Time Travel Detectives:

A McMaster Mill Park Adventure

1 hr 10 min 0.5 km return Easy

Trail Info:

This trail is a short array of looping and intersecting trails that occupies less than 1 acre of land. There are extremely steep and slippery slopes leading to a deep rocky gorge below. Stay on the trail close to the gorge and heed the warning signs provided. During the Adventure, there is some uneven ground, roots and inclines just off the trail but the groomed trail is relatively flat. These trails were developed as an interpretive park for the historic McMaster Mill that once ran here from the mid 1800’s to the mid 1900’s. There are interpretive signs throughout which you can check out afterwards.


McMaster Mill Park Trailhead
View in Google Maps

From Halifax take Highway 101 west to the Annapolis Valley. Take Exit 17E towards Kingston/ Greenwood, turning left at the end of the ramp onto Maple St. Drive 850m and turn right onto the Number 1 Hwy. Drive 1km into Kingston and turn left at the lights onto Bridge Street. Drive 2.2km and turn left at the lights onto Central Ave. Drive 450m and turn right at the lights to stay on Central Ave. Drive 1.2km past the shopping malls and turn right onto Rocknotch Rd. Drive 1.5km and turn left onto Meadowvale Rd. briefly for 170m, and then turn right back onto Rocknotch Rd again. Drive another 3 km on Rocknotch Rd and park on the side of the road at the trail entrance with the McMaster Mill Park sign. Start at the sign.

Trail Tools

  • Pencil
  • Snack and water (Sailor’s Ration)
  • Magnifying lenses (optional)
  • Paintbrushes or Q-tips (optional)
  • Straw
  • Water (small portion for straw spray painting)
  • Adventure Journal

Time Travel Detectives Wanted

Start at the trail map sign at the start of the trail.

The Planet Earth has a secret message for its passengers. The challenge is that our 4.5-billion-year-old planet left the clues for us at 7 different times in history! To figure out the secret message, walk through this time-travel adventure.

Transporter Worms will take you back in time. Worms have the ability to travel through worm-holes in the spacetime continuum and they can take you along!

Before we go, we will need to give a gift along the way. Look at the ground and find something natural that is small and neat, no bigger than your thumbnail. Put it in your pocket for later.

Ready for a time-travel quest for Earth? Ok, here we go …

  1. Walk down just past the last railing pole and find a nice moist patch of earth off the trail.
  2. Look for worms under the leaves and in the dirt.
  3. If you find a worm, touch it gently. What does it feel like? If you don’t find a worm then stick your finger into the moist soil, like it is a worm moving through the earth.
  4. Say these magic words together…

Wiggle Like a Worm
Take us back to places past

Jump up and spin in the air, you are spinning through space and time down a worm-hole…

Now you are back in time. But, where in the past are you?… You have gone back to 150 million years ago! Hear the roaring in the background? Maybe it’s a waterfall, or maybe it’s a… dinosaur?

Albert Einstein’s Theory at Work

Einstein’s theory of General Relativity predicts the presence of wormholes linking the past to the present. Some starry night, look up into the sky. You are really looking back into time billions of years! Your eyes are time-travelling! COOL! So, let’s use these wormholes to travel back in time!

1. Go on a Dinosaur Ride

Continue down the path 15 m until you come to an intersection. Go right 2 m and look up to your right.

Look up into the woods to the right of the path. Do you see the big dinosaur neck reaching for the leaves in the trees? This dino is a huge Seismosaurus. It only eats plants so it is safe to climb onto its neck and go for a ride!

The space worms were just here! They speed through time and are difficult to spot. They want to help you find the clues by giving you a hint at each time stop. Here is a note they left to help you with the first clue, they have filled in some letters to help you guess:

Watch out for the giants! Dinosaurs grew really big during this time in Earth’s history. One theory is that the development of bird-like lungs would have allowed more 

to enter their lungs and help them breathe better.

Oh no! Here comes a meat-eating Allosaurus. You’d better hide!

  1. Find a hiding spot and quietly listen for 30 seconds.
  2. Make a dinosaur call to signal to your team when it is safe to continue.

Use a different call at each stop through time as a signal to the others in your team when there is danger and when it is safe. Make sure your calls are appropriate to the time period so you don’t draw too much attention to yourself.

Back to the trail. This is a really dangerous place to be a small mammal. You had better get away now that you have the first clue. Plug your finger into the earth like a worm digging into the soil and say…




Wiggle Like a Worm

Take us back to places past


Jump up and spin in the air through space and time down a worm-hole! Where are you now?

