The East Coast Trail: Newfoundland, Canada (Part 3)

The Adventure Continues…

IMG_6324Hiking along Motion Bay

Day five on the trail included a whole lot of wind! Wind, wind, and more wind. We started the day hiking along steep cliffs that dropped into the churning ocean. The trail hugged the coastline and wandered through wide open fields of heather, coastal grasses, and haphazardly placed boulders. It made me feel like a tiny speck compared to the landscape.

IMG_6315Wind!

The wind pressed in around us, pushing us off the trail, and then back on, tossing us like toy boats. We saw no other hikers on the trail all morning and it made the power of the elements seem that much more intense. Here wind and water rule. They carve and shape the land.

IMG_6327Looking back at Motion Head

IMG_6326Clear Ocean Water

The boulders, speckled across the horizon, also added to the magic of this sunny, windy day. The rocks looked like lost marbles dotting the land. Just before lunch we reached Motion Head, a small rocky point jutting out into the sea. I loved watching the waves pound this low-lying point. They crashed into the geometrically broken rocks and sprayed, several feet into the air, a wall of water fanning out towards the sky. Very cool.

P1060910The Big Hill

IMG_6330Wildflowers

In the afternoon, we ascended “The Big Hill,” aptly named. It offered us impressive views back down the coast, out into Motion Bay and took us through some of the prettiest wildflowers we saw on the trip. Waves of dancing, wind-swept pink.

At the bottom of the Big Hill, sits Petty Harbor, our favorite community link. It was spotted with bright-colored houses and friendly inhabitants and a little shop that sold us giant ice cream cones. We sat in the harbor, looking at all the fishing boats, sun on our faces, enjoying our treat.

The hike out of Petty Harbor takes you up onto another series of high cliffs overlooking Motion Bay. We enjoyed the views and particularly liked a little side trail that let us drop down into a tiny, rocky cove complete with a waterfall and clear, cold, blue-green water.

With all the wind, we settled on a narrow pocket under a clump of pine trees for our camp that night. And we heard the heavy gusts of wind plowing into the coast all night. We were glad to have found a sheltered campsite.

P1060917Waterfall!

P1060916Rocky Coastline

In the morning, amid overcast skies and a cool breeze, we set off for Cape Spear, the eastern most point in North America. We once again followed the coastline, seeing nothing but wide open space and endless views. We loved all the craggy beaches and little freshwater creeks that drop out of the coastal woods through the rocks to the ocean.

As we neared Cape Spear on our way to St. John’s we saw more day hikers, and got updates from the outside world, like the status of the Stanley Cup hockey series, and the weather. It is so interesting how you can just dip out of the world for five days, and I felt a twinge of regret as we realized we were headed back to “civilization.”

We took a lunch break at North Head, a spur trail on a large piece of land that bows out into the ocean. From here we could see Cape Spear, and the two lighthouses in the distance. I love that on this trail you can continuously see both where you have been and where you are going.

P1060921Historic Lighthouse

P1060922Working Lighthouse

Cape Spear is an interesting mix of history, rugged coast, and tourism. We loved the old battery there and seeing the historic lighthouse, but it was strange to see fences and warning signs along the coast, keeping people back, putting the wild just out of reach.

Due to weather concerns we decided to make a final push on this day and hike the rest of the ECT. It would make for a long day, but I loved this last section of trail, especially once you reached the plateau that would lead us into St. John’s.

But first we wander along the coast, then headed up to the dummy fort on Blackhead, and passed through the tiny town of Blackhead proper. In this section I also spotted a humpback whale! A fellow hiker suggested looking for tour boats slowed or stopped in the water to help up your chances of seeing a whale, and that is just what happened. We saw a boat sitting ideal in the ocean, then scanning the area, I saw a blow. A few minutes later the whales back then tail. It is the first time I have ever seen a whale from land. Very cool.

We continued to curl down through a coastal woods and had small glimpses of the coves that pocket this section of the trail. In Freshwater Bay, we passed across “the gut,” a long stretch of rocks separating the fresh water from the salt water. It was tough on the feet and we were glad to head back along the coast.

IMG_6338Pitcher Plant

IMG_6343I’m obsessed!

IMG_6353More…

This is where we went up and up and up. It was out steepest and most continuous climb of the trip, but it was also the first spot that we saw pitcher plants, the provincial flower, and something I had been really hoping to see. They are a strange and impressive flower with a deep pink and yellow belly and fuzzy “ears.” They seem a little alien. For the rest of the hike, we saw them in small clumps and standing alone on the edge of the trail like bright-colored jelly beans.

P1060935Cape Spear in the distance

P1060938Wildflowers and Views!

