An aspect of the East Coast Trail that makes it particularly suited to a first time thru hike is the amount of development that can be drawn upon. There is no other trail of it’s length in the region that can boast it’s level of infrastructure, ease of route finding and availability of raw data.
When combined with some of the more unique characteristics of the ECT – specifically the frequency with which the hiker passes through small towns while en route – it’s pretty much unmatched in terms of suitability for a first-time distance hiker. Add equal parts of fitness + lightweight kit (with knowledge and experience for proper use) + a good attitude … and you’ve got an adventure perfectly suited to a distance-hiking novice.
One of the more useful types of data to have on a trip such as this is water source availability. If you’re the type of hiker that wants to minimize pack weight, the Water Report tab in the ECT Thru Hike Spreadsheet will be perhaps the most weight-friendly item you’ll carry. Those equipped with a good method of water treatment can conceivably carry as little as 1 litre (or 1 kg / 2lbs 3oz) of water at any given time. Those hydrating at water sources and sleeping near a stream can carry even less if they so choose.
You could of course access this data on your smartphone, if so equipped. While I’m all for using technology to it’s fullest potential, I’ll also readily acknowledge when “going old-school” is better. Having the Water Report at your disposal in printed form can really save screen-on time (and therefore battery) on your phone.
A ready-to-print PDF copy of the Water Report has been linked from the top of the tab. This copy will fit on one double sided page, but for those who’d like to do their own print formatting, the suggested settings are below. Note that you need to print using the Menu from within Google Sheets, not the one for your browser (view image).
Print: Current sheet (with the Water Report tab selected) Paper Size:Letter (8.5 x 11) Page Orientation:Landscape Scale:Fit to Width Margins:Narrow
Formatting: (select only the following, all optional) * Document title * Sheet name * Current date * Current time
Row & column headers: (select only the following, optional) * Repeat frozen rows
Those settings, when combined with the Print:Selected Cells (Column A-Q) & Scale:~48% can also be used to print the Camping tab on one double sided page. That’s a tonne of data on two pieces of paper.
While driving last weekend to hike my final mysterious non-official southern ECT sections along the coast toward Cape Race, I seized the opportunity to do some research. While a hiking buddy made pit stops for ice cream, I checked out hardware stores and post office locations.
The final post office before Cappahayden is at Fermeuse. It’s tucked away in the most unexpected of spots… on a quiet subdivision side street at the top of a steep hill. At 350 meters off the road route and 28 km from the southern terminus, it’ll probably be of more use to northbounders than southbounders.
During this drive I also passed Dalton’s Home Hardware in Cape Broyle (@ km # 218)… for once while it was actually open. As I expected, Methyl Hydrate is available in the paint department. The real surprise however came at Witless Bay Home Hardware (km # 173). Not only do they have Methyl Hydrate, but also Isobutane Canisters… in a dedicated camping section! It’s expensive @ $12 for a 220g, but it’s a second re-supply option for those using gas (the first being The Outfitters @ km # 96).
The #ectthruhike tag has also been suggested by thru hiker Marc Gärtner. We’d better grab it for this real trail before it’s claimed by a theoretical one. This will allow thru hikers to share info online while en-route for a variety of advantages: it will not only allow hikers to publicize themselves and their effort, but also help them identify fellow thru hikers. Sharing in this way also provides great exposure for the trail and serves to inspire next year’s group of thru hikers
For quite some time, it’s been widely known the ECTA has been working on a project to redesign their web site. I’ve heard it said more than once that many usability and structural issues arising from the way the old site evolved – with sections and info added and grafted on to an existing design – would be addressed when this pending updated design went live.
Personally, I’d been holding out hope that much of the functionality contained within ECTThruHike.com would be eclipsed with data provided by the association when this project was complete. As ECTThruHike.com itself has evolved since it went online just over a year ago, an increasing amount of data has been added, often following an inquiry or request from a user. As a result of this expansion, the site has not only taken more time to maintain, but in fact has been used by a wider range of hikers than originally intended – a testament to the utility of the data. Whether these users be Section Hikers, Slackpackers or Local Recreational & Weekend Backpackers, the focus here remains squarely on Thru Hikers.
