Rail Trail – East River in Search of Goat Lake

Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.

W.H. Auden



It was a very warm day for nearly mid December and so I had to continue on the trail from the last post.  I wasn’t going to miss this chance.  Shoes were laced and the map at the entrance was checked.  A woman and her dog happened out at that moment and I asked her how long to Goat Lake.  She looked taken aback so I figured she had never walked that far.  “At least an hour”, she said.  I figured on at least an hour and a half  one way as I checked the map  which showed a big upward loop and her perplexed face.  I was closer to right.

I had wanted to see Goat Lake up close and personal especially since  from the highway it looks heart-shaped.  That makes it seem special and I was determined to see it face to face.


Three hours is a good maximum, I find though it can be closer to four with pictures and lunch stops and looking at things.  There is never enough time but one day I hope there will be.



This time I had started early enough not to worry about faltering light and coolness.  It was not too long after 11 but I hadn’t brought any lunch thinking I would be out of there in two hours but of course that didn’t happen.  Will I never learn?


This trail has a big upward loop up as if to avoid some land formations.  I saw a minor hill and maybe a bit of bog.


This post I want to focus on water as there was much on this trail and I find it really makes landscapes more interesting.  The sound and sight touches the soul and causes pause for thought.


Trees are relaxing and there will always be fascinating flora and fauna but my heart goes all thumpity thump when I hear rivers and waterfalls or it relaxes when I stare at still water.  Nature has me in the palm of her hand and I couldn’t be happier.  I will continue to let this goddess rule over me in her fair, balanced and peaceful way.


Water is my drink of choice all day long.  When co-workers hit the pop machine in the lunch room I will be sucking back my tap or cooler water in a bottle.  I love it.  It is the first thing I drink in the morning and the last thing at night.  In between will be coffee, tea and perhaps beer and wine.   We usually need it to clean and cook our food.



It is necessary to wash body, clothes and dishes.  I often think about it when there are power outages and it could become scarce.  I also think of it when in foreign lands and I must always buy it by the bottle.


What else can be so useful for body and soul?  I need it all the time for living but when I am around it in nature my soul is nourished in ways that trees just can’t accomplish.  Beaches are also amazing with their pulsing sound, eternal feel and salty smell.  They are the human and animal life blood personified on land.

Water is also necessary to wildlife as more than just a thirst quencher as I will find out on a future trail which leads to some unique findings.

So I see lovely ponds and rivers and on this trail I get to pass under the highway.  How weird to have 18 wheelers going over your head as you walk along.



I passed another lake which later would have two men on ATV’s sitting there when I came back.  I was a bit disconcerted as they were smoking and drinking but I was friendly yet brisk and was looking at my phone just in case.  Like the city you need your survival strategies.


One woman told me she was more worried about animals.  I feel humans could be worse but on the next trail (Chester to Goat Lake) I saw something possibly violent which made me think differently.  I have never seen a bear but they are a possibility.  I always forget what you should do except not run with your back to them I think.


There was so much peace inspiring and soul calming water and silence on this trail.  Some would find it fear inducing as I have heard European travellers do as they are not used to it.  I am happy to become more accustomed to this.

I found it to be one of the most beautiful yet until I hit a dull tree only stretch not long after venturing into the woods to see a mystical mossy area where fallen logs made bridges by chance.  It felt weird going off trail as maybe things lived there in the dark, mossy area where humans never went.  It felt untouched and almost magical



P1030730.JPGSo I was eventually running out of steam in my search for Goat Lake.  There was a bog which was interesting and a chickadee seemed out of place in the woods.  They like human inhabited areas.



Just as I was about to turn back prematurely I heard the highway and knew that Goat Lake must be nearby.   And then I saw this and knew I was close.

I was finally almost at Goat Lake.  I had to remember I needed energy to reverse my tracks back.   I remember by chance I encountered a talk in a bookstore in York, England and wished I had stayed longer.  I always remember the speaker talking about climbing a mountain and he said that younger people would often surge ahead and not conserve energy and food or water for the downward trek.  This was a flat trek but similar rules applied I thought.  I have to walk back as far as I walked in.

