Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Welcome to Our Blog

Our blog describes our visit to Newfoundland during June and July 2018.  During our stay we hiked 252.1 km of the East Coast Trail, on the Avalon Peninsula.  We thru-hiked the section from St. John's to Cappahayden, camping along most of the way (see entries for days 5 to 18 for details), and then we walked the trails from Flatrock to Quidi Vidi Village as day hikes (see days 24 and 25 for details).  We also walked the Piccos Ridge trail (see day 3 for details).  During our trip we visited two Important Bird Areas, spent a day exploring the Colony of Avalon at Ferryland, took a trip to Bonavista, and hung out in St. John's.  For those interested in hiking the trail, we have included a description and review of the gear we took with us.  Thank you for reading, and we hope you enjoy!

 

Sean and I are passionate about hiking, nature, photography, and birds.  To some degree our posts reflect these interests.  We tried to describe as many of the species and natural wonders we encountered as we could.  Below is a list of the bird species we saw or heard while on the trail:


1. Fox Sparrow (23 Jun 2018)
2. Song Sparrow (23 Jun 2018)
3. Herring Gull (23 Jun 2018)
4. Glaucous Gull (23 Jun 2018)
5. Ring-billed Gull (23 Jun 2018)
6. European Starling (23 Jun 2018)
7. Rock Pigeon (23 Jun 2018)
8. American Black Duck (24 Jun 2018)
9. Common Tern (24 Jun 2018)
10. Mallard (24 Jun 2018)
11. Domestic Mallard (24 Jun 2018)
12. Pine Grosbeak (25 Jun 2018)
13. Bald Eagle (25 Jun 2018)
14. Dark-eyed Junco (25 Jun 2018)
15. White-throated Sparrow (25 Jun 2018)
16. Gray Catbird (25 Jun 2018)
17. Golden-crowned Kinglet (25 Jun 2018)
18. Spotted Sandpiper (27 Jun 2018)
19. Great Black-backed Gull (27 Jun 2018)
20. Iceland Gull (27 Jun 2018)
21. Double-crested Cormorant (27 Jun 2018)
22. Northern Gannet (28 Jun 2018)
23. Swamp Sparrow (28 Jun 2018)
24. American Goldfinch (28 Jun 2018)
25. American Robin (28 Jun 2018)
26. Sooty Shearwater (29 Jun 2018)
27. Boreal Chickadee (29 Jun 2018)
28. American Crow (30 Jun 2018)
29. Gray Jay (30 Jun 2018)
30. Blue Jay (30 Jun 2018)
31. Atlantic Puffin (1 Jul 2018)
32. Common Murre (1 Jul 2018)
33. Swainson's Thrush (1 Jul 2018)
34. Razorbill (2 Jul 2018)
35. Black-legged Kittiwake (2 Jul 2018)
36. Black Guillemot (2 Jul 2018)
37. Northern Fulmar (2 Jul 2018)
38. Thick-billed Murre (2 Jul 2018)
39. Ruffed Grouse (3 Jul 2018)
40. Northern Waterthrush (3 Jul 2018)
41. Greater Yellowlegs (3 Jul 2018)
42. Common Loon (4 Jul 2018)
43. Northern Flicker (4 Jul 2018)
44. Black-and-white Warbler (5 Jul 2018)
45. Yellow-rumped Warbler (5 Jul 2018)
46. Black-throated Green Warbler (5 Jul 2018)
47. Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (5 Jul 2018)
48. Black-capped Chickadee (6 Jul 2018)
49. Osprey (6 Jul 2018)
50. Hermit Thrush (8 Jul 2018)
51. American Redstart (8 Jul 2018)
52. Belted Kingfisher (10 Jul 2018)
53. Arctic Tern (10 Jul 2018)
54. Magnolia Warbler (10 Jul 2018)
55. Yellow Warbler (10 Jul 2018)
56. Tree Swallow (11 Jul 2018)
57. Cedar Waxwing (17 Jul 1018)
58. Common Raven (17 Jul 2018)

To follow our hike from Day 1 on ward follow this Link.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Day 25 - Ocean Science Center to Quidi Vidi Village

We awoke early to begin our final walk along the ECT, which we think will bring the total number of kilometers we've walked to somewhere over 250 during our trip!

