Local Motion - New Brunswick

Welcome to Local Motion where we celebrate hiking, biking, camping, paddling, skiing, and exploring in Southern New Brunswick.

October 17, 2010

Thanksgiving Hike #3: Caledonia Gorge

This is the third of three Thanksgiving Hikes I'll be writing about: 

Crooked Creek in the Caledonia Gorge Protected Area
On Thanksgiving Monday my friend Joanna and I hiked in the Caledonia Gorge Wilderness Protected Area, near Riverside-Albert just a short drive from Moncton. It was my first time at the gorge and when we arrived at the look-off my draw dropped. The view up the gorge reminded me of the Gaspe, highlands plunge into a deep valley. At the bottom of the valley Crooked Creek (what a great name!) meanders, cutting a stripe through the forest. This is the third wilderness protected area that I visited this weekend and it felt the most wild. Rockwood, Walton Glen Canyon, and the Caledonia Gorge are all quite different even though all are along the Bay of Fundy. Rockwood has lakes, Walton Glen has the crazy canyon, but the Caledonia Gorge just feels big.

From the look off we drove down the bumpy road into the gorge until we came to the washed out bridge across Crooked Creek. We parked and hiked up the creek hugging the steep hillsides. We were surprised to find a large covered bridge in good shape. We had a vague intention of finding Rattail Falls but after an hour of hiking we realized it was out of the question. We'd have to come back when we had more light left in the day. It was a great feeling to be walking in the bottom of a deep gorge beside the creek's turbulent waters. The hillsides were dappled with oranges and yellows. The sun set behind the west bank and the cool air carried a hint of sweet decay.
Old Red Spruce - in a true Acadian Forest

On our way back we followed the road to the washed out bridge. This time we took off our boots and forded the creek. Refreshed we decided to squeeze one more hike into the day. A local had recommended we check out the falls. We drove back down the road and parked near some cottages. We hiked downstream on a muddy ATV trail for 20 minutes and came to a big set of falls and a huge black pool. It's clearly a popular spot, the ground is beaten down and litter is everywhere. But regardless of that this was a cool place. Crooked Creek squeezes and crashed through a narrow slot, its wake churning into a deep dark pool. It looked like a great place to swim and cliff jump. The river canyon continued downstream for some distance.
Falls on Crooked Creek
Jo overlooking the pool below the falls.
This is definitely a place to come back to - the forests are huge, the creek is beautiful, and the steep terrain beckons. It's got swimming in the summer, skiing in the winter, and at this time of year the weather is perfect for hiking and camping (no bugs!!).
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October 13, 2010

Thanksgiving Hike 2: Walton Glen Canyon

This is the second of three Thanksgiving Hikes I'll be writing about:

 My parents at the Lookoff over Walton Glen Canyon
On Thanksgiving Sunday, my parents and I loaded into their old truck and headed South, into the Caledonia Highlands. Our destination was Walton Glen Canyon. My parents and I made a pact back in July to take ourselves on a hike here for our birthdays which all fell within the middle of July. We wanted to do it in July, but with with Bike Festivals, parties, and the garden we were too busy.

So here we are on Thanksgiving weekend, digging out the toques for our birthday adventure. My parents had been to Walton Glen Canyon, about 35 years ago. I've been there a number of times in the past couple years. It's one of the main reasons, I was drawn back to New Brunswick.

I had never been there until the winter of 2009. But I'd found out about it online in 2007 and had been mesmerized by one photograph of the cliffs. After returning to NB in 2008, I fulfilled my dream to begin ice climbing and that same winter satisfied my thirst for the Canyon. The first attempt involved 20 km of skiing, headlamps, 1 pitch of ice climbing, and in fact we only reached the Little Salmon River Gorge but even that was mind blowing. A month later friends and I skied in with camping gear for a weekend of ice climbing in the canyon. Dropping into the canyon in the middle of winter, in waist deep snow, was ridiculous. My first thought was "How can this exist in New Brunswick? I feel like I'm back in the Rockies."  I wrote about it on my blog here. Since then New Brunswick hasn't ceased to surprise me with its hidden wilderness.

This fall I've been working in the Caledonia Highlands on a salmon habitat project. I've gotten to know the backroads well so a trip to Walton Glen Canyon is less intimidating than it used to be for me. The first time I tried to find Walton Glen Canyon was with my Dad and brother in 2003. It was Father's Day and we were going to find a big gorge that I'd never heard of. It didn't go well, my brother ended up with a blown ACL in his knee (long story) and after a trip to the hospital, my Dad and I got lost on muddy roads. We nearly got the truck stuck and finally gave up.

These days, the roads to Walton Glen Canyon are in great shape. You can drive a car to within a couple kilometers. A regular pick-up truck will take you to within 1 km. It's hard for me to even write this online. It's seems too easy and I hate to take away the awe of discover. It took me so much effort to get into Walton Glen Canyon, that I've come to really appreciate it's secluded power. I've been kept out of Walton Glen Canyon by raging water in the Little Salmon River (Read about the Fundy Trek here) and flat tires this Spring.Canyons are different than Mountains, they hide themselves from the world even while they lure you in. The nights are darker in canyons, the world farther away.

