This is a long distance walk done in Newfoundland, Canada in the Fall of 2016. I walked at least 140 km over 11 days along the southern eastern coast of this beautiful province. Once again, I was blessed with VERY decent weather – Newfoundland has a similar reputation to Scotland for its climate, lot’s of rain, sketchy sunshine, but I only had one fully rainy day in the 11 that I walked. I am dividing the post into three parts: East Coast Trail Into St. John’s, ECT Leaving the City and the third, ECT The Southern Trails.
Read on and enjoy, and remember; it’s only one hop across the pond from London.
Day 1, Biscayne Cove Path; Pouch Cove to Cape Saint-Francis 7.3k (+4)
Weather; overcast but no rain.
With heartfelt thanks to K, we were on the road for 7:35 am so I could get some hiking done today. When I arrived at the Points East Guest House in Pouch Cove, despite some concern about the late start, I was offered an expert companion for this section of the trail; the house dog, Nina. She was a most faithful and much appreciated guide on this, my first day of walking. Although the trail elevation looked deceptively difficult (four “peaks”), it was in fact a very comfortable hike. The coastal woods were punctuated by amazing views off the northern-east coast of the Avalon Peninsula. The sound of the ocean was constant, and In fact THE WOODS WERE ALRIGHT!! (not fond of the forest, see other posts) I met a couple of through hikers, Sue and Lance, who described their first, very trying section of the trail from Portugal Cove. I would meet them a few times over the next 10 days. Nina and I spent 3 hours on the trail, and before we headed back, were invited for a tea by Helen, a writer and translator who summers in an old wooden caboose between Cape Saint Francis and Biscane Cove. I begged a beer when we arrived at the guest house, and got acquainted with Elke, and Nelay, and some nice neighbours.
Day 2 Cobbler Path, Silver Mine Head Path, Father Troy’s Trail; Redcliff to Flatrock (yes, Flatrock) 19.3 k
Weather; see previous day
Way back when I started looking at the trails, I felt that the three trails, Cobbler Path, Silver Mine Head Path and Father Troy’s Trail, could be combined into one day of hiking. After the great first day, it seemed very possible. Elke dropped me off at the trail head (not easy to find) and gave me the name of friends in Flatrock where I could stop at when I was done.
The first section crossed through an abandoned military facility, all the remnants covered in graffiti and tags, some of it quite elaborate (so if it’s not the street, is it still street art?) It was a quiet ruin and the first major evidence of Newfoundland’s importance as a strategic outpost for the Allied forces during WWII. A small detour gave me an excellent view of Logy Bay, and the Marine Sciences Centre, my trail head in two days’ time. After traversing a comfortable bowl at Cobblers Hole, I perked up along the diversion out to Torbay Point. It kept on drawing you down to its very tip, as the rocks got more strange and wonderful…only till…there, no there, no a bit further, and on and on. This trail ended at a residential street, and I was soon able to hitch a ride to the beginning of the next trail at Middle Cove beach. This very short trail also included a suburban street and ended at the beach at Torbay. It was 3:00 pm, I was tired, but reading the map for the third section, “just a couple of hours, easy trail”, I convinced myself it could be done. It could, but it was another 8.7 km. The trail itself was, as Elke put it, the most pastoral to date. It followed a path taken by a local pastor who had congregants in two communities. Its first leg followed farm fields, took a quick drop and rise past a fishing launch, and spent a fair bit of time inland along old farm tracks.
The trail finished on the Beamer, the point of land that forms Flatrock Cove’s lower shore. Flat rocks (ahem) and sparse dwarfed trees, the only sure way off it was to follow the trail to its end and turn back. I was slightly nervous (tired) but running into the unfailingly upbeat Sue and Lance (see Day one) was a balm. After a good chat, I easily found the end of the point and the beginning of the way back into Flatrock. It was almost 5:30, but I happily accepted the cup of tea offered by Eileen and Glenn, Elka’s friends. The discussion was relaxed and pleasant, and Glenn assured me that it was easy to get all the way to St. John’s from Logy Bay, my goal in two days (he was right)
Day 3 me and hiker Bob Stiles Cove Path; Flatrock to Pouch Cove 15.1 km
This, according to our hostess, was the hike we had been waiting for. Although the morning was foggy, the mist began to lift as we left the beach that was our starting point in Flatrock. The fog hovering over the cliffs in the distance was a sublime shot. The trail was a superb combination of woods, cliffs and coves to look out of and down into. Hiker Bob and I did well together, with enough quiet walking between exclamations of stunning-ness (not a word, but I don’t care). In some of the shrubbier, low lying landscapes, our passage provoked a gaggle of pale moths…sort of like a Kurosawa film, without the special effects; this unfortunately was impossible to capture on film (digital). We were quite fried by the end, after a particularly long (for the ECT) descent and climb at Shoe Cove in the last 3 km. We emerged from the woods, happy to be walking along an open field, and found a convenience store (for beer, chips and chocolate) right on our route back to Elke’s. As we sat around the back porch, looking over the ocean, I spotted the spouting of some far off whales. Bonus.
Day 4 Sugar Loaf Path, Signal Hill; Logy Bay to St. John’s 8.9 +/-2
Weather; Another sunny day…
My hostess did me the solid of dropping me off at Logy Bay AND delivering my bags to Steve at the Stage. It was the epitome of ease. The hike itself was a pleasure as well….only slightly coloured by the fact that I forgot my lunch. The berries will save me thought I, and they would have; the hike to Quidi Vidi being only 3 -4 hours. Luckily, I met a group of 4 hikers, from whom I begged some snacks. I found them stretched out in the sun on a lovely open hill side, reminiscent of other landscapes over the pond (where were the sheep??). I would meet up with them too later in my trip.
Still in the woods, I noticed the distinct sound of strong, slow, beating wings. Not the usual birds on the trail; gulls and crows, even the occasional alarmed partridge. I thought I saw an eagle roosting on a cliff when I left the woods, and it was confirmed by the same group that I ran into moments later. Leaving them after a friendly chat, I somewhat regretted my lack of hiking pals. The view of Quidi Vidi Village and Lake was a small triumph, but it was cut short as I tried to negotiate my way down.
Last step, over Signal Hill, and down to the Stage. The most charming Quidi Vidi visitor centre lady, brought me outside to show me how to get there, and up I went, on the most well-groomed path I had seen to date. But Signal Hill is a major tourist attraction, and public amenity, obvious from the number of people who passed me on my way down via the North Head Trail. Steve’s Stage, as luck would have it, is located exactly where the trail ends…and I mean exactly. He keeps a rope up across his entrance to discourage the multitude of visitors and power walkers that pass by each day.