Date Posted: May 24, 2017Reading time: 4 minutes
We’re taking a weekly look at something or some place we love in Nova Scotia! Follow along each week this summer as we celebrate well known favourites and local hidden gems.
Last weekend, some friends and I headed down the south shore en route to Kejimkujik National Park, or, as we locals like to call it, Keji. With some of the best waterways in Atlantic Canada for paddling, trails for hiking and sites for camping, we figured this would be a great place to spend our May long weekend and kick off the season of outdoor activities.
Known for beautiful old growth forests, rare wildlife and abundant waterways, Keji is recognized not only as a National Park, but also as a National Historic Site of Canada, alive with history dating back thousands of years. I’ve enjoyed Keji on many occasions, but spanning a whopping 156 square miles, there’s always something new to see every time you go, and always plenty of beauty to marvel at no matter how many times you’ve been.
Arriving on Saturday afternoon, we began our adventure by grabbing a few canoe rentals at Keji Outfitters and setting out down the Mersey River. With the sun shining through the red maple trees hanging overhead, we paddled downstream, saying humble hellos to turtles and frogs hanging out around water lily islands.
Having already done a few guided tours of the park, we took our time, knowing the river was rich with history. A previous tour guide had pointed out the stone carvings along the shoreline, which we explored in detail on this trip. These carvings, called petroglyphs, tell stories of the native Mi’kmaw people who paddled the park’s waterways for thousands of years, travelling between the Bay of Fundy and Nova Scotia’s Atlantic coast on its southern shore. In addition to the park’s sheer beauty, there’s a special feeling you get travelling Keji’s waters, with a strong sense of how many have journeyed along the same path, long before you. A history buff heaven, these beautiful waterways are simultaneously alive with echoes of the past and present sounds of active, abundant wildlife.
A few hours later, reaching Kejimkujik Lake and its islands at the end of the river, we pulled our canoes to land shortly after. We had yet to wash up at Kedge Beach before setting up our tent for the evening and lighting a campfire. Close to the lake’s shoreline, we set up camp at Jeremy’s Bay campground, roasted some hot dogs and marshmallows, and took in the brightest stars you’ve ever seen. With Keji being officially designated a Dark Sky Preserve, meaning that the use of artificial light is restricted in the park’s vicinity, Keji’s stargazing is absolutely stunning and unparalleled in Nova Scotia, complete with vivid views of the moon, constellations and planets.
After a sound sleep in the woods, undisturbed by the buzzing of phones and alarm clocks, we made our way back to our vehicle and took a quick drive to Kejimujik Seaside on Sunday morning. Known for pristine white sand beaches, we wanted to spend a little time on the coastal side of the park before heading back to Halifax. We lucked out with a beautiful sunny day, which invited brief, early-season swims, and we even spotted a few seals offshore while photographing great blue herons and lagoons at low tide.
Getting in the car to head back to the city was certainly bittersweet. With hungry bellies, we were happy to make our way to Lunenburg for a late lunch at the Salt Shaker Deli en route to Halifax, but leaving Keji behind, and all the adventure and serenity that it represents, was no easy feat.
My arms are a still a little sore from Saturday’s paddles, but my heart and soul are oh-so satisfied. There’s nothing like getting away from the hustle-bustle and enjoying nature, and Keji has it all in this sense, in a big way.
Planning a trip to Keji? Camping reservations are now open at: https://reservation.pc.gc.ca/ParksCanada.
Jill is a converted Haligonian and loyal east coast enthusiast. A Dalhousie grad, Jill grew her communications career in Toronto before making her way back to Halifax, and has been proud to call Nova Scotia home ever since. Jill’s love for the Maritimes is perhaps best described in her original hit-among-friends single, “Home in Nova Scotia”, which she enjoys playing on guitar at campfires, on porches and best of all, at seaside.