Take the Challenge: Biodiversity Challenge Badge

By Jonathan Riley, Hike Nova Scotia Board President

This piece originally appeared in In With the Tide, a publication of the The Bay of Fundy Discovery Centre Association

This is the Biodiversity Challenge badge you could earn. It is a 3-inch x 2-inch embroidered badge.

I recently had a lot of nature-fun earning the Hike Nova Scotia Biodiversity Challenge badge – Hike Nova Scotia has a series of these badges which reward people for hiking certain distances or for hiking certain trails – see hikenovascotia.ca for information on the wide variety of hiking badges you can earn.

Hike Nova Scotia’s Biodiversity badge was put together through a partnership with Nature Nova Scotia; and basically, the challenge is to observe the natural world around you as you hike. To earn the badge, you have to do 10 hikes and submit 10 observations from each hike via iNaturalist (see below for more info).

My ten hikes for the Biodiversity Challenge Badge took place over a few weeks and geographically from Balancing Rock in the south to the Cape Breton Highlands National Park in the north.

More by good luck than good management, I started working on this challenge just before a week of cross-province travel – so I ended up with a great snapshot of the timing of spring blooms across Nova Scotia.

My first hike, and most southerly and westerly, was at Balancing Rock on May 13. My eighth hike was my most northerly and easterly, at Benjie Lake on top of the Cape Breton Highlands on June 5. This high up in the highlands, the forest changes from Acadian hardwoods to a conifer-heavy Boreal forest.

Bunchberry probably provided the most striking variation. The odd plant was just starting to open up here in Digby with fully white petals in the third week of May; and blooming was just a little behind a week later in Wentworth (north of Truro), with blooms open but not fully white. In Mabou a few days later it was the same and the same in the Acadian forests near Cheticamp – but up at Benjie Lake, the Bunchberry only had its leaves out with very immature and green flower petals. When I got home a day later, the forest of Acacia Valley was carpeted with white Bunchberry blossoms.

On the left is Bunchberry at Benjie Lake in the Cape Breton Highlands on June 5 and on the right is Bunchberry at the Acacia Valley Trails on June 6.

I was able to see a similar trend with two other common wildflowers, Blue-bead Lily and Canada Mayflower.

Two other interesting observations at Benjie lake: the Larch needles were only just emerging while here they have been out since April. And the Mayflowers up there were just hitting full bloom.

Another flower that was fun to observe geographically was Dutchman’s Breeches. Plants on the North Mountain around Digby were blooming about the start of May. When I got to Wentworth on May 27, those plants were in seed and I’d guess the Digby plants would have been the same. In Mabou, the plants were in full bloom. In Cheticamp I observed an interesting mix of maturity based on elevation. One of our hikes led us from sea level up 350m to the top of Squirrel Mountain. The trail follows a drainage – perfect habitat for Dutchman’s Breeches – and at the bottom of the trail, the flowers were going to seed while near the top, they were just coming into bloom!

What’s more, in the course of these hikes, I logged three species that were “lifers” for me – the first time I had ever observed Nodding Trilliums, Toothwort and Waterfan Lichen.


Ten observations I made on the iNaturalist app in the Cape Mabou Highlands included Toothwort, Moose, Dutchman’s Breeches, Nodding Trilliums and Spring Beauty.

To earn the badge, you have to use a particular phone app called iNaturalist – with this app, you can take a picture of a plant for example, then go home and submit the photo as an “observation” – the app is capable of making decent guesses about what you saw; but also, a community of nature-lovers will review your observation and confirm your identification attempt.

Perhaps the best thing about iNaturalist is that the observations contribute to our understanding of the natural world. The app gathers info about when and where the photo was taken from your phone – and all this data can be accessed by researchers helping them get a handle on where a species exists and how it is doing. Powerful citizen-science at work!

You can get more info on iNaturalist at inaturalist.ca/pages/getting-started-inaturalist-canada .

I already use iNaturalist often – it teaches me a lot; and I get to contribute to humanity’s knowledge of the natural world. But honestly, I normally wouldn’t log as many common wildflowers as I did for these hikes. But wow, the collation of these common observations turned out to be super interesting and I think this illustrates the power of gathering a bunch of common everyday observations and then analyzing them for patterns…. 

