Snow and more snow!

That's been the theme in the Maritimes for the last month. We've had about three and a half metres in as many weeks.  Despite the need for constant shoveling it seems, once the weather warmed up, the abundance of snow has made for excellent snow play.  

We spent the morning and afternoon digging out tunnels in the snow piles that have built up over the winter.  

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We also dug out their tree fort tunnel which has been buried almost to the four foot wall.

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We all contributed to another tunnel in the side yard.  The girls learned persistence pays off when digging a long tunnel (even though Dad had quit after Willow demolished his side!).  In the end, it was reminiscent of a movie we watched recently:

		LUKE (Dave) 
                
"You want the impossible.'
(focusing, quietly) All right, I'll give it a try. YODA (Sheena) No! Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.

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Yesterday, Sheena and I had a date (day) in the Fredericton area.  We first headed to Mactaquac Provincial Park for skating and snowshoeing.  We also found that there are many more activities there (sliding, cross country skiing) , necessitating another visit to explore more of them.

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The 'Murch' trail had seen little visitors due to the deep snow, well other than the deer and animals which had highlighted the trail for us.

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As always, the way back is easier.  We also found the spot where they have the 'Treego' (summertime zipline fun high up in the trees).

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Afterward, we dried off and headed to downtown Fredericton for some more skating before our dinner out.  This time, we found ourselves at Officer's Square on Queen St near the water.  In a neat setup, they have a warming hut/change room and ice all the way up to the door, which was convenient. 

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We ended off our evening at a great restaurant, Isaac's Way.  Best described as fancy dressed up pub food in an artsy atmosphere (an old courthouse, even with a vault as private dining room).   Here we are enjoying the night while waiting for our friends to join us for the meal. 

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Yearly Adventures

A recent newspaper series in the Cape Breton Post on yearly group adventures has had me reflecting on the previous trips we've taken.  

I've dug up a few links from the ones that are posted online, certainly not the same as going through boxes of photos and papers, but yet still the same content.  A few of the earlier ones are not posted as this site did not exist then!  

Enjoy:

2014: Algonquin Provinical Park, Ontario 

2013: Meat Cove to Red River, Cape Breton 

2012: Baxter State Park, Maine

2011: Trinidad, Cuba, Part 1 and Part 2

2010: Return to Gros Morne, Newfoundland: North Rim Traverse Part 1 and Part 2

2009: Fundy Footpath 

2008: Driving across Canada

2007: Banff National Park, Alberta: Banff to Lake Louise

2006: Aster Lake, Alberta  , Part 2

2006: Petites, Newfoundland

2005: Returning home

Backpacking in Ontario: Algonquin Park

At the end of August, Kris and I drove to meet Matt at for our annual backpacking trip, this year at Algonquin Park in Southeastern Ontario. Algonquin Park is primarily known for its water bound trips via canoe and kayak.  With a humongous 7,653 km² of forest and lake filled wilderness in the park, our backpacking trip planned to explore a little portion of the western side of the park on the Western Upland backpacking trail.

This trip also had a bit of travel time for us (33 hours total driving) through 4 provinces (for Kris).  Our travels to Ontario included an overnight camp out in Voyageur Provincial Park campground near Montreal.  The park and campground came recommended for us and was an easy off-the-road, good quality campground outside of the traffic of Montreal, but yet just inside Ontario.  The campground borders the Ottawa River and has access to the water.

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Camping at Voyageur made for a relaxing evening and morning to break up the days of travel.

We met Matt in the Algonquin Park itself, having one of his shortest drives yet for our backpacking trips (from Toronto).  It was a typical reunion of good friends and hikers with talk of new gear, conversation about how to spend the next few days and of course, sampling  Matt’s ‘craft’ soda.

The following day, we decided on getting our hiking legs in action to do a few day hikes the day before we began our backpacking trip.  This ended up being a good decision as we needed to ease our bodies into what was going to be a long first day of backpacking.  Our early planning had the first backpacking day at 25+ kilometres.So, the 18+ kms of day tripping over three hikes (Oxtogue Falls, Lookout trail, Track and Tower trail) was welcome exercise.  We were also introduced to the big wood forests, plentiful watercourses and covered canopy hiking that is typical of Algonquin Park.

