I Spy:

A Point Pleasant Park Adventure

2 hr 30 min 4.3 km return Moderate

Trail Info:

This is an oasis in the city with groomed walking trails, old forts and the seashore. The park is open year-round. There are picnic areas along the Shore Road and washrooms or outhouses in several locations throughout the park.

This trail is accessible to wheelchairs and strollers as movement between stops is on smooth cinder pathways. Some activities take place a bit off the pathway and need to be adapted as noted. This is a 4 km long trail.

Directions:

Point Pleasant Park Trailhead
View in Google Maps

Start at the Tower Road parking lot entrance to Point Pleasant Park in downtown Halifax. Find your best bus route by putting “Point Pleasant Park, Halifax” in here.

 

Trail Tools

Spies Needed

Start to the side of the main trail in the back of the parking lot.

Travel back in time and become a spy! The year is 1868 and though the British and French are no longer at war, they like to keep an eye on each other. Halifax is under British control. Because you’re small and quick, the French Adventure Spy Agency asks you to spy for them. Your mission is to gather information on the forts of Point Pleasant using a secret spy code. Don’t get caught!

All spies have code names. Decide on yours.

Practice your spy hiding skills along Cambridge Road on your way to the first stop.

  1. Choose a lookout who says “Hide!” unexpectedly as you walk.
  2. Everyone quickly hides behind a tree or bush.
  3. Come out and continue down the trail.
  4. Choose the next lookout and continue until Tower Hill Road.


Netukulimk

Mi’kmaq have inhabited the Halifax area for 1000s of years. The Mi’kmaw word for this area is ‘Kji’puktuk’ (biggest or chief harbour), which the British translated as ‘Chebucto.’ After European contact, many Mi’kmaq would trade with the Europeans and sometimes use the sails from their ships (canvas) as a covering for their wikuoms (wigwams) and other structures instead of the more traditional birchbark or skins.32 “Early on, perhaps in the 16th century, the Mi’kmaq learned to use small European sailing vessels such as the shallop which would have made long-distance trips much easier and safer.”32 The British first established a settlement in Halifax in 1749 and named Point Pleasant at first as ‘Sandwich Point.’ The mid-1700s featured an on-going series of global wars between the English and the French, for which Halifax was the major military base for the British in the Maritimes. There were ongoing hostilities between the Mi’kmaq and the British, and ultimately a series of Peace and Friendship Treaties, which recognize the Indigenous rights of the Mi’kmaq in Canadian law to this day. 

Learn about Netukulimk

1. Go Back in Time

From the parking lot, walk about 430 m down the main Cambridge Drive and turn right onto Tower Hill Road at the sign for the Prince of Wales Tower. Walk 100 m to the Prince of Wales (Martello) Tower.

Find the special stone in the wall of the tower to take you back in time. Here’s how:

  1. Face the door of the tower.
  2. Go left and stop at the 15th metal grate in the wall.
  3. Find the special stone with “WNV” carved in it near this grate.
  4. Close your eyes, touch the stone and say these magic words:
    “A spy I am, a spy I’ll be, back in time, away with me!”

Open your eyes. It is the year 1868. Time gets layered when you time travel, so you’ll see people from the past and the future. Trust no one and try not to let others see you. Anyone could be a British soldier in disguise.

You have an accomplice to warn you if someone is nearby: the crow. Crows are spies too. Dressed in black, they keep secret watch on all that happens in Point Pleasant. A crow call is a warning that someone is nearby. Hide behind a tree if you hear one.

  1. Use your spy scope to search for crows.
  2. Call to let them know you’re here, “caw, caw, caw”.

Do You Know – Crows

Crows (‘ka’qawej’ in Mi’kmaq) fly in a group called a murder (a murder of crows), and one or two usually keep watch. They are called sentinels. They call to the others in the murder when they see other creatures nearby. Crows are very clever, adaptable and can imitate other bird calls and human voices. They usually live for four or five years, but some live to twenty. They eat almost anything, such as berries, bugs, eggs, garbage and small birds. They are increasing in numbers because they have adapted well to living near humans.

2. Crack the Code

Stand with your back to the door of the tower. Look to the right of the path you took to the tower and find a smaller trail to the right. Enter the woods on the smaller trail about 15 m.

The previous spy got caught, but was able to leave you a message in secret spy code. Spies put their information into code in case the enemy intercepts it. Here is how the code works. Let’s put the words “5 crows” into code:

  1. Write out numbers as words: five instead of 5.
  2. Pair up the letters: fi ve cr ow s.
    (Sometimes a letter won’t be paired at the end.)
  3. Reverse the order of letters in each pair:
    if ve rc wo s. (So, of tr in code is really fort.)

Figure out what the spy’s coded message says about the tower:

ts ro se ug pn wo ed ar dn ah ts ow ac nn no os tn eh or foStores gunpowder and has two cannons on the roof.

Write this code in your Adventure Journal.

