Missing Identity:

A C. MacDonald Sportspark Adventure

2 hr 30 min 3 km return Moderate

Trail Info:

The trail follows the Shirley-Anne trail at the C. MacDonald Sportspark. It is a wide, level trail that meanders along the lake through a lovely forest. In mid-June, this trail has a tremendous display of Lady Slipper orchids, as good as you will see anywhere in Nova Scotia. It is a nice time to visit. Please note that dogs must be on leash. The Waverley Amateur Athletic Association (WAAA) created this trail system, which is home to many bird species, deer and beaver. Look for beaver dams and lodges in the pond to the left of the gravel road leading to the park.

This trail is accessible to wheelchairs and strollers as it is a smooth cinder path. Activities occur along the edges of the pathway and will need to be adapted in some cases.


C. MacDonald Sportspark Trailhead
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From Halifax, travel 19 km on Highway 102 to Exit 4C near Lower Sackville. Turn left at the end of the ramp, go 1.5 km and turn right onto Cobequid Road. Travel 5.5 km, passing over two sets of train tracks and under the highway. After the second set, go about 200 m and turn left onto Champions Road where there is also a “Sports Park” sign. Go 350 m where you bear left through a green gate where there is another “Sports Park” sign. Then, go another 480 m to the parking lot. Walk to the right of an information kiosk 50 m to the entrance of the Shirley-Anne trail.

Trail Tools

Unravel the Mystery

From the entrance of the Shirley-Anne trail, walk 80 m to a large pile of rocks on the right, which are at the base of an old pine tree.

The Lake Thomas Detective Agency is searching for a mystery creature living nearby who is eating up a large number of local residents. Your mission is to discover the creature’s identity. You must demonstrate your detective skills while tracking down informants who have come in contact with this creature. They will give you vital clues to help you identify the culprit. You may want to copy the clues in your journal as you go to keep track of them. Good luck.

Put on your detective badge and provide a fingerprint for the Agency’s files in your Adventure Journal. Step onto the bank next to the large stump and:

  1. Clear away a small area on the ground.
  2. Rub your thumb in the dark dirt.
  3. Draw a small box in your Adventure Journal and press your thumb in it.
  4. Re-cover the ground so that it looks like no one was there.

Do You Know… Lady Slippers

In June you can see the beautiful lady’s-slipper orchid in flower in the park. There are four species in Nova Scotia, two of which are listed as species at risk provincially. It takes a lady’s-slipper seven to ten years to reach maturity before it starts producing seeds. The seeds are very small and depend on special soil fungi to help them grow. Handling lady’s-slippers can sometimes produce poison ivy-like symptoms in sensitive individuals. Please, these beautiful flowers are very fragile, do not touch them. Here are images at various stages:

Images from Ontario Parks & UQUAM

1. Fly Your Spy Plane

Walk 90 m to a row of pine trees planted on both sides.

Clue #1

“Sometimes I spot this creature from the air, pluck it from the ground and eat it.”

~ The Crow

Use your special spy plane to scan the forest floor from above like a crow. Walk 10 metres past the last pine tree and step up and off the trail to the left. Find a moss-covered log, stump or rock with tiny plants growing on it. Enter your spy plane through the viewing window (magnifying lens). Here’s how:

  1. Hold your viewing window (lens) up between your eyes, with the edge touching your nose.
  2. Shut the viewing window by flipping the lens flat over your eye.
  3. Close the other eye.
  4. Swoop down, so your head is almost touching the ground and your viewer is in focus.

Examine the mossy forest floor through your viewing window. Look for tiny trees, valleys, mountains and little creatures.

Share your discoveries with the other detectives. This is how the crow spotted the mystery creature from above.

Use your viewing window as you walk down the trail to find neat things on:

  • the side of a tree
  • a low-growing plant
  • a rock or boulder
  • the ground

2. Listen for Clues

Back on the main trail, walk 150 m and turn right at a little pine tree on the right. Walk 30 m to a wooden platform near the edge of the lake.

Clue #2

“This creature jumped up without warning and snatched me out of the air as I buzzed by.”

~ The Fly

The mystery creature is skilled at waiting silently and listening for its supper to buzz by. Smart detectives listen in the forest for clues.

Find a comfortable place to sit. Close your eyes and listen hard for as many different sounds in nature as you can hear in exactly two minutes.

A really good detective can hear five sounds. How many did you hear? Share your favourite sound with the other detectives.

Guess what the mystery creature might possibly be. Walk 50 metres along the main trail to the picnic pavilion on the right as you listen for creatures. Would it be possible to hear the ones you guessed?

Mining History

There were once gold and tungsten (a type of metal) mines located in this area. Visit the Waverley Heritage Museum on Rocky Lake Drive to learn more about the local history.

