Category Archives: Hiking

The Cotton Carrier StrapShot

Hi folks! This is something a little different for this blog, but I was so overjoyed with some of my recent hiking purchases that I thought it’d be nice to dedicate a little of my web space to promoting these fine products! First up is the Cotton Carrier StrapShot. Designed with hikers in mind, this fine piece of equipment allows the hiker to secure the camera to his or her backpack straps, which is of course far superior to carrying it around one’s neck, and it locks in place, keeping your camera safe!

For anyone who read my account of my Motion/Spout adventure, you’ll know I was forced to stow my camera halfway through the Spout path due to the strain of carrying the thing. While I had vowed to eventually get a StrapShot before this experience, it crystallized my desire to get the StrapShot and test it out ASAP. The day after I got home from my long hike, I placed an order for one, and it arrived in time for my hike a couple of weeks back on Father Troy’s Trail. I’ve since taken it out on the Sugarloaf Path and the Stiles Cove Path, and I can honestly say it’s one of the most significant hiking purchases I’ve made!

The system is simple to set up and use. Similar to a tripod mount, the locking system attaches to the bottom of the camera. The strap that it locks into is attached to the straps of the hiker’s pack, using both strong velcro wrapped around the pack strap, and attachments on both the top and bottom of the apparatus.

On my first hike with the system, it made a world of difference. My camera was comfortably attached to my pack and the weight of it in my hand or around my neck was simply gone. That said, I found the system sliding up and down as I removed the camera or placed it back into the holder. This was inconvenient and leads to the only issue I had with the system: though I managed to get it fixed in place for my next hike, it took some “jury-rigging” of the top and bottom attachments, since there was no clear way to attach these to my pack. It’s something that I’ll continue to tweak.

That said, the difference between this system and the standard neck strap is astronomical. As someone who insists on carting his camera on every hike, this is an ideal solution. Lightweight, simple, and effective: a great piece of hiking equipment! Pick it up at camera shops around town or online!

Long Time No Post! Stiles Cove Path Hike and Fallout

Hi folks! Apologies for the lack of posts for the last month or so. Of course this back-to-school experiment has been keeping me busy, and when I’m writing papers I’m rarely in the mood to sit down and write posts, but that’s not all of it. I hurt my knee hiking on the Stiles Cove Path trail about a month ago, and since I haven’t been able to hike much, especially with the beautiful weather we’ve been having, I’ve been too frustrated to blog about hiking. I’m currently in recovery mode: I tried a couple of short hikes, and tested myself with a slightly longer one, and I’m still feeling some pain. I’m continuing to rest and exercise my knee, but it’s frustrating to say the least! At any rate, I do have some nice pics from the last couple of hikes to post, so on to more pleasant fare, and hopefully my knee improves quickly so I can get out there more often to take more pics!

I had a spectacular Saturday for the Stiles Cove Path! I parked in the lot of the church in Flatrock, and got a cab up to the other trailhead in Pouch Cove. I was pretty stoked about getting out on the trail: I had hiked portions of this trail on a number of occasions in the past, but never the whole thing; there was a section of five or six kilometers in the middle of the trail that I had never seen before, including the trail’s namesake.

The cutaway section a km or two from the Pouch Cove trailhead has gotten larger. I’m not sure what the point of all that destruction is, but some forward thinking might have been in order: if they’re planning residences, there are folks like me who actually like having trees on our property, and we’re the type who would gladly share our property with the ECT. And as for things I comment on whenever I hike this section of the trail, that strange metal mesh object is still in the woods approaching Shoe Cove. Weird.

I was climbing down the hill towards Shoe Cove, just coming off the steps, when I heard someone frantically calling a dog. I quickened my pace and hurried towards the river at the bottom of the hill, and the frantic shouting continued from the other side of Shoe Cove, from the trail as it descended towards the cliffs of the cove. Suddenly, I saw a big, fat chocolate Lab chasing something through the woods at the edge of the cliff, and then back towards the trail. By the time I got to the bridge, the dog had rejoined his frantic owner on the trail and was approaching me, breathless, from the other side of the river. I stopped and chatted with him while they both caught their breath. I’m not sure what the dog was chasing, but it was big enough that I thought it may have been another dog; I asked, but it was just the two of them, so a fox or a coyote, perhaps? At any rate, that was very close to a disaster, folks: the ECT can be a very dangerous place for animals, and it’s best you keep yours on leash!

