The Stolen Seed Caper:

A Kearney Lake Adventure

1 hr 15 min 1.2 km return Easy

Trail Info:

This is a simple, somewhat rocky, trail that winds along Kearney Lake through a mixed forest along the lakeshore.


Kearney Lake Trailhead
View in Google Maps

From the Bedford Highway, turn up Kearney Lake Road. About 0.4 km past the Highway 102 overpass, turn left onto Hamshaw Drive. Take the first right onto Saskatoon Avenue. Go 0.8 km to the end of this street and pass through the entrance posts to the Maskwa Boat Club. After the posts, park in the gravel parking area on the left. Stand with your back to the road you entered on and walk forward towards the back right corner of the gravel area, past the two driveways on your right. The path starts directly to the left of the ‘do not enter sign’ by the second driveway.

Note: Unfortunately, the Masqua Boat Club, which seems to control the parking lot in front of the trail entrance, currently has the parking area blocked. The only solution is to park at the entrance gate along the road on the one side.

Trail Tools

Detectives in Demand: We Need You!

Stand at the trail entrance.

The Kearney Lake Nature Patrol needs your help to solve the great “Stolen Seed Caper.” Seeds are mysteriously disappearing from nearby trees. Your assignment is to find out how and why. You’ll need to search for clues and track down witnesses. Put on your official Nature Patrol badges, and be careful – it’s a forest out there!

1. Demonstrate Detective Skills: Are You a Qualified Detective?

From the entrance go 16 m to the split in the trail, marked by a large moss-covered rock on the right.

Prove to the Kearney Lake trees that you are the best detectives for the job. Find:

  • a leaf as big as your hand
  • a needle from a tree
  • a tree with bumpy bark
  • a tree with smooth bark
  • something that smells neat
  • listen for the call of a bird

If you’ve found everything, you’re ready for the job

Do You Know?

This trail is a part of the Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes wilderness area, which is about the size of the Halifax Peninsula. It was established in 2007 through the work of many citizens and the government as part of the Nova Scotia commitment to protect 12% of its land area, which is a minimum international and provincial commitment. You can get involved in helping to support and expand this area through the Friends of Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes and the Nova Scotia Nature Trust.

2. Collect Clues: Can You Get the Scoop?

From the huge rock, turn right and follow the trail, doing the following activity as you go.

The first piece of evidence is under your feet. Use your keen eyes to find seeds that the thief left behind. Don’t forget that seeds come from flowers and berry bushes as well. Are you ready?

  1. Take 30 giant steps up the trail and stop.
  2. Take out your string tool and make a circle on the ground with it.
  3. Get down on your hands and knees.
  4. Search for as many different kinds of seeds as possible inside the string.
  5. Put the seeds in your special evidence-collecting bag.
  6. Repeat these steps twice more to gather more evidence.

Once the seeds are collected, go to the large spruce tree with large exposed roots in the middle of the trail ahead (about 140 metres from the start, where to your right you can see the roof of the boat club through the trees). Spread the seeds out on the ground and group the different types together. How many different types did you find? Put one of each type in your evidence-collecting bag and leave the rest behind.

Did you find the big seed holders that come off of needle trees? These are:

and a lot of them have gone missing.

Seeds on the Move

Seeds move about in different ways to find just the right patch of soil for growing.

  • Flyers let the wind take them.
  • Edible seeds are eaten and then left in animal droppings.
  • Hitchhikers stick to animals.
  • Floaters let water carry them.
  • Missile plants shoot their seeds out when touched.

How do you think the seeds you collected move around? Check to see if some of them are fliers.

3. Go Undercover: Is the Thief Still Around?

Walk 70 m and stop where the cut end of a dead tree hangs over the edge of a continuous wall of exposed rock on the left. The dead tree is about two-thirds of the way along the wall.

Rumour has it that the thief stole the seeds and hid them in small caves in the rock wall. In case the thief is still hiding there, disguise yourself as a small, dark forest creature. Pick up a handful of dirt and dead leaves and rub it on your face. Stick a fallen leaf behind each ear. Stick more fallen leaves in the collar of your shirt or jacket.

Crouch down to half your height. Get really close to the side of the rock wall. Stay low so you’re not seen. Creep along slowly. Shine your flashlight into every hole or cave to investigate. Where do these caves lead? What do you see?

The thief has to

to get up to the higher caves.

As you head to the next stop, don’t miss the giant old pine tree off the trail to the right about 20 meters from the last stop. The thief uses it to get a beautiful view of the lake from the top. Give it a giant hug!

Old Pine


Look for something small, gray and flaky growing on the rock wall. It is lichen and it is one of the first things to grow on bare rock. It starts the process of making soil.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Lichen attaches itself to the rock, loosening small bits.
  2. Moss grows on the loose rock bits and dead pieces of lichen.
  3. Grass and ferns grow in the soil built up by the lichen and moss.
  4. Finally, larger plants like shrubs and trees move in.

Can you see these four stages on different parts of the rock? This is called succession, where an area is slowly turned into something totally different from what it looked like before. Which earthwork is happening here?

Learn about the Earthworks

4. Find a Witness: Who Saw the Thief?

Walk about 120 m to a large rock on the left where the trail splits in two, going down a small hill.

This rock has a face in it. To see it, stand with the rock on your left. Take 15 giant steps down the main trail. Now turn around to discover the rock’s sideways (profile) face. Can you see it? This fellow missed the goings on because he was looking the other way.

The next big rock on the left did see the thief. To meet this rock stand with it to your left and take 15 giant steps down the trail again. Look back; can you make out the hair, eyes, nose and mouth? When you see the face, draw it in your Adventure Journal. Give the rock a name.

