up! In-Flight Magazine September 2007 - By Steve MacDonald *Photos by Dan Callis
With it’s slight lean, worn face and a well-creased two-lane road snaking off in the distance, the sign for “Fresh Clams” along Nova Scotia’s Highway 7 could just as easily read “Route 66:’ Like its more famous off-the- beaten-path brethren, this route along the Eastern Shore is often overlooked.
But in popping down the 101 to the blossoms of the Annapolis Valley or cruising the 103 to the schooners of Lunenburg instead, open-road explorers from Halifax are missing a lot more than clams.
Taylor Head Provincial Park offers some of the best hiking in Eastern Canada, and is well worth the 100-kilometre drive. For outdoor types, it’s the main attraction in this quirky corner of the province that most visitors miss.
Just off the main highway outside Dartmouth the photo-ops begin. Autumn adds a punch of colour as the winding two-lane road hugs the wooded coast. Start early and you’ll get the sunrise, too. Gas up at Rowlings Irving in Musquodohoit Harbour , where the architecture hasn’t changed since 1934. It’s still full-service only, because “people around here like it that way:’ says owner Danny Faulkner.
Folk art fans should note the house and studio of Barry Colpitts in Tangier . The colourful carvings of fish, birds, pigs and Jesus—yes, Jesus—fill his yard and climb his outside walls, in a roadside attraction of pious peculiarity.
Signs for communities like Oyster pond, Ship Harbour and Clam Harbour mark your exodus from metro. Bakeries and fish-and-chip joints tempt you, but save lunch for your return trip. You’ll smell the smoke the moment you pull in the driveway at J. Willy Krauch & Sons in Tangier. Their smoked fish is sold around the world, but you an stock your pack with Cajun smoked salmon or another tidbit for a mid-hike snack.
With the winding road and a stop or two, in just under two hours you’ll arrive at the park in Spry Bay. Taylor Head is a rocky crab leg of a peninsula, jutting deep into the Atlantic. Its 20-odd kilometres of forest-meets-sea hiking will have you ducking foot-long old man’s beard one minute and getting sea spray in the face the next.
While the Headland Trails eight kilometers offer the most challenge and the best views, it’s a cardiovascular cakewalk for an experienced hiker. Still, wear good shoes. The trail disappears at times along the coastal rocks and the wooded paths can be steep and rooty. What Taylor Head lacks in vertical incline, it makes up for in views, flora and fauna especially in autumn. You may notice garter snakes diving into the brush, or share the trail with porcupines, deer and hares. Near the peninsula’s tip, the spruce trees become shrubs and eventually disappear under salt spray. Only a couple feet wide in places, the trail weaves across a treeless, red-and-green carpet of lichens rolling to the sea, a cross between Scottish Highlands and arctic tundra. Listen as the beaches of smooth rocks are rolled under larger waves—it sounds like a washing machine full of golf balls. You’ll pause at lobster traps that storms have relocated from ocean to forest floor, like wayward commas punctuating the border between ecosystems.
If you’ve started early, you’ll be off the trails about lunchtime. And anything but seafood is missing the boat. Continue 10 minutes down Highway 7 to Sheet Harbour, where Fairwinds Motel & Restaurant serves excellent chowder. About halfway back to Halifax, the Lobster Shack restaurant at the Salmon River House Country Inn in Salmon River Bridge puts a casual dining twist on fare like lobster and Digby scallops, with Nova Scotia entries on its wine list. If you can wait until you’re almost back, Harbour Fish N’ Fries in Musquodoboit Harbour is one of the Halifax area’s best slingers of tartar sauce.
Late afternoon will put you back in Halifax to download digital photos over smoked salmon, before dinner downtown. And like those lobster traps, any stereotype that there’s no good hiking in the Maritimes will have been blown out of the water.
(Photo Caption) Service with a smile at the Fairwinds Restaurant