thaw.

As you get past the lake you move into a canyon and the sun was shining on the snow and through the trees.

All of a sudden at the end the snow is replaced by ice that cascades down the top of all of the rock cliffs above. It is like a circle of waterfalls frozen in place.

Friar’s Nose

We decided to hit the amphitheatre first and then up to Friar’s Nose on the way back. Heading in the trail is about 1km from the entry to Arnold Brook Road and is on the left. It is well marked with orange trail tape. There was an earlier trail on the other side of the road which was also marked with orange tape, we didn’t follow it and although we are not sure where it goes it does not go to Friar’s Nose.

The trail is easy to follow and appears to be well used. The trail is steep in points but nothing overly strenuous. When you get to the top you can see a long way, and the view is breathtaking.

It was well worth the trip. Definitely a must see.

The trek was about 8km total start to finish. We both felt that it was a little short, but we love a long day of hiking. If we were going to do it again I probably would have sought out something 3-4km to add on just to round out the day. That being said this was just a gorgeous spot and definitely worth bundling up and getting out in the snow!

 

Poley Mountain

As you will see if you follow my hikes we have a ritual that after we hike we grab a beer. When we are somewhere remote we will often take a couple of beer in a cooler. This time we decided to pop in to the restaurant at Poley Mountain ski hill for lunch.

We have eaten there a few times when we were skiing. I have to admit the service is pretty bad and the food is typical ski lodge, burgers and onion rings. That being said the beer was cold and a pitcher of beer was only $12!

 

What a great way to kick off the season!

Leave No Trace

The days are getting longer! Last night at 7:15pm I noticed that it was still fully light outside. Time to start planning the activities that make me the happiest.

I love to be off the grid. I love to be away from it all. I love to be where few other people have been. The reality is that lots of other people have also been there – I’m not that hard core to be on top of a mountain in the Himalayas that has never been hiked before. How do I know others have been where I have been? If I’m lucky a little left over fire wood and if I’m not lucky (or most of the time) TRASH.

Examples from 2016

Last year we arrived at the campsite on the Restigouche and I was in horror to see the garbage that had been left behind. I didn’t include the pictures of the human waste and feminine hygiene products to spare you some of the grosser moments – ICK.

When we hiked the Lighthouse trail last summer I almost stepped right onto a person’s No. 2 right on the trail – I know it was human because it was covered in toilet paper. As I am not aware of a breed of bear that uses TP.

The saddest of all last year was at Mount Carlton trail which is such a beautiful place but also one of the dirtiest and most littered trails I’ve ever been on. It was littered with bottles, so I’m pretty sure that the trail is used for partying as much if not more than for hiking. There are a couple of buildings on the trail that were absolutely full of bottles. The park workers told us that they go up and clean it up every couple of weeks which makes me very sad that this was a short-term accumulation. Imagine what a mess it would have been it they didn’t clean it up.

These are just a few examples of what I saw last year.

 

What is Leave No Trace

I was taught a long time ago, probably by the girl guides, that what you take into the woods comes back out. There are lots of links all over the internet of organizations promoting (Leave No Trace Canada Leave No Trace Ireland) and supporting leave no trace.

The whole idea is that you should leave the natural world exactly as you find it. You want to minimize your impact on the environment to the greatest extent possible.

What you bring in with you should go back out with you. All of your garbage should be in your pack when you leave. You also should leave what you find in the woods there. The ecosystem needs all of those little pine cones and leaves and branches on trees. One marshmallow stick might not kill that tree but if several people do the same thing it might.

Fire can also have a very dramatic impact. I almost always make a campfire, it warms you up and gives you something to do in the evening. The key is collecting wood from the ground (not tear it off living trees), make a proper fire pit to ensure that you contain the fire, that there is not overhang that could catch on fire and that you put in out before you go to bed/leave the campsite. When I was in California a couple of years ago I witnessed first-hand the devastating effect of massive forest fires, which were mostly started by man-made sources. There was nothing there, no trees, no habitat for animals, nothing – all because someone chose not to take care of a campfire.

Bathroom Etiquette

This is one of my biggest pet peeves. It is a gross conversation to have but not nearly as gross as coming across, smelling or worst of all stepping in human excrement.

If you are going to spend any amount of time in the back-country you have to go to the bathroom there. I know people try to hold it but that is not comfortable or good for your body. The key is to be responsible about this process.

The first step is to go far away from the trail, campsite and water sources. This seems like overkill but imagine lying in bed at night and either an interested animal or the smell comes through your camp.

The next step is to dig a hole – this will mean that the next person to come through won’t have to step on your mess. Most outdoor stores sell little shovels for this purpose but you can also take a garden trowel or use a sturdy stick off of the ground (don’t rip one off the tree) and dig a hole. The hole should be 6-8” deep and 3-4” wide. Once you are done put everything in the hole and cover it up well. This will also allow for the composting of the toilet paper to happen faster.

