Day 8 East Coast Trail Location: Witless Bay Suites. Mileage: 0

It rained last night and all morning. Bad Influence and I made the right choice by taking the day off to wash clothes, eat real food, make plans for the challenges ahead, and catch up with editing photos and our communicating with our friends and families.  

Newfie clothes drier (hair dryer)

Today I have been thinking about previous trips that I’ve made to both Newfoundland and Labrador. I used to take motorcycle camping trips up here to explore various “ends of the road”. My Newfoundland/ Labrador interest started back in 1993 after my friend Alan MacKinnon and I read the book Great Heart, by Rugge and Davidson.  

   Amazon describes the book thusly: “Reconstructing the story from the long-lost journals and diaries of the 1903 and 1905 expeditions, James Davidson and John Rugge trace the explorers’ routes and re-create the saga. ‘Great Heart’ is a gripping drama of individuals pushed to the limits of human endurance.”

        In 1993 Alan and I were among the first motorcyclists to ride the 200 miles of rough gravel road that went from Churchhill Falls to Happy Valley/ Goosebay. After reaching Goosebay we rode further east to the tiny village of Northwest River, where the protagonists of Great Heart departed for their own ill-fated destinations. Sitting for breakfast at Robin’s coffee shop yesterday in Bay Bulls I struck up a conversation with a man who told me that he had once lived in Northwest River for two years with a girlfriend, doing nothing much but hanging out fishing and hunting. In fact he had lived next-door to the Blake family. I am not giving too much away to say that Burt Blake was one of the young Labrador trappers who saved Dillon Wallace’s life after Wallace attempted to rescue his ill-fated partner Leonidas Hubbard. 

 Some thoughts about the East Coast Trail after one week of traveling.  

   First of all, this 310 k Trail definitely lives up to its description as a “genuine wilderness walking and hiking experience”. Printed materials from the East Coast Trail Association describes the trail as passing directly over the most easterly point in North America at Cape Spear as it connects over 30 communities along the route.
The hiking is not easy. Parts of the trail are wet and numerous planks, wooden bridges and walkways assist the hiker in some of the more challenging sections.  
Distances that I am recording appear to be approximately 15% greater than those stated in the printed maps. Also the issue of “community paths” which are segments that passed through the actual communities linking individual trails between settlements and towns. The sections are not accounted for on the individual maps probably due to the fact the trail was not set up for thu-hiking. Sometimes we have walked those full sections. For example, we walked completely around St. John’s Harbor from Quidi Vidi to Fort Amherst, but that mileage isn’t listed or counted on the official map. Folks walking sections also have to add the trailhead mileages from highways as well, so many hikers need to be aware that their own walking will be longer than indicated on the map mileages for segments and budget extra time.  
I really enjoy visiting the communities along the way where people are very friendly, interested in where we are from and what we are doing.  
This isn’t a great deal for vegetarians or gluten-free dieters.

Image by Mark Shaw

We have eaten potatoes, carrots, and turnips ‘a plenty so far. There are adequate choices for resupply at small convenience stores, it you might have to get creative. 

Bad Influence and I are carrying the perfect backpacking stoves for this trip: Four Dog Stove Bushcooker LT1 multifuel units. We are able to burn wood, denatured alcohol, or solid fuel tablets. Don’t count on finding the smaller isobutane canisters in the small villages. We bought a quart of the alcohol at a hardware stove, but have been able to cook most nights using dry wood. I have used a squirt of hand sanitizer on top of the wood in my stove to ignite it. A couple of nights ago igniting a Frito corn chip got the wood fuel going. We are only boiling pints for water to rehydrate our meals so aren’t using much alcohol at all.  

I am also carrying an backpacking umbrella, which has come I handy for rain and also for shading he strong clear sun that is parching in the afternoon.  

I’m looking forward to an easy start out of Witless Bay tomorrow.

Heading out – image by Mark Shaw
 I can pack up tonight and be ready to go by 7 am, with no tent, sleeping pad, or sleeping bag to deal with in the morning. I love a town stop and roof over my head when it is raining.  

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