I like wilderness that you have to work for. Maybe that's why I've fallen for the Walton Glen Canyon. But it's becoming more and more well known. The recent Waterfalls of New Brunswick Website and Guidebook feature its falls. The canyons "Eye of the Needle" is gaining in popularity too. I'm excited that more New Brunswickers are getting out to see our incredible wilderness. But, even though I use this site to promote the local outdoors, I'll admit that I'm a bit selfish with it. I like to think of these places as 'my' places. A good piece of wilderness should always feel like it belongs to you. Whether you enter it alone or with friends, it should give you the feeling that you're "on your own". The more people use an area, especially when its trashed, the less it feels like wilderness. But there's a balancing point. If no one uses it, no one cares about it and it could easily end up on the chopping block like so much of New Brunswick's Crown Land.

Ok, back to the story. My parents and I had no troubles on the back roads and were able to drive into the Jack Pine Plantation just a short distance from the Canyon. The first thing we did was walk to the lookoff. I love taking people here, there's a point about 100 feet from the rim of the canyon, when I start to smile in anticipation of the other person's shock. The canyon just seems to appear out of nowhere. All of a sudden you're staring into a 500 foot deep void. The updraft wafts your clothing and falls plummet down the opposite face.
Walton Glen Falls - 200 feet

This is where we started our hike. Next I lead them down the rough trail into the Canyon. Once you've looked over the whole canyon, being deep inside it takes on a new meaning. We climbed down the steep trail, using the old ropes, and roots when we could. Down below the falls we found a gravelly little bar that was perfect for lunch. We enjoyed our Thanksgiving leftovers, chatting over the sound of the rushing water. After lunch my mom sketched the brook while my Dad and I each found a good place to nap.

We decided to save the Eye of the Needle for another day, perhaps a warmer one. On our hike out we ran into some good friends - what are chances. They were the only people we saw in the Canyon.
Mom and I at the base of the Walton Glen Brook Falls
Walton Glen Canyon is part of the Little Salmon River Protected Natural Area. It is located south of Sussex near the Fundy Coast. For more information and directions please visit Waterfalls of New Brunswick. Or as always you can drop me a line. I'm more than happy to provide directions in email or by phone.
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Thanksgiving Hike 1: Rockwood Park

This is the first of three Thanksgiving Hikes I'll be writing about:

Hiking in Rockwood

My family gathered in Saint John for a Thanksgiving Feast on Saturday. With the chicken roasting in the oven, we went to work up an apetite in Rockwood Park. This Saint John park happens out to be one of North America's largest city parks. Luckily we had Nathan as our trusty guide. He's been working in the park all summer and knows the trails well.

Owen Lake
We started on the backside of Rockwood Park, near Sandy Point Road and soon were following a narrow footpath that around old trees and rocky outcrops. Nathan led us to a series of lakes. At one, our black lab dove headlong into the black spunky mud and nearly got stuck, as if she was quicksand. I speak for the whole family when I say that we were blown away by serenity and wildness of these lakes. I expected to see a moose grazing in the tail marsh grasses that surrounded Owen Lake, but we did hear one calling, 
Long Lake

Farther along, we came to Long Lake. Which really is a long lake and with the sun setting at the far end I felt miles away from the city. This park is really worth exploring. The city of Saint John has a real gem in the backyard. And Rockwood's inclusion in the recent UNESCO designation of the Stonehammer Geopark, Saint Johners have another reason to celebrate their heartland.
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For Park information and basic trail maps visit:

October 3, 2010

Elgin 80 - A Success Under the Influence of Mud!

Riders getting ready to leave for the 40 km race
I was at the Tour of Elgin Mountain Bike Race on Saturday to help out and got to watch as riders came back covered head to toe in thick mud. Despite the wet weather in the morning, there was a really good turn out for each of the three races.

The tropical rain that had been hanging around all week culminated into 24 hours of periodic downpours. It was like a monsoon on Friday. The kind of rain that soaks you right to the underwear in the time it takes to run from your house to your car. The storm lost its fury by Saturday morning but the ground was still flooded by the assault.

The Pollett River, that runs through Elgin was raging like I'd never seen before. As the river twisted into the tight canyon at Gibson its power turned the brown water white while it roared like a freight train.

The Pollett River crashes through the Canyon

The race course, composed of backroads, ATV and snowmobile trails, and some single track had lots of mud and puddles. Riders talked about one puddle that was up to their thigh! Riders coming into the finish line where indistinguishable by the mud they wore.

So much Mud.
The first place rider finished the 80 km course in about 4 hours! That's an average of 20km/h over steep hills on a soggy track. I can hardly maintain that speed on my road bike! These racers are truly elite athletes. To finish the 80 km course is an accomplishment in itself.  And it wasn't just the 80 km racers, who make training their lifestyle, the 40 km and 20 km riders faced a challenging course and were out there giving it everything they had.

It was inspiring to watch these riders pushing their limits while have a good time doing it. Races may be competitive but it was clear that at the end of the day all these bikers were out there doing what they loved surrounded by friends and peers.
The Pollett River had calmed considerably by the afternoon. This is looking upstream from the Bridge at the Champagne Pools which are deep under water
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