That’s a Wrap: Day 13&14 on the ECT
Day 13 – Kilometers 285.7 -312.68
The morning wind was a pain in my ass. The beginning of White Horse Path was a very exposed and steep rock. It felt like the wind would knock me off the path with every step. The bare, bleached white trees reminded me of coral. I thought of similarities between what I saw here on the Northern East Coast and 2020 on the desert hills in California. It looked like a graveyard full of tiny skeletal trees. I was left daydreaming about the early PCT days of windy desert hills, bare land, and my first attempt at a solo trip far from home.
Oh yeah, guess what?
IT’S MY BIRTHDAY!
Well, by the time you read this, it won’t be my birthday anymore. I woke up a year older on the thirteenth day of my vacation. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my 35th birthday.
Today I was anticipating my most challenging day on the trail. I’d be hiking the entirety of White Horse Path and continuing to Picco’s Ridge. Both trails are rumored to be the most difficult sections of the trail. So, why not try to tackle both in one day and on my birthday?
The beginning of Whitehorse Path proved to be a pretty tricky part of the trail. I was glad the steep sections were dry, as I imagine this section would be slick in the rain. The vertical sections occasionally came with the assistance of a rope to hang on to. I spent most of the morning scrambling up or down the side of the white stone path. Once the initial steep sections of the trail were over, the rest of the trail didn’t seem all that rough.
Once my phone received a signal, I spent some time responding to happy birthday messages and quickly catching up with friends and family back home. When I woke up today, I only had 50km until I completed the trail, and I still have two days left after today. I didn’t need to rush, so I took lots of breaks and soaked in the last little bit of the trail. The trail was littered with wild blueberries and raspberries. I would pick a handful, eat the berries and then stop every few minutes to gather more. An hour of my day could most likely be accounted for by berry picking.
It took me almost the entire day to adjust to the fact that I was now heading southbound after 285km of heading north. After going in one continuous direction for so long, it’s weird to all of a sudden be heading the opposite way. Off the shore, I could see Bell Island, which appeared to be a tall wall of shale and sandstone rising out of the ocean. It’s really unlike any island I have ever seen before.
I ran into loads of thru-hikers today. It was exciting, and you better believe I stopped and talked to every single one of them! I met a few fellow PCT hikers and some first-time overnighters. All of them made me feel better about what was to come on the next little bit of trail. This is great because it was causing me grief since the day I got sick. All day I felt like I was buzzing like I was on a high of some sort. Now I was in a position where there was no doubt in my mind that I would finish this trail with time to spare.
I can’t figure out if it’s my excellent mood or if my trail legs are just that used to walking, but these paths are not as hard as everyone has made them out to be. I personally found the Cape Broyle Path to be more difficult. That was the day I was sick with heat stroke, so perhaps this is just a case of mind over matter in this instance.
The greatest birthday…
I arrived at my campsite near the south end of Picco’s Ridge trail, in a large flat dirt area with plenty of sunshine. I sprawled the contents of my pack out for one last hiker yardsale.
As I ate my dinner and filtered water for the evening, and next day I thought about my journey and how amazing it was to spend my birthday out here. If you are looking for a way to make yourself feel young when gaining a year, this is the way to do it.
Instead of feeling like I was one year “older,” I felt… Strong, confident and inspired… I don’t know how to explain it, but I felt anything other than old.
Oh… PS… my mum totally forgot my birthday.
Day 14 – Kilometer 312.68 – 336
I’m pretty excited for the day; it looks like I’ll be finishing the trail today. A day earlier than anticipated, when I left St Johns 4 days ago. I have a few little climbs this morning, but it looks like the trail is pretty cruisy after that. Today’s trails are all relatively short, broken up by a few road walks in some small communities. I made a loose goal to be down the trail by 3 pm; however, I’m still going to stop and enjoy myself on my last trail day.
I left Piccos Ridge, still blown away that it didn’t seem as tricky as it was made out to be. Heading up Prince’s Ridge had me baffled by how inland this part of the trail was. The first area of the trail didn’t run along the coastal cliffs, and the entire section was set back from the trail, with a major road between it and the coastline.
I ran into a lady who was on her first day. She was a former employee of the company I work for. It’s actually amazing how many retired employees from our company I meet out here on the trails (especially thru-hiking). She wished me luck on the rest of my day and congratulated me for finishing. It feels weird to be commended for finishing a vacation. I’d honestly much rather stay out here than have to go back to real life. I wished her luck on her endeavor, and I continued to the next section of the trail.
Goat Path put me back along the coast, and it was an easy trail that I could hike pretty quickly. I passed loads of day hikers along the way and was back to the peekaboo ocean lookout points. As I looked out into the ocean, I was disappointed that I had not seen a whale since the day before I got to St John’s. Although I most likely saw about 100 whales in the south, I was getting used to the majestic creatures saying hi from the ocean below and I craved just one more sighting.
It was a scorching day yet again on the trail, and I was thankful that the terrain wasn’t too steep or rugged. When I passed through the town of Paradise, (which lay between the final two trails) it was 1 pm, and sweltering hot out. As luck would have it, there was a fish and chips shop just off the trail, and I was stoked to stop in and treat myself to some fish and chips and a sparkling water during my final hours on the East Coast Trail. The staff congratulated me on finishing the trail and encouraged me that I had truly earned and deserved this meal today.
That’s a wrap…
With only 7km left of the trail, I hung out on the patio for a while. By the time I jumped back on the track, it was around 2 pm. I wouldn’t make my goal of finishing by 3 pm, but I’m more than ok with that. The fish and chips stop was well worth the end time delay. I ran into a young guy just starting the trail and directed him to the path from where he was seated on the side of the road. I could see the heat was killing him already, and I prayed that it cooled off for him and that he wasn’t put in the same predicament I got myself into ten days ago.
The trail got busier and busier with day hikers and beachgoers the closer I got to Topsail Beach. When I popped out to Topsail Beach, it was covered in sunbathers, sandcastle builders, and swimmers. It was more people than I had seen on the trail, and I wasn’t expecting it. I walked over to the sign and pulled out George the Duck. We got a final photo of us on the trail – with the trailhead sign.
I did it! 336km. I made it despite the heat stroke and vomiting. Didn’t get trampled by a moose or fall off a cliff. I aged a year but gained so much more. Thru-hiking once again restored my faith in humanity. I realized I could do so much more on my own that I was never comfortable doing before. It was fun, challenging, amazing, insightful and restorative.
But all that aside… I made it!
Stay tuned for one final post…
A brief update on my final day in St Johns – spoiler alert, I kiss a fish. A trail overview, gear update and what I ate on trail.
Hope you enjoyed hearing about my trip!
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