Enter the rail to trail at the metal gate and walk about 40 m and turn left up the hill following the path for the Gibraltar Rock Loop. Stop just before you enter the path.
Gibraltar Rock is an enchanted ridge waiting to be discovered by young naturalists. It is a magical world filled with incredible wild creatures. With sharp eyes you’ll see creatures you’ve never seen before.
In your journal, record your sightings and capture them in drawings or photos. Are you up for the challenging climb? Discover the skills all naturalists need to appreciate this magnificent and fragile ridge filled with beauty. Take pictures as you go to remember the beautiful trail.
From the main trail, turn left onto the Gibraltar Loop. Go up steeply 35 m and stop just below a giant boulder on your right.
Take the oath to become a young naturalist and be welcomed by all the creatures of this ridge:
- Face the rock and kneel on one knee.
- Place your journal on your knee.
- Put your right hand on the journal and recite together:
Walk 75 m uphill following the yellow metal markers to where the trail crosses a rocky patch. Here, there is a green and white small arrow sign indicating that the main trail cuts back uphill to the left. This is easy to miss as a secondary trail continues straight. After the left cut back, continue following the yellow metal markers for 75 m to where the trail flattens out. Approach a large boulder on the right with ferns growing on top.
Ancient giants were frozen in the boulders here long ago. Can you see this hairy giant’s head and make out a face? What other creature faces or forms can you find frozen in the nearby boulders and trees? Photograph them with a special human camera:
- Get in pairs: one is the photographer and one is the camera.
- The camera’s eyes are shutters. Keep them closed.
- The photographer guides the camera very carefully by the hand to the exact spot and position for the picture.
- To take a picture, the photographer pulls the camera’s thumb (button) up and down very quickly.
- When the thumb button goes up, the camera’s eyes open, when it goes down, they close.
- Don’t leave the camera’s eyes open long or you’ll overexpose its film in its brain.
- Do close-up pictures and use weird angles.
- Take three different pictures and switch roles.
Return to your favourite picture and sketch it in your journal.
These frozen giants provide homes for other creatures. Stand next to the hairy giant head and look left. Find the tree with a large hole in its side. It’s a pileated woodpecker home. Don’t touch!
Look for more homes as you continue uphill and imagine what might live in them.
Do You Know – Pileated Woodpecker
The pileated woodpecker is the largest and least common woodpecker in Nova Scotia. It lives in old-growth forests away from human activity. They catch and eat ants and bugs by pecking large square-shaped holes in dead trees. Their nest holes take three weeks or more to dig out. The male does most of the work by chipping the wood with his bill and throwing it out of the hole. The female lays 4 eggs on average and both the female and male incubate the eggs. Both mates feed the babies by regurgitating food into their mouths. The babies spend about a month in the hole.
Follow the path up the slope 60 m (following the yellow markers) to the base of a high rock face on the left.
The Wall of Life is a great place to use your discovery skills. Take out your third eye and explore. Look for:
- a tiny ledge where a squirrel can sit
- something rough
- five different plants growing on the rock
- a mini cave
- something soft
- a miniature forest
Take a piece of the Wall of Life back home with you! Here’s how:
- Lay one journal page across a rough section of wall.
- Hold the page firmly in place.
- Rub your pencil sideways over the page until the rock pattern appears.
Do You Know?
The Musquodoboit Valley is one of the richest ecological watersheds in the Halifax Regional Municipality due to its large size and relatively low level of development. A watershed is a large area in which ground water, wetlands, streams, lakes and rivers all drain into the same body of water. A major environmental challenge here is pollution from agricultural runoff upriver. Excess fertilizers, chemicals and animal wastes drain into the river.
Walk about 100 m up to the lookoff.
Eagles like to perch in high spots like this that overlook hunting sites, such as a river or lake. Be like an eagle and find a good safe perch where you can look off to the valley below. Imagine you are soaring and spread your arms out wide and flap them like wings. Be careful and stay away from the edge.
Eagles have incredibly sharp eyes. They could see a fish swimming in the river from this height. Use your binoculars or scope to improve your eyes:
- Can you spot birds flying?
- How fast is the river moving?
- Are there clouds? Are they moving?
- Are there creatures below that an eagle could eat?
You may want to sketch the view or your favourite cloud shapes in your journal. If you brought a camera, do a series of panorama shots:
- Take a photo of one part of the view.
- Move over slightly and take a photo of the view beside the first and so on.
- At home put the photos side by side and have a combo view of the whole lookoff.
Do You Know – Bald Eagles
Bald Eagles spend much time perched in high spots above rivers, lakes and coasts searching for prey. They primarily eat fish but will feast on most anything available, dead or alive. They have incredible eyesight and can spot fish in the water from 100 metres above; that’s about the height of this ridge. Eagles make large nests in tall trees. They mate for life and often return to the same nest each year. Females usually lay two eggs within a couple of days of each other. Often the older chick kills the younger one. The female usually incubates the eggs but both parents provide food for the eaglets once they hatch. In the winter large numbers congregate near Sheffield Mills in the Annapolis Valley, eating dead chickens thrown out of barns. You can often see six or eight eagles in one tree. Here is more information on eagles.
Turn your back to the lookoff and go up to the right of the exposed rock to find the path heading uphill. Walk 120 m through a flat, forested area and stop just before a second viewing platform with a small bench. The yellow markers continue along this section of the trail.
