An Old Love and a New Friend (Back to Taylor Head)
This Fall I had the opportunity to welcome an American Twitter outdoor friend to Nova Scotia and most excitingly, take him hiking on my favorite trail. Living in Nova Scotia, I try to most showcase to others the terrain that I think makes us special. Sure, we have many inland and forested trails which very much resemble East Coast America: Roots, rocks, the same soft and hardwood forests and giant granite glacial erratics dotting climbs to stony look offs.
But Nova Scotia also has a 7,400 km (4,600 mi) coastline, all of it wide open to the Atlantic Ocean or its many bays and straits. Beautiful beaches, staggering views from cliffs into a wide open watery, blue horizon. Driving through Nova Scotia you are never more than 64 km from the coast.
I picked Greg up at his hotel mid-morning and we crossed some of those 64 km (40 mi) through what happily remained of the fall colors on maples, poplars and birches in the Musquodobit Valley (yes, our indigenous people's history has left us with a few interesting and difficult to spell regions and towns). The day – previously forecasted for rain – was unseasonably warm and beautiful. We picked up the Eastern Shore route and followed the coastline to Taylor Head Provincial Park. View after view of the ocean, the coast and small fishing communities came along for the ride, views I perhaps have too easily taken for granted, but now was seeing again for the first time through Greg’s eyes.
Finally we arrived and hit the trail. (I asked Greg for his impressions in writing so I could share them with you as well.)
Most of the people I hike and camp with are familiar with the sights, sounds and smells of their usual forests and woods. In the Midwest US, where I do most of my outdoor time, I recognize the aroma of pine trees and wildflowers in the spring. It’s a comfortable, familiar flooding of the senses each time we venture out. But all my senses were turned upside down (in a good way) on recent coastal trek with a hiking buddy met on social media. The 8 km (5 mi) Headland Trail of the Taylor Head Provincial Park in Nova Scotia was my first true coastal hike, and opened my horizon, literally and figuratively. [Greg]
I’ve been to Taylor Head many times and in all three good weather seasons. I’ve tromped through its muddy Spring, basked in the glow of its summer, and filled my lungs with the cooler air and colors of its autumn. For the first time in a very long time, today I had the opportunity to share that with a fellow hiker.
From walking along a stony trail just yards from the crashing surf, to a gradual ascent to a bluff overlooking the ocean, this historic Eastern Shore hike did not disappoint. Salt air instead of pine. Constant sea breeze instead of the varied winds in the Midwest United States. Sea birds unknown to the fresh water streams and ponds I frequent. Bleached, petrified trees compared to moss-covered blowdowns. Everything is different, and yet similar. My head and heart are centered and calmed, just like on every trail. [Greg]
I “warned” Greg when we set out that this was my first not-solo hike in over a year. But I’m now converted to the joys of hiking with someone who shares your love of nature. Most of the trail is single file and we spent much of it in comfortable silence, absorbing the peace that we would alone. We’d stop from time to time at a particularly spectacular spot or view and grab a few pictures. A perfect balance of company and peacefulness on the trail.
The trail follows tightly the coastline of a small point of land, wandering from time to time in and out of wooded sections onto sand and ocean stone beaches. Greg got to hike all of the above, and I got to experience it a new way, one of pride and the happiness that comes of gifting another person with a memorable life experience.
The trail was very quiet this time of year, we met very few people. The picnic table at the point was free for lunch. We ate in the brilliant sun surrounded by open water and crashing surf.
Getting back to the car was the usual mixture of reluctance and relief. The hike was over but it was a good walk and my legs were starting to feel it. Still, knowing I was leaving the beauty and tranquility behind for traffic and the city again was hard.
There’s some science behind positive ions and salt that I won’t pretend to understand. All I know is that being close to the ocean leaves me feeling grounded, centered and peaceful. So I am very fortunate indeed to live in such a beautiful place, that I can share proudly with friends old and new.
We hike, camp, paddle and trek outdoors to renew, refresh and recharge our senses. And, perhaps our senses take for granted our usual trails and woods. My emotions and senses were broadened and expanded on my first Eastern Shore coastal hike. And, I win twice. A new hiking friend and new trail. And, a renewed appreciation for creation, no matter where I venture out. [Greg]