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Friday, July 30, 2021

Head for the Hills! (Better late than never, I guess)

It's been a long time...I know, but with the pandemic and all, there really hasn't been a lot to report. Happily, as restrictions loosen and the two of us are fully vaccinated, we were ready to head off on another adventure.

We've long talked about the Mount Carleton region of New Brunswick, at least amongst ourselves, as it has some true mountains to hike, a couple of really quaint towns and, of course, ridiculously charming little villages in between. That you can follow the Acadian peninsula and enjoy water views, as well, only added to the appeal.


With all that temptation, we rented a car, packed our bags and took our out of shape hiking legs north to the very edge of the New Brunswick/Quebec border.

Mount Carleton is a national park, situated in the middle of the northern part of the province. It's remote enough that you can only pay your park entry fee in cash and cell service is definitely spotty. (Consider that a warning, especially if you're planning on hiking around the mountains.) This area is where the Appalachian mountains start (or end, depending on your perspective) and is fairly remote, despite the little towns scattered around the coast and inland. 


The park, itself, offers camping, lakes, hiking and biking trails. We opted for a self-catered B&B 22kms from the park entrance, called Bed and Breakfast Du Repos . It was the perfect little hideaway for us to recoup after a days hiking, as it had a small kitchenette, comfy bed and all the fixings for breakfast (and trail snacks) that we needed. 

We were careful about selecting our first mountain trail, as we'd been out of the game for a while. We tackled Mount Bailey first. At 564m (1850ft) it boasted great views and moderately challenging climbs. The weather wasn't ideal, in that it had rained a good part of the day before and through the night, so the trees were wet and the wind blew, cascading down drops despite the tree cover. The views weren't disappointing, the forest soothing and our legs, not so out of shape that we wanted to quit half way up, so it was a win-win.

A bucolic flat stretch

The clouds won't keep us down

The following day, we decided to summit the highest peak in the Maritimes and the namesake of the Park, Mount Carleton. (It's 820m (2,690ft) at it's peak, and also is home to an old forest fire watch tower. On a clear day, you can see over 10,000,000 trees, according to the park's literature. The weather was more favourable on the hike up and we were lulled into a bout of confidence, as the trail was fairly easy to negotiate, with only a bit of hard boulder scrambling at the last stretch. As we neared the peak, the wind came up and blew in a rather haunting cloud cover and we quickly lost sight of the vast expanse of forest that surrounds the mountain. The tower loomed up out of the mist and provided a haven from the wind, where we sat down to enjoy a brief lunch, before heading back down the other side of the hiking loop. The trail had lovely little creeks at the beginning with heaps of moss covered stones, fallen trees, draping over the waterways and other enjoyable nature-y scenes that would please most any outdoors person. There was some scree on the back side of the mountain, heading back down, making me feel like I was walking under the influence, but it was definitely an enjoyable hike all-round. At the end of the day, we took ourselves off to Edmundston for dinner out and to check out the town. It has quite a pretty downtown, but when the paper mill is in operation, the noise can be off putting. It didn't disrupt our dinner and we enjoyed a nice drive through the rolling foothills on the way back.

Easy entry to the trail

10,000,000 Trees

Getting close to the summit


Our final day, we broached the hardest climb on our agenda - Mount Sagamook. While it isn't quite as high as Mount Carleton, the hike up was steep, technical and occasionally, daunting. There is a lookout, 300m before the summit (again, depending on how you hike the loop) which wasn't terribly well marked and required a bit of bush whacking through the forest to get to the rock outcrop that over looks the park, with it's lake and a charming little heart shaped island. The pinnacle was underwhelming after the great views of the lookout, but provided a spot in the sun for a well deserved drink of water and snack. The descent was more challenging than anticipated, but we were glad we took the park attendant's advice and hiked up the short (harder) path and then down the longer, less steep path. At the very end (or start) depending on which way you choose to go, there is a lovely mossy little brook that provided us with a magical little pause at the end of all our hard work. 

Hard scrabble up boulders

Happy to reach the look out

Enjoying the view


The next day we packed up and took a scenic drive to Campbellton and along the Acadian peninsula. We stopped for lunch in Mirimichi, at an Irish pub. (Mirimichi is the Irish capitol of New Brunswick, so says their welcome sign.) The weather turned once again and we found ourselves driving with the windshield wipers slapping frantically to clear the rain. We settled back home and tried to decide what to do with ourselves the next day. Ron had finally worn out his hiking boots (the sole separated from the upper) so we planned to search for a new pair. Once obtained (a pair of Merills), we decided to try them out in Fundy National Park. We just couldn't let the opportunity pass us by.