3. Catch a Shadow

From the picnic pavilion, walk about 75 m and stop at a small, open, flat spot on the right with an old tree stump in the middle of it.

Clue #3

“This creature blends in with my leaves and shadows, and hides under me from predators.”

–The Small Bush

Find a good hiding spot where you can blend into the forest like the mystery creature:

  1. Find a small bush or fern just off the trail.
  2. Get down on your back and stick your head under a branch.
  3. Look up through its leaves toward the sky.

Record the size of the branch by capturing its shadow20:

  1. Place a blank journal page underneath the branch.
  2. Capture the shadow on the page by tracing it.

If there is no shadow, draw what you think the shadow might look like. What is the biggest the creature could be to hide here? Use the clues you have collected so far to try to improve your guess for the mystery creature.

Search for a good hiding place for the mystery creature based on what you know about it on the way to the next stop. There is one good hiding spot about 40 metres down the trail on the right.


There are 13 species of amphibians in Nova Scotia: seven frogs, one toad, four salamanders and one newt. Most have smooth, thin, moist skin and spend at least part of their lives in water. All amphibians reproduce in freshwater.

Amphibian populations are excellent indicators of the health of ecosystems because they live both on land and in the water. Their skin is very thin, making them sensitive to pollution and environmental contamination. Over the past several decades, amphibians all over the world have been declining in numbers. This is due to humans cutting down forests, draining wetlands and polluting habitats. Climate change due to global warming is also thought to be a cause.

4. Capture a Thief

Walk 100 m to a trail intersection on the left. Stay straight on the main trail for 100 m and stop at a clearing on the right, with two giant pine trees on the left.

Clue #4

“I wear a mask and sneak up on this creature to catch it, but it is hard to spot on the dead leaves.”

–The Raccoon

This informant is a thief. Use your listening skills to capture some thieves.

  1. In the small clearing on the right, use sticks to mark a circle about three meters across (make it larger if there are more people).
  2. One person is the detective and wears the vision blocker. The rest are thieves.
  3. Everyone must stay in the circle during the game.
  4. The detective says “gotcha” repeatedly and each thief must respond, “no you don’t”.
  5. The detective uses the sound clues to try to tag the thieves.
  6. If tagged, the thief must stand outside the circle.
  7. Make sure someone always watches for safety.

Practice your sneaking skills along the trail to the next stop. One person gives a warning birdcall (“tweet, tweet”) and everyone hides behind a tree or rock. A call of “chirp, chirp” means “all clear” and everyone returns to the trail. Take turns giving the birdcalls.

Earth Steps

Here are some things you can do to help protect amphibians and their habitats:

  • Get involved with Frog Watch in Nova Scotia through Naturewatch, a program through which you can help collect information about frog numbers in your area.
  • Adopt a family of Blandings turtles through the Nova Scotia Nature Trust.
  • Avoid handling amphibians because they are very sensitive to chemicals on your hands such as sunblock, bug repellent, soap or perfumes. If you must handle an amphibian, make sure your hands are clean and wet.

5. Just Breathe

Walk 125 m down the trail and stop at a clearing on the left with a picnic table.

Clue #5

“I give off oxygen, which this creature needs, and it gives off carbon dioxide, something I need.”

–The Tree

Take a deep breath, hold it for five seconds and breathe out. You just imitated the exchange that takes place between this informant and the mystery creature. What type of creature is the mystery creature?

Which tree is the informant? Meet some trees and try to figure out which one it might be:

  1. Get into pairs. Each pair gets a vision blocker.
  2. One person is the guide and the other is the investigator.
  3. The investigator puts on the vision blocker.
  4. The guide secretly chooses a tree nearby.
  5. The guide very carefully leads the investigator to the tree.
  6. The investigator gets to know the tree by giving it a hug.
  7. Take time to feel and smell the tree and get to know its shape.
  8. The guide leads the investigator back to where they started.
  9. The investigator takes off the vision blocker and tries to find the tree.
  10. Partners change places and they meet a different tree.

Take a barkprint of your tree in your journal so you can check it against the informant’s print in the Agency’s files. Place a journal page on the tree and rub the side of your pencil over it until a pattern comes out. As you walk down the trail, check out the bark of different trees.


The mystery creature interacts with many different creatures on its way down the path—the crow, fly, raccoon and tree. Each of those creatures is connected to one another through the mystery creature. The raccoon needs many flies so that the mystery creature can grow up to provide a tasty snack for the raccoon. They all need each other to survive. This is an example of

Learn about the Earthworks

6. Discover Camouflaged Informants

Walk 80 m to a trail that joins the main trail from the left. Keep straight on the main trail for another 90 m and stop at the picnic table in a clearing along the lake on the right. This is a nice spot for a snack.

