11th Oct 2011
A Day in the Great North Woods
Had a really nice sort of day today; Irene and I went out into the country and visited friends and mucked about in the backwoods. It’s fall here in New Brunswick (autumn, for Europeans and antipodeans.) The leaves of the hardwoods are turning reds and oranges and yellows, while their coniferous neighbors contrast a vibrant green. The white bark of the birches slashes down through this backdrop. The air was invisible to the horizon. Sun warm and breeze cool, gusty, but undecided. Irene and Caroline opted for a walk along the Tay River, a tributary of the Nashwaak. Nick and I took his two bird dogs, Charlie and Piper, and headed for thicker cover.
The dogs are Brittany Spaniels and he has them trained for hunting upland birds; today woodcock and grouse. Nick took the lead, actively training his dogs, and I was behind with a 20 gauge over-and-under shotgun just to see what popped up. We hunted the dogs separately (the commands become confusing if two dogs are hunting and training together.) The dog left behind in the truck howled pitifully. I didn’t fire a shot but it was a brilliant day in the woods –and swamps, and bogs, and tangles…the dogs ran arcs like dervishes, and finally we headed off, muddy and full of burrs, to meet the girls down by the river.
On the way down we passed through an old orchard overgrown with raspberry brambles. There were massive heaps of bear scat, full of chewed up apples, on the path. The trees overhead were heavy with apples, and bears had been fattening up for the winter hibernation. “Hey, Nick. I saw this thing on the internet. It was a warning sign for hikers in some area that had a lot of bear.” I went on to explain that the advice was to carry pepper spray and to attach bells to your clothing so bears could hear you coming and leave. It continued saying that hikers should become familiar with bear scat to know if a bear was active in the area. The droppings of black bears, it said, were full of berries and apple chunks and had very little odor. On the other hand, grizzly bear droppings were full of bells and smelled like pepper.
The woods thinned and dead leaves turned to round river stone as we came out to the Nashwaak. The water swirled and drifted by, blue from the sky and black where it ran close along the bank. The dogs cooled their bellies off; we sat and took in the flash of color that this season brings. Subconsciously my thoughts drifted ahead to the season laying in wait and decided that the argument is not about whether or not you’re going to freeze this winter; this is not really a country to observe through a window. Get outside in the forest and be active. Ski, hunt, hike, snowshoe, camp, whatever, but if you’re going to live in Canada, consider the possibility that it’s near impossible to enjoy the outside from the inside, and there’s shed-loads of outside around here!