You Hung the Moon: Saint John’s First Moonlight Bazaar

My city, Saint John, New Brunswick, has been killing it this summer with all the cool, outdoor, community events. From HULA to Area 506, Festival of Sail to Third Shift and Quality Block Party, Uptown Saint John is quickly becoming the place to be.

Last Saturday night, the latest event was added, and this one might just take the cake. Or should I say, the moon? The first ever Moonlight Bazaar was held in the Grannan Lane area of Uptown, and for it this city literally hung the moon. A giant, inflatable moon, that is. The event also featured street vendors, food, performances, and a DJ.

The moon was a truly awesome attraction, and everyone wanted to get a picture of it and with it. According to organizers, it weighed 150 lbs and was 7 metres wide. It hung, suspended and glowing above a temporary lawn behind Port City Royal and drew a crowd of thousands over the course of the evening. Across the street, people strolled down the city’s newly revamped Grannan Alley, just another dirty Saint John alley not so long ago, now the epicentre of this city’s mojo.

The Moonlight Bazaar was just one in a long line of must-see events that Saint John is starting to get a reputation for. The kind of event that people kick themselves later for missing.

I can’t tell you how exciting it is to be living in Saint John at this time, as the city gathers momentum and pulses with energy. When I moved to this city over a decade ago, you would never have seen an event like this. Any night of the week, you could go Uptown and pick and choose your parking spot. Now you’re lucky to find one at all, even on a slow Tuesday night.

This Uptown revitalization is the work of many, many people. It takes a village, after all. Companies willing to invest in Saint John, developers, passionate citizens and creative types who all envision a bright future for this city.

I’m no business person. I know I’m not going to be opening up my own shop or organizing the next big event. But I am a citizen of this city and I’m strongly invested in its future. And I’ll use my voice to shout from the rooftops about what’s happening here.

A city, down on its luck for so long, taking back its destiny. Creating the kind of artful community that gathers under a giant moon and dances in the streets. Dances to celebrate the shedding of its former skin into something new; something fresh. Something inspired.

Here are a few shots I took during the Midnight Bazaar:

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Our Cape Chignecto Trek

We returned a few days ago from our 51 km, three-day trek around Cape Chignecto Provincial Park, and – spoiler alert – we survived!  There were moments when I wasn’t so sure, especially when the rain was coming down in sheets on Saturday, but we persevered.

Cape Chignecto Map
Cape Chignecto loop trail

We arrived at the park shortly after 8 am on Friday, full of energy, clean and fresh.  The parking lot is at Red Rocks, where the Visitor Centre is also located.  We decided to do the hike counter-clockwise, although a lot of the hikers we met were travelling in the opposite direction.  The reason we chose this direction is so that our longest day of hiking would be on the first day, and each day after that would require fewer kilometers.

Friday was a beautiful day for hiking.  A bit foggy in the morning, but the sun broke out pretty early on.  Luckily, it wasn’t too hot, as this leg of the hike would take us directly across the park, mostly through the forest, to Seal Cove.

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Amazing coastal views just a few minutes into the hike.
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Beef jerky break on the Eatonville trail.
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The first 6 km is frontcountry standard, with lots of stairs.

The first 3 km or so of Day 1 is a steady uphill climb but after you reach the Y where we turned right for Eatonville, the trail levels off for most of the rest of the way.  At the end of Day 1, we had hiked approximately 21 km, arriving at camp around 7 pm.

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Friendly hiker we chatted with on a break at the Eatonville bunkhouse.
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Red cliffs and the Three Sisters in the distance.
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So many cliffs, so little time.

The Seal Cove campsites are small, but flat.  Not all campsites have picnic tables, but the ones that are there seem to move around quite a bit.  We managed to set up camp and have some time on the beach before it started to rain.  It’s a short hike to the beach but well worth it.  One of the nicest thing about this hike was all the small, private beaches along the way.  They were so perfect, I wanted to climb down to each one, set up shop and live out my days there.

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I wanted to live on this beach.

When we woke up on Day 2, it was already raining.  Luckily, we had brought a tarp with us and set it up over the picnic table so we had somewhere to prepare and eat breakfast. On this day, we were planning to make it all the way to Refugee Cove, about 17 km along the coastal trail.  We got a short break in the rain in the morning and couldn’t believe our luck.  Unfortunately, it wouldn’t last as it started to rain lightly for a long time and then quite heavily as we were coming into the Big Bald Rock area.  This area is wide open and would be stunning on a nicer day, however, we had to boot it across the rock face to keep from drowning.  We took shelter on the porch of the Big Bald Rock cabin while we waited out the worst of the rain.  At this point in the hike we strongly considered getting the hell out of there but as we were halfway around the loop we figured any hike out would take just as long as the rest of the loop so after a short break, we headed back out.

