With 13,300 km of coastline in Nova Scotia, we’re not only surrounded by white sand and pebble beaches, grassy dunes, salt marches, rocky shores, towering cliffs, fishing wharves and harbours, but miles of hiking trails.

When I use the word hike I mean getting outside and walking in nature.

I’m a fair-weather hiker not a conquer-the-trail hiker. If you pass me walking through the woods (yes, you’ll probably pass me), it’ll probably be on a fair-weather day. I’ll be preoccupied, breathing in the fresh air, watching the birds and squirrels (maybe chatting at them) and (depending on the season) I might be picking at wild berries.

I’m no Disney princess, but I appreciate the beauty and enjoy the peace and tranquility of nature on the trail.

For me, the joy of hiking is primarily the experience, and walking has always been my meditation. When I walk, my mind wonders, solves problems and ideates. Even talking on my phone at home, I often pace the room to focus better.

A Fair-Weather Hike with The Nature Conservancy of Canada

This week, I had a unique opportunity to take a short guided hike on a trail in Purcell’s Cove with The Nature Conservancy of Canada. What a wonderful way to say hello to Autumn!

4 Surprising Things I Learned on Hike

I was surprised at how much I learned on our short afternoon hike.

  1. Huckleberries Are Edible!

    Did you know that those small black berries that look like wild blueberries but grow on bushes are huckleberries. Our trail guide, Danielle, mentioned their harvest period is early September, so we were a couple weeks past it, but I found a few the birds had left behind.

    I’m going to be foraging for huckleberries next year. They’re sweet and delicious! Danielle was quick to point out that sweet huckleberries have narrower, lighter green leaves but look similar to bitter chokeberries, which have broader, darker green leaves. I hope I remember to pay attention to the leaves.

  2. Sumac Can be Foraged to Make Lemonade!

    What?! Well, the first thing I learned is that those small lush trees I see everywhere, with bright red cone-shaped blooms sticking straight up, are Staghorn Sumac, commonly shortened to Sumac.

    Although no one in our group had ever tried lemonade made from Staghorn Sumac (not to be confused with poison sumac whose mature berry is white, not red), I did find a tasty looking recipe for foraged sumac lemonade online.

  3. Eastern Teaberry Plants Taste Like Wintergreen!

    When we encountered these wintergreen plants covering the ground, they were no longer in bloom. Our guide encouraged us to taste the leaves which had a surprisingly mild wintergreen mint flavour.

    Mint tea is a staple of mine, and if I’d been thinking, I would’ve foraged some to bring home.

    Next time!

  4. Jack Pines Need Fire to Survive!

Along the trail, we encountered patches of rugged pine trees. If you’re imagining lush, cone-shaped Christmas trees, the perfect backdrop for glittering lights and sparking ornaments … those aren’t the ones we saw! These were twisted, ragged-looking trees clinging to life on the barrens.

And I was fascinated by their story.

The Jack Pine needs intense heat to survive. When the Jack Pine is exposed to very hot weather, or more typically a fire, their tightly bound pine cones are coaxed open by the intense heat. Jack Pines need that intense heat to release their seeds, propagate and survive. They need fire.

While the hike was a welcome break in my work day, some breathing space, and informative for me, the Nature Conservancy of Canada was hard at work filming the trek to raise awareness and funds for conservation in the Purcell’s Cove trail area.

Little did we know that just beyond a bend in the trail ahead, they had a picnic spread out for us in a small clearing with a spectacular view of the wilderness area and the city of Halifax beyond.

Over the past few years, Steve and I have often loaded a picnic lunch in the trunk, and the kids into the backseat, for a day trip with a trail, park or beach destination in mind. Picnicking outdoors is part of the whole experience! After this week’s adventure, I want to try more foraging too.

Do you picnic or forage? What tips can you give to a fair-weather hiker like me?