It was also clear just how popular Algonquin Park is for day visitors and campers alike, likely due to its proximity to the more populated areas of Ontario.  The day trip trails were relatively busy with a variety of hikers and skill sets.  The views from the trail lookoffs were grand and made a person appreciate the expansiveness of the park itself.

There are a few stores and shops within the park boundary, spread out along highway 60.  For about an hour, we searched for a magazine or book for Matthew with no avail.  Matt had forgotten his mandatory hiking reading companion and would lament the same throughout the trip.

By the end of the day, we had our plans for the backpacking trip.  We hoped to hike to Clara Lake (25+kms) by Day one, Rainbow Lake (10+kms) by Day two and back to the start on Day 3 (20 kms).

We started off toward the Western Upland early the next morning in our clean shirts.  Within a few minutes of starting off, we saw a large moose on the trail ahead of us.  With a crash it disappeared into the woods and so began the ondulating trek toward Clara Lake and our evening campsite.  The day’s weather was perfect and we enjoyed the tree cover to keep us away from the sun while making our 25 kilometre day.

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Algonquin also has alot of unique signage.  The trails are also very well marked and well trodden.  We had no trouble finding our way.  For the first loop section of the Western Uplands trail, we followed a blue hiker sign.  The second loop follows a yellow hiker and the third (and hardest) is red.  What was also interesting to see on our hikes were the cross trails marked the portages between lakes.  At the lakeside, the trail markers are posted on trees with the distances of the portages ahead.  We saw some portages that were 2500m or more! Those that take on these adventures are clearly some people dedicated at canoeing.

We began to see the iconic Algonquin lakes on our way, many with islands dotting the middle.  Few beach shorelines are found  as the forest comes to the water’s edge and many fallen trees fill the shallows and shoreline.  We quickly passed Maple Leaf Lake and reached Maggie Lake for a lunch break.

After blasting across the woods between large lakes and late in the evening, we finally arrived at Clara Lake, our first destination.  Despite the long haul of travel, we quickly set to work with our nightly chores of campsite making, food cooking, eating and in my case, swimming.  I tried to swim at every opportunity in the evenings as a relaxing break to hauling backpacks.   The campsites are well established and most had a metal stand for mounting stoves and other cooking utensils.  As we ate supper, I reflected on the day’s hike and realized 25 kilometres in a day (on trail) is clearly my limit, or just slightly over that.  Nevertheless, it was still nice to take an evening swim.

Despite the beautiful surroundings, we were surprised to find small visitors arriving at the campsite just after sundown.  Like roving zombies (I had just had an apocalyptic book marathon prior to this trip), the mice emerged from the woods around us and could be heard gnawing on all things loose and crawling across the top of our tents.  We had hung our food as per our camping ‘rules’ — at a distance well away from our campsite.  However, this did not stop the mice from coming — and even chewing into my new(ish) water filter bag and tubing which was hung from a tree!  In the morning, Kris awoke to find that the mice and or chipmunks had a late night snack with his breakfast, lunch and dinners.  We were now down to one water filter — thankfully we decided to double up on some communal gear (another ‘rule’).

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With our second day underway, we took our time traveling across the 10.4 kilometres to Rainbow Lake. After our long first day, we jokingly said we’d continue onto the 20+ kilometre diversion toward Islet Lake  — and then quickly decided to continue the ‘easier’ route, knowing Day 3 would be another long day of travel. We arrived at Rainbow Lake early in the afternoon and had plenty of time for camp setup, swimming, island conquering and even a campfire to stave off Matt’s no-book boredom.  That evening, we had another visit from the mice, but were better prepared for the scurrying undead.

 

 

Day Three began with a bit more mice and food carnage.  Kris was now down to three nuts (kidding), but seriously was reconsidering all previous ideas we had about packing food!  We were also graced with a bit of heavy rain in the morning, but given the tree cover, had very little need for pack covers.

