Annual Hike with Ryan: Salt Marsh Trail, 2016

Once again, Ryan Neily and I met last month for our annual hike. This year, to give our aging knees a break, we visited the Salt Marsh Trail for the first time. For an added level of challenge and to access the trail by public transit, we started with the Shearwater Flyer Trail and finished with the Heritage Trail. It was a perfect day both for hiking and photography: cool with cloud cover and a refreshing coastal breeze. The entire hike was over 25 km and took the better part of the day to complete. Good times, great conversations, and I look forward to visiting these beautiful trails again!

Salt Marsh trail hike, 2016. Click to start the slideshow.
Salt Marsh trail hike, 2016. Click to start the slideshow.
We start here, on the Shearwater flyer trail.
We start here, on the Shearwater flyer trail.
Couldn’t ID this bush. The berries are spectacular! A pond to the side of the trail. Different angle for dramatic lighting effect. Rail bridge converted to foot bridge. Cranberries! Reviewing our progress. From the start … Map of the Salt Marsh trail ahead. Off we go again! First glimpse through the trees. Appreciating the cloud cover today. Salt-marshy grasses. Never far from rocks in NS. Rocks all laid out in stripes. Lunch & selfie time. Ryan attacking his salad. Vantage point. A bit of causeway coast. Plenty of eel grass. Costal flora. We head for the bridge next. Impressed by the power of the flow beneath. Snapping more marsh shots. Ripples. Gulls, and if you squint, a copter. More ripples. Swift current along this channel. Until it broadens out and slows down. Nearly across. Heron! Sorry it’s so tiny. Heron again, before I lost it. Ducks at the head of the Atlantic View trail where we rested and then turned back. Attempt at artsy. Nodding ladies tresses on the way back. Several of them. Sky darkening, but we still have time. A lonely wild rose. The last gasp of late summer. Back across the marshes. A short breather on the Heritage Trail.

Here’s the Strava record of our hike:

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Bluff Trail icy dawn: Winter 2016

Before the rest of the family was up, I took a brief excursion to explore the first kilometre of the Bluff Trail and check out conditions. I turned at the ridge, satisfied I had seen enough to give an idea of what it’s like out there, and then walked back the four kilometres home on the BLT Trail.

I saw three joggers and their three dogs just before I exited the Bluff Trail on the way back, and later, two young men on the BLT with day packs approaching. The parking lot had gained two more cars for a total of three as I headed home. Exercising appropriate caution and judgement, the first loop is beautiful and rewarding, and I’m not alone in feeling the draw of its delights this crisp morning.

Click the first photo below to start the slideshow.

Click to start the slideshow
Click to start the slideshow
At the parking lot, some ice, but passable with caution Trail head: a few mm of sleet Many footprints since last snowfall Thin ice encrusts the bog The boardwalk offers some loose traction Mental note: buy crampons More thin bog ice Bubbles captured in the bog ice Shelves hang above receding water First challenging boulder ascent Rewarding view at the crest Time to turn back here Flowing runnels alongside BLT Trail Home soon to fix breakfast If it looks like a tripod, it is Not a very adjustable tripod, however Pretty, encrusted pool The sun peeks out briefly Light creeps down the rock face Shimmering icy droplets and feathery moss Capped with a light dusting of sleet
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Learning Nova Scotia Plants with Anki Flashcards

plants_of_nova_scotiaOne of the greatest pleasures of walking and hiking is to appreciate all of the many living things encountered along the way. A big part of that appreciation for me is to be able to identify individual species and learn the relationships among them. To that end, I would like to introduce a flashcard deck I created, based on the glossary of the excellent, and also free, Nova Scotia Plants, by Marian C. Munro, Ruth E. Newell, and Nicholas M. Hill, so that I could more effectively use the book as an amateur student of our local flora.

  • Download the book.
  • Download my Nova Scotia Plants glossary flashcard deck for Anki.
  • Install Anki for your platform and register at ankiweb.net.
  • Import the apkg deck file in Anki.
  • Enjoy studying the plants of Nova Scotia with these resources.
  • Comments are welcome here, and a review on ankiweb.net would be appreciated.

Creating the Nova Scotia Plants glossary for Anki

I authored the deck on Debian, using the free software utility pdftotext (from poppler-utils), the small shell script below to produce a rough draft, and a text editor to clean up any errors, inconsistencies, and artefacts caused by the conversion process, such as descriptions which wrapped to a second line.

