Outdoor Adventure 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 a future adventure.
Howeverm, it was definitely a great break from civilization but “pleasant” would be a terrible way to describe the ten days I would spend hiking the East Coast Trail in Newfoundland. In fact, I really could have done with training for what I had thought about as a “training trip”.
During this time, I really did wonder if any of this uncertainty and discomfort would prove worthwhile.
Encounters With Wildlife
The wildlife was certainly 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; one particular 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 when I noticed the swamp I was now 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 in a short period of time.
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 hardship 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 hiking the East Coast Trail in Newfoundland 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 ended with some triumphant humming in the drizzling rain as the words of a song kept repeating in my head while I trailed along the cliff side. The east coast of Newfoundland had reminded me of home over and over. The people, the landscape, the weather, the feeling. I had even remembered the passion of the year before when I spent an entire year outdoors on a bicycle ride through Africa. I wanted and needed to be outside, to be writing again and moving forward – I had decided.
By the time Cape Spear came into view, I was singing “Summer in Dublin” ….in the fog and the rain. At one point, it had seemed impossible to make it this far but with a grin as wide as the ocean in front of me, 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.
SEPTEMBER 2017 UPDATE: I had great pleasure reading this post today and reminscing about that day in the forest, looking up at the trees and feeling grateful. It was at this moment I decided to pursue a career in outdoor adventures and do whatever was necessary to make it happen. Of course I decided to create an online business to afford me the time or money to take these trips and two years later, I am now readying myself for the trip which I was training for back then – Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.