A top spy is clever like a crow. Crows can solve puzzles, use tools, count to four and mimic sounds. Mimic the crow call and create your own warning calls:

Hide = ___ caws
All is clear = ___ caws

Practice your crow calls as you walk to the next stop. Play the lookout game again but instead of saying “hide”, use your crow warning call. Use the “all is clear” call before moving again.

3. Find Secret Trails

Continue on the smaller trail back to the main Cambridge Drive and turn right on it. Walk 180 m and take the first path on the left, directly across from Maple Road. Walk 60 m and at the fork in the paths, turn right. Walk 50 m and make another right onto a path. Walk 30 m and stop just before you reach the open area at the Cambridge Battery.

(For accessible entrance to Battery, stay on the Cambridge Road for another 40 m and turn left into battery on gravel path)

Don’t go out into the open at the end of this path! Scan the area with your spy scope. Are any crows watching? Take the secret trail up the little hill on the left. Be careful around the edges of the fort.

The British are good at catching intruders. Practice your hiding skills by playing “Search and Discover” around the fort:

  1. Someone is the British soldier standing in front of the fort.
  2. Everyone else is a French spy and puts on camouflage: rub dirt on your cheeks.
  3. Set boundaries for how far away spies can hide.
  4. The soldier counts to 10 with eyes closed while the spies hide.
  5. The soldier searches for spies. The last spy caught is the next soldier.

Your superiors need to know the number of stairs and the number of cannon bases on the fort. Cannon bases are large, half-moon shapes of concrete on top of the fort. Record this information:

__ sets of stairs and __ bases

Put the whole phrase into code in case the British intercept it: {pp_stairs} sets of stairs and {pp_bases} bases

Write this code in your Adventure Journal.

Being a spy can work up an appetite. Eat your spy rations before continuing. When you finish, look and listen for crows to see if all is clear. Then search for evidence of British soldiers. Scan the ground as you walk for human and animal footprints. What can you find? The French think the British are building more ships. See if this is true.

Earthworks

Look at all the plants growing on and around the forts. Two and three hundred years ago, most of the trees on Point Pleasant were cut down to make way for forts and other military buildings with a good view of the sea. It took a long time for the forest to grow back and take over the forts, which created a beautiful mixture of history and forest. In 2003, Hurricane Juan brought down many of the trees in the park, and now many smaller plants are thriving as more light is reaching the forest floor. This is an example of

Learn about the Earthworks

4. Discover the Mast Mystery

Go out of the fort’s main entrance and turn right. Walk 215 m and take the second right onto Ogilvie Road. After the turn, sneak about 30 metres up to the twin trunked tree on the right side of the trail where you start the activity.

Ships in 1868 are made of wood. Record the number of trees cut down.

  1. Mark a starting point on the ground.
  2. Take 30 giant steps.
  3. Write in below the number of stumps directly along the right side of the trail. Hint: They may be hidden.

Big ships have several masts which are made from very tall, straight trees. Are there good trees for masts here?

Walk to the road intersection ahead. Turn in a circle and choose the tallest straight tree around the intersection. Measure your tree’s height:

  1. Get someone to stand next to the tree.
  2. Guess how many people you would stack to get to the top.

A height of 20 people would make a good mast. Write in the height of your mast tree:

__ stumps cut and the mast tree is __ people high.

Put this into code:{pp_stumps} stumps cut and the mast tree is {pp_peopleTall} people high

Write this code in your Adventure Journal.

Do You Know – Spruce Longhorn Beetle

At the turn of the 21st century, trees here were cut to prevent the spread of the brown spruce longhorn beetle. The beetle was brought to Canada accidentally from Europe, possibly on a container ship. When a new species is brought to an area, it often does not have natural predators. Its numbers can get out of control and do wide-spread damage. There was controversy over whether or not this beetle is dangerous and whether or not so many trees in Point Pleasant should have been cut.

5. Use Your Spy Camera

Continue along Ogilvie Road and do this activity off the trail just past the trail intersection.

Cameras in 1868 were very large and hard to use. So use a portable spy camera!

  1. Get in pairs: one is the photographer and one is the camera.
  2. The camera’s eyes serve as shutters. Keep them closed.
  3. The photographer guides the camera very carefully by the hand to the exact spot and position for the picture.
  4. To take a picture, the photographer pulls the camera’s thumb (button) up and down very quickly.
  5. When the thumb button goes up, the camera’s eyes open; when it goes down, they close.
  6. Don’t leave the camera’s eyes open long or you’ll overexpose the film in its brain.
  7. Take three different pictures and then switch roles.
  8. Do close up pictures and use weird angles.

Now stay on Ogilvie Road and walk about 85 m to the gates of Fort Ogilvie. Standing at the gates, look at the fort and take a camera picture of Fort Ogilvie. Draw the fort in your Adventure Journal so you can make a copy for your report.

6. Sneak Around

Enter the main gate and sneak to the corner of the fort on the right. Turn right and go straight ahead about 10 m. Turn left and face up the grassy hill behind the fort.

