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  • Writer's pictureSusan Flanagan

Tales from the East Coast Trail | The Kids are Alright | June 12, 2012

Our eldest son was still seven the first time he hiked to The Spout. It was early August and the whales were thick as black flies. They were so close to the trail at Bread and Cheese in Bay Bulls, you could smell their breath. Which wasn’t too fresh, I may add. A pure caplin diet and no mouthwash does not a pleasant odour make.

Because of No. 1's tender age, the plan was to spend the night on the tent platforms near The Spout and hike out to Shoal Bay in the Goulds the next day. Around mid-way, my husband started chatting with a couple who were doing the hike in reverse and he lamented how he would have to hitch back down to Bay Bulls to get his truck. The couple bemoaned the same fact. They would have to hitch from Bay Bulls to Shoal Bay to get their car. That’s when my husband, ingenious as he is, tossed his truck keys to these trail happy strangers, described the truck and where it was parked and asked them to kindly leave the keys under the mat when they left it in Shoal Bay.

I know what you’re thinking. This story is going to end in disaster. But brace yourself… not only did the couple deliver the truck to Shoal Bay for easy retrieval, but when they came out of the woods, they worried that some kids playing street hockey nearby would notice they were leaving keys in an unlocked vehicle and go for a joyride. Not that teenagers in The Goulds would take a truck for a joyride, but you don’t want to tempt a person. So they took my husband’s truck home, parked it in their driveway overnight where it was safe and brought it back to Shoal Bay the next morning. We only know this because they left a note explaining what they had done. How’s that for service from strangers?

The East Coast Trail is like that. You never know what kind of adventure you may have. I’m talking beyond the whales, moose, sea otters and wave-driven geysers. One day I was driving to a meeting at a downtown hotel when I spotted two young guys with heavily-laden packs trudging west along Water Street. I sensed right away that they were headed to Fort Amherst and probably had no idea how long it was to get all the way down Southside Road. And I somehow doubted they’d find the footbridge that would save them several kilometres. So I picked them up and drove them around the harbour. They were thrilled with the ride and I fared them well as they set off up the foot Southside Hills.

Low and behold once I finished my meeting and got in the van to drive home, I noticed a large expensive super zoom Nikon camera on the back seat of the van. Oh dear, I guess the Germans who had flown across the Atlantic just so they could hike the East Coast Trail for three weeks aren’t going to have many photos of the first stretch south of St. John’s.

So that evening after supper we loaded up the kids and Grand-dad and headed out in search of the hikers. We saw no sign of the Deutchmen, but we did see three moose. I knew by the size of their packs they they wouldn’t get beyond Petty Harbour in one day so we called in to see Teresa at Petty harbour Convenience and left the camera with her.

Three days later, she told me months after, two haggard-looking Germans called in to the shop. When she saw them, she said: “Did you guys lose a camera?”

They were gobsmacked.

The children have hiked hundreds of kilometres on the Trail over the years. Even when we lived in BC and only got home for visits, one of the fist things we did was go for a hike. Now we still try to do chunks of the trail every weekend.

What`s really fun for the children is buying a topo map at the Howley Building on Higgins Line (next to the City of St. John`s Animal Care and Adoption Centre). We highlight sections of trail we`ve hiked together. This brings it all together for the children, who often don`t have a sense geographically of where they`re being toted off to. All they know is they`re going to have fun in the woods.

Susan Flanagan has been a Lifetime Member of East Coast Trail Association since its inauguration in 1994. She can be reached at

Grebe’s Nest feedback

Heber Chipman writes: “I am the grandson of Bill Reid, who was the lead hand on that endeavour. I was amazed to read the clipping in the telegram, as that was an "in house" story, which only was told by family at get-togethers. I have shared this with my mom, who is Bill's daughter, and she was so proud, to hear of "pop" being saluted, for the work he did. It truly was an endeavour, that no one thought possible. I am very proud of grand-dad, and all he done on Bell Island, I even have a video of an interview, done by land and sea, on his conquest. My pop passed away 20 odd years ago of cancer, by he still lies in our hearts and our souls for the things he done. He did save many lives with his tunnel, and I would be more than willing to share the stories I have been told. For example: how would assume full responsibility for men, doing their time to society, for, at the time, petty things, under supervision, as they worked to enhance to structure, how once my mom, and her then boyfriend, who is now my dad, almost lost their lives, of not being able to row to shore, as winds picked up. There is so history, that really only can be told, by those who have a first hand count of what was, as it relates to the "Grede"s Nest." I would like to share to stories, I have heard. In the meantime, to hear and see the story told, in the form of print....really tickled my heart.

On behalf of myself and all my family, may I say thank you for your written word.”

Joan writes: “Just wanted to tell you how much I love your column in The Telegram. It doesn't matter what the topic is, I enjoy them all.

