Friday, June 26.
The bus ride across was uneventful but for the drops I had prearranged (caches at stops that cross the trail). The smaller the community, the easier the exchange "no problem my ducky" was what I most often heard. I did pick up a couple of topo maps in Springdale Junction. There I was met by Gilbert Penney and Harvey Rice, two avid hikers in their sixties who had, the night before I left, suggested I get something with more details than the 1:250 000 I had for the Gaff Topsails. On that same phone call they asked the weight of my pack and the distances I would be travelling. I felt a silence when I said day one was 28km. "We usually ease into it", they said. After I hung up I thought, I'm going to start walking a day early. It's wise to follow the advice of those who've done this before. I arrive in the largeness of the West Coast, pack and repack my bag, ready for the change that I knew made sense. I would set off tomorrow instead.
Saturday, June 27
Doing only 12.8 km today was a really solid idea. I still arrive at J.T. Cheeseman Provincial Park tired but not spent. The pack weight will take time to adjust to as will trusting myself. The frogs made me jump, I am nervous at every turn to begin. The unknown looms large ahead of me. The walk was phenomenal, gorgeous beaches, long stretches of heaven, birds, flowers, beauty. The first standing humans I met were people I knew! The world is small, smaller than we ever imagine. I set up my tent, lit the Dragonfly that I borrowed at the last minute and had my first meal on my own (Steve* thank you! happy and honoured to have your stove). I'm proud of myself. Baby steps.
Sunday, June 28
Oh blessed sun you shine. I am awake at 5am. Black coffee will take some getting used to and so will being excited at lighting the stove every time! I take my time packing my whole life up. I am off to St. Andrew's (18km). I made contact with Na Creige Golf Course who's owner said I could camp on his land...here I come.
I did 25 km in the end today. My feet/body are killing me. The winds are predicted at 110km tomorrow. I stumble up to the golf course (on a steep incline of course). I will be blown off the land he says. Quick change of plans. The owner's daughter and fiancé drive me to Codroy Valley Campgrounds, four km away. Safety in proximity to humans. I feel vulnerable at every turn. But my supper of beans and bread is delicious. I sleep hard.
Monday, June 29
Vicious wind and rain. In a group you debate moving. I am learning to depend on me, myself and I, my group. I am lucky to be able to consult Randy on the other side of the island. I have no choice but to stay put. I practice putting up a tarp (I suck) and I pull some facsimile together. This is how I bide the time waiting for the system to pass. I feel behind. This is the part of me I have to manage, my need to be affixed to the schedule and on time. It's hardly even dirty under my nails. The garbage buckets are rolling around like leaves.
Tuesday, June 30
I awake stiff and weary. I make eggs and coffee and pack my bag to walk the 17km to South Branch today. I have lots of energy and gusto all the same. It is drizzly and I will be walking in the rain today. The walk is lovely. I am full of adrenaline, waiting for the woods to jump out at me. I settle into a rhythm. The walk comes alive at The Overfalls, a famous salmon fishing spot near my destination but after five hours of rain I begin to grow weary knowing setting up a tent will be hell. It's pouring as I stumble into what I think is South Branch (nothing is marked on the trail - developing pet peeve). I walk up to an outfitter's lodge (Sooner Be Cottage) and there are eight men in Camp. This is the awkward period entering people's personal lives. Within minutes I am sitting inside and my clothes are hanging above the fireplace. There's a turkey dinner on and I am staying the night on the pull out couch. These strangers take me in. Their kindness and generosity overwhelms me. They take me fly fishing in an exquisite setting sun. I am humbled. I am thankful.
