The Bluff Wilderness Hiking Trail
Pot Lake Loop

November 08, 2009

Wayne Banks, Mark Bernard & Jerome Bruhm

With the demise of the annual Gonzo Remembrance Day Hike & Overnight Camp-out, we made an attempt to create our own Remembrance Day Hike, but one that was slightly milder in nature than the traditional Gonzo version. Perhaps a local hike was in order, complete with the Gonzo tradition of pinning one’s poppy to a tree at 11:00 am. The Pot Lake Loop of the Bluff Wilderness Hiking Trail was the selected destination.

Only one problem. November 11 is within Deer & Horse Hunting Season here in Nova Scotia, a time when people of a wide variety of intelligence are allowed to carry high-powered rifles into the woods, possibly taking aim at anything that makes a noise in the bushes, including hikers. This wasn’t a problem with the previous Kedji location, it being a no hunting allowed National Park.

We opted to move the hike to Sunday, a day when hunting is not permitted, well, at least not legally permitted.

The second problem we faced was the loud and clear warning that our intended destination is in bear, moose and now, coyote, country. Mark and I weren’t all that concerned since both of us would be able to scramble back to safety faster than Wayne, as a result of his nagging running injury.

And so, we headed out to Timberlea, along Highway #3. The trailherad is located about 14-km from the Armdale Roundabout, prior to Highway 103’s Exit #4. There’s a Bluff Trail sign and parking lot on the left, next to Bay Self Storage.

The hiking trail is on Crown Land, constructed by the Woodens River Watershed Environmental Organization, and a project of all three levels of government. It was initiated as a means for the public to become familiar with the natural woodlands in this area of the province. It consists of 4 stacked loops – The Pot Lake Loop; Indian Hill Loop; Bluff Loop and Hay Marsh Loop. While the first loop, The Pot Lake Loop, can be hiked in a few hours, a combination of the first two loops would require up to 7 hours to hike it’s total of 12-km. The four loop system covers over 30-km. For our initial outing, we tackled the first loop only.

Leaving the parking lot at 10:45am, we followed the former rail bed, then onto the trail that led us to the start of The Pot Lake Loop, about 45 minutes later. The trail is designed for single-file walking and features a wide variety of terrain from flat well-manicured surfaces to rocky outcrops. Nevertheless, the overall footing is non-problematic. (OK, I went down once.)

The landscape is varied – red maple & oak stands that lead into a mixture of pines and spruces as well as hackmatack…………tamarack………or is it larch(?).

At the next moment the trail changes to open granite barrens, then back into the wooded areas again. We kept losing Mark on the barrens as, being an avid “climber” he felt compelled to crawl over, around or under any boulder that was bigger than himself – and there are many.

Look very closely at the picture of the boulder. He's there.

The scenery is spectacular from a large number of viewing points, overlooking Cranberry Lake, then Pot Lake on this first loop. At times you can look in all directions and see only the horizon with no evidence of being just a short drive from the city.

It was a pleasant day for a hike in the woods – overcast, 8 degrees and not a lot of wind. We stopped atop a high vantage point for lunch, just prior to the junction of Indian Hill Loop, next to a large boulder that Mark just HAD to climb before putting the feedbag on.

Being a short hike, we opted for no camp fire and a simple meal of sandwiches, coffee from a thermos and a supply of Halloween treats that Wayne held back from giving to the kids in his neighbourhood.........and lots of talk.

Back on the trail, another feature of this area is the large variety of lichens along the way. Over 100 species have been recorded. Perhaps a bit duller under the November skies, the colors must be quite vibrant on sunny summer days.

As it’s name implies, the trail circumnavigates Pot Lake and we were soon back to the junction point that leads out to the trail head partially along the shoreline of Cranberry Lake. The loop, itself, took us 2 hours and 15 minutes, including our stop for lunch. Note well that, as intended, we were moving along at a pleasant pedestrian pace, one that afforded us the opportunity for frequent stops to gaze at, and admire, our surroundings.

In another half hour we were back in the parking lot and on our way home. Total elapsed time was 3 and a half hours.

All in all, it was a most pleasant hike with two good buddies. No bears, moose or coyotes were encountered, the only wildlife being a flicker, a crow and the chattering of a distant squirrel. This is a must for anyone who lives in the Halifax area and needs a quick outdoor fix. I’d like to return to do at least the first two loops on another day. The inclusion of loops 3 & 4 would require a bigger time commitment and, surely, an overnight stay for those going the whole way.

I'm embarrassed to admit that I've hiked more in the Swiss Alps than I have in my own province. I want to change that. Now that I’m inspired, my plan is to get out there at least once per month, with others, to explore what happens beyond HRM’s paved roadways. If anyone is interested in non-competitive hiking as opposed to the higher, further, faster variety of hiking where the goal is to get in and back out in the quickest time possible, please come along. Just click on my name and send me a note if you are interested.

Jerome Bruhm