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!!

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