(For an accessible adaptation, enter the main fort area and do your observations there).

There could be British soldiers on guard, so do the Silent Spy Scramble up the grassy hill to the strange-looking metal thing on top:

  1. Lie flat on your stomach facing up the hill. Keep your legs together and straight out.
  2. Reach out and pull yourself forward with your arms.
  3. At the same time push with your toes.

The strange-looking metal thing on the top of the hill is a flagpole holder. Look for the smaller flagpole holder nearby. Flags were used to signal ships coming into the harbour.

On the fort, explore for a good hiding spot in case the soldiers come back. Use your spy scope to scan for your crow sentinels and British soldiers in disguise. If it’s safe, give each other the “all is clear” crow signal.

Check out the guns mounted on the concrete pads. Underneath them, there are double doors where the cannonballs and gun powder are stored.

How much ammunition do the British have here? Your superiors need to know. You realize that 10 cannonballs can be stored behind each set of double doors. How many balls could there be stored below the cannon?

__ storage doors with __ cannon balls behind each door.

Put this into code:{pp_doors} storage doors with {pp_balls} cannon balls behind each door

It takes 4 soldiers to shoot a gun, how many would they need for these guns?

Write this code in your Adventure Journal.

Before leaving the fort, look for a point from where you can see the harbour.

Use the “hide” and “all is clear” crow signals as you work your way down the trail without being seen.

Earth Steps

Here are some things you can do to keep plants or animals from distant places from being introduced and doing damage to local natural communities:

  • Do not return from a province or another country with seeds, plants or animals.
  • Buy local produce. This saves transportation energy and reduces the risk of introducing foreign pests. Farmers exporting crops long distances sometimes have to use more pesticides for fear of introducing pests elsewhere.
  • Buy wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council as meeting minimum environmental standards. These practices enable more diverse forests that are less susceptible to destruction by one introduced pest.
  • Learn more about invasive species in Nova Scotia.

7. Spy on Ships

Go out the main entrance and turn right along Fort Road. Follow the path 270m downhill to Sailors Memorial Way and turn right.

(An accessible adaptation is to do the observations from the path).

When you meet Sailors Memorial Way, look across the beach to the grassy spy hill on the edge of the water. Walk across the sandy beach, but make sure to cover your footprints as you go. Climb the hill and use your spy scope to look for ships on the water. How many do you see?

Ships have an observation platform called a crow’s nest, the high point on the mast that acts as a lookout. It is called this because crows build their nests very high in trees and the platform often looks like a nest.

Look out to sea and look for the lighthouse. It is at the end of Hangman’s beach. Count the number of buoys to guide ships into the harbour that you can see.

__ ships and island has __ buoys

Put this into code: {pp_ships} ships and island has {pp_bouys} bouys

Write this code in your Adventure Journal.

Did You Know?

Hangman’s Beach is so named because the British Navy in the late 1700s used to hang executed, dead sailors on the beach. These were sailors who the Navy considered guilty of desertion or some other crime. This was to remind all sailors coming in and out of the harbour on Navy ships what might happen to them if they tried to desert the Navy.

8. Locate the Plaque

From the grassy hill, go back on Sailors Memorial Way. Walk 160m further out to the next point of rock on your left.

The spy that came before you left a code message to tell you the position from which you are to take a picture of the lighthouse. This is your final code to crack to find the mystery plaque.

ol ko nu ed ar rg ee bn ne hcLook under a green bench.

Make a rubbing of the plaque in your adventure journal. Take the picture from here out to sea and upload it to the website. Don’t get caught.

Do You Know – Scotch Heather

Scotch heather is a plant the Scottish brought over with them when their regiments camped at Point Pleasant. This low growing plant with purple blooms in the fall can be seen throughout the park and is another example of an introduced species to the area.

9. Go Back to the Future

The British are hot on your trail! The only escape is to travel back to the future. Run to the large anchor up ahead. Touch it and say:

“A spy no more I want to be, back to the future, please take me.”

Congratulations for successfully completing your mission!

Back in the present, you have one final challenge… to guess what the mystery creature is on the hidden plaque nearby and then find the plaque. Make your guess… and here is your hint to the whereabouts of the plaque: Take the footpath directly across from the anchor. Walk 10M to the giant dead tree. put your back to the tree facing the small hill and walk 10 steps and start searching.

Make a rubbing of the plaque creature in your Adventure Journal with the side of your pencil and keep the lookout for them!

There are more forts to explore further along Sailors Memorial Way. Your next earth adventure could be to search for treasure on McNabs Island across the harbour.

To find out more about the history of the park, check out the book Point Pleasant Park: An Illustrated History, by Janet Kitz and Gary Castle (Halifax, NS: Pleasant Point Publishing, 1999).

The plaque symbol is:

I

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Try recruiting more spies by getting your friends or family to try to decode the messages you wrote. See if they can do it!

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Tap share and then "Add to Homescreen".