Although the weather forecast this morning mentioned thick banks of rolling fog off the coast of the Avalon Peninsula, we decided to head out anyway. We took a taxi to the Ocean Sciences Center, which is where the northern end of the Sugarloaf Trail is located. When we arrived we discovered that it is possible to visit the Ocean Sciences Center, which apparently offers exhibits showing seals and other marine life. If we had known this before, we would have planned to stop by!


As we climbed up the erratic strewn hillside above the parking lot in the fog, the sounds of gulls and a whale spouting in the cove below was truly magical. However, the fog was so thick we couldn't see very far at all, and at one point we got pretty turned around.

 


I should add here as a disclaimer that we both love foggy landscapes – they are beautiful, mysterious and magical all in one. The coastlines of St. John's have their own vibrant colours, with the reds, yellows, and dark greys of the rocks, the bright greens of the heaths and other vegetation, and the yellows, whites, pinks, and purples of wildflowers that all seem to come alive in the fog. As the indistinct shapes of the coastlines, rocks, and treelines disappeared into the fog this morning everything looked truly beautiful!



The trail took us along the coastline, and through some magical looking woodland.

 


We were also treated to a colourful display put on by the blooming ladies slippers!


When we got to the section of trail that runs alongside the Robin Hood Bay Sanitary Landfill, we were struck by the sudden appearance of garbage along the trail.  Plastic bags and other refuse littered the trail, and were stuck throughout the canopy of the trees.  This was particularly shocking, because we had read online that a complete cleanup the trail had been undertaken in the section recently, meaning this buildup occurred only very recently.



Seeing this, it is no wonder that there is a strong campaign here in Newfoundland to reduce the use of plastics, especially to keep the impacts on our oceans down.


Our somewhat sobering experiences in this section made us really appreciate the cool weather, and the seabreeze blowing in off the Atlantic, which spared us having to smell the landfill.  As we walked we thought a lot about the need to adopt a lifestyle that produces less garbage.  Camping is no exception - the individual packages on granola bars and precooked meals definitely represent an opportunity for improvement.


After the landfill, the trail again took us along the coastline, and past another fake WWII battery.



Eventually we descended to John Howards Pond, where we crossed a well constructed wooden bridge over a rushing stream below.  When we reached the far side of the bridge, we were a little unnerved to see a sign warning of hikers of blasting in the area.



A little farther down the trail we got our first glimpse of Cuckhold's Hill, and stopped to watch the ships going in and out of St. John's  harbour.


Shortly afterward the sun came out, giving us clearer views down the coast.  As we came out to the Pump House Rd we took a break to watch a pod of a dozen or so whales spouting.




As we wentered the Bawden Hills section the trail began a long and steep ascent, up a series of the staircases.  This was a long climb, but it provided great views.  As we trekked along, grateful that we weren't carrying our fully loaded backpacks, we were passed by several groups of other people, as well as a few young, intrepid joggers.




The climbs, some of which were steep and relatively close to the edge, ultimately brought us up to hieghts that provided beautiful views back up the coast.



As we reached the end of the trail, we were excited to see Cape Spear on the horizon!


Shortly after that we crested a hill and were given a bird's eye view of Quidi Vidi Village snuggled into a picturesque harbour, filled with colourful buildings, boats, and homes below us.  Beyond that was St. John's.



Although we felt like we were at the end of the trail, we still had to navigate a maze of ECT, dirt bike, and local trails on the hills above Quidi Vidi.  We were somewhat surprised to see and smell the remains of a recent fire on the norht side of The Gut.




After one last staircase, we descended into the village of Quidi Vidi.  We emerged from the trailhead into a parking lot, on the far side of which was a waterfront store selling arts and crafts, which was unfortunately closed.  We continued on around the picturesque harbour to the Quidi Vidi Brewery, hoping to find something to eat.  The eatery attached to the brewery turned out to be a fry truck, which had a 25-30 minute wait, as they were in the process of preparing for a tour bus group. Since the brewery didn't offer any other food, we walked up into the village, but found only two other eateries, neither of which was open until dinner time.  It seems that for all the publicity Quidi Vidi village receives, and the rave reviews it gets, it is still an untaped opportunity in some ways.




