Posts Tagged ‘hiking’

For every beauty, there is an eye somewhere to see it.
For every truth, there is an ear somewhere to hear it.
For every love, there is a heart somewhere to receive it.
~ Ivan Panin

Messy woods that consist of a tangle of fallen trees are seldom considered worthwhile exploring. Yet there are wonders waiting to be revealed in the most unlikely places…

Though it’s now barely noticeable underfoot, millions of years ago, the creeping club moss shown above grew much larger.  The swamps that were filled with these club moss trees during the Carboniferous period were eventually transformed into the coal that’s mined today. 

Did a flicker make this hole? Standing dead trees (snags) in old growth forests offer places for wild creatures to nest. If flickers nest here this year, they’ll be looking for tasty ants, their favorite food, to feed upon in the neighborhood this summer.

Who treads the delicate stairs of this stair-step moss?   Utilized in the past as a covering for dirt floors and a gap filler between the logs of log cabins, it’s now being studied for its anti-bacterial properties.

The porcupine teeth marks on this tree reveal a delicate pattern.  Could we be missing a woodland delicacy by not including inner bark in our diet? It might be worthwhile trying in a survival situation.

Could this delicate creeping vine be partridge berry? Its rich red hue will turn to green later this spring when it will blend in more with the mosses surrounding it.

The forest is reflected in a woodland pool that will sustain a diversity of life before it dries later this summer. Do the faeries sit on this log at the end of day to relax and chat about the day’s adventures?

And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.
~ Roald Dahl

These photos were taken on a most enjoyable walk in the woods yesterday with my friend Sybil of Eastern Passage Passage who posted a very different version of our adventure on her blog 🙂 You can read her post here.

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Warnings are posted along the Salt Marsh Trail to remind people to stay away from the poison ivy.  This plant causes extreme itching on contact with the skin of both humans and animals.  Swellings, bumps and blisters may follow.

Poison ivy plants are characterized by green leaves arranged in groups of three.  They look fairly harmless and are either found by themselves in a large mass or hidden among other plants.   Along the Salt Marsh Trail, they are right at the edge of the path in some places, making it very easy for an unsuspecting child or dog to brush up against.

This year’s especially wonderful growing season has enabled most plants to grow earlier in the season and larger than usual.  Poison ivy is no exception.  Please exercise caution along the trail and in the woods as you enjoy the outdoors this summer. 

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There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot.
~ Aldo Leopold

Hiking along trails into the Nova Scotia wilderness has become a popular pastime in recent years.  For many, it offers an opportunity to see wild things in their natural surroundings.

Last year, when a young female hiker was killed by a coyote in Cape Breton, many Nova Scotians called for a bounty on coyotes.  The call was reiterated last week, when a young woman was again attacked by a coyote near Lunenburg. 

The Department of Natural Resources in the province does not believe that bounties on coyotes work.  One was unsuccessfully employed here in the 1980s.

As a precaution while hiking in the wilderness, the Department of Natural Resources recommends:

  • making noise
  • not walking alone
  • carrying a hiking stick

Following their recommendations seems more reasonable than putting forth the idea of getting rid of all coyotes in the province for the sake of a couple of bad ones.

A couple of homemade hiking sticks

Last fall, many family members laughed at me when I created a couple of hiking sticks for use along the Salt Marsh Trail where I’d seen a coyote last year.  They doubted if a stick would be useful in an attack and probably thought such sticks were best carried by the likes of wizards such as Gandalf and other old men.

On my first walk along the trail with my stick, another hiker asked me in passing if that was my coyote stick.  Maybe my idea wasn’t so far fetched after all. 

Though I used the stick several times, it was a nuisance to remember to bring it along.  I eventually began leaving it at home, especially on days when I was hoping to take photographs.  You need to find a place to rest your stick if you hold your camera with two hands as I frequently do. 

However, in light of this more recent attack, I’m wondering once again if carrying a big stick would be a good idea.

Recently, while reading ‘The Places in Between’ about Rory Stewart’s journey on foot across Afghanistan, I was surprised to come across the idea of walking sticks being used to fend off wildlife…

I had carried the ideal walking stick through Pakistan. It was five feet long and made of polished bamboo with an iron top and bottom; I had walked with it for nine months but had not brought it into Afghanistan. It was called a dang, and Jats, a farming caste from the Punjab, used to carry them, partly for self-protection, until the middle of the twentieth century.  Many people in both the Pakistani and Indian Punjab still had their grandfathers’ sticks in their houses… One man told me that his great-grandfather had killed the last lion in the Punjab with his dang; striking the ground on every fourth step gave a rhythm to my movement…

As I walked out an old man with a bushy white beard looked at the stick.

“You’re carrying it for the wolves, I presume,” he said.

“And the humans.”

~ Rory Stewart, The Places in Between

Perhaps we westerners could stand to learn a thing or two from folks in the East about the advantages of walking with a big stick. 

FAQs about Eastern Coyotes in Nova Scotia

Coyote Problems in Nova Scotia

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Today’s guest post is by Wayne Bell.

When I look back on my many recreational involvements over the years, it seems that I always gravitated towards those that offered a “mental barrier to cross.”  Rock climbing led me to become a mountaineering instructor. I enjoyed being pushed to the limits of my endurance and welcomed the challenge of dealing with unknown factors such as avalanches and the weather.

The Mountain required something of me that many people today just don’t want to give. I don’t know if they think that they don’t have the time, or are just unwilling to make the commitment. Maybe they don’t think it’s worth the effort, or that comfort is more important. Maybe they just don’t realize how great the reward is that awaits those who can complete or even set out on the journey.

