Tag Archives: Newfoundland and Labrador

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!

Challenging Snowshoeing on the Brigus Head Path!

Hi folks, after last weekend’s defeat on the Mickeleen’s Path, I vowed I’d redeem myself on the Brigus Head Path loop. A 6.5 km moderately challenging hike with a bit of climbing and descending, and a much shorter couple of kilometers straight back over land, this trail is spectacularly beautiful in the summer months, and given our warm weather for the last week, I thought the snow would have likely taken a cutting. I was… partially right at best.

The snow had softened to be sure. That was not a good thing, however, as this trail is a bit of a wet one and the wet parts had undercut the snow, leading me to plunge to my knees on more than one occasion. In places the majority of last week’s snow remained untouched, which made for some treetop views and drift climbing. The soft snow gave me a workout, at least!

The first half of the trail from the north, up to the approach to Brigus Head, was very challenging. Lots of deep snow and more than once where I was unsure how to continue on the trail. After Brigus Head, the going got a little easier, the places where deep snow needed to be traversed were sporadic instead of constant. At the point where the trail meets with community trails, a quad or two had gone over the trail making the going a little easier, though they had messed up the muddy parts pretty good.

I turned around at the loop trail, not venturing all the way to the trailhead in Admirals Cove. The loop trail (the old road between Admirals Cove and Brigus South) followed the same pattern: easily passable for the first, uphill km or so, and then more challenging, essentially becoming a river interspersed with deep snow. Luckily, this is a short path and I was at the wharf next to the trailhead where I had parked in Brigus South before sundown.

If you’re in the mood for a challenge, this is one to consider. It’s hard to capture in pictures how deep the snow is and how tough it is to showshoe, but trust me, the rain has been a double-edged sword: clearing the trail in spots, it has simply softened things up in others. You might be better off waiting for a bit more of the snow to melt, but if you are willing to take it on, it’s certainly a unique experience at this time of year. Not for the faint of heart, let’s put it that way! Check out the pics of the exhausting but spectacular hike below!

Mickeleen’s Path Gets the Better of Me

Hi folks! Excited about the prospect of a sunny Saturday with temperatures above zero, I had been planning all week to finish the trio of short Southern Shore hikes by heading out on the Mickeleens Path, but with the huge snowfall we received early in the week, I knew it would be a challenging walk. It turned out to be much tougher than I had anticipated!

I started a little late in the afternoon to complete the hike, but I figured that if the conditions were anything like those I had seen on the Beaches and Tinkers Point paths, I had tons of time. I quickly realized, given the conditions and the deep drifts, that I likely wouldn’t complete the Path today. I decided I’d do a chunk of it and head back along the path I created. At least one brave snowshoer had been on the trail in front of me. Many times I found myself thankful that I had footprints to follow and walk in.

That was true until the trail split. I followed what I thought the most likely route for Mickeleens Path, and I think it’s likely that the trail was followed for the most part, but the going was tough. There were places where the drifts were so high that I was climbing on a precarious slope at treetop level, and when the trail started winding around gulches at the 1.2 km point, I didn’t feel like it was safe to continue on my own, despite the tracks in front of me. At one of the final gulches the trail wound around the gulch a little too close for comfort, and so I decided I’d turn around and try the other trail.

When I got back to that point I noticed that there was indeed a ECT blaze on the tree. That was the first and last blaze I saw on either path, though. That’s something I think could be improved: in summer, it’s easy to follow the trail despite the scarcity of blazes (they’re reassuring but not necessary), but in the winter, any number of possible paths could be the right one, and more frequent blazes would help snowshoers find the path should they go astray. Sheesh! As if the trail volunteers don’t have enough work without keeping up with those of us crazy enough to be trekking the trails when there ARE no discernible trails!

Anyhow, the second path I took was obviously not the right one either. I took a break and checked my GPS: I was very close to the Old Track. I pressed onward and the snowshoe path took a right turn and eventually scrabbled through the bushes to the old track, where a snowmobile had beaten down an easily followed path to a point. I continued past this point for a while, but without a real destination, my plans for a loop completely dashed at this point, I used the deep snow beyond a clearing as an excuse to turn around and make my way back. I rejoined the ECT path just before the Mickeleens trailhead and made my way back to my vehicle at Quay’s Rd.

A short but exhausting trip! I don’t recommend Mickeleens Path in its current condition for folks who don’t know it well or who aren’t experienced snowshoers: it’s not an easy walk. For the brave, though, it’s an adventure! You beat me this time, Mickeleen, but I’ll be back! Check out the pics of crazy drifts in the gallery below!

Weekend Snowshoe Trip to the Beaches Path!

Hi folks! It was bright and sunny for the most part yesterday, and I was ready to hike fairly early, so I figured I’d take advantage spend a few hours in the woods. I decided to snowshoe out over the beautiful Beaches Path between Witless Bay and Mobile. Hoping that the trail was in the shape that the neighboring Tinkers Point was in, I strapped on the snowshoes and headed out. As you can see from the pics, this trail required the snowshoes, and required a bit more trudging through snow than what I had seen on my other snowshoeing trips this spring! It was great fun, firing through the mostly unmarked snow past Breaking Point at the 2.8 km point. That made for 3.5 km or so of immaculate snow-covered trails through thick woods with little wind and the sun beating down: spectacular!

I made my way to the Mobile trailhead and headed back, which was made somewhat easier by following my own footprints through the soft spots. There were plenty of those, as the spring weather has started to soften up the wet spots. The places where plank bridges cross marshy areas are interesting tests on snowshoes, as they’re typically covered with pillars of snow. Crossing rivers and climbing stairs are definitely the bane of the spring snowshoer’s existence. There was deadfall at regular intervals as well, unfortunately: the volunteers have a bit of work ahead of them once the snow melts. Most are easily passable and the one that’s tough to climb can be detoured around.

The trail is easy to follow from start to finish, especially now that my big feet have been over it! I encourage you to get out and check it out… be cautious when the trail approaches hills and crosses rivers and you’ll be good! Check out the pics below!