Thursday, July 30, 2009

Cape Split Hike

Cape Split is a jut of land that extends northwesterly into the Bay of Fundy, home to the highest tides in the world. Twice a day the bay empties and fills with rushing seawater, eroding anything in its path. At the base of the start of the hiking trail that leads to the actual split, is a village known as Scot's Bay. It has a wonderful rock beach with all sorts of stones and minerals to be found; a rockhound's delight. In fact, I have a couple of specimens of amethyst from that site.

The land on which you'll find Cape Split was owned privately until 2002 when the province of Nova Scotia purchased it. The previous owners allowed access to the land by the public for many years and, as a result, a very definitive network of trails has been formed. Probably thousands of hikers use this trail every year and you'll find it listed in every hiking or walking guide of Eastern Canada.
It starts out at a few metres above sea level, taking you through prehistoric sites and old forest that feel almost rain-forest-like as a result of humidity trapped by the dense forest canopy. There are a number of rare or threatened plant species that call this forest home as it rises to 300 feet above sea level. It's not an easy hike for those of us with heat or mobility issues, but it can be done with the proper preparation. And the reward at the end of the trail is a view like none other in the world, if there's no fog.


This is Cape Split from the north at low tide. This aerial pic was taken by Bob Grantham, a geologist affiliated with the Nova Scotia Museum. (Bob also showed me purple sand from an unnamed beach in this province. It's purple because of the high garnet content.)

The Wookie has been talking about doing this trail ever since we met. So we decided that yesterday was the day to do it. We didn't get there until noon, my first mistake. Should have arrived at 8 AM. It is an uphill climb to the end. An 8 kilometre climb to the top of Cape Split. On a shaded and very sheltered (by trees) trail. The humidex was 33, despite the temperature at the start of the trail only being 18. About an hour into our walk I was thinking we should just stop and turn around or they'll only be able to just push me over the cliff at the top to get me home. But the Wookie so rarely asks anything of me, I really wanted to do this. So we carried on.

We were passed by everyone else on the trail that day. Kids with more energy than a 10 megawatt power station, their yuppie parents and even the grandparents passed us going up. About an hour and half into the trek we started to hear navigational buoys in the Minas Basin, on the eastern side of the Cape. On the western side we were getting brief blasts of wind and fog sneaking through a few breaks in the trees. The actual temperature was cooler than at the base, because of the fog, but because the trees were still fairly thick and we were climbing, we were quite warm.

We finally arrived at the top, in a small meadow after 2 hours and 15 minutes. I took in the air, the field, the screaming gulls, and straight ahead the first "split cliff" of the cape. And the fog. I couldn't see the Bay at all. Looking to the east I could see blue sky and some water, but some of the fog on the western side was creeping around the tip of the cape and making a good view impossile.

Here's what I should have been able to see:

I have to interject at this point to describe what may actually have been the highlight of this little walk. In the meadow was a family of 6-8 people sitting in a semi-cicle facing us. One of the young girls in the family was standing in front of the group doing a little dance and singing a song with her back to us. We stood about 20 feet from the group and watched the girl for a few seconds and the entertainer in me just broke out. I was watching her movements, very similar to a chicken dance, so started mimicking her moves, elbows up and out at my side, head bobs, and foot stomps. The observing family members who were already chuckling at the girl burst into full out laughter as I danced with her and slowly crept closer behind her. She finished her performance and turned around as she realized there was someone behind her. We all had a great laugh over that.

Anyway, I plopped myself down in the meadow, the Wookie went off to the other side of the meadow to take pictures and we recovered a little bit. I inspected the local insect life as well. At least the bugs that landed on me or in my arm's reach. I looked down at my leg at one point to see a Daddy Long Legs trying to bite me. I could actually feel his (or her) little palps trying to bite my skin. After 3 or 4 unsuccessful attempts at tasting my leg, he (or she) literally jumped off into the grass and disappeared. All I could do at that was laugh.

I did manage to get close enough to an edge (actually about 5 feet from the edge) to take this pic. Look closely between the crevice and you just make out the beach below, as the tide was coming in. Oh, yeah, the beach is about 300 feet below where I was standing.

The return trek was 2 hours. And despite the good hiking boots I was wearing could feel a couple of blisters forming. Once we got to the bottom and the car, the family we had seen at the top were leaving in their van and we all waved good bye to each other, big grins on the kids' faces as they passed me. The Wookie and I headed back to Wolfville for a bit of supper and then home.

We'll do the hike again, probably in autumn when there's much less fog. Probably about 10 years from this October.


Lisa Emrich said...

"10 years from this October"?

Sure you can wait 10 years to do it again. Sounds like you had tough day but still rewarding. Love hearing about you joining the girl in her 'chicken dance.' Go Shauna!!

Denver Refashionista said...

Looks like a good time.

cfprnms said...

It's cool you enjoy everything, just as it comes. That's the way to do it!

Diane J Standiford said...

The chicken dance is a tribal treadional dance of those brave boot souls who hike to such areas. FYI

I hope when you are back safe and somewhat sound, you will visit my post about my moth adventure and tell me what kind it was and was that color or dirt that came off in the paper we grabbed it with. See, I can, I can, I can have bug adventures too!

Shauna said...

We may actually do it this October....but it was a rough one for me.

It was a good time, despite my whining.

Glad you found me! Welcome!

Aha! A traditional tribal And you now are unofficially awarded a bug saver award.