On Top of the Maritimes: Our Mount Carleton Trek

Mount Carleton, located in the north of New Brunswick, is the highest peak in the Maritimes, at 820m (2,690ft).  The mountain is located within the Mount Carleton Provincial Park, where there are 4 peaks and more than 42,000 acres of wilderness to explore.  Mount Carleton is the highest peak, followed by Mount Head at 792m, Mount Sagamook at 777m and Mount Bailey at 564m.

On Saturday, Joel and I got up with the sun and headed for Mount Carleton, an almost 5 hour drive from our home in Saint John.

We arrived at the park just after noon.  We would have loved to be able to hike some of the other peaks but we only had a few hours and we definitely wanted to bag the highest peak in the Maritimes so we headed straight for the Mount Carleton trail.

The trail is a roughly 10km loop.  Park staff suggest doing the hike in a clockwise fashion, up the left side of the trail and back down the shorter, right side of the trail.

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The trail is considered moderately difficult, but we found that it was a steady uphill climb until you get to the last kilometer or so, where you can split one of two ways: one a more gentle roundabout climb and another that takes you right along the cliff edge, with a lot more boulders to climb over.  We took the more exposed side as we wanted the better views.

The trail up the mountain is a pretty one, following a babbling brook for part of the way. Headwaters campground is on this side as well, if you’re looking to camp overnight.  Once you hit the fork in the trail marking the last kilometer, you very quickly begin to climb out of the tree line, revealing some amazing views of northern New Brunswick.  It truly is spectacular.

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It is said that on a clear day, you can see more than 10 million trees from the top of Mount Carleton.  Standing at the summit on Saturday, I definitely felt like I could see that many trees.

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You are truly in the wilderness, unplugged from the grind of life, and connected to your immediate surroundings.  This is what I love about hiking.  It gives you a goal to achieve, it’s a great workout, and it allows you a chance to connect with yourself and the quiet solitude of nature.  Joel remarked afterward that there were a few moments of the trail of absolute silence, and how peaceful he found it.

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There are so few moments of silence in our everyday lives.  So much information coming at us at once, from all angles.  We must make time to unplug from our lives, and to make time for silence.


After we were finished hiking, we headed back to the pretty town of Perth-Andover and The Castle Inn.  The Inn was first built in 1932 as the private residence of Bill and Pauline Lewis.  The structure has a Norman Chateau facade and features many local river rocks collected by the couple themselves.

Castle Inn (2)

 

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The building suffered a fire in the 1940’s and when the structure was rebuilt, the tower was added, along with a stunning, spiral staircase.

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After his parents passed away, Lance Lewis planned to turn the home into a Bed and Breakfast but died unexpectedly and was not able to achieve his goal.  The building is now owned by Peter Dunlop, who began building on to the existing structure in 2004 and turned it into the charming Inn we stayed at on Saturday night.

The food was great, the service warm and the rooms were lovely and well appointed.  There is a great spa area with pool, hot tub, gym and saunas.  It was fun to wander around the Inn and examine the beautiful woodwork and rounded doorways original to the house.

We had fun hanging out with the castle cat, Smoky, who comes and goes as he pleases and can often be found curled up on a comfy seat near the front desk.

It was great to cross something off my 2016 goal list this past weekend and to discover some new places in my own province.  Now, on to the next adventure!

Canada’s Symbol: The Maple Leaf, A Photo Exploration

As Canada Day 2016 approached and I was in my backyard practicing photography in the evening light, I started wondering about the maple leaf and how exactly it became the most widely recognized symbol of this country.

In 1834, at the inaugural meeting of the Societe Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Montreal’s first mayor, Jacques Viger, called the maple leaf, “The king of our forest;…the symbol of the Canadian people”.

After this, the maple leaf slowly became used more and more as a symbol of Canada. The golden leaf was often used to represent Ontario, and the green leaf was often used to represent Quebec.

It wasn’t until the maple leaf was incorporated into the national flag in 1965, that it was officially cemented as the central national symbol.  The maple leaf represented on the national flag is a generic, stylized version, with 11 points and does not to represent any specific type of maple tree, of which 10 species grow naturally in Canada.