2. Be a Cave-Person Artist

Walk 15m to the next Y in the road and go right 60 m until you get to three rocks ahead of you and a bench to the left.

It is 200 thousand years ago, early humans are running about. We know from fossils that they looked like us, wore clothing, and made tools from stone. They also made cave art.

The Worms have another clue for you to discover:

Early humans lived in caves and drew pictures on stone. Archeologists have found engravings and

on the walls of caves in Africa and Asia.

Be a cave person and decorate your cave wall with art. Decorate the 3 rocks in front of you by dipping your finger, paintbrush or Q-tip in water and making a design. You can try making hand stencil prints, which were very popular back then.

  1. Fill your mouth with water and practice spraying it out through a straw as a fine mist (shooting away from others).
  2. Place your hand with fingers spread in the rock with your arm straight and spray your hand with water to leave a dry hand print. You have left your mark!

We shouldn’t stay much longer here though, we don’t want to frighten the inhabitants when they get home. On to the next clue!

Crouch down and plug into the Earth again like a worm and say…




Wiggle Like a Worm

Squeeze us through a tiny place


From crouching, straighten your legs slowly with your body hanging down and roll your back up to standing while slowly reaching for the sky like an un-furling plant reaching for the sun. We now squeeze ourselves out of the wormhole! Where are we?

3. Explore the Land of Mi’kma’ki

From the bench, walk back the trail about 3 m to a tree on the uphill side of the trail.

This is Nova Scotia 500 years ago when the Mi’Kmaq were the only people living here. The land provided everything to the people; food, shelter, fun and adventure! Children explored with all of their senses every day and got really good at reading the Book of Nature all around them. Let’s read a page from the Book of Nature together! We are going to explore the mini-world of the decaying tree in front of you.

  1. Take out your magnifying lenses and crawl on the ground over to the tree roots.
  2. Look for the little creatures that call this mini-world home. Do you see any worms, woodbugs or ants? Try not to disturb their homes too much.
  3. These creatures are decomposers, an important part of the nutrient cycle in the forest. What other decomposers do you see?
  4. How do the creatures find what they need: food, water, and shelter?

The worms have another clue for you:

The Mi’kmaq depended on the land and each other for survival. Because it sustained their every need they taught their children about

for the land and gave gifts and thanks to the creatures that gave their lives so the people could eat.


Respect for all elements of creation is central to a Mi’kmaw worldview and that of many other Indigenous groups. This respect is reflected in how things are harvested and used by people. Robin Wall Kimmerer, an Indigenous writer, defines these guidelines for an ‘honourable harvest’ in her book Braiding Sweetgrass. Consider applying them to what you harvest and buy…

  • Know the ways of the ones who take care of you so you may take care of them.
  • Introduce yourself, be accountable as the one who comes asking for life.
  • Ask permission before taking. Abide by the answer.
  • Never take the first. Never take the last.
  • Take only what you need.
  • Use it respectfully. Never waste what you have taken.
  • Share.
  • Give thanks for what you have been given.
  • Give a gift in reciprocity for what you have been given.
  • Sustain the ones who sustain you and the earth will live forever.

Learn about Netukulimk

Do you still have the little gift in your pocket from your time? Let’s give this special gift as thanks to the creatures living in these roots for all they do to recycle nutrients in Nature. Using your magnifying lens, find the perfect place in the wood where the creatures would find and appreciate it.

The Mi’kmaw children want to share the Stick Catch Game with you as a gift to take back.

  1. Everyone pick up several pencil size sticks.
  2. Starting with a single stick, balance the stick on the top of your hand with palm down.
  3. Quickly drop your hand and grab the stick out of the air before it hits the ground.
  4. When you can catch one stick, add another stick and try it again.
  5. See who can catch the most sticks at once!

It’s time to move to the next time. Plug into the earth like a worm and read together:




Wiggle Like a Worm

Forward into time and space


From crouching, make your whole body wiggle like jelly as you slowly stand up and then jump up and say POP! What time have we landed in now?

4. Be Sea Explorers

From the bench, continue 20 m, walking down the steep hill and holding onto the trees for support. Stand on the shore.

