At this point in our training, my #CaminoTwits pal Lori and I consider ourselves advanced amateur walkers. After the previous week’s 32km effort, we decided we needed to stretch ourselves further and sought recommendations from our hiking friends at AvoidingChores.com for a shorter, yet hillier route. That’s what brought us to the Admiral Lake Loop on the Musquodoboit Trailway.
For those unfamiliar with Nova Scotia place names, “Musquodoboit” is pronounced “Musk-uh-dob-it.”
About the trail
Unlike our previous nice, flat treks, this is not a hike for amateurs. The Admiral Lake Loop (10 kilometres total distance) is one of several trails forming the Musquodoboit Trailway, running along the Musquodoboit River in rural Halifax Regional Municipality. The main trail of the route is a former railway, and there are several offshoots, like the Admiral Lake Loop, that are much more challenging and full of interesting things to see and climb over/under (we’ll get to that).
The hike is graded “very challenging,” by people who grade those sorts of things, so a few precautions are in order.
The terrain is uneven, rocky, muddy and very steep in places, wear sturdy footwear. There aren’t any services on the Loop, so it is wise to bring extra water and lots of snacks for fuel. It’s well-covered by the forest/canopy, but sunscreen is highly recommended. There are lots of trees, branches and rocky surfaces that can scrape, so be sure to wear clothing that covers you well to prevent scratches.
We received advice to start at the second trailhead, since the first trailhead starts with a very steep upward climb. Starting at the second one means you will enjoy your hike filled with lots of ups and downs, and then a fairly steep decline at the end. There’s an outhouse at the second trailhead that is the only one on this particular route.
The trail is well marked, with mostly yellow metal trail markers. Look ahead for the next marker because there are a couple of tricky spots that look like they could be forks in the road (they’re not).
I wouldn’t recommending hiking this trail alone, given the rugged terrain and relative scarcity of other hikers. Mobile phone coverage was good, so you shouldn’t anticipate any communication difficulties. I would also take a compass (still pretty standard gear) because there are areas where it can be fairly easy to become disoriented.
Where we went
I’ve read various reports that the trail takes 2 1/2 to 3 hours, and up to 4 hours to complete. We took water breaks, snack breaks, and looking-around breaks, so it took us about four hours.
For what it’s worth, on one particularly steep decline, I shouted to Lori, “ARE WE BECOMING OUTDOORSWOMEN?!”
The trail is narrow and at points very treacherous, so step lightly and carefully. There are a couple of brooks to cross, lots of rocks, and some trail is covered with pine needles and and moss. There were a couple of muddy and mucky spots (you’ll want to bring a clean pair of socks in the event that you get stuck in muck like I did, sinking in to my ankles).
What we saw
There is lots to see and do, with several spectacular panoramic views: Jessie’s Diner, Eunice Lake, Admiral Lake Lookoff, Harbour Lookoff and Rolling Stone Lookoff (all worthy of a stop and look).
In the spring, there are plenty of trees budding and flowers blooming. We were particularly amused by the moss and lichen, forming little villages on top of rocks. We also assumed some fiddleheads were making their way up through the trail, but someone else will have to go back and check in a few days to see if we were right.
A little past the half-way point, between the Admiral Lake Lookoff and the Harbour Lookoff is “The Cave,” a very interesting talus cave that requires some deft navigation. I’m really short so I didn’t have any trouble, but taller people may find it difficult to go through the short and narrow space with their packs on. I shot a video because I thought it looked neat, but it looks kind of scary this way. It’s really quite fun and not menacing in the slightest.
Finally, the guide book promised a crossing over a “delightful” brook. It was a charming little area toward the end of the trek, which, again, requires some careful manoeuvering, but can be done.
I fared much better than after our previous trek of 32 km. Between regular physical activity and 4-times-a-week boot camp workouts, I was physically prepared for the hike, but it was still a vigourous workout. This trail had many challenging inclines and declines, much like what I’m expecting from the Camino, and the very challenging terrain was enough to make it a good, full-body workout.
More information about the Musquodoboit Trailways
Halifax Regional Municipality trail information and maps: Musquodoboit Trailway
AvoidingChores.com: Admiral Lake Loop