As I examined the trees around my neighbourhood, I saw several types of maple trees, including red, silver and Norway maple.  I noticed that no two maple leaves were exactly alike.  The choice of the maple leaf as a national symbol seems therefore rather appropriate, given our rich history as a country of immigrants.  Just as no two maple leaves are the same, no two Canadians are the same, either.  We are all as unique as the symbol that represents us.

Here is my photo exploration of the maple leaf, as a symbol of our Canadian culture.

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No two maple leaves are the same
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Not the classic 11-point leaf, but a maple leaf all the same
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Layers of maple leaves
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Sun soaked maple leaves
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Canada Day festivities on the Saint John boardwalk.  The maple leaf is everywhere.
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Take a leaf
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The leaf flys proudly at Market Square
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Canada Day parade.  This is Canada.  We all wear the leaf.
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Carrying the leaf
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Even Spider-Man carries the maple leaf.
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Draped in the maple leaf.
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Boardwalk maple leaf
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Streetscape maple leaf
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The leaf flys at Fort Howe
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The classic 11-point leaf

Canada Day ’16: Love is Louder

With Canada Day just a couple days away, we Canadians have so much to be thankful for and proud of, every single year.  But I have to say that this particular year has made me more proud than ever to call this country my home.

With Donald Trump spewing all sorts of venomous hatred on a daily basis to the south and Brexit across the pond, with the anti-immigration and xenophobic rhetoric of the Ukip party, it feels like Canada is being surrounded by insanity.

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Dangerously toxic rhetoric of the Pro-Leave camp in the UK

Credited in no small part to Justin Trudeau’s sunny ways leadership, Canada has welcomed more than 25,000 Syrian refugees over the past year.  Some provinces, including my own, have significantly increased their population size.  In fact, since they started arriving last year, New Brunswick has settled more Syrian refugees per capita than any other province, by about double the national average (CBC).

And for the most part, Canadians have not only allowed these people into our country, we have welcomed them.  There were crowds at airports, holding signs of welcome, there were groups of people whose sole job was to make our new residents comfortable and to make their transition as easy as possible.

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And our newest residents have already started improving the communities they live in. Stories poured out of Alberta when the wildfires devastated Fort MacMurray earlier this year, of refugees coming together in support, and giving what little they had to their neighbours and new friends who had lost their homes to the fire.  Because they understand what it means to lose everything, and they wanted to help.

We live in a scary time.  A time when there’s no way to know where or when terror will strike next.  A time when even a night out dancing or going to the movies can end in a living nightmare.

Fear is a natural response.  Fear usually keeps us safe; it keeps us from doing stupid shit, like jumping off a cliff (for most people). But sometimes fear holds us back.  Sometimes it clouds our judgement, and closes our minds and hearts to the truth.

The truth is that our differences do make us stronger, not weaker, and they will help lead this country into the future.

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We were afraid, but we didn’t let fear win.  We refused to let thousands of people suffer a horrible fate, through absolutely no fault of their own.

We are Canadian.  We welcome all.

I’m so proud to call myself Canadian, more than ever before.

And we have to believe that love is louder than all this noise.

 

Tourist At Home: Nova Scotia Road Trip ’16

The Smith’s are back from a whirlwind 6-day road trip of the western half of Nova Scotia!

What I love about vacationing at home is that it usually costs significantly less due to the decreased travel costs and you get to discover some really cool places in your own backyard that you might not have known were even there.  In my case, I wanted to hit all the spots I’ve heard about and wanted to visit for years, but had just not gotten around to.

The first leg of our journey took us across the Bay of Fundy from Saint John, NB to Digby, NS.  It was fun as neither me or my husband had ever traveled to or from Saint John by boat, and this offered a cool perspective of the city and the harbour.

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Later, Saint John!
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Views of Partridge Island on the sail out of the harbour
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Leaving New Brunswick behind

The Fundy Rose is very well appointed and fast!  We arrived in Digby is just under 2 hours.

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Nice lounge and cafe on the Fundy Rose
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Checking out the views on the approach to Digby
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We’re in Nova Scotia!