It is 400 years ago. Explorers from Italy, France, England and Spain have just come to these lands for the first time. Their governments want the land for themselves even though the Mi’kmaq already live here. In the end, the Europeans are more powerful and take the land from the Mi’kmaq even though some explorers tried to get along. In our own time, the Canadian government is seeking to heal the wrongs of the past between the European settlers and Indigenous peoples.

The worms have another clue for you:

400 years ago there were no motors so explorers came across the Atlantic Ocean in

ships, which took around 30 days from England. Imagine a month at sea in the middle of the ocean with no fresh food, just pickled meat and hardtack biscuits. Yuck!

To be a European explorer, you need a boat:

Find some dry wood or sticks and make a boat and decorate it as you like. You can make a raft type boat by using long grass to tie twigs together. See if you can make a sail out of a twig mast and a leaf sail. Let your boats go and see who’s is the fastest.

Phew! Time travel is tiring! Time to eat your sailor’s rations before you travel any further. Open your backpack and have a snack and drink.

Let’s keep going! Just 3 more words to go and we can solve the message from Earth. Plug yourself into the Earth with your wormy little fingers and say:




Wiggle Like a Worm

Let’s hope someone’s steering this thing


From crouching, jump and spin one way, land and spin the other while yelling like you are on a rollercoaster! Wonder where we are in time now?

5. Make Machines

Just down the shore, there is a small trail junction, take the straight trail that continues along the shore, walking 40 m through dense vegetation to a bench with concrete slabs to the left of it.

These big slabs of concrete hold back the water of the Fales river, watch out for the large pond they make and don’t get swept away! We are in the year 1930 and the McMaster Mill is sawing logs and grinding grain using the energy of fast flowing water to run an engine and move saws and grinders. But there is a new invention just around the corner that would shape the future of human society.

The worms have another clue for you:

Oil lamps and candles light up the evenings in the small community here at Rocknotch back in the early 1900’s. Then the discovery and harnessing of

made it possible to just flip a switch and light up the houses.

How does a water turbine or water wheel make a saw mill cut logs or a flour mill grind grain? Use your bodies to make machines! You are all machine parts of a watermill.

  1. Everyone stand side-by-side in a straight line along the path with your arms outstretched and hands touching.
  2. The person closest to the water starts to turn around in a circle with arms out like their arms are paddles or blades being pushed by flowing water.
  3. As their hands push against the person next to them, the next person starts to spin in the direction they are pushed.
  4. In turn, the next person spins in the direction their hands are pushed until everyone is spinning in the line.
  5. Is everyone spinning in the same direction?

You are all moving parts, called cogs, of a water wheel that is powered by flowing water.

  • As your arms turn, they can be turning other cogs and moving other machine parts such as saws or grinders.
  • Can you invent another machine with all of your bodies? An automobile? An airplane? A toaster? Think of the moving parts you need and be creative! Invent a new machine!

The McMaster Water Mill

The Rockville Company began when a waterwheel was built on the Fales River to saw logs (sawmill) and grind grain into flour (gristmill) in 1858. When more efficient technology was discovered, the company built a water-turbine in 1913 to increase the production of sawn wood and to provide electricity for the community. All that is left of the construction are the concrete blocks that formed the dam and the penstock that held the turbine farther down the river. When electricity finally came to the community from other, larger, power stations, the watermill was closed and operations moved to Kingston. Look at the interpretive panels along the trails to learn more.

We are on our way to another place in time. Plug yourself into the Earth and say:




Wiggle Like a Worm

Is it getting cold in here or is it just me


Stay crouching and scuttle around on the path like tiny insects and jump up extending arms and legs like a star. Brrrrr… it is unusually cold! Where are we now?

6. Build Shelters

Continue along the river 10 m to a 2nd bench. Go around the bench and down the slope 5 m.

I’m freezing! We went back in time again. It is 10 thousand years ago when the glaciers were melting at the end of the last Ice Age. What a tough place to live. These scraggly trees and roots are the only shelter the little animals have against the bitter cold and wet. Let’s help the animals find shelter by building little homes for them among the roots! You can work together or separately and make a little village. Have a tour of your village when you are finished.

But what if predators are searching for your animal shelters? When you are done with them, take the shelters apart and make it so no one would know they were ever there.

Before we forget why we came this far, here is the message from the Worms with clue number 6:

See these big, round granite boulders? These big rocks hitched a ride on the glacier as it moved south across the continent during the Ice Age. Glaciers are large slabs of

that grow slowly and can cover whole continents.

Let’s go and find out what our last clue is! Plug into the Earth and say:




Wiggle Like a Worm

Zipping, Flipping, Hold On Tight!


