I love to share my adventures and discoveries in hopes of empowering others to experience them too. I believe “Canada’s ocean playground” should be an inclusive one. I was privileged with an upbringing that exposed me to outdoor adventure, but my enthusiastic reverence for Nova Scotia’s natural beauty has been fostered through many aspects of my life.
A lifelong Haligonian, I fondly remember family bike rides at Point Pleasant Park, beachcombing at McNabs Island, and acting out epic childhood adventures at York Redoubt. Playing outdoors was an important part of my childhood.
My favourite jobs, sports, and other recreational activities have always been outdoors. As a kid, I was happiest playing in the yard, at the park or on my bike. During university at St. Francis Xavier and Saint Mary’s University, I planted trees in Spring and Summer for the forestry industry.
Tree planting involved hauling heavy loads of trees through kilometres of clearcut wastelands in every manner of inclement weather, surrounded with absurd amounts of bugs with nowhere to take shelter. I learned valuable lessons testing my limits with daily adversities, eventually thriving on the challenges. I became a highly productive planter, planting hundreds of thousands of trees during my 4 seasons.
Beyond the life lessons; a major thing that stuck with me from tree planting was the feeling of disgust at the abhorrent treatment of our environment. Rather than feeling like an ecological hero, I knew the trees I planted were essentially pulp & paper farms. Each day in remote clear-cuts, hidden from public view, felt like living a dystopian future that I want no part in creating. I gained a new-found appreciation for the beauty of old-growth forests and wilderness in its natural state. These early days played a big part in why I created HalifaxTrails.ca.
Why I Created HalifaxTrails.ca
I created HalifaxTrails.ca in 2009 as I started to explore new areas of our great outdoors. I relied mostly on word of mouth to find new places. Searching online for maps, photos and videos of local trails didn’t turn up many results, so I decided to create them myself. In a province with so many hidden gems, I knew it may require a lifetime to cover them all, so I tamed my ambition and focused on Halifax.
Even with the most simple task, like naming the website, I realized things were going to take significantly more work than I anticipated (still trying to think of a better name to this day). After days of brainstorming, I threw the list of whimsical names in the garbage and went straight to the point. With no web design knowledge, a rudimentary digital camera, and Microsoft Publisher (a program not intended for web design) HalifaxTrails.ca was live. Though frustratingly left-justified and ugly as hell for many years, it was well used locally despite its aesthetic shortcomings. I could tell I was filling a need as I steadily gained a large following of like-minded explorers. This was the beginning of a long process of learning and improving that continues today.
Through the years I have thoroughly documented all of my outdoor adventures and put endless hours into creating these guides. I meticulously detail my GPS recordings, agonize over my writing, and obsessively edit photos, videos, and 360° virtual tours.
As an amateur photographer with basic equipment, I head out on outdoor adventures with the intent of bringing an audience along with me. I aim to convey what it feels like to be on these adventures, as well as equip the audience with the tools & practical info they need to go there and experience it for themselves. This means detailed trip logistics planning, and many hours of extra time on the ground trying to document every key aspect.
Website design improvements, optimizations, and technical troubleshooting are other daily tasks. Creating posts for my Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube & TikTok adds to my full plate. It’s a lot of unpaid, but rewarding work, and I wish I could do it full-time. Hiking has helped me recover from life-altering events, and I hope my work can help others through their life challenges.
It is my view that the more people we can get out enjoying nature, the more collectively aware we become of how threatened, under-funded, and underappreciated our natural assets are. I provide tools, education, and motivation to encourage a diverse array of people to responsibly explore and appreciate these special places. Some circles adopt an attitude that these gems should be kept secret, projecting littering and other disrespectful behaviour onto new visitors who don’t look like them or meet their criteria.
Read my CBC Interview.
I believe the more people who get out to explore untouched wilderness areas, the better for wilderness protection as a general cause. Gems kept secret to a privileged few tend to get quietly clearcut, sold, or paved over. The collective saving of the Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes Wilderness Area and Owls Head Provincial Park are great examples of what a large group of the engaged public can accomplish. I was proud to be a vocal supporter and used my platforms to bring attention to these and other local environmental issues.
An Independent Voice
My large, diverse audience of thousands of visitors per day does not correlate to a significant amount of funding. Despite this, I’ve continued putting in an inordinate amount of time and effort over the past decade. Though I would have made more money working a minimum wage job, this work has taught me many valuable lessons and skills along the way. It has been a joy to share my work with the public and get feedback from people who feel as passionate as I do about the amazing places we have in our own backyard. I gladly respond to emails from tourists and locals alike and am proud to say I’ve helped many people discover the joys of our great outdoors.
Through this project, I’ve been able to help promote the work of local volunteer organizations, and environmental causes while staying independent, self-funded, and outspoken. I do every aspect of work on the site by myself, and with no government grants or corporate sponsorships and my current limited budget, the site is both an experiment and a gamble. I’m hoping to build enough support to continue providing a public good without being beholden to anyone, so I can maintain an independent voice.
Your support will allow me to continue furthering my objectives:
- Inspire healthy living and an appreciation of the natural world through outdoor activity. “Nature Therapy” has been shown in many studies to be one of the best things you can do for mental and physical health. I have experienced this in my own life. One of the greatest rewards I get is knowing my work has helped people in similar situations.
- Bring recognition and support to local volunteer organizations, groups, unsung heroes and causes. Those who take the time and effort to construct, maintain and protect our natural assets. I use my growing social media influence and the guides on my website to spotlight volunteer activism.
- Put Nova Scotia on the map of the best ecotourism destinations in the world. Our unique natural assets have enormous untapped potential to sustain an economy based on their preservation. These assets attract new citizens and business to our region and can put us at the forefront of a modern, sustainable, green economy.
- Explore, map, photograph and post new guides for all of the parks, trails and outdoor adventure destinations throughout Nova Scotia. HalifaxTrails.ca is the beginning, NovaScotiaTrails.ca is the goal.
- Continue to update my maps, guides, photos, videos and social media accounts.
- Develop a mobile app.
- Upgrade hardware and software to improve production quality. What I’ve created so far has been done on a shoestring budget, with entry-level, basic equipment. I currently don’t have enough funding to cover direct expenses let alone equipment upgrades.
- Eliminate the need for advertisements on the website and not have to turn it into a paid subscription service. I hope to keep it a free resource for everyone to use, regardless of their ability to pay.