This is another travel lesson I try to apply to life whenever necessary.  All I had on this trek was a granola bar and water.  See my granola bars of choice below.


When I finally got to Goat Lake it looked more like a spade than a heart.  I wonder what the means.  Maybe things are often better at distance.  At least I made it.




I was nearly the only one on the trail though there were a few on ATVs this time which I hadn’t seen lately.  They seemed friendly but they do temporarily ruin the peace.  In the summer on the Hubbards to East River trail they were stirring up dust and going faster than the trail guide recommended.

Made it to my goal.


Is that the devil’s pitchfork?P1030772


More amazing water still looking good in late fall.

Still so far to go but I will make it nearly four hours.  So much to see and the silence and solitude are regenerating.  I can do this alone in the middle of nowhere.

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A former bird home in this tree I think.


You’d think coming back on the same trail there would be little to take pictures of but there are always different views on the way back.


A dead tree in a boggish area pointing the way.


I took a side trail and found that water had caused it to become impassable for some reason.



Water made this trail very relaxing and beautiful.  My desire to get to the water of Goat Lake had made me continue on beyond my initial point of tiredness which I love doing.   Push yourself past where you thought you could go.

Water also caused foam in some areas.  This is a cool sight.  The power of water.P1030833.JPG


P1030827.JPGThis picture belongs in the last post about wood and trees.  Here you see a birch tree with the paper coming off.  This is how messages were originally written.

In the next section I will write about how water attracted or housed various creatures.  One I had never seen before and it was pretty cool yet a bit scary.

At times especially with the ATV men I was reminded of the book/movie Wild.  A woman alone on a trail except this one is flat and graded and I do it just by day without needing to camp on it.  There are potential dangers mixed in with the beauty.  Still I feel compelled to keep following it and the next post will document the other half of this section which is Chester to Goat Lake as I park at one end and do half and then come back  and always see different things on the return trip while trying to relive what I saw on the way in and this time of year the low sun can change things quite quickly on every step of the way.







Rail Trail – Hubbards to East River


“To dwellers in a wood, almost every species of tree has its voice as well as its feature.”
Thomas Hardy, Under the Greenwood Tree

This post is an ode to wood.  I love trees and living in Canada there are so many everywhere.  Wood can be used for houses and furniture and books and toothpicks.

It is a Christmas tree and while on my way to the second half of this trail I saw a truck loaded with them and the driver was standing beside it in late November in tank top.  Not something you usually see but it was quite a warm late fall.  While on the trail and walking quickly I did take off a layer or two.  Nova Scotia exports Christmas trees to the US and beyond.

Trees contribute to our air quality and they provide shade for us and cover for plants and animals.  They are beauty and solitude to trail hikers.  Places with few trees are worse off.   They are too dry and not fertile and people suffer in heat and without the sense of serenity  they provide.  Trees ground us to our planet.  They also provide warmth when we burn them  and coolness when we stand under their shade.

There are many trails throughout Nova Scotia that used to be the old railway.  On the South shore it was finally finished around 1904 but only 65 years later the death knell was sounded after all the work and investment done by those who thought it so necessary.  Times changed and other routes were more viable and businesses and social conditions changed  making rail not such a great option.

This is a pity as I have enjoyed rail travel in many countries I have travelled in.  That said it is not generally the mode of travel in most of the Americas.  The road tends to rule here.


I first set out on this trail from Hubbards to part way to East River on a sunny mid-July day.   This trail is accessed at Exit 6 on highway 103 and I will eventually get to Exit 7 and finish it from the opposite direction.

I hiked a lot and please give me extra points for having to endure these weird bugs that kept going for my head and led me to having to put up my hoodie and flail my hand often.  Luckily I had a hoodie with me  as I have never needed to do that before.  One girl trotted through with only a dog and a tank top somehow.  These damn thing were buzzing at my head for hours but I was determined to make tracks and good thing as it was quite rainy for the remainder of July after my hike.



I saw a rabbit and a deer but a cyclist ruined my camera shot by coming around at the worst time just as the deer and I had a nice stare down from a distance.P1020387

I had lunch at one of the picnic tables that is distributed on the trail.  As usual I was walking to a point that would be easily marked and that was a bridge  so that I could finish it later.





