Monthly Archives: January 2008

Disappearing Trails

(This is a recently published column I wrote for my local newspaper. It’s also the basis of an ‘Outdoor Rant’ that was featured on the DSO-34 podcast. It’s about my local area here but I know the same thing is happening elsewhere. Access to trails is something all outdoor enthusiasts should be concerned about. If you’re facing a similar situation contact my by email at or leave a comment here.)


I was skiing along one of the local trails recently when I met another trail user going for a walk. We chatted about the weather and soon the conversation turned to the changing face of the backcountry this winter. We both commented how logging operations and the plowing of some roads have cut off access to some of our favorite trails. On parting the walker suggested that if this continues we may soon have to drive to Rockwood Park in the city to get access to the outdoors. Those comments have remained with me as I’ve explored more of our informal trail network in the Grand Bay-Westfield area. Given what I’ve seen so far this winter, I fear there may be some truth to those comments.

The clear cutting is everywhere. Trees are being downed right to the edge of long time back county trails and roads that have been used by people for generations. The logging equipment and trucks are tearing up the roads, making it impossible to ski on and difficult and even dangerous in places to walk. I haven’t heard complaints from ATVers and snowmobilers but I’m sure the cutting is having an impact on their enjoyment of the outdoors as well.

A major cutting operation is underway over at the four corners by the ball fields at the end of the Britain Road. The forest on both sides of the trail is leveled for a considerable way. By the old Grand Bay dump and off the Mitchell Road a new logging road extends far into the forest. The old ski trails behind the Westfield Golf Course are long gone, swallowed up in clear cuts that now extend toward the highway. This isn’t a new cut but I was skiing there the other day and lamenting over the loss of that trail system. It was the only wooded trail actually made for non-motorized use in this area. One of the most popular trails around here is what some call the Backland Road beside the Golf Course. It has also seen a lot of cutting this fall and the loggers have kept the road plowed through the early part of the winter. Plowing of course makes it almost impossible to ski. Further along the trail just past the Spencer’s Camp property, a new road has been cut through the woods. It doesn’t look like your typical logging road because it’s considerably wide. The most troubling aspect of this road is that it cuts right across the existing trail to Loch Alva. Hikers, skiers and snowmobiles have used this trail for many years. The new road chops it in half and blocks it entirely with an eight-foot ditch across the trail. ATVs and snowmobiles now have to detour to Spencer’s camp to get back on the trail. Skiers and hikers can still take the old trail but must negotiate this huge ditch to get through. It doesn’t seem right that a road can be built right across an existing trail like that. My skiing companions and I have explored that new road. It continues for some way and actually has two branches. I don’t know who built it or why but I don’t think it’s a logging road. My guess is it’s for a new subdivision sometime in the future. Either way, someone went to a lot of trouble and expense to build a road that right now goes nowhere.
img_0164.jpgDuring our explorations of the area we discovered evidence of some peoples total disrespect for other peoples property and for the environment. I hadn’t visited Spencer’s camp for years but the place is in ruin. Some thoughtless people went through the property and broke every window in every building. Windows and doors were forced open and ripped off the hinges. Nothing escaped the vandalism. Whoever is responsible for this had to work hard to inflict that kind of destruction. What a wasted effort.

It’s also sad seeing all the garbage left around in the outdoors. Out by Belvedere Lake we came upon a spot littered with empty beer cans and bottles. They had just been tossed and left there. This was at a trail intersection and the evidence points to thoughtless snowmobilers or four-wheelers. I can’t understand why people would do that. I know most hikers or skiers would never even consider leaving their garbage strewn about like that.

So even though the skiing was great, these incidents took away a little from the enjoyment of the outdoors. Given what I’ve seen so far this winter, especially in relation to clear cutting and trail access, perhaps it’s time to consider some kind of trail plan for the Grand Bay-Westfield area. We’re blessed here with a backyard full of some of the most beautiful country you’ll find anywhere. But that access and the woods themselves are disappearing quickly. Maybe we need a designated trail system and some kind of protected area. We should at least start thinking about it because more and more, access to outdoor recreation plays a significant part in attracting and keeping people in a community. It really would be a shame if we had to travel to the city to enjoy the outdoors.


