Solo Travel Blog
Hiking The East Coast Trail, Newfoundland
In August 2015, I arrived in St Johns, Canada and began hiking the East Coast Trail of Newfoundland. It was to be a preparation trip of sorts but the true demand of such a long distance trek hit home on the very first day when I managed just 10km into this solo adventure before collapsing in the middle of nowhere.
Not for the first time, I was far away from home and left wondering why any of it was worthwhile.
Starting Out With Uncertainty
I did not anticipate how heavy the bag would be and truth be told, I did not enjoy the first two days trying to come to terms with the discomfort and difficult terrain. There were two close encounters with Moose and two occasions when I lost my bearings while taking short-cuts.
I had expectations for a pleasant hike, a time for solitude and a good way to assess where I stand in a physical sense for future adventures.
It was certainly a great break from civilization but “pleasant” would be a terrible way to describe the 10 days I would spend hiking and wild camping. In fact, I really could have done with training for what I was referring to as a “training trip”.
However, like all great adventures, the uncertainty and the discomfort would prove worthwhile.
Encounters With Wildlife
The wildlife was a highlight with seals, seagulls, squirrels, hawks and a whale breaching in a tiny bay as I watched overhead from a remote cliff-side.
Although it wasn’t always so nice, on one day I got lost while taking a short cut and came terrifyingly close to a large moose. I had unknowingly crept up on this enormous creature in the middle of the woods and he was so startled by my arrival, that he crushed two large trees in a desperate attempt to run away.
I didn’t move, my blood pressure soared and it was only afterward that I was aware of the swamp I was standing in.
After camping for a few days in some unpleasant conditions, my motivation was disappearing in the most difficult part of the trek and with so much distance still to go, I began regretting the decision to take on such a long distance, over such a short period.
I ran out of water on one of the days and spent hours searching desperately for a stream. When I finally happened upon one, the water was too tanic to drink and without this basic necessity, it left me unable to cook. My body was also breaking from trekking so hard and it was only through stubbornness, that I continued to put one foot in front of the other.
It may sound as though this was a pointless period of misery but actually, the hardships of carrying this heavy weight along the coast was exactly what I needed. The truth is, it was both miserable and joyful at the same time. I can’t say it was the Trek of a lifetime but it brought forward many important reminders which would have otherwise gone unnoticed.
The terrain was unrelenting but the views were breathtaking and the opportunity to spend so much time away from the city was now beginning to act as a refresh button of sorts. Looking up into the Fir trees, I found myself alone in the world but this time, I had everything I needed. Even though I couldn’t have been farther away, I felt at home and the silence seemed alien compared to the year I had just spent in the city.
As I pushed through the forests and grappled with the uncertainty of the trail ahead, I was now realising the adventure my life had been missing. I felt low for the first two days starting out but I knew the importance of pushing on and pushing forward. It’s important not to give up.
Change at Cape Spear
It all ended in a very fitting way. As I trailed along the cliff side, the words of a song kept repeating in my head. The east coast of Newfoundland had reminded me of home over and over. The people, the landscape, the weather, the feeling. I had remembered the passion of the year before. I wanted and needed to be outside, to be writing again and moving forward.
I was singing “Summer in Dublin” as I reached Cape Spear in the fog and the rain. It had seemed impossible on day one, to make it this far. I had struggled to carry a bag for 10km but with a smile, I arrived to the most easterly point in North America and the endpoint for my hike along the East Coast of Newfoundland.
It had been another difficult but deeply satisfying adventure and as I waved across the water from Cape spear to the land I know as home, I was just thankful for yet another experience that made being away from it so worthwhile.