Yes, the Mountain demands more than what is expected on a day-to-day basis. The route to the summit must start within, through trails seldom, if ever used in the past. Physically you have to endure and push yourself past the preconceived limits that you have held to be true up until this point in your life. You feel discomfort and sometimes pain, but still, you keep going.   Overcoming preconceived limits is never comfortable, but possible if you don’t allow them to limit  you, regardless of what these obstacles may be. Regardless of their physical nature, your preconceptions are the real barrier preventing your advance.

While climbing, you mentally face the fear of cold high places and learn to perceive gravity differently. However, the greatest fear is when you look into your own soul and find it looking back at you. Your frailties provide an excuse for you to surrender, but the Mountain waits and watches. Will you surrender to yourself?  Or will you ignore the lie that you cannot do more than what you have done in the past?

During the climb, what you learn most about is yourself and the type of person you are. Commitment, fear and the unknown must become fellow travelers on the journey.  They are part of the what-is and must be accepted, or you will fail.

When you succeed, you are ready for life. The view from the summit is just a small gift the Mountain gives you for your willingness to listen to a voice greater than yourself.

Mountains don’t have to be physically large.  Sometimes hiking up a hill or just walking on a flat path may be enough of a challenge.  There are also many journeys in life that are similar to climbing the Mountain: dealing with a young family, an aging parent, or a personal sickness. Although the journey you choose to take may be difficult, be committed to it. At the summit, you will find peace and satisfaction.

Although there are hills and rocks in Cow Bay, the only mountains that truly exist are those we perceive in our minds.

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coyoteCoyotes that have lost their fear of humans have become a concern in some parts of Nova Scotia where they are getting too close for comfort.  Problems often occur in  neighborhoods that border wild areas where there is an overlap of territories occupied by people and wildlife.

Last week, a young female hiker was killed by two coyotes in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, heightening awareness of the problem.  Both coyotes were shot. One is still on the loose, but an autopsy on the other revealed that it was neither hungry nor diseased when it attacked.

Some blame the problem on people feeding the coyotes, either willingly or by keeping backyard compost piles. I once heard of a woman somewhere in the province who was regularly feeding a couple of  skinny, homeless dogs, until her husband noticed her actions and pointed out that she was unassumingly feeding wild coyotes!

Small pets often fall prey to coyotes looking for an easy meal. I’ve always kept my cat indoors after being warned of coyotes in the area years ago.  Toddlers playing by themselves outdoors might also be easy prey.

It’s been suggested that the coyotes that attacked the hiker may have been coydogs, the offspring of coyotes and dogs.  These hybrids may have less of a natural fear of humans written in their DNA.

wile coyoteAs a solution, many folks would like a bounty placed on all coyotes in the province. It’s already legal to kill coyotes that are a nuisance on your property and there is a hunting season for coyotes as well. 

One comment at the local newspaper’s website boasted that eight coyotes had been trapped in the woods near Bissett Road a couple of years ago.

The first coyote I ever encountered, a strikingly beautiful animal, was seen while I was driving along that road years ago. I saw one near there this past spring along the salt marsh trail. It wanted nothing to do with me and quickly ran off.  More recently, a Cole Harbour man complained that a coyote had approached him on the trail and seemed to have no fear at all.  The Natural Resources Department told him the animal was probably just curious.

coyote in marsh

Coyote along Salt Marsh Trail

Like other animal lovers, I don’t want all coyotes to be hunted for the sake of a few bad ones.  However, I also don’t like the idea of having to look over my shoulder while I’m out in the woods.  A balanced response to the problem is needed.

Coyotes are not native to Nova Scotia.  These clever opportunists infiltrated the province just last century, coming up from the US.   As wolves were made extinct in the province well over a century ago due to over trapping, coyotes have no natural enemies to keep their population in check.  I’d like to see parks introduce wolves as part of the solution to the problem.  This would put the balance back into the ecosystem that was removed by man in the first place.

If you do venture out in the woods, it’s recommended that you don’t walk alone and keep children close.  The best advice seems to be to walk loudly and carry a big stick.

See also:  Nova Scotia Celebrates Earth Day with a Bounty on Coyotes

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porcupine leaving trail

A Porcupine Leaving the Salt Marsh Trail

Leave the beaten track behind occasionally and dive into the woods. Every time you do, you will be certain to find something you have never seen before.

Alexander Graham Bell

Both humans and animals favor the beaten track.  It’s easy.  It’s less work and there’s less chance of coming across the unknown.  Yet, there’s a price to be paid for both men and wild creatures.

A Fox Trail at Rainbow Haven Beach

A Fox Trail at Rainbow Haven Beach

Over time, predators become aware of who goes where and when, and stalk their prey from the shadows.  Hunters set snares along trails frequently used by hares and rabbits.  Human travellers become accustomed to getting from point A to B, and begin to lose the peripheral vision that ignited their curiosity as children.  Minds become dull and prone to boredom.

Leaving the beaten track behind doesn’t have to involve throwing caution to the wind and setting out into the wild without a compass.  It can be as simple as taking a little extra time to just stop and smell the wild roses that are growing a couple of feet beyond the trail.

wild roses

Wild Roses Growing Near Rainbow Haven Beach

If you’re a fair weather walker, you might consider donning some rain gear and setting out when it’s drizzling and there are puddles waiting to to be splashed along the trail.  Even walking along the same path at a different time of day can open up a mountain of new possibilities.  The light looks different in the morning than in the afternoon or evening.  Animal traffic changes throughout the day so you might see creatures you’ve never seen before along the same trail.

Best of all, doing or learning something new will clear some of the cobwebs from your brain and make it work better for the rest of the day.  That’s reason enough to leave the beaten track behind. 

And now for something completely different…

~ Monty Python

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