Monthly Archives: July 2007

Playing Outside


I remember those endless summer days of my childhood. My friends and I would head outdoors right after our bowl of corn flakes and we’d spend the whole day playing, sometimes not coming in until almost dark. We’d ride our bikes everywhere. We’d spend hours exploring the nearby creek and woods. As hokey as it sounds now, we even climbed trees. My best friend had a poplar tree in his backyard that was so tall and straight with branches just in the right spots for kids to climb on. We’d play baseball and football and of course being Canadian, plenty of ball hockey. We’d tease the girls in the neighbourhood but really I think we were flirting with them. And the truth is some of the girls would join us on our biking jaunts and explorations. I grew up in Toronto, even then a big city but what I remember are the parks and woods and fields. It was 1960’s suburbia and it was a perfect environment for a kid to be a kid.

I heard a report recently about a new study that found kids don’t go outside much anymore. Their summers are spent largely indoors. They spend hours and hours on the computer, playing video games and of course watching TV. Some children rarely go to the park in the city. They’ve never had a true outdoors or wilderness experience. That’s sad.

I have no doubt that my ability as a kid to roam and run outside free of many of the social worries kids face today, shaped my love of the outdoors. If children don’t play outside anymore will they ever develop an appreciation for the outdoors? What will the consequence of that be down the road? Aside from having a generation of people who don’t hike or ski or ride bikes, what does this mean for the protection and preservation of wilderness areas in years to come? These are troubling questions and should be of concern to everyone who loves the outdoors.

I think too that we underestimate the value of play. When I was a kid we called everything we did playing. There was no lesson to be learned or project associated to say exploring the riverbank. We’d catch crayfish and build bridges with stones just for the love of it. We’d ride our bikes for miles, not as a way to get exercise, but just because it was fun. That pure form of childhood fun is something that I think is missing today, not only for kids but also for adults.

We joke about it today but often when I get a call from a skiing buddy about a trip planned for a Saturday, we refer to it as coming out and playing, exactly the same way as we did as kids. And that’s what it is. I discussed this with a friend on a recent afternoon mountain bike ride. He told me every time he rides his bike or skis or goes for a hike he is playing, plain and simple. He said it’s really no different than what he did as a kid; only now this kid is over 50. I feel exactly the same way.

We all agree that playing is essential for children. It’s how they learn and develop. I would argue that playing is a life long requirement for all of us, no matter our age. We all need that break from the stress of everyday life that play provides. Back in episode ten of the Doing Stuff Outdoors Podcast, Harold Cox talked about the same thing. He’s in his 50’s and kayaks just about every day. He also teaches the sport to kids at a local beach and he says the parents just sit there and watch. He can’t understand why they don’t join in. He says he plays every day and it keeps him young.

So if you’re a parent make sure your kids get out and play. And play with them. Pull the plug on the computer from time to time and take your children outdoors with you. Take them on walks and bicycle rides. They’ll love it, especially the time they spend with you. Go on outdoor outings together with other families with young children. If you’re kids are grown it doesn’t mean you still can’t play with them. Go on a hike together or a ski trip. It’ll be rewarding for both of you. Call up a friend and instead of going for a coffee, pack some water and bars in a bag and go for a long walk. It’s a great environment for having long talks. If you’re alone and you need a break, hop on your bicycle and go for a ride. Just go out and play and do it every day.


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Trail Magic 2 (May 19-22, 2003) by Lorne Blagdon


Four years ago Lorne Blagdon and his daughter Naomi hiked the entire length of the Appalachian Trail. He kept a trail journal and from that wrote a regular column for the local paper and he called it Trail Magic. We’re posting every Trail Magic column here on Doing Stuff Outdoors. Lorne is also turning his column into a regular audio segment on our Doing Stuff Outdoors Podcast. Be sure to listen to the podcast regularly for the latest from Lorne. Hope you enjoy this series.

