Walking and talking in Nova Scotia, a small province with sweeping vistas and welcoming locals

When you tell people you’re going to Nova Scotia to hike, many seemed mystified. The province is not very big, and their mental picture may be of a placid landscape on a peninsula better known for high tides than high hills.

Mental pictures may come from a vibrant art exhibit by a Canadian cohort of painters known as the Group of Seven, whose works featured dramatic wilderness scenes in vivid colors.

Nova Scotia turns out to offer a stunning variety of walks, featuring huge, sweeping views. These meanders come with an unexpected bonus — surprisingly personal conversations with complete strangers. Besides being beautiful, it seems, this was the kind of place where paying for strawberries could get you 20 minutes of other people’s family histories, favorite cheeses (homemade stinging-nettle gouda) and personal habits.

Many of your walking destinations may come from conversations with local folk. The two young nature guides at the nature interpretation center near the town of Economy recommend a waterfall hike inland toward Economy Falls. The blueberry farmer on the morning walk to the bay suggests a little-trod path near the Age of Sail Heritage Museum down the road. He describes the route: past a clump of alders to another waterfall, it would probably take half an hour. (He also covers everything from his father’s education at the Fox River schoolhouse to the location of his other fields up the road and his family’s work on the dyke that made the lower fields arable.)

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