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The rain held off for views of these stunning little coves.

We did eventually make it to the campsites at Refugee Cove, completely soaked through, tired and hungry.  We were lucky that we have a dry pitch tent so that we could set up our tent without getting everything wet.  We got into the driest clothes we had, ate some food and passed out pretty early.

The next morning, the rain had mostly stopped, thank goodness.  We packed up for the last time and headed out early for our last and most challenging 12 kms of the loop. There are two major hills to deal with on this leg of the loop, one to get out of Refugee Cove and one to get out of Mill Brook.

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Hiking out to Refugee Cove beach.
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A foggy day at Refugee Cove.
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Campsites are in behind the beach at Refugee Cove.

The park doesn’t make use of switchbacks nearly as much as we would have liked.  Most of its major hills are straight up.  In fact, Mill Brook hill is so long, there are two benches for resting along the way.  In between these two hills and after Mill Brook, you find yourself hiking through a beautiful old growth forest.  Lush with ferns and with a well groomed and easy-to-follow trail, this was one of my favourite parts of the hike.

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Hiking through the old growth forest, on our way back to Red Rocks.

When you get closer to Red Rocks (the finish line!), you have the choice of taking the main trail back or descending to the beach for the rest of the hike.  If you time it right with low tide and you take the beach, it knocks off about 1.5 km from the hike.  At this point, we were all for this so down to the beach we went.  It was actually the perfect way to end the hike, walking on the floor of the Bay of Fundy, with cliffs towering above us and waves crashing to our right.

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Last 1.5 km on the beach back to Red Rocks.

Even with the heavy rain, we still very much enjoyed this hike.  Even when we were soaked completely through, we could still appreciate the incredible beauty right in our back yards.

Here are a few of my take-aways of the hike:

  1.  This is a stunning hike.  With so much of the hike following the coast of the Bay of Fundy, with numerous little coves, red cliffs and 100 ft waterfalls, it’s well worth the sore feet and tight calves that it costs to do.
  2. If the forecast calls for 15 or more mm of rain, I would recommend renting a cabin or bunkhouse, if available.  They’re well built, with bunks for at least 8 people and a furnace or heater for those cool nights (or if you get soaked and need to dry out!).
  3. Take your time.  We only allotted two nights on the trails so each day was full of hiking and there wasn’t much time for checking out lookouts or stopping to admire the views. We plan to go back next summer and rent three bunkhouses/cabins and really take our time with the hike.
  4. While there are some tough hills along the trail, most of it is pretty moderate, making this loop a great introduction to backpacking, for those interested in testing the waters.  If it’s going to be your first outing though, I would recommend taking at least three nights on the trail, so you don’t overwhelm yourself the first time out.
  5. Hiking poles are highly recommended.  There were some pretty swampy areas of the trail between Big Bald Rock and Refugee Cove and many brook crossings along the way.  Poles really helped us getting around these areas and provided balance when crossing swollen brooks.
  6. Have fun!  The right attitude is key.  You are going to have ups and downs and times when you doubt whether you can keep going but it’s really important that you realize that nothing lasts forever, even Mill Brook hill.

And we highly recommend checking out the Wild Caraway Restaurant in Advocate Harbour, after your hike.  You’ll surely be hungry and this place has amazing eats that are going to satisfy that post-hike hunger.  They even have two rooms upstairs for rent, in case you want to get a shower ASAP.

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Finally get to take off those packs and boots!

Our Grand (Manan) Adventure

Joel and I recently returned from a quick weekend trip to Grand Manan Island, located off the coast of New Brunswick, in the Bay of Fundy.

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In Blacks Harbour.  Here comes our vessel!
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Our first view of Swallowtail Lighthouse

For accommodations, we decided to try out our new MSR tent at the Hole-in-the-Wall Campground that I have heard so many wonderful things about.  Hole-in-the-Wall is a wilderness campground located in North Head which boasts cliff edge campsites where you can listen to whales playing in the Bay of Fundy as you drift to sleep.

We watched the ferry come and go
Cliff edge views

The campground is located on an old airfield.  The centre part of the park, once the site of landing strips, is now a place where dulse is laid out to dry in the sun and seabirds bath in a small pond nearby.