As we started up the steep mountain approach trail I could not believe how difficult it was. I was glad that I had brought a walking stick. I had to stop every 10 steps or so and rest on my stick just to let my heart slow down. I was worried about blowing the main pump! We stopped to look at the beautiful Amicalola Falls as it cascaded down seven times a total of 729 feet. It got its name from a Cherokee word meaning tumbling waters. We continued hiking in the rain but we only made 4.8 miles the first day. We found a nice spot to pitch our tent and as the others set up tent I went in search of water. Naomi cooked while Nathan and Chris hung our food in a tree to keep the bears from getting it.

The best way to bear-proof food is to hang it off a branch at least 12 feet away from the tree. This is achieved by tying a rock to a rope and throwing it over the branch. Then tying a food bag to the rope and hoisting it as high as possible. A second bag is then tied to the other end of the rope as high as possible, coil the slack and place it on top of the food bag. Then use your stick to push the second bag up. The two food bags are then balanced on opposite ends of the rope high above the ground without any rope hanging that smart bears can grab and pull on.

The next morning we awoke to the noise of what sounded like marbles being hurled at our tent. When it rains down south it RAINS! Anything that is left unprotected is covered in mud that is thrown upward by the pounding rain.

When we arrived at the summit of Springer Mountain (the official start of the Appalachian Trail) it was Nathan’s birthday. We took several pictures and a fellow gave Nathan a sleeping pad because he did not want to carry it. Later that day I found a brand new tent that someone had discarded because they did not want to carry it. I gave it to a man that was just hiking for a day. I thought that if someone had the time, they could almost completely outfit themselves by hiking the first few miles of the trail for a few days.

Despite the rain we got up and hiked every day. The forest smelled like flowers and the trees were all in blossom of pink, purple, orange and mauves. The views were breathtaking but the climbs were unbelievably difficult. Nathan, Naomi, and Chris had blisters the size of loonies. Our bodies became sieves, sweating out as much water as we could drink. After a while we could not even taste salt in our sweat. On several occasions we would look down at hawks flying. The forest was almost entirely huge hardwood and it was not uncommon to see oaks and maples as straight as gun barrels for one hundred feet, that three men could not put their arms around. We hiked under a canopy created by the trees. The people we met on the trail were all friendly and appreciated the songs I would sing and play on my backpacker guitar. It pleased me to brighten up someone’s day when flash floods and forecasts of several weeks of rain were the order of the day.

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Doing Stuff Outdoors-12



On this edition of DSO we’ll meet the Babes in the Backcountry, or at least the woman who started this ‘just for women’ outdoor adventure company ten years ago in Colorado. Leslie Ross will tell us why she wanted to introduce more women to her world of telemark skiing, mountain biking and hiking and how the experience has changed the lives of many of these women.

Lorne Blagdon, our Appalachian Trail hiker drops by with news of another adventure he and his daughter are doing this summer. Later in July they’ll be part of a team put together by Backpacker Magazine to map the Continental Divide Trail.

We also have podsafe music from 2006 Pl@stic Soul and some kind words about the podcast from Brent at

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Filed under Adventure, Appalachian Trail, Colorado, Hiking, Outdoors, Telemark

Trail Magic 1 (May 17 to May 19th, 2003) by Lorne Blagdon


Four years ago Lorne Blagdon and his daughter Naomi hiked the entire length of the Appalachian Trail. He kept a trail journal and from that wrote a regular column for the local paper and he called it Trail Magic. Lorne is also turning his column into a regular audio segment on our podcast Doing Stuff Outdoors. Starting today we’ll be posting his Trail Magic printed series on a regular basis. You can listen to the accompanying audio version of this post on Doing Stuff Outdoors-03. And be sure to listen to the podcast regularly for the latest from Lorne. Hope you enjoy this series.