#!/bin/sh
pdftotext -f 40 -l 55 \
  'Print Nova Scotia Plants complete manuscript.pdf' \
  glossary_raw.txt
egrep -v '^[ixvl]+$' glossary_raw.txt | \
  grep -P '^\f?[ a-z]+' | \
  sed -re 's/^\f?([^–]+)( [-–]+ ?|[-–]+ )( ?(.+))/\1\t\4/' \
  > glossary_import.txt

Nova Scotia Plants

The Anki flashcard deck is intended as a companion for studying Nova Scotia Plants, linked above, and available either as a single PDF file, or multiple, smaller PDFs per section or family. This ebook has been a constant companion to me on my tablet during my walks and to study in quiet moments of the day. It has enriched my enjoyment of nature in Nova Scotia immeasurably. I am indebted to the authors for the years of work they put into it, and for making it available to the public for free. I hope you get as much out of it as I have.

Anki for devices

One of the criteria I used in selecting Anki as my flashcard software is that it is available for Debian, but also should work on my devices. I use the free software, AnkiDroid, on my Android phone and tablet, available both in F-Droid and the Google Play store. I understand there is also AnkiMobile for iOS, but that is not free.

Feedback

Please take the time to give me feedback. I spent an afternoon and a morning putting these materials together to share, and am eager to hear if my work has benefited you. Let me know if you have any suggestions for improvements, and don’t forget to leave a review at ankiweb.net.

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Colours of Autumn 2015, Bluff Trail

My friend Ross Mayhew and I enjoyed a perfect Autumn afternoon yesterday, full of colours on the Bluff Trail. Not all of these photos do justice to the splendour and intricate detail I had hoped to capture, but I hope you enjoy them all the same. Click the photo to start the slideshow.

Late afternoon at the top of Pot Lake loop
Late afternoon at the top of Pot Lake loop
On my way to hike, the Canada holly hints of things to come Canada holly berries bright red and close to the branch (vs. dusky red false holly berries on long stems) Unsure which fern this is. Ross says Christmas, but the leaf margins aren’t serrated, but smooth. Sheltered by this mossy stump, a pretty mushroom Moss found climbing up a rotted stump, peculiar in that it has flat, fern-like fronds Ross and I spent a while examining this peculiar flat-fronded moss The reds of the huckleberries and maples were striking A tiny fern by a trickle of water across the path A familiar view overlooking Cranberry Lake, now in its fall splendour Brilliant Canada holly berries along the bog at our hike’s end
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Annual Bluff Hike, 2015

Here is a photo journal of our hike on the Bluff Wilderness Trail with my friend, Ryan Neily, as is our tradition at this time of year. Rather than hike all four loops, as we achieved last year, we chose to cover only the Pot Lake and Indian Hill loops. Like our meandering pace, our conversations were enjoyable and far ranging, with Nature doing her part, stimulating our minds and bodies and refreshing our spirits.

A break at the summit of Pot Lake loop. Click to start slideshow.
A break at the summit of Pot Lake loop. Click to start slideshow.
Northern bayberry A few showers quickly dissipated into light mist on the first leg of the hike Ryan, enjoying one of the many beautiful views Cormorant or shag. Hard to say from this poor, zoomed cellphone shot. Darkened pool amongst the rugged trees Late summer colours A riot of life shoots up in every crevice Large boulders and trees, forming a non-concrete alley along the trail margin Huckleberries still plentiful on the Indian Hill loop Sustenance to keep us going Not at all picked over, like the Pot Lake loop We break here for lunch Just about ready to embark on the last half We are surprised by the productivity of these short, scrubby huckleberries Barely rising from the reindeer moss, each huckleberry twig provides sweet, juicy handfuls A small pond on the trip back A break on the home stretch “Common” juniper, which nevertheless is not so common out here Immature green common juniper “berries” (actually cones)
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Hike at Blomidon Park: Late Summer, 2015

I had the wonderful privilege to go camping and hiking with my kids’ scouting group, the Pathfinders of Tantallon SDA church. The day started with a quick trip to Pugwash with one of the leaders to bring back some chairs to their school, and then we headed back out to Blomidon to meet up with the group. Click the photo below to start the slideshow.