I remember reading an article you wrote for The Telegram a few years ago about the challenges of having a fifth, "mid-life' baby - you may even have been pregnant at the time with Surprise Baby. For some reason your name and writing style stayed with me so I took note (and read with interest) your first column with The Telegram. I've been reading them ever since.

Every time your column appears, I plan to send you a message telling you how much I enjoy it but I always forget. Today I decided to do it before I had a chance to forget.”

Greg writes: “I’m Greg Reid the son of Brian Reid and dad is the son of Bill Reid.

Just wondering where you found the information on the Grebes Nest. It’s very nice to see writing about this part of the past. But there has been a lot of information missed here and a few false added as well. Art Reid never had much to do with the Grebes Nest and my grandfather Bill Reid did most of the work himself with the help from my father Brian Reid, and Barry Reid, Jim Reid, Sydney Reid. The four sons of Bill Reid, my grandfather slaved over the Grebes Nest and there was even a documentary done on him on CBC over 20 years ago. If you like to know more about the grebes nest feel free to ask any question as for my father is one of the men that built it.”

Judy Galway Piercey writes: “I am the daughter of Tom Galway who fished out of the Grebes Nest. I remember clinging to the side of the cliff before the tunnel was there just going over to the other side. We'd go over to watch dad and Arthur Clarke pull up the boats.”

Robert in St. Philips writes: “Reading your article on the Grebe's Nest brought back memories. As a boy, I spent many a day in that area. For as long as I can remember we went there to catch caplin - this was long before the tunnel was constructed. There was another way down to the beach and that was via the droke. This was almost a vertical climb and very difficult to navigate with two strings of caplin. (The droke is located to the south of the nest and directly opposite the beach.)

I have taken classes of students to visit the beach and they were fascinated by the fossils lying about and particularly the ones seen in the ceiling of the cave. Walking through there gives a sense of being surrounded by Geology.

Thanks again for the article. Looking forward to the next one.”

Gillian writes: “Loved the article in the Telegram. Feel very swish living in the Hamptons of Trinity Bay.”

Well I say it`s a good thing the East Coast Trail is so beautiful because otherwise there would have been mutiny among my fellow team members for the 2012 East Coast Trail Tely Hike. The hike is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the East Coast Trail. This year’s fundraiser offered a choice of five hikes all around Pouch Cove. People registered and $165,000 was raised for the trail. It was nice to see so many people out especially when the weather was less than ideal.

It is a privilege to have this hiking trail only minutes from our homes, and for those of us healthy enough to get outdoors and walk, it is a privilege to be able to hike. This year National Geographic listed the ECT as one of the world`s ten best adventure destinations. If you don’t really know where to go, the first thing you’ll want to do is buy yourself a set of maps. Then you’ll know the average time it takes to hike each section as well as the difficulty rating (Easy, Moderate, Difficult, or Strenuous). You can buy map sets at the East Coast Trail Association office at 50 Pippy Place on the 2nd floor, but you’d best call ahead (738-HIKE or 4453) because the office is not staffed every minute. You can also email

Otherwise you can buy a set of maps at the Outfitters on Water St., the Heritage Shops on Duckworth and Water, as well as at Travel Bug, and the Irish Loop Tourism Association Information Centre. The full set costs $45.60. That may sound steep, but it works out to only a toonie per map. And remember they’re waterproof and by purchasing a set, you’re supporting the Association.

Once you get the map set, you’ll see you can hike the 45 km from Cape St. Francis to St. John’s along paths developed to a world-class standard meaning there is signage on either end of each section of trail and along the way, bridges to cross rivers and even boardwalks covered with chicken wire over swampy bits. It’s smooth sailing from Pouch Cove through Flat Rock, Torbay, Middle Cove, Outer Cove and Red Cliff. You’ll hit a small snag between Red Cliff and Logy Bay where you have to come out on Marine Drive and walk the road for a little bit, but then you`re back in the woods from the Marine Lab, past the dump and on to Quidi Vidi.

Then of course there’s another 220 km of fully-developed trail from Fort Amherst down to Cappahayden on the Southern Shore. Children just love La Manche with its 50 m suspension bridge.

By 2016 the Association hopes to complete the section which starts at Topsail Beach and goes through Portugal Cove down to Cape St. Francis. In the years to come work will continue on the trail south of Cappahayden as far as Trepassey.

There is no fee to use the Trail and non-members are welcome on Association hikes. But remember that most of the development and maintenance work is volunteer so why not become a member to support the trail? A one-year membership costs $25 (individual or family) whereas a lifetime membership is $500. You can also help by donating your recycling to the East Coast Trail Association. They can provide you with a swipe card that will automatically place your contribution on their account. Every bit helps.

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