From Gander to Corner Brook
By Julie Chatelain and Simon Lacroix
It has been 11 days since our last blog. Our rest in Gander gave our legs the vim to set off again. We were averaging 35 kilometers per day and had travelled almost 700 kilometers. The trail continued to be challenging. The terrain climbed a lot more than expected and there were longer sections of loose gravel. But our spirits remained high as we continued to meet terrific people. At the Jumping Bean Café (in Gander), we debated with a few ladies. One claimed that walking was NOT exercise! We set her straight, gently.
In Glenwood, we stopped at Jonny’s for a cool drink and decided to get a cabin owned by the same family. A shower had not felt so good than after a hot day like that one. The weather had been warming up significantly and our pace in the afternoons slowed a bit. We started earlier to maximise our distance in the cooler hours. Unfortunately, we were mosquito food for those hours, still we managed to walk about 20 kilometers before first lunch.
First lunch? Well yes, food had become a way to mark our breaks. We started off with coffee and a spoonful (or three for Simon) of peanut butter before leaving camp. Three hours later, we ate our granola (2nd breakfast), usually by a bridge. Off we’d go again and stopped twice more for first and second lunch. These small meals comprised of nuts, dried fruit, sausage, cheese and electrolyte drinks. We set up camp and ate our last meal of the day around 6pm/7pm. Then it was bedtime by 7:30pm or 8:00pm. It was early but walking seven to nine hours a day, we slept a lot.
In Grand Falls, we saw a man we had seen before in Gander. We talked of our travels, over a coffee at Timmy’s. He had been hitchhiking around Newfoundland. He suggested we camp out under the highways. The underpasses offered shelter and a breeze. We agreed with him that they were a wonderful spot for a rest. In our city life, we would have hesitated to converse with a vagabond, but we saw ourselves now as comrades on similar journeys. We gave him some fruit and wished him a safe return home. He invited us to drop by his apartment when we passed through his town.
Entering Badger, we felt tired and decided to stop early for the night. Dave, at Trailblazers, offered us a room. He drove us to a house in town and it appeared at first as though we would bunk in his home. He was offering us the whole house for ourselves! We were again amazed at the generosity of Newfoundlanders. Dave and his wife Deanne had a lodge, rental homes, a fishing shop, and offered fishing tours.
After a wonderful night in Badger, we set off toward Millertown Junction, the gateway to the Topsails. We met another Dave and several members of his family. They allowed us to camp behind old Jonny’s home. This grand house must have been special in its day. Dave’s brother-in-law was renovating it. We got a tour of the house. The painted floors and nine-foot ceilings were impressive. Later, we fell asleep listening to our new friends singing and laughing into the early hours. In the morning we were greeted by a fox. He seemed unfazed by our presence.
We entered the remote area of the Topsails Plateau. We seemed to be on fire; we walked two days of marathon distances. The area was named for the four buttes that resembled the topsails of a ship; Main, Mezzen, Gaff and Fore Topsails. Taken they were geologically classified as a Drumlin. On the Topsails, the landscape opened and bizarre rock formations started to jut out of the marshlands. We saw many caribous, and more ATVers. Each group stopped and asked what we were doing. One gentleman said “you have some nerve!” We would meet his group again at the end of the day at the Gaff and he would congratulate us on our pace.
A special mention needs to be given to Floyd and Betty from the Gaff. They saw us getting water at the local stream and invited us into their home for a cool drink. We talked of our passion for walking and life in general. Floyd, a retired teacher, was writing a book on creatures such as ourselves. He and his wife had assisted other walkers and had collected their stories. He offered to connect us with a CBC interviewer in Corner Brook. How cool would that be!
The landscape was changing significantly, mountains surrounded us. We strolled into Deer Lake after a long day and decided to carry on walking in order to take our rest day in Corner Brook. We walked through Pasadena and Steady Brook. These resort communities had sandy beaches and a nice-looking ski resort.
The journey became a little more exciting after Deer Lake because (to our surprise) people were stopping us on the roads and in stores and introduced themselves. They welcomed us to Newfoundland and asked how our trip was going. They had all seen our picture and story in the local newspaper (The Western Star). Floyd of Gaff had written a small article about us and sent it to the local paper. We must have been stopped 20 times… special encounters include; Mike in Pasadena who gave us homemade canned lobster and clams which provided for an amazing feast, Ovi who honked and stopped on the side of the road to shake our hands and wish us well on our journey, and several others who also stopped us to chat and wish us well.
The last few kilometers into Corner Brook were some of the most treacherous of the trip. We had to use the Trans-Canada Highway given the steep, narrow, and rocky valley. Walking on the narrow shoulder was not a pleasant experience. We felt a vulnerable and could see how accidents could happen!
We spent a ‘zero’ day in Corner Brook. The rest was well needed. From here we would rejoin the T’Railway and would not blog until Port Aux Basques (eight or nine days). The trail was expected to be remote and in questionable condition.
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