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Filed under Backcountry, Grand Bay-Westfield, Hiking, Outdoors, Skiing, Trails

Doing Stuff Outdoors-36



It’s all about snowshoeing today on the podcast. Gary and his buddies go to Adair’s Wilderness Lodge in the wilds of New Brunswick. Gary packs his trusty skis along but soon discovers the snow conditions and the terrain are better suited to snowshoes. He gets a taste of a winter mode of transportation that goes back thousands of years and is becoming more popular than ever thanks to a new breed of lightweight and versatile snowshoes. Join the group as they snowshoe along a wilderness trail past waterfalls and spectacular scenery. If you want to get a taste of what snowshoeing is all about this podcast is for you.

Be sure to check out the Doing Stuff Outdoors website for regular blog posts and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes . Call in your outdoor adventures and story ideas to the comments line at 206-600-4557 and email the show at

Next week a trail builder in his 70’s who still gets a charge out of being in the outdoors.

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Filed under Adventure, Backcountry, New Brunswick, Outdoors, Snowshoes, Waterfalls

Snowshoeing at Adair’s

(This is a column I recently wrote for the local newspaper. It’s also a preview of the next podcast. On Doing Stuff Outdoors-36 we’ll take you to Adair’s Wilderness Lodge for a weekend of snowshoeing.)


Earlier in the winter when we were being buried by storm after storm of snow, I dug out an ancient pair of snowshoes and put them to work. The old bear-paw style snowshoes made of wood with leather webbing and an old, brittle leather binding has been in my family for over 50 years. I remember my father using them when I was very young. Somehow I now have the old snowshoes and actually use them on occasion. This time I put them on to break a trail through the backyard to take the garbage to the shed. Without the snowshoes I was sinking through drifts in some places almost up to my waist. The old snowshoes did their job once again.

Snowshoeing has become a popular winter recreational activity in the last few years, thanks in part to the introduction of a new breed of lightweight, easy to use snowshoe. I was never much interested in snowshoeing as an outdoor activity because I’m a skier. If there’s enough snow to play in the woods I’m going to do it on skis. I always figured snowshoeing was too slow and too boring for someone who’s used to gliding through snow. But I recently learned that snowshoeing can sometimes be the best way to travel on snow under some conditions as well as being a lot of fun.

img_0211.jpgI spent a winter weekend at Adair’s Wilderness Lodge past Sussex in what’s now known as Shepody. A group of us stayed in one of the comfortable cabins available for rent. On the Saturday a large group went snowshoeing along a fabulous trail that starts right from the cabin and follows along a ridge over to Walton Lake. I was the only person to ski the trail. That proved to be a mistake. The snow had a thick crust after a day of rain, making conditions difficult to start with. This is a hiking trail with plenty of ups and steep, narrow descents trough the trees. It crosses over streams on snow-covered logs and past two fabulous waterfalls. I struggled on skis and had to take them off and walk up and down some of the hills while my companions on snowshoes just motored along without a problem. It wasn’t until we reached the frozen lake that I could use my skis properly. Had I thought to bring my wider backcountry skis along with climbing skins I would have made out much better. But I have to admit that under those snow conditions and on that kind of terrain, snowshoes were the best form of winter transportation.

The next day we did the trail again the opposite way. This time I strapped on a pair of snowshoes. It was the first time I’ve really tried out a pair of these lightweight and narrow snowshoes. They came with a ratchet style binding that was easy to use and held my boot in place snugly and comfortably. As an added bonus, most of these new style snowshoes come with steel teeth under the binding, something like crampons used in mountain climbing. The steady grip they provide was helpful in the crusty snow conditions we encountered that day. They made the climbing up and the going down much easier. And their relatively small size and narrow shape made walking in these snowshoes very easy, even for someone unaccustomed to them like me. My ski poles added just the right amount of support and pushing power to make the day on the trail an enjoyable experience. I did discover however that my longer poles may be great for skiing but you’re better off with a shorter pole for snowshoeing. And even with all the skiing I do, my legs were sore the next day. So in addition to being enjoyable, snowshoeing also gives you a good workout.

We weren’t alone either. On the trail that weekend we met a number of people on snowshoes. There was even a fellow out on a pair of wooden snowshoes like the ones I have at home. He knew how to use them and had no trouble. I hate to admit it, being the ski snob that I am, but snowshoeing is OK and something I’d like to do more of. The new equipment can be pricey but if you’re going to use them, you might as well get something good. Some of our group actually rented snowshoes for the weekend from the Scout Shop. That’s probably a good idea, especially if you’re trying it for the first time. And if you’re looking for a good place to go for a day or a weekend, it doesn’t get much better than the trails you’ll find around Adair’s Wilderness Lodge.