With our last day having been the start to a long weekend for those outside the park, as we hiked past the four lakes (Susan, Redwing, Lupus and Thunder Lake), we began to see more hikers (we had only seen two in our days in the backcountry).  We passed more groups heading to the first night campsites and began our quick hike to the end.  I was getting a second wind after a slow earlier part of the day and was anticipating the bag of chips in the car at the end of the trip!  I had experimented a little with packing ‘less’ food than I normally pack (lacking evening snacks), which was taking a bit of mental toll.  I realized that chocolate and/or sweets in the evenings may be a necessity for me on backpacking trips.

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Rainbow Lake Poses

The final part of  our trip was quite the denouement.  We had arrived safe and sound at the trailhead parking lot and quickly drove to the campsite hoping to empty out and dry our gear (amid great weather), before we scrambled off to the Portage Store restaurant for a well deserved meal.   After our meal, we thought it would be relaxing to play scrabble on the covered deck and watch the newbie canoeists with their daily rentals.  What we didn’t forsee was the thunderstorm rolling in and downpouring, all over the canoeists, but also all over our gear hung out at the campsite a 10 minute drive away.  It ended up downpouring for 10 hours straight, making our last night in Algonquin a bit soggy, but redeemed with thoughts of a another good trip done.

Matt made a great compilation of the entire trip using his new camera.  It does capture the terrain very well and shows some of our fun along the way as well.

Below is our last photo before our final (damp) night’s sleep for an even earlier (4:50am) wakeup to begin to the long drive home to the Maritimes.  Note: all photos of Dave in this post were taken by Kris Griffon.

Return to Calgary: Good Friends, Mountains and a Rodeo

Six years ago, we moved back home to the Maritimes from Calgary. In the six years, we've had a chance to have friends visit us in New Brunswick, but we have always wanted our girls to see where we used to live and catch up with friends still living there.   Once we told the girls we were going, they were excited and started a countdown, telling their friends a few weeks beforehand.  They were definitely interested as Rebecca was born in Calgary and Abby had only heard of and seen pictures of our time there.

The trip to Calgary was definitely part of the story, having to drive to Halifax for our flights, stay in a hotel (the girls' first) and get up in the early morning to take three planes to Calgary through Toronto and Regina.   As Rebecca tells it, because its so far — we had to take 3 Planes!  Both girls did well with the travel, but were naturally exhausted after their 20 hour trip to the west.  We were fortunate to be able to stay with our good friends Ramona and Michael.  It was the girls first time remembering a meeting with them (Ramona visited when they were really young).  Each morning that we were there, we were treated with delicious gourmet breakfasts which got us all started on our days of adventuring and visiting.  Upon our daily return to their house, I would be remiss to not mention the amazing desserts which we feasted upon while chatting and showing photos of our day trips. IMG_0711

 

Above you see some of the desserts we sampled frequently!  And yes, Abby was happy to eat them.

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One of the evenings we returned to have supper and a chocolate fountain.  Needless to say, the kids loved it.

 Our first day trip in the Calgary area was east toward Drumheller and the Royal Tyrell Museum.  Our first stop was the 'worlds largest dinosaur' in the town square.  You can ascend to the mouth of the dino, which only excited the kids even more for the museum tour.  Rebecca and Abby were very interested in all the exhibitions.  Some were the typical large dinosaur displays, but others were interactive and interesting for children and adults. 

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 It was difficult to take photos in the museum.  Abby was entranced by the caveman markings on the wall that changed every few minutes.

 

IMGP3138Also memorable in Druheller was the splash pad and water fountains.  We spent the rest of the afternoon cooling off from the scorching heat with water and ice cream of course.

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The girls were excited to do the simplest of things: play in the water.  This was the perfect solution for getting used to the new time zone!

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Alberta: where computer desktop backgrounds are made!  You quickly find out why they call it the Big Sky province.

IMG_2145Despite the 32 C weather, on the way back, we stopped to view the scenery (and blue birds, first time!) at Horseshoe Canyon lookoff near Drumheller.  Years ago, Sheena and I took our bikes down in the valley for a scorcher of a bike ride.  

The following day, we took the girls out to see the Rockies and visit some of the sights we had seen while spending our weekends hiking in the mountains.  The first trip we took was to Troll Falls and Marmot Creek Falls in Kananaskis Country.  Troll falls is a great hike for kids and we decided to climb above the falls to see more of the waterfalls in the hills above.  Troll falls are named for the small sized holes in the rocks beside the waterfall.  Here's Abby showing the rock formations.