The trees on the Enchanted Ridge are old and very wise. Meet one in a special way:
- Pair up with one person as the introducer and the other as the greeter.
- The greeter puts on the vision blocker.
- The introducer secretly chooses a nearby tree.
- The introducer very carefully leads the greeter to the tree.
- The greeter takes time to feel and get to know its shape.
- The introducer leads the greeter back to where they started.
- The greeter takes off the vision blocker and tries to find the tree again.
- Change roles and meet a different tree.
Did you find the tree you first met through touch?
Walk up to the second lookoff. Take some photos to share.
The eagle (‘kitpu”, sounds like git-boo) is significant in Mi’kmaw culture and the Eagle’s feather is held in high regard. If an Eagle flies overhead, you must contemplate what you are doing that is good or bad in your life at that point in time and consider what message the Eagle is sending. This is because the eagle flies highest and is known as the messenger between the Mi’kmaq and the Creator. The Eagle journeys to the Creator to communicate what the Mi’kmaq are doing that is life-giving and what is not. The Eagle’s feathers are stroked by Creator. Therefore, to be gifted an Eagle feather is a significant honour because it is considered to have been touched by Creator.
Walk 310 m from the viewing platform and stop near a huge boulder on the left in the forest. Do this activity as you go.
There are lots of wild creatures that use this trail. Look for evidence of them:
- deer tracks (see picture)
- animal poop (called scat) with hair in it, likely from a bobcat or coyote
- deer scat that is dark brown, teardrop-shaped and the size of a peanut
- tree bark that is frayed: a male deer may have rubbed his antlers here in the early fall
- shredded plant tips (deer munching)
- cleanly cut off plant tips (rabbit munching)
You might see some creatures if you walk quietly and watch carefully.
Do You Know?
In the past, eagles consumed DDT and other pesticides in their food. These caused thinning in their eggshells and reduced the number of young that survived. DDT is now banned in North America. Nova Scotian eagles were not affected as badly due to lower chemical usage here. Our population of eagles has grown in recent years such that some have been relocated to other areas to restore their populations. The Halifax Regional Municipality has banned all home lawn and garden pesticide use. Learn more about what is banned and why.
Stop near the huge boulder on the left with ferns and moss on top. Don’t let anyone climb on the boulder and damage its fragile vegetation.
The Enchanted Ridge is a jungle of smells. Enjoy hidden aromas by making a “Jungle Jumble Sundae” in your cups.8
- Fill your cups halfway with a handful of the basic ingredient: jungle soil.
- Search for neat smell toppings by scratching and sniffing leaves, needles and other things.
- Put bits of the best smelling items on top.
- Add bits of attractive colour and name your sundaes (e.g., forest ripple).
- Be careful not to kill or rip up plants.
- Smell one another’s sundaes and share the names.
- Give a group toast to the forest and its wonderful smells.
When you’re done, pick a favourite smell item and rub it on a journal page and label it. Find a small plant nearby and dump your jumble under it. How does this help the plant?
Usually the top predators in a food chain, such as eagles, are affected to a greater degree by pesticides because the toxins build up first in plants and then in plant eaters. When an eagle eats a plant eater, such as a fish or small mammal, the pesticides stored in all the other organisms in the food chain are passed on to and concentrated in the eagle. This is called biomagnification. All things are connected so when a poison enters the environment, it affects many creatures. This is an example of
Walk 300 m and stop at a bridge over a little stream.
This stream gully is a magnificent place for magic spots25 and wonder watching. A magic spot is a comfortable place 20 m apart to enjoy nature on your own: sit under a tree, propped up against a rock or at the edge of the stream. Be still and very quiet for a designated time period (like 10-20 minutes). You might see a bird or an animal because they continue their activities when you’re quiet and blend in with your surroundings. Here are some things to do as you wonder watch:
- Sketch a creature, a neat rock or tree or your special spot.
- Make up a story about an animal or plant.
- Write a poem about the forest or stream.
- Check out the tiny things right near you.
- Listen to the stream and the sounds of nature.
Afterwards, as a group, share what you did and saw.
In protecting watersheds, remember that what happens on land affects our waters. Here are some things you can do to help protect watersheds:
- Be careful of what you use on your lawn or garden. There are many alternatives to harmful pesticides.
- Always pick up after your dog as pet wastes have harmful bacteria that can get into water supplies.
- Help protect watersheds. Become a water steward in your community!
Continue 35 m along the trail, turning right at the wilderness trails sign and continuing 400m downhill to where the path rejoins the Trans Canada Trail. Turn right and walk 1.1 km to the trailhead.
Apply your naturalist skills as you return. See how many of these you can find:
- a rock with a pattern on it
- something shiny
- a spider web
- an animal home
- the sound of running water
- a colourful leaf
- a dragonfly
- a giant boulder to rest on
- a mini lichen magic carpet
- a plant three hand-widths tall
- a view of the river
- something sweet-smelling
There are lots more beautiful trails to explore in the area and activities with which to get involved. Visit the website of the Musquodoboit Trailway Association to find out more.
At the parking lot trailhead, take the letters highlighted above and unscramble them to fit in the sentence below. It’s a clue to the location of the hidden plaque. Look
something man-made. Use your pencil or crayon to make a rubbing of the mystery creature on it in your Adventure Journal.
Upload your best picture if you choose.
The plaque symbol is:
Congratulations! You’ve climbed the Enchanted Ridge and discovered its beauty and wonders as a young naturalist. When you get home, share your pictures, writing or poetry with others.