Jump up and down from crouching three times as high as you can. Let’s look around to see where we are now.


The Earth’s ecosystems and communities of life are always becoming something else. A rock slowly breaks down to become particles of soil. Fish move with changes in water temperature. The sea coast slowly falls into the ocean in the face of rising tides. Predators move to new areas if there is food available there. A field slowly turns into a forest as taller plants take the sunlight if humans do not intervene. Over time, creatures and natural communities slowly adapt and

Learn about the Earthworks

7. Look for an Amphibian’s Lunch

Walk another 10 m through the boulders and trees to just past where you can see a waterfall to your right around a corner of rock.

Whooow! What a strange place. The rocks are bending and folding under our feet. This is 350 million years ago in the Middle of the Carboniferous Period when the 2 continents of Gondwanan and Laurasia collided to form the Supercontinent Pangea. Hold on tight to something! Here comes an earthquake! Shake and wiggle…  What a dangerous place to live!

This is the time of the fishes, and early amphibians are just starting to walk out of the swamps onto land to catch the insects already there. The amphibians during this time looked like giant salamanders with sharp teeth! Let’s look for lunch as an amphibian! Maybe you are the giant ancestor of a frog or salamander? COOL!

  1. Get down on your hands and knees and search among the leaves, moss and dead wood for tasty insects.
  2. Take out your magnifying lens and look at them up close. These little insects would have been 20 times the size they are today since there was more oxygen in the atmosphere 350 million years ago, which helped amphibians grow big.
  3. How many kinds of giant yummy insects can you find? Don’t they look delicious?

The worms have the final clue for you:

This exact place in Nova Scotia that you are standing now is the point where the continents collided. The rocks are being squeezed and squished by pressure and

under the ground that melts the rocks and bends them at odd angles.

Look to the left of the waterfall and see the rocks lined like the layers in a cake or the pages of a book. The erosion of soil by water has uncovered these rocks and now we are able to see them. Each layer is like a page in the book of time since the layers are deposited one on top of the other over time.

Let’s read the rock book:

  1. Count the different layers. How many are there?
  2. Are the layers all the same size?
  3. Are the layers all the same colour?
  4. What do you think this says about each layer of rock?

Time to go before another earthquake hits! Plug into the Earth and say:




Wiggle Like a Worm

Bridge between the here and then


Spin while jumping high and tuck your knees up in midair. Say “Plop!” when you land.

Earth Steps

This planet is always changing through slow natural processes, but in the last 50 years, humans have been changing things so quickly that creatures and ecosystems cannot adapt. Most important of all, we are rapidly warming and changing the climate. You can help slow the changes down by using less fossil fuel:

  • Walk or bike wherever possible to reduce fossil fuel emissions.
  • Buy local food.
  • Avoid packaging and bring your own bags to the store.
  • Plant trees.

8. Home We Go

Walk uphill through the tree roots and rocks 15 m until you are back on the main trail. Turn right and walk 50 m to a boardwalk and up to a look off platform. [Please note: the left benches in the attached photo which has the plaque on it is undergoing maintenance as of Sept 7/23. Please tell us if you note that they have returned!] For now there isa no plaque and we are working to replace it.

This place looks familiar! We are back home in our own time and finished our time travel. Thank the worms for taking us through their wormholes across space and time by reaching up and wiggling your fingers in a goodbye wave.

Now that you have discovered all seven clue words, write down the key letter highlighted in the box for the clue at each prior stop. Write the key letters in your Adventure Journal and then unscramble them. Enter the final secret word here.

My Letters:

This word is a lesson for us all. We have learned through this adventure that the earth _ _ _ _ _ _ _ (same word) over time and we humans and other creatures living on this earth need to do this as well to adapt to different environments. Humans are changing the environment on this planet and we need to have respect for other creatures with whom we share the Earth. We need to give other species room to adapt and change with us.

There is one last challenge. Search around the observation platform to find the mystery creature plaque which is hidden on something where people sit. Make a rubbing of it in your Adventure Journal with the side of your pencil.

You might also want to draw a picture of the waterfall in your Adventure Journal. It is pretty spectacular! You could also upload a favourite photo from here or earlier on the trail.

The plaque symbol is:



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

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Because this trail is an interpretive historic park, complete with signage, you may want to begin with a walk through the park to see the historic significance of this place.

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Tap share and then "Add to Homescreen".