Sunlight Detectives:

A McCurdy Woodlot Adventure

1 hr 30 min 1.7 km return Easy

Trail Info:

This adventure follows the Titus Smith trail and is an enjoyable stroll through a managed woodlot with a variety of forest types. There are several other trails through the woodlot to be explored, as well as the woodlot pond located off the service road. There is a picnic area and outhouses at the end of the trail. A natural play space is at the start of the trail, another thing for kids to do as a part of the visit.

This trail is accessible for a stroller with larger wheels. It is a flat and generally smooth forest trail lacking cinders. Depending on the weather, there are occasional wet spots. Activities occur on the edge of the trail. It is possible but not not recommended for most wheelchairs as it is a dirt path, though flat. The two photos in the photo gallery below give a sense of the trail.


McCurdy Woodlot Trailhead
View in Google Maps

Take Highway 102 from Halifax. Take Exit 8, turn right off the exit ramp onto Route 214, which becomes Route 277. Follow Route 277 until Gays River, then turn right onto Route 224. Drive into Middle Musquodoboit, staying to the right at the yield sign, then at the next stop sign turn left. Take the first driveway on the left after the Musquodoboit Education Centre. Go straight ahead past the Natural Resources Education Centre on your left and take the dirt road. Stop at the first parking lot with the trail kiosk.

Trail Tools

Sunlight Detectives Needed!

Stand next to the kiosk in the parking lot.

Secret agents needed! The sun is receiving mysterious messages that demand more sunlight from this area. Your mission is to find out who is demanding more sunlight and why. Go undercover: disguise yourselves as a beam of sunlight.

1. Disguised

Walk through the orange gate and up the service road about 30 and stop at the gazebo on the left in the Nature Play Space.

Put on your sunlight energy disguises (yellow clothes and sunglasses) and tape the sunlight bolts to your shirt or jacket.

Line up behind the gazebo. Can you go the speed of light? Run around the gazebo three times to build up enough energy to be sucked up into a beam of sunlight. Repeat these words before you run:

“Beam me up into the sun.

As we go, we’ll find the one,

Who’s using up all the sunlight.

Here we go, let’s take to flight!”

You are now a beam of sunlight. Travel along in disguise.

Do You Know – McCurdy Woods

The McCurdy Woodlot was part of the McCurdy Farm 50 to 60 years ago. Since then it has grown up into this forest and is now part of the Natural Resources Education Centre.

2. Captured

Return to the service road and take the first trail on your right in about 30 m (the Titus Smith Trail). Walk 85 m to where the trail starts to bend left and there is a stunted fir tree providing a canopy over the trail.

Zap! A tree intercepts your sunbeam. Quick, choose a nearby tree and hug it. Trees use sunlight energy, air and water to make food. You are now captured sunlight energy inside the tree.

Sunlight enters a plant through its leaves. Find a flat leaf on the ground and examine it through a special solar-powered microscope.

  1. Open your leaf slide like a book and place your leaf over the hole.
  2. Close the slide, sandwiching the leaf inside.
  3. Hold the slide up to the sky (don’t look directly at the sun).
  4. Look at the patterns and shapes in the leaf.
  5. Zoom it close into your eye from arm’s length.

Share your leaf slides by creating a slide show:

  1. Get into a circle, holding your leaf slides in your right hand.
  2. On a “click” signal, pass the slide to the person to the right.
  3. View the new leaf slide.
  4. Repeat these steps until each person’s slide is returned.

Munch, munch! Something is eating these leaves. Search for a leaf with an insect hole in it.

Munch, munch! You are being eaten in the leaf. Make a “munch, munch” sound and pretend to eat the leaf as you move up the trail. You are digested sunlight energy in someone’s stomach.

Netukulimk— Sun

The Mi’kmaw word for sun is Na’ku’set (sounds like na-goo-set) and oral tradition describes how the sun’s light moves across the earth in a circle. Oral traditions are a way the Mi’kmaq make sense of the world around them and explain how things came to be, or should be, or the way the Creator intended them to be. They help teach youth the things they need to know to survive and contribute to their community. Oral traditions tend to fall under the categories of myths, legends, and folklore, each with their own purpose— to explain how something came to be, teach an important lesson, or for entertainment. It is believed that Na’ku’set was forged into existence by the Creator or Kisu’lk (sounds like gis-ool-kew) meaning, the one who made everything, the giver of life. Naku’set is known to the Mi’kmaw as the giver of light and heat. The power of Naku’set is held with much respect among the Mi’kmaq.

