Saturday, August 31, 2019

Cole Harbour to Halifax

This morning began bright and early with an act of generosity and kindness from Dwight, who offered to drive us back to the trailhead where we left off yesterday so we could finish the last 12 km of trail in to Halifax. We shared trail stories on the way, and left with wishes for a 'Buen Camino' for him as he heads off with family and friends to begin the 800 km Camino Frances in Spain. The happy memories of our hike there, and the people we met along the way are still strong for us, and will remain so.

The last kilometers of our hike in Nova Scotia along the Shearwater Flyer Trail felt like they flew by. The trail was shady, forested, and beautiful, and we were very pleased to see many people out jogging, bicycling, and walking it.


As we approached the outskirts of Dartmouth we got a glimpse of the industry that powers the economy in Dartmouth and Halifax. First we walked past a CN Rail yard full of brand new cars waiting to be shipped away. From this vantage point we could see the cranes down in the harbour, waiting to load the container ships bound for overseas destinations.

Next we walked past a complex of buildings used by the Armed Forces, and finally we found ourselves walking beside a large facility with Imperial Oil storage tanks.

We walked a short stretch of road, and then found ourselves on a waterfront trail. We had a magnificent view of the Halifax skyline across the harbour, and we could hear the joyous sounds of live music floating across the water from the Mosaic Festival of Arts and Culture. We couldn't have wished for a better welcome to the city.

As we continued around the harbour toward the Alderney Landing Ferry we saw some very colourful, creative, and interesting street art. In fact, some of the artists were taking advantage of the warm sunny weather to work on their pieces.  Once to Alderney we found a Great Trail Pavilion on the harbour front whose focus was on the efforts of Canadian Armed forces personnel and Engineers whose hard work and dedication went into building many of the bridges and pathways across Canada from coast to coast to coast.  As someone who has both travelled these infrastructures and waded through water in areas without bridges I can tell you that their efforts are greatly appreciated.


 We boarded the small ferry to cross the harbour from Dartmouth to Halifax on a water portion of the Great Trail. The ferry was pretty full of people enjoying the weekend weather and heading to the festival. As we crossed we had a lovely view of the Angus L. MacDonald Bridge.


We made our way along the waterfront, enjoying the festive atmosphere on the boardwalk. We passed the famous Cows Ice Cream shop, and wandered through the Historic Properties on the waterfront.

Our main goal was Mountain Equipment Co-op, where I hoped to find a new pair of Keen hiking boots, as well as a few additional items. The staff were very friendly and helpful, but unfortunately they didn't have any boots in my size :( It seems that although my current Keens have held up for nearly 2,500 km, they will be called on to go a little farther ... Charlottetown? Moncton? St. John? Oh my. We also failed to find any sleeping bag liners, or warmer sleeping bags that fit our budget and weight requirements, so we have yet to equip ourselves adequately for the cold nights that are already here. It seems a new set of challenges await us on the trail for the next month....


After visiting MEC we made our way back to the waterfront to celebrate finishing our second province with a pint at the Lower Deck pub. It was nice to relax and watch the crowds go by, many of whom seemed to be students about to begin university at Dalhousie.

Although our hike in Nova Scotia has come to an end, we will remain here for another few days as we speak at a number of locations in and around the Annapolis Valley. We have enjoyed our time in the beautiful province of Nova Scotia enormously, but it will take a while for all our experiences to sink in.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Porters Lake Provincial Park to Cole Harbour

Yesterday was uneventful, and we felt kind of restless because we spent most of it in the tent. We walked around the Porter's Lake Campground, which is very beautiful, but this wasn't really enough to alleviate the stir crazy atmosphere. The day was filled with scattered showers, which were often accompanied by bouts of high wind. It was warm, muggy, and wet.


One of the highlights was seeing a pair of Ring-necked Pheasants beside our campsite. There were also quite a few American Goldfinches, and several flocks of mixed warblers that included Palm Warblers, Black- throated Green Warblers, and Yellow-rumped Warblers.  Later in the evening, in the midst of the storm we were even visited by a cute Porcupine!