As it turns out, the recently unveiled East Coast Trail.com seems to be largely a cosmetic change. While the design is no doubt visually appealing and cohesive, there seems to be little new information added. In particular, the idea of promoting the trail to the thru hiker is noticeably absent, and in fact indirectly discouraged through certain policies.
Of course this is not likely an oversight… but thru hikers should not be deterred or put-off in any way. The omission would most likely be born from a misunderstanding regarding overuse. I would confidently suggest that, amongst all users, the light footed, nature loving and respectful thru hiker is going to be the least likely to have an impact. In reality, there is of course no organization or no individual who has the authority or ability to discourage this particular use. Rest assured that, as a thru hiker, you will be very welcomed by people you meet along the trail.
The idea then that ECTThruHike.com could slowly slide into obsolescence seems to be somewhat flawed.
As a result, I’ve recently done some additions and tweaks… a few things that have been in the pipe for some time.
Canada Post Resupply Info. Since the concentration on the ECT seems to continue to be first-time thru hikers, info on Canada Post locations and their proximity to the route has been added to the Spreadsheet.
Resupply Strategy. Contains a simple how-to for grocery store / post office food resupply strategy aimed at novice backpackers doing a self-supported hike.
Direction of Travel. Info that’s been collected regarding why certain hikers have chosen a specific direction has been added.
Transportation. This section has been cleaned up and simplified… now categorized by direction of travel. Detail on flat rates offered by Portugal Cove Taxi to the Bell Island Ferry Terminal (Picco’s Ridge South) have also been included.
Connectivity. I’ve been told the section was unnecessarily technical. I don’t really know what that means, so I just deleted some stuff. 🙂
New Server. More processing power, faster page load.
It’s time for the pre-season review for thru hikers – our list of things-to-be-aware-of for those getting ready for an end-to-end hike of the East Coast Trail. Only one new problematic addition for 2017… Blowdowns! On the plus side, it looks like it’ll be a banner year for Icebergs. The remainder of tips are from last year and are unchanged… copied verbatim below.
In terms of direction of travel, these tips generally assume southbound.
Green line = Trail.
Red line = Redirects and Trouble Spots.
Black line = Road Walks.
(click on a map to enlarge)
1. Blowdowns from recent wind storm.
On March 11, winds equivalent to those in a Category 2 Hurricane swept through Newfoundland. Gusts were widely recorded to 160 km/hr and beyond. Vehicles were overturned, houses ripped apart and trees uprooted. The forest took a beating, and as a result the trail is littered with obstacles. It’s unclear at this time exactly how bad the situation is – not until spring will the ECTA compile this data from the semi-annual custodian reports. It’s safe to say however that it’ll likely be slow going for any early season hikers. In addition to giving yourself a little more time, if you get gear in external pockets strapped in tight and watch out for thieving tree branches, you’ll be fine.
2. Cobbler South.
Due to local residential development, there really is no Southern Trailhead for Cobbler Path. Take the route shown on the image. It’s marked on the ECTA Map as Old Signal Hill Path, and traveling south, this is easy to find; Go past the communication tower and follow the path down the hill – you’ll hit the road in a few dozen metres. If you’re a bit of a purist, you can follow Cobbler Path to the Southern end (green line), at which point you’ll have to turn around and walk back to the access trail (red) that will bring you to the road (black) and on to the next section, Sugarloaf Path.
For Northbounders, it’s considerably more difficult. You’ll want to stick to Red Cliff Road (important!) until you see the turn-around area / end of the road off in the distance – you’ll round a turn in the road and see a metal gate. This is the really important part… Half way between that turn and the gate, just a few metres before the last house on the right, you’ll notice a tiny, steep path heading into the woods – also on the right – take that as it veers left up the hill through the forest. From this direction, you’ll notice that it’s somewhat overgrown and may doubt the route… Just stick to the path as it veers left. At the top of the hill, head straight past the communication tower and you’ll see an ECTA sign near the cliff – and you’re back on track.
In the past, this path had about 3km of asphalt road walk that was considered part of the trail – which always puzzled me. Luckily, it apparently puzzled someone at the ECTA too, because the trailhead has now been moved (from 1, as indicated on the image) to where the asphalt and double track stops (to 2). This is a welcome change – and it’s the same route as always for the hiker. Not so much confusing as it is something of which you want to be aware – if you’re following the current map, the trailhead is not where you’d expect it – it’s actually just over 4km on.