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Filed under Adventure, New Brunswick, Nordic Skiing, Outdoors, Skiing, Snowshoes, Waterfalls

Doing Stuff Outdoors-35



Some sobering content on todays program. This is a record year for avalanche fatalities across western North America. The snow pack in many mountain areas is unstable creating dangerous conditions for outdoor enthusiasts venturing into the backcountry. In our feature interview we check in with the Canadian Avalanche Centre. Poor winter driving conditions are also to blame for the deaths of eight people recently in a horrible highway accident in New Brunswick. The tragedy struck close to home for Gary and he talks a little about that.

Running guy Alex Coffin is back with a conversation about some of his most memorable runs. We have more of your comments about the show including praise for a climber who sometimes gets forgotten in the story of Mount Everest and comments about Gary’s rant last time concerning access to the outdoors.

If you’d like to leave a comment about anything you hear on the show call the comments line at 206-600-4557 or email us at or leave a comment on our webpage. Be sure to check out the Doing Stuff Outdoors website for regular blog posts and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes .

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Filed under Accidents, Adventure, Avalanche, Backcountry, New Brunswick, Outdoors, Running, Skiing

Doing Stuff Outdoors-34



(Telemarking through the village)

Today we’ll tell you about a hidden gem high in the hills of Cape Breton Island. It’s a backcountry and telemark paradise called Ski Tuonela. A network of trails for skiers of every ability criss cross the mountain and Tuonela even offers the only lift serviced telemark skiing in Atlantic Canada. Skiers can stay for extended periods in a village, complete with cabins, dining hall and a wood fired sauna, located about half way up the mountain. The resort is only accessible by skis or snowshoes. It’s a wilderness, winter wonderland.

Also on the show more listener comments from Toronto, Edmonton and Wales, a tribute to the first man to climb Mount Everest Sir Edmund Hillary and Gary winds things up with an outdoors rant about clear cutting and access to outdoor trails.

Be sure to check out the Doing Stuff Outdoors website for regular blog posts and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes . Call in your outdoor adventures and story ideas to the comments line at 206-600-4557 and email the show at

Next week some memorable runs from running guru Alex Coffin.


(Happy skiers at Tuonela)


Filed under Adventure, Cape Breton, Mount Everest, Nordic Skiing, Outdoors, Skiing, Telemark

Doing Stuff Outdoors-33



On the first show of 2008 Gary talks to some avid skiers and snow boarders who braved a blizzard to play in some fresh powder snow. He’s buried in the white stuff this winter and having a blast. Gary visits Poley Mountain, his local ski area in southern New Brunswick.

“Where to Get Stuff” is back and we’ll hear about a paddling shop that’s been called the 4th best in the world by National Geographic Adventure magazine. It’s called White Squall and it’s located near Parry Sound, Ontario.

Also today more of your email comments about the show. We’d like to hear from you. Contact us at or call the comments line at 206-600-4557. Next week we’ll take you to a back country and telemark paradise on Cape Breton Island.

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Filed under Adventure, Georgian Bay, Kayaking, Outdoor Gear, Outdoors, Skiing, Snow, Snowshoes, Telemark

Snowed In… Again


I’m not complaining but damn… we have a pile of snow. I love the stuff of course… been skiing for the last three days. We’ve had three major storms this week. The last dumped over 30 cm. With the winds the drifts are a lot higher. During the storm before that I sneaked away to my local ski hill for some serious powder skiing, something we don’t see very often on the Atlantic coast. My new telemark gear made out of my old downhill skis worked like a charm. Twice I’ve hit the back country trails and had fun in the fresh snow. This is turning into an old fashioned type of winter around here with a storm dumping serious accumulations of snow every few days. I love it. Last year at this time I don’t think we had any snow on the ground. There’s so much of it I had to dig out my old antique snowshoes to take the garbage up to the shed. The snow in the backyard is almost up to my waist. Snowshoes are the easiest way to get around and they worked great until I broke the leather harness on one of them. Skiing is my thing but I think I’ll have to invest in a good pair of snowshoes, especially if the winter continues like this.


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Filed under Outdoors, Skiing, Snow, Snowshoes