Banner year for East Coast Trail Tely Hike

Josh Pennell
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June 1 is a tricky time to plan a coastal hike. As an indication of just how damp and cold it can be, it’s a time of year when we start to describe our weather after caplin.

Hikers registering for the 2013 East Coast Trail Tely Hike at Bay Bulls Saturday morning were about to find out just how moody the weather can be. The forecast had been see-sawing all week, but it looked like the hikers may just luck out.

Or maybe not. In the amount of time it took participants to register inside and make their way back out to the buses, the wind had picked up a clip and the skies above had gone cauldron black. It was a short drive to Gun Ridge where the hike begins.

For photo slideshow CLICK HERE.

The trail’s beauty was menacing at the beginning of the hike, but as a few rays punched through the cast-iron sky, everything changed.

The coastline that looked so uniform in colour just minutes before became a swirl of greens, yellows, browns and greys. The sea suddenly looked calmer and the chill fell out of the wind.

The Tely Hike is an annual event that raises funds to help maintain and protect the East Coast Trail. Of the 417 people who registered to hike Saturday, 384 showed up.

As its name suggests, the paths are all coastal. That very fact makes them unique in that they are a tightrope through a collision of ecosystems. The forest falls away to mosses and grasses that fall away to the rocky edges of coast. Below, the intertidal zone gives way to the bay and open ocean.

Here you can hear that mascot of northern summer, the white-throated sparrow, burst into song with yellow rumped warblers, chickadees, fox sparrows and ruby crowned kinglets. On the ocean you can catch gulls, guillemots and gannets equally at ease in their environment. Will it be a fox you spot today or a minke whale? A moose browsing the tops of a young birch or a seal following your progress from offshore?  

On the trail to the lighthouse this weekend, there were people from ages six to 65, from the experienced backpacker to the first-time hiker.

Peeyush Vhargava, who moved to the province one month ago, said it was his first time on any part of the East Coast Trail.

“It’s one of the most beautiful trails I’ve done,” he said.

From Houston, and working in Newfoundland for oil companies, Vhargava spends time in big cities. They’re stressful, he says, but the island is calm and serene.

“This trail is an exact reflection of that tranquility.”

He was joined by his co-worker, Tosin Oladeji from Nigeria. He’s been in the province for four months. It was also his first time on the East Coast Trail.

“Beautiful. I probably have 200 pictures. Just lovely shots,” he said.

Indeed, he could hardly travel more than a few feet without marvelling at another scenic landscape and raising his camera to capture it.

Equally impressed was Greg Tricco, an avid hiker who was taking in this leg of the trail for the first time.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the hike. It’s beautiful scenery,” he said.

That’s the other thing about the East Coast Trail. It has conditions and distances for hikers of various experience and skill levels, depending on which leg of it you take on. Hikers in the Tely Hike covered about 10 km once they hit the lighthouse and make it back.


Lots of challenges

Randy Murphy is the president of the East Coast Trail Association, a registered charity that is run by volunteers. Currently, there are 265 km of developed trail between Cape

St. Francis and Cappahayden.

“It’s a large trail with lots of challenges, but we’re dealing with them,” said Murphy, adding that funding is always one of the major obstacles. The Tely Hike is meant to make that obstacle a little more navigable. Corporate sponsors are supporting the hike and individuals are fundraising.

Murphy said the trail has been noted by National Geographic in several prominent articles it has put together, including a 2012 list naming it as one of the Top 10 adventure destinations in the world.

One thing the association is keen on finding out is a more detailed description of just who is using the trail. In the past it has put hiker counters on certain paths and knows that in 2011, it got 105,000 passes and in 2012, it got 120,000 passes.

“We just know that there’s a lot of activity out there, but we just don’t know how many individual bodies are on the trail,” said Murphy.

“This year basically we’re going to work with a research company to actually do a physical survey and count just to see exactly how many hikers we have on the trail.”

 Murphy says the association wants to learn more about how many people from outside the province, and country, are coming to use the trail and how many people from other parts of the province are coming to use it. It will also be able to get an idea of the economic impact the trail is having from the survey, and its forecasted value. ‘

At the lighthouse, people dove into snack foods and bottles of water. Dogs sprawled out on the grass and investigated lunch bags.

Though the weather held up nicely, a short period without movement and the chill of the coastal air found its way to the skin. It wasn’t long before participants were trekking back. On the bus back to the gymnasium, skin tones were a little darker than they were at the start of the day, either from sun or wind or a combination of both.

When the money was tallied, more than $160,000 was raised for the trail — by far the best year yet.

“We’re really pleased,” said Murphy.

The money will be used for trail maintenance and used to leverage more money for the 2014 season, says Murphy.

Every year, trail maintenance crews, along with volunteers, maintain and restore sections of the trail. What better way to raise money for such things every year then to get out and enjoy a good hike?

Organizations: East Coast Trail Association, National Geographic

Geographic location: Bay Bulls, Houston, Newfoundland Nigeria

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Recent comments

  • Paula Flynn
    June 03, 2013 - 08:05

    What a fine piece of writing. I was barely into the article and had to go back to see who had written it: well done, Josh Pennell!

  • Mark Graesser
    June 03, 2013 - 07:36

    This is a beautiful piece of writing, worthy of the trail it describes!