Martock — x-country skiing

cross country skiing at Martock, NS

After a bit of lovely light snow this week, we set out to try the trails at Martock.  We had a fine time in the warm sunny weather.  Imagine our surprise to find steep hills on the trails! Cross-country ski trails at Martock are laid out in a series of loops.  There is a map at the start and another at a cross point farther in and these maps are useful, but not enough.  We would have really appreciated some signs or labeling of the trails.  Because the trails are laid out in loops that cross it is difficult to know where you are.  At one point, I felt like I was skiing in circles – to which my partner replied “we are”.  Doubtless he was right, but I would have liked to be able to plan my circles!  There are not really that many loops and trails; a morning or afternoon of skiing will easily take you over all the trails.

country skiing, Nova Scotia

This week not all the trails were open and the snow conditions were ok, but not exceptional – lots of base, but a bit icy with fluffy snow on top.

Martock is close to Windsor and easily reached within 40 minutes from Halifax.


reflection – contemplation

Dollar Lake provincial park

Dollar Lake – quiet and contemplative today.

With all the snow this winter there has been fabulous skiing around Halifax.  Dollar Lake provincial park has excellent skiing although after the rain yesterday trails are icy now!. We walked to the lake from the outside gate.  Its about 45 minutes along an open road (completely snow/ice covered!).  We met a family with young kids having a snack under some pines, but once at the lake we were all alone and spent some quiet time enjoying the frozen lake. Dollar Lake provincial park NS

Dollar Lake provincial park, Nova Scotia

The road to Dollar Lake is a bit tricky – so, coming from highway 102 take exit 5A, turn onto Aerotech Dr., then left onto Pratt and Whitney Dr. and then right onto the Old Guysborough Rd. and what looks like a regular Nova Scotian secondary road, highway 212. It is all highway 212, but not signed that way.

The Martock Nordic Ski Club maintains the cross country ski trails at Dollar Lake Provincial Park.




Snow storm – blizzard conditions

In anticipation of the snow (20 to 40 cm) to arrive tonight and tomorrow, I am suggesting two locations with fun after storm skiing. And in Nova Scotia, especially around Halifax, that means you have to get out soon, because it could all be gone in a few days with the rain that is sure to follow.    …So…

Early in January we had snow, snow and snow, and two days of wonderful cross country skiing.  We skied at Dollar Lake Provincial Park one day and at Pockwock Watershed the next.  Each of these locations is within an easy two hours or less of Halifax.  Each of these locations offers kilometers of varied trails through woods and along open, unploughed roads.  Trails are not groomed, but Pockwock, is popular enough that by the afternoon there will be tracks to follow.  If you like to break your own trail there are sure to be lots of untouched paths to explore and break trail too!  Dollar Lake Provincial Park is a bit farther from the city than Pockwock and has perhaps fewer trails, but the lake is closer and walking trails can be skied as well.

At the Pockwock Watershed streams and creeks add to the charm!

creek, pockwock watershed

Pockwock Watershed Skiing

Skiing the Pockwock Watershed

Pockwock Lake watershed - wetlandWe started off the week with great cross-country skiing in the Pockwock Lake watershed. It was beautifully quiet and  fresh.

Even after the warmth and rain of the previous week there was still lots snow and a fresh dusting over a solid base really made for ideal conditions.  Because this is a popular spot there are tracks to follow from other folks – but not grooming.  On a day like Monday, where we were the first (and maybe the only) skiers, we sometimes could see the track and at other times were breaking trail – certainly gave us a good work out.  The main trail follows existing roads (not winter maintained) or access paths through the watershed.  There are also some paths through the woods, although we didn’t follow those for more than a kilometer or two since we were unfamiliar with the area.  We skied over 10 km and look forward to returning to explore further.

This wooded area is easily accessible off Highway 103 and my Nova Scotia map shows a parking spot.

Fresh snow after a valley storm

Amazing!  We began our ski at 2 in the afternoon and no one had disturbed the snow along the old rail bed – fresh, fresh snow!  And over a foot ( 30.5 cm) deep.  It was lovely, light and not too powdery for cross country skiing.  And how do I know that it was at least a foot deep?  Because it came up to the first joint on my ski poles – my old bamboo poles.  Drifts were past my knees.

There were no signs of people in the snow, but traffic on the trail had been heavy since the storm yesterday.  There were tiny little tracks, bigger tracks and bigger ones still and others that dove below the snow.  The neatest we was saw was not a track at all, but feather imprints.  We almost skied  right over them, and unfortunately obliterated some.  It seems like a large bird was taking off.  My guess is we’ve caught impressions of tail feathers and the wing tip hitting the snow as the bird takes off.  (There were other feather imprints below the picture frame where we skied.) What do you think?

Bank swallows along the Annapolis River


One of the great things about winter is the chance to go places we don’t or can’t normally go…perhaps because its too far or too difficult.  For me this often means too many brambles in the summer.  Today we covered a bit of both, we went for a ski in one of our favorite places, BelleIsle Marsh along the Annapolis River.  We followed snow mobile trails for some of the way and broke trail for some of the way because I wanted to see the river up close and no trails led to shore.  As it turned out, we skiied on the ice for a short distance.  We had a great view of the river bank and discovered small holes in the earth.  I thought these were made by cliff swallows, but no, a bit of online research shows that these small holes are made by bank swallows, also called sand martins. Check out these images and these too. (I know, cliff swallows make mud nests, but I thought they might make nests in holes too…what can I say – I’m not a birder!) And here are my images.

The snow was excellent and this has been a wonderful couple of weeks for snow shoeing and skiing, just tons of snow!  At BelleIsle open fields are divided by tree breaks and dykes and marsh.  The open areas have little snow that is well packed, but along the trees and dykes there are deep drifts – a lot more work!  The road to the regular parking lot is not plowed, so be prepared to ski from the highway.


skiing off the rails


Cross country skiing is a great way to tour a familiar trail.  It is a bit like visiting with an old friend in new surroundings.  Not every trail will lend itself to this switch, but for those that do discoveryand familiarity create a surprising blend.  Today we got out the skis to try the old rail bed in the Annapolis Valley.  It is a very flat trail and today, the snow was well packed by snowmobile and all terain vechicle traffic.  We didn’t meet any on our afternoon ski though, so it was very pleasant indeed.  We did meet a few people out in the sun for a walk.   Really, the trail was firmly enough packed to walk, but it was lots of fun zipping along – the snow was very fast!  With this speed, we went farther than we usually do.

The flat terrain allowed us to concentrate on our surroundings as the old rail bed passed close to the Annapolis River and then through cultivated fields.  In one spot as we sped by alders and birch the snow was covered in little brown specks, almost like a sprinkling of brown sugar or cinamon.  A close look showed these specks to be the seeds from the alder or birch growing near by.