Winter walks – a boost for our bodies and minds

Making time to be active in the outdoors this Winter will help you stay healthy and happy. Walking or snowshoeing is a wonderful and free way to boost your immune system and feed your soul during the pandemic.

“Making sure we balance screen time and doing something good for ourselves like being outdoors is definitely worth it,” says Janet Barlow, Hike NS Executive Director. “Getting out for a walk or a snowshoe is something most folks can do close to home on a local trail.”

Hike NS and 18 host organizations partnered to offer the Winter Guided Walk Series in January, February and March. There are 45 walks scheduled province-wide. Walks are led by local folks and participants qualify to win trail prizes. All of these free or low-cost hike or snowshoe events require pre-registration and will follow public health protocols, including physical distancing. 

The full schedule with registration details and directions is found at www.hikenovascotia.ca. Hikes are listed by date and region and include various lengths and difficulty levels. For some of the guided walks, snowshoes are provided. If there’s no snow, most events will go ahead as walks.

Hike NS thanks its local partners on the ground for organizing the events as well as The Trail Shop, Goose Lane Editions, the Heartland Tour and the NS Department of Communities, Culture Tourism and Heritage for their support. Hike NS encourages and promotes a growing hiking culture throughout the province, striving to be the voice for those who hike, walk and snowshoe.

If you need snowshoes, you can easily find some to borrow, rent or buy using Hike NS’s online directory, with over 90 listings. There are 60 venues where you can borrow them for free. Also, an Intro to Snowshoeing webinar will be held on January 26. Learn more about the webinar and directory at www.hikenovascotia.ca.

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For more information on these events or Hike Nova Scotia contact:

Janet Barlow, Hike Nova Scotia
(902) 932-6902

Hiker Gift Ideas 2021

If you’ve got a hiker or potential hiker on your gift list, we have lots of ideas for you! Consider giving:



Gift cards and certificates:

Hiking gear:

  • Ice cleats/crampons
  • First aid kit
  • Compass
  • Snowshoes
  • Trekking poles
  • Walking stick
  • Hiking socks
  • Back pack
  • Headlamp
  • Hiking boots
  • Thermos
  • Water bottle
  • Pocket knife

Why you need to build your bank account of strength & how to do it!

Sponsored Content

By Laura Lundquist, PT
Registered International Sport Physical Therapist, FCAMPT, Diploma Sport Physiotherapy

Zoomers Physiotherapy & Health Solutions, Halifax

I often use the analogy of a bank account to teach the importance of maintaining strength as we age.  At first glance, it seems like an odd comparison, but stick with me and I think you’ll see how it actually makes a lot of sense.

The analogy:

Your body has a bank account of strength.  There is a “threshold” amount of strength that is required to help your body function at its best.  If your strength drops below this “threshold”, you often experience symptoms of pain and dysfunction.  It is often at this point that you are referred for physiotherapy.

The challenge: 

Through physiotherapy, you can rebuild strength in the affected areas.  Once you meet this “threshold” of strength, you feel better; the pain and dysfunction lessen or resolve.  This is the point at which many clients stop physiotherapy and stop working on strength-training.

The reality:

Sit to stand

If you have not “built up” your strength account significantly beyond that “threshold” level, you remain at high risk for a return of your pain/dysfunction.   After the age of 40, we tend to lose strength, balance and mobility every year unless we are actively working to maintain or regain it.  This strength loss can be as much as 1-2% of your strength every year.  

Most of us are used to managing our financial bank accounts.  With finances, we sometimes refer to keeping some savings in a “rainy day account” to have us prepared for unexpected costs or hardships.  We need to approach our strength the same way.  The demands placed on our body can change for a number of reasons (both good and bad).  It is important to ensure we have prepared ourselves to meet those changing demands; this is especially true as we age.  We need to build up our bank accounts of strength.

The solution:

Heel raises
Counter push-ups

Maintaining and gaining strength needs to be an ongoing process.  It is best to engage in exercises that load our muscles at least 2-3 times each week to promote good health.  Although activities like walking, cycling and swimming have many health benefits, they do not give us a lot of strength building.

