Thursday, July 5, 2018

Day 13 - Roaring Cove Campsite to Long Will Campsite

Today felt like a very long day, but in the end we covered a lot of ground - probably more than on any day so far on this trail.

Until around 1 am this morning we enjoyed a cool quiet night, with a nice refreshing breeze. At 1 am we awoke to the sound of quiet, persistent, chewing. We looked outside the tent to see a small determined looking red squirrel munching away on some wrappers that had been shoved under the tent platform. It continued to chew, apparently making little headway, for the rest of night, letting out loud torrents of frustrated chatter every so often.

By 7 am we decided to give up on sleeping, and conceded the night to the squirrel. As we were packing up we were surprised to hear the sound of sirens, apparently quite close by, giving us a not too subtle reminder that although it gives the impression of being deep in the wilderness, this trail never really strays too far from highway 10. In any case, we were packed up and on our way by 8 am, perhaps our earliest start yet!


Maybe resting for a night helped, but we found the remaining 7.6 km of the Flamber Head Path to be easier going than the northern part we traversed yesterday. There were some challenging climbs, and at times the path seemed to stray perilously close to the cliff edges, but overall it was a more pleasant hike, and there were some nice view points.

  

One of our favourite spots was Frenchman's Head, where you could clearly see a bearded man's head in the cliff face.



When we emerged into the charming village of Brigus South we met a pair of tourists who asked us what to do if they encountered a moose on the trail. We explained that moose are generally harmless, and the best course of action was to stay still and quiet so as to avoid startling them, and try to take a picture.




We enjoyed a break at a picnic table on the water near the trail head  and fell in love with the picturesque harbour of this town.  As we rested we watched a pair of Greater Yellowlegs foraging in the mud flat, and two ducks lazily paddling around in the shallows.




We followed the roadway around the harbour, past the government pier, and started up a grassy cart track.  We were enjoying the breeze, wildflowers, and a magnificent view of the deep blue ocean below us, right up until we walked straight through a patch of stinging nettles. It always seems that the moment you begin romanticizing nature, it comes and shows you what's what.

We never did find the trail head sign for the Brigus South Path, so we simply followed the the flagging tape and the cart track around the bay, past a tepee, and into  a wooded area.




In general, our impression of the Brigus Head Path was that it was a well developed trail, complete with boardwalks and stair cases over the muddiest and steepest sections, and the infrastructure was still in relatively good condition over most of it. We didn't find it too marshy or buggy, although the trail mostly proceeded some distance from the coast, providing few open viewpoints.


Towards the end of the trail we came to a patch of blow down and new growth, and stopped for a minute to enjoy and photograph the antics of a group of Yellow-rumped Warblers, a pair of Black-and-White Warblers, and a White-throated Sparrow.
 

Before we headed off they were joined by a boisterous group of American Goldfinches, which made for a bustling and noisy patch of woods.


Just before we came to the end of the trail in Admiral's Cove the trail turned into a wide, flooded, and very muddy dirt track, as it took us past a number of cabins and homes. After this tricky section we came to the paved road, and a bit of an unexpected surprise. Although we were anticipating a long community connector between the two trail heads on either end of Cape Broyle, we had expected an easier walk than what was in store for us. As with many of the connectors, there was no signage to direct or reassure hikers that they were on the right track. This walk turned out to be along a very busy road, which had very narrow to non-existent shoulders. It was very hot, and there several large hills we had to ascent and descend as cars, construction trucks, and ATV's raced past. This left us hot, tired, and more than a little frustrated at the lack of information regarding the connectors provided on the ECT maps. Given that this trail is now promoted as a path for thru hikers, it would be helpful if more comprehensive signage and better descriptions were provided for those unfamiliar with the region.

When we finally arrived in the town of Cape Broyle, we found it to be quite nice. This community has been around since the 1780's, and has a rich fishing history. Apparently the name Cape Broyle is derived from the Portuguese word brolle, meaning to roar. Today the main source of employment there is a fish processing plant, which we walked past after turning left on highway 10 and heading back down to the harbour. At the water we found a beautiful picnic area by the beach, and stopped to take a break. If there is one nice thing about the community connectors, it is that they often have some pretty nice resting places for hikers and drivers, which offer great views of the local harbours.

