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Life in Newfoundland

Spectre in the fog

In case you didn’t know, the East Coast Trail is an excellent place to see ghosts, and not just on Halloween:

Brocken spectre below Red Head – Stiles Cove Path

What you’re looking at here is the Brocken spectre, a ghostly apparition in the fog, visible whenever you’re in a high place with sunshine in your back and fog below, conditions that East Coast Trail hikers will be quite familiar with. The next time you’re out above the fog, summon up some courage and try to find your own ghostly trail companion 🙂

Happy Halloween, have fun and stay safe!

Fall hikes on the East Coast Trail

Colourful and blustery, fall on the East Coast Trail fills the senses like nothing else, so go out and enjoy it while you can!

For a little trail inspiration, here are some stories and photos from my own fall hikes:


If you like what you see, check out the East Coast Trail Guide, it will help you discover trails around St. John’s and make you fall in love with the East Coast Trail for good. 🙂

Fall hike on Ochre Hill, Terra Nova

One of the highlights of Terra Nova National Park, the 5 km return hike on Ochre Hill starts out level and easy, before gradually climbing into the hills to reach a panoramic viewpoint that overlooks miles and miles of wilderness.

Fall is a great time to go for a walk here, and I did just that when I visited Newfoundland last year. Here are some pictures from the trailside:

Fall colours – Ochre Hill Trail, Terra Nova NP

Colours and lichen – Ochre Hill Trail, Terra Nova NP

I just love the texture of reindeer lichen, and this trail has lots of it, especially near the beginning.

Reindeer lichen – Ochre Hill Trail, Terra Nova NP

Clouds take over – Ochre Hill Trail, Terra Nova NP

Before long, the sun that had been so warm and forthcoming at the start of my walk was overtaken by a cover of incoming clouds. At the first viewpoint, the grey scenery before me showed the valley of Bread Cove Pond, and in the distance the open water of Clode Sound:

Distant views – Ochre Hill Trail, Terra Nova NP

For a fleeting moment as I made my way back down, the clouds parted and lit up the fall colours in the forest below me:

Fall colours in the forest – Ochre Hill Trail, Terra Nova NP

As you can see the colours still had a way to go, if you’re going to Terra Nova specifically to see the leaves change, I recommend visiting a few weeks later, somewhere between October 10 and 20, on a nice sunny day. 🙂

A walk to Bell Cove on Bell Island

Just a 20 minute ferry ride from Portugal Cove, Bell Island is one of those places that always finds its way onto my vacation’s todo-list when I’m visiting St. John’s.

This past July, Marije and I spent a beautiful summer day there.

On previous visits to Bell Island I always visited the cliffs on the north side of the island, exploring the pleasant trails in the lighthouse area. This time however, there was a sign saying the trail was closed due to unstable cliffs…

Eastern Head cliffs near the lighthouse – Bell Island

Thankfully I had my drone with me so we were able to have a good look at the cliffs without walking along the edge. Anyway, because we got turned around on this side of the island we decided to drive to the south side to see if we could find a coastal walking trail there.

A quick look on my phone revealed a coastal trail along the cliffs towards Bell Cove. Right near the trailhead at the end of Belle Road, we had our first ‘cool sighting’, a small iceberg adrift in Conception Bay:

Iceberg in Conception Bay – Bell Island

Look closer and you’ll see a little ship next to it, so even though this iceberg is classified as small, it’s still a sizeable chunk of ice.

The trail to Bell Cove is pretty straightforward, wide enough for 2 and without much elevation changes. As I briefly walked back to the car to get a second lens, Marije continued ahead and she soon had a commanding lead:

Trail to Bell Cove – Bell Island

You can see her atop the green hill on the right side. 🙂

On my way to catch up with her I passed Front Bell Cove, one of the scenic highlights of this trail, basking in the evening light:

Front Bell Cove – Bell Island

Back Bell Cove is pretty too, and just a little bit further:

Back Bell Cove – Bell Island

Aside from a kayak or boat there doesn’t seem to be an obvious way to get to these two beautiful beaches but still, they look lovely from the trail above.

After returning to the trailhead we quickly made our way back to the terminal, where we were the second-to-last car to fit onto the ferry!

