‘The big water hike’

Walking the Pipeline Trail Loop 

Story and photography by Trish Joudrey

A family adventure means something different for everyone. For some it can be exploring a new trail, climbing over rugged terrain or identifying birds along Nova Scotia’s coastline. For one Dartmouth family, it’s walking the urban wilderness Pipeline Trail just a 15-minute drive outside Halifax.

The Pipeline Trail holds a special storybook charm for Jill Mosher and her 10-year-old daughter Emma. It’s here where Emma skips through the woods imagining herself in fanciful places, creates names for spots along the trail like Bridge of Doom, or plays limbo under a fallen tree trunk. She has names for everything, even the trail.

“I call it the Big Water Hike,” she says with a laugh. “There’s water everywhere. There’s a brook we follow all the way to a huge lake called Long Lake, and lots of waterfalls too. There’s even water on the paths. I love water and I love going outside. That’s why I love this trail so much.” 

Jill nods in agreement. “She’s a fish. The water in the brook dries up in the summer months so if you are anything like Emma, you’d better come between April and June to see the water raging and the flowing waterfalls.” 

I had never walked the Pipeline Trail before so when Jill initially said, “We’ll meet you by Exhibition Park,” my curiosity was piqued. I had never seen a sign at this location marking an entrance to a trail. After meeting in the parking lot, we head off across an open field to the edge of a forest where a wide foot path guides us through the trees. 

Emma races ahead, obviously very much at home in the woods. This 3.5-km section of the Pipeline Trail is part of a larger system of trails around many lakes and ponds in the Long Lake Provincial Park designation. Categorized as an urban wilderness trail, it is largely unmarked and unmaintained, making today’s adventure even more exciting. Emma leads the way, soon veering off the main path onto a smaller mossy track over slippery roots and rocky outcroppings. 

“How do you know where you’re going?” I ask, noticing there are many such meandering footpaths in the woods around us, and no signposts.

“Easy,” says Emma. “I just follow the river.” 

Sure enough, to our right is a fast-flowing river tumbling rapidly over rocks and broken branches. Emma takes us to the edge of the water where she can’t wait to test out her high rubber boots. She watches the foam swirl around her boots, making images on the water before it rushes past her on its way downstream to Long Lake. 

Jill Mosher and 10-year-old daughter Emma.

We pick our way along the water’s edge when Emma stops and faces us. “That’s the Bridge of Doom,” she says, pointing to a suspended wooden-slat bridge across the river. “It’s only held up by that one log underneath it. See? What if it breaks?” 

We chuckle. But that doesn’t deter Emma. Once she reaches the bridge, she’s over it and back in a flash. Our first sighting of other hikers comes soon after the bridge. They were carrying a large foam crash pad. 

“Were you climbing?” Emma asks.

“Yes,” they tell us. “There’s a great spot ahead — a large rockface up the river that we like to climb up.” 

After we say our goodbyes, I realize the Pipeline Trail holds an appeal to a diverse population of people — walkers, nature lovers, climbers, as well as water fans. 

The path leads on between boulders and over swampy areas, where we hop from rock to rock and from high ground to high ground. Except Emma. She sloshes straight through with her rubber boots. 

Her mom cautions her to be careful and slow down when she can see the lake. When we catch up to her, I see the serene expanse of Long Lake before us. The 3-km lake has a thin mist over it: a magical setting. We’re the only people in this idyllic place. Emma wades along the sandy shoreline, hunting for treasures.

It’s too cold to swim, so we rest and pitch rocks into the water. Emma never seems to tire.

“She can go for hours,” says Jill. “We’ve been hiking since she was four or five years old, so now she’s an avid hiker. Once, she hiked for eight hours straight.”

On the way back, we follow another trail that leads slightly away and uphill from the river, a new scenic loop back to our starting point. On the way, we see how many different trees we can identify: balsam fir, red spruce, hemlock, maple, birch. We stay on the worn tracks so as not to contribute to the lean soil erosion that exposes the already fragile root system. 

Our two-hour adventure has invigorated us. We have seen many waterfalls cascading over boulders in the river, walked across the Bridge of Doom and rested on the shore of one of the area’s most beautiful lakes. Most importantly, we enjoyed nature, connected with each other, and only some wet feet to attest to the fun along the Big Water Hike. 

4 Tips to Enjoy Hiking with Kids

  1. Choose a trail with a varied terrain to maintain everyone’s interest. Look for flat, hilly, boulders, fields and shorelines. 
  2. Before you leave, agree on a scenic destination point about mid-way to enjoy a rest and a healthy, energizing snack.
  3. Involve kids in the planning of the hike. They will be more invested in the walk if they know what to look for, including route signs, landmarks, features of the trail and trees to identify. Alltrails.com and Hikenovascotia.wordpress.com have comprehensive information and maps on local trails. 
  4. Pack a bag for collectables. Kids love to hunt for treasures such as unusually shaped or coloured rocks, different mosses or leaves and bark they can identify.

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