|Entrance to St. John's harbor, Newfoundland|
I’m letting Bing Crosby dream of a White Christmas, I’m dreaming of a long hike…
This past week, I received an email from Backpacking Magazine. I get at least one email from them a day, most of which ends up in my junk mail folder. But this email made it through and instead of deleting it without looking, something caught my eye and I read it. The email announced a contest to send six selected readers out on hikes that would be featured in the magazine. I certainly don’t expected to be picked out of the thousands of responses they’ll receive, but since I’ve been doing such dreaming about what a next trip might look like, I decided to write down my thoughts. Even if not chosen, this is a hike I’d enjoy and hopefully maybe before I get to old I’ll take the walk. The photo was taken by me this past September when I was on a ship that stopped for a day in St. John’s, Newfoundland. I have placed my response into their categories (although I may not have answered them in the way they'd want).
Detail the route you’d like to hike—what’s its name, where is it, and why does it deserve coverage in Backpacker?
The East Coast Trail hugs the rugged shoreline of the Atlantic from Cape St. Francis to Cappahayden, Newfoundland for160 miles. In the future, the trail will be extended to run the length of the coastline of Newfoundland and Labrador. Its location, near the confluence of the arctic Labrador Current and the tropical Gulf Stream provides contrast. From the cliffs, icebergs and whales can be observed as a variety of birds take flight. The plant life is diverse and the marine life is abundant in the tidal pools. There is even a wave driven “spout-geyser.” The trail is steeped in history. Vikings set foot here centuries before Columbus and European fishermen working the Grand Banks found safety in the harbor that’s now St. Johns. Small fishing villages dot the shoreline (some providing opportunity to stay in bed-and-breakfasts along the trail). Other fishing villages have been abandoned. Their remains stand as a testimony to the past. At the entrance of the harbor to St. Johns is Signal Hill, where the first trans-Atlantic radio signal was sent. Eight lighthouses dot the landscape as the trail passes through four provincial parks and three ecological reserves.
My plan is to travel overland to Newfoundland, taking the train to Nova Scotia where I will board a ferry to Newfoundland. I will cross the island by bus. While hiking, I will camp in approved locations along the cliffs and shoreline (with the hope of observing the Northern Lights) as well as staying in some of the bed-and-breakfasts and hostels along the way. Although I have not extensively studied the maps, my gut feeling is that two weeks would allow one to cover the 160 miles of trail at a pace that allows for some exploration. In an attempt to learn about the island’s culture and natural history, I will read some of the rich literature of Newfoundland such as Wayne Johnston’s novel, The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, and his memoirs, Biltmore’s House, Alistair MacLeod’s Island and Annie Proulx, Shipping News.
Tell us why you are the best hiker for the job
I am a seasoned wilderness traveler. I have hiked the entire length of the Appalachian and John Muir Trails, as well as numerous canyons in the Southwest, many of the trails in the Sawtooth and Boulder Mountains of Idaho and the Beartooths of Montana. I have also done a number of long distance canoe trips including one to the James Bay in Northern Ontario. I enjoy writing, especially when I can connect the history and the people I meet with the natural setting of the terrain I‘m covering. I keep a journal with me most of the time, especially when hiking. I am a decent photographer. In 2011, I was blessed with a four month Sabbatical which allowed me to travel overland from Indonesia to Europe (mostly by train). Coming back home from Europe on a ship, I spent a day at St. Johns. From the harbor, I set out on foot for Signal Hill, which is how I discovered the “eastern-most hiking trail” in North America. I am itching for an opportunity to get back and explore the Maritimes.