We continued out through the village, and soon found ourselves walking along a busy and well-used trail along the side of Quidi Vidi Lake.  Quidi Vidi Lake is an Important Bird Area. It is located within the city limits of St. John's, but it is also world renown spot for gull watching, especially in the late fall and early spring.  Herring Gulls, Great Black-backed Gulls, Iceland Gulls, Glaucous Gulls, and Common Black-headed Gulls gather in considerable numbers here during certain times of the year, and up to 10 different species of gull can be seen at one time. Other birds that are commonly reported in this IBA include American Black Ducks, Mallards, Northern Pintails, Ring-billed Gulls, Mew Gulls, and Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  Unfortunately, as we made our way around the lake the only birds of any sort we saw were a group of Mallards.

Quidi Vidi Important Bird Area (shown in yellow)
  

After an enjoyable walk along the side of the lake, it was a quick hike through downtown St. John's and back to MUN, stopping on the way at the Newfoundland Chocolate Company for some icecream.

It has been a wonderful trip, and tomorrow we head back home.  We would like to thank all those who helped us get here and who helped us along the way.  This adventure wouldn't have been possible without you all, so a huge thank you!!

Monday, July 16, 2018

Day 24 - Flatrock to Logy Bay

This morning we woke up, refreshed and thankful for the good weather forecast for today. Last night we decided to spend our final two days in Newfoundland hiking some of the East Coast Trails north of St. John's. Initially we planned to get a ride back up to Cape St. Francis and for two days push to see if we could complete our missing sections getting us back to St. John's.  However, after contacting a number of taxi companies the cost of getting back up to Cape. St. Francis for the day (frequently noted by each company as being over $200.00 each way) led us to revise our plans.  Instead we opted trek from Flatrock to St. John's with our remaining time.

We had breakfast and then took a taxi up to Flatrock, where we began hiking south on Father Troy's Path. As we headed away from the parking lot at the trail head everything was obscured by dense fog. Luckily the trail was well marked, and we had no trouble following it, even with the limited visibility back over the harbour. As we walked we heard the distinct sound of a whale spouting in the fog, and it seemed to be following along beside us for quite some time.



For the most part Father Troy's Path was easy walking – either on a wide flat track, or on well maintained and easy to walk footpaths. It followed along the coast, giving some beautiful views as the fog cleared and the sun came out.




We also passed a few of the fake batteries used to fool the German troops in WWII.

 
Somewhere in the vicinity of Church Cove we passed a colony of nesting Black-legged Kittiwakes, which was noisy and busy and fun to watch.


 The trail became quite confusing around Chruch Cove, and in the end we stayed on the ECT (I think), without doing the Church Cove Loop. After this the trail turned into a grassy track which followed along a beautiful wooden fence, through an old orchard and grassy meadow. Here the signs of civilization began to be more noticeable – we could see houses around us, hear traffic nearby, see airplanes flying overhead, and we passed several people out walking their dogs.




Next the trail took us over a grassy ridge and then down a staircase into a little harbour with a dock. There we signs at the top of the staircase warning hikers that the area was dangerous and prone to high tides and waves. Given the nature of the terrain on the other paths along the ECT, which did not receive any such warnings, these advisories seemed kind of strange, but I guess the closer ones gets to civilization the higher the expectations of safety are.

We nodded hello to a couple fishermen who we cleaning fish on the dock, and then took advantage of the garbage can and porta-potty in the harbour. After that it was a climb, back up a staircase, and a short walk over a grassy ridge to arrive in a subdivision and what we decided was the conclusion of the Father Troy Trail (although we didn't find a sign).


At this point our maps showed a short community connector running along the coast to the beginning of the Silver Mine Head Trail. However, when we started down it we soon found the road and the trail were closed for construction. There was actually a bulldozer at work and several workmen, so we ended up having to walk up to Torbay Rd, along that to Marine Dr, and then down Motion Drive, where we ended up taking a brief detour down Motion Lane by accident. It seemed like a long, hilly road walk that we didn't much enjoy, but if we had been thru-hiking, it is worth noting that we did pass a Mary Brown's, a convenience store, and a pharmacy in our travels. All in all, Torbay, the community we were walking through, seemed to be a well-to-do suburb of St. John's – busy, vibrant, and large.

When we finally arrived at the Silver Mine Head trail head we first headed down a grassy track behind some large houses. Then we entered a section of “unimproved” trail. Although this didn't end up being too much more difficult than most of the trails down south, it was very confusing due to a lack of signs. We headed into a wooded area, and then came to Middle River, a very active waterfall. There was a network of trails around the river, but none seemed to go anywhere. As we were wondering what to do, a kid passed us, crossed the river, and disappeared on the other side. Oh.