Clue #6

“The creature eats bugs that might otherwise nibble my leaves or flower. It sneaks up on them easily because it is well camouflaged”

–The Lady’s-Slipper

Good detectives can spot camouflaged informants. Search for faces camouflaged in the trees:

  1. Hold your frame tool at arm’s length and look at the tree trunks.
  2. Search for big and small faces on the gnarly trunks.
  3. Can you find faces that look:
  • happy
  • sad
  • silly
  • angry
  • sleepy
  • scared
  • scary

Review your clues to this point and make a new guess as to the identity of the mystery creature. Is there still more than one possibility? Search for camouflaged creatures as you walk to the next stop.

Do You Know – Ladyslipper

Pink Lady Slippers require fungus in the soil to survive and reproduce.29 They do not have food supplies in their seeds like most other plants. Instead, they need the threads of the fungus to break open the seed and attach them to it. The fungus passes on food and nutrients to the seed. When the lady’s slipper plant is older and producing most of its own nutrients, the fungus takes nutrients from the orchid roots. There is a mutually beneficial interrelationship between the orchid and the fungus known as “symbiosis” and is typical of almost all orchid species. It contributes to their charm and fragility.

7. Search the Underworld

Walk 175 m to another clearing on the right with a picnic table. Make sure that the next activity is well supervised and the rocks are put back in their exact spots or there will be damage to the area.

Clue #7

“This creature with bumpy and rough skin sometimes dines on me and my friends when it rains and we come to the surface of the ground.”

–The Worm

Detectives sometimes must look into the forest “underworld” for informants and clues. Rocks are special windows into this hidden world. As a group, look under them carefully to get a glimpse of a worm or other creepy crawly informants. Over the next 50-metre section of trail, carefully search beneath the rocks nearby and then immediately replace them:

  1. Have everyone kneel down around a window (rock).
  2. Open it (lift it up) so everyone can see under it.
  3. After a good look, gently close it.
  4. As a group, take turns finding, opening and closing the windows (leave all the rocks exactly as you found them because they are homes for all sorts of creatures).


The Mi’kmaq collect a wide range of traditional medicines from nature. The root of the Lady Slipper, known as the Moccasin-flower, was used as a sedative, to help prevent spasms, relieve insomnia and ease nervous tension. Sacred medicines include four main herbs that are important for ceremonies— “sweetgrass to cleanse the mind, body and spirit; sage to help get rid of negativity; cedar, a protector throughout a person’s life; and ceremonial tobacco, offered as thanks to Kisu’lkw” (gis-ool-kew, the Creator.”28 p. 73

Learn about Netukulimk

8. Look Underwater

Walk 100 m to a picnic table on the right. Continue another 15 m to a large pine tree and then carefully go down the bank on the right to the water’s edge.

Clue #8

“I rarely see this creature in the lake except in the spring when it lays its eggs here. Its eggs are a good snack.”

~The Fish

Draw some of the critters you saw in your Adventure Journal. Could there be clues to the mystery creature in the lake? Take a look with your underwater viewer:

  1. Go to the edge of the lake and carefully wade in.
  2. Bend over at the waist.
  3. Push the covered end of the water viewer into the water.
  4. Don’t push it in so far that water comes over the edge.
  5. Bring your eyes down to the viewer and look below.

Now reach down into the water and get a handful of the gunk on the bottom. Take a good look at it. What is in it? This gunk helps the mystery creature when it is young.

The Sackville Rivers Association is working hard to protect the Sackville watershed and all of the creatures in it, particularly fish and amphibians. They have done a lot of work to clean up and restore fish habitat on the river. Fish have been restocked and there are education programs such as Fish Friends and River Rangers. Enjoy the trail that follows the river from Bedford into Sackville.

9. Solve the Mystery

Back on land, review all the clues to figure out the mystery creature’s identity. Compare your answer to the guesses you made earlier. To verify your final guess, find the hidden plaque. Look behind something man-made next to the trail up ahead. Use the side of your pencil or crayon to make a rubbing of the mystery creature on it in your Adventure Journal.

The plaque symbol is:



Please login if you would like to record your trail completion, provide feedback or upload photos to the trail gallery.

Login if you’d like to upload a photo to share in the Adventure Gallery

Congratulations, you’ve solved the mystery! From this point, return the way you came on the Shirley-Anne trail or continue around the loop onto the Annie Blois trail for a more challenging, hilly trail. It links up with the Shirley-Anne trail three times. The Karen Farneaux trail will lead you back to the parking lot.

On your return, take a cool, close up picture of a “painted rock,” which has different colours and patterns of lichen on it. Maybe you can find a face on a rock. Upload it if you choose.

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