A little farther along the trail we stopped at the Riverside Restaurant for a bite of lunch. The food was great, the service was wonderful, and the hostess was very nice to two hot, smelly hikers coming in off the trail. Our ice teas, sandwiches, fries, and ice creams greatly revived us, and so by 3:30 pm we felt ready to head out again to find a spot to camp for the night.


On the way out of town we stopped at the grocery store to re-supply, where we soon became the object of much interest for two retired ladies who watched with unmasked interest as we removed the packaging from our purchases and loaded them into our packs in the parking lot.

As we headed out of town to find the northern trail head for the Cape Broyle Head Path we passed several friendly residents who were out enjoying the nice weather and who had kind words of encouragement for us. 


As we turned the last bend in the roadway and came to what I assume was the turn around and parking lot for the trail, we were greeted with a sign saying that parking and loitering were not permitted and that the area was under surveillance. Stunned by this we turned around to find an older gentleman on his deck watching us very carefully. So, we continued on, past the pavement towards the water, looking for the trail head. When we reached the beach we assumed we had missed something, and were about to give up, when we spotted a white and black striped post farther down the bouldered shoreline.

Stunned, we made our way across the rocky beach to the marker, only to find a whole forest of flagging tape and a rope dangling from a branch. About 6 ft up an eroded dirt embankment we spotted what looked like the beginning of the trail. After a great deal of undignified scrambling, we found ourselves at the base of what was to be the first of many challenging ascents on this trail.

Once on the trail, it ascended very quickly and very steeply up a densely forested hill. This was a bit disappointing to us, since we had been hoping to camp somewhere near the trail head for the night, but with few options we continued on. Admittedly, once the initial ascent was complete, the path leveled off a little, and we enjoyed a nice walk through the forest in the afternoon light, through a blanket of blooming white bunch-berry flowers.




After a kilometer or so the trail became more difficult, transforming into a series of steep climbs up boulder strewn slopes and swift descents along muddy rivers, in between which were plenty of streams to ford and dead trees to scramble over, under, or around. Stopping to consult our maps and the information provided by Randy Best's spreadsheets, we determined that our best bet for a good camping site with water was Long Will's Campsite, which was around 6 km from the trail head. We stopped at Gentleman's head, after yet another long steep climb, and watched two seals playing in the surf below, as the fishing vessels left the harbour beyond them.

 

Although we were pretty bushed when we finally reached the ECTA established campsite around 7 pm, it turned out to be a beautiful and peaceful spot to spend the night.  We quickly set up our tent, filtered some water, made dinner, and enjoyed another small treat – chocolate covered biscuits with our tea. Despite the relatively early hour, we were both exhausted from the long and strenuous hike today, and decided to make it an early night.

Looking back on the day, it is somewhat difficult to separate ourselves from being hot, tired, and frustrated, but I think it is fair to say at this point that a few updates to the ECT maps and trail descriptions might be in order. I fully realize that any description is necessarily going to be subjective, but I think the continual inferences that the paths along the ECT are easy, and involve a few mild ascents or descents which are suitable for family outings, do not adequately prepare outsiders who are unaware of local conditions for what the trail demands. The paths involve very steep climbs through mud and boulders, they require navigating multiple downed trees, they involve very steep descents down open cliff faces, and the footpaths frequently follow along the extreme edges of cliffs. Although at one point clearly a tremendous amount of work was put in to install boardwalks, bridges, and stairs, in many places these structures are rotting away, making them somewhat hazardous in themselves. In windy or wet weather these sections can be hazardous, and in fair weather they are only enjoyable if you get a thrill from very long strenuous obstacle courses. I would not categorize any part of this trail as easy – it is extremely beautiful, but it is rugged, tough, and challenging – to suggest otherwise could endanger people's lives, and it diminishes the accomplishments of those who complete it. Since GIS capabilities have improved greatly I think it is fair to suggest that maps at a finer scale, which include more detailed topography, and an elevation chart, would do a lot to help hikers figure out where they were on the trail, and accurately determine what actually lays ahead when trying to figure out how much farther to hike at the end of the day.
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Practical Information:
Paths: Flamber Head Path, Brigus Head Path, Cape Broyle Head Path
Distance Hiked: Trail = 17.6 km, Connector = 7.4, Total = 25.0 km
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