The Trail Blazing Women of Pictou County

5 - The Ladies Only Trail Builders
Photo Credit: Ellen Wilcox

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

Trail Blazer Peter Jackson receives Hike NS Summit Award

At the Hike NS AGM on June 2, Antigonish area trail-builder Peter Jackson was presented with the Summit Award by Hike NS to recognize his significant contribution to trails and hiking in Nova Scotia. Check out a news article on the award here.

2012 Recipient
~ Peter Jackson ~

Hike Nova Scotia is pleased to present Peter Jackson with the HIKE NS Summit Award. This award recognizes outstanding leadership and commitment in the growth and development of hiking trails and pathways in Nova Scotia.

Over the past 17 years, Peter Jackson has logged countless hours nurturing and growing a hiking movement in the Antigonish area.  The development of hiking trails takes vision, commitment and hard work.  Many challenges must be overcome to reach the summit or the end goal.

Peter is a forester by profession.  His love of the land and the natural environment has shaped his personal interests as a hiker, biker and paddler. In fact, when Peter retired over 17 years ago, he and his wife, Anne, ventured to the Rockies and did a 50 km hike near Mount Robson on the Berg Lake Trail. Both were forever hooked on hiking; and Peter was motivated to create quality-hiking opportunities in his native Nova Scotia.

We all know the importance of partnership in living a dream. Anne, I am sure you have influenced and supported Peter throughout the years.

Having a vision and dream to create a hiking culture is often just an idea; not for Peter Jackson!  Peter’s love of the land and his connection to nature lead him on a quest to create real opportunities where people could have good wilderness experiences. Peter’s philosophy encompassed how the trail would be designed:  with a view in mind and the use of natural inclines to make the hike more interesting and challenging.  Identifying the unique natural area and combining these characteristics with historic interests and topography, lead Peter to his stacked loop design, which seems to be the signature of his many designs.

It is not just about the designs.  It is about the passion, the commitment, negotiations with landowners, and the creation of partnerships; the countless hours and attention to detail.  It is about trail building and the map systems that make it easy to know where you are on any given trail section.

Roaming the hills of Antigonish County is Peter’s passion.  Leaving a legacy of trails is why Hike NS is here today. Peter, we know of Pomquet Trail, the Centennial Trails in Port Hawkesbury, the Port Bickerton Lighthouse Route across the barrens and along the edge of the sea, the Fairmont Trails, and the Cape George Trails.

These did not happen alone.  Partnerships with organizations such as The North Shore Development Association lead to the unique design of a 33km hiking trail system at Cape George, one of Nova Scotia’s signature trails, that showcases the hills and valleys of the Cape, complete with panoramic coastal views.  Both the Fairmont Trails and the Cape George Trails are listed in Hiking Trails of NS.  Your leadership has been instrumental in getting the Cape to Cape concept off to a good start.  It is now believable!

On behalf of Hike NS and on the occasion of International Trails Day, we are pleased to present you with the HIKE NS Summit Award.

Thank you for being an inspiration to the region and for being a part of the hike vision in Nova Scotia


Debra E. Ryan
Hike Nova Scotia
June 2, 1012

Ladies Only Trail Building Weekend: Oct. 22

All ladies are invited to attend the 4th Annual Ladies Only Trail Building Weekend for the Cape to Cape Trail on Saturday, October 22, 2011. No experience is necessary and all ladies and lassies are welcome! We will meet at 4945 Highway 311 in Earltown at Norris Whiston’s house, and will be working on the William and Jane MacDonald Spur off the Rogart Mountain Trail. Bring water, drink, lunch, logical footwear, appropriate clothing, and work gloves. Tools will be provided, mostly fire rakes, fire axes, loppers, weed whackers (which are used like golf clubs), and fan rakes. In the past, we ladies have shared supper together in the glow of our accomplishment, so we’ll probably do the same this year at Sugar Moon Farm. If you’re interested in joining us, please contact Fran Wyman at, (902) 924-2910 or Ellen Wilcox at, (902) 292-4033. Additionally, if you want to do the Ladies Only Trail Build on Saturday and the Durham hike on Sunday, you can stay overnight in Earltown by contacting Brenda at (902)
657-3476. The overnight would be pot luck.

Fall Guided Hike Series

Another slate of Fall Guided Hikes is available through Hike Nova Scotia and its partners across the province. The 15 hikes in September and October are led by local folks and participants qualify to win “trail prizes.” Click here for details on the following hikes:

  • Sept. 9: Annapolis Royal Seasonal Walk
  • Sept. 10: White Point to Burnt Head Trail, Cape Breton
  • Sept. 15: Fishing Cove Trail, Cape Breton Highlands National Park
  • Sept. 18: Cape George Trails, Antigonish County
  • Sept. 18: St. Mary’s River Walk, Waternish (Guysborough County)
  • Sept. 18: Windhorse Farm Trail, New Germany
  • Sept. 24: Greenwood Walk, Greenwood
  • Sept. 25: Card Lake Colors Hike, Card Lake Provincial Park (near Chester)
  • Oct. 2: Keji Trails, Kejimkujik National Park and Historic Site
  • Oct. 12: Acadian Trail, Cape Breton Highlands National Park
  • Oct. 13: Branch Pond Look-Off, Cape Breton Highlands National Park
  • Oct. 14: Franey Trail, Cape Breton Highlands National Park
  • Oct. 14: Kingston Year Round Walk, Kingston
  • Oct. 22: Kentville Pumpkin Walk, Kentville
  • Oct. 23: Rogers Hill Trail, Durham (Pictou County)

Hike NS thanks its partners for organizing the hikes on the ground: Valley Trekkers Volkssport Club, Hike the Highlands Festival, Fresh Air Society, Nova Scotia Nature Trust, St. Mary’s River Association, Windhorse Farm, Chester Recreation and Parks, Annapolis County Recreation Services, Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Celtic Colours Festival, and Cape to Cape Committee of the Pictou County Trails Association.

Snowshoe Events Popular this Winter

Hike Nova Scotia and its many partners offered several guided snowshoe events across the province this winter in the months of January and February.  The average event attracted 26 participants with a high of 70 at Sugar Moon Farm..says Marie Stradeski, co-ordinator of winter events, Hike Nova Scotia. There was also one moonlight snowshoe event in Cape North. 

Many thanks to our partners include Ski Tuonela, North Highlands Nordic , Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Cape to Cape Trail, Annapolis County Recreation Dept., Sandy Cope Trail and Earltown Lakes & Portage Trail.

Annapolis County Recreation has a great newsletter on snowshoeing that explains the history, the physical activity benefits, types of snowshoes, and snowshoeing techniques.

Please find below a few pictures of some of the snowshoeing events that took place in Nova scotia this winter –