P1060939Signal Hill (from day 1) and St. John’s in the distance

When we reached the top of the plateau you could see back to Cape Spear, out towards the harbor, and the distant ocean horizon. The sun poked through creating spot lights that dotted the landscape and as we crossed rolling rocks we passed through another section of beautiful, pink wildflowers. The landscape up here was very different from the rest of the trail and uniquely captivating.

Finally, we had to go back down towards the harbor, Fort Amherst, and St. John’s. It was sad to know that when we reached the bottom our time on the ECT would be over, but we were looking forward to a shower 🙂

P1060941The End of the Trail

What an amazing trip!

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8 Comments on “The East Coast Trail: Newfoundland, Canada (Part 3)”

  1. Well done! You two are a true inspiration for me to stay healthy and do similar treks in the months and years to come.

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  2. […] The East Coast Trail: Newfoundland, Canada (Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3) […]

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  3. Michelle says:

    Hi there, thanks for documenting this. I’m trying to plan a similar trip with a friend this summer. I’m wondering if there’s any advice you could pass on? What you are most thankful you had, what you wish you had, at the end of the hike how did you travel back home? Any info would be great & much appreciated!

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    • I’m so glad to hear you will be headed this way! It is a beautiful trail. You will love it.

      We flew into St. John’s then took a cab out to our starting point and hiked back to St. John’s. We set up the cab in advance and it worked out great. The same company also took us back and forth from the airport.

      It will rain, so be prepared for that. We had several great weather days but also a good amount of rain. In summer your weather should be a bit better, but on the coast there is always a chance of rain and fog. The trail is also very rocky, so good boots are highly recommended. The maps from the East Coast Trail Association http://eastcoasttrail.ca/ are a must. If you are backpacking, it is a bit hard to find camp spots. There are a handful of designated camping spots, but other than that you are free to camp off trail anywhere, but due to the terrain this can often be a challenge. Take binoculars, a good camera, lots of yummy trail food, and have a blast! If you have any specific questions feel free to e-mail me.

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      • Michelle Kinerson says:

        Hi! Thank you for responding so quickly. I’ve been meaning to get back to you sooner but have been super busy with work.

        So a couple of questions, for the 5 day trip what were the contents of your backpack? Food, clothing, gear, etc. we just want to make sure we don’t over/under pack.

        Also what was the cab service you used?

        Any info you can pass along would be so amazing.

        Thanks a bunch, Michelle

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      • As Gerry noted, we used Southern Shore Taxi. They were great: on time, scheduled in advance, price set in advance, very friendly. I would recommend them. Just make sure you know where you want to get dropped off and/or picked up on the trail as we had to clarify this when we met up with our driver.

        The contents of my backpack are pretty much the same for all backpacking trips. Clothes depending on the weather will change and the amount of food and water, but otherwise the basics are pretty set. Have you been backpacking before? If not, I would do a test run close to home for at least one night so you figure out what you want/need. This varies a little person to person depending on what “extras” are important to you. For example, my husband and I each take a backpacking pillow. This isn’t something we don’t have to have, but it makes sleep easier so I am willing to carry the extra weight. Rain gear (pants, jackets, gloves, boots) are a must for this area as well as a cover for your pack. We have a pretty big rain fly so we could even cook from our tent a few mornings when it was raining, which was nice. For food, this really depends again on you. We dehydrate our own meals, so that was dinner most nights; lunch we usually eat cold stuff so we don’t have to get out of the stove (PB, cheese, trail mix, etc). Breakfast we did a mix of dehydrated food and cereal with powdered milk. We like grapenuts because they are tiny, light, and pack well. Also, snacks. I eat lot on the trail, so I have to pack food accordingly. The towns we passed through did not have much in the way of food right along the trail. We only found one town with a little shop that had snacks and such. We got great ice cream cones there. Hope that helps!

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  4. Gerry says:

    Great retrospective over the three parts, guys. The pictures are spectacular and they make me itch for a hike. It’s too bad you got such foggy weather for Flamer Head as the views are incredible there, but it certainly looks like you did okay weather wise! Glad you had a good time on these trails… I can’t get enough of them! Already planning my spring hikes! 🙂

    For Michelle K: there are some details on the ECT website about cab companies and whatnot: depending on the part of the trail you’re focusing on, you’ll deal with a different operator. “Southern Shore Taxi” is the operator I recommend for the Southern Shore hikes, ie. those around Witless Bay/Mobile/etc. For a 5 day hike on the ECT I’d pack what I would for that length on any trail, ie. be sure to have all the basics, but in addition take more warm weather gear than you think you’ll need because things can get chilly fast in NL. On the ECT you’ll be passing through towns at worst every two days (I’m thinking the longest trek on the trail is a two day trip for most folks, the Spout-Motion paths), so consider the ability to restock in at least some of those towns (it’s worth checking… no store along the trail in Brigus South, for example). And not trying to plug my own blog, but I’ve got some details about select trails along the ECT there. Either way, enjoy the ECT!

    Cheers!

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