At any rate, I was treated to some spectacular weather and scenery. The trail is spectacularly beautiful from start to finish, and at 15 km, it’s certainly something most relatively-in-shape hikers can accomplish in a day. I certainly wasn’t worried about it. I started feeling some knee pain at the 7 or 8 km mark, though. I had felt this particular type of pain before, and wasn’t too worried, but by the time I was approaching the last couple of kilometers of hiking, I was in significant pain, and had no other choice but to finish the hike. Uphill hiking was fine, but downhill was painful, and steps were agony. And this trail basically ends with steps. I grinded the last couple of kilometers out but I wasn’t feeling good by the time I got back to my car.

I’m starting to feel better, at any rate, and I did get to see some spectacular trail! I managed to snap some great pics to add to my collection from along this trail. Check them out!

International Trails Day on the Sugarloaf Path!

Hi Folks! June 7th, 2014 was International Trails Day, and I decided to celebrate by hiking the Sugarloaf Path, a popular trail that starts at Memorial University’s Marine Lab, and ends at Quidi Vidi, in St. John’s. The trail skirts the coast just past the eastern edge of the city, and features some spectacular scenery and a couple of steep climbs! It was hot, and it certainly seemed to get hotter as I climbed those hills!

The trail starts in the Marine Lab parking lot, and the first 500 metres of the trail are a steep uphill climb. The view from the top is spectacular , though, with high, rocky cliffs stretching in both directions, the Cobbler Path to the north, and Sugarloaf Head to the south. From there, the trail continues uphill to Sugarloaf Head, the highest point on the early section of the trail, after which the trail enters the wooded hills for a couple of kilometers. The shade of the trees was certainly welcome.

This trail passes the St. John’s municipal landfill (ie. the dump), and unfortunately, a fair bit of garbage makes its way to the trail each winter, but come spring a team of volunteers makes its way along the trail and cleans it up. The volunteers have done a spectacular job this year of cleaning the trail: there is very little garbage remaining until a stretch of trail directly alongside the dump for 100 m or so. The vast majority of what blows down to the trail each winter consists of plastic shopping bags… folks, this is precisely why you should use recyclable/reuseable shopping bags!

Past Robin Hood Bay, the trail opens up to a beautiful grassy area, with deep gulches on one side. The trail enters woods again and descends to John Howards River, red with iron. The trail passes close to the rocky coastline here and the geology is pretty fascinating. From there, the final climb to Bawdens Highland is a bit of a challenge on a hot day, but it comes in spurts and sections of it are again through the shade of trees so I could keep up a good pace without overheating.

Rounding the top of Bowdens Highland, a spectacular view of St. John’s is afforded. It really is a beautiful city! From here the trail descends fairly steeply over stairs and rocks towards Quidi Vidi Gut and the scenic Quidi Vidi Village. I saw more than one red-faced hiker ascending the hill… this is a popular section of the trail, being so close to St. John’s! It was great to see so much traffic on the trail! From here, it’s a short hike alongside Quidi Vidi to the trailhead at the end of the pond.

In the last couple of weeks Heather and I have started the final push to complete the entire East Coast Trail… only 7 paths left to hike!

Quite the International Trails Day hike! Check out the pics below!

A Weekend Hike on Father Troy’s Trail!

Hi folks! Last weekend, Heather and I managed to check off another section of the East Coast Trail: Father Troy’s Trail, a beautiful hike between Flatrock and Pouch Cove. It was a great example of the variability of Newfoundland hiking, and why you always have to come prepared… when we left the house, the sun was splitting the rocks, but driving out, we started seeing fog along the coast. The further north we went, the foggier it got. It’s a good thing we made the last minute decision to pack our caps and warm clothes!