By later afternoon the winds began to pick up and the rain began in earnest. Overnight we got some respectable gusts of wind that made us glad to be inland, and glad we had taken the sensible precaution of pegging everything down very well. This part of Nova Scotia has needed rain very badly, and it certainly got some last night! At times there was more than an inch of water sitting on the ground outside the tent it was falling so hard and fast!



This morning arrived covered in fog. We have really missed this since leaving Newfoundland, and thoroughly enjoyed the magical atmosphere it brought. Unfortunately the sun soon burned it off, leaving behind a very hot and humid day.


The first seven kilometers we walked took us back along the shores of Porter's Lake, south to the Great Trail and the shores of the Atlantic. While taking sensible precautions by going to Porter's Lake two days ago was necessary, seven kilometer trek off your route is challenging, but the seven kilometers back onto your trail can be frustrating.

Glad to be back on the trail, we continued along the shore beside tall, grassy sand dunes that separated us from the beach and the beautiful blue Atlantic beyond it.

When we reached the Cole Harbour - East Lawrencetown Coastal Heritage Park we were surprised by the huge crowds of surfers out on the beach. The tropical storm had produced some respectable waves, and the local surfers were taking full advantage, although apparently this is a popular surfing beach year around. We were amazed to see a flock of Sanderlings frequenting the beach, apparently unperturbed by the crowds.

This park marked the beginning of the Atlantic View Trail. This was another gorgeous section of of trail that took us through forested areas, marshes, and along the coast.

When we reached Conrad Rd we made a small detour to the Lawrencetown Grocery and Pizza place. We had a presentation scheduled for 6 PM tonight, and this was the only chance for food along the way. To avoid presenting on an empty stomach we stopped for milkshakes and Greek salad, which were both delicious. We always find it difficult to continue hiking after eating, but it was good to refuel.


Shortly after stopping we found ourselves on the Salt Marsh Trail. This was a continuation of the beautiful trails we had been enjoying all day, but it took us out into the middle of a salt marsh. The tide was out, and the mud flats were full of birds! We saw a Bald Eagle soaring high above the marsh, a Belted Kingfisher giving its rasping call along the edges, Greater Black-backed, Herring, and Ring-billed Gulls scattered throughout the mudflats, a group of 30 or so Common Merganser females floating lazily in the shallows, a Great Blue Heron impersonating a piece of driftwood as it fished in the water, and mixed flocks of Willets, Black-bellied Plovers, Sanderlings, Semipalmated Plovers, and Piping Plovers foraging busily in the shallows. It was challenging to make ourselves keep going at a fast enough pace to make our presentation. We could have spent hours birding in the salt marsh!


As we continued we found that there were a number of Salt Marshes and inlets which the trail crossed.  Each provided us with more beauty and opportunities to view the region's birds!



Around 5 PM we made it to the Cole Harbour Program Building. This newly built facility is located right on the trail, and is a great spot to begin a nature hike or give a nature talk.


The wonderful and dedicated volunteers from the Cole Harbour Parks and Trails Association had set up the facility for us, complete with lots of interpretive pamphlets on the trails and local nature. This would certainly be a fantastic place for naturalist groups to gather, and it is only a short walk from some fabulous birding opportunities which include open field, forest, and salt marsh habits.

Around 6 PM a group of about 15 people had assembled for the talk. Afterwards we went for a short bird walk down the trail, during which we saw American Goldfinches, a group of American Robins, several Cedar Waxwings, a Black-throated Green Warbler, and a couple of American Crows. The group was very engaged and eager to contribute, and we learned a lot from them, both during our presentation and the walk afterwards.


After the talk several people very generously offered us a place to stay, and Holly, who helped organize the event, kindly offered to drive us quite a long way to our accommodations. Once again, the kindness of strangers never ceases to amaze to us.

We offer a huge thank you to Holly and Michael for organizing and setting up this event, to all those who offered us a place to stay, and to everyone who attended. Thank you! As trail volunteers you are amazing, and we thoroughly appreciate everything you do!