There are many great exercises that can be done at home to help you build strength.  Knowing which ones are right for you and how many to do can help make sure you get the most out of your program.  Consider seeing a physiotherapist to get a program built to match your unique needs.  In the meantime, here are a few great exercises that you can try:

  • Sit to Stand:  practice standing up and sitting back down with good control throughout the movement
  • Heel Raises:  hold a countertop for balance and rise up on your toes, hold for 3 seconds and then slowly lower back down
  • Counter Push-Ups:  Use your kitchen counter as the base for your hands in a partial push-up

The best exercises are the ones that get done!  So, pick a few strength-building exercises that you won’t mind doing and start by adding them into your weekly routine 2-3 times each week.  Building a bank account of strength today pays you back tomorrow as it will limit pain and dysfunction.  Feeling well will allow you to live the life you love!

About the Author

Laura Lundquist is a physiotherapist whose passion for healthy active aging prompted her to open Zoomers Physiotherapy and Health Solutions in Halifax. More information about Zoomers’ health-care and Club Z fitness services can be found at www.zoomershealth.ca or by calling 902-453-1525. Located at 291 Horseshoe Lake Dr., Halifax.

New Stella & Co. Dog Bandana Supports Hike NS

We’re excited to announce the start of neat new partnership with Stella & Co. This is a local Truro business that makes quality handmade goods for you and your furry friends.

Support Hike Nova Scotia with the purchase of a Stella & Co. Hike NS-branded dog bandana. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Hike NS.

Buy yours here!

Fall guided walks offered throughout NS

Take a pause this Fall and enjoy yourself in the outdoors by participating in a guided walk in your area.


“Fall is a perfect time to experience nature in our beautiful province. Whether you are a seasoned hiker or someone who enjoys less strenuous outings, our walk series has you covered,” says Janet Barlow, Hike Nova Scotia Executive Director. 

“These past 18 months have shown us more than ever how much getting outdoors and being with others is essential to our physical, mental and social health. It’s so simple and it works! “

Event Details

Location: Province-wide

Date: September 12 to November 14, 2021

Registration: Registration in advance is required for all walks. The full schedule with registration details and directions is found at www.hikenovascotia.ca. Walks are listed by date and region. Walks are listed by month or region (Halifax, South Shore, Valley, Highland and Cape Breton).

Fast Facts

  • Hike NS and 13 host organizations have partnered to offer the Fall Guided Walk Series from September to November. 
  • There are 28 hikes scheduled province-wide. 
  • Hikes are led by local folks and participants qualify to win trail prizes. 
  • These free or low-cost walks require pre-registration and will follow public health protocols. 
  • The series includes walks of various lengths and difficulty levels. 
  • Hike NS thanks its local partners for organizing the hikes on the ground as well as The Trail Shop, Goose Lane Editions and the NS Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage for their support.
  • Hike NS encourages and promotes a growing hiking culture throughout the province, striving to be the voice for those who hike, walk and snowshoe.


Find photos on Facebook  or Instagram or use some of the photos on this page.

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For more information on these events or Hike Nova Scotia contact:

Janet Barlow, Hike Nova Scotia
(902) 932-6902

Stretch for Success with Your Walking Program

Sponsored Content

By Laura Lundquist, PT
Zoomers Physiotherapy & Health Solutions, Halifax

On average, we take approximately 1,000 steps in every 10 minutes that we walk.  Following a regular stretching routine is an effective way to manage the normal muscle tightness created by all those steps! Keeping those muscles supple is key in reducing the risk of pain developing in our ankles, knees, hips and lower back.  

As a physiotherapist, I regularly teach clients which stretches can optimize their walking performance and safety.  Read on for the answers to the three questions that I answer most often about stretching.

When should I stretch?

In the last 20 years there has been some great research that shows that although a warm-up is important, doing static (holding positions for 20-30 seconds) stretching prior to activity isn’t generally effective in managing muscle tightness.  However, static stretching after exercise is recommended. Ideally this stretching should be done while your muscles are still “warm” from your walk, within 15-20 minutes of finishing your route.

Which stretches should I do?

Each of us may benefit from slightly different stretching routines due to our health history.  However, there are several stretches that are generally well-tolerated and effective to manage the normal muscle stiffness that can result from a walking routine.  Here are my three favourite stretches to maximize performance and comfort when walking:

Calf stretch


  • Stand facing the wall and step one leg backward.
  • Keep the back leg straight (heel down) and bend the front knee.
  • A stretch should be felt in the back of the lower leg, below the knee.