The campground was a little more rustic than I was expecting, with the only running water available at the entrance buildings.  But what it lacks in amenities, it more than makes up for in wow factor.  The views from the cliff edge campsites are spectacular. From our cliff edge site at the top of Fish Head, we had a nearly 270 degree view of the Bay of Fundy.  All campsites have fire pits and chemical toilets are available nearby. Small kids and dogs are, understandably, not permitted on cliff edge sites, for which the park also has cliff top sites, RV sites and camp cabins.

Mornings at Fish Head

The park has a walking trail that hikers can use to travel all the way from Swallowtail Lighthouse to Whale Cove, including a stop at the famous Hole-in-the-Wall rock formation, where the park gets its name.  We did most of the hike, but stopped at the Hole-in-the-Wall without continuing on to Whale Cove.  The trail to the rock formation is very well traveled and easy to follow.  The trail to Swallowtail Lighthouse is longer and a little more overgrown.  Keep in mind that the trail cuts through many of the cliff edge campsites, so privacy might be an issue for some people.  We didn’t mind, though, as it gave us the chance to chat with fellow campers and visitors to the park.

The famous Hole-in-the-Wall
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Views of Swallowtail Lighthouse from the trail
Amazing views past Swallowtail Lighthouse to the Bay of Fundy

One more thing I should mention about staying at Hole-in-the-Wall.  While on clear nights, it is pure magic watching the sun set and moon rise over the bay, with the sounds of whales breaching in the distance – and you can indeed hear whales – when the fog rolls in, be warned that the fog horn will go off, for as long as there is fog.  On our first night, the horn went off all night long.  While I wouldn’t let this keep me from staying here again, I would bring ear plugs next time.

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Sun sets over the cliff in Grand Manan
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The full moon rises over the Bay of Fundy

On our second day, we wanted to see a little more of the island, so we picked up a “Heritage Trails and Footpaths” guide, published by The Friends of Grand Manan Trails and headed south to find adventure.

Since the west side of the island is accessible only by foot or ATV – with the exception of Dark Harbour – we wanted to explore a little bit of that side, as well as the southern tip of the island.  We parked our car just above Deep Cove, at Bradford Cove Pond Road and headed out on an ATV trail across the southern tip of the island, to Bradford Cove.  For me, this was the worst part of the trek.  With huge puddles across the trail, and little for paths to go around, we were forced to bushwhack our way through, trying our best not to get soaked.  We eventually fought our way through to Bradford Cove, where we headed south on the trail, stopping for lunch at the fantastic Hay Point.

Views at Hay Point
Break time!

The trail south at this point is well maintained and easy to follow, with amazing sea views as you get closer to Southern Head.  We continued on past Southern Head to Pats Cove, via the Lower and Upper Flock of Sheep.  These are large, smooth rocks deposited on the shoreline by glaciers that apparently looked like flocks of sheep from sea, hence their name.  From Pats Cove, we hiked along the roadway a couple kilometers back to our car.  The whole loop was approximately 12km, easy to moderate in difficulty and had some amazing views of the cliffs and rocky shores of this gem of an island.

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Lower Flock of Sheep, so named because the rocks looked like sheep from sea
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Southern Head
More cliff views

Our weekend was a great introduction to Grand Manan, but there is so much more to see, including Ross Island and White Head Island, as well as Anchorage Provincial Park and Machias Seal Island, a puffin breeding site.  Joel already has plans to return to do an epic hike almost all the way around the island.  Me?  I’ve just added another to my all-time favourite islands list.

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Last morning in Grand Manan

 

 

Surprising Finds in the Maritimes: Parlee Brook Ice Wall

If you are a Game of Thrones fan, then surely you are familiar with The Wall, the massive wall of ice that protects the Seven Kingdoms from the wildlings and White Walkers that live Beyond.  According to George R.R. Martin, it’s some 300 miles long, 700 feet tall and made of solid ice.

But, I bet you didn’t know that New Brunswick has it’s own version of The Wall, in the form of the Parlee Brook Amphitheatre.  The natural amphitheatre becomes encased in sheets of ice on three sides during winter.  And while it may not be GOT epic, when you’re standing at the bottom staring up at those massive ice walls, it’s pretty amazing.

Earlier this winter, Joel and I, our friend Mandy and her beagle Toby, decided to try to find NB’s elusive ice wall.  Armed with our hiking gear, we arrived at the Abbey (for directions, go to hikingnb.ca).  Just as we were arriving, the Saint John Outdoor Enthusiasts were gearing up to head into the amphitheatre.  They asked us if we had ice cleats.  We stared blankly back.  We did not have ice cleats.  “Do we really need them?” we asked.

Turns out, we really kinda did.  We survived the icy hike but we all fell on our asses at least once, too.  So yeah, ice cleats are highly recommended.  It’s probably not highly recommended for dogs either, with all the ice but we did see quite a few heading in with dogs and they didn’t seem to be having too much trouble.