Our first adventure in Nova Scotia was an overnight backpacking trip to Cape Split, a provincial park reserve that juts into the Bay of Fundy and features dramatic cliffs and incredible scenery.  The drive was to the park was lovely and we stopped to take some photos at a lookout along the way.

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The Annapolis Valley

When we arrived at the parking lot of Cape Split, our spirits fell a little to see it packed with cars – there were so many people!  Undeterred, we set off with our backpacks, sure that many hikers would not be staying overnight and that we would soon have the place to ourselves. The hike is about 6km long and is easy to moderate with gentle uphill slopes.  The trail is well marked; it would be very difficult to get lost along the way.   It was extremely windy at the cliff edge when we arrived!  I was afraid to get too close in case I lost my balance.  It’s a long way down!

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Checking out the views
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The famous Cape Split rocks
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The gulls love this place!

After setting up camp, we hiked down to a rocky beach where we sat on the rocks and took in the beauty of the Bay of Fundy.  And our camping buddies got engaged!  Congrats, Mahshid and Jason!

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The happy couple
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A rock that rivals Cape Split itself!

After spending a lovely evening on the cape, we parted ways with our friends who were heading back to Saint John and set out for Yarmouth.  We were pretty tired after the backpacking trip and it was raining (a theme we would encounter for the rest of our trip) so we didn’t make many stops along the way.  Once reaching Yarmouth, we had much-needed showers, strolled through the lovely Frost Park, had dinner and went back to the hotel to crash early.

Frost Park in downtown Yarmouth
Frost Park in downtown Yarmouth

The next morning after a quick breakfast in Yarmouth, we headed out to discover the South Shore.  It’s a long but beautiful drive along this rugged coastline.  We made a stop in Cape Sable Island to see The Hawk Beach, the most southerly point of Nova Scotia.  The beach here is a stunning grey/white sand and is home to the tallest lighthouse in Nova Scotia, at 101 feet.  The lighthouse is some distance from the beach so we couldn’t get up close but the stop was well worth it with the beautiful views it offers of the Atlantic Ocean.

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Cape Sable Island
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The tallest lighthouse in Nova Scotia in the distance

By early afternoon we arrived at our next destination, Lunenburg, a picturesque port town and home to the Bluenose II.  We quickly discovered that Lunenburg is a major tourist destination; the place was swarming with visitors, just like us, gawking at the brilliantly coloured buildings and snapping photos along the way.  We were lucky that the sun decided to make a rare appearance, just as we were exploring the downtown area.

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Colourful shops in downtown Lunenburg
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Bluenose II
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Pretty waterfront
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More colourful buildings

We quickly discovered Ironworks Distillery, a local company that makes spirits inside an former blacksmith’s shop.  We sampled many of their delicious products and learned a little about the process, leaving with several bottles to take home.  I would definitely recommend a stop here if you are in town.

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The old blacksmith’s shop, now Ironworks Distillery
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Beautiful wood fired still

We stayed the night at the Rum Runner Inn, a lovely spot right in downtown Lunenburg, which serves a gluten free fish and chips, so I was in heaven!

The next morning was gloomy and after a quick and delicious breakfast at The Savvy Sailor, we headed out for the small community of Blue Rocks, just a few moments from Lunenburg.

This might be my favourite place we saw along the way.  It had true Maritime charm, even with the light drizzle and moody skies.  This community is famous for the slate rocks that give it its ‘blue’ name.

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The gloomy morning didn’t diminish the beauty of Blue Rocks, NS
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Fishing huts at The Point
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The famous blue rocks

After Blue Rocks, we headed for Halifax, where we visited with friends and did some shopping.  We had a fantastic meal at The Bicycle Thief and did as much sight seeing on the waterfront as the rain would allow (not much, as it turned out).

Red bicycles at The Bicycle Thief
Love this art installation on the Halifax wayerfront
Georges Island views


The next morning we set out for my home county of Cumberland, stopping in Truro to check out Victoria Park.  I had wanted to visit this park for some time, after seeing photos of the waterfalls and the daunting Jacob’s Ladder and it did not disappoint.  I wish we’d had more time to explore more trails but we had to get on the road and the weather was pretty chilly (we’ll have to come back!).