The trail itself is spectacular. Starting in Flatrock, it’s obvious how the town got its name, as the trail passes over a stretch of nearly flat bedrock on the way out to a point of land called The Beamer. Similar to Torbay Point on the Cobbler Path, The Beamer is accessible, but I don’t think I’d try to traverse it in wet conditions: it’s much rockier than Torbay Point. Past the Beamer, the trail heads back in the other direction along the rocky shoreline as it rises in altitude. It follows a very high ridgeline for a couple of kilometers, rounding a steep gulch before an intersection where hikers can take the main trail or a secondary route to Church Cove. The sign for Church Cove states the trail is difficult, something we’d never seen on the ECT before, so we decided we’d try it another time. A few hundred metres beyond that, the trail again splits, with a cart path heading straight and a footpath heading towards Whale Cove, which isn’t indicated (at least clearly) on the ECT maps… but no worries, either trail gets you where you’re going. We took the Whale Cove walk and the scenery was spectacular. If you take the Church Cove side trail, you end up on this branch.

By the time we got to Whale Cove, the fog had lifted and we were in the sun. The trail is still at a very high elevation at this point and the scenery is spectacular. Just past Whale Cove the trail climbs and rejoins the cart path at an intersection with some fenced private property. It was bright and beautiful as we entered Torbay, where there seemed to be a bit more climbing than I remember… we had hiked the couple of kilometers between the trailhead and Gallows Cove Road before, and I guess I had forgotten the hills, especially on the Torbay side of Tapper’s Cove. That said, Torbay is beautiful and the way to see it is walking this coastline. We passed the beach at the end of the bay, and headed up to the trailhead as the sun set over Torbay behind us.

Check out some pics below!

Motion + Spout Adventure!

“It’s the 24th of May and we likes to get away…”

Hi folks! It’s been a long time coming for me, and it was satisfying to finally accomplish: the Spout! Two nice days on the long May 24th weekend presented the perfect opportunity. My plan when approaching the Spout was always to do it as a part of the combined Motion Path and Spout Path hike, approximately 32 kms from Petty Harbour to Bay Bulls: it simply made more sense to me than hiking the 6.5 km in over the Shoal Bay Road. I’m certainly glad that I approached it the way I did, though I’d certainly make changes if I approached the hike again.

The Motion Path is a spectacular one. For folks familiar with the Cape Spear Path and its first barren 5 km or so, the section of Motion Path past Big Hill will feel familiar. The ground is easily traversed and the scenery, the barren land dotted with erratics and small ponds, is pretty spectacular. I took a quick break on the grassy shores of Alexander Pond, a scenic spot. Ascending a little, I was surprised to see snow along a ridgeline, which needed to be crossed at Lower Cove Head. The remaining snow was treacherous at least once: a gully, still filled with snow, but with holes showing undercut at least 5 feet deep, needed to be traversed at one point. I did so cautiously.

A bird of prey circled overhead as I approached the climb to Burkes Head; I recorded some audio of his call and I’ll try to identify him. He continued to circle and call until I had passed Burkes Head. The sun was starting to get low as I headed toward the Tolt, making for a nice picture as I looked back at Hartes Point. I quickly traversed the coastline to the Miner Point campsite, lay my gear down, and started scoping out the site for the ideal tent spot, as I was alone. Well, sort of: beavers have taken up residence at the back end of the site, damming both the river at the edge of the campsite and the one about 150 m to the north of it. I wouldn’t use either for drinking water, even with a filter. And the mosquitos: once I got my filter set up and my meal cooked, I headed into the tent for the night to avoid being carried away by these huge creatures.

I was surprised that, at about 11pm, another set of hikers made their way onto the campsite. They had hiked the last couple of hours in the dark with headlamps: braver souls than me. They told me they had come face to face with a moose in the dark who, when frightened by the hikers, charged past them, missing by a foot or two. Be careful out there folks!

