Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Hiking the High Head Trail

Published in the South Shore Breaker - Sept 7, 2016
One of the things to be thankful for is friendships that lead you to new adventures and discoveries. All of us know about Peggys Cove and the spectacular granite rocks. I was recently introduced to an amazing place that rivals the scenery around that famous cove, but lacks the droves of tourists. A couple of weeks ago I went hiking on the High Head Trail in Prospect with a couple of friends.

Just a 30 minute drive from downtown Halifax, it took us about one and a half hours from the South Shore to arrive at the small parking area. The trail is protected by the Nature Conservancy of Canada and is part of the Dr. Bill Freedman Nature Reserve, a 372 acre area of protected coastal barrens and forest. There are no facilities, and no signage. The four kilometre trail is quite easy to follow and I would rate the difficulty as moderate, but I
m not a hiker. There are lots of rocks on the well trodden paths, which meant a lot of looking down for me as I was walking. My bursitis filled hip was talking to me by the end of the afternoon, but the scenery was spectacular and a sore body was a small price to pay.

hikers on the ridge show the proportion of the landscape
It constantly surprises me how often I think to myself that I am so very lucky to live in Nova Scotia.

Oh my. The beauty of the area is amazing. There are two approaches to the trail and we parked at the end near Prospect Village. We hiked up the hill covered in rocks at the beginning of the trail and quickly came to a beautiful ocean view. The constant breeze was a blessing on the hot summer day that we were there. The wind swept barrens were abundant with low growing plants, most of which I didn
t know. There were boggy areas with cranberries that will be ripe for the picking in the fall. Wild irises were everywhere, and I made a note to myself to come back early next summer to see them in bloom.

It seems every time I hike with my friend, I learn something about nature. This trip introduced me to pitcher plants, which I had never seen growing wild before. Carnivorous plants with a single dull reddish flower rising on a leafless stalk, the pitcher holds water to trap insects. We carefully walked over the spongy ground to take a close look at them.

Reading about the area after I returned from our hike, I learned that the granite barrens purify the ground water prior to its entry into the ocean. Regardless of their role in nature, the rocks are stunning and a joy to climb on, or simply just stand on and take in the endless beauty of the area.

a sailboat in the distance enjoys the area in a different way

They also make good resting spots to stop and eat. If you want nourishment along the way, you have to pack it in and you just couldnt ask for a more beautiful location for dining. We watched a colony of cormorants and a few seagulls while we relaxed. A couple of fishing boats went by, and we saw several sailboats in the distance. A while later we snacked on some wild beach peas, similar to the garden variety but smaller. Theres nothing like freshly picked peas.
scavenged beach peas make a great snack
A small fork in the trail led us between two boulders, one of which was painted with the words "HMS Fantome 18 gun rig sank in storm off this shore Nov 24, 1814". Another internet search when I got home revealed that the ship was originally a French privateer which the British captured and commissioned into service in 1810. The ship saw extensive action in the War of 1812 and was shipwrecked at Prospect in 1814. Not many hikes can provide a history lesson as well as a nature lesson!

We hiked for over four hours and probably didn
t see more than twenty people the whole time. Our hiking included a lot of stopping to gawk and a lot of photography. Not many walked as far as we did, and many people had dogs with them.
lots of photo opportunities, and a great area for dogs
We just couldnt have asked for a better day. Sunshine. Cool breeze. Ocean air. Spectacular scenery.

I hadn
t even finished walking the trail, and my mind was busy thinking about all the times Id like to return to take photographs. Late in the day with the setting sun. Fall for the crimson cranberries. Winter for photographing the area under much different circumstances. And late spring to capture the irises in bloom.

Or maybe I
ll just return with my walking shoes. Ill relax and enjoy. Ill focus on the sights with my eyes, not my camera. And Ill fill my heart. And my soul.


  1. Great article Sara, and love your pictures :-) That was such a great day - couldn't have been any better!

  2. Wonderful article Sara. Let's make a date and start from the other end of the trail. BTW I didn't know it was owned by the Nature Conservancy of Canada- one of my pet charities.

  3. I can't wait to hike here! Maybe when we come back in December..... Although we always seem to bring the storms with us!


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