From NoBo to SoBo: Days 11&12 on the ECT
Day 11 – Kilometers 224.85 – 255.35
After two nights in a hotel bed, it was time to head back to nights spent on my sleeping pad. I Had five days to finish the next 100ish km of the trail. I have heard that the trail’s end is some of the most challenging sections. After the 2km per hour days at the beginning of the trip, I was afraid I’d run out of time. The plan was to hike as far as possible in the next few days and, if needed, hike right until dark the evening before my flight. I need to finish this hike.
Dirty hikers aren’t the only trash on this trail…
As much as I loved my time in town, it’s great to get back on the trail. It’s another super hot day starting with a climb out of St Johns up Sugarloaf Head, where I was greeted with a stunning view of Quidi Vidi and St Johns below. Despite the midday heat, I felt refreshed from the time off. Climbing the hill in the direct sunlight wasn’t as difficult as I had anticipated. After the initial climb, the rest of the trail was pretty cruisy, although I have to say it’s so far my least favourite section of the trail.
With this section being so close to the dump, no water source is ideal for drinking from. On such a hot day, my only option was to try to get through this section as quickly as possible. Rushing this section wasn’t a super disappointment. The viewpoints were stunning, but the forest was full of garbage. At first, I was pissed off. There was SO much garbage everywhere; how dare people dump here! Then I realized that the trash was the aftermath of excessive winds near a landfill, which unfortunately resulted in it getting caught in the trees and along the trail for hikers to look at for at least a kilometer.
Until today I had been hiking without plugging into any music or podcasts. I enjoyed being present to the sounds of nature around me and listening to the crashing waves, the sea birds, and the breaching whales. Knowing I wanted to smash some decent kilometers today, I plugged in and listened to a podcast hosted by my new friend, Ben. Zoning out helped me somewhat forget the sight of the garbage along the trail and pick up my pace. I don’t usually like to do this but plugging in is sometimes what I need to keep me motivated during a long day of hiking.
Cobblers Path was much cleaner in terms of garbage all over the trail. However, the historic buildings and sites on the trail near the old gun battery were covered in graffiti—a sad sight for such a beautiful area. The trail was relatively mellow in terms of elevation, and there weren’t any whales or wildlife to distract me from carrying on.
When I hit the town of Torbay, I stopped to read a sign on the side of the highway. I noticed a woman was following me with garden sheers in her hands. I pulled out my earpiece and immediately apologized as it was clear she had been following me, trying to get my attention from a ways down the road. She asked me if I needed anything and wanted to ensure I knew where the road walk ended and the trail began again. I spent a moment chatting with her, insisting I had just left St Johns that afternoon, so I didn’t need anything just yet. She told me spots to look for on the trail, people I may encounter, where I may see whales, and wildlife to look out for.
When I got to Middle Cove Beach, it was about dinner time. I found a spot on the busy beach, made some dinner, and took a decent break before continuing onto the next part of the trail. It looks like it would be a great place to camp. However, I have been warned by multiple hikers that it tends to attract a party sort of atmosphere and is not ideal for the thru-hiker who wants to be in bed by 9 pm. I plan to continue on the trail and get as far as I can before dark. There doesn’t look to be a ton of campsites in the next little while, so this may be a “wing it” situation.
I wanted to put on at least another 10k before the sun went down, which would get me to a camp spot just before Flatrock on the next trail. When I arrived near the area where there was a supposed space to camp, I found nothing. I walked up and down the trail making sure I didn’t pass the rumored spot but came up short. I thought about walking further in the dark but apparently, I left my headlamp on as it was now dead. Reluctantly I found a spot just along the side of the trail to set up my tent for the night.
Day 12 – Kilometer 255.35 – 285.7
I woke early since I was camped so close to the trail. I didn’t want to surprise any early morning hikers with a tent only a few inches off the footpath. The fog filled the air making it hard to see 20 feet in front of me in some areas.
The trail obnoxiously followed the coastline out to its points and then back. Multiple times, it was tempting to skip parts of the trail. The trail coming back from the point would only be 30 feet across from me. It would be so simple to cut the corner and save myself some steps. After all, there wasn’t anything to see in the dense fog once I got out to the points anyways. I couldn’t do it for some reason. I followed the unessicary trail as far as it took me, only to return to where I was just a few minutes prior.
The sky cleared up in no time, and beautiful blue skies greeted me again. I walked among broad open grassy fields with wildflowers and bare trees. Beautiful red rock cliffs and light grey pebble beaches with waterfalls were now, once again visible from the trail. Taking my time this morning, I soaked in every last little bit of the trail before the difficult parts hit. Once that happens, my pace will slow down significantly, and I will have more difficulty finding opportunities to relax and take in the view.
I stopped in Shoe Cove for an extended lunch. A freshwater creek flowed into the ocean from underneath a large wooden bridge. I took advantage of the cool flowing water to soak my bare feet while I filtered water. I’ve put some significant distance in the last day and a half, and I’m now starting to believe that I will not only finish the trail before I need to catch a flight, but I may actually finish early. Hundreds of dragonflies flew about, munching on any bugs they could find; I had never seen so many dragonflies in one place. I was happy to have their mosquito-eating company with me while I had lunch and soaked my feet. It may have been the first break I have taken on the entire trail where I didn’t spend the whole time swatting away the pesky insects.
From NoBo to SoBo…
The further north I got, I could start to see land masses off the coast. This was the first time looking off into the ocean’s distance; I could see something other than the horizon. There were smaller islands just off the mainland, but another arm of the island was now also visible in the distance. I powered through Biscan Cove Path. I focused on keeping a good pace through the roller coaster like elevation gain and loss. Rated as difficult by the ECT, I was pleasantly surprised when I made a great time on the trail and could get to the end of it well before dark.
Leaving Biscan Cove Path, I followed the road towards the lighthouse at Cape St Francis. I then started to climb the white rocky hills of Whitehorse Path. I was now at the most northern end of the trail. From here on, I will be now headed southbound until Topsail. The wind was starting to pick up. I found myself in a grassy tunnel-like area with plenty of beautiful open spots to camp. The grassy area was beautiful but unfortunately, the wind never let up. So I found a little place amongst the trees to hide from the wind. It blocked a lot of the breeze but setting up my tent in the wind became incredibly frustrating. I let out a frustrating scream after about the 4th time the wind caught my tent and ripped it off the ground before I could finish staking it down.
Eventually, I got the tent sorted and it was an early bedtime for me. Approximately 50k left to go!
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