Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Final Leg: Park Avenue to Water Street

December 8, 2013

On the last day of our 50+ km hike from Holyrood to St. John's, our niece Bailey Scaplen walked with us. We maintained a respectable pace, spurred on by a cold day that discouraged dallying.

Trails in the St. John's metro area are part of the Grand Concourse urban walking network and they have names. We began on the Arboretum Walk in Mount Pearl, with trees on both sides, but soon found open fields to the south, part of the small area of agricultural land remaining within the boundaries of Mt. Pearl and St. John's.

The blue sky was a brilliant backdrop for the pale branches of winter-bare birch trees. This walk included plenty of deciduous trees, some undoubtedly planted in parkland and on private property, but others, like the birch, native species.  Note the heads of my companions at the bottom of the picture, both sporting warm hats.

Right around the boundary between the two cities we walked across an incomplete section of Team Gushue Highway.  Probably next time I see this will be driving along in four lanes of traffic.

A line of pine trees, something of a rarity and definitely not naturally occurring, separated us from the back yards of Edison Place, a street I'd never seen or heard of before today. On the other side of the track there was a college, another unknown entity.  Who can tell what you'll find when you get off the main drags?

The trail morphed into the Waterford River Walk as we entered Bowring Park, and moved closer to its namesake.  

In the park we saw quite a few walkers, many being exercised by their canines.  Bailey and her partner are about to welcome a greyhound into their household so we took particular note of dog-people interactions. 

Bowring Park is an absolute delight. You can chose to stroll the groomed areas or take to the trails that lead to many acres left in a more natural state.  As we leave the park we continue along the south side of the river. 

Two streets follow the river valley and the backyards of the houses run down close to the river. On the north side, Waterford Bridge Road has some fine old (and new) properties, mansions really. The architecture of Southside Road is more run of the mill, but some new infill houses are taking creative advantage of the sharp drop from street to riverbed. I've always thought I'd prefer the Southside as the sunsets over the river must be gorgeous.

The gap between the river and Waterford Bridge Road narrows as we reach the west end of Water Street.  A few houses sit low on the river's banks.

There's a small parking area just beyond this spot and a sign welcoming walkers joining the trail here to proceed in a westerly direction. We are heading east toward the trail's official start/end point at the Railway Coastal Museum, about half a kilometre away. But there is no trail going our way. We split up and search in several directions, checking around the corners of warehouses and looking doubtfully over chain link fences. We eventually discover that the trail resumes down past the intersection of Southside Road and Blackhead Road.  It's nice enough when we find it but signage would really help here. What a shame to lose a piece of the Trans Canada Trail to a city street so close to its eastern terminus.

At the end we cross the bridge alongside what I think of as the big blue recycle bin.  The city waits ahead.

Thanks to Bailey for the company and the conversation. And thanks to Jim for signing on for the duration.


Distance:  7.1 km 

Time:  1 hour 35 minutes

Litter:  Not a problem.

Trail condition:  Good. 

Scenic Rating:  ***1/2

Fellow users:  Quite a few walkers and dog people.  20+  

Friday, December 6, 2013

Leg 8: Neil's Pond to Park Avenue

December 1, 2013

We had a brisk but sunny Sunday morning to finish off Paradise and walk through Mount Pearl. The trail runs parallel to Topsail Road the entire way. The Paradise trails around Octagon and Neil's Ponds were being put to good use by dog walkers, joggers, cyclists . . . and ