Christmas Tree Hunting

Before the first big snowfall later in the day, we decided it was time for us to head out and find our Christmas Tree.  We had a quieter time this year and had just our family out for the annual tree hunt.   We started off with Rebecca deciding she needed to play with some ice for most of our time hunting.  As a bonus, we were joined by the cat and dog, following us through the woods.  Abby picked out our tree this year.

Hope you enjoy a video Sheena made of the experience: Christmas Tree Hunting

Creative in the Family

IMG_1911For those that may not know, Sheena has been back to university this year and is in her first year working toward her social work degree.

On the surface, her courses have been interesting to see from an outsider’s perspective and how one does university education over distance on the internet, which challenges our past experiences of on-campus, test and exam-taking experiences of ‘learning’.

One neat effect I also hadn’t considered is that having someone in the house continuing their education does open our minds again to critical thinking and refreshes our understanding of current trends and research. I find it is positive for everyone in the house.

Her current course is about understanding oppression in our society. As part of the course, she chose to make a creative project as her final assignment. This is just another example of changes in assessment over the changing means of education. In these newer ways of assessment, Sheena could have written a 12 page paper; written a journal with a 5 page paper; or develop a project tied into a 5 page essay for her final assignment.

Using her musical and writing talents, she wrote, preformed, produced a song about her topic. Making her creative work even more moving was involving both Rebecca and Abby in her recording. I had to include it for all of you to listen.

Here it is:

Will you still love me when I’m different?”

https://youtu.be/6REyMaopAVA

After listening to the music – without any expertise in the topic – I couldn’t help but being impressed. It would be hard not to also mention that proud tear was shed in hearing the kids voices recorded in her ‘technical university work’. 🙂

Fall Water Beauty

Made a trip up Belleisle Creek from Belleisle Bay today.  

I saw lots of ducks avoiding the hunters and hiding in the tall grass.

Farther up the creek, it was so calm at times that the only sound was from leaves falling from the trees.


You can see I brought my buddy Voisine to keep the bow down.  On the way back, I tried out some canoe poling.  What a workout, but it made for a fast trip back.  

Fall Canoeing in Hampton 

In the warm weather, we had a little Thanksgiving paddle on the Kennebecasis.  The girls had fun in the mud during our stops.

Rubber boots anyone?

Always a serious bunch.

The maple trees that line the river are spectacular.  The girls also had fun peering in all the otter homes.

Backpacking Cape Chignecto Park

If you are looking for a short backpacking trip that is challenging and scenic, look no farther than Cape Chignecto Park in Nova Scotia.  Cape Chignecto Provincial Park is on the western tip of the northwestern Nova Scotia, jutting out into the Bay of Fundy and Minus Channel.  The park has a 52 kilometre loop, leading from West Advocate through to Eatonville, passing by the western tip of Cape Chignecto.  Cape Chignecto Park is almost across the Bay south of the Fundy Footpath — but can offer a much more scenic view of the Bay of Fundy shoreline.  The section between Cape Chignecto and Eatonville is one of the more scenic hiking routes in Nova Scotia, as the trail follows the zig zag cliffs on the Bay.

Typically, the trail is completed in a three day, two night trip.  There are backcountry campsites and cabins available for hikers.  This year, we revisited the area after our previous trips about 20 odd years ago – with one trip doing the trek in 18 hrs.  A fair bit older now, we split the difference and made it two days and one night, deciding to stay in a cabin near Bald Rock.

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Big Bald Rock and Isle Haute

Making the trip in two days was not without an arduous first day of over 30 kilometres, this time traveling counter-clockwise to Eatonville before going south on the coast.  We landed at our cabin at dusk and settled into our pre-made shelter with thanks.   The cabin was well-built, tidy and had a comfy covered front porch and table for cooking.

