Calvert: Part one ended with us camping in a church parking lot, exhausted and low on water. Our first priority the next morning was to find water. The fishing wharves were nearby, so we asked the first person we saw where we could get water. Apparently, our only option was to knock on someone’s door, but this lovely fisherman drove us to his house (which was near the trail head!) and let us fill our water bottles before our big day of hiking. He had a thick accent and remembered Newfoundland “before Confederation” and was generally delightful. We never got his name.
Cape Broyle Head Path: This path (which is 18.3km) was the WORST. There’s no other way to describe it. We have taken to calling it the “conifer clusterfuck” because for several kilometres, we were pushing past fir branches, unable to see the trail or what lay beneath the trees. Often, it was tree roots or rocks or some combination of both. I wore my sunglasses, not to protect them my eyes from the sun, but to prevent branches from poking me in the eyeball. This trail is in desperate need of some TLC. We stopped at the Long Will camping site en route (about 11k in) for the night. It took us seven hours to hike 11 kilometres, that’s how difficult and mind boggling the trail was. There weren’t a lot of great views, either, the trail was mostly inland. However, it was the first time we saw other hikers — a group of 30 kids were doing some weekend hiking education class and we shared the campground with them. (Day 5 total: 13k). The next day, we continued beating our way through the trees, scrambling over rocks and doing dangerous ups and downs. We ran into a guy doing the trail the other way and he confirmed that Cape Broyle Head “sucks” but promised us it would get better from here. We had faith.
(Note: just don’t do this path. It really sucks. We had great weather and felt relatively refreshed and even in ideal conditions, I don’t think it’s worth it. The conditions are too dangerous and the pay-off isn’t there.)
Cape Broyle: And it did get better: a giant grocery store (well, it felt giant) greeted us just a few minutes from the trail head. We stocked up on groceries, disposed of garbage, picked up drugs (at this point, I had developed a head cold) and were, in general, just grateful to buy Skittles and ice cream and Gatorade. We splurged. Then we walked further into town and came upon a restaurant, the Riverside. We had lunch there, which wasn’t all that great, but I didn’t care. We had tables, chairs and a place to charge our phones (although, I didn’t get reception at all during this trip, so charging my phone was probably a waste of time.) Refueled, we walked to the end of town (which took forever and involved a pit stop at Home Hardware so I could buy the world’s largest air mattress. This town has a hardware store! It is basically heaven) and set up camp around 4pm (Day 6 total: 18k). This was possibly our best campsite of the trip: it was sunny and calm and had a great view and I spent several hours napping and reading Night Film by Marisha Pessl and living the life I expected I’d live on the entire trip, not just for a few fleeting hours.
Brigus Head Path: This was the path where we felt things would turn around. It was a “moderate” 6.5k and we powered through in a couple hours, saw a handful of other hikers and, in general, really enjoyed the morning. It had challenging elements, but was the clearest, best maintained path we’d seen yet.
Brigus South: This was the best community link of all, mainly because it was pretty and was less than 500 metres long. We ate lunch at a picnic table by the ocean.
Flamber Head Path: And this is where Day 7 went straight to hell. Flamber Head Path is 14.5k of “difficult” trail. And it was difficult — we did quite a bit of bouldering and climbing. I fell twice, jamming my knee the first time and bruising my sacrum the second. (It’s been a week and both still hurt.) But what made the day a bad one was that rain was coming and we really didn’t want to be scrambling over wet rocks. When we reached the camp site, Roaring Cove, where we planned to stay at for the night, at 1:30 in the afternoon, we knew what we had to do. We had to keep going to try to beat the rain. It was supposed to come at 7pm. It came at 3pm. I spent the entire rainy afternoon terrified I was going to slip and fall or that the wind would blow me over. The trail was beautiful — mossy landscapes overlooking imposing cliff faces — but I couldn’t enjoy it. I wanted to be done and be safe. When the trail ended at La Manche Village (above), we were disappointed for a bunch of reasons: everything was wet, there were no interpretative signs explaining what the village was, and we still had to hike at least 2k to get anywhere. This trail ends, literally, in the middle of nowhere. Somehow, I managed to convince JK to push on, with the belief there would be space at a hotel in town that night. There was. 2k turned into 5k when where we wanted to stay, the Whale Watcher B&B, was not right by the trail head. But it was bright and cheery and warm. It had food we could eat, beds we could sleep in, and a washer and dryer we could use. (Apologies to our fellow guests for the rank smell we brought inside with us.) It was a magical, wonderful place and for $99 a night, I highly recommend it to any aspiring East Coast Trail hikers. It saved us, in more ways than one. (Day 7 total: 25k)
In sum, I’d say the second part of our trip had some of the highest highs and lowest lows we experienced. We saw some of the best trails and some of the worst, had loads of energy and felt completely depleted. These three days probably encapsulate the entire trip better than any other. And they proved that there is nothing better than emerging from the wilderness to civilization, whether it’s a roadside grocery store or teeny B&B with room for two more.
We’re raising money for the Nature Conservancy of Canada — the hike may be over, but the fundraising isn’t. There’s still time to donate! You can donate to our campaign here. And if you’ve already donated — thank you!