Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cole Harbour Salt Marsh Trail

Cole Harbour Salt Marsh Trail:  Bissett Road to Canada Goose Bridge

First a downer: I find most of the trails in HRM to be disappointing (sad trombone, wah wahhh). The reason for that is because I'm from New Brunswick, the picture province. In New Brunswick if there's a trail it generally goes somewhere wonderful. To a waterfall, a cave, a lake, a tall forest, a Dairy Queen, etc. In HRM the trails tend to be more about quantity (length) than quality (scenery). While this can be great for marathon trainers and people who need the long distance, people with young kids know that "long distance," as in "long distance from food, bathroom, television set," might not be a good thing. Long distance also means there will be long stretches of trail that your kids will find BOOOR–ING unless they enjoy rocks, short, dead underbrush and in some cases the backs of industrial buildings.

So when hiking with little ones, unless you just want them to nap in a stroller, you need to find a section of trail that has some interesting features. Enter the exciting bit of the Cole Harbour Salt Marsh Trail, which looks like this:

Now I'll admit I haven't been all the way across the salt marsh on this trail. Partly because it's a longer hike than I care to try with toddlers (they're satisfied to go to the bridge and back), and partly because I think one would need an all-terrain stroller to get past Canada Goose Bridge. (If you've gone beyond, I'd appreciate comments on this!)

The section between the big red star (Trail Head) and the Canada Goose Bridge is the part we like best.

Here's what I love about the Salt Marsh, in a pleasing bullet format:

• It's a wonderful sensory experience. There's the smell of the salty air, the evergreens, and wild roses, among other things. Then there's the varied terrain: smooth road, bumpy road, rough road. My kid likes to go "aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh" as we go over the crushed gravel. Up to the Canada goose bridge it's not prohibitively rough, but just enough produce vibrations that will soothe almost any kid to sleep.
Rough road, smooth bridge.

• The scenery is varied. First there is dense forest, then marsh, then open water and islands; a little bit of everything in one short walk.

• There's plenty of wildlife, including sea birds, but in the morning sometimes it's so quiet all you will hear is your own thighs rubbing together. I'm not sure if that's a good thing.
Quiet enough to hear a squirrel fart.

• The people who use this trail are very friendly. I don't know if it's the neighbourhood or if the salt marsh just puts people in a good mood, but EVERYONE I meet on this trail says hello.  Once I lost my keys on the bridge without noticing, and a kind person biked them back to me.  On another occasion I lost my phone here (I know, I know, careless. But it was two years in between and the bumpy road makes things fall out of my pockets.) Anyway, a gentleman found it and tracked me down at home that night.
Blue and her friends kicking one another under the gold leaves of autumn.

• There is a bathroom near the bridge end of this section of trail. Well, it's an outhouse. But it's clean, and quite necessary for the recently potty trained, or pregnant or nursing moms who need to pee a lot. 

• I'm told that this trail is great for bikes if you have a bike trailer, although I haven't tried it myself. 

• There are not as many dogs as other trails, which could be either a plus or a minus depending on how much you like dogs. Either way, there's less chance of stepping in poo, and the dog owners I have met are curteous and generally clean up after their pets.

• There are plenty of places to stop and enjoy the view, including little semi-private areas which are great for picnics. 

• Little kids LOVE the arched bridges. I have noticed that toddlers just love to run up the side of one thing and down the other side. Just be careful that they stay out of the way of cyclists (which are few and far between most days), and that they aren't small or quick enough to slip between the boards into the water. The current is quite strong! 
Up, then down. Then up, then down. Great exercise!

• I find that the construction of the trail, which is mostly raised or densely treed on the sides, allows me to let toddlers loose to walk beside the stroller without fear of them wandering into the woods. It's not steep enough that I'm worried they'll fall, but it's clearly defined enough that they have an understanding of which way they are supposed to walk. This is good because the signs indicate poison ivy, although I've never seen any.
Blue and her friend stay on track

• This walk can be done in under an hour, so if you're making a day of Cole Harbour, you can pair the trail with a visit to Rainbow Haven Beach, or Cole Harbour Heritage Farm, or the PACT centre. Sometimes I like to take this trail to get the kids to nap for a while before doing one of the other activities. Other times I just do it to kill time while waiting for the farm or PACT to open.
So pretty I can even forgive Nova Scotia for its scrawny little trees.

Directions: If you've been to Rainbow Haven Beach via Bissett Road but you haven't been to the Salt March, you have driven right by it! When you go down Bissett Road, you will see three places on your left for hikers to park. The first one is at an open space with rolling hills, the second a large squarish parking lot, and the third a small lot with enough room for one line of vehicles. All are marked with signs for the trail, but this third one is where you want to enter for the most best scenery. If you get to the log yard you've gone too far.

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