Crossing Middle River was a bit difficult. The rocks were slanted and the water was high and fast moving. However, we made it across safely, only to lose the trail again. We finally figured out that it went under a fallen tree, and emerged back on the coastline. After that point, the rest of the trail was pretty well maintained, with a nice wide pathway that offered great viewpoints and supported excellent infrastructure. We passed a number of other hikers out enjoying the day, including some kids.




At the end of the trail we emerged onto Middle Cove Beach, which to our amazement was absolutely full of people. Upon closer inspection we noticed that many of them were sporting nets and buckets, and we soon discovered that the 'caplin were rolling.' When this happens the caplin (a sardine-like fish) gather to mate near the beaches, and then, exhausted from spawning, they are tossed by the waves onto the beaches. People then gather on the beaches to collect them, either to enjoy as a tasty treat, or to use as fertilizer on their gardens. There were so many families out on Middle Cove Beach that traffic was being directed by the police. Encountering these unexpected local events is what makes traveling fun!


After the beach we started on a long, uphill, road walk. It was hot, the road was winding and very busy, and there were no shoulders, so it wasn't too pleasant. We did however pass a few viewpoints along Marine Dr that were full of people out enjoying the nice sunny weather. Finally we turned onto Doran Dr, which was home to a whole row of mansions, complete with large lawns, metal fences, gated driveways, and numerous warnings that the properties were under 24 hour video surveillance. Although the view out over the harbour was gorgeous, we couldn't help but think back on Reg's and Kathy's simple 3-room cabin, with its postcard view over Fermeuse harbour, which was open to whomever walked passed, and wonder if the same degree of happiness they shared would even be possible behind all those walls.

At the end of the road we came to the trail head for Cobbler Path. How to describe the Cobbler Path? I loved this trail, it had everything - great views, wonderful coastlines, forested tunnels, terrain that was easy enough to be enjoyable, great trail infrastructure with intact boardwalks – what else do you need? It did have an awful lot of wooden stairs, both going down (which were enjoyable), and going up (which were tough). Even though the stairs were steep and long, having scrambled up and down so many steep slopes on the rest of the trail, I was very happy they existed!

The trail began as a series of well maintained boardwalks over swamp and mud, and then took us through a forested area, before coming out to Torbay Point, with a beautiful view up the coast.




After this we had periodic views of Red Cliff, and a number of small fishing boats below. The most challenging part was a steep descent to Cobbler's Brook, which was promptly followed by an equally steep ascent up to Redcliff Head. Along the way we were rewarded with realtively easy to navigate trails, and wonderful views down the coast.




Towards the end of our hike we came to another World War II pill box, alongside several derelict buildings which had been profusely spray painted.



After moving along the coastline the trail again entered a stand of dense tuckamores, which were welcome, as the rain had begun again. As we approached the end of the trail we passed two young ladies who were in the midst of their thru-hike, and who looked very vigorous and full of energy. They mentioned that we should be sure to stop and watch two whales up ahead, although we never did encounter them.
 


We came to the point in the trail where you have the option to proceed straight along to a viewpoint, or exit the trail onto Red Cliff Rd. To get to the road you have to pass the abandoned radar station, walk under a communications tower, and continue down the hill beyond that. At first we had difficulty locating the footpath through the bushes, but once we found it, it became easier to follow. However, it was very overgrown, and it soon became very steep – more of a washout, consisting of loose dirt and pebbles on hardpacked soil and rock than a trail. Following this unmarked route down the hill we emerged between two houses onto the road, and found the trail head for the Cobble Path. I think we would never have found our way out of there if we hadn't watched Randy Best's instructional video on the route – so thank you once again to Mr Best!

It was hard for us to assess today's hike. The terrain and infrastructure seemed much easier to navigate than some of the trails farther south, but we weren't carrying our fully loaded packs today, so maybe that made the going easier too. Either way, this section of the trail had a different feel to it – like we were in a much more developed area, which of coarse we were.

Excited by our progress today, we grabbed a taxi back to MUN to find some dinner. Tomorrow we plan to walk the Sugarloaf Trail from Logy Bay to Quidi Vidi village.
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Practical Information:
Paths: Father Troy's Trail, Silver Mine Head Path, Cobbler Path
Distance Hiked: Trail = 16.5 km, Connector = 5.0 km, Total = 21.5 km
Max Temp: °C
Min Temp: °C