On our second day, we finished the trip going from Big Bald cabin through Cape Chignecto, Refugee Cove and Mill Brook.  In remembering the previous trips in this area, my mind had conveniently forgotten about the significant hills in between!  After making our best effort of the hills, we chose to end off the trip with a short beach walk back to the Red Rocks headquarters. (There is only one area where you can travel between stops along the beach.)  By revisiting the park after such a long time, it reminded me of the hiking treasures that are just next door waiting for adventure.

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Going straight up out of Refugee Cove

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The iconic rock in Refugee Cove at low tide

Summer Baseball

Rebecca and Abby tried out our local softball this year with much fanfare.  They received gloves from their aunt and uncle and were eager to learn and try out practices and games this summer.

The league set up their age group with three teams and both girls were on separate teams.  As the summer went on, they had the chances to play against each other.  What made it even more fun was that often Abby or Rebecca would be pitching when the other was at bat.  A quiet but fun rivalry ensued between them, both maintaining serious faces while meeting on the field.  Abby showed her determination by pitching frequently and constistently putting the ball in the right spot.  IMG_1285

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So, the season went on for two months and eventually were left with the final week of baseball games and an all day tournament.  Abby’s team was a bit short handed and ended the day early.  Rebecca’s team played on and had an incredible last game.  Rebecca was pitching and teammate Logan on first base were on fire getting outs each inning.  Rebecca was cheering on her team and the other team at the same time, just having fun.

To our great surprise, at the awards after the game both girls received recognition. Abby received most improved player and Rebecca received most deserving player.  The coach talked about how Rebecca was such a positive person for all.  We were proud of both girls!

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Canoeing the St. Croix River

Canoe-tripping or traveling by canoe is a new thing for the MacDonalds.  We recently started canoeing with friends and have discovered it was a fun way to camp in the outdoors and which also allows us to bring most of our camping gear.  While certain canoe routes require portaging gear, sections of the St. Croix River give the opportunity to travel a distance with little of the gear lugging.  A car shuttle is however required as its a one way trip.IMGP4546

For this trip, we have been learning of the St. Croix from Rheal’s family, who have been tripping this river since they were kids.  The St. Croix River is known to be the International Waterway Paddling route, as the Canada-US border follows the river from Spednic Lake in mid-southwestern New Brunswick all the way to the Bay of Fundy at St. Andrews.  The St. Croix River is also Canadian Heritage River and along with Passamaquoddy Bay was the first place of French colonization in North America during the 1600s.  The river was used for fishing, logging and travel between countries for centuries.  The water levels are now controlled by release of water from the Spednic Dam, which will allow higher levels throughout the summer.

With that history in mind, I was looking forward to our trip introducing our children to the area. Our  trip involved a section of the river that is made up two 4 to 5 hour days of paddling , from Vanceboro through to Scotts Brook, a campground at the end of ‘highway’ 745 closest to Beaconsfield and Canoose.  (‘Highway’ also means dirt road this far west in NB.) The river is managed like a park by the St Croix Int’l Waterway Commission with maintained backcountry campsites with pit toilets and groomed sites in some areas.  Throughout the area, there are strict rules with the border and its ‘one country camping’ policy.   It is useful to take in some of the trip planning information found online.  You can also check out the water levels prior to your trip.

Our sections of the river involved faster water with ‘rips’, some ‘dead’ water areas with slow current and the highlight of the trip, ‘Little Falls’ — a long steeper set of fast but passable rapids.  We traveled from Vanceboro to Halls Brook on our first day.  With the hour and a half car shuttle, we had a later start at 1130.  (There are shuttles available to make the most of your time, although with cost. )

The girls immediately went to fishing, trying out their suggested bass lure.  Not a minute after casting, Rebecca was chatting and realized she had a fish on the line.  With squeals from both girls, and everyone thinking we had tipped in the first minutes of paddling, I helped her lift the 11 inch fish into the canoe.  The goal of the rest of the trip was now set: how many and how big can we catch! We traveled the rest of the day enjoying the scenery, seeing the American camps from the water, fishing and swimming where we could.  IMGP4573

I’m learning a lot of paddling tips from Rheal and Justin.  Mostly on navigating the river, following a route and reading the water in front of you.  Kayaking rivers does take a lot less planning, but a loaded canoe is certainly a challenge in faster water.