Now ladies –as gross as this sounds – take your feminine hygiene products with you or use a reusable product. I know this sounds disgusting and I might lose some readers here but anyone who has come across a used feminine hygiene product in the woods will agree with me. It is very disgusting, they don’t break down and they attract animals.

I carry a large plastic bag with me, it has toilet paper and tampons (yes I said it). I put a smaller plastic bag inside the larger one to put the garbage in and dispose of the garbage responsibly when I get home.

Be the change you want to see in the world

When I am hiking I always come home with full pockets like a chipmunk’s cheeks. I pick up little pieces of garbage along the way, a wrapper here, an old piece of flag tape there. I always feel like I should improve the area I’m going through if possible.

When we were at Mount Carleton provincial park we came across a couple who had a plastic bag with them each and they were full. They told us that they always carry one when they hike and pick up a few things along the way.

Now I’m no expert (and there are lots of great resources with fantastic information) or a fanatic but I am a big proponent of making sure that everything I bring with me comes out with me. I am very safe when I do make a fire. I don’t take souvenirs.

We should also be teaching our children. They will all be adults one day and they can make change throughout that process. I think of all those bottles on Mount Carleton, those “kids” managed to get those bottles (full and heavier) to the top of the mountain so why not just throw them back in your pack to bring them back down…

I just reread the article and realize I make these place seem horrible. They  are all amazing, every one of them worth visiting, they could just be so much better if they were better cared for.

Get out, explore, hike, camp and love the outdoor world but please for the love of Pete leave it the way you found it.

 

Snowshoeing at Rockwood Golf Course

Last year for Christmas we got snow shoes for the family. Not this Christmas but the year before. So far we haven’t used them.

We have that list of reasons why. Not a lot of snow. Too Busy. Need to clean the house. The laundry needed to get done. We were just plain tired. So many reasons but this past Sunday we finally made it happen.

It was Kirby that said he wanted to get out and use the snow shoes. It is good to have an activity buddy because when I am lacking motivation or ideas he will usually urge me on and vice versa. We often do more as a collective than we would apart.

Rockwood Park Golf Course

We were looking at the hiking books and websites trying to figure out where to go. The tricky part is that most of those trails would have been pretty packed down and we really wanted to try the shoes on powder.

We chose to go to the Rockwood Park Golf Course. It is right next to Rockwood Park that I have written about before. The fairways of a golf course make a great place for cross country skiing and snowshoeing. We made a great call because most of the course was untouched. The only evidence we saw of other life was one cross country ski trail, one snow shoe trail and a lot of deer tracks.

We were lucky because it was not really windy. It could have been bitterly cold if it were windy. The sun was shining bright and warm which made it even better. I think I have mentioned I don’t like the cold. It was a perfect winter day to get outside!

The differences between snowshoeing and hiking

I’m putting this post in the hiking section. This time of year and with the amount of snow we have on the ground hiking would be difficult until the trails were either groomed or well used. Snowshoeing for me sounded like a great way to be able to get out and do what I love on a day like today when we have 50-80 cm of fresh new snow.

I have never been on snowshoes before Sunday. I thought it would be just like hiking or walking. Boy was I wrong! Snowshoeing is definitely hard work. I had it in my mind that you would glide right along the top of the snow. It was a shock to sink down into the snow and have to lift your feet out of the snow, even if it only a little bit it is a lot more work than just walking.

I had it in my mind that we would go for 2 hours and cover about 10km. In the end we were out for about 1 hr and 20 minutes and although I would have kept going when we turned the corner and the clubhouse came into view I was relieved, my legs were tired and I was very happy to stop.

The real shocker was to see that we had only covered 4.25km. As it turns out the course length is only about 5.25km (5952 yards) so we did almost the whole course but unlike hiking where 10km is a short hike (in my books) this was hard work for the distance.

The wildlife

I definitely don’t get out in the winter like I do in the summer. I am a fair-weather camper and I don’t really like the cold. This is probably part of the reason that I become a bit of a hibernating bear in February. I can also be a bit crabby (right Anne!).

I love to be outdoors. I love the smells, the feel of the sun on my face and I live for the feeling of the fresh air.

One of the things I enjoy most is seeing the natural sights. Seeing animal tracks, even if you don’t see the animal you know that they are around. It makes you feel natural and free from the trappings of the “real world”. Last summer we were in Mount Carleton Provincial Park and were very aware of Moose – you know there was lots of “evidence” – there was something exhilarating about knowing there were real live moose all around us even though we couldn’t see them.

Out on the golf course we saw a whole lot of deer tracks and we also saw a bunch of areas where the deer were rooting for grass. It felt very much the same way, knowing all these deer were just around somewhere living their life.

Getting out there again

Kirby at one point stopped and looked at me and said “isn’t this just majestic”. It really was. It was challenging which I love but even better it was a great boost to my spirit in the dead of winter.

On Monday in southern New Brunswick we got a huge dump of snow. There was somewhere between 50 and 80cm of snow within 24 hours. Today we got another big amount of snow, don’t have the amount yet but 30cm would be a safe minimum bet.

