The Ultimate Trail Angels: Days 5&6 on the ECT
Canada must get its good name because of the people of Newfoundland. The people here are incredibly kind, giving, and seemingly genuine humans. Instead of having their guard up as you would experience in major cities, people here come at you with kindness first. A conversation always starts with a how are you and then quickly turns into asking if they can do anything for you.
I haven’t been here long, but the hospitality here has blown me away. Offered rides, homes open to me for showers and laundry, ice-cold waters, and genuine conversations happen every time I hit a town and find a local. I have never in my left met so many people who ask you if they can do anything for you or insist that you stop by their home to have a shower.
Trail maintenance crews stopped to give me all their numbers in case a storm got bad enough that I needed to get off trail telling me one of them would call me and give me a place to wait out the storm. I feel more at home sitting at the bar here than I do in my town. You’ll never drink alone, and a new friend will always find you.
Suppose you have always wanted to travel independently but are nervous about doing so. Come to Newfoundland for your first experience. I promise you will not be disappointed.
They are the ultimate trail angels.
Day 5 – Kilometres 107 – 130.5
Given my state yesterday, I slept in. I was in no rush to get anywhere. I heard the rain was supposed to stop, so I decided to lay in my tent until the rain quit so I didn’t have to pack a soaking wet tent. A lay-in was probably the best thing I could have done for myself. The morning was cool and rainy, which unfortunately meant minimal views but gave the coastline a dramatic moody feel with the low clouds.
I was happy that today started a little cooler; I felt like the day was off to a great start. Despite getting soaked from the overgrown, muddy trail, it kept the bugs and heat stroke away. I was the only person crazy enough to be out in this morning’s rain. Even the trail maintenance crew I ran into were leaving early due to the conditions. I moved slowly, not wanting to overdo it as my stomach still wasn’t right, and I hadn’t been able to eat anything except the blueberries I bought from the store yesterday.
Not much to report for the first half of the morning. I made my way through la Manche provincial park, crossed the infamous suspension bridge, and made my way through the cloud and rain. The sun came out late afternoon, and the coastline cleared to blue skies. I passed coves filled with whales dancing near the surface and hundreds of sea birds fishing for their next meal. deciding it’s best to stop early to camp just within the forest near a beautiful ocean view. I “yardsaled” the contents of my pack to ensure everything dried thoroughly before I made up my bed and I sat and watched the sun fade.
Day 6 – kilometers 130.5 – 162.3
I’m feeling like a new person today. I rose early to get a good head start on the morning trail. I want to do a boat tour today in Bay Bulls and then continue to the next trail. Again the trail did not disappoint. Following the coast in an almost unnecessary manner, it displayed views of rugged coastal cliffs, exposing the island’s physical and historical attributes. The East Coast has so much history embedded in its natural landscapes. Somehow it looks and feels more prehistoric than the west.
Just as I started on Beaches Path I came across a very large dead crow smack in the middle of the pathway. It appeared to have just fallen from the sky. I don’t know much about crows but for some reason, I got a creepy feeling thinking that perhaps, this was a bad Omen and something was going to happen today. PLEASE UNIVERSE. I don’t think I could take another shitty day so close to the last one, I have hardly recovered!
When I arrived in Witless Bay, I stopped for breakfast at the Irish coffee house. I had a delicious eggs benny breakfast, and the waitress let me charge my devices as I dined. It was the first real meal I have in a few days. Since being sick, everything I had packed in my bag was now hard to stomach, and I couldn’t eat it anymore. I stopped in at the local convenience, bought all new things that resembled nothing in my pack, threw out my leftover food, then quickly made my way out of town.
I was determined to get into the next town before they stopped the boat tours for the day. The followingt 7km between the two towns was pretty easy, and I started to make good hiking time. As my breakfast in town digested, I could feel my strength returning to an average level. Views of red sandstone cliffs, puffins, more breaching whales, and sea stacks filled my afternoon until I finally made my way into Bay Bulls.
I stopped by the first tour company I walked past in town. Walking into O’Brien’s Boat Tours, I expected them to tell me that the last tour was packed for the day, and I was SOL. But as luck would have it, they still had space. I signed up for the tour, dropped my bag at the store, and left my stuff to charge.
While waiting for the tour to start, I sat on the benches outside the store and tried to relax. I still wanted to get to the next trail and hike 5 km to the next camping area. With the tour being 2 hours, it would be tough to make it to camp before dark, but I’m here on vacation, and I did not want to miss out on seeing the island full of puffins.
Captain Michael came over and sat with me. He was very interested that I was attempting to hike the entire ECT and filled me in on some of his favorite spots along the trails. He told me that once the tour was over, he would drive me to the trailhead or make sure I had a ride from one of the employees.
When baby puffins (pufflings) set out to find food, they get confused about which way the ocean is because of the number of artificial lights in the area. Instead of looking at the moonlight, they might head towards a headlight or street lamp. The area’s citizens pick up the poor little guys hanging out along the highways and set them free near the ocean in the mornings. Tourists and schools are encouraged to join the program and help collect the poor little confused birds. It’s quite possibly one of the cutest and saddest things I have heard in a while. Poor little confused pufflings.
The boat tour took us to bird island, where multiple species of sea birds call home. From the boat, you can see the puffin nests burrowed into the edges of the hill. Watching the puffins try to fly out of the water is probably one of the funniest things you will see. They appear to skip along the water while their bellies skim the surface until they can finally take off.
This tour would be a legitimate nightmare for some of my friends who are terrified of birds. All you can see and hear are thousands of squawking sea birds. And well… hopefully avoiding having one shit on you. Which happened, by the way – a puffin or a seagull or something shit on me. All over my only piece of clean clothing, I had on me! They say it’s good luck to get shit on by a bird. I’m pretty sure that’s to make you feel better. I could use all the luck I can get right about now, so I guess I will welcome the superstition… for now.
More kind strangers…
The boat went on a search for whales. The weather began to change, and the ocean got incredibly choppy. We were getting sprayed by water on the observation deck, and the wind was so cold I went inside. Out of 65 tours the Captain has done this year, two have resulted in no whale sightings. Unfortunately, our tour was one of them. Captain Gerry informed me that Michael had spoken with him, and he would be happy to give me a ride to the trailhead. Overhearing our conversation, another local stopped to ask me about my adventure. She gave me her address and told me to stop for a shower if I needed one. I should have started counting how many times a kind human has offered to help me so far; I think the number would blow you away.
Just after 7 pm, Captain Gerry drove me to the trailhead. As quickly as I could, I raced up the hill to make it to camp before dark. The wind was picking up, and it looked like rain clouds were rolling in, so I picked up the speed. Somehow, I managed to get to camp just before it was dark and without getting wet.
I guess the crow wasn’t as bad as an omen as I had thought this morning, Another successful day! And hey, I am almost at the halfway point!
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