Our second day is planned well, with knowing that Little Falls are up ahead, to start the day off with a challenge that may involve getting wet.  When starting from Halls Brook on the second day, on a two day trip, there’s less consequences for tipping when your gear can dry off at home.  Its also a bit prudent to tie in your equipment and portage the loose items just in case.  We all made it down the falls without tipping and even had a surprise when Justin’s 3 1/2 year old could be seen enjoying the view from the front.  After watching everyone go down one at a time, the adults and kids then had their fun swimming the last section of rapids.

After Little Falls, we continued our trek downstream — most notably in the calmer areas between rips, Rebecca wanted to ‘treasure hunt’ for items that the previously tipped canoers may have not strapped to their boats.  Last month, Justin found an expensive waterproof speaker in the waters south of the falls.  So, as we slowly made our way, Rebecca lowered herself in the water and ahead of the boat swimming the river and diving down for possible treasures.  After reaching the end of the slow pools, she climbed in for the rest of the trip.

Learning the techniques of moving the boat with a single paddle and paddling techniques such as quick thrust to turn the boat around a rock were great fun practicing.  The girls did have their own roles in helping us stay afloat by leaning into the rocks we went against, calling out ‘sleeper’ rocks among others in the river and helping out paddling.  It was those times we were working as a team in a family boat, how neat is that! We still were hung up on a few rocks due to my route finding skills.  (The photo does show the looks on the girls faces as we were just getting stuck! 🙂 )

The second day ended at Scott’s Brook, a beautiful camping area.  We made plans to revisit and do a farther trip to Loon Bay, another day of canoeing further south.  Thinking of extending the adventure, I had been thinking it would be neat to have the time to make a week long trip of the whole river.  For now, the girls have settled in on their new ‘tradition’ of doing a yearly trip to the ‘StCroixes’ as they say.  I can’t say I’ll mind.

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Canoeing the Nashwaak River

In our preparation for the ‘kids trip’, an overnighter on the St. Croix River, Rheal and I took our kids down the Nashwaak River for a half day paddle.  

The Nashwaak runs southward from Stanley to Fredericton.  The section we did was between Nashwaak bridge and Taymouth , making about 3.5 hrs paddle with a lunch and swim.  It’s a one way trip, so we needed to shuttle our boats between the ‘put in’ at the Nashwaak bridge and the ‘take out’ at the church in Taymouth by the Tay river junction.  The Nashwaak Bridge put-in is on the west side of the bridge, south of the road.  


It was our girls first faster water paddle and they took it with gusto.  Our pivotal moment was when Rebecca saw Rheal standing up in the canoe and wanted to do the same down river, trying to stand on every flat section.  She loves paddle boarding , so it was a natural transition.  Abby was our rock spotter, pointing them out most of the time! 


There was a few mandatory races, all lost by the MacDonalds.  We will need to practice our heaves.  At lunchtime, there was a hot meal courtesy of Rheal.


The girls took the rapids in stride, and were whooping at each little drop. Wait till the St. Croix we said!


Happy Canada Day

Great news this Canada Day and fitting for Lawrence and M.C. , as we celebrate the change of ownership of the Brook Village Grocery.  After 20 years, Dad turns over the keys to the new owners, Tim and Karen.  Dad and Mom and will have many great memories to reflect on as they begin a new stage in their life!  Happy Retirement to Lawrence (Grandpa & Dad) !

In New Brunswick, rain did not slow down the Canada Day celebrations in Belleisle. Rebecca and Abby got the chance to be on a float for the softball teams in  Belleisle. 

It wouldn’t be Canada Day without a piper !  Excellent tunes which the kids loved.


Happy Canada Day to everyone from our lil jr Firefighters.