By Renée Hartleib
What happens when a group of female hikers get together to work on a trail? Not only does the work get done, but the end result is absolutely beautiful. “Anyone who’s ever worked with a woman knows that the job always gets done, and in addition, there is incredible attention to detail.”
That’s Fran Wyman, a Hike Nova Scotia member, and the co-coordinator of the annual “Ladies Only Trail Building Weekend” in Pictou County. Six years ago, she and Ellen Wilcox created this now annual event, as a way to be involved in the work of the Cape to Cape Trail Group.
This unique trail, still being built, is envisioned to traverse 400km from Cape George to Cape Chignecto, crossing four counties. Over 100 volunteers have given their time and sweat to build this trail—set to become Nova Scotia’s first long distance foot path—covering some of the most spectacular vistas in Nova Scotia.
At the first “Ladies Only” event in the Fall of 2008, over 20 women worked on a very rough section of the Six Mile Brook Trail, an old walking trail to Dalhousie Mountain. “That trail was chosen for historic reasons,” says Wyman, who notes that the arduous work was intensely gratifying. “We all felt so good that we had helped restore a trail that is such a part of our Nova Scotian history and served the people of the area so well at one time.”
Whether it’s making a rock edge for a trail, clearing overgrown areas, or pulling fallen trees out of waterfalls (this actually happened!), the women of the Ladies Only event come together once a year to work on a trail, or a section of a trail, that needs attention and a little tender loving care. The sense of a job well done is one huge part of what the women take away with them, but equally important is the sense of connection and camaraderie they feel toward one another.
During the first three years, all of their work was focused on sections of the Cape to Cape Trail, but in recent years, landowner permission has become an issue. The plan was for the trail to cut through the higher elevation land with better views but now the group is being stalled or re-routed due to lack of cooperation on the part of some land owners, including a huge forestry company.
“We acknowledge that the land is owned by someone else, and we need to receive their permission. But what about the beauty of the land—who owns that?” queries Wyman. “It’s disappointing that hikers, who are just passing through and enjoying the natural beauty, are seen as a threat.”
This blip in the process has changed the efforts of the Ladies Only events of the last few years. Unable to build the trail further without permission, the group has been hard at work on some of the smaller trails connected to the main one. This fall, they created a passage from a newly constructed parking area leading hikers to the main trail.
Wyman says the women of the group feel uniformly proud of their accomplishments. “Often, women don’t feel they are capable of hard manual labour, and this can be a mental challenge to overcome.” She says that they have proven themselves capable six times over with the added benefit of trails that are mindfully and carefully completed with great attention to beauty and detail.
“Women working together are capable of so much. And we sure have a lot of fun doing it!”
For more information on hiking, walking or snowshoeing in Nova Scotia contact Hike Nova Scotia through www.hikenovascotia.ca.