I haven’t had any opportunities for travel lately (obviously), so I figured I would write about my trip home in late July/early August. I grew up in Newfoundland, so going home is more about visiting with my family than activities, but I’ve become a lot more enthusiastic about getting out hiking while I’m home over the past few years and ended up having a great time exploring while I was back!
I always catch the overnight flight when I fly back to St. John’s, so Seth dropped me at the airport for my 11pm flight late in the evening. It’s definitely not fun flying post pandemic (but really, was it fun flying pre-pandemic either?), but fortunately I didn’t have anyone sitting next to me on either flight and the airlines are really strict about mask usage, so it wasn’t too bad and I slept through most of the flight. I had a quick stopover in Montreal and arrived in St. John’s around noon. My parents did a quick drive by to pick me up and I was so happy to finally be home for the first time in 2 years!
Even though it would be really easy to take a nap, I always force myself to stay awake the first day to help get used to the time difference. Mom made me some homemade cod chowder and my friend Gill dropped by so that I could meet her 2 month old baby, Leo. I quickly caught up with Emily, but she was going camping with her friends for the weekend, so me and my parents decided to go for a short hike along the Signal Hill trail to close out the day. Signal Hill is a huge tourist attraction in St. John’s as the location of the first transatlantic radio signal, but really it’s just popular for the views. It makes for a great urban hike and you can often spot whales up there, so the locals love it just as much as the tourists. Unfortunately it was super foggy when we went visited, but it still made for some cool photos of the city and harbour shrouded in fog.
The rest of the weekend was all about catching up with family and friends. It was a little surreal finally being home. Newfoundland had super strict border entry regulations during COVID that required all visitors to isolate for 2 weeks upon entry. They modified the restrictions in July so that fully vaccinated travelers could visit without having to isolate. While Newfoundland has still had a few outbreaks over the past year, cases have been limited in comparison to many other places and while I was home, there was virtually no COVID there and everyone was just carrying on with their lives mostly like normal. It was so wonderful to spend time with so many different people and to be able to hug my loved ones. It didn’t take long for it to feel like normal again, but initially it was a little bit surreal.
In between catching up with friends I still managed to cram in a lot of hiking. Me and Mom went out to Cape Spear to look for whales, another popular tourist attraction because it is the most Easterly point in North America. We hiked 5km out to North Head, where we had a snack, but sadly didn’t see any whales. However, on the way back, we found two hanging out feeding along the cliffside and ended up watching one of them for the better part of a half hour! The fish must have been pretty shallow because it only dove once and was super active in one spot near the surface. We saw it breach several times and it waved at us a lot, so it ended up being a very successful trip! We think it was a humpback whale based on size. The most common whales in NL are humpback and minke, it can be hard to tell them apart, but minke are smaller.
Over the years I’ve been working on hiking the entire East Coast Trail, which is a 300km long section trail that runs the entire eastern coast of the Avalon Peninsula. I made good progress on the trail when I was home because most of my friends were working during the day, so I would just go off hiking on my own. But Mom is semi-retired and Sean was finishing up his education degree, so one week day we decided to go hiking together. We ended up doing the Sugarloaf trail, which runs from Logy Bay to Quidi Vidi. I had done this section years ago with Seth, but on a very cloudy day, so it felt like a totally new hike on this occasion. It was cloudy when we started, but it ended up clearing into a gorgeous day and we had a picnic lunch at the halfway point and saw more whales playing around in the shallows. There were several boats out fishing though and they didn’t look too pleased at the whales eating all their catch! We were thrilled to find the ice cream truck open in Quidi Vidi when we finished the hike and ended with a cold treat.
During the first week home I also did a few solo hikes, the goal with these was to do new sections of the trail. I went for a short hike from Middle Cove to Torbay along the Silver Mine Head Path, which is less than 5km round trip and actually very scenic for such a short hike. I ended with a swim at Middle Cove Beach. Growing up I would never swim in the ocean. The North Atlantic is known for being very unforgiving with big waves and riptides, as well as it’s very cold. It seemed warmer to me than I remembered growing up, so I guess all those freezing cold alpine lakes have increased my tolerance. I don’t recommend swimming in NL unless you know what you’re doing, but there are some safer places if you want to dip your toes.
I also did Stiles Cove Path, which I wanted to do as a one-way trip as it’s 15km long. Mom dropped me off in Flatrock on her lunch break and it took me about 5 hours to hike north to Pouch Cove. I loved this trail! First of all, it was a week day, so I was one of the only people on it, and it had so many gorgeous views! The weather was pretty classic Newfoundland when I was home, in that it was constantly changing from rain, to clouds, to sun. The forecast called for rain almost my entire first week home, but while it was cloudy most of the week, it didn’t end up raining very much.
Mom was convinced I was going to get rained on when I did Stiles Cove, but the weather gradually improved throughout the day until it was a beautiful blue sky, sunny day! The reason I liked Stiles Cove so much was the variation in topography. It meandered both through the trees and along the open coast. Again, I stumbled upon a bunch of whales and hung out around one viewpoint for 20 minutes watching 4 whales fishing. I saw one of them breach, which makes it seem like more of a common occurrence than it is, as well as I saw a few whale tails while they were diving. About 3km before the end, the trail goes down to a beach at Shoe Cove, which is very sheltered, so I decided to go for another swim before meeting Dad at the end of the trail for pick up. The completion of this trail meant I have now hiked the entire trail continuous from the tip of Cape St. Frances all the way to Maddox Cove, approximately 80km.
Conveniently the Olympics were on throughout the entirety of my trip, so I stayed up late watching events at night and then had some pretty lazy mornings getting caught up. I don’t have cable in BC, but Dad has some 800 channels, so my timing was great. I’ve been pretty obsessed with the women’s soccer team ever since I attended FIFA when it was held in Vancouver, so I made sure to watch all their games while I was home (which obviously had a very exciting ending!). Then towards the end of the week I prepared for a short family trip out to Twillingate to visit my Nan – to be covered in my next post!