There are so many things that happened as Naomi and I hiked the Appalachian Trail that I am tempted to just copy word for word out of my trail journal. However, I think I will just write some of the highlights. On May 17th, 2003 I got up early after not sleeping very well. The night before I called Peter Fleming, the only person I have heard of to hike the entire Appalachian Trail. Peter was a wealth of information and was so excited to hear that I was going to hike the trail that his enthusiasm was infectious. This excitement kept me from sleeping. I had done some research on the trail and had made certain that we had what I thought we needed. Although, I am a woodsman, none of us had done any hiking before.
My parents drove Naomi, Nathan, and I to Bangor to catch a bus to Georgia. Nathan was not going to be able to finish the trail because he was going to return to university in the fall. While in the bus station in Bangor we met a young man from Moncton who had hiked the entire trail two years earlier. He was going to North Carolina to work. He shared his Trail Magic stories and told us of the best places to go to town. Trail Magic is when people are randomly kind or when some unexpected good thing happens to you. Just meeting him was Trail Magic.
The bus trip was not one trip but a series of grueling trips and stopovers. Bangor-Boston, one-hour stop, Boston-New York, 2-hour stop, New York-Baltimore-Washington, D.C. After 40 minutes in Washington, D.C. our bus started to leave without us but with our luggage. I just managed to flag it down and retrieve our luggage. I was not looking forward to the next 9-hour bus trip to Charlotte, NC. My knees hurt and I had not walked a single mile yet. When we arrived in North Carolina, we had a 5-1/2 hour stopover. Fundy (the fellow we met in Bangor showed up) we had not seen him since Boston. The final bus took us to Gainesville, Georgia. We met many friendly people on the bus but the most significant one, laughed so hard and loud when we told him of our plans that I swear the passengers of others vehicles could hear him. It was delightful. He gave me his address and I sent him a postcard from Pennsylvania.
We finally arrived in Gainesville, Georgia on May 19th, 48 hours after leaving Westfield. There we met Chris (a friend of Naomi’s) who arrived on a bus from Florida. We had arranged to connect with Jim Miner a Trail Angel (a Trail Angel is someone who provides a service to hikers out of the goodness of their heart). He took us to Amicalola Falls. Jim was an intelligent retired gentleman who formerly provided this service to anyone but now only gives drives to foreigners. Arriving in Amicalola Falls, we weighed our packs. My pack weighed 63 lbs., Naomi’s weighed 50, Nathan’s 60, and Chris’ weighed 60lbs. We signed in as thru-hikers (thru- hikers are people who are attempting to hike the entire trail). After being warned about bears eating hiker’s packs, we started our 2187-mile (3500 kms.) journey in the rain. Trail Magic and rain would be the two prominent factors for the next five months.

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Doing Stuff Outdoors-11


We have a little bit of everything on the show this week. Our feature interview is with Mike Doyle. He is a marathon runner and race organizer. Mike played a big part in creating the very first Marathon by the Sea in Saint John, New Brunswick. It is one of the largest and most successful marathons in Atlantic Canada. Listen as Mike tries to talk Gary into running the marathon this September.

Vernon Woolsey undertook a long bicycle ride to raise money for charity. He’s a mountain biker who had the chance to ride a smooth, fast road bike in the event. He’ll tell Gary about his experience.

And we will wind things up with another edition of Trail Magic. Hiker Lorne Blagdon tells us about some of the characters you meet on the Appalachian Trail.

All Things Outdoors: Bikeboard & RipStik Caster Board

Podsafe Music: Christopher Wright

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New Outdoors Column


It’s a new column with a new name but the writer remains the same. If you’re reading ‘Doing Stuff Outdoors’ in the River Valley News for the first time or if you’re a newcomer to and reading this post you should know how it came to be. I wrote a column called the River Valley Rambler for about 15 years in the local Grand Bay-Westfield paper that serves the River Valley area of New Brunswick. The ‘Rambler’ covered local events and people with a special emphasis on the outdoors and recreation. With the launch last May of a new website and podcast called ‘Doing Stuff Outdoors’ I’ve decided to retire the Rambler and write mainly about outdoor related topics.

So the Rambler is no more but that sense of adventure and excitement that I tried to bring to every column, I hope will live on in this new form. And as I said before much of what I’m going to write about now is the same as I’ve always covered in the Rambler.

