26 July, 2019

From Arnold’s Cove to Gander

By Julie Chatelain and Simon Lacroix

We have now walked over 350 kilometres from St. John’s. For the most part, the quality of this Trail section has been reasonable. But in the last few days it has deteriorated. We are finding sections of very rough road, loose rocks, and large flooded sections with ruts. Entering Gambo two days ago, we had to remove our shoes and socks to wade through a flooded section. There is no shortage of water. Lakes, ponds, streams and bog abound. Our data for the upcoming sections show rougher road sections. This will no doubt slow us down somewhat. No worries, one step at a time.

Our stop in Arnold’s Cove helped get us well rested and we headed off toward Clarenville, our next supply stop. We’ve managed to walk an average of 30 kilometres per day. Our legs and feet feel sore by the end of the day but each afternoon we set up camp, prep our evening meal and rest until the next morning. We strongly believe that those 10-12 hours of resting allows our bodies to recuperate. Every morning, we are refreshed and ready to go again.

Unexpectedly, even on remote sections on the Trail, we are not alone. Since leaving Conception Bay (the day after leaving St John‘s), the Trail has been open to ATVs. In some sections between smaller communities, the Trail is on roadway. This allows us to meet many locals. Some just slow down and wave, while many others stop for a conversation. The two brothers we met before entering Clarenville were funny. Mark and Daryl (we asked where the other brother Daryl was, but the Bob Newhart humour did not translate) were going fishing, they offered us some water (not their beer) and safety tips for the Trail ahead.

In Port Blanford, a storm was brewing and Simon booked us a cabin at By D’ Bay Cabins. The ladies there fussed over us to no end and gave us the best cabin for the smallest price. We were called ‘love, darling, and honey’ a lot.

Arriving in Terra Nova, we stopped at the small market to resupply. The lady there informed us about the snowstorm brewing for the next two days. She asked a few local hunters about the distance to a possible warming cabin along the Trail. “You should stop there for the night,” she suggested. It was going to be a marathon day (42 kilometres) but we did manage to get there before the storm hit. Along the way, an older fellow with an oxygen tank stopped his ATV and warned us about the mother bear and cubs in the area. We never saw the mother and cubs but did run in to three other bears. We would meet the older man again just upon arriving in Gander. He stopped again to ask how we were doing and was very sweet. That night, there was a full-on snowstorm with nasty gusts shaking the cabin.

Our stay in the warming cabin was heavenly. It was just a shack, with an old rusty wood stove but to us it was a castle. Simon got the fire started; we dried our gear and heated our meal on the stove and we were warm and toasty for the night and the next day. The only full-time resident of the Maccles Lake area, Jason, came by to check on us. He had seen the smoke from the chimney and was curious. Jason was originally from Alberta but had come here to live with his son. He built furniture and hunted for his living. He offered to drive us into Terra Nova if we needed some supplies. While we waited out the storm, we got to meet 17 more ATVers! The first group were younger men on a week long trek from St. John’s to Channel-Port aux Basques. They were having a grand time and spent an hour with us warming up and eating moose jerky (which was really good). Next came Murdoch from the town of Fortune. This 76-year-young-man was ahead of his group and warmed himself while waiting for his team to catch up. He spoke of his life, his love of running, nature, and clean living. He was an example we should all follow. His team arrived and we shared another hour with them. The weather didn’t dampen any of their spirits.

On June 27, the morning was crisp and the sky blue. We were off again. The Trail in this section was amazing. A local took it upon himself to clear the road of debris. Walking was easy and we could look up and enjoy our surroundings.

As we neared Gambo, we started thinking about brunch. We stopped in at Cashin’s Chestnut Tree Café where the owner, Billy, served a mean breakfast tray: eggs, ham, bologna, potatoes, homemade raisin bread, fruit, yogurt and Figgy Duff (amazing spicy bread with syrup). Wow, it was so good! It fuelled our afternoon walk. Billy had moved back to his hometown to take care of his mom and open this delightful restaurant.

After camping in the middle of bog we woke to clouds of mosquitoes. So, without wasting time we headed off for one more long day into Gander. We are staying here for two days to rest as Simon got the cold I (Julie) had earlier this trip. Gander has a rich aviation history. One of the most notable and poignant moments was on 9/11, when the town welcomed 6,700 strangers from 80 or so countries into their homes as their planes were diverted from the US. Businesses and residents hosted people from all over in there small community, doubling their population overnight. Tomorrow we’ll check out the aviation museum and think of our friend Shirley.

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