That’s a lot of steps!
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Joe Howe Falls
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Witches Cauldron
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Cool tree roots

The discoveries continued with my parents when we took a drive to the historic mining town of Londonderry.  Once a bustling community of almost 5000 people, it’s now a collection of just a few homes.  The town square is still well maintained though, where a few artifacts of the mine are preserved for visitors to see.  It’s a reminder of what once was, and what is not likely to be again.

Londonderry Memorial Square
Fly Wheel used from 1903-1910
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Boiler used from 1849-1908, and an abandoned bike
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Country bridge

And that pretty much wrapped up our tour of the western half of Nova Scotia.  We look forward to exploring the eastern half and Cape Breton later this year.

I would encourage everyone to be tourists at home, and to explore spaces in your own backyards.  You never know what you might find.

Spring in the Maritimes: Colour has Returned!

It’s the Victoria Day long weekend and it’s sunny and 20+ degrees outside!  It’s the unofficial start to summer, meaning: BBQs, camping, and lazy days at the beach.

Summer doesn’t officially arrive for another month, and really, it feels like spring is just getting started.  The grass is green now (we mowed ours for the first time last night), the leaves are popping out on the trees and bright blooms can be seen on every corner.  In short, colour has come back to our world.

I’ve been playing around with a new camera I bought myself for birthday recently (happy birthday to me!).  It’s my first DSLR so I’m still learning my way around it (there’s so many buttons!).

When I started this blog, it was mostly about wanting to write.  I didn’t realize how much I would fall in love with photography.  There is something wonderful about telling stories through pictures, and no better way to share the beauty of this place.  And I guess the principles of writing and photography are really the same when you boil it down: it’s about noticing things.  Like noticing the way the evening light hits a flower, creating delicate shadows from the stamen on the petals.  It’s about exploring too, and seeing things through fresh eyes.  I would encourage you to take an exploration with your camera or phone, and try to see what you can notice around you.  I promise, it will open up a world of wonder.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to recently.  I’ve got my new Canon Rebel T5 and I’ve been zooming around Saint John taking shots of pretty much everything.  I love the way the DSLR can get you so much closer than the iPhone, which is what I’ve been taking all my photos on.  I thought I’d share a few spring shots with you today.

I hope you all have a fantastic long weekend and enjoy the sunshine while it’s here!

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Irving Nature Park salt marshes
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Saints Rest Beach, Irving Nature Park
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Looking across Saints Rest Beach to the Bay of Fundy and beyond.
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Reversing Falls bridge and the city of Saint John in the pretty evening light.
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Adventures in backyard photography
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Love those little raindrops
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Fresh new maple leaves through soft evening light
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I can’t get enough of that light!
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Here’s those lovely shadows I was talking about.  At Saint John Public Gardens.
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Lily Lake, Rockwood Park
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No swimming yet!
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Forsythia in bloom
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From Fort Howe to the Coast Guard station, SJ is stunning.

There’s Nothing New Under the Sun (Except Absolutely Everything)

Earlier today I posted this photo and caption on Instagram:

It got me thinking about this concept.  If there really is nothing new under the sun and we’re all destined to repeat the same tedious and mind-numbing cycles over and over again, why do we even bother?

Why do we get up in the morning?  Why even step outside the door?

Why do we bother to travel and explore the world, if it’s all been seen before?

And that got me thinking about that Barenaked Ladies song, “It’s All Been Done”.  Here it is, because I know you’re all singing it in your heads now:

I understand it can be frustrating, when you’re trying to be original and create something truly unique, only to find that it’s been done already.  So, what’s a gal to do?

I say, do it anyway.

Whatever it is, it hasn’t been done by you.  That story hasn’t been told by you.  And so really, it hasn’t been told at all.

This is not permission to plagiarize someone else’s work, please do not misunderstand me.  But we have to give ourselves permission to be creative, even in this exceedingly ‘it’s all been done’ time we live in.

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote a great book about living a creative life, called Big Magic.  In it, she discusses the difference between originality and authenticity.  She says, “These days, I’m far more moved by authenticity.  Attempts at originality can often feel forced and precious, but authenticity has quiet resonance that never fails to stir me.  Just say what you want to say, then, and say it will all your heart.  Share whatever you are driven to share.  If it’s authentic enough, believe me – it will feel original“.  Smart lady.