*Tip:  Keep both feet pointed forward to maximum stretch!

Quadricep stretch


  • Stand holding something for balance.
  • Place one foot up on the seat of a chair behind you while continuing to stand in upright posture.
  • A stretch should be felt in the front of the thigh near the knee.

*Tip: Avoid cramping in the back of the thigh by resting the leg fully on the chair.  

Hip flexor stretch

Hip Flexor

  • Stand holding something for balance.
  • Take a large step forward and keep the front knee bent.
  • Lift the back heel up while letting the back knee bend slightly.
  • A stretch should be felt in the front of the thigh near the hip.

*Tip:  Stand tall but avoid arching in the lower back.

How long should I hold each stretch?

Each stretch should be held for 20-30 seconds and repeated two to three times on each side.  They should not cause pain in the muscles or joints.  You may find that you can move “deeper” into the stretch as time progresses but as long as you are feeling a gentle pull in the target muscle, the stretch is effective; you should not feel like you are forcing it.

If these positions are painful or don’t work for you, visit your physiotherapist for an individualized assessment and stretching prescription based on your specific needs.  We have a lot more than three muscles in our legs, you might benefit from stretching additional muscles as well!

About the Author

Laura Lundquist is a physiotherapist whose passion for healthy active aging prompted her to open Zoomers Physiotherapy and Health Solutions in Halifax. More information about Zoomers’ health-care and Club Z fitness services can be found at www.zoomershealth.ca or by calling 902-453-1525. Located at 291 Horseshoe Lake Dr., Halifax.

Outdoor inspiration during lockdown

Even though we’re in pandemic lockdown, you can still get outside. Hike Nova Scotia has the ideas and information you need while staying close to home. 

“The Province has specifically told us to get outside, but to do that in our home communities,” says Janet Barlow, Hike NS Executive Director. “It’s crucial to do this to stay healthy – both physically and mentally. Go spend some time at a nearby park, trail or other greenspace.”

If you need inspiration or advice, Hike NS has lined up a slate of outdoor-themed webinars you can access no matter where you live in the province or your level of outdoor experience. They are free for paid Hike NS members or $20 for non-members, who then get a free one-year membership. Upcoming webinars include: 

  • Intro to Birding
  • Wildlife Encounters & Safety
  • Intro to Hiking
  • Leave No Trace
  • Tick Prevention

“People are just craving this type of outdoor knowledge,” Barlow says. “For example, we just held a wildly successful Tick Prevention webinar with about 100 people registered.”

As long as pandemic restrictions allow them to go forward, there are a number of in-person courses scheduled for later this spring including Field Leader – Hiking (how to be a hike leader), Navigation (how to use a map and compass) and Re-Connecting with Nature (teaching adults how to engage kids with nature).

Webinars and in-person courses are offered with the support of the NS Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage, the Outdoor Council of Canada and other partners. Learn more and register at www.hikenovascotia.ca

Hike Nova Scotia encourages and promotes a growing hiking culture throughout our great province. We strive to be the voice for those who hike, walk and snowshoe. With every step we’re building a community of outdoor adventure enthusiasts.


Find photos on Facebook  or Instagram or use some of the photos on this page.

Social Media

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For more information on these events or Hike Nova Scotia contact:

Janet Barlow, Hike Nova Scotia
(902) 932-6902

Take the City Nature Challenge

Photo by Michael Haynes

Guest blog by Mary Kennedy with the City Nature Challenge.

Do you love hiking and learning about nature?  This is your chance to join Nova Scotia’s vibrant iNaturalist community and help one of our province’s cities win the 2022 global City Nature Challenge! Local organizers of the three City Nature Challenge (CNC) events in Nova Scotia are inviting everyone to participate from April 29th through May 2nd.  The CNC is part of a friendly international competition designed to connect people to nature while taking an inventory of wildlife species around the globe.  HRM, CBRM, and The Annapolis Valley (Kings/Annapolis Counties) are three of more than 325 cities from more than 40 countries registered to participate in this year’s event, which encourages use of the free iNaturalist app to track wildlife species and inventory biodiversity.  

