Return from an Apocalypse:

A Chute Park Adventure

1.5 hours 1 km return Easy

Trail Info:

This trail is situated in a unique, former sand mining area around a bike skills park. It often meanders off a groomed gravel trail, requiring you to have good sturdy foot wear. Be aware that there may be mountain bikers zooming around the bike park. The adventure requires some climbing up sandy slopes so wear clothing that you don’t mind getting dirty. Be sure you have sunscreen; This can be a hot, sunny place without much shade on warmer days.

Directions:

Chute Park Trailhead
View in Google Maps

Coming from the east, take Exit 15 on the 101 highway and turn left off the ramp towards Berwick. Go through the set of lights on Commercial Street and take the 4th road on the right called Orchard Street. Drive 300 m, passing the West Kings Memorial Health Centre, and turn into Chute Park on the left. Kings Transit stops on Commercial Streets. This trail is flat but the loose gravel and sand is not well suited to, but possible, for strollers or wheelchairs.

Trail Tools

Bring a daypack with water, snacks, sunscreen and a first aid kit. Prepare and gather the following tools for each person before heading out on the trail.

  • Four, 3 foot pieces of string or rope 
  • Spy scope
  • Small plastic or paper cup
  • Adventure Journal
  • Magnifying lens (if you have one)

Discover the Secrets to Survival

Start inside the ring of small trees at the beginning of the bike park trail at the edge of the parking lot.

Imagine that 20 years ago a great ‘asteroid’ destroyed this landscape and all plants and animals disappeared here. People went underground to live because they could not survive on the hot, dry and barren landscape. But after this apocalypse, life has slowly started clawing its way back and recolonizing the landscape. You are part of the Restoration Research Squad and are returning to the surface to see what the secrets are to these plants and animals surviving here. Your fellow humans are counting on you to discover the six secrets to survival in this barren land. Then you can report back and teach them to others. Make notes and drawings in your Adventure Journal. You may see fast, 2-wheeled creatures zipping by and making a lot of noise. Try to stay out of their way.

Let’s climb out of the ground to begin our search.

  1. Everyone crouch low to the ground, close your eyes, and climb an invisible ladder until you are standing tall again. You have climbed up to the surface! Squint and shield your eyes to adjust to the bright sunlight.
  2. Take out your spy scope and look out into the crater below. What do you see? Do you see any dangers? Is it safe to go out into the open? Are you prepared? Make sure you have water… It can be hot out there!
  3. Stand in a circle and everyone come up with a call to tell the others the coast is clear.
  4. When ready, everyone give their call. Now let’s go!

Chute Park Sand Quarry

Humans are environment changers. We use natural resources from the Earth, like sand and gravel from this quarry, to build roads, make cement and glass. This pit was mined about 20 years ago and is now in the process of succession, slowly re-wilding itself with hardy plants and animals. Discuss the positives and negatives of quarries.

1. Be Tough

Walk 30 m to where you see a large white granite rock to the right and walk down off the trail to the right of it.

Look at the ground around you. What is living here?

The plants and animals here need to be tough to live in such a dry and harsh environment. They have changed and adapted to survive here. Could you live here on a hot day? Show you have what it takes to accomplish important work under these conditions.

Using the tough natural stuff you find in this area, make attractive sculptures to beautify the area and experience what it is like to work here in the open . You can use any natural materials— rocks, sticks or whatever you find. Admire your work when you are done.

Draw a picture of the tough stuff art in your Adventure Journal. You now know you have what it takes to pursue the six secrets here.

Give your all clear signal to move on to learning the first secret.

2. Stay Low

Walk 30 m over to the big tree to the left of the main trail that is beside a little mound of dirt.

This tree is unusually large for this area, it is a balsam poplar, and is one of the toughest plants in Canada. Notice how the lower branches are growing. Look at the other plants and trees in this area, why do you think their lower branches all hug the ground as well?

Shade the ground like a balsam poplar.

  1. Everyone stand in a circle with arms (branches) out in front of you.
  2. Now everyone crouch down and cross arms to make as much shade or cover on the ground as you can.
  3. Can you block out all of the sun’s rays?
  4. One at a time, enter the centre of the circle and experience the protection compared to the exposed area.
  5. Now go under the Balsam Poplar’s shade… is there a temperature difference?
  6. Where do you feel coolest?

Balsam Poplar

Balsam Poplar is known as pa’migli in the Mi’kmaw language. It has sticky buds with a distinctive sweet smell. Go ahead and scratch and sniff the leaves! The resin in the buds can be used as an antiseptic against infections.