The road trip started early to fetch some chairs
The road trip started early to fetch some chairs – click to start
The smudgy truck windows make an interesting filter Still an hour or more away from our first stop More funky filtering, this time with trees participating Wentworth valley – taken over the cluttered dash We disturbed a great blue heron’s breakfast at Wallace The beach at Pugwash SDA Camp where we loaded the chairs Trucking along past Truro After dropping off chairs, finally approaching Blomidon Getting very close to Blomidon Some bikers out to enjoy the views Interesting white berries Interesting red berries My first up close look at the point with my hiking buddy, Dave, on the first day An experimental panorama. Not sure I have the knack for keeping the horizon straight. We must bring the group out here tomorrow! Fast ringneck snake! Hard to get a clear shot Pre-dawn over the campground The first blush of coming dawn The Moon and Venus just before dawn Evergreens surrounding our camp site, pre-dawn Seems I’m still the only one up Half of the tents on the spacious group site Half of the tents on the spacious group site My daughter, the artist My two youngest and their best friend Some relaxing down time after breakfast Not sure who said what, but apparently they were hilarious. 🙂 The smoke was a bit much for my eldest Geoff entertaining the troops Dave making breakfast Dave making breakfast Breakfast just wrapping up Relaxing while we finish breakfast Looks like that needs some tweaking A bit too smoky The whole group The whole group Just goofing around Who’s winning? Enjoying the last embers of the breakfast fire before heading to Jodrey Trail I admire this young lady’s great eye for photography She has some sweet gear A lot of old hardwoods out here Dave did this hike with me yesterday – Excellent hiking buddy! Words can’t describe how much more stunning these views are in person All the cameras came out Got to get that perfect shot! A tree clinging to the eroding ground above the sheer cliff A lookoff on Jodrey Trail A lookoff on Jodrey Trail Lining up her shot /a> A lookoff on Jodrey Trail A lookoff on Jodrey Trail A lookoff on Jodrey Trail A fern with sharply serrated sturdy leaves I’m not familiar with Breaking camp at group site 404 One final chance to enjoy the view from the park entrance before heading home
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McIntosh Run “Hike the Greenbelt” event, August 2015

Just came back from a wonderful time hiking with my daughter at the finale Hike the Greenbelt event at the Backlands/McIntosh Run! This photo slideshow is from my HP snapshot camera which unfortunately has dust in the lens. But I felt it was more important to get them up soon than to get them perfect, so please click the photo below to start the slideshow. I want to thank everyone who made this event a success, and not going to name specific names as I’m sure I’ll miss someone important. But thanks especially to Martin, the leader of our group.

Marcos Zentilli explaining geology of the region. Click photo to start slideshow.
Marcos Zentilli explaining geology of the region. Click photo to start slideshow.
Barrens Barrens Barrens Barrens DIGITAL CAMERA Jack Pine in Jack Pine 😉 DIGITAL CAMERA DIGITAL CAMERA DIGITAL CAMERA DIGITAL CAMERA Part of the waterway DIGITAL CAMERA DIGITAL CAMERA DIGITAL CAMERA DIGITAL CAMERA DIGITAL CAMERA DIGITAL CAMERA DIGITAL CAMERA DIGITAL CAMERA DIGITAL CAMERA DIGITAL CAMERA DIGITAL CAMERA DIGITAL CAMERA DIGITAL CAMERA
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Bluff Trail – Early Summer 2015

Here’s a photo journal of a walk I just completed around the Pot Lake loop of the Bluff Wilderness Hiking Trail. Hope you enjoy it!

I was dissatisfied with my initial post, so have reduced the size to improve load time, changed the gallery software and have rewritten many of the captions.