This is an amazing winter adventure.  It’s not difficult, other than the ice.  If you prepare and have ice cleats to go over your boots, you should be fine.  You follow a dirt road in for the first few kilometers and veer off into the woods at the trail marker, following a frozen brook up into the amphitheatre.  And since winter doesn’t seem to be loosening its grip on us anytime soon, I’m sure there is plenty of ice still to be seen.  Just watch out for those White Walkers, would ya?

Here are some images from our hike earlier this winter:

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The Abbey, where the hike begins
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Winter Wonderland
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Following the brook into the amphitheatre
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The Outdoor Enthusiasts take a closer look at The Wall
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Good place for a break!

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Just part of The Wall
It’s massive
Looking back where we came from

 

Photo Exploration of North End Saint John

I know, I’ve been a bit MIA lately.  Sometimes, you just need a little break, ya know?

It’s not that we haven’t been on some amazing adventures.  And if you follow me on Instagram (link in sidebar), than you know that we’ve been to Parlee Brook Amphitheatre and Fundy National Park this winter, both amazing experiences.  But it’s spring now, and with it comes some nicer temperatures for getting outside and exploring with a camera.

If you are not familiar with the IGers brand of Instagram accounts, it’s a worldwide network designed to bring amateur photographers together.  They organize regular InstaMeets, where you can get together with other members of your community, take some photos and hopefully make a few friends along the way.  We’re very lucky to have our own IGers account here in the city of Saint John, as they are not often given out to cities with a population of less than 100, 000.  But co-moderator Monique Gionet wrote to Instagramers.com with an essay on why we deserve our own account.  I don’t know what she said in that essay, but she won them over.

Yesterday, as part of Worldwide Instagram Meet #15, me and a few other Saint John IGers (@igerssaintjohn) took to the streets of old north end Saint John to spread some love and make some art.

It was such a fun experience.  Talking to people I’ve only known online and who are as passionate about photography and this city as I am was wonderful.  And there was so much to explore in the north end.  Places I didn’t even know existed, like Victoria Square and Nicolle Community Centre.  And the people we met on the streets were so friendly!  From people shouting hello to us from second story windows, to people on the streets who stopped to chat, there is a real sense of community here.  And I think people were happy to see that their often forgotten neighbourhood was getting a little bit of attention.

This neighbourhood has many challenges, that’s for certain.  There were so many more boarded up buildings than I imagined there would be.  But there’s so much potential here, if people would just take a closer look.

Here’s my photo exploration of Saint John North, as part of #wwim15:

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I want to thank Monique and Bryn for organizing such a wonderful event.  I can’t wait for the next meet!

If you’d like to see more photos from our meet and you’re on Instagram, search for the hashtag #wwim15sj.

A Few of My Favourite Maritime Instagramers: 2017 Edition

It’s been about a year since my last A Few of My Favourite Maritime Instagramers post, where I presented some of my favourite IGers and the beautiful work they’re doing to highlight our spectacular corner of the world.

Some people say that Instagram is the last vestige of niceness left on the internet.  And while I think social networks are what you make them, I can’t disagree that Instagram is one of the friendliest and most positive apps.  It’s a place where you scroll through beautiful image after beautiful image and people seem to support each other, instead of trying to break them down.  But don’t let the light attitude fool you, some of these folks work incredibly hard, and produce awe-inspiring images to prove it.

In the past year I’ve increased my follow list substantially and I’ve got some new favourites to share with y’all.

Here’s a few of my favourites from this past year:


Al Douglas (@alexdouglas) – Al is the dude to follow if you want to know what’s new and hot in the food and beverage scene on Prince Edward Island.  And then there’s his incredible landscape photos of the island; so pretty you’ll want to get in your car and head for the Confederation Bridge right now.  You’re welcome.

Strong winds and a sky on fire.

A post shared by AL DOUGLAS (@alexgdouglas) on

Dave Culligan (@dave.culligan) – If you haven’t heard of Dave Culligan and his 365 video project, where you been, yo?  Dave is more than 200 days into his 365 project, and I promise you that watching his daily one minute videos will never fail to improve your mood.  His joie de vivre is infectious and will help you to appreciate all that life has to offer, even when a little rain must fall.

Hilary Hendsbee (@hilaryhendsbee) – Hilary is my kind of gal.  An explorer and adventurer, avid camper and hiker, Hilary and her trusty Tiguan go all the places you always wanted to go but never seem to have the time (and a few you’ve never heard of!). Her photographic style is stunning and reveals the wildness right in our own backyards.