Ingrid and I went out the other night in between the two storms to try out the fresh powder. Let me tell you it was HARD.

Now we have lots of this new snow I’m guessing it will be even harder but I’d still love to make the priorities line up so we can get out again!

January 1, 2017 – Rockwood Park Hike and Goal-setting     

It is powerful to have a goal. On January 1, 2017 we hit the hiking trails of Rockwood Park, Saint John, NB to get a jump on our annual goal to hike 300km but also to spend some time with the kids setting family and personal goals. I am an avid hiker and I prefer a longer hike or to get further off the beaten track to explore but the practical reality is that I often don’t have time to travel that far to get outdoors regularly.

Kirby suggested we go to Rockwood Park and I am sure glad he did because we found a gem which is not even hidden, it is completely out in the open and I had been skipping over it. The entrance to the park can be accessed off the Sandy Point Road where it connects to Foster Thurston Drive and looks like it could be someone’s driveway as there is no sign until you are up the hill and down the road a little.

Getting started

When we arrived there is a nice trail map, here is out crew in front of the map.

I have since found a full colour printed copy of the trail map and it can be obtained from for free at the Rockwood Park Interpretation Centre, which is located just past the Lily Lake Pavillion inside the park entrance off Mount Pleasant Avenue. The trail is very well-marked but since there are so many little trails it is good to make a plan so you can decide in advance how far you want to go. Especially this time of year since you can’t see the trail you must have a good idea if where you want to end up so you don’t get lost.

Zoo Trail

Starting out you are on the Zoo trail and there are a wide variety small trails which veer off this main trail starting almost immediately. The trails are not long so as long as you are prepared you should be able to play it by ear and stay within a reasonable distance. The Zoo trail itself is very wide and appears to be quite well maintained, especially for the time of year.

Golf Trek Trail

We decided to take the golf trek trail. It is a nice trail through the woods, what comes to the edge of the Rockwood Park golf course at a couple of places and goes for .94km as a harder trail and continues as a medium difficulty trail for another .74km. You can cut back over to the Zoo trail at several intervals or you can continue down through the centre of the park.

Donnie’s Detour

We decided to cut across at Donnie’s Detour to get back to the main trail and head back to the car. Also very well-marked and every though we hadn’t made a plan we managed to figure our way out fairly easily. I would say this is a good example of do as I say and not do as I do – definitely safer to make a specific plan and follow it – always being prepared  is a good idea and deciding on a plan in advance can avoid a dangerous mistake.

The total hike was 4.8km. It was short by our standards but at this time of year it is great to get out and it is also much harder going through the slushy snow in winter boots.

We will be back Rockwood Park. In you want more information in the meantime you can check out the Rockwood Park website or the Hiking NB website also has additional useful information and maps.

I can’t believe I have lived in Saint John for almost 10 years and not taken better advantage of this beautiful space. It shows you, look around your local area there are probably places and things you have overlooked!

Our 2017 Hiking challenge – January 1, 2017

 

My dad was always a big Tony Robbins fan. I remember him reading and listening to lots of motivational materials when I was young and from that time he has always talked about the importance of setting goals. He also got me hooked on the outdoors, camping hiking and travelling, here we are in 2002 in Machu Picchu, Peru!

In 2014 I was given the opportunity to participate in a women’s leadership program through LMI Canada. The program is all about learning skills necessary to accomplish your goals. I have for the last three years set countless goals and funny enough it is true – so many of those things have now come true. I have started to travel and have now gone on two amazing trips with dear friends to see somewhere new and connect with people who are important to me. I have finished projects around our house that were important to me and that have made our home a refuge and comfortable place for us to enjoy our downtime.

My partner Kirby even got in on the action. He saw me setting these goals and getting all these things done. It is amazing what you accomplish when you write it down and take decisive action towards a goal!

In typical New Year’s fashion we sat down on New Year’s Day last year with a pot of coffee and my enormous agenda book to make some plans for 2016. There were a number of things we added to the list but the biggest thing was that we decided was that we love to hike, canoe and spend time outdoors so we made a list of specific hikes we wanted to do, we decided to take the kids on a canoe trip and we made ourselves a challenge to hike 250km over the course of the year.

 

The hiking challenge was the first time we have set a specific common goal that really got us both excited. Some of the best time we have spent together has been in the outdoors and this was a chance to challenge ourselves physically and spend some great quality time together. We had a great year of hiking and completed a ton of amazing hikes and other outdoors challenges!

 

So this year we decided to do it again! Yesterday was January 1 and we loaded the kids into the car and headed for Rockwood Park. We went for a quick 5km through the snow and talked about what we wanted to accomplish this year personally and as a family. The following are a list of our hiking goals:

 

  1. Kirby and I to hike 300km and 100km of those with the kids
  2. A family multi-day trek
  3. To get to Campobello Island hiking
  4. To get to Kouchibouquac National Park hiking
  5. To hike all of the trails in Rockwood park

 

It was a lot of fun to discuss goal setting and now we just need to get organized to make it happen – stay tuned!