Canadian Caminos : Stella Maris Nova Scotia
Pilgrimage on Canadian Trails
Nova Scotia Canada
Canadian Caminos - In 2016 after completing the first of what would later become five treks along a Camino route in Europe, as members of the Canadian Company of Pilgrims, we returned home to Canada. The fact was, that when we came back home, we were struck with the loss of the daily experience on the Way. We had found so much and wanted to hold onto those experiences! But carrying the lessons and feeling of the Camino into the everyday became, as it does for so many, a real challenge. We missed the essence and social atmosphere of the trail, the simplicity of the daily routine, and being out in nature with our destination on the horizon. Consequently, we had enjoyed our pilgrimage along the Camino Frances from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Santiago and wanted to find a way to keep the Camino experience going back at home.
Search For Canadian Caminos
So we soon began looking around Canada for similar experiences Camino experiences and were delighted to discover that there are number of 'Canadian Caminos', those pilgrims preparing for their Camino, and for those who simply want a new venture to enjoy.
Venturing out onto trails, exploring the outdoors and reconnecting with nature was one of the best things for us. Thankfully Canada has some of the most amazing natural spaces and wild places available to everyone to enjoy! Best of all venturing out onto the trail is one of the best things for us – it gives you control, it provides direction, it gives way to reflection, and it occurs at our own pace!
"….we often carry too much stuff; materially, emotionally, and spiritually.A walking pilgrimage is an ideal time to renegotiate your relationship with stuff..."
(Stella Maris commentary)
Staycation Pilgrimage Possibilities
With the onset of Covid19 and its continuation since, restrictions on travel, the lock-down of regions around the world and the need to maintain social distancing, many people have delayed and cancelled their trekking and Camino plans in the foreseeable future. Added to all of the frustrations of are the challenging economic realities which so many people are facing. As a result, many who had plans to undertake a long distance trek or who wished to be a pilgrim along the Camino de Santiago in Europe are looking into other avenues for trekking – whether less expensive or which are simply safer and closer to home.
Given Canada's natural beauty and diversity alongside the ongoing uncertainties around the world it would seem that Staycations and local trekking might be the most responsible, most economic and therefore the most in vogue thing to do for awhile.
Travelling in Canada, avoids the health risks of global travel, it helps local communities (who are struggling) by ensuring that our tourism dollars remain in the country, and it lets us explore this amazing country!
With this in mind, we felt that it was time to begin sharing some of the amazing Canadian Caminos we found along the Trans Canada Trail and across the nation!
The Way of Stella Maris Nova Scotia
The most easterly Canadian Camino discovered is known as The Way of Stella Maris located in Nova Scotia. Inspired by the Camino de Santiago, and developed as a means to foster a renewed interest and support for local churches, The Way of Stella Maris strives to provide a walking pilgrimage centred on prayer towards self renewal and spiritual growth. Established in 2019, the Way of Stella Maris is held annually as an organized hike led by the Halifax-Yarmouth archdiocese.
The 110 km long pilgrimage route begins at Holy Cross Church, Middle Musquodoboit and ends at Saint Mary's Cathedral Basilica, Halifax. It traverses the beauty and tranquility of the Musquodoboit Valley before picking up a series of trails along the stunning Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia: The Musquodoboit Trailway, Blueberry Run Trail, Atlantic View Trail, Salt Marsh Trail, High Flyer Trail and the Dartmouth Harbourwalk. The route traverses a series of regional trails, many which are part of the Great Trail, and so can also be independently followed quite easily. During the annual pilgrimage additional Stella Maris arrows are placed on the trail and serve as way marking for hikers.
Natural Beauty and Atlantic Exploration
One of course does not need to go to Spain to see amazing natural beauty, experience great culture, or to walk along the Way – all of these are possible in Canada and across the Atlantic region!
Nova Scotia, has amazing natural beauty and the route followed by the Way of Stella Maris takes hikers from the stunning Musquodoboit Harbour, to the Atlantic Ocean, and along the waterfront before venturing into Dartmouth and Halifax. Throughout the region, much of the established pathway system and Trans Canada Trail is off the roadways and along abandoned rail lines providing hikers with the opportunity to enjoy Atlantic views, quiet forested treks, and ventures across amazing salt marshes.
Gear, Amenities and Accommodation
Given that this is a shorter pilgrimage route than the Camino de Santiago and that it takes place between communities around the capital city of Halifax the amount of gear required is different. While camping is available along the way in nearby provincial parks, there are also a range of B&Bs and hotels which pilgrims can utilize during this 4-5 day trek.
In addition to the usual gear needed by hikers, pilgrims are encouraged to carry two stones which can symbolize renewal and reflection but which may also hold personal meaning. One of which is placed at the foot of the crucifix in Saint Andrew's cemetery, Eastern Passage while the other is set at the foot of a cross inside Saint Mary's Cathedral Basilica.
Further Camino Reading
To read about and see what this region and stretch of is like check out our blogs about the Trans Canada Trail in the Greater Halifax Area.
Stella Maris Nova Scotia : Canadian Caminos
Nova Scotia Canada
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