🍃i found the perfect spot to sip my morning ☕️ #wannahangout

A post shared by hil. // nova scotia. ⚓️ (@hilaryhendsbee) on

Brinton Photography (@brintonphotography) – Using a commercial drone, photographer Gary Brinton captures some of the most stunning landscape photography I have ever seen. His work puts a whole new perspective on the beauty of this region, that we so often take for granted.

Gillian Barfoot (@eyegillian) – Gillian is a New Brunswick based photographer with a special knack for turning ordinary objects into fascinating subjects.  She’s been on fire with her photography so far this year and I can’t wait to see what she’s got in store next. But no pressure!

Chillin With Bernie (@chillinwithbernie) – There are a number of young Halifax photographers currently taking Instagram by storm, but perhaps none more so than Bernie, aka Chillin With Bernie.  His photos have an edgy, stylistic vibe and deftly display the intimate relationship between subject and environment.

😍😍😍

A post shared by BERNIE • HALIFAX (@chillinwithbernie) on

Jon Billings (@jonbillings) – Jon is a photographer based on the island of Grand Manan, where the highest tides in the world relentlessly batter this small spit of land whilst creating some of the most majestic landscapes you’ll ever see.  But don’t just take my word for it, go check out Jon’s feed.

Coming around the bend. #grandmanan #eastcoastlifestyle #storm #ocean #mycbcnb #noisenb #ferry

A post shared by Jon Billings (@jonbillings) on

Explore the East (@exploreeast) – Explore the East has been featured on the blog before, but their work is so good, I had to include them here.  The Instagram account was started by Nicole Boutilier and Colby Veinotte as a way to share their adventures and highlight lesser known areas of the region.  They not only feature their photos, but those of other Instagramers as well.  It’s a wonderfully collaborative page, focused on highlighting the best of the East Coast.

Do you know of a great Maritime Instagramer doing great work?  Let me know in the comments section!

2016: Year in Review

Christmas is right around the corner and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of my readers for following along on my Maritime adventures this past year.  I hope you all enjoy some time with loved ones over the holidays!

Now is the time to reflect on the passing year and to look forward to what’s next.  Joel and I went on some great adventures in 2016.

There was cliffside camping on Turtle Mountain.  That was an incredible experience. Long hike.  We almost got eaten by bears.  Totally worth it.

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Cliffside camping on Turtle Mountain
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NB, you are stunning
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Panoramic views

We also camped overnight at Cape Split, on the Nova Scotia side of the Bay of Fundy.  We shared the trail with a lot more hikers than we’re used to but when you arrive on the edge of that cliff overlooking the Minas Basin, it’s easy to see the appeal.  It was definitely one of the highlights of our year.

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Those views, though.
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More cliffside camping

We combined our Cape Split adventure with a road trip around the western half of Nova Scotia, with stops in Yarmouth, Cape Sable Island (the most southerly point of NS), historic Lunenburg, stunning Blue Rocks and Halifax.  Although we squeezed as much as we could into the trip, there are so many more places I wished we could have stopped. Next time, I guess.

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Walking The Hawk Beach
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Lunenburg waterfront
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Gloomy Maritime charm in Blue Rocks, NS

Also in 2016, we finally made it up to Mount Carleton Provincial Park, where we got to hike and stand on top of the highest peak in the Maritimes.  They say you can see 10 million trees from the peak, and I’d say that is probably true.

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Heading for the peak
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On top of Mount Carleton

We even managed to make a trip to Prince Edward Island, to beautiful Dalvay by the Sea. Such a lovely place.

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Dalvay by the Sea
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Dalvay Beach

Closer to home, we explored the new addition to the Fundy Trail Parkway in the spring, toured Ministers Island in the winter, Kingsbrae Gardens in the summer, and checked out Walton Glen Gorge in the fall, among so many others.  This truly is the province of all season adventure.

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Gorgeous displays at Kingsbrae Gardens
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Ministers Island
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Long Beach, now accessible by Fundy Trail
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Walton Glen Gorge in Fall

As for what 2017 holds in store, I’ve already declared it to be The Year of the Park.

With all National Parks, Historic Sites and Marine Conservation Areas offering free admission in 2017 to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday, this will be the perfect year to take advantage of the best this country has to offer in the way of outdoor adventure.  We already have plans to camp in Fundy National Park for the first time in winter, as the park is open as part of the birthday celebrations.  I would encourage you all to take advantage of this incredible opportunity to experience the wildness that makes this country so great.

Again, thanks for reading and I’ll see you on the trails in 2017!

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