Miner Point was lovely, but as per usual, I was awakened at dawn. A bird of prey was calling from one of the trees close to the camp, and a woodpecker seemed to be pecking a tree directly above my head, so I got up and started to break down camp. The other hikers were just stirring as a strapped on my pack and headed on my way. The campsite is only a couple of kilometers from the Spout trailhead, and I was there quickly, passing the spectacular twin waterfalls at Raymond’s Gulch along the way. Approaching Shoal Bay Road, I explored the remains of structures that are found there, and was surprised to see a Ruffed Grouse standing in the centre of one!

Leaving the Motion Path at the end of Shoal Cove Road, the Spout Path began much like the last ended. The rivers and coastline along this section are beautiful, to be sure, but the highlight is the Spout: the wave-driven geyser that is a highlight of the East Coast Trail. Spotting it in the distance from Long Point, it was a sight to behold. It put some spring in my step and I was at the Spout quickly, having passed an iceberg in Long Point Cove.

I spent a bit of time at the Spout, taking a break and taking it in. It’s an incredible thing. Some hikers who had spent the night at the Little Bald Head campsite were there as well with their dogs. I passed them packing up as I headed on past Little Bald Head. I passed my first hiker of the day going in the other direction at a timely moment: he pointed out to me that, right alongside us, was a view down upon the eagles nesting on the sea stacks at Landing Place. I was blown away. I hiked a ways beyond this, snapped a couple of pics of a spectacular view of these stacks, and packed my camera up for the last time: it was becoming too much of a burden. I’ve been meaning to get a strap along the lines of a Cotton Carrier Strapshot, this will be the excuse that I need. The unfortunate thing about that is that despite it being a great day for pictures, I got very few because I didn’t want to unpack the camera every time I wanted to take a picture.

I found the going for the 4 km or so of the trail between Green Hill and Freshwater fairly difficult. The trail follows the steep coastline, often rising high above it to avoid a gulch, and then dropping back down the other side. On a hot day, with a heavy bag, and with little sleep, I didn’t enjoy this section of the trail as much as I could have. That said, I was stopped for a rest and a drink in the shade at one point on this stretch, and was passed by a fairly large group of hikers heading from the southern trailhead to the northern trailhead for the Motion Path: they were doing the hike I did, but in a single day. They put me to shame!

Freshwater is nice but I was too tired to explore it and powered on. The last few rises lead to Bay Bulls Light; again, I didn’t stop to properly explore, powering on. Passing many hikers on the way in at this point, I was glad to see the trailhead after a struggle on the last couple of kilometers. Frustratingly, these crowds had the road basically blocked with vehicles parked everywhere on the narrow road, and with great difficulty, I managed to get around them.

Some lessons learned for next time: perhaps leaving the longest section for day two wasn’t the wisest idea: had I hiked to Little Bald Head on day one, I think I would have enjoyed day two more. I’m also going through my pack and lightening my load significantly next time around. Finally, sunscreen: I’m as red as a lobster today, which is far more painful than my achy muscles.

All that said, it was an incredible adventure and a huge chunk of the East Coast Trail completed in one fell swoop! Check out the pictures of my adventure below!

An Iceberg Viewing Hike at Biscan Cove

Hi folks, so here’s the second late update. Last weekend Heather and I headed out to the Biscan Cove Path; it had been my goal to get out on this trail early in the season regardless, but the presence of icebergs close to Pouch Cove made it all the more enticing. When we pulled up to the parking lot reserved for hikers, it was obvious that other folks had the same idea: as regulars on this trail, we’re used to seeing two or three cars, but the lot was full!

It was another cloudy, chilly day, but Biscan Cove is a workout with the up and down nature of the trail, so as long as we didn’t slow down at the exposed points on the trail we stayed nice and warm. As the day went on the clouds got more and more ominous, and eventually I put my camera away for fear of being rained on. We got a couple of small showers at the point where we were approaching the trailhead in Cape St. Francis.