The same concept applies when exploring the world.  If it’s the first time you’ve been somewhere, explore it like you’re the first to set foot there.  Because, to you, it is the first time and it feels the same anyway.  I can tell you that the sense of wonder I feel when I hike a new forest path or visit a new-to-me place is not in the least diminished by the knowledge that thousands of people have been there before me.

So, let’s take the sage advice of the folks at The North Face and Never Stop Exploring.  

never stop exploring

Because yes, there is nothing new under the sun.

Except absolutely everything.

 

 

Maritime Love for Fort McMurray

Most of you will know by now that wildfire swept through Fort McMurray, Alberta yesterday, forcing the evacuation of the entire city.  Many people escaped just in time and with only the clothes on their backs.

The fires within the city have been put out for now, but the wildfire still looms threateningly nearby.  Some 1600 structures have been lost to the fire; entire neighbourhoods are gone.

I know I speak for many when I say that we grieve for you, Fort McMurray.

The Maritimes has always had strong ties to Alberta, and Fort Mac in particular. Every Maritimer has a family member or friend working in the area.  We keep you in our thoughts; we pray for a speedy and safe resolution to this nightmare you find yourselves unable to wake up from.

If you would like to help, you can donate to the Canadian Red Cross Alberta Fires Appeal here or by texting ‘REDCROSS’ to 30333.

If you are still trying to locate family or friends in the area, you can contact the Red Cross, or Facebook has activated its safety check feature.

Fort Mac
THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Michael De Adder

 

A Little Bit of Summer in April: A Day on the Nerepis River

This past week we got a little taste of summer in April, and it was glorious.  After trudging through a cold and grey couple of weeks, we welcomed some unseasonably warm temperatures with childlike abandon: people played hooky from work, the shorts and flip flops were quickly dug out from deep within closets and patios sprang up overnight in the city.

One of the things I love about living in Canada is that we appreciate nice weather.  I mean, we really appreciate it.  Because you just never know when you’re going to get another +22 degree, cloudless day.  It could be weeks, even months from now.  So, you’ve got to get outside and enjoy it while you can.

That’s what we did on Thursday.  We called a couple friends and loaded a couple canoes on the trailer and headed for the hills – of Welsford, New Brunswick – and the Nerepis River.

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Checking out the water level at Blagdon first, the lowest point in the river.  Looks good!

The Nerepis meanders along gently, with topography that ranges from sandy banks to grassy meadows and a golf course, to tree lined cliffs.  There is plenty of wildlife: we saw several eagles (one huge mother!), lots of geese and other birds, and a turtle sunning itself on an old tree stump.

All set to go!  Just waiting on our companions to launch their canoe.
Gorgeous day for a paddle.

 

This is the life!
Lots of pretty S-curves and clear blue skies.

There were quite a few trees across the river and unfortunately my paddling skills were pretty rusty and one of the ‘sweepers’ – what paddlers call overhanging obstacles such as tree limbs and branches – took us out pretty early on and Joel and I ended up soaked from the waist down.

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Peter and Chris approaching the ‘sweeper’ that took I us out.  They did fine.
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We did not fair so well.  Joel managed to keep his cigar lit, though!

Luckily it was already close to 20 degrees by that time and we were able to dry off in the sun fairly quickly.  My feet, however, were wet for the rest of the day.

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Lunch time at the beach.  Time to dry off!
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Hills in the distance.
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Turtle tracks in the sand.

It was a great day.  I love the smell of summer on the skin.  It’s a mixture of sunscreen, sweat and fresh air.  It makes all of the bitterly cold days of winter worth it.

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A very pretty river.
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We saw a lot of eagles in this section.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t get my camera out fast enough to capture them.

They say the weather has shifted and that temperatures will be cooler for the next while, but that’s ok.  We know that summer is on the way.  For now we can be thankful for this little taste of summer in April.

Surprising Finds in the Maritimes: Black Beach, NB

Have you ever stumbled upon something in or around your community that you never knew was there and didn’t expect to find?