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We took the kids in behind the falls.  With the heavy rainfall earlier in the week, there was an excellent flow of water.

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Rebecca stands tall as a mountain climber in the rock above Troll Falls.

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Here's us posing at a lookoff above Troll Falls with one of the K-Country Mountains in behind (Mt. Kidd possibly).

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After our daily excursions, the girls would retire to Ramona's library for some quiet reading, drawing and reflection.  It was a peaceful spot.

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Being in Calgary, we naturally had to take the girls to some ethnic restaurants.  Ramona and Michael knew of a great Chinese restaurant in Edgemont for a Dim Sum brunch.  It was an excellent and tasty meal — the girls enjoyed the turning table with food at the ready.    We also made it to a Japanese restaurant in Dalhousie.  The service was exceptional and they ended our meal with a couple of nice songs.  Until we watched the video itself, it wasn't until then when we noticed the simultaneous reaction from the girls at the end of the song.   

On one of our break days, we took the girls downtown on the C-Train for a short walkabout.  Here's Rebecca on Stephen Avenue Mall.

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There was lots to learn about the big city, but we found the girls were naturals at taking the busy transit train.  On the trip downtown, Rebecca was looking at a book and sharing the pages with a older Chinese couple.  They both seemed to seem to laugh at the pictures at the same time.

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Later in the week, we took the girls to the Highwood Pass area of Kananaskis Country.  Highwood Pass is 2200 metres above sea level at the start of the hike to Ptarmigan Cirque.  The hike is a 6 kilometre loop to the top of a 'cirque', a valley with a theatre type formation of the surrounding mountains of Mt. Rae and Mt. Arthesua.  Although earlier in the week, we had spent our days in hot weather of the foothills, the mid morning in the mountains was a cool 12 degrees with a slight wind.  The cooler spring had just given way and the snow was just disappearing from the trail — in late June!

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The hike was 230 m of elevation gain in 3 kilometres, which is a bit noticeable when you are already at 2200 metres at the start.  The girls trucked along on the trail though, despite noticing a difference in their lungs.  We made little goals for them to reach along the way and then started to find these rest stops on the trail.  They looked forward to each one and counted the way up.  The exertion was making it warmer for them too.  We frequently crossed snow along the trail in the woods.

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Here are the girls proceeding along a little lookoff before leaving the treeline.

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As we leave the treeline, we crossed a few snowfields still left over.  Despite the snow, the sun was hot!
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We reached the cirque and the real mountain climbers in them took over.  The girls spent lunch exploring the rocks all around the bottom.

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 A family shot during our lunch break.  It really had sights on all sides of the Highwood Pass area.

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 Rebecca and Sheena take a walk and chat down the return trail.  Mt. Rae is in the background.

 On our final weekend, we took the girls to a rodeo in Airdrie.  Many towns in Alberta have a rodeo circuit visit them and I found they're much more authentic than the Stampede which everyone has seen at least once on television.  These rodeos are held on a rodeo ground outside of town, where grassy fields are turned into parking lots (rapidly becoming muddy fields) and cattle corals fence off the beer tent from the spectators area.  It really was a fun experience — and after two downpours on the break, we realized our footwear was slightly inadequate. 🙂  Cowboy boots do have a purpose!

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 Here we sit on our jackets watching the preshow antics of the rodeo clown.  He and the announcer provided the commentary for the events.  

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Here he was getting the crowd fired up fo the first event!

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Many cowboys getting ready near the grandstand.  In between the arena and grandstand the areas where the animals are 'mounted' prior to the gates opening.

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Abby showing off her rodeo stamp! She's wearing her ring made by a new friend in Cochrane.

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Here's Steph and Rebecca (trying to blow a bubble) while watching the show.  It was a late night, but lots of fun for our last evening in Calgary.  

We were able to see many friends on our trip and were grateful to be able to visit all that we could.  To those we couldn't see, we hope to catch up with you sometime soon in the future!

For our Western friends, thanks for the dinners and playtimes, we certainly enjoyed them.  Special thank yous go to Ramona & Michael and Steph for graciously allowing us to stay in their houses for the week.  You guys made it possible for all of us to have have fun visting our old stomping grounds out West!