Wednesday, July 1
There are fireworks tonight but I will be staying in Codroy Pond 24km away. My pack is too heavy. The boys offer to drive it over and I can meet it there. It is very hard to leave the security of these men, not to mention my nap sack. It contains all of my worldly possessions and is the key to my food and shelter. They feed me again and we hug goodbyes all around. The walk takes me through the valley of the Codroy, one of the richest, most beautiful sections of the island. I am in the backcountry. I jump out of my skin at the sounds of the frogs but the beauty around me settles the nerves. I'm going along all dandy when I suddenly find myself on the highway. Somewhere I missed the tunnel. I walk backwards in the heat of the day but I cannot find the tunnel. I begin to panic. For the first time I turn on the GPS and I see a way but I am unnerved. This takes me a good half hour to manoeuver around. The last five km to Codroy Pond are heinous because the people of Codroy Pond are starving their black flies. I am chewed to death. It must be 30 degrees. Sticky and exhausted I find my bag at the place they said it would be and I collapse. Moments later I meet Theresa and Gerry the only residents of this place. They invite me in, feed me, and again I am humbled and amazed by the kindness of strangers. Tomorrow is 29km. Gulp. I nurse my feet with ointment before falling asleep. Tomorrow weighs heavy on my mind but Theresa and Gerry will bring my bag to Robinson's. The thought that I'm cheating enters my mind. Cheating who?
Thursday, July 2
The walk to Robinson's is beautiful. I feel more settled in my skin, in my capacity to be all right. No animals have eaten me, no close encounters with anything at all in fact. The birds shrill and sing. I am talking to them and singing songs as I go along. Still the whole "trust" thing is my struggle. I am afraid of what might go bump. I thank the Gods for my walking stick and my boots. Even with blisters I'm doing ok. It takes a while to get used to the vastness. The tressles open up to staggering views and before I know it I arrive at the Pirate's Haven in Robinson's. 31 km on these legs today. The bag has not yet arrived. Have faith woman, all is well.
Friday, July 3
33km ahead today. The longest day I have planned. The planning part was easy - look at distance "a" to "b" and write it down. I spent a while picking the brain of Paul and Ruth Gale last night. They travel the T'Railway all the time and much of their business comes from its users. I still ask questions that reveal my fears and inexperience. These gracious people reassure me that all is good. Paul reminds me that I may see animals but we have no predators and "you're in the back country my dear". "Nothing but alders from Flat Bay to St. George's". The first third of the hike is glorious and I reach Fischell's Brook at noon. Just two days previous I'm so skittish that I won't even take my boots off at the river. Today I amble down over a deep embankment and sit by the water's edge taking in the view of the gypsum wall and a rattling river 100 feet wide. I am finding my own. I am ever conscious of the 21 km still to go so after an egg and an apple, I skedaddle. I'm loathing to rest along the way as I have been told to do. I have this drive to keep moving despite my aching feet (this I am learning is my inexperience). "Listen to your body" but no, I trudge on. The stone on the railbed twists and buckles beneath you. One minute you are skipping along, the next you're almost ankle deep in pebble. It is grueling and demands concentration and stamina. I tell myself its close, just another half hour but maps don't lie like my mind. I literally stumble (my end of day go to) into St. George's at 6pm, nine hours after I set out. My longest day complete. Rick and Louise White greet me with food and beverage, a warm bed, a hot shower and more loving kindness. My feet are tattered but I have 138km complete. Rick, Louise and Ashley see me off but not without lightening my load. Ashley will take some things to Corner Brook. If I miss them, they'll be there in four days. If not, on to Deer lake.
Saturday July 4
I needed to listen. My tired feet spoke loudly but the mind overruled. 22km today. A leisurely walk I said to myself. 12 k to Stephenville Crossing and then on to Black Duck, 10 more. Every day up until today mounted in accomplishments and descended in fears. The numbers kept rising too. But damn I am tired. My feet screamed as I taped them and slipped them into my boots. I had clean clothes, a full belly, my stick and my sack and it should've been easy. But I had nothing or not much anyway. I played the psychological game of the flip side but the only flip side I was interested in was rest. So I detoured at the Crossing and took refuge at Aunt Terri Dunphy's (Not my aunt, Toni's!). There for tea, I still had myself convinced I'd get a ride to Black Duck and walk back but finally the inexperienced hiker listen to her body screaming enough (and the sensible people around me) and there I stayed. Actually here I am. After a bath, a meal and an afternoon off I am somewhat rejuvenated. Walking is hard. I can attest to such after 8 days and 150 km.
A word about the contents of my bag:
I carry too much food
I don't need a speaker, even if it is only 1/2 a pound
let go dear, let go of the things that weigh you down
counting on those you meet along the way will fill in the dodgy spots
I don't need a sweater but can't imagine this walk without a down coat, hat and camp shoes
the water in western Newfoundland is pristine
I want a Sherpa
Til Corner Brook my friends.