4. Cape Broyle Head North.
Simple change for Cape Broyle Head… Likely a dispute with a landowner. The trailhead has moved down the rocky beach a few dozen metres. As the paved road that you’ve followed off the highway passes a turn-around and reduces to double track, follow it to the coast and rock hop a bit until you see a colourful rope hanging along with some flagging tape. This is easy to find, as long as you’re aware of it.
Surely you’re not going to skip White Horse and Picco’s Ridge? You’d be missing so much! The official maps are not yet published for these two new paths, so just FYI, here’s the linking route between the new trailhead and the old trailhead (what was the old Northern Terminus of the ECT). Note that draft maps are available online and from the ECTA office – the paths are signed, but unhardened. I’ve hiked these trails several times and personally, I think they’re extremely beautiful, unique along the ECT, and a blast to hike “as is”.
6. Sugarloaf South to Deadman’s Bay North.
This is basically just an explanation of the route through St. John’s – mainly where to find a footbridge that’ll save you nearly 2km of road walking. For a deeper explanation and visual on the bridge, check out the Deadman’s Bay video (starts at 2m 40s).
The image for this one is pretty self explanatory. Points of interest are (1) Sugarloaf South Trailhead, (2) Dominion Memorial Market (a large modern grocery store… with a kitchen and pre-cooked food!), (3) the Outfitters (equipment… for resupply), (4) the all important Footbridge that cuts off about 1.5km of road walking and (5) Deadman’s Bay North Trailhead. There are many places to load up on calories between 2 and 4, but not much after that… Not until you get to the next (relatively smaller) supermarket @ Bay Bulls.
When managing a project, there are always a number of ideas floating around that can improve the final product. With this site, one such idea was to Identify and Map the Road Walk Routes through communities.
Some of the ECTA Maps already have these Road Walks defined. In real world use though, the problems with the printed format are numerous – the street names are not consistently discernible, the identified routes are out-of-date, and on some maps, the communities don’t appear at all. As such, mapping the road walks is something that I thought may be useful, and would take relatively little time to do – but I never really stopped to consider how useful it would be. So I simply never got around to doing it.
Having just completed a thru hike however, I’ve come to realize the utility of the data. To illustrate, below are two screen captures from GPS routes for the road walk portion of two thru hikes that took place in the last few weeks.
For anyone familiar with this section (Silver Mine Head to Father Troy’s), they’ll quickly see where the hikers went wrong. I always thought this data would be useful just to CFA Thru Hikers…. but I was one of those hikers that got off route!
“But Randy,” I hear you saying “You’re familiar with those community links – how did you manage to go wrong?”
Well, it has to do with your mindset while hiking. When you’re doing a thru hike, the community road walks are often not a highlight. When you come to the end of a trail, you are jolted out of your zen-like hiking state. All of a sudden, you have to start thinking – about the route, about re-supply, about the next trailhead, etc.. Your hike is no longer a beautiful relaxing walk through the woods – there are streets going in every direction, people, cars, noise, smells…. For someone who’s been spending all their time in the forest, it can be a little off putting. Paying attention to your route through the community is one of many things you have to do when you reach a town, and it’s something that can easily fall by the wayside.
So, long story short… (if that’s possible at this point), the Road Walk Routes have been added to the Spreadsheet. You’ll find them in the first tab, Trail Data, linked from each alternating line. While hiking and when viewing the Spreadsheet with Google Sheets, it can be accessed very easily in Google Maps – as can been seen in the accompanying video. The route text can also be printed (with or without the map) for those hiking without a mobile device (Menu > Print).
Location: ECT Pouch Cove (Stiles Cove North) to St. John’s (Sugarloaf South). Direction: North to South. Date: Sunday June 19, 2016. Distance: 51.23 km. Gain: 1721 meters. Duration: 16 hours 2 minutes. Avg Speed: 3.2 kph. Weight Carried: 16.5 lbs. Calories Burned: 10,049. Max HR: 229.
Check out some photos from this hike.