Summer flew by, didn’t it?

 I was reviewing some photos from this summer and realized that it went by so quick, I didn't have a chance to share any photos of the girls from the whole summer! 

So we'll pick it up after our early July trip to Cape Breton for our backpacking trip, Sheena and the girls returned home with their cousins and started off their summer travels to Lunenburg for a week at the Oceanview Chalets.  While there, they visited beaches, islands and museums in the area.

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After their week, we met in Truro to have a family weekend back in Cape
Breton for Mairead and Travis' wedding in Mabou.   After the wedding, we
had lots of time to catch up with my cousins and their kids.  Then, on
Rebecca's suggestion, we stayed an extra week to spend time at the local
beaches in Mabou, Port Hood, Inverness and the Marble Mountain area. 

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The last two weeks of summer, we took the girls to Kings Landing.  They
had a wonderful time with the variety of animals to see, the horse and
wagon rides around the settlement, having a barn dance and even taking
turns milking a cow!

      
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One of the more memorable moments was when we sat in an old fashioned one room school house.  We sat in class with all ages present and listened to a teacher with all the practices from the 1800s.  The girls also had a chance to try on some period clothes and rug weaving.

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There were of course a few trips to Fundy National Park, where the zip line is as popular as ever!

 
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Closing up the Summer

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The last two weekends in August, we closed out the summer with trips to the cottage near Johnston's Point.  On both weekends, the girls met up for a girls weekend with their cousins for fun beach time.  The weather was amazing for both times and the water was warm!

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When both girls got home, all they could talk about is how they went underwater for the first time and opened their eyes.  Rebecca was especially excited, retelling the story of them swimming like fish at the cottage beach.  (Thanks to Sabrina for the above photos!)

The following weekend, we had a mix and match of weather.  The first day was a very windy one, and yet still spent on the beach with two crazy women spending an hour surfing in 6 foot waves! Unfortunately, there were no photos of the event as I was trying to keep all four kids on the beach rather than being washed away in the surf. 

As you can see below, here is the man cave in the midst of a beautiful sunrise the first morning.

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Below, the four girls and Willow go for an early morning dash through the sandbars.  We walked for a couple of hours, reaching half of the length of the beach at low tide. It's really long!

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Rebecca silently enjoys a hermit crab coming out from its shell.

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Here's the crew at the turn-arond point.  (Yes, that is the only hat I could find at the cottage!)

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Berry picking time

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Its blueberry season already this year.  We went with Pap'a'Nan to a local u-pick.  The berries were the largest I've ever seen!  Of course, the girls had fun picking…

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and eatin…(caught ya!)

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Last month, the girls visited another u-pick, this time for raspberries.  Sheena, Papa and Nanna also went with them. 

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It was a large established and beautiful field in Hillsborough area.  http://www.harpersupick.com/

Mr. Harper was great to the kids!  He also had raspberry flavoured honey!
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Our Baxter State Park Adventure: Hiking and Scrambling in the Appalachians

For the past few years since we all moved to separate cities, Kris, Matt and I try to meet up somewhere in Canada for a backpacking trip.  In the first weekend of July, in lieu of a backpacking trip, we decided to make our group adventure a car camping trip with lots of hiking in Baxter State Park, Maine, USA.  Last year (’11), we had two ‘sick’ reasons (Matt and Sheena) for our last minute cancelation to our annual trip.  This year however was not without last minute tribulations, when Sheena woke up on our first day with a strep throat infection.  After a quick trip to the Sussex hospital, Sheena was medicated for our drive to the border.  Thankfully, it was our only medical emergency this trip!

