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Life in Newfoundland

Rocky North Head

One of my favourite places in St. John’s is North Head on North Head Trail. When you’re out and about on this little gem of a trail you can easily imagine you are far away exploring some remote rocky wilderness, even more so in November when the cold wind usually manages to keep everyone else inside:

November on North Head – North Head Trail, St. John’s

Colours on the forest floor

Crackerberries are some of my favourite plants on the East Coast Trail, they cover large parts of the forest floor and manage to do so in style.

In spring time, crackerberries cheer up the forest with lovely white blossoms lined up along all the the woodland lanes. In summer when it’s warm outside, crackerberry plants provide the local wildlife (and hikers) with lots of little red snacks. Right now in the fall season, crackerberries are perhaps at their most beautiful, just begging to be photographed with all of their bright colours:

Crackerberries in fall colours – Deadmans Bay Path

Queens River Falls on Spout Path

There are many beautiful waterfalls on the East Coast Trail, from big wide roaring ones that burst forth from the cliffs, to thin ribbon falls that gently drop into the ocean from a great height.

While falling water is usually mesmerizing enough all on its own, Queens River Falls on Spout Path sports something extra: it’s a pretty reliable place to see otters:

A merry band of otters – Spout Path

I’ve seen otters at this location about half the times I’ve been there, and they’re always fun to watch. Sometimes they just frolick in the waves, diving down and coming up with fresh fish or a piece of seaweed. Other times they’ll actually climb out onto the rocks, maybe to have a little preen or a nap in the sun.

With any luck, the sound of the waves and waterfall will drown out any noises you’re making while you’re there, so the otters may not even notice you. This will make it easy to find a comfy place to sit down on the cliffs and enjoy the show. If the otters aren’t there when you get to the falls, just open up your lunch bag, hope for the best, and wait for them to arrive; the scenery here is quite lovely even without the wildlife.

Queens River Falls – Spout Path

Queens River Falls is a pretty straightforward place to get to, just hike down Shoal Bay Road (6.3 km), then make a right turn onto Spout Path: you’ll find the falls about 500 m from the Spout Path trailhead, making the total return distance for this hike about 13.6 km.

For a basic map, check out my Spout Path page on this blog. For detailed maps, elevation profiles, and many more great hiking ideas for this fall, have a look at the East Coast Trail Guide.

Colourful barrens of Cape Spear Path

When fall arrives on the East Coast Trail the coastal barrens are where you’ll see the most colourful displays. In late September, bright green ferns will turn yellow, then orange and brown. Later on, in October, blueberry and chokeberry bushes will turn the headlands into a beautiful artwork of vibrant reds, an artwork you can walk into!

Cape Spear Path is one of the easier trails where you can enjoy these colourful barrens, and what’s more, the fall season is a great time to hike there. Gone are the ‘crowds’ of summer, the trail is now nice and quiet giving you a much better chance of seeing wildlife, like foxes and moose, especially at dusk and dawn.

If you’ve never hiked this particular trail before I recommend you start with the 10 km return from the lighthouse down to North Head and back:

Hike to North Head and back – Cape Spear Path

Looking back towards the lighthouse – Cape Spear Path

Magnificent views – Cape Spear Path

Cape Marsh Ponds – Cape Spear Path

Fall-coloured bakeapple patch – Cape Spear Path

Fall-coloured headland – Cape Spear Path

Pick a nice and sunny afternoon for your hike and keep your eyes open, it may not be summer anymore but it’s still very much possible to see some whales swim by!

A sound in the forest

Five years ago while I was on a beautiful hike on the East Coast Trail, I heard a suspicious sound coming from the forest.

I stopped dead in my tracks and tried to find the source. From deep within the bushes, a big brown snout appeared, it sniffed a branch and proceeded to nibble on it. It was a moose, of course.

Since I was upwind from the creature and very quiet, I was able to observe it feeding off the branches for several minutes without being noticed.

After a while I became confident I could get a nice photo of the beast, so I quietly unpacked and mounted the right lens on my camera. I had a 500mm with me, but long lenses are rarely useful in confined spaces so I gambled on getting lucky and put on a wide angle lens instead, before starting my stealthy approach.

Now, it’s nearly impossible to move silently in a forest so the moose soon noticed me: every time I stepped on a twig the animal paused and looked my way. Minutes passed between these sounds, and as our gazes locked I decided to speak out to the moose, allowing it to get used to my presence without having to guess where I was. Moose have poor eyesight so smells and sounds are what they use to locate you.

After a few minutes of getting to know each other the moose was no longer nervous, it accepted the new noises of me and my camera and continued to munch on the leaves undisturbed:

Moose nibbling on leaves – Deadmans Bay Path

More hikers were coming, I heard them approach and so did the moose. The hikers stopped when they saw my tripod and bags abandoned by the side of the trail, then they spotted me, then the moose. Thankfully they didn’t make too much noise and they soon moved on. The moose relaxed again and quietly walked off into the forest.

I returned to the trail to collect my things, tucked them away in a better location and followed the moose deeper into the forest. When I found it again it allowed me to get quite close, then quite unexpectedly and without hesitation the moose approached me to get a closer look:

Moose gets a closer look – Deadmans Bay Path

Yes, it was me again, the scrappy photographer. We stared at each other for a few minutes that felt like a whole hour, and I couldn’t help but notice this moose was far more impressive now it was standing right in front of me…

After our close encounter the moose walked off into the forest again and I steadied my nerves by walking in the opposite direction, retrieving my camera bag and finding a nice quiet place to sit down on the cliffs for a moment. Phew.

Spring ice on the Great Northern Peninsula

Thanks to a very beautiful and busy summer it’s taken me a while to tell you about all the places my mom and I visited on our spring trip to Newfoundland. You’ve already read about our stay in Port aux Basques and Port au Port, after that came our unscheduled but beautiful visit to Gros Morne National Park, and after that came the area I’m covering today: the Great Northern Peninsula.

As I wrote earlier, we spent most of our time on the GNP visiting little towns and harbours looking for icebergs and sea ice. My mom had never seen anything quite like it, all that ice, the big horizons, the plentiful wildlife, the blissful quiet, these were all things I had missed about Newfoundland, so we both absolutely loved our time there.

Here are some pictures from our stay ‘up North’:

Caribou – around Pistolet Bay

Snow, ice, fog – Quirpon

Pumley Cove Walking Trail – Goose Cove East

Iceberg – Goose Cove East

Little Brehat Trail – Great Brehat

Sea ice – Cape Norman

Viking explorers – L’Anse aux Meadows

Icebergs and history – L’Anse aux Meadows

Colourful spring – Grandois

Sunset – Cape Onion

After a week on the GNP we headed back south, driving from cold spring back into ‘warmer’ spring.

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