This experience teaches you the first secret to survival in this hot landscape. You need to:

If you have the right answer, one letter in the secret will be highlighted in colour. This letter is key to decoding the overall secret at the very end of your adventure. Every secret has a coloured letter.

Give your all clear signal to move on to the next secret.

3. Go Slow

Start at the balsam poplar tree and move south to the pine tree beside the main trail during this activity.

It is usually too hot for animals to run around much here on warm days. They move slowly to avoid overheating. Many mammals even nap to stay out of the mid-day heat all together. Practice going slow with a slow race!

  1. Scrape a starting line in the sand at the balsam Ppoplar tree. Do the same for an end line at the pine tree about 20 m (40 paces) away.
  2. The animals line up along the starting line. Chose to be a lazy local animal and practice that animal. Some examples are mice, coyotes, raccoons, or skunks.
  3. 1-2-3- Go! Race as slowly as you can.
  4. The last person to reach the finish line wins.
  5. You cannot stop during the race. Jump ahead 3 times if you are caught being still.

Give your all clear signal and slowly move on to the next secret.

Netukulimk
Uses of Plants

This sand pit is part of the unique sand barrens ecosystem which covers a large part of the Valley floor in this region, but more than ninety percent of it, including this area, has been degraded by development and human impacts. There is now a drive to protect what’s left. There is a surprising diversity of plants who are reclaiming this hot and dry area.

Traditionally, Mi’kmaq relied on a diversity of plants, including those in the sand barrens, for medicinal and herbal treatments. The gum and sap from a variety of trees and bushes also had other uses such as being mixed with wood ashes to create a paste or sealant. For example, the gum of common juniper bush (found in sandy areas) was used to heal cuts, sores, burns, and sprains. Balsam fir gum was used for cold remedies and to treat fracturesEastern white cedar gum was used to treat toothache and yellow birch sap was used to make a beverage. Sugar maple tree (snawey in Mi’kmaw) sap was boiled into syrup for a tea beverage, and also was central to one of the Kluscap legends that emphasized the importance of hard work— Gluskabe (Kluscap) Changes Maple Syrup- An Abenaki Legend

Learn about Netukulimk

4. Use Tools

Walk 20 m south to the base of the sandy slope.

Rain and wind on this steep slope are continually eroding rocks and sand down into the bottom of the crater. Plant life is always trying to get its roots into this bare ground. The hardiest creatures lay down roots, changing things so other creatures can move in and survive here. This is called succession, when one creature makes room and habitat for another one. For example, the moss and grass depends on others to get their roots to hold on in the sandy soil and rock. Who is the first one to start the process of colonizing the slope? Let’s find out!

  1. Half of you be moss and half be grass. Your roots are your feet and your hands are leaves (your leaves cannot touch the ground). Stand still and wave your leaves around in the air.
  2. First the moss walks up the sandy slope and tries to stay put without falling or bending to use hands. Hold your leaves up high as you walk.
  3. Then the grass walks up and holds onto the moss without anyone falling over or sliding down.

How easy is it to stay put on the loose sandy slopes? Why can’t you get very far on your feet-roots?

We are missing a creature in the succession of organisms on this sandy slope. Introducing Lichen Technology! Moss and grass need this natural tech to stay put on this slope, especially during storms with heavy rains that can wash them away.

Look for lichens with your magnifying lens or sharp eyes… they are the lowest life forms on the ground and look like tiny spiky plants or a crusty covering. They can be green, brown, grey, black, red, pink or even a combination of colours.

How many different colours and shapes of lichens can you find? Draw one in your Adventure Journal.

Clever Lichens

Lichens are unique in that they are made up of two types of creatures. One is an algae or cyanobacteria, which are tiny life forms that get their energy from sunlight through photosynthesis. The other is a fungus that gets energy by breaking down the material on which it lives. Lichens use tiny hooks to grab onto rough surfaces and use acidic chemicals to break down the surfaces, creating a habitat for themselves and other plants to take hold on and grow. Lichen also take in air, including the toxins in the air. Scientists assess the level of toxins in lichen to determine the levels of pollutants in the nearby atmosphere. Lichens get their nitrogen (a key nutrient for life) from the air so they can grow fairly quickly.

Lichen on rocks: https://www.photos-public-domain.com/2018/07/27/lichen-on-rock-face/

Be like Lichens!

