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Life in Newfoundland

Miners Path: Topsail to St. Thomas

When I visited Newfoundland last fall I was eager to explore the new additions to the East Coast Trail from Topsail to St. Thomas and St. Philip’s to Portugal Cove. At the time, these trails were in the earliest stages of development, and quite muddy and rough after a spate of wet weather.

Of course, these trails have been around for a long time, they are old community trails, footpaths through the forest, not used as much now as in the old days. But, if ECTA upgrades these forgotten gems with new steps and stairways, a boardwalk here and there, and some nice viewpoints, I’m sure they will become popular additions to the stretch of East Coast Trail along Conception Bay. 🙂

Here are some pictures from my walk on Miners Path, the ~3.9 km trail from Topsail beach to St. Thomas:

Large boulders near Topsail – Miners Path

Below the Bluff – Miners Path

Typical rocky trail – Miners Path

Above Shag Rocks, we ran into ECTA’s trailblazing crew. 🙂

Trailblazing gear – Miners Path

Beyond the halfway point, things got muddy and wet, at one point the water almost got in over the top of my rubber boots!

Wet trail – Miners Path

A window on Conception Bay – Miners Path

Views of the Bay were scarce from the old community trail, but there were some brand new side trails being cut near the St. Thomas side, and they may provide better views when they’re finished.

To get a better look at the coast, I flew my drone over St. Thomas Cove, right below the trail:

Aerial view of St. Thomas Cove – Miners Path

Looks like a nice beach, I would love a nice new ECTA stairway to get down there this capelin season!

Next month I will be in Newfoundland again, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the trails look then. 🙂

Spring hike on Cape Broyle Head Path

For iceberg watchers, the spring of 2019 will be one to remember. Hundreds upon hundreds of icebergs have been spotted along Iceberg Alley and a great number have even made it all the way to St. John’s and beyond: that doesn’t happen every year.

While watching these icebergs from harbours and highway viewpoints is an easy and perfectly pleasant way to enjoy them, I like to hike out to them on the East Coast Trail to get a better look.

Take for example a lovely spring day in 2014, when I spotted two icebergs around Cape Broyle Head from Admirals Cove. I knew as soon as I saw them I’d get a much better look from the trail, a hike on Cape Broyle Head Path would lead me right by the both of them:

Iceberg ahead! – Cape Broyle Head Path

Walking into this stunning spring scene I knew I made the right choice, the trail always rewards me in some way and today was no different. 🙂

As you can see in the above photo, there’s quite a bit of fog out on the ocean and as I watched, it slowly covered the bright white iceberg, lighting up the foggy blanket from below:

Foggy iceberg light-show – Cape Broyle Head Path

After some time on Cold Harbour Hill I pressed on to find the iceberg on the other side of the Cape. It’s a bit of a climb to get on top of Cape Broyle Head, as you can see in this picture taken above the cliffs of Cold Harbour:

The climb ahead – Cape Broyle Head Path

That peak in the top of the frame is Cape Broyle Head, one of the most formidable peaks on the entire East Coast Trail. When you reach the top, a forest of pale green lichen welcomes you:

Witch’s Hair lichen – Cape Broyle Head Path

While these lichens look soft they’re actually sort of rough and dry to the touch.

A little further along the trail I passed a spot called Blow Me Down, named for the strong wind that can blow you on your back if you come here on a blustery day:

Blow Me Down – Cape Broyle Head Path

On the other side of the Cape the trail is more sheltered but covered in rocks and roots, a bit hard on the ankles:

Rocks and roots – Cape Broyle Head Path

Above Church Cove there’s a viewpoint that offers a dizzying look onto the beach below. There’s no way to get down safely, so a view is all you get:

Church Cove beach – Cape Broyle Head Path

The strange blue colour of the water is something you often see when icebergs are melting nearby; in this case there’s a bergy bit just outside the frame, it’s likely stirring up sediments from the bottom, or something in its meltwater is causing the discolouration. If it had been a little later in the year, a spawning event or even a small bloom could have been the cause of this picturesque phenomenon.

After a quiet lunch break in Church Cove Meadow I continued the hike and found the second iceberg where I expected it to be, right below the trail in Shag Rocks Cove:

Iceberg pool – Cape Broyle Head Path

What a beauty! A fitting reward at the end of my hike if I do say so myself. With a colour like that the water looks positively inviting, a private pool for weary hikers to cool their feet… 😉

ECTA Fundraiser in Bay Bulls & Witless Bay

Coming up on June 8, the East Coast Trail Association is hosting their annual fundraiser to help maintain and protect the East Coast Trail, a great cause and a great time!

