By John Moore, Columnist
Recently a group of Maskwa Aquatic Club parents and some members from the Nature Trust went on a hike in the Blue Mountain Wilderness Park. This event was organized by Friends of Blue Mountain. The group gathered in the parking lot at Maskwa with the goal of hiking to Charlie’s Lake. The hike was led by Melanie Macdonald who is a member of Maskwa as well Friends of Blue Mountain and Mark Young who is a member of Friends of Blue Mountain.
Melanie gave a few helpful comments to make the hike more enjoyable and then we were on our way. I was chatting with a nearby hiker when he said a recent study in Toronto compared tree lined streets with those that were treeless in terms of health of the residents . It was found those living on tree lined streets were much better off health wise with lower stress levels and less incidence of heart disease ,cancer and diabetes. After hearing this, I was already beginning to feel better breathing in all that rich tonic of nature air. I noticed the trails were well trod and were free from any litter. This is in large part thanks to all the volunteer stewards who are continuously patrolling Blue Mountain.
Our hike leader pointed out a small patch of soon to be blooming May flowers which is Nova Scotia’s official flower. Next to it was a patch of wintergreen whose berry tastes like the minty flavor in toothpaste. It is the ingredient that gives toothpaste that taste. It is also used as an ingredient for aspirin.
We slowly made our way to Charlies Lake ridge with lots of banter going on and plenty of laughter. Some conversations mentioned what a jewel of nature this is and so happy this area is protected. Before we knew it ,we were at Charlies Lake ridge, it was mind boggling standing on rock whose horizontal ridges were formed during the last ice age. One of the hike leaders pointed out a crusty form of lichen which can break apart some of the slate the ridge is comprised of. It was also pointed out that we were surrounded by a stand of red pines which are rare. All the while I found myself breathing in that fresh forest air. The smells of evergreen seemed everywhere. After a bit of a break and some picture taking, we made our way back. I was told by one of the hike leaders, Mark ,who is a cancer survivor like me, that he drinks sap from the yellow birch trees. The sap is not unlike maple sap, only more bitter. It has many medicinal benefits and of course was widely used by First nations who inhabited these lands for thousands of years.
Once we arrived back at the Maskwa parking lot we made our way to the club house where we were treated to Tim’s coffee and some healthy treats to cap it all off. There was more discussion on the wilderness area and the hope that the rest of the privately owned land will be purchased. Hopefully, the planned National Urban Wilderness Park will become a reality.
A big shout out to Melanie and Mark for conducting such an informative and amazing hike. In the meantime, if you get a chance go hike in Blue Mountain and as the Japanese say, take a nature bath. It will be time well spent and beneficial for your overall health. Happy May!
Image by jcomp on Freepik