Learn about Netukulimk

3. Eaten

Walk 50 m to a big pine tree just off the trail on the right and a cleared area to the left.

Guess what? You’re now digested sunlight energy inside the stomach of a little bug. Bugs like chewing on tender green leaves. Find your bug by kneeling and looking in the moss or under the dead leaves. How many bugs can you find?

Crawl like a bug on your hands and knees up the trail and search for a good bug home using your spy scope:

  1. Look for small holes on the ground.
  2. Look in dead trees, stumps and logs.
  3. Show off your choice for a home and explain why you like it.

What creature might want to eat you next?

4. Stuck

Go 80 m to a trail junction and turn left. Now continue straight another 80 m on the Titus Smith trail to signpost #6 where a sign describes a planting of red spruce trees.

Your bug hops up onto a fallen tree and is caught in a spider’s web. Crunch, crunch! Moan and groan as the spider eats you. You are now digested sunlight energy in the spider.

Look for your spider’s web on a fallen tree or nearby. Be careful not to break any webs.

  • How many webs can you find?
  • Did you see spiders or prey in the webs?

Draw your favourite spider in your Adventure Journal.

Do You Know?

Softwood trees (needle-leafed trees) dominate the first part of the trail. Here the forest is more diverse with a mixture of softwoods and hardwoods (broad-leafed trees). Which type of forest is healthier in the long run? The loss of one species due to weather conditions, disease or predation does not threaten the whole community when there is a variety of species. Diversity breeds a more vibrant community and a stronger web of relationships.

Birds are one of a spider’s greatest enemies. Search the treetops for birds with your spy scopes. Do you see any?

When it’s safe, do a spider walk up the trail:

  1. Straighten out your arms and legs.
  2. Bend over so that your hands are touching the ground.
  3. Amble up the trail a short ways on all fours without bending your arms or legs.

Gulp! A hungry bird swoops down and snatches the spider and swallows it. Give a low moan as you are gulped. You are now digested sunlight energy inside the bird.


Like cars, all living things need fuel (energy) to make them go. They take in food energy, which they break down and burn up. A plant turns sunlight energy into its own food. An animal eats the plant, using the plant as fuel. A predator eats the animal. Sometimes another animal eats the predator. In this way, the fuel is passed from one living thing to another. It all starts with sunlight energy. This earthwork is:

Learn about the Earthworks

5. Gulped

Walk 40 m to an area with three benches (marker #7).

Use your scope to search for birds in the trees. Try calling some birds to you:

  1. Stand very still and do not talk.
  2. Make this sound: “psh, psh, psh.”
  3. Repeat it several times. This often attracts birds if they are nearby.

Birds use special calls to find each other. Stay near the benches and find a bird friend:

  1. An adult is the spotter and watches for safety.
  2. The spotter writes out two identical sets of birdcalls, with each call on a separate piece of paper: chicka dee dee dee, hee hee hee, caw caw caw, cheer-up cheer-up cheerily and chirp chirp chirp.
  3. Split into two equal groups about 10 metres apart.
  4. Give one set of birdcalls to each group. Each person gets one. Two people use the same call in the bigger group if there are odd numbers.
  5. No one says which call they have.
  6. All the birds put on vision blockers and make their calls repeatedly.
  7. Each bird slowly finds the bird in the other group with the same call.
  8. Give your bird friend a hug and take off your vision blockers.

Flap your wings, make your birdcalls and fly down the trail. Who might want to eat you next?

Do You Know – Fossil Fuels

People burn fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas to create energy for heat, electricity, manufacturing and transportation. Fossil fuels are stored forms of sunlight energy. Coal is composed of tiny fossilized plants while oil and gas are the remains of ancient, small creatures. They have been compressed in the ground over millions of years and are limited in supply. When we burn these fuels, gases including carbon dioxide are released into the air. These gases trap heat from the sun in our atmosphere. This is producing global warming, large-scale climate change and dangerous levels of air pollution in cities. It is critical to cut down on the use of fossil fuels to reduce these hazards.

