Friday 6th June was the day I officially started on the Trans-Canada Adventure Trail. Although it wasn’t an early start like I had envisaged. Thanks to a night out drinking local beers and Screech with Leni and then locking myself out of the dorm in the hostel.
Having been to Signal Hill the day before, I thought I’d start by heading to Cape Spear. After all, I couldn’t be that close and not go to the most Easterly point in Canada! The iceberg I’d seen in the fog the day before was just of the Cape and looked much bigger. However, up on the Cape itself the sea fog was rolling in and the view across the Atlantic was petty much the same as the view towards Vancouver!
Setting of from the Cape, I rejoined the official route. The first part is along paved roads to get through St Johns and the surrounding urban areas. Soon enough I was on dirt and riding the T’railway that would take me across New Foundland. Not having any idea what to expect of the trail I was a little nervous to begin with but it was actually a pretty good surface to ride on. Plus, being a disused railway, I didn’t have to worry about steep hills or sharp corners.
About 5pm I got to the town of Whitbourne and decided to find somewhere to stop for the night. I headed to nearby services to the highway and by chance meet some adventure bike ridertheGabriel, Frederick, Reno & Shawn) who were heading from St Johns to Port Aux Basques to get a ferry the next day. They’d never heard to the trail I was riding so we went back to it and rode for another couple of hours. Jumping back on the highway we made a dash for Terra Nova national park to camp for the night. The weather hadn’t been brilliant that afternoon and it was definitely raining when we set up camp.
Next morning the rain had stopped and we ride as a group up to Gander where we had breakfast(?) at Tim Hortons and parted company. Jumping back on the trail, I made my way in the direction of Deer Lake, where the TCAT left the T’railway. I had no idea how far I’d get but figured I’d find somewhere when it started getting dark or I got tired.
The trail is supped to be pretty scenic but unfortunately the weather was against me so I put my head down and just kept going. Apart from the weather, I only had four other challenges to compete with. First was a washout on the trail. A culvert under the trail had got blocked and the water has washed a trench across the tail luckily there quad bikes had made ramps on either side so I could get around it. The second was whoops on the trail, mainly around towns. These are ridges across the track that can be a couple of feet high and up to ten feet apart. On a heavily loaded adventure bike I had to take these slowly to not damage the bike. Third was sections of deep gravel up to the size of golf balls, with narrow tracks left by quad bikes. You have to ride in the quad bike tracks but if you catch the side it can cause the bike to violently weave about and through you across the track. The only option is to relax, give it more throttle and use movements of body weight to suggest a direction of travel to the bike and hope it’s listening. On those occasions I could hear Jeremy Clarckson’s voice in my head saying “POWWWAAAR!”.
Quite unexpectedly I found myself at Deer Lake and the final challenge of the day. The route was supposed to go across a dam but it was closed, with a sign giving a number to call in the event of dam failure! Instead the track went down a steep rocky hill and across a water crossing at the bottom of the dam. Not wanting to get stuck at the bottom I walked down to check the climb on the other side. Luckily it was a graded gravel road, so minutes later I was on the other side of the dam with the bike and 10 minutes later I was off the dirt and in Deer Lake. Having been rising most of the day in the rain I wasn’t in the mood for camping so I grabbed some food at Tim Hortons and headed to a hostel if heard about in Norris Point, as small town in the Gros Morne national park – I’ve been told the name means Big Ugly but it didn’t look that ugly to me.