My favourite stunted tamarack, clinging to the rocks.
Click this photo to start the slideshow.
The Bluff Wilderness Hiking Trail is a series of four loops. Today I’ll tackle only the first in order to get as many pictures as possible, and because when hiking solo, I prefer to stay on the more heavily traveled part. In late summer, I’ll probably do all four loops with my friend Ryan again. Meanwhile, I’ll stay in shape coming out here when I can for shorter walks. The trail starts here. Right away, even before heading between the marker stones, there’s a pretty view of Cranberry Lake off to the right. Pink lady slippers have been plentiful this year! All along the trail, you can find hundreds, if not thousands of these. Boardwalks provide dry passage across the boggy bits. The pitcher plants are thriving, too. The vines with tiny, round leaves are wintergreen. Tasty! I’ve not seen anything larger than a deer out here. Roots and rocks are a recurring theme. Many feet beating down on the first loop have packed the earth hard and have exposed more roots than you’ll see deeper into the trail system where fewer hikers travel. Step carefully. Sheep laurel is an eye-catcher. To me, they look like little, pink jewels. Yellow markers clearly mark the Pot Lake loop. At crucial junctures there are some signs to point you the right way. If you’re looking only at your feet, you may see black circles marked with arrows on some of the rocks, also pointing the way. The vegetation varies from scraggly and clinging to the rocks, to lush and green. The path is wet in parts. Nothing impassible, though. On the first loop in particular, and even within only the first kilometre, there are some pretty stunning views of the lake. Very quickly, you’ll find yourself perched up top on the rocks. On this stretch, you need to hop a bit from one rock to the next. Just as quickly as you ascended, you descend back down to the lake again. A good place to stop and have a snack. The start of the first loop, itself. I chide myself for not having discovered this trail until about 2007, even though we moved out here in 2005. It’s a treasure we’re indebted to the WRWEO for preserving. Leave some comments in the box, if you like. You’ll find these maps along the way to track your progress. Remember to follow proper trail etiquette. A particularly steep climb! Despite the best trail maintenance efforts, water still goes where it wants! Good to have boots. Another steep climb. This tree is chattering at me. Raising quite a racket. What’s in the hole? I patiently wait with my camera to get a good shot of the tree’s occupants. Mother woodpecker, feeding her babies! As the feeding continues, the chirping intensifies! Up on top of a big rock with a view over the lake is another favourite stopping place for a snack. The view at my snack break rock. I never get tired of it. There are some pretty big boulders. Next time I’ll bring a friend to stand under it for scale. Another terrific view. A stream just before the first portage. This portage connects Cranberry Lake with Pot Lake. The portage is clearly marked. The Pot Lake end of the portage. One of several upturned trees, with the roots now forming a wall along one side of the trail. The spiral of the roots mimics the spiral split in this boulder which you can walk all of the way into until you reach the centre. Rocks and trees and trees and rocks … White pine catkins. Suddenly the close forest opens up into a wide view all around. My favourite stunted tamarack, clinging to the rocks. Last year’s cones. This year’s aren’t out yet on this tree. I love the tamarack’s delicate new needles. These blueberries have a head start. Can’t wait until it’s time to harvest them. Nearly at the top of the Pot Lake loop. This is Pot Lake, itself. I was struck by this one little blighted berry, showing a blush of distress-induced colour amongst the green ones. Another view, nearly at the top. A sign beneath the map: Rare Plant Species: Mountain Sandwort – Arenaria groenlandica. Use caution and stay on designated trails. Avoid disturbing habitat. Finally, the top. A map to mark your progress. Apparently the Mountain Sandwort, right at the base of the sign. The mountain sandwort is a pretty, delicate little thing. After passing the sign, the view from the top over Cranberry Lake, indeed both lakes, is a reward worth climbing all of the way up to see. Some other hiker has left a cairn. The descent is not too steep at first. The approach down to the back side of Pot Lake from the top is marked by exposed bedrock and scrubby plants. Finally back to some cover, which is welcome on hotter days. A ferny fairyland. It’s not all abrupt ups and downs. Here’s an easy, winding stretch of trail. Cinnamon ferns. Ambling along. Rounding the end of Pot Lake. Not very long after reaching the lake, the path climbs several metres up above it. There are some nice, rootless bits on this side of the loop, giving your ankles and knees a break. This guy seemed extremely agitated to see me. A new tamarack cone! Did I mention I like tamaracks? The steep descent back to Cranberry Lake again. Finally back where the loop starts.
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Bluff Wilderness Trail Hike, Summer 2014

Happy to be back from our yearly hike with my friend, Ryan Neily, on the Bluff Wilderness Trail. We’re proud of our achievement, hiking all four loops. Including the trip to and from the head of the trail, that was 30 km in all. Exhausting, but well worth it.

On the trip we bumped into one of the people from WRWEO who helps to maintain the trail, and stopped for a bit to talk to swap stories and tips about hiking the trail. Kudos to Nanci for helping keep this trail beautiful and accessible. We really appreciate the tireless work of this organization, and the thought they’ve put into it. It’s a treasure!

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