We drove the 1.5 hours to Alma, a cute little sea town that borders the park and enjoyed lunch at Tipsy Tails (I didn't make up the name, I swear!) and then headed into the park to do a 3-4 hour hike to the largest waterfalls in the area. The trail was mostly down hill and not terribly difficult until the end, where we had to wade along the stream to reach the beach below the falls. It was well worth the effort and Ron's new boots proved a good choice. We were surprised to find ourselves back at the car just 2 hours later. Our Mount Carleton experiences must have put some pep in our step. 

Going down just mean climbing up

It was a delightful distraction and slight return to normalcy after a very strange year and a half. Who knows what we'll get ourselves up to next time? (Maybe nowhere, if the international community doesn't figure out all this vaccine stuff.)

Sunday, October 18, 2020

The Lost Summer

There was frost on the shingles of the house this morning. It's a sure sign of autumn, as much as my birthday is a step towards the end of summer. I'm not anticipating the long dark days of winter, nor am I excited about the prospect of scarves, jaunty hats and anti-slip boots.

Autumn leaves reflected in the water

We had a bang-up summer. No ifs and or buts. So much better than 2019, at least weather-wise, but then: COVID-19. Sure it came before the amazing summer heat, but not too much before. Even our spring (once it hit) was phenomenal. The pandemic pretty well kaiboshed what would have been an incomparable summer. The temperatures were hot (too hot, for many locals) and rain was completely absent. It was perfect "chill on the patio" weather, "sip wine and relax" weather, "go forth and explore" weather.

Autumn colour

2020 has kicked our butts. Politics, pandemics, the surrender of completely "normal" life (not to mention people! WTF?) has pretty well thrown this year out the window. We all know that. 

For us, the restaurants were closed and our budget wasn't what we'd have like it to be. (When is it ever?) So the glorious days of summer were lost on us. We did enjoy some fine days on the front porch, under unnecessary mosquito netting (it was too dry for them), enjoying a beverage and some music, watching the goings-on of the neighbourhood. 

Pre-netting, early spring
It just wasn't what all the gorgeous weather had to offer in a normal year. Once restrictions started lifting, the end of summer approached. That meant my birthday was coming and it was a substantial one, for those that care to count years.

Bay of Fundy

Shark Rock

Fundy National Park

Ron waiting on lunch

We didn't abandon summer all together. We went out to discover parts of the province we hadn't seen yet and spent time in Saint John and Saint Andrews with a few short stops in between. We cracked out our hiking gear and found some amazing places to visit. Some of it was breath taking, some mildly disappointing, but mostly a great introduction to the rest of New Brunswick. We ate tons of seafood, drank wine and had a pretty fantastic time, but somehow, it still feels like we've missed an opportunity to enjoy a truly fabulous summer.

Water lilies at the Kingsbrae Garden
(Saint Andrews)

Historic dairy farm on Minister's Island

The promenade - Minister's Island

Ground hog sunning at Black Beach

Black Beach

We did discover a little gem in Moncton (Euston Park Beer Garden), but it's only open during the summer and we enjoyed an "alternative" Oktoberfest at the Tire Shack Brewing Company. 

Then came the frost, the ticking heat registers and the return to "Orange Alert" with a breakout in a care facility. That's okay, now's the time to get the house ready for winter, lay in provisions and burrow down for winter. By all reports it's supposed to be a "good" winter, hurricanes not withstanding. We can only cross our fingers and hope for the best.

Views of the Coast

Perched on a rock to see above view

Gorgeous day

Caughey-Taylor Nature Preserve

Poole's Pond (C-T NP)

For perspective (This is the rock we climbed)

Happy autumn. Stay healthy, sane and happy!

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Is Personal Happiness Paramount?

Hello! I'm back, alive and well, all things considered. I guess I've been under the quarantine doldrums. There hasn't been much going on and nothing has really inspired me to sit here and write. I've been watching a lot of TV...Netflix specifically.
Last night we watched "Crazy Rich Asians". It's a fairly innocuous love story that has echos of Cinderella and other starred crossed love tales. (No, that's not a spoiler.) As I was boggling at the money and life style of "comfortable" Singaporeans, I almost missed the underlying theme of culture. (Spoiler alert!) The hero's mother has an interesting objection to the chosen heroine: American-Chinese and Chinese-Chinese are not the same. A-C's only think about their own personal happiness, whereas C-C's put family before all else. The cultures are inherently incompatible.