First, a bit of history on our choice of the park.  A couple of years ago, I saw a collegue’s picturesque background photo and inquired where he had taken it.  I was impressed as depicted in the photo was a mountain summit scene, reminicent of  ones I had seen the Rockies.  I then learned that it was actually taken from a mountain in Maine, specifically from the summit ridge of Mt. Katahdin.  Katahdin is one of the last rocky topped mountains on the Appalachian Trail and the highest mountain in Maine.  Mt. Katahdin is the main draw of Baxter State Park for campers and day hikers.  For campers (us), there are rustic campgrounds that allow car camping close to some of the better hiking trails in the east coast.  Because of the prominence of Mt. Katahdin, it is a very busy park with hundreds of visitors trudging the trails on a daily basis throughout the summer.  So in going to the park, we knew that it may not be the quiet backcountry ones of previous trips.  The park does allow for backpacking, but we decided to do only hiking day trips this year.  One thing to note is the reservation system at the park.  Reservations must be made 3 months prior to your visit.  These reservations (in 2012) had to be sent by mail one week prior to the three month time period.  I would suggest calling the park around the estimated time your letter would be received, just to confirm your preferences.  They will assign a campground to you, based on your prioritized list of preferences for campground (tent), leanto, group site, etc.  See the Baxter State park reservation webpage for the most up-to-date info.  As we would later find out, there is stiff competition for a parking spot in the day use areas as they fill up and close very early in the morning!

So, after only 4 hours of driving from home, a short stop at the border, a fueling and grocery top up in Houlton, we were on the windy and narrow road to Baxter State Park.  Upon arriving in the campground, we were pleasantly surprised at the condition of the campground and lean-tos.  The lean-tos were set up for sleeping in the open (if you like), but a small tent also can fit inside.  We were also impressed how the ‘Roaring Brook campground’ lived up to its name and we could not hear any of our camping neighbours and went to sleep to the constant roar of the nearby water.  That day,  we were also  welcomed to Baxter State Park by the first of many park rangers we encountered.  Ranger Bill MacDonald was a pleasant and funny park representative, and also with ancestors from Cape Breton of all places!  We won’t forget his promise of having the ‘the cleanest outhouses and friendliest staff’ in the US to keep park visitors coming back for more.

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After our scout outs of the campground the previous day, on our first full day, we stretched our hiking legs and took off from the campground for a hike to nearby Turner Mountain (South).  It was a three hour return trip, involving mostly woods travel with a good steady uphill climb on the mountain.  Most of the trail meandered around boulders and rocks, often following well trodden stream beds to the treeline.  Once at the treeline, it was a boulder scramble to the summit.

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Here’s Matt hiking up the boulders after the treeline.  The distanced mountain is Mt. Katahdin, which would be our task on the following day. Thankfully on our visit up the mountain, there were no low clouds as seen in the above photo.

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Above is a view of the start of the boulders.  The summit is visible.  Near the top has some good clambouring over the rocks, which was a taste of what Katahdin would be like.

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Our group at the summit.  The wind was pretty strong and hats were easily blown off if they weren’t tied down!  The view to the east was of an endless and ondulating forest, with the west being dominated by Katahdin.  View a panorama.

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After our hike to the summit of Turner, four of us returned to the campground for a dip in Roaring Brook (very chilly, but refreshing), while Kris and Matt scouted out the Chimney Pond trail.  Chimney Pond was the first destination tomorrow morning for our hike up Katahdin.  They found that the Chimney Pond trail is very busy with people as it is the main thoroughfare for hikers going between the mountain and the parking lot.

After inspecting the trail log (all hikers must sign in), we decided to head out bright and early (630 EST)  the following morning to avoid any crowds on the trails.  The 5k hike to Chimney Pond was a moderate hike and required a fair bit of stepping on and around boulders.  At Chimney pond, you get the first views of the Katahdin mountain ridges and see the outlier, Hamlin Peak and ridge.  There are several ways of ascending to Baxter Peak (highest point on Katahdin) from this side of the mountain.  We took the Cathedral trail route, which is a direct, almost straight up scramble over large rock and slabs to the tablelands before the summit. See the topo map for details. (Distances are in miles.)

Based on my scrambling experience, the Cathedral trail was an ‘easy’ scrambling rating, with no real exposure — but lots of work required to gain the plateau.  Once at the plateau, though, it became a hike again to the summit.  It would be nice if the Cathedral ended at the summit, but the obvious sheer drops below the summit are an indication of why the route is as such.  Other ways to the summit include ascending other connecting ridges to Katahdin (Pamola Peak or Hamlin Peak).  Both require long ridge walks, but are rewarding with exquisite views.  The easier route takes hikers up the saddle between Hamlin and Baxter Peak.

