Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Watch where you walk

published in the South Shore Breaker - October 19, 2016
We all know by now that walking is good for us, but where we walk matters too. According to an online article I read recently, students who strolled through an arboretum improved their performance on a memory test more than students who walked along city streets. 

So how does walking in nature affect aging brains? Do our memories improve as well? I certainly hope so! 

Thanks to two of my friends, I seem to have added hiking on trails to my walking excursions. Nothing strenuous, mind you. I consider my hiking the same as walking, but in a beautiful environment. I'd like to tell you about two of my recent trail adventures, both quite different in location and accessibility, but each beautiful in their own way.

In mid September, my husband and I took a  drive to Kejimkujik National Park on Highway 8 in central Nova Scotia. On our way to the Park, we stopped in Caledonia at the Hollow Log CafĂ© for a late lunch. Perhaps eating a bowl full of chili and more than my share of a piece of peanut butter pie wasn't the wisest move before attempting a long hike, but it sure tasted good. 

A short drive from the restaurant, and we arrived at our destination. Admission cost the two of us less than twelve dollars, and the trail we were after was just a few kilometres into the Park. Most of the drive was on a well paved road but the last couple of kilometres was on a very narrow gravel road, just wide enough for one vehicle. The roads are not maintained after the Park closes in mid October, so your walk could be a lot longer during the winter months if you are without four wheel drive.
The Hemlocks and Hardwoods trail is made up of a well groomed trail and a long boardwalk. Visitors are asked to keep on the boardwalk to protect the fragile roots of the hemlock trees.
Hemlocks and Hardwoods is a very well maintained trail, and easy walking. The trail is five kilometres long, but after a heavy lunch it seemed a lot longer. Hiking time is listed as one hour, but if you're like me and carry a camera that one hour walk can easily turn into double the time. Much of the trail is on boardwalk to keep people from damaging the forest floor and sensitive roots of the hemlock trees and makes walking easy peasy for people who are not hardy hikers. Informative signs along the way explain the different stages of the forest, which I'm sure are especially appreciated by city and town folks like me.
This eastern hemlock is estimated to be 400 years old, with nearby trees at least 275 years old.  Trees like this are becoming increasingly rare in Nova Scotia, but are protected in Kejimkujik National Park.
According to one of those signs, an eastern hemlock in the old growth forest is the largest tree in the stand and is estimated to be 400 years old. Six nearby hemlocks are at least 275 years old. We sat on the nearby bench for a while just listening to the silence in wonderment at the specimens. It makes my heart ache to think how scarce old growth forests have become.
This hemlock started growing in a thin cover of moss on top of the boulder. Its roots reached over the edge and into the ground.  The tree clings to life because people have damaged the roots by climbing on the rock.
We left the Park wondering why it had taken us eight years to visit. It is truly a gem that more people should experience.

My latest hiking adventure was just as magical, but much different. Two friends and I headed to Micou's Island, a 22 acre tidal island located on Indian Point, just a short distance from our famous Peggy's Cove. 

Food is always an important consideration for me, and the three of us met at the White Sails Bakery and Deli to stock up with goodies to take with us to the trails. It was a little surprising to me that the bakery staff hadn't heard of where we were headed, literally just minutes down the road. Just an example of how our province needs to work better at promoting our natural resources. 
Micou's Island is on Indian Point, just a short distance from our famous Peggy's Cove. It is a tidal island, which requires planning to arrive within a couple hours before low tide to ensure your feet don't get wet while crossing.
The Micou family purchased the island in the 1930's, hence the name. In 2007, the property was bought after a community fundraising campaign and is managed jointly by the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources and the St. Margaret's Bay Stewardship Association. There is a restored cottage on the island, as well as a beach and two trails that are not actively maintained. It's important to watch your feet for rocks and roots along the ground as well as your head for fallen trees that are across the narrow paths. The trails aren't well marked and we found ourselves wandering a couple of times, so turned back to walk along the island's coast.
The Sandy Beach Trail on Micou's Island meanders around the coast and through the edge of the woods of the 22 acre island.
We found some large rocks by the shore, and ate our bakery sandwiches and carrot cake by the water listening to the shore birds and waves. Could life get better than this? 

The hike around the 22 acre island was beautiful. Along the shore, through the trees, there was lots to look at and enjoy. We started our venture about 2 hours before low tide to ensure we could walk across to the island without getting our feet wet, and we had lots of time to explore as well as sit and relax and just take in the views. 

Did you know you can be trendy just by taking a walk in the woods? A Japanese practice called Shinrin-yoku has become popular world wide. By "forest bathing" you can become more healthy, both physically and mentally. And that's something good to focus on.

1 comment:

  1. OK. So which of us is bringing the bubble bath next time ?


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