So you’re probably wondering what this ‘Doing Stuff Outdoors’ is all about. I say in the description of the podcast that it’s content about outdoor activities and recreation or as I like to tag it… adventures for outdoor enthusiasts. These adventures include just about anything people do outside for fun. Of course we’re talking about the common outdoor activities like skiing, hiking, biking, boating, kayaking, climbing, walking, running and so on. These are people-powered, self-propelled forms of recreation and that’s what I’m interested in. As a life-long outdoor enthusiast these are the things I’ve always done and cared about. But I also want to expand the definition of the outdoors to include hobbies and pastimes like gardening and bird watching and flying kites and model airplanes. I’m interested in all forms of recreation. People of all ages are passionate about the things they do and so am I.

Outdoor enthusiasts are generally those who enjoy all aspects of the outdoors. They may have a favorite activity like hiking for instance but they also x-c ski in the winter and ride their bike in the summer. They’re also members of the naturalists club and may be especially interested in birds. And they love it when they get a chance to go on a canoe trip. They just enjoy being in the outdoors with family and friends, whatever the activity. They like getting out to new places, seeing new things and exploring the world around them. They aren’t afraid to try new activities and thrive on the challenge that brings. Outdoor enthusiasts are active people who enjoy life, live it to the fullest and always try to get the most out of every day and everything they do. They aren’t the type to sit on the couch. They’re doers. They aren’t fitness nuts but they know the importance of physical activity and eating properly and try to keep themselves in shape through exercise and diet so they’re able to enjoy the active lifestyle they lead. Outdoor enthusiasts are all these things and much more.

So this is the group I’m trying to reach with this column and blog and the weekly audio podcast and soon I hope, with video content. The topics we cover will be many and varied both from here at home and around the world. Already on the podcast we’ve featured interviews with outdoors people from as far a field as Scotland, Colorado, Utah, Ontario, Florida, BC and of course the Maritimes including the River Valley. Local hiker Lorne Blagdon shares his Appalachian Trail adventures with us regularly on the podcast and soon in the blog. Local running sensation Alex Coffin also provides regular running tips on the program. This is just the beginning. There will be many more.
My hope is this content will be of interest not only to outdoors people but also to everyone and may encourage people of all ages who may not be very active now to get out and start enjoying the outdoors.

So that’s some of what Doing Stuff Outdoors is about. I invite you to read the column regularly and check out the website. Over the past couple of months the posts have been mainly descriptions of the podcasts but that will change as more written material becomes available on-line. And please give the program a listen. Click where it says ‘Listen to the Podcast’ and it should start playing immediately or go to the directory of programs and it’ll take you to the homepage for the podcasts. Or better still go to iTunes and subscribe to Doing Stuff Outdoors. That way every new program both audio and video will be downloaded to your computer automatically and you can easily put it into your portable MP3 player and take it with you on your next walk or run.

So welcome to ‘Doing Stuff Outdoors’. I hope you enjoy the content and find it interesting and useful and perhaps inspirational.


Filed under Adventure, Appalachian Trail, Grand Bay-Westfield, New Brunswick, Outdoors, Skiing

Doing Stuff Outdoors-10


It’s our tenth show and to celebrate we have a special edition of Doing Stuff Outdoors for you. We’re going to the second annual Reverse Freestyle Kayak and BoaterX competition at the world famous Reversing Falls in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. This event brings together the top freestyle, whitewater paddlers from the Maritimes, Quebec, Ontario and Maine.

The BoaterX competition sees kayakers racing through the rapids around a course at low tide. The Freestyle event has paddlers doing flips and cartwheels on the huge standing waves created by the incredible tides of the Bay of Fundy, (the highest in the world) combining with the powerful flow of the mighty St. John River. At high tide the water through these rapids actually reverses and flows upstream. Many locals still consider it suicidal going anywhere near these waters at low or high tide.

We’re going to get in on the action by talking to some of the paddlers who will explain what it’s really like being in these raging waters with whirlpools large enough and powerful enough to pull a boat underwater and hold it there. We’ll find out why these kayakers have such a passion for extreme white water.

For more on the Reversing Falls and kayaking in Atlantic Canada check out Atlantic Kayaker.

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Filed under Adventure, Kayaking, Outdoors, St. John River, Whitewater