You can help the East Coast Trail by signing up for this event and hiking some beautiful trails with the support or company of your friends and family. This year there are 5 hikes to choose from, all around Bay Bulls and Witless Bay:

Hike #1: Spout Path

East Coast Trail highlight – Spout Path

Hike #1 explores all of Spout Path from Shoal Bay to Bay Bulls. This long, difficult, and beautiful hike is best suited for those with a fair bit of trail experience. There are many highlights along this trail, but two of them stand out: the Spout, a wave-driven blowhole, and Sea Stack Cove, with its eagles, waterfalls, and impressively large sea stack, pictured above. This hike includes overnight camping and is limited to 18 participants.

Hike #2: Mickeleens Path + Beaches Path

East Coast Trail near Mobile – Beaches Path

East Coast Trail near Bay Bulls – Mickeleens Path

Hike #2 combines two trails, Beaches Path and Mickeleens Path, all the way from Mobile to Bay Bulls. This long ‘combo hike’ has a little bit of everything: woodland lanes, eagle nests, island views, cobblestone beaches, red cliffs, towering headlands, and last but not least, a chance to see some icebergs and puffins…

Hike #3: on Spout Path

East Coast Trail near Bay Bulls – Spout Path

Hike #3 explores the south end of Spout Path from Bay Bulls to Freshwater and back. This is a nice hike to get familiar with the easier side of Spout Path, with highlights that include Useless Bay, Dungeon Cove, and the ‘waterslide’ at Freshwater, pictured above.

Hike #4: Mickeleens Path

East Coast Trail near Bay Bulls – Mickeleens Path

Hike #4 explores all of Mickeleens Path from Witless Bay to Bay Bulls and back. While most hikers come for the gorgeous views around the halfway headland of this trail, there’s another nice thing about this hike: you can easily loop back to the start after you reach the end, very convenient!

Hike #5: on Mickeleens Path

East Coast Trail near Witless Bay – Mickeleens Path

Hike #5 explores the south end of Mickeleens Path from Witless Bay to Otter Cove and back. If you’re not fond of elevation or climbing, hike #5 is the hike for you, as it sticks to the (mostly) easy side of this trail. When you’re walking along the shoreline here, don’t wait for Otter Cove to look for otters, these playful animals are commonly seen along most parts of this trail!

Sign up for this event

For more information about raising funds, hiking distances, parking areas, and sign-up details, visit the Trail Raiser 2019 page on ECTA’s website.

More photos and stories

For more photos and stories from my own hikes on these trails and the rest of the East Coast Trail, check out my Hiking the East Coast Trail page.

La Manche Village waterfalls on a rainy day

When you hike out to the suspension bridge on La Manche Village Path, you’ll find more than a gently swaying footbridge in a beautiful natural setting, you’ll also find excitable wildlife like kingfishers and seals, and a nice waterfall that flows from the La Manche Ponds further inland.

Of course, the trail itself comes first:

Trail to the suspension bridge – La Manche Village Path

Streams cross the trail – La Manche Village Path

Slippery roots on a rainy day – La Manche Village Path

When you visit La Manche Village on a rainy day there’s even more to see, as you’ll find a second waterfall cascading straight down the cliffs from the unseen Otter Ponds above:

Otter Ponds Falls, only shows up when it rains – La Manche Village

After you cross the bridge to the other side of the abandoned ghost town you’ll get the full picture:

Waterfall at the suspension bridge – La Manche Village

For this last scene, imagine a steady breeze of rain drizzle and fog coming in from the ocean and you’ll have a good idea what it was like on this wet fall day during my visit last year. 🙂

Good iceberg season ahead

One month ago a promising iceberg chart led me to believe a good iceberg season was headed our way. Today’s iceberg chart definitely confirms that belief, just have a look at this:

Current Iceberg Chart – Canadian Ice Service

In case you can’t quite make out the numbers, there are roughly 90 icebergs around the Great Northern Peninsula, 120 icebergs along the Kittiwake Coast, 30 around the Bonavista Peninsula, and about half a dozen near the Avalon. Now, not all of these icebergs are close to shore at the moment, but many of them are. This morning I read a report that 20 icebergs are visible in the Bonavista area, and this is just the beginning of the iceberg season!

With numbers like these, there may even be some icebergs left when Marije and I are arrive this summer. 🙂

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