Wednesday, August 28, 2019

East Chezzetcook to Porters Lake Provincial Park

After a wonderful breakfast, Mary drove us back to the Atlantic Superstore for resupplies. Conveniently, it was located right on the trail, so after a short goodbye we were on our way along The Great Trail.


We set off with a brand new appreciation for the lovely shaded trail, with it's nice, soft, flat, pea gravel surface. As we wound around a school and crossed the highway we saw further signs of trail development in the construction of a bridge over the highway, which will make the crossing much safer in the future!

We were on the Blueberry Run section of the trail, and relatively quickly we could see signs of the disagreement between the multi-use groups behind the Great Trail and the local ATV club. At each bridge and road crossing there were four or more signs telling us that the trail had been built and was being maintained by the ATV club. The Great Trail markers all had ATV club stickers affixed to them, and the signs instructing us the respect all trail users had been systematically defaced.

Evidence of the struggle was everywhere, and as we walked three teenagers on ATVs raced up on us, swerved at us, and then tried to spray us with gravel. They made three passes before leaving us alone in a cloud of dust yelling at us to stay off their trail.  This is the first such encounter we've had anywhere on the trail so far though we had been previously warned by other hikers of the hostility of ATVers in this region towards cyclists, walkers, and hikers. Stunned we took a break and I Instagrammed out on what happened only to later find that this would result in us getting several insulting emails and facebook messages stating that "we should stay off ATV trails", "we should go home", and that "you are being just another emotional and dramatic woman who isn't wanted here". 

Not realizing what my post would lead to later in the day we continued down the trail.  As we walked the shear number of ATV club signs in pristine condition  - at times posted every 3-5 feet and number of damaged and removed postings related to speed limits, or respecting all users, or no motorized vehicles allowed - was proof of the tensions along this section of the trail.  Moreover it was surprising to us, given that we had travelled the width of Newfoundland and had come to relish our daily chats with Quad users and their hospitality. 

By noon we were ready for a break in the shade and stepped into a trail pavilion to rest. However, no sooner were our packs off than an ATV drove up, stop and ask us what we were doing.  We responded, as we usually do that we are hiking along the trailway along the entire length of The Great Trail across Canada to get youth outdoors and interested in nature.  In reply he responded "ya right, well this isn't a hiker rest area, it's for ATV users only so get moving."  We apologized and stated that we thought the trails were aided by local trail associations and The Great Trail for everyone and anyone to use.  To which we were told "see the signs?  We paid for this trail, we are empowered to patrol it, we work with your Great Trail and they gave us the trail to drive on.  That's why they put our logo on all of their signs, so people know it is our trail."  By this point the man was clearly agitated and so we apologized respectfully, packed our bags and continued down the pathway, stunned by the animosity that this issue was raising in such a beautiful community 

Finding a resolution to the struggle between ATV users and other groups, including snowmobile clubs, will be challenging, and behaviour like this does nothing to help. Adding to the challenges in the midst of this debate, and very evident to two hikers now enjoying the immaculate condition of other pathways in Nova Scotia such as the Celtic Shores, Cobequid Trails, and Musquodoboit Trail, was the fact that in this region which ATV users had staked their claim the trail was torn up with large ruts, had a number of routes which left the main path and went into marshes or onto private property, and was more challenging to walk along.


The trail was gorgeous as we headed down the eastern shore of Porter Lake. It was a lovely sunny day, and we soon caught the scent of salt sea breeze. As we approached Seaforth we began to have wonderful views of the Atlantic.


In Seaforth we stopped for a bit to visit the Hope for Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. This charitable organization has rehabilitated and released over 40,000 injured or orphaned animals, representing 250 species, since it was established 22 years ago. Today the center runs a wildlife help line that assists about 20,000 callers a year, offers guided tours of their facility, runs an educational program, and collects data on the wildlife they rehabilitate.


During our visit we walked through the pollinator garden, admired the peace pole, and saw at least eight different species, including a Red-tailed Hawk, a pair of Broad-winged Hawks, a Barred Owl, a chipmunk, a pair of Red Squirrels, a Groundhog (who loves climbing!) and lots of porcupines.


In the gift shop they sold milkweed seeds that can be planted to help monarch butterflies, honey from their bees, and art done by their volunteers. The proceeds from the shop go to support the center.

It was a truly amazing place, and it was inspiring that so much good could grow from the founder, Hope - a single person with a passion to make the world a better place through helping animals.


After visiting the center we began a 7 km road walk off the Great Trail to Porters Lake Provincial Park to camp. This seemed like an awfully long way to go off trail just to camp, but there is a tropical storm on the way tomorrow. On this section the trail is right on the Atlantic Coast, which is incredibly beautiful, but also very exposed. There is also little freshwater along this section of trail. They are predicting wind gusts up to 70 kph, and waves as high as 4 m, so we are heading inland and battening down the hatches for tonight and tomorrow night.


We have a somewhat sheltered campsite for the night.

The sky was perfectly clear as we headed to bed, and we spent some time playing with the free Skyview App on our phone. With this App open you can hold your phone up to the night sky and it will provide the names of the stars or plants you are seeing, as well as drawing the constellations, if you ask it to.


As we fall asleep we can hear Common Loons calling on the lake. We can also hear the shuffling, crunching, and rather loud munching of a porcupine just outside our tent!

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