2nd Rock

Do You Know?

Change is happening to this rock just like on the rock wall. Before all that “hair” grew on the rock’s “head”, there was just the stubble of lichen. Enough soil was created over a very long time so that ferns could grow on top, creating a “hair” covering.

This rock caught a glimpse of the thief hiding under the fallen tree just down the trail. All the rock saw was the thief’s

which gives the thief balance.

Face down the trail and go 15 metres to the fallen tree on the left. Although the tree is dead, baby trees are growing right where the old roots were. It grew from a seed. But how did the seed get there?


The Mi’kmaq have members of their community who work hard to defend the lands, waters, and life that make up Mi’kma’ki (the ancestral land of the Mi’kmaq). They are called warriors and they take action peacefully. Along with many other Mi’kmaq, they defend their Indigenous rights and title to the lands that are recognized in the Peace and Friendship Treaties with the British. The Water Protectors are a nearby example. They have been protesting near Shubenacadie (Sipekne’katik in Mi’kmaw) to stop Alton Gas from creating huge salt caverns to store natural gas in contravention of Indigenous rights and the treaties. These caverns threaten the river ecosystem by dumping the equivalent of 3,000 tons of hard salt into it every day.

Learn about Netukulimk

5. Investigate Itty Bitty Island: Where’s the Treasure?

Walk another 30 m and stop next to the lake where you can see a small island just off shore.

Do you see Itty Bitty Island? Islands are good places for thieves to bury their loot. Is this a good island for burying seeds?

The lonely tree says that you can’t dig holes in solid rock! The tree wants a friend, but Itty Bitty Island needs more soil for a seed to grow. Please make soil for the island. Give this topsoil recipe a try.


  1. A handful of small sticks
  2. A handful of dead, flat leaves
  3. A handful of dead needles
  4. Two rocks smaller than your fingernail

Find a flat rock nearby as big as a small plate. Place the sticks, needles and leaves together on the plate and mix together well. Rub the two small rocks over the mixture to break off small bits. Stir well. Crush the mixture with one of the rocks to try to make topsoil.

Is it turning into soil? It’s hard to do. It will take a very long time to get enough soil to plant a seed. In fact, it takes 100 years to make one centimetre of topsoil. You don’t have that much time! Return the rocks and ingredients to where you found them.

The tree appreciates that you tried to help and gives you a clue in return: she heard that the thief made a

as a place to sleep at night in a tree back on land. Look for one of these in the trees nearby.

Land Defenders

“A warrior protects the earth, a warrior’s weapons are our medicines, our feather, our sage and tobacco. We have no weapons, we have no guns.” – Amy Sock of Elsipogtog First Nation. She has been a leader in protesting against fracking and shale gas development in New Brunswick. There is a moratorium on fracking in Nova Scotia and ongoing struggle and uncertainty over this practice in New Brunswick.

6. Use Your Nose: What Can a Thief Smell?

Continue along the trail and after 40 m, the trail splits. Keep to the left. Stay straight on this trail for 70 m and go uphill and stop at a cluster of pine trees.

Sources say that the thief is

only about three times as tall as a little green plant spotted nearby called wintergreen.

  1. Look to the right across the trail from the pine tree for a small patch of wintergreen.
  2. Find a short stick that is about three times as high as this plant: the thief’s height.
  3. Get down on the ground and without picking the leaf, scratch and sniff it.

What does it smell like? Try some other sniffs as you walk to the next stop.


Earth Steps

Here are some things you can do to help stop soil erosion:

  • Buy wood that is harvested in a sustainable manner without clear-cutting. The Forest Stewardship Council certifies harvesting practices to meet minimum environmental standards (see Large tree farms use herbicides that kill off smaller plants that hold the soil together and prevent erosion. Large mechanical harvesters tear up the land as they remove the wood, allowing the soil to wash away more easily.
  • Save trees by writing on both sides of all paper and recycling all that you use.
  • Support efforts to restrict clear-cutting in Nova Scotia.

7. Catch the Thief: Who Did It?

Continue up the trail, going down another gradual hill. Stop at the bottom where the path splits in two 100 m from the last stop.

Do you know who it is yet? Review the six clues you’ve found so far. Guess! A nearby tree informant indicates that the thief is a

If you find this tree informant, you’ll find the thief. Spot the biggest tree within 10 steps of the centre of the trail fork (it is on the lakeside of the trail, directly next to the trail). It has many dead branches near its bottom. Barkprint the informant for evidence.

  1. Put your barkprint form over the bark.
  2. Rub the side of your pencil over it to see the pattern.

Now stand next to the tree, facing the lake. Take 10 steps into the woods towards the lake. The hidden plaque is behind a broad-leafed tree standing in a gang of other trees. It reveals the identity of the thief. Use the side of your pencil or crayon to make a rubbing in your Adventure Journal. Take a picture of where you think the best home for the thief would be. Upload the photo below to the gallery if you want.

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

You can find out more about conserving and defending lands for wildlife regionally through the Nova Scotia Nature Trust and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. Conflicts between Canadian mining interests and those working to protect Indigenous and environmental rights are occurring all over the world. Learn more about how you can support Land Defenders all over the world.

The seeds you collected should be returned to the soil: plant them nearby. Make small holes in the ground with your finger, place a seed in each hole and cover it.

Congratulations, you have solved the mystery! To explore further, continue along the trail around Kearney Lake. It goes another eight kilometres and comes out onto Kearney Lake Road. There are many other trails that go off the main trail, so keep the lake on your right as you go.

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