I never expected to find a black sand beach in the Maritimes.  I’ve never seen a black sand beach, except in photos.  So, a short time ago when I saw a picture posted on Instagram of Black Beach in Lorneville, just a few kilometers from my home, I knew I had to check it out for myself.

Black sand beaches are rare in this part of the world.  They are most commonly found in areas of volcanic activity, such as Iceland, Hawaii and the South Pacific.

Black Beach is located in the community of Lorneville, NB, about 19 km from Saint John. The colour of the sand is derived from graphite deposits.  The beach is located along the Musquash Estuary, one of the most biologically productive areas in Atlantic Canada. Over 4,000 acres of the estuary is protected by the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC).

Known for its biodiversity, the Musquash Estuary is home to numerous species of birds, fish and terrestrial wildlife.  It is the last fully functioning estuary in the Bay of Fundy.

Two hiking trails are located in the area, maintained by the NCC: Black Beach trail and Five Fathom Hole trail.  Joel and I hiked the 4.2 km loop of Black Beach trail a couple Saturday’s ago.  It’s a lovely hike through the forest with great views of the estuary.  We didn’t get to see a lot of wildlife, but it was quite windy when we were there, so we’d like to come back in the summer when the weather improves and we have more time to spend nature-watching.  I love the thick moss carpet that lines much of the trail. It provides a splash of colour, even in this brown period between winter and spring.

It was cold on the beach so we weren’t able to stay long but this area is so unique and special, for its black sand as well as its ecological importance.  I encourage you to explore the area and discover the beauty you might not have even known was there. Just make sure to leave the area just as you left it.

Here are some photos of our hike:

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Black Beach in Lorneville, NB.
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Looking across Musquash Harbour on a grey day.
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Checking out Black Beach from the top of the hill.
Much of the bottom side of the trail loop has views of the Musquash Estuary, protected by the National Conservancy of Canada.


Tree trunks and moss for miles.  This is my kind of place.


At the end of the trail loop is a great lookout over the estuary.

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Getting a closer look at that surprising black sand.
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Mine are the first footprints of the day at Black Beach.

If you’d like more information about Black Beach and/or the Musquash Estuary, please visit www.natureconversancy.ca.

Do you know of a surprising find in the Maritimes?  I’d love to hear about it?

 

A Little Good News: Area 506 Festival

This New Brunswick Day long weekend just got a little more New Brunswick-ey. Yesterday a new summer festival was announced, to take place July 29-31st in Saint John. The festival will focus on music, culture and goods and will allow New Brunswick to showcase all it has to offer.

Ray Gracewood, chair of Area 506, spoke on Information Morning Saint John, saying of the festival: “The idea being it’s a melting pot of everything New Brunswick has to offer and a celebration for the positive things going on in our province…each of these communities has a story to tell … whether that’s an event, a product, a celebrity, anything. It’s an opportunity for these towns to come together and show everybody what they’ve got”.

Musical performers will include NB’s own Matt Anderson, 1755 and the Bona Fide. Grace Potter, Big Sugar and July Talk are also scheduled to perform over the weekend.

While the festival will span across the city, the heart of it will take place on Long Wharf, in what promises to be a very unique venue: a shipping container village.

I’m really excited about this event.  I think it’s going to have a fresh, urban vibe to it, and I love that it will be a chance to celebrate NB.  Too often recently, we’ve been made to feel as if we’re a doomed province.  Most recently with Maclean’s magazine, who published a very unflattering article entitled, Can Anything Save New Brunswick.  Yes, you read that right. This festival will be a chance to respond in a big way.  It’s like saying: So you think we’re a dying province?  Well, we’re just going to throw a huge party celebrating how very wrong you are!

And it will be great for New Brunswickers to show off their NB pride, because I know there’s a lot of pride out there.  The festival will show us what is positive, and also what is possible.  Because if we don’t think that things are possible, they never will be.

You can buy earlybird weekend passes now for $59.  Once those run out, weekend passes will be $79 with single night tickets at $49.  Check out the event website here.  You can also follow them for updates on Twitter @area506fest and Facebook at Area 506.

So, let’s celebrate ourselves this New Brunswick Day weekend, my fellow NB’ers, and take pride in where we are and where we’re headed!

Music Culture Goods