Hi folks! So last year, before the White Horse and Picco’s Ridge legs were added, I completed my lifetime thru-hike of the trail. With their addition, I felt like my thru-hike was now incomplete again and had to be finished. I had hiked White Horse back before it was officially added, but Picco’s Ridge had been intimidating me all summer with my lazy hiking schedule… I had myself convinced I wasn’t in good enough shape to get through it. After the last couple of weeks of hiking, I figured I had gotten myself as prepared as I was going to be, and vowing not to make any more excuses not to hike (inspired by my buddy Jim, out there on the trails after heart surgery! I have nothing to complain about), I bit the bullet and went for it. So glad that I did. What a spectacular trail.
First off, hats off (way, way off) to the volunteers of the ECTA who have constructed and maintained this trail. It’s incredible, and you’ve done wonderful work, folks. For a trail that is “unfinished” or not hardened to ECTA standards, this thing is in great shape. Only for a kilometer or so around Ocean Pond did the trail feel at all overgrown, and nowhere was it confusing or badly marked (though I did manage to go the wrong way at Brock’s Pond Brook, completely missing the main trail: fortuitously, there were campers hanging out at the river watching the sunset who directed me to where my error occurred). I digress: the trail is in wonderful shape and all credit goes to the ECTA who have given us something incredible here, folks.
A couple of quick pieces of advice if you’re planning on hiking this trail: one, be ready for climbs. Big climbs. This is true in both directions. The climb up over Black Cliff is no joke, and I bet the stairs on the other end are a rough way to start a hike as well. There are rope assisted climbs in a number of places (though none of them are quite as scary as the one above the starrigans on White Horse, IMHO). Get your boots on and get ready to scramble up over some hills! The second piece of advice: when a side trail is marked “viewpoint,” go see that viewpoint. They are not to be missed on this trail.
The trail is reminiscent of White Horse in that the elevation is just massive at points along the trail like Black Cliff, Picco’s Ridge, and Brock’s Head, but unlike White Horse there are lots of small climbs and descents over wooded trail. It’s a long 14.5 km for sure: it took me almost 6 hours to complete (bearing in mind that I took a few breaks, but also bearing in mind that after the sun set I basically ran the last three kilometers).
The scenery is just unbelievable: whenever the trail breaks out and you get a look at the hills you’ve climbed or the ocean far, far below, it’s breathtaking. On the other side, the trail passes a number of ponds; there wasn’t a breath of wind on most, and they reflected the sky above like glass. Past Ocean Pond, the trail opens up to a barren where, as far as the eye can see in all directions, the world is all blueberries and partridgeberries. The next ten minutes of trail constitute one of the biggest blueberry patches I have ever seen, partridgeberries mixed between, all ripe and delicious (I ate my share).
The sun set behind Bell Island just before I got to the Blast Pond exit, which told me I had another 2.9 km to go. It was getting dark so I really rushed, arriving in Portugal Cove just as it got to headlamp time. But if you’re not looking at the trailhead bathed in the light of the streetlamp above it at the end of the day, you’re doing it wrong, right? 🙂
Anyhow, what a hike, what a day. Picco’s Ridge races to the top to be among my favorite sections of the ECT. Just a treasure. Check out a few of my pics below!