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Walking in the woods...without leaving the house

With Hike Nova Scotia's ongoing selection of webinars, people can prepare and get training for outdoor excursions from the comfort of their own home
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According to a poll undertaken by research firm Léger, there has been a definite uptick of people getting outdoors and using trails since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and nowhere is that more apparent than on the trailways of Nova Scotia.

“Even before the pandemic, there was this slow burn of increasing interest in outdoor activity,” says Janet Barlow, executive director of Hike Nova Scotia. “The pandemic just kind of pushed people over the edge and brought them out of the woodwork a bit faster than they would have otherwise.”

With that ever-expanding batch of backpackers on the trails, so too was an increased need for hiking-related education. But as public health protocols tightened amid the various waves of COVID-19, in-person instruction became an impossible challenge for the organizers of Hike Nova Scotia so they found another alternative to train would-be hikers.

“We couldn’t do any in-person training so we thought let's put this online — let’s get this information out there,” says Barlow, who notes the non-profit organization began running virtual courses to address the need. “And it’s easier too — whether you are down in Yarmouth or Cape Breton or Halifax, anyone can take these webinars.”

Ranging in topics from a simple introductory class, to nationally-recognized workshops on navigation and maps, to a session on how to handle encountering wildlife on trails, Hike Nova Scotia’s webinars have proven to be very popular among both novices and outdoor experts.

Here is a brief look at three of Hike Nova Scotia’s upcoming webinars:

Tick Prevention — September 28

In this course, Donna Lugar from the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation will reveal details even the most experienced hiker should know about ticks and tick prevention while in the great outdoors.

“People think that in the fall ticks are not as big of an issue but it is — some people say they’re year-round,” says Barlow about the popular webinar's relevance in the autumn. “It’s just very practical, very easy tips and tricks just to keep a tick off you or prevent a tick bite in the first place (and) also a little bit about the biology of the tick and how these creatures work.”

Happy Hiker Feet — October 7

Barlow’s personal favourite webinar, this evening course looks at perhaps one of the most overlooked hiking practices in Nova Scotia — foot care.

“I have been on trails where I’ve seen people hiking in flip-flops or in white fashion sneakers that have no support in them,” admits Barlow. She notes that this course will cover everything from finding and fitting the proper footwear to how to treat foot issues — all from the perspective of retired pedorthist Freeman Churchill.

“He knows the theoretical and practical applications but he also knows it from lived experience,” says Barlow, adding that people should walk away from the webinar with all sorts of valuable techniques. “He knows how to take care of feet and I think that really matters.”

Leave No Trace — October 19

Aimed at both new and experienced hikers, this important webinar will teach the audience about responsible use of the outdoors as well as impart useful skills that will help cut down on our impact on the environment.

“There are seven principles to Leave No Trace and you can go deeply into each of them,” explains Barlow.

She notes that while this course teaches the movement’s history and looks at the principles of Leave No Trace, hikers should gain a clear understanding on everything from how to dispose of trash to avoidance of local wildlife.

“This just gives you an idea of how to lower your impact when you are out recreating in the outdoors.”

For more information on webinars or Hike Nova Scotia's other courses, visit the website.

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