6. Chomped

Walk 140 m to a huge hemlock tree on the right of the trail where there is a small, old, crumbling wooden bridge across the trail.

A hungry bobcat pounces on you while you are resting on a small bush. Chomp, chomp! You are now digested sunlight energy inside the bobcat. Give a bobcat snarl. Practice sneaking up on your prey:

  1. One person is the bird and the rest are bobcats.
  2. The bobcats line up across the little wooden bridge.
  3. The bird is 20 giant steps down the trail, facing away from the bobcats.
  4. When the bird says “go”, the bobcats sneak up.
  5. If the bird hears them, the bird turns around quickly.
  6. The bobcats freeze.
  7. If a bobcat is caught moving, the bobcat is out.
  8. The bird turns around again and the bobcats sneak closer.
  9. The bobcat that gets closest safely becomes the bird in the next round.

With only two people, take turns seeing how close you can get to one another. The bobcat is still hungry. Search for signs of deer as you sneak down the trail. There are lots of deer in this woodlot. Look for:

  • scat (deer poop) which is small, dark brown and tear-shaped
  • tracks (see picture)
  • shredded pieces of plants

Do You Know – Bobcat

The bobcat is a top predator in Nova Scotian forests. It eats snowshoe hares, rodents and other small animals and birds. Often confused with the lynx, bobcats have shorter legs, smaller paws and do not have ear tufts. Lynx are typically found only in Cape Breton due to human pressures and competition for food with bobcats. Bobcats do not usually attack deer unless they are small or weak.

7. Decayed

Stay straight on the main trail and walk 100 m to twin hemlock trees on the left side of the trail.

The mighty bobcat will die someday and decompose. Decomposition releases a dead thing’s energy into the soil, helping plants to grow. Find a good place for the bobcat to die:

  1. Find a small plant that needs help growing.
  2. Describe why you have chosen your site to others.

Decomposers like fungi, small bugs and bacteria break down dead things. Small creatures may also eat them. Look around this area for fungi. Can you find any nearby?

Look for more fungi as you continue up the trail for 90 m to a trail intersection. Do not eat or touch mushrooms or other fungi, as they could be poisonous.

Nibble, nibble! Little decomposer creatures are eating the dead bobcat and you, since you are sunlight energy in the bobcat. Who are these creatures?

Earth Steps

Here’s how you can help save energy and reduce climate change and air pollution:

  • Carpool, take the bus, or ride a bike to school or work. This reduces car exhaust, which contributes to global warming and air pollution.
  • Plant a tree or protect and nurture existing trees. Three full-grown trees can remove up to 20 kilograms of carbon dioxide from the air each year.
  • Recycle drinking containers, even when you are away from home. Recycling one glass bottle saves enough energy to power a 100 watt light bulb for four hours. To save more energy, only use the lights when necessary.

8. End of the Line

From the intersection, stay left and walk 30 m to the service road. From there go to the picnic shelter just off the road.

Do you know who has eaten the bobcat? They are little creatures that hide in cracks and under wood. Look for them on the ground near where you would settle down to refuel. The plaque is here too and reveals their identity. Make a rubbing of it in your Adventure Journal with the side of your pencil or crayon.

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 have discovered those who are demanding more energy from the sun. Draw all the living things you passed through while disguised as sunlight energy in your Adventure Journal. Draw arrows between each creature showing the direction energy flowed as you traveled. This is a picture of a food chain!

Return by the same path and learn more about the forest using the trail brochures. As you return, take a picture of your favourite hemlock tree and upload it to the website. Or you can walk back down the service road to the parking lot.

Back at the kiosk are additional pamphlets for other trails in the McCurdy Woodlot. They provide information on the natural history of the area and forest management practices. For more information on the programs offered by the Natural Resources Education Centre, stop at their office or check out their web site.

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Tap share and then "Add to Homescreen".