Chain of Lakes parkrun, NS, Canada

Chain of Lakes parkrun route
Chain of Lakes parkrun route. Out and back from left to right, downhill then up on the way back.

The start is easy to find, with parking and a portaloo. It’s next to the Art of Stone (a workplace rather than an art installation) and opposite the distinctive 123 Chain Lake Drive.

I walked from the centre of town, which was just over 5 miles. The last mile and a half of that was the course, as that runs from out of the city, back towards it. It’s a straightforward out and back: 2.5km down the trail, 2.5km back up. And it is up, usually (as today) with a slight headwind. The climb is slight, too, but enough that you notice it.

Flag at the parkrun start
Flag at the parkrun start.

This is a fairly new event – last year, Saint-Paulin was as far East as I could get and still parkrun. There were 26 walkers and runners today, with the high so far 39. Healthy, but likely to grow, given the number of people using the trail, several of whom stopped to ask what the event was.

Scenery on either side of the trail
Some shade early on (pre 9, this).
Chain Lakes sign
Explanatory sign in front of First Chain Lake.

This trail is just over 7km long, with a few road crossings (none used in the parkrun), but it links with first the BLT (Beachville, Lakeside and Timberlea, with the running club being the splendid “BLT Runners”) and then St Margarets Bay trails, as the Great Runs site mentions.

My walk there was only on the Chain of Lakes trail, otherwise on quiet roads and across parks from Halifax itself.

Halfway marker, COLTA 2.5km (Chain Of Lakes Trail Association)
There is a temporary halfway sign for parkrun – this one is on the trail permanently.

This week, there were visitors from Australia, one of whom caused a minor sensation by going missing – his wife thought perhaps he had stopped for a lie-down (“he’s not very fit”), but he had just missed the turn-around sign. There were a few other Brits, and a couple from Vermont, run-walking their dogs. Halifax is a bit of a tourist hot-spot, and I’m sure future tourists will also explore the Cabot Trail and/or Prince Edward Island, before coming here for parkrun, so it will remain an international event.

Rocks in the Chain Lake on a clear, sunny day
Rocks in the (First?) Chain Lake.

The lakes themselves provide the emergency water supply for Halifax. As a result, it is pretty, but kept fenced off (at one point it was not, and people swam in at least one of the main lakes). More lakes have been added to the chain as the population has grown; it seems like a huge boon for a not-especially-large city (400,000 in the municipality) to have so much fresh water nearby.

View of the lake over a chain fence, from the trail
View of the Lake.

Coffee, with a 10% discount if you say you are with parkrun, is at Second Cup Coffee house, a mile’s walk from the event start/finish. Cross the road, follow the new trail past Bayers Lake, turn right at the end for a short walk along the roadside, then cross over and the place is on your right. Or hop in a car for a lift, I am sure.

I walked back, in hot sun, on more or less the same route as I had arrived on. I’d normally like to be fitter and run 5-6 miles like that, but it’s a great route for some sightseeing on the trail, and then to nose at the grand, clapboard housing in Halifax’s suburbs. I’ve seen all sorts of weather in the 6 days I’ve been here, needing a jumper a couple of times, then seeing fog roll through the place after some flash heavy showers, so you are likely to get variety there as much as from the people and the busy, cute city. Come visit!

Results from event 24, Chain of Lakes parkrun.

Halifax, Nova Scotia

88 year old in suit, bow tie and pork-pie hat
Ex-Englishman who worked in shipping in Canada for many years and retired to Halifax.

I spent 6 days in the busy, pretty city of Halifax. It has a magnificent public library, waterfront walkways with restaurants and bars and pretty parks. A particular highlight are the Halifax Public Gardens. For me, they were a place to wait for a film to start at the nearby cinema. For this gentleman, a place to promenade, take the air and, if you’re lucky, tell stories. He made my day, and we passed half an hour together as he told me jokes, recommended The Cabot Trail, and wandered off with a friend, ribbing him about having to climb the fence to escape the gardens if they left it much longer.

The gardens are beautifully maintained. A place to walk, rather than run, and admire the flowers, stone bridges and birds swooping over the lake.

I spent time on different floors of the library. The other side (from the front entrance) gives great views over the water, away in the distance, once you get high enough.

Halifax Public Library in the blue light of dusk
Halifax Public Library.

I walked the five miles out to the Chain of Lakes parkrun, which takes you past clapperboard houses that suggest the town is prosperous, and then to great views (especially in the sun) over the different lakes.

Rocks on the shore and in the water, looking over a lake
View over the water.
Concrete building with ivy surrounded large 1818-2017 sign
Students were coming back to Dalhousie University as I walked through town. The University was established in 1818, among the oldest in Canada.
Old frigate, now a museum; painted white and turquoise
Old frigate, now a museum.

Catching the train from Montreal to Halifax

I booked ahead, so as to get the best price I could, and just had a seat, rather than a sleeping spot, because this journey only has one overnight part, and it is right near the beginning. The train leaves three times a week, starting at 7pm, and is due in to Halifax at 17:51 the next day.

The seats are comfy, more so than those on the train I had ridden West, from Toronto to Edmonton, last year. The latter did have two seats on either side, so more space if not full (everyone got a two-seat to themselves), but I was happy with the newer single seat on this train.

The ride is smooth, and passes plenty of landscape, if you’re looking.