I saw many interesting sights like bogs and forests and rivers and other bodies of water.  It was a good four hours of walking as I covered a lot of the trail.  Looks like a beaver dam below.



Another friend on the trail who didn’t run away too quickly was this guy who looks like a groundhog.


Fast forward more than four months when I have stopped doing longer distance trips so I am focusing on shorter trips with hikes and I finally decide to finish this trail but I was busy actually writing the last post and it was getting late and I wanted to take advantage of the unseasonably warm temperatures at the end of November so after my first failure in the early afternoon of a bike tire blowing out, I got a drive back home and quickly started out by car to the other end of the trail so I could walk it to the point I had left off before.  I was determined despite the lateness of the afternoon in November.  The sun was quickly fading and lowering as I started out at 2:44.  I rarely start this late even in summer.

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The tower with the Canadian colors are from a factory called Canexel and this will be my guiding force coming back as light fails and cold comes on.  When at last I see this I know the end of the trail has come and I will not be stuck in the dark alone.  In later research I find out that Canexel which I have driven past many times, makes cool products that improve our lifestyle.  Nice wood siding that is nicer than metal and plastic.  Natural style on the outside of your house is more appealing.  Stone or brick are also nice.

There are things out there and here are their tracks.  Will I see anything this time?

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I was under the gun to get in and out before darkness fell.  So I entered at East River and walked back quickly.   I found many cool things to take a picture of despite it being late November.  It was different but just as interesting.  It made me think of the Japanese concept of wabi sabi.  One can find beauty in desolation and solitude.  Recognizing the fading and changing of things as we do in autumn is an esoteric practice that fulfills us.


There are apples still hanging in trees that look finished for the season.





It was this warm that the caterpillars came out.  I also saw flies.P1030492

I was surprised how interesting the trail still looked in late fall though it was warmer than usual.  Fall can show up neat things as well as summer.  Hint: these are the two best seasons here.


The road travelled.  With so many evergreens summer and fall can seem the same minus the bugs and some birds.


Look at the nice ripples in the pond from this struggling moth.  There is a philosophical message here somewhere.


A distant view of the ocean.  I didn’t have time but you can go downhill to a nice beach from here.P1030518

A distant view of the ocean.  I didn’t have time but you can go downhill to a nice beach from here.


These fall bullrushes look like afghan hound heads.

A foamy bit and an interesting plant.


It looks like snow but it is only moss.

Someone made a cairn.  Nice.

Finally I made it to the bridge I went to in July and just in the nick of time as the light was fading and it would be cold and dark soon.

This is everything in this moment of nature.  If you are in a nature moment please savour it.  Today I heard a girl say she couldn’t go three hours without her phone.  I am so happy I don’t understand that concept.  I am here and now in these woods alone needing nothing and no one.


Adam and Eve beware.  The apple is hanging in a tempting way.



Back to the wood for Canexel’s siding.  I made it back before dark at a fast clip.  It was still warmish.  I was safe.  Canadian wood.  I am home.

Some people have  a limited concept of what is beautiful and meaningful.  It is far more than sun and palm trees.  Many places on the planet can cause you to pause and think.  Besides verdant forests or balmy beaches, I find myself loving empty spaces such as dry deserts or quiet salt plains.  Trails with just me in them better yet.  Rivers and mosses and lakes and waterfalls get me excited not to mention dried up plants and out of place insects.

A few weeks after this hike I also went to East River for a church fundraiser where you could have a turkey or lobster dinner.  The lobster dinner was work and there were only crackers and not scissors  to cut or picks to pull things out with.  It had been a while since I cracked into one but I got most of the meat out.  Beware the spiny sides of the claws.  Later that week a work celebration included the same three salads-macaroni, potato and coleslaw.  Also a pickle and bun but with cold cuts.


Lobster is in season in December and May though always available.  Right now I see them outside my house pulling up their traps and throwing out the smaller ones.   Today in the early orangeish sky the fisherman were out in the distance checking traps.  It was quite cold then but very pretty.  We don’t always think of the conditions they must endure to get their catch.  December is a time to enjoy seafood.  Merry Christmas and beyond!