Without lichens and their tools, other plants can’t gain a root-hold and get nutrients from this bare, loose sand and rock. Lichens colonize bare soil first using tiny hooks to hold onto the rocks and other surfaces. 

  1. Find hooks— two small but strong sticks you can hold in your hands.
  2. Hold a stick in each hand and climb the slope, digging your sticks in the sand like hooks as you go.
  3. How far up can you get?
  4. Come back down and split the group into lichen, moss and grass.
  5. The lichen climbs back up the slope and the grass and moss come up and hold onto them.
  6. How far can you all go?
  7. Now freeze and see if you can stay perfectly still without sliding down for 10 seconds.

Once you have climbed back down, enter the missing letters in the words below to finish the second secret to survival. Remember how the moss and the grass need the lichen to survive. The secret is that in harsh settings, creatures must…

Give your all clear signal to move on to the next secret.

Earthworks

Nothing ever stays the same. That is a fundamental truth about the universe. Sometimes non-living things like hurricanes and earthquakes change the environment, but living things also change the conditions for life in a place. For example, when pine and spruce seeds blow into an area and start growing, eventually squirrels will move into the forest as well because there are spruce and pinecones available as food. Succession is the process in which living things influence environments to encourage the growth of other living things. This is an example of the concept of…

Learn about the Earthworks

5. Work as a Team

Walk left along the trail 30 m to the edge of the first clump of bushes on the right side of the trail.

Ants like making their homes in sand because it is easy to move around and make tunnels. They can survive in a dry sandy area when others cannot. You may see them crawling around their ant hills in various places along the trail. One thing that really helps them with survival in harsh places is working together as a team. Ants have this skill perfected! For example, sometimes food is too heavy to carry for just one ant so more help is needed.

Work Together like Ants

  1. Find a large leaf or short stick to be a piece of and ant food.
  2. Everyone stand in a circle and hold the pieces of string or rope crisscrossed across the circle to make a kind of web-net to hold your food.
  3. Find a way to hold the food in the centre of the ropes and carry it to the next stop. Only the strings can touch the food as you carry it. Everyone needs to be a part of holding the strings for the transport.
  4. How far can your ant team travel with the food before it falls? 

It is essential that the ants do things together to survive here. The ants may be better at doing such a task together than you are. The third secret is that to survive in harsh settings, creatures must… 

Give your all clear signal and move on to the next secret.

6. Attract Helpers

Walk along the path 15 meters to the edge of some trees to the right.

The plants in this area need to attract insect helpers to survive. Ants, bees, flies and beetles benefit from the plants by taking nectar and pollen for food and the plants get pollinated so they can make seeds. Make the best smell ever to attract these helper insects by making perfume in a cup.

  1. Everyone take a cup and search for neat smelling stuff.
  2. Put each ingredient into your perfume cup.
  3. Pick just a few select plant leaves and crush them up, but be sure not to rip up whole plants.
  4. You can even put in some earth to see what it smells like.
  5. Add bits of striking colours as well since insects are attracted to bright colours.
  6. Name your perfume mixture something fun (e.g. Eau de Moss).
  7. Everyone share their perfumes and say which ones you like and why.

When you are done, pick a favourite smell and rub it on a journal page and label it. Find a small plant nearby and dump your mixture under it. How does this help the plant?

Give your all clear signal to move on to the next secret.

7. Make a Protected Place

Walk along the path 15 feet to where the crater opens up to the right before the path turns a corner.

What do you notice about this area that is different from the middle of the crater?

… There are many more plants here and lots more shade. Life needs protection and the shelter provided by the edge of the crater has helped plants set up here, creating even more shady and sheltered areas.

Build mini shelters for the small creatures here so they can survive and stay cool. Use any natural materials you can find. What materials make the best shelters?

Use your magnifying lens or sharp eyes to find small creatures living in the lichens and moss. Draw and write about them in your Adventure Journal. Can you guess the next secret to survival?

Give your all clear signal and move on to the next secret.

8. Get to Know Your Neighbours

Walk straight into the open area towards the slope where the trees are.

This bank is a perfect quiet place to go up and perch to enjoy the view in the shade of trees. When we are silent and still for a period of time, we notice things happening in nature that we would otherwise miss if we are loudly moving about. Sitting silently is a perfect way to observe nature and how it thrives. Everyone find a comfortable place to sit around 20 m apart so you can enjoy nature on your own for a few minutes. Be still and silent for 5 to 10 min, or however long you want, but have a time goal in mind. You might see birds or animals going about their business if you can blend into your surroundings without being seen or heard. You can camouflage yourself by covering yourself with leaves and dirt so you can’t be seen or smelled. Here are some things to do at your perch:

  • Check out the tiny things near you, look for lichen and small bugs.
  • Sketch a creature, a neat rock or a tree in your Adventure Journal.
  • Make up a story about an animal or plant.
  • Write a poem about survival in a dry land.
  • Listen to the sounds.
  • Check in with everyone once you are finished to see what everyone experienced.