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Above is the view on approach to Chimney Pond.  At left is a part of Pamola Peak.
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Above, the Cathedral trail begins with a boulder scramble.  They were large and flat, angled and steep.  But, the guessing of the routefinding was eliminated by the blue painted lines marked on the rock.  (Someone painstakingly routed all trails on the mountain!)  It did take the challenge away, but likely prevents accidents due to the high number of inexperienced climbers on the mountain every year.

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Here is a good indication of the steepness of the terrain.  The far slope is part of Pamola ridge.

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(Kris’ photo) There were lots of cool slab rock throughout the ascent.

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(Kris’ photo) Checking out the next bit of the climb while standing on the gendarme.

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Looking back at a gendarme that blocks the view of the valley.  The route comes from the left side.  Turner mountain is in the background at the right.

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Kris and Matt meander the way through the boulders.

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Once out of the boulder field, there is a bit of reprieve through a well trodden trail through the scree.  It returns to the boulder field type climbing after the scree.

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A cairn marks a junction between a cut off trail to Hamlin ridge and the Saddle trail.  There was about an half hour left of climbing above this cairn.  In total, our approach took about 2 1/2 hours from Chimney Pond.  Below is a shot of some of the flowers we saw along the way (for Sheena and Janice).

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Here’s Matt and I on the summit of Baxter Peak, Mt. Katahdin.  We were lucky to get this photo with only one person visible in the background! It was probably the busiest summit I’ve ever seen.

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From the summit, the group split off and I continued along the ‘Knife’s Edge’ ridge toward South Baxter peak and Pamola Peak and eventually the Helon-Taylor Trail.  Kris and Matt returned via Hamlin Ridge and Chimney Pond Trail.   Here’s a panorama from the summit.

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(Kris’ photo)  Kris and Matt ended up meeting with Sheena, Karen and Darrell on their ascent.  Their group took the Saddle way up the mountain, then returned via Hamlin as well.

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The ‘Knife’s Edge’ route was probably the most mentioned route in any conversation we had about Mt. Katahdin.  The rangers talked about it, others heading to the area talked about it — especially given the weather conditions (wind).  The Knife’s Edge itself is a 2 kilometre long ridge from Baxter Peak to Pamola summit.  It is the most narrow part of Katahdin and there are a couple of spots with moderate exposure.  Despite the talk about it, there were only three sections that were a bit tricky and these included the two exposure areas.  Below is a little example of an exposed area.  The part just before this picture involves throwing your leg over the rock with a severe drop below.

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The Pamola Summit gendarme was another tricky section.  It required some downclimbing with about a 15 metre drop.  I spoke to a guy on Pamola, who told me that an old hiking book from the 1980s said they climbed these areas with ropes!  I was sad to say, I did see some people with tennis shoes doing the Knife’s Edge.  Again, the blue lines did allow for most people to follow the route almost too easily.
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The Pamola Gendarme. Below shows some of the downclimb and the step toward Pamola. See the blue lines?

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There were some really neat rock formations on Helon-Taylor Trail.  The return trip to the campground on Helon-Taylor was a 5 kilometre descent along this ridge.  The photo shows the flattest section of the trail as the rest is basically drop after drop after drop, through arrid country.  The part where Bear Stream intersected with Helon Taylor was very refreshing!  I returned to the campground around the same time as Matt and Kris, having spent 10 hours on the mountain.

Karen, Darrell and Sheena on their return from their hike!  They were glad to be back, that’s for sure.

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The following day, while licking our wounds from the previous day’s epic hike, Karen, Darrell, Sheena and I headed to the west side of the park to see Katahdin Stream Falls.  It was a beautiful spot, hidden away on the Hunt Trail.  The water was crystal clear.

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After that, we drove further north on the dirt road toward the Ledge Falls area for a lunch.  Ledge Falls was a real unique spot.  The falls are more like rapids, but flow over solid smooth rock, allowing for some fun swimming and sliding over the rock.  There was just enough moss to make it interesting and hard to exit the water because it was so slippery!

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Above: Looks down from our lunch spot.  Below: looking up toward the falls area.

