February 25, 2009
Waking up on top of a river, I feel that omen. Damn I have to piss. Zzzzip, tent door opens, my face feels the cold air and my eyes squint in the brightness. Starlight, a relic, that dreamy notion, is alive and well tonight. A traffic jam of diamonds crunch underfoot and jostle overhead. Back in the tent I can hear the stream burble three feet beneath my pillow.
Cold, wet, hard. Three things that could easily describe winter camping. But not this weekend. Sunny skies, fresh-air that hung on every breath and dried my clothes overnight. How about breakfast in bed? So why did we get so lucky this weekend? It was the first time for all four of us - winter camping and being to this place. We had heard the stories. The claims about this canyon. Fuzzy photos and poor maps. Not far from town yet a trek to get here; logging roads, skis, sleds, snow up to our hips. Nothing really prepared us for the scale and depth of this place. We swore and laughed at the snow bridges, cliffs, and 200 hundred year old spruce.
Everything lined up so perfectly. Two days of river walking, ice climbing, headlamp hiking, and not a single injury. Do you suppose that some of those stars lined up for us? We left the wilderness this evening, humbled and thinking. One question that rose above the coffee-fueled high on the drive home is "What did we do to deserve this?" Maybe we started by being stoked like a fire. And just believing there's always more to explore when you play outside.
Stoke your fire. Go explore with friends. Remember that photographs and descriptions only show about 1%. You've got to discover the rest.
p.s. This is all you get. The two white dots in lower center of the photo are headlamps as we hike back to camp through the slot canyon.
February 20, 2009
Thanks to Mom, Winterwood, and Ashley for inspiring and teaching me how to sprout.
These guys are from my first batch.
- Soak overnight.
- Put in collander with cheese cloth on bottom, mason jar with screen over mouth. Something to keep them from going down the sink after each wash.
- Keep them moist, rinsing twice a day does the trick and also washes away fine bits that will go bad more quickly then the rest.
February 19, 2009
It was an opportunity for the Tourism Assoc. of N.B. to release the report entitled:
Business Development Strategic and Action Plans
Gary Clark, who some call "Canada's father of Sustainable Tourism" started each day with an inspiring lecture on sustainability and tourism. He lives true to his vision and demonstrates that sustainable tourism is possible, at the Inn he keeps. The Biosphere he worked to create in Ontario is striving for a sensible balance of conservation, cultural preservation, and tourism. The clear vision he drew in our minds each morning grew muddy throughout the day with talk of jobs, international tourists, and Fundy growth.
The conference left me with a lot to think about. How do we create jobs in an area without greasing the machine with jet fuel? How do tourists (some, the disdain of some locals) affect local pride and use of the Fundy Coast? How do we balance jobs and tourists? Can we all use it? How do we grow pride in our region? How can I personally do my part to expose local people (especially youth) to the wild fragile beauty of this area?
If Sustainable tourism is about reducing our impact on the earth, shouldn't it start by staying at home and learning to love the immensity of our wilds and appreciating our rich cultural heritage? What if instead of advertising overseas, we invested our time and money here. We could generate such a wide diversity of activities (adventurous and cultural) that every local has a life time worth of travelling to do right here in southern NB. Our enthusiasm and pride would draw world wide attention and inspire others to realize their own local potential. After all the best place to be is where you are.
The area's potential is boggling. There is tremendous opportunity for good and bad development. Luckily, the Fundy Biosphere Region has been formed which aims to preserve the area's unique natural and cultural communities. It's a giant first step. My impression is that there is willingness among towns and tour operators to work towards more environmental sound tourism in the area. Yves Gagnon, the interim Chairperson for the FBR, ended the conference with a reminder -You must remember that as individials we are all responsible for the future of this area. We all must do our part to make this region truly sustainable. No one else can do it for us.
February 11, 2009
I headed home last weekend to get a dose of cross country skiing. Perfect powdery conditions gave me an opportunity to reflect on why I love cross country skiing.
Friday night while I was brushing my teeth before bed my mom suggested we take a moonlight ski. Under the bright full moon our shadows were crisp outlines on the sparkling snow. I had "diamonds on the soles of her shoes" playing in my head as we kicked up brilliant crystals of powder. We cruised in the rolling fields behind our house.
Saturday morning I experimented with my dad's old waxed skis. Though a little sloppy in the boot these skis have metal edges and a modern NNN binding. On the hilly fields behind our house I found the speed to cut a few turns. They were short shaky downhill runs, my turns were sloppy, but I couldn't stop smiling at the exhilarating speed I found.
Saturday afternoon, my mom and dad and I went out to Markhamville for a cross country ski party. The Pownings and McKegs maintain miles of trails through their big rolling hills. There were all levels of skiers there so we split among trails described as Easy, Intermediate, and Kamikaze.