“We live in a big country and scientists can’t be everywhere,” said James Pagé, Species at Risk and Biodiversity Specialist with CWF. “During the CNC and year-round, individuals can be the scientists by contributing valuable observations for biodiversity research and conservation. Using smartphones and digital cameras as tools, iNaturalist helps us connect with nature while helping to conserve it.”

Photo by Michael Haynes

Locally we are encouraging people of all ages to get outdoors, explore, observe nature, share observations using iNaturalist, and to have fun! This is a great opportunity to explore new trails or hike old favourites either as solo adventures or as bubble activities. The objective of the challenge is to see which area will have the highest number of observations, the most species, and the most participants!  

In preparation for the CNC event choose an area to hike, then go online to iNaturalist.ca and EXPLORE this area – what plants/animals have others posted recently? Choose a few species and add these to your ‘must find’ list and then go on a quest to see if you can observe these species during your hike. Perhaps choose to hike a few different short trails, or one longer one, that goes through different habitats – field, wetland, open water, and forest for example, to get more different species.  Maybe take your friends and family along, as part of the challenge is to get more participants involved.  Use the CNC as an opportunity to get to know a few trails more intimately.

Photo by Michael Haynes

For those hikers who wish to ‘make miles’, consider taking a few photos at the start of the hike and then stop every kilometer or so and record a few more observations. It is possible to keep a decent pace along most of the trail, but during the CNC allow time at certain spots for slowing down and observing nature!

Don’t forget to take photos of any ticks that you might encounter as these are definitely wildlife. Keep your eyes open for tracks, scat, and other signs of wildlife and you guessed it – snap a few pics and upload to iNaturalist when you return home.

For more information on how to use iNat click here.

For more information on the Canadian entries in this year’s CNC click here.

Learn more about the Hiker Challenge here.

Why do you hike?

Guest blog by William “Whistler” Monk, who lives in Granville Ferry, Nova Scotia. He is a lover of nature, long distance hiking and a book author. He has written two books: Whistler’s Walk: The Appalachian Trail in 142 Days and Whistler’s Way: A Thru-Hikers Adventure on the Pacific Crest Trail.

A question for the ages, “Why do you hike”? If you lined up one hundred hikers you would likely get one hundred varied responses. As a long-distance hiker who has successfully thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail (AT) and the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), I asked myself that very question. Where does that desire come from to walk away and abandon the comfortable life that I know and love so much? Why would anyone think it was a good idea to pack meagre supplies in a backpack, throw it on their back, and walk away from life as they know it for a day, a week or in my case, five to six months? 

Thru-hiking the 2,189 miles of the AT in 2017 served as an awakening. It changed me, and I discovered something—I discovered that I liked people. Sounds a bit crazy but it’s true. I found what makes people good, kind, and compassionate. I found that I enjoy hiking with today’s youth, and that they enjoy hiking with me. I found that on the trail, we are all truly equal. We each have the same goal—or purpose—with a definitive target in our sights. We know where we come from, and we know where we must go in order to discover the enlightenment we each seek as we complete the task (hike) at hand. 

With that burning question waiting for a logical answer, it really only brings forward more questions looking for answers. Sometimes we end up with answers to the questions that haven’t yet been asked. What I have learned is that sometimes you get answers as you get closer to nature, closer to the earth, closer to the sky and closer to other humans. Life off the “trail” tends to distance us from nature, earth, sky and one another. When I hiked the PCT in 2019 I hiked by myself for a majority of the time. That was okay though, because it gave me the opportunity to “be with me”. 

But I also had the opportunity to hike with others I’d met on the trail. One of the hikers I met was a guy from Germany who went by the trail name, ‘First One’. ‘First One’ and I happened to hike up to Crater Lake together which had us both acting like giddy school boys. You see, Crater Lake is the deepest lake (592 meters) in the United States. Its unusually deep blue waters are due to its depth and clarity and indescribable to anyone that might ask for a description. In other words, you have to see it for yourself to believe it. While we were enjoying this “other worldly” sight, ‘First One’ shared a German saying that goes something like this… “Luck and happiness are doubled if shared”. I love hiking by myself. I love that I can spend time by myself and thus learn more about myself. But sometimes the enjoyment of an experience is multiplied when shared with others. 

So, why do you hike? 

Crater Lake, Oregon
Whistler on the left and First One on the right