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Thursday, May 18, 2023

Moose Tracks on the Starlight Trail

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

When we visited Newfoundland in 2018, one of the big items on our list was to hike as many parts of the International Appalachian Trail as we could reach.  The "IAP" (or, in French, the SIA) picks up where the Appalachian Trail leaves off -- near Mount Katahdin in Maine -- and follows a route north, from Maine, through New Brunswick, the Gaspe, Nova Scotia, leaps across to Newfoundland and runs up the western mountain ridge of that province, into Labrador, ending farther north than we can drive.  The first part of our trips in 2018 and this year follow the west coast of Newfoundland, and each stop is within reach of parts of the IAT.  One of the most striking and well-known portions of the IAT in Newfoundland is the Starlight Trail, which climbs from the Codroy Valley to the top of Table Mountain, which is in the Anguille Mountains (in turn part of the Long Range Mountains).

Unfortunately, our 2018 stay in the Codroy Valley was too short and too rainy to allow for the hike -- a major disappointment.  We were determined to return to the Starlight Trail on this visit.  Our campground, Grand Codroy RV Camping, on the site of an old provincial park, is only about 7 kilometers from the trailhead, so it was easy to hop over to the trail.  We started early, because we believed that the morning weather would be best:  cloudy, but not with the rain coming in the afternoon.

Here we are at the trailhead:

Not even 20 steps up the trail, we started to get an idea how picturesque and special this hike would be.  The trail is well maintained, and it delivers scenery from beginning to end.

The first half mile or so of the trail is a relatively gentle climb, mainly on boardwalks over the muskeg and wetlands:

Did we mention the lower trail was a bit soggy from the recent rains?

We finally climbed above the wettest part of the trail, but the ground was still soggy and boggy, so our boardwalk continued on for a while:

An important junction on the trail is where the Mountain Trail and the Lake Trail divide.  As the names suggest, the Mountain Trail leads to the top of Table Mountain, while the Lake Trail leads to Campbell's Pond, a beautiful little tarn tucked between Table Mountain and the yet higher -- and still snowy laced -- mountains beyond it.  At this point, two benches provide rest for weary hikers.  Sadly, due to the exigencies of winter, or whatever, the two benches had fallen backward and were splayed out on the hillside.  We righted that wrong with alacrity:

We chose the Mountain Trail because we wanted the views of Campbell's Pond and the chance to get close to the as-yet-unmelted snowfields.  We turned left.  A little way onward, we encountered a handmade sign, emblazoned with the IAT/SIA logos and handwritten notes.  The left way was "Easy" (because of switchbacks) and the right way was "Hard" ("But short"! because it cut straight up the side of the mountain).  We chose "Easy."  In less than 1/8 mile, the two legs rejoined.

Soon, the trail burst out of the krumholz and went vertical.  Kathy let the way up to the shoulder of Table Mountain:

From this point, we got a grand view of the Codroy River Valley.  This view looks north along Newfoundland Route 1, which leads eventually to Gros Morne National Park and the L'Anse aux Meadows of Viking fame in Quirpon:

In the other direction, we could look down the Grand Codroy River toward Point Anguille (to the west) and Channel-Port aux Basques (to the south):

Reaching the shoulder, we started to get a glimpse of the rewards we would received at trail's end:

Another quarter mile or so, and we were at the top.  Unexpectedly, we were rewarded with a geocache containing a cute little fuzzy teddy bear and an egg-shaped rock welcoming us to Newfoundland (in 2022):

We left it untouched and proceeded to explore the top of Table Mountain.  The advertised reward was this striking view of Campbell's Pond -- so still it reflected the snowy ravines streaking the side of the mountain on its opposite side:

While David filmed a 360-degree video from the top of Table Mountain (we can't show it to you because the Internet bandwidth here in Newfoundlad is so slim that it won't easily permit uploading of videos; but, trust us, it was breathtaking), Kathy tinkered with building an Inuksuk or Cairn to mark the top of the mountain.  When David returned from his videography expedition, he found this:

Amazingly, instead of rain coming in as noon approached, the clouds broke and we had unbroken, Robin's egg-blue sky and bright sun for our return hike down the mountain.  We were pleasantly surprised by this sunny view of the Codroy River Valley as we descended:

On our way back down, we also spotted this very unusually cracked glacial erratic perched uniquely in a grassy field on the side of the mountain:

We had seen moose track on our way up, but with the sunnier weather and the slight drying of the trail, we spotted continuous moose tracks all along the trail, especially in the lower section.  Here is a photo of one of the clearest (sorry, no photos of Mr. or Ms. Moose her/himself):

Toward the bottom, we returned to our boardwalk, which looked entirely different on a dry, sunny afternoon than it had on a cloudy, wet morning:

All in all, this was an auspicious beginning for our Newfoundland Adventure.  We're hoping to give you more beautiful scenery and unusual adventures as we continue this season.  Maybe we'll even get a photo of a moose itself.  Stay tuned!

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