The "Kamikaze" trail wound up to the top of the ridge through birch groves, skirted a deep ravine, cut sharp turns through spruce forest, crossed a hill top blueberry field, then finally charged its way down into the Markhamville Valley on a series of fast descents. The 6" of powder provided beautiful glide and was just the right weight to carve cross country skis into. I'll admit I was snowplowing down some of those tight runs.
From the Valley Bottom, rows of hardwood and spruce hills tapered off into the Fundy Highlands. Markhamville is the last settled farming valley before the Fundy Coast.
Climbing back out of the valley to dinner, Dave and I couldn't resist turning our skis around and pointing them down hill. Starting down the long hill I imagined broken bones and was glad that Dave, the ER doctor, was skiing behind me. Luckily the turns came at the top before I picked up more speed then I knew what to do with on three pin cross country skis!
After dinner we gathered together a posse for night skiing on some gentle trails. The moon exploded through gaps of racing clouds lightning. We could feel the wind blowing in warmer weather signaling the end of this week's powder.
Cross country skiing brings me so much happiness in winter. It's a way to escape cabin fever, explore new terrain, play like a kid again, and generate some well deserved heat in winter. It can be fast and wild or slow and gentle. Either way, the smooth rhythm of gliding skis always helps me breathe. My mind becomes calm and my thinking clear. The more I ski the better I feel.
February 2, 2009
So instead of having to take a day off work to attend the conference, Fundy Engineering is going to pay me to attend! They were happy to have me going, representing Fundy Engineering and networking with potential clients. Plus pursuing the kind of innovator/progressive work that we find fulfilling.
For the next two weeks I want to absorb everything I can about the Fundy Coast and Sustainable Tourism. If people are actually reading this it'd be great to hear any opinions, thoughts, and ideas you've got about tourism along the Fundy Coast.
My goal is to represent as many people as I can at the conference. I'm all ears.
Too much Cooking and Climbing not enough writing. This story is a little overdue. It took place on January 10th, 2009.
My mind was blown 4 times today.
First time: My friend calls me in the morning before he comes by to pick me up, "we're supposed to meet them at 8:30 so I’ll pick you up at a quarter after.”
“No way!” my head echoes “it’s only 15 minutes from downtown Saint John? That’s crazy. It’s so close.”
We drive out to a household of climbers, where we load packs, overheat, and talk excitedly. Next we’re out the backdoor crossing a prairie of white river ice. Straight across is Minister’s Face, a tiny cliff in the distance. We walk and talk over the crunchy snow. The sun is brighter than any summer day and air is still.
I keep spinning around to get a grasp on scale, we’ve been walking for 20 minutes and nothing seems to be getting closer or farther away. The white river stretches west into the horizons and east it is backed by dark pointy hills. Straight ahead, Minister’s face is now appropriately sized. We crank our necks back to see cobbly rock like a bookend for the river rising to where the cedars look like match sticks. From the opposite shore the Minister's 300 foot frame was squashed under the giant landscape. Our destination, the ice alcove, is now coming into view. What looked like a smear on the cliff is now a blue and white waterfall of ice, towering 120 feet high - and my mind is blown again.
The experienced ice climbers pick their lines and lead up the ice, attaching the rope to large metal screws they place as they go. Anchors and ropes are fixed at the top allowing newbies like me a chance to climb the routes on top-rope.
It's my second time ice climbing and I fumble uncomfortably with big hard boots and sharp bits attached to all fours. I get pointers, on how to stab my points into the ice. Thwack, shatter, thwack. "Flick your wrist more!" I hear from below, the pick sinks in on the third thwack.
I climb a couple routes, gaining confidence and starting to feeling comfortable on this foreign surface. Half way up the ice I set my feet pull out my pick and can feel my weight resting on two narrow crampon points extending from my toes. My mind fizzles and I huff out a surprised breath. It blows my mind that two little claws are holding my body weight. As I climb the rest of the route the warmth retreats from my hands that are clenched over my head while under my jacket I sweat like its a muggy day in July.
As I reach the top of the ice wall, I hear "Graham, turn around and have a look over the river when you get to the top." Focused on the ice I hadn't noticed dusk creeping in. The ice has turned rosy as I stand under the branches of a cedar tree getting ready to rappel down. When I finally turn around to face the wide river, I feel the fizzle at the base of my skull, a shot of endorphins triggered by what I see. A full moon as rich as a pumpkin rising over dark hills on the far shore.
We hike out in the low dusk light, aiming for familiar lights across the ice, watching one by one as the planets and stars appear.
And we're only 15 minutes from the city.