We passed a few of the hikers that we knew were on the trail, but it seems like we missed the rush, or that it was ahead of us for the most part, at least. We were a little late starting the trail so I suppose most folks were out on it well before us. We did pass a couple of hikers who had been counting hikers headed in the other direction: the first had a firm number of 43, and the next said they had seen over 50 hikers! That’s simply astronomical for this trail. It had to be the attraction of seeing the icebergs.

Anyhow, without further ado, here are the pics I snapped on the trail. Check out the icebergs, just spectacular!

Heather’s First Hike of the Season!

Hi folks! So real life, as it turns out, sometimes interferes with the maintenance of a blog. Surprising! I teach at the college level and so that midway time between semesters, where exams are being graded and new teaching assignments are beginning, can be very busy. We still managed to squeeze in a couple of hikes these past couple of weeks, though!

Heather has been very busy and so she couldn’t make it out so far this spring, but we started her off with a nice easy one on her first hike: the La Manche Village Trail. Again, we saved ourselves the community walk by skipping the first half km or so and parking at the wharf in Bauline East. From there, it’s a short hike through the woods to La Manche Village.

Along the way, we made a stop in Doctor’s Cove, which is found at a unique point on the trail, where it passes over exposed bedrock. It isn’t far beyond this that the trail opens up above La Manche Village and the first signs of occupation are visible along the hilltop trail: concrete foundations remain, perched high on the hills. The steps down to the bridge are rough in a couple of spots, with one broken step, so be careful. The bridge is in fine shape.

We continued a short distance along the Flamber Head Path, which shares a trailhead with the La Manche Village trail, hoping to get close to the iceberg that had grounded itself just outside of La Manche, but our time was getting short so we headed back.

La Manche Village has always been one of the most interesting places on the trail to me. I’m fascinated by the places where folks originally settled in Newfoundland, and their motivations for doing so, as well as what happened to cause them to leave. La Manche Village was perhaps one of the most interesting cases of this settlement: featuring a beautiful protected harbour but very little land on which to build, much of the community was built on stages around the cliffside. One of the driving causes for the resettlement of the community was the destruction of these stages in a major storm some 60 years ago. All that remains are the concrete foundations and piles of wood, and the chipped away stone where a small quarry existed. Fascinating stuff.

Anyhow, check out the pictures below: mostly the remains of La Manche Village!

The End of the ECT Snowshoeing Season?

Despite the beautiful, cloudless sky, I found it hard to get motivated to head out for a long hike yesterday. Deciding on a short snowshoe into Shoe Cove along the Stiles Cove Path out of Pouch Cove, I strapped the snowshoes to my pack and headed out. The first part of the trail, alongside the ocean, was free from snow. So far so good. I kept expecting to see snow as I rounded each corner, but the trail was basically clear! Instead of a short jaunt to Shoe Cove, I made far better time than I thought I would due to the lack of snow, and so I continued onto Blackhead Cove before doubling back and heading back to Pouch Cove for a nice little 10k hike. My snowshoes stayed strapped to the pack the whole way.

Once I was on the trail I was glad I had gotten out. Not a cloud in the sky and no snow on the trail, the scenery was simply spectacular. I was so surprised to find the trail free of snow after the difficult trekking of the last two weeks that I was almost running the trail. I made such good time that ended up covering twice as much ground as I figured I’d end up snowshoeing.

On the return trip, climbing the hill out of Shoe Cove, I could hear ATVs coming down the Shoe Cove Road path. So much for the peace and quiet of the trail, but I guess there’s not much to be done about it since the ECT heads close to many towns. They didn’t have to be quite as obnoxious as they were, though, spending the next 20 minutes or so driving through the gut of the Shoe Cove river over and over:

I heard them tearing around the community as I made the return trip, but for the most part they were far enough away that I was in relative peace and quiet for the majority of the return trip.

Spectacular hiking! I suspect that there’s still snow on some of the Southern Shore legs of the ECT, but if Stiles Cove is any indication, the hiking season has officially begun on the ECT! Check out some of the pics below!