Give your all clear signal to move on to the next secret.

Earth Steps

Humans need resources to sustain our communities, like the sand taken from this crater. However, the pursuit of profit and consumer wants often generate wealth at the expense of the environment. Through longitudinal scientific observations and research documenting the finite resources of the earth, we now realize that our natural resources (e.g. forests, sand/gravel, fossil fuels and waters), are being degraded and depleted at an alarming and unsustainable rate. They are disproportionately used for the benefit of wealthy, privileged societies. There needs to be a balance between resource extraction for infrastructure and profit and the need for a resilient environment for future generations. If natural resources are extracted quickly for maximum profits, that leaves little chance for our grandchildren and other living things to adapt in a depleted world.

How can you help reduce resource extraction and use?

  • Conserve energy. Conserve electricity by turning lights out and using efficient appliances. Reduce fuel consumption by only driving when necessary or taking public or active transport.
  • Mind what you buy. Reduce what you purchase. Repurpose and reuse items, or recycle items if at all possible.
  • Get political. Learn about and assess Nova Scotia’s strategy to balance the resource use in our province with environmental concerns. Share your thoughts about this important topic with others and advocate for policies and practices you value.  

9. Be Resilient

Back on the path, walk 30 m until you are halfway along the east side of the crater in between where you just came from and where the trail turns to the left.

Some tough creatures travel from far away to find food and places to raise a family in this place. Monarch butterfly migration is part relay race, part obstacle course, and full of danger. Monarch Butterflies travel about 5 thousand kilometers from Mexico to Nova Scotia each year! The milkweed plants here along this slope to your right are the perfect food for monarchs and you may be able to see their big fat striped caterpillars munching on leaves in August. Can you find any? Do not handle the caterpillars, only observe them, since they may not survive if disturbed from their plant. 

Try not to get the milkweed’s milky plant juices in your eyes or mouth either. Milkweed plants have a poison that can make you vomit. Only monarch caterpillars are adapted to eat milkweed leaves and hold the poison in their body as butterflies. This scares off other animals who find them gross. This helps keep them safe from predators. If you were a milkweed plant, what could you do to scare off predators? 

Have a Scare Off!

Be a milkweed plant and try to scare away predators with your scariest or grossest face:

  1. Stand face to face with a partner and take turns making the scariest or grossest face you can.
  2. A judge can decide who has the scariest or grossest face.

Monarch Butterfly Migration

Migration is a complicated and dangerous business. In the Fall, monarchs fly south to Mexico for the winter. In March, they lay eggs in Mexico and a month later, the newly hatched monarchs (1st Generation) fly North and lay eggs on milkweeds. They die in a couple weeks but their eggs hatch (2nd Generation). These monarchs continue the journey North, lay eggs (3rd Generation) and die. These butterflies then lay eggs in the North (4th Generation) and die. The 4th Generation (the great-great grandchildren of those who started in Mexico) fly all the way back to Mexico for the winter. 

You can help them survive by planting a butterfly garden to give monarchs food to help them and their migration! Flowers that monarchs like are zinnias, milkweed, verbena, joe pye, butterfly bush and orange cosmos.

Be an Amazing Monarch!

Make a migration obstacle course to fly through and challenge yourself to be a tough and resilient monarch butterfly on its way North for the summer!

