After four weeks of academic travel, a tired son of the desert found himself in Halifax, Nova Scotia, after a meeting. He took a couple of days out to hike the Bluff Trail, a trail through some gorgeous granite country so close to the city that tyou can get a suburban bus to the trailhead, created by the Woodens River Watershed Environmental Organisation. WRWEO was founded by Dalhousie University philosophy professor Richmond Campbell, who was kind enough to take me out and show me the trail. Here he is with the dedication sign - that's his name at the bottom:
The trail starts out in mixed forest, with interesting fungi (STOP PRESS "they are in fact chlorophyll-free plants (actually they have chloroplasts, but the genes don't express). These ones are Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora)")
Pretty soon, however, it emerges onto granite uplands, with a carpet of heath plants and lichens, and occassional, very slow-growing trees.
This is Zeke the labradoodle, who was finding his backpack a bit restrictive, having a good scratch.
About 13km brought us to a gorgeous lakeside campsite.
This is a zero-impact camping area, so we used a fire-bowl. This is a new idea for me, and worked really well.
This is my my idea of 'sleeping under a tarp':
I felt very soft when I saw Rich and Zeke's idea of what 'sleeping under a tarp' means:
Here's my beloved bivvy bag after I pulled the tarp down in the morning.
Rich and Zeke took a bee-line home through the woods, leaving me to complete the circuit on my own. I only met two other parties on the whole track - amazing for a warm summer weekend about 20 km from the city limits.
In the dips the track goes through swamps, with interesting vegetation, like this pitcher plant:
Rather than build boardwalks, WRWEO puts in granite stepping stones, which give the track a lovely, natural feel.
The contrast when you ascend only ten or twenty vertical metres is striking.
This is one of the higher points along the track:
From here there was a nice view back to the previous night's camp.
Some of the lakes are hard to access for swimming, because they are surrounded by swampy ground..
As I climbed up again, getting back towards the start of the trail, it was seriously hot.
This was the only man-made structure I encountered on the trail. I was told it is a nineteenth-century 'deer blind' for hunters.
By this stage I was more than ready for a swim, and very glad to find the perfect access point at one of the canoe portages - really a natural wharf made of granite.
No time was wasted getting gear off...
and into the water!
In the hope of avoiding the mosquitoes, I climbed back up the hill to camp, where I had a wonderful view of the lake, just beyond the first trail loop, where I expected, correctly, there would be Sunday morning runners to disturb me!
Then it only remained to cook dinner and settle down to enjoy the view.
Next morning I had a short walk out to catch the bus. Very sorry to leave - a lovely spot and a tribute to what a bit of local environmentalism can achieve.