Being raised in North America, I was affronted. What's wrong with wanting to be happy? As the heroine points out "Don't you want your son to be happy?" The answer is a very solid chirp of crickets. Now, of course the mother would, ideally, like her son to be "happy". What construes "happy" might have a different definition in her mind. But, I digress, as usual.

This morning, I woke up thinking that, maybe, Mum (yup, complete British English - know your history) was on to something. The West seems to be struggling. It's reflected in the anti-mask wearers, the "personal rights" protesters, the folks for whom inconvenience is anathema. Our own personal comfort supersedes all other considerations. Perhaps this is why China is so dominant currently. (Yeah, there are other factors to be sure.)

We've done it to ourselves, in fairness. We've moved from subsistence level survival to the luxury of, By some measures, even our poverty has tones of luxuriousness. Okay, I'm going down a slippery slope here, but bear with me.

Let me reference another Netflix revelation from "Dracula". The Count, Vlad, comes to land (England) after having been submerged under the sea for around 200 years. He breaks into someone's house. (Now, as I can see, this person is by no means wealthy. Everything in the kitchen is dated, the furniture has seen better days, the car's a beater...etc etc.) When Dracula meets the female inhabitant he wants to know if she's rich. He's not wrong. Life in the 1600 -1800s was vastly different from life now. He lived in a huge drafty castle with few (if any windows) fireplaces to try and fight of the drafts (not that he cared, of course), poor hygienic practices, fledgling medical knowledge, rudimentary technology for almost everything and here he is in a house that has things like refrigerators, ovens, flushing toilet, cupboards full of food (granted it's most likely highly processed, but what does he know about that?) and machines that can take you places without the need for animals and running water for heaven's sake! He's thrilled about smart phones.
My point? We neither see our blessing and we are programmed (quite literally) to be dissatisfied with them. (That's called commercialism, kids.) I'm guilty of it...I plague myself with "if only" this or "if only" that. Am I content with all the things I do have? Often, no, sadly. I have to practice being grateful for these incredible luxuries that modern life supplies us. I have to work at not buying into the "your life will be amazing if you own/buy [fill in the blank]". We really need to get back to enjoying things like spending time with those we love, with getting outside and appreciating nature,helping those in need and with being amazed that we actually DO know where our next meal is coming from. We're bloody lucky in that.

Why can happiness not stem from helping those around us do better? Why is my inconvenience (Mask? I'm not wearing a stupid mask!) more important that an other's suffering? (Oh, yes, capitalists, I know socialism is the gateway political theory to communism.) Humanity didn't get this far by being egocentric, at least not individually. We got here through cooperation and doing things for the greater good of humankind.
So let's be kind to each other. Let's put the safety of others before our own comfort. Let's work together and make things better, instead of using shopping therapy like it actually works.

Rant over.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Self-discovery During Quarantine

Confession time, I'm pretty lazy. I can watch TV almost all day without it bothering me. (Lucky me, right?) Of course, I'm getting older, so my body doesn't appreciate sloth come sleep time. If I don't get some exercise, then I get leg twinges or aches, which sucks, but, at least, I know how to stave them off. ( horrible.)

During our self-isolation, I discovered some things about myself that surprised me. I do not like audio books. (I'm sorry, was that a collective gasp? I know a lot of devotees.) I'd never have guessed, because I love books. Now, I can see the benefit if you're doing something else: driving, running, knitting etc, but I just doesn't work for me to sit and listen to someone (especially with the wrong voice) read me a story when I've nothing else to do. 

I do, however, enjoy an afternoon "beverage" and snack, probably more than I should. I'm also over the moon that we have the sun porch, as it gives us a window to the outside world and its happenings, even on a limited basis. We have a bevy of...unique...personages that frequent our downtown neighbourhood, so it keeps things interesting.
View from the sun porch
I've found that after an initial rush of "get things done", I've petered off. Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow, right? Unless the sun is out and then our little garden calls, the dirty windows beg to be cleaned and fresh airs seduces us to wanton acts of being outside. (Another gasp?)
We still have to deal with this crap.

Speaking of going outside, have become terrible. A month and a half in slippers and all of a sudden shoes are these horrible restrictive devices that make my feet hurt after being in them for more than half an hour. What's with that?

I'm sure there will be other things that come to light in the strange days of COVID-19. Have you had any epiphanies?