We are not gluttons for punishment, except when we are. My #CaminoTwits buddy Lori and I had a pretty simple rationale for this adventure: we have a couple of days on the Camino where the walks could be 30+ kilometres and we thought it might be a good idea to see what that feels like.
Short version: looks good, feels terrible. It was a good test for what a long, long day of walking on easy terrain may feel like – for better or for worse – and we saw a porcupine in a tree.
About the trails
Our route for this day consisted of two connected trails built on former railway on Nova Scotia’s Atlantic Coast near Halifax. The Salt Marsh Trail (6.5 kilometres one-way, 13km return) starts in Cole Harbour and goes through oceanside marshland with plenty of seabirds and other activity to distract and amuse. It connects to the Atlantic View Trail (10 kilometres one-way, 20km return) which goes through Lawrencetown Beach, a well-known surfing area, before continuing through various seaside communities until its terminus.
These trails are well-developed and enjoyed by many walkers, runners, and cyclists of all sizes and abilities. Conditions are terrific, well-maintained, flat, and the terrain is mostly crusher dust. There’s a flat wooden boardwalk at Lawrencetown Beach, which is a nice break from the leg-tiring effects of crusher dust, and the crusher dust is a nice break from the leg-tiring effects of concrete I normally walk on.
The trail is an easy walk for amateurs, but this is a long, long day. There are few services along the way – outhouses near the 1km mark of the Salt Marsh trail and that is it until you reach the Lawrencetown Beach area, which has seasonally-operated washrooms (which were closed when we were there) and outhouses (which were … not usable … the day we were there). There is another outhouse on the end of the Atlantic View Trail, about 2 kilometres from our turnaround point.
You’ll need to pack lots of water and snacks, since there aren’t any shops along the way.
Where we went
We started in Cole Harbour and walked to the ocean, and then some. The trail follows the old rail line, which takes you through some interesting marshes and seaside, but there are also expanses of forest and the occasional house. Not the most exciting viewing, but we encountered plenty people along the way and random things to observe, enough to keep us amused.
What we saw
The Salt Marsh Trail features lots of seabirds, and, if you’re there long enough, you’ll get to the see the tides come and go for the day.
The Atlantic View Trail goes through the woods, past a horse farm, by a local surfers’ paradise at Lawrencetown Beach, then back into residential neighborhoods.
Along his part of the trail, we saw the most interesting collection of animals:
- A snowy owl patrolling the beach
- A backyard goat and pig who reported to some kind of chihuahua
- A porcupine crossed our path then immediately tried to hide from us by crawling up a tree. This was interesting because I didn’t porcupines could climb trees and, in Nova Scotia, the only time you would normally see a porcupine when it was on the side of the road.
We had a great day for our adventure – the hike was long, but it was mostly splendid weather. Just five kilometers from the end, we saw some dark clouds on the horizon. Soon, light rain began to fell which quickly turned into cold, driving rain. For us, this was not a setback, but an enhancement, as trudging along in unpleasant conditions is almost a certainty by the time we reach Galicia in Spain.
In the end, we did it! Eventually!
The Aftermath of 32km
Monday was rough. Like “lost-weekend-full-of-regret” rough. When I woke up on Monday morning, the very last thing I wanted to do was get up and walk some more. I had to cajole myself out of bed with the promise of taking public transit to and from work, followed by an early bedtime that evening.
This represents the first major setback I’ve had in preparing for the Camino. I wasn’t sore, but I had no energy, no will to move and limited ability to construct coherent sentences. It passed by the next day and I was soon looking forward to a (much) shorter hike, with more “challenging” terrain.
More information about Salt Marsh and Atlantic View Trails
Halifax Regional Municipality trail information and maps: Salt Marsh TrailAtlantic View Trail
Province of Nova Scotia trail information and maps: Salt Marsh TrailAtlantic View Trail
Cole Harbour Parks and Trail Association: Salt Marsh Trail
Atlantic View Trail
Salt Marsh Trail, Halifax, NS, Canada
- Rating: Easy
- Type: Linear
- Usage: Biking, Hiking, Walking
- Surface: Gravel, Old Railway
- Updated: June 03, 2009
From Dartmouth take Cole Harbour Road going east on Highway 207. Then take Bissett Road, it will be on the right hand side of the road. Travel along Bissett Road until you reach a parking lot on the left hand side of the road. This parking lot has a trail that leads to the beginning of the Salt Marsh Trail that is a further down the road.
The Salt Marsh Trail is part of an old train railroad that has been transformed into a great part of the "Trans Canada Trail". The trail provides a straight easygoing adventure for hikers and bikers alike. This trail is also a good option for cross-country skiing in the wintertime.
For some people a short walk out to one of the many bridges and back will be a great adventure, you will get to see the great salt marsh, smell the costal air and take in some beautiful panoramas. Others that are up for more of an endurance challenge can make the round trip of the trail of 13km or the one-way trip of 6.5km. There are markers for every kilometer of this trail to help you keep an idea of how far you have traveled.
The trail is in very good shape and all the bridges are quite stable making this a great place to bring the family. You are sure to see some costal birds and also maybe some boats and clam diggers, depending on the tides when your there.