Monday, January 17, 2011

Take a Hike

Feeling cooped up? Need to stretch those legs? Or maybe you need fresh air and a bit of calming nature. Put on some comfy shoes, grab a water bottle and head out on the trail.

Local routes are easy to find once you’ve got Trails of Halifax Regional Municipality in hand. Michael Haynes updated this book in 2010. The pocket guide lists 30 trails between Eastern Shore and Central – South Shore, 10 of which can be found in Halifax and Dartmouth. Along with the expected details of a trail guide, like length and difficulty, this book provides GPS coordinates, discusses cellphone coverage, and whether or not the trail is suitable for wheelchairs or canine companions. It also provides interesting tidbits about each trail, and offers cautionary advice. Some of the trails listed may also home to wild beasts, whether cougar, moose, or ATV.

Once you’re on these trails, you may want activities for the kids...or the kids at heart. Check out the latest edition of Earth Adventures in the Halifax Region, by Alan Warner et al. Offering fun and educational activities for 24 local trails, this guide is a great way to develop young nature lovers. These activities teach a respect for the land, its creatures and its history, all with step-by-step instructions for the grown-ups.

Perhaps you wish to get out of town for your hiking adventure. Also by Michael Haynes, Hiking Trails of Nova Scotia provides much of the same information as in Trails of Halifax Regional Municipality. Nova Scotia is divided into six huge swaths, acknowledging both the Cape Breton Highlands and Kejimkujuk National Parks. Speaking of which, avid hikers might wish to grab Explore More! a guide to hiking and outdoor adventure in Cape Breton by Pat O’Neil. There are a ridiculous number of trails available, but my key interest in this guide is the wildlife tips provided. Let’s face it, how many of us a prepared for black bear or coyotes?

If the mention of the Trans Canada Trail piques your interest, try these two following titles: for practical information, Sue Lebrecht and Canadian Geographic wrote province by province guides. Of course I encourage beginning with Nova Scotia. For a more inspiring look at the TCT, read Kathy Didkowsky’s Hiking the Dream. She, family and friends, set out with the tremendous goal of walking the entire trail, from St. John’s to Victoria...10 days per province, 20 kilometres a day!

The Complete Guide to Walking in Canada, by Elliot Katz, is a great introduction to a nation of trails. Part one of this guide teaches you how to hike safely, including with children or in the heart of winter. Part two offers well over 200 pages on the various routes available.

Finally, for the hiker who won’t leave home without their dog, Doug Gelbert’s The Canine Hiker’s Bible spans Canada and the U.S. Every trail listed is dog-friendly, but this book offers more than friendly cities, towns, parks and beaches are listed. The most invaluable information isn’t where to hike, though, but how to hike safely with your pet in tow.

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