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Hiking the headlands

Cape Split is more than just a cliff-hanger.

Photo of Cape Split by Scott Munn / Tourism Nova Scotia

Photo of Cape Split by Scott Munn / Tourism Nova Scotia

Sometimes the best way to relax after a stressful week is a calm walk in a beautiful place. After successful movies like Wild and A Walk in the Woods, more and more people are hitting the trails in search of healing or simply to feel better. Cape Split in Nova Scotia offers everything from forests with winding paths to cliffs that look over the sea.

As a relatively new hiker, I knew that I would enjoy this trail the moment I saw the walk­ing sticks left behind by other hikers leaning against the trail head sign. Even if you have not hiked much before, you feel like an experienced hiker the moment you grab a walking stick.

Although the woodland part of this hike is often overlooked in the rush to get to the famed cliff views, the forest has its own not-to-be-missed charms. A local art piece featuring painted fish silhouettes swimming through the trees is one reason to linger.

Janet Barlow of Hike Nova Scotia offers another: Her favourite time of year to hike Cape Split is around the May long weekend when spring wildflowers are in full bloom. About one-third of the way along the trail, you’ll start to see Spring Beauty, a small white flower with a pink tinge carpeting the forest floor. Red-purple trilliums pop up in patches among them. “It’s so beautiful-it feels like an enchanted forest,” she says.

Photo of Spring Beauty and Red-Purple Trillium by Michael Haynes

Photo of Spring Beauty and Red-Purple Trillium by Michael Haynes

The trail ends at the tip of the cape where the land splits off from the mainland in five jagged, earthen sculptures-one if it’s low tide. The soft grass makes a perfect place to have lunch. Take in the tides from what Michael Haynes calls your “privi­leged perch” in his book Hiking Trails of Mainland Nova Scotia. Pack water and snacks, because you’ll want to linger long to admire the beaches and watch the infa­mous Bay of Fundy tides roll in.

The province bought the 428 hectares of land in 2002 and 2007. “Work is continu­ing to formally designate Cape Split as a provincial park,” says Bruce Nunn from the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources. “Work to upgrade the trail at Cape Split to realign and improve sections to help with drainage, and to install a new compost toilet along the trail, has been completed and the trail is now open for hiking.”

The hike is approximately 16km long and takes about four hours round trip, depend­ing on your pace. Although Robert Frost may not approve, it is recommended you stay on the main path as it is easy to get lost off the trail. Whether you’re seeking a healthy activity, new scenery or a sense of peace, you will be sure to find what you came looking for at Cape Split.

More reasons to take a hike
» You can burn around 500 or more calories an hour hiking, depending on the trail and the speed of your walking. It can also lower blood pressure by 4 to 10 points.
» Hiking puts pressure on your bones, which helps build them up and pre­vents osteoporosis. It also helps tone your muscles while being gentler on the body than running.
» Hiking releases anxiety-inducing adrenaline build-up in the muscles, generating a sense of calm and relax­ation.
» Researchers at Stanford University found that walking in nature reduces activity in the part of the brain that is responsible for depression. If you’re stuck on a problem at work or in life, » consider going for a walk; creativity can increase by an average of 60% when a person is walking versus sitting.

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Uploaded by Emily McRae