  1. Start by setting up a 20 m course along the side of the path with a start (Mexico) and end line (Nova Scotia) scraped in the sand.
  2. Also mark lines in the sand 1/3rd and 2/3rds along the course to markwhere the monarchs change into 2ndGeneration and 3rd Generation butterflies.
  3. Between the start and finish lines, place or find objects to jump and weave around as obstacles. Designate side boundaries as well so the fliers don’t get off track.
    1. A ring of rocks can be a lake or ocean to jump over since monarchs have to fly over water.
    1. Sticks stuck in the sand can be tall buildings that monarchs need to fly around.
    1. Backpacks can be mountains to fly over.
  4. Someone can be a young bird predator and chase the monarchs and try to ‘eat them’ by tagging them. 
  5. But after a bird tags a monarch, the bird needs to stop for 30 seconds, spit the monarch out and make a gross face to recover from the monarch taste and poison! Birds can only attack in the butterfly stage.
  6. When monarchs are tagged by a bird, stay still for 30 seconds to recover from your narrow escape.
  7. All monarchs start as Generation 1 at the southern Mexico starting line while someone times the race.
  8. Monarchs squat down to lay their eggs at the 1/3rd line and then die by falling over onto the ground. Then crouch down in a ball shape for 5 seconds before opening up your cocoon (called a chrysalis), spreading your wings (arms) wide, and continuing the race as Generation 2.
  9. Squat down at the 2/3rds line and repeat laying eggs, dying, and crouching in the chrysalis before flying off as Generation 3.
  10. Repeat this again at the Nova Scotia line. Then turn around and fly all the way back to the Mexico line as Generation 4 to finish the race!

Milkweed

Milkweed plants are the only food that the monarch caterpillars eat. That means that they are essential to the survival of the species and need to grow everywhere along the monarch’s migration route. There are 73 species of milkweed across North America but only 2 in Nova Scotia (common and swamp milkweed). Look for the showy purple globe flower heads in July and the fat green seed pods in August.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asclepias_syriaca

Without the fifth secret, creatures would not survive and we would not have the energy we need to be on this adventure. Hope you’ve had a good breakfast!

Give your all clear signal to move on to the next secret.

10. Where’s the Water?

Walk back to the path and go 60 m to where the path turns to the left.

You have been out in the dry crater for a long time. Do you have any water left to drink? The plants and animals here need to conserve water to survive. Can you tell by looking at the plants where the water is?

Attack of the Water Stealing Alien!

Look at the ground to the right of the path for the next 30 m. This crawling plant is called the virginia creeper vine and is an escapee from someone’s garden. Where is it getting its energy and water from here? Can you see where it started from?

Under the leaves, find one section of the woody vine near the path and look for the new growth from this year. This new stem is greener and ends where the bark becomes dark. How far, how many hand lengths (about 12 cm to a kid’s hand length) has the creeper grown this year? ______

If the creeper grows this much in one year, how long do you think it will take to cover the whole crater?… Should we let it?

Virginia Creeper

Virginia Creeper is an aggressive native species that often sprawls away from where it was planted, covering the ground, and climbing trees and buildings. It often spreads by humans planting it as a ground cover in their yards.

This next secret is one we can’t live without, especially on hot days.

Give your all clear signal to move on to the next secret.

11. Lessons from the Surface

Walk back 40 m to the circle of trees where you started.

From this look off area, scan the bowl of this Crater again with your spy scope. Now that you know the secrets to survival in tough environments, where on the crater would you like to live? 

Now that you have knowledge of the world above ground, climb back down the ladder and into the cave to tell the other humans what you have learned.

  1. Everyone stand in a circle in the ring of trees.
  2. Climb an invisible ladder down into the ground and crouch down.
  3. Now that you are underground again, you can turn on your headlamp (pretend by turning a knob on your forehead) so you can see the paper in front of you and solve the final secret to survival!

You now have the answers to solve the overall secret and deepest understanding of what it takes to survive here. The key letters from the previous clues have been filled in for you.

This overall secret is important for all life on earth, especially for creatures that must adapt to the impacts of human beings.

Your final challenge is to discover the hidden plaque showing one of the toughest creatures living in this crater, but one that is so fragile when it leaves this place. Look behind something people put in the ground in the parking lot. 

The plaque symbol is:

T

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

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Make a rubbing of it in your Adventure Journal when you find it. 

When you get home, draw in your Adventure Journal a picture of an environment that allows you to have all the things you need to survive and thrive. Use the lessons from this adventure to guide your imagination! 

Chute Park was donated in 2017 to the Town of Berwick by the late Lewis Chute (1932-2018). It was a working sand pit mine and is the perfect place to build a bike skills park for the community. Many mountain bikers’ rate it as an excellent skill-building park, so you may want to bring your bike along for an added adventure! A former liability has been turned into an asset as the Town adapts to change.

Berwick is known as the Apple Capital of Nova Scotia and was built as a hub for the surrounding farming community. Apples no longer roll through Berwick on the trains to Halifax, but that doesn’t mean Berwick isn’t thriving. For those interested in the local apple industry, there is a museum in Berwick and many of the apple farmers around may give tours if the timing is right.

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You can install Earth Adventures as an app for easy access and offline use.
Tap share and then "Add to Homescreen".