We were a little delayed, arriving in Halifax just after 7 the next day. In keeping with the generally festive mood on Canadian trains, we were told exactly why that was. In Britain, there would have been a mysterious “incident” up ahead, and even if we had been told, the language would have been torturous. Here, we were immediately told that a freight train ahead had unfortunately hit a truck, no one was hurt but engineers were checking the train over to make sure it could continue.

Trains in North America. A brilliant way to travel.

Frédéric Back parkrun

Frédéric Back parkrun route
Frédéric Back parkrun route. Clockwise.

No laps here, just one not-quite loop, clockwise round the edge of this rapidly-developing park to the NorthWest of the city. You can head straight to the start (9:30 start time), but there may be few people there. They meet at the TOHU building on Rue des Regrattiers, heading over to the start at 9:25.

Me and two other runners, in the sun
View from the first marshal’s point.

Although it looks like a large green area, the centre is under development, so parts are just a path with fencing. A local said the fencing was a recent addition, so if you come, you might find a whole new park to explore. You can see contours on the map – the centre drops away from the path you run round, so you get quite a view over it.

The course is also undulating, starting off downhill. The surface is hard; tarmac in a few places, otherwise gritty paths. Fast, but not that fast. On this summer day, it was warm but not hot, without sunshine some of the time. Perfect running conditions, but nothing could help my lack of recent running, and I struggled. Several minutes slower than my last parkrun, 7 weeks ago. I had run to the venue from the centre of the city. The metro will get you to within a mile of the start if you use it. D’Iberville station is recommended. St Michel is pretty close, too, but with a less-nice walk to the park, along busier roads.

Two runners ahead on a tarmacced section
Tarmacced section.

The briefing was in both French and English, and first-timers were brought to one side and given a little extra information. The most crucial instruction is that on the right route, the path won’t change width. If it does, therefore, you’ve deviated. It’s pretty straightforward, with cones to the sides marking turns you should not take, and a couple of marshals, just in case.

Closer to two runners ahead
Gritty surface.

I took advantage of the fact that I was carrying my phone, and couldn’t get going much quicker, to snap a couple of pictures on the run, which was a rare treat. The sun came out shortly after we’d started, but there was plenty of cloud cover, as you can see.

Three runners and the run director posing in front of country flags, post run
Archie, David, me, Run Director.

I had met David and his son Archie before the run, so we grabbed a photo during our chat afterwards. There was a sizeable number of tourists in the 81 finishers – one Australian, one South African and Brits into double figures. Seven people entirely new to parkrun, too, which suggests the healthy numbers are going to nudge up nicely. There’s certainly room on the course for more people, and the start is wide enough to let people go off at their own pace without problems.

After the run, people head to the TOHU building again for chat and coffee. I joined in for a while, then walked back through Montreal, soaking up sights in different districts as I went.

Results from Frédérick Back parkrun, event 101.

A walk around Pedasi, Panama

Several hours on two buses from Panama City is Pedasi. Hop on a bus from Albrook Mall to Las Tablas, which will take about 5 hours, and cost just under $10, then change (with a walk, usually) to a minibus for the 30-40 minutes to Pedasi itself. You can also get a bus from the airport to Albrook Mall, for 75 cents – you’ll need a bus card, which you can buy in the terminal.

Pedasi is a small town of about 3,000 inhabitants, many of whom are from Western countries. The main draw is the beach, a 2.5km walk down the road from town. Nearer if you live in one of the new developments down that road.

I stayed in Pedasi Loft, a new development of 8 flats just on the edge of town. August is the lowest of low season, with it being humid and rainy, but there was still noise from a local bar when it was open (Thursday to Sunday), especially on Saturday.

I was dog and cat-sitting. The cutest, elderly and struggling in the heat, terrier, Spencer, and the more independent, lounging and occasionally swatting at Spencer or me, Puff.

Wildlife. I didn’t see scorpions or snakes (other than a squashed one), but the others are interesting and varied enough to keep you interested. Whales are often visible from the beach, the crickets are very noisy, especially if they get into the house. I ran out towards the old airport once, and came upon a strong fishy smell, then realised this is where the turkey vultures were currently eating their fishy catch. They were a little intimidating in number, but scooted off quickly enough as I came through. No pictures, but they’re ugly on the ground, majestic soaring hunters in the air.

Sunset on a stormy night.

Blue skies and dark fields either side of an orange sunset

Pedasi Town is not large, and you’re unlikely to get lost. A half-hour walk will take you to most things. An hour will take you down back streets and down the main road, where there are a few more restaurants that aren’t pictured here, a couple of gas stations and the like. But these places pictured are the ones I either used, or walked past most times, by virtue of their being central.

I took pictures on a sunny day, which was also very hot. The temperature varied in this, the rainy season, with a heavy downpour sometimes taking it down as low as 25 (which felt cool). On a hot day, even if it was only low 30s, the humidity made it punishingly hot in the sun. Beautiful skies, though, and the greenery does very nicely thank you.

A signpost with other cities pointed to, along with their distance
This signpost is outside a house. Go find it!

A last few pictures, that haven’t fitted in above. There are a few houses for sale in the centre of town, a few more on the roads heading out of town, and plenty of spare lots in many immigrants’ preferred location, nearer the beach. Some look only part-finished, or even abandoned if no one is pruning back the vegetation, which I found fascinating to poke around in. Just watch out for snakes, centipedes and scorpions.

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