Lost in Hemlock Ravine Park

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This article was originally published in the Chronicle Herald's weekly community papers and has been republished here with their permission.

Deep in the heart of suburban Halifax, on one of the most popular trails in the area, I managed to get completely lost. On top of that, my phone battery was on its last gasp and my walking companion couldn’t find a reliable signal on hers. Let me be a cautionary tale.

It started innocently enough. I invited a friend to join me on my walk and suggested the mild-mannered Hemlock Ravine Park, across from the rotunda on the Bedford Highway, just before you enter the town limits for Bedford. It’s probably best known for its charming heart shaped pond.

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The pond was originally an oval shape and was built by Prince Edward. His grandson later reshaped it into a heart in the late 1800s to honour his grandfather’s sweetheart, Julie St. Laurent. It was under construction this summer to reinforce the 200-year-old structure. The work is completed now, though during our visit it had yet to be filled with water.

The park is 200 acres and has wide, crushed gravel paths with three main loops that are about one kilometre long each. It’s frequented by dog walkers, as there is an off-leash section of the park. There are lots of trail signs and maps, plenty of benches, bushes bursting with blackberries in the summer and it’s so quiet that it’s easy to forget you’re surrounded by houses and a school.

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I was feeling extra brave this day, as I had another person with me, so I suggested we check out the Ravine Trail despite my known ability for getting easily turned around in the woods.

I’d only ever stayed on the main trails and had never seen the actual ravines the park is named for. It’s on the maps but it technically “off the beaten path.” You know you’re there when the trail turns from gravel into dirt and then heads down a hill.

My initial reaction was that I couldn’t believe more people didn’t come down into the ravines.

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There wasn’t a soul around and it was peaceful, quiet and urban nature at its best. We found a charming bridge made of large sticks and strolled along for quite some time before it started getting late and we turned back.

And that’s when we realized we didn’t know how to get out and we didn’t have technological backup to guide us there. The footpath leading down into the ravines wasn’t marked so we hiked up and down the hill multiple times looking for an exit, hitting a dead end each time.

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We finally discovered the “path” up the hill when we spotted a section that had a bit of gravel mixed in with the dirt and made it successfully out of the ravines, giving each other a relieved high five that we didn’t need to figure out how to send out a smoke signal after all.

When we got in the car I plugged my phone into the charger, and vowed to check that it was charged up for future walks, but I think I’ll also be taking a crash course on old-fashioned compass reading in the near future, just to be safe.