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We spent an hour swimming down stream.  Here’s Sheena going to the deep section.

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On our final night, we spent the rest of the night playing ‘Zombies’ and having Darrell kick our butts at Settlers of Catan.  A great trip was had by all!

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Katahdin from the I95.

A month of photos: Trips to beaches, rural wedding and anniversary, painting and first-time theatre

The Beaching season has begun.  A month ago, we headed to Saint's Rest Beach in west Saint John.  The fog was held at bay by the west side and we had a wonderful but windy afternoon.  Of course we were kept to the sand as the Bay of Fundy water is a bit too cold to swim any time of year.

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Earlier this month, we took the girls to their very first show at the movie theatre.  Instead of a short planned trip into Saint John, we ended up spending the day in the city after missing the first showing (unbeknownst to us, you have to reserve seats online now for movies in Saint John, so all early shows were sold out or reserved).  Nevertheless, we managed through the day with pizza and playground time.  Both girls waited patiently for their first movie experience.  Abby was especially excited for the popcorn.  Once their movie (Madagascar 3) came on, it would be easy to say they sat mesmorized for their time in the theatre.  It was a lot of fun.  Here's Abby and Rebecca waiting for the show to start:

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(Rebecca had to sit on my lap as there were only groups of 3 seats left!)

Last week, while on vacation, we all headed to Cape Breton for a series of events.  First, we attended the wedding of Rodney and Gayle MacDonald in west Lake Anslie.  It was a beautiful ceremony and fun was had by all at the reception.  The night was not uneventful, most particularly for us with Sheena's 'catching-up', Nick's wardrobe updates and Mom's pleasant encounter with local 'leo's.  All were on our best behavior!

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We had beautiful weather throughout our visit.  While we were also trying to paint the exterior of the store, our mornings were spent painting and the hot afternoons were spent at West Mabou beach.  It would be safe to say the girls had a great time at the beach — especially after we found a warm fresh water stream and pool leading to the ocean.  This stream is something I used to play in as a kid, making dams, sand castles and the like.  Its fun to see the kids having as much enjoyment as we did out of it.

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Here they spend some time taking running jumps in the the water:

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On another day, Sheena helped Abby and Rebecca with some rock designs on the sand.

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Rebecca and Abby also made a sand castle city decorated with seashells.

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Here Abby takes a walk toward the east end of the beach.  For our days there, there were no more than four other people on the beach at the same time.  It was like our own private beach!

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Rebecca loves skipping rocks on the water.  We spent a good amount of time throwing and counting each skip.  Rebecca would shout out, 'One!' 🙂 , 'Two!', 'Three!'.

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We walked up and down the beach looking for the perfect skipping rocks.

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Here's Rebecca helping out with painting Dad's store.  We had an 'adventure' when both kids starting helping out and then the experienced the aftermath of having oil based paint on little helping hands. 🙂

Lastly, it is Mom and Dad's 40th anniversary this year (June 24th).  We had a little family dinner with Laurena and Nick as well!  So we must pass on our congratulations to Gramma and Grampa MacDonald.  In the words of Rebecca, 'You guys are m-a-r-r-i-e-d!'

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There was of course the 'altered dimension' family that showed up as well for the event.

Easter Sugar Woods

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Last weekend, we spent one day of the Easter Weekend in Moncton visiting with Nanna and Pappa.  When we arrived, we spent the morning at the Sugar Woods in Stilesville.  We walked a path through the maple trees, checking out the newer and older ways of collecting maple sap.  Some operations had lots of intertwined rubber tubes between trees leading to the camp.  My favorite (and probably more labourous method) was the old fashioned taps and buckets. Rebecca and Abby loved running between the buckets checking out the amount of sap in each hanging bucket. 

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We arrived at the sugar shack and learned a bit about how they make syrup, butter and candy.  They then showed us how they make maple candy — after boiling the syrup for a couple of hours, and spreading it on ice and snow.  The girls loved eating the sweet treat!  It also brought back memories for all of us.

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Rebecca and Abby enjoy the rolled sticks of maple candy.

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Here's Abigail's attempt at eating the candy.  Lots of stretchy goodness.

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Rebecca running between the buckets on the way back to the car.

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