Sunset view of the cliffs on the way back – Portugal Cove

Until next time, Bell Island. 🙂

Summer iceberg on Cape Spear Path

You never know what you’re going to find on the East Coast Trail, is what I usually say, but on a sunset hike this past July I was pretty sure I was going to see an iceberg, as I had spotted it shining in the bay earlier that day.

Marije joined me up to the lighthouse but not on my hike, since she had her sights set on some whale watching from the cliffs.

As I set out from the trailhead I was happy to be on the trail again. Something just lifts your spirit when you leave the crowds behind and venture into the wild, and that’s exactly what Cape Spear Path offers in summer: cliffs dotted with whale watchers, then empty trails beyond.

The start of Cape Spear Path – East Coast Trail

With a smile on my face and a spring in my step I quickly made my way south, I wanted to complete this hike around sunset, which was already on its way.

Scenic views to the south – Cape Spear Path

Shortly after reaching the highest point on the trail I got my first clear look into Motion Bay, where the small iceberg was glistening in the evening sun:

Small iceberg in Motion Bay – Cape Spear Path

The iceberg was so close to shore I was able to fly out to it, getting a much closer look with my drone:

Aerial view of the iceberg – along Cape Spear Path

You can see it’s just a tiny little thing, no more than 4 metres tall, but still I love seeing these gems along the trail. There was a small pond in this iceberg too (like the one on the Irish Loop), there’s a picture of it at the top of this story.

As I was taking in the view I noticed there were some whales around too, I guess it’s true after all, you never know what you’re going to find… 😉

On the oceanside of the trail I saw 2 finback whales repeatedly diving and surfacing, while on the bayside near the iceberg there were 2 humpback whales, a mom and her youngster, both feeding and attracting a flurry of gulls:

Mommy humpback, coming up from a dive – along Cape Spear Path

As fun as these whales were to watch, the sun was getting lower and lower, so I had to fly back and start my return hike. Here’s one last shot from the air, showing the evening light washing over the East Coast Trail:

Sunset light on the barrens – Cape Spear Path

When I got back to the lighthouse I found Marije on the cliffs, just as happy as I was, she had been watching finbacks and minke whales right below her:

Marije, just after sunset – Cape Spear NHS

You can probably tell, we both had a great time! 🙂

Minke whales in Cape Broyle Bay

Looking for signs of whales along the Southern Shore Highway and all its little side roads this summer, Marije and I both pointed out the window after spotting a dorsal fin slicing through the water near Admiral’s Cove.

Since I know a little walking trail at the exact spot the whale surfaced, we parked the car and set out to a point on the cliffs right near the action:

Walking out to the cliffs – Cape Broyle Bay

It didn’t take long to see the whale again, in fact we soon counted 5 minke whales feeding on capelin near the cliffs…

Watching the whales swim by – Cape Broyle Bay

Minke whale near the cliffs – Cape Broyle Bay

Minke whale snout – Cape Broyle Bay

As you can see we didn’t need binoculars for these whales, but we did bring pair to check for signs of whales further out the bay. Searching the cliffs on the other side I saw something exciting: hundreds of birds in a frenzy at Lance Cove beach on nearby Cape Broyle Head Path, a sure sign of rolling capelin!

Because it was so ridiculously warm and muggy that day we knew it was going to be a tough hike, but a chance to see the capelin roll on the longest sandy beach on the East Coast Trail was just too good to pass up, so off we went:

Walking up the sun-dappled East Coast Trail – Cape Broyle Head Path

As is usually the case with Cape Broyle Head Path, the hike was as hard as it was rewarding. For our troubles we had the beach all to ourselves, and it was lined with large schools of capelin, some rolling, some casually cruising along the calm surf:

Beautiful Lance Cove beach – Cape Broyle Head Path

Capelin at Lance Cove beach – Cape Broyle Head Path

To top it all off there was a minke whale here too, lunge feeding off the beach right near Marije:

Lunge feeding whale off Lance Cove beach – Cape Broyle Head Path

Yes, that little red dot on the beach is Marije. The water around the whale is black because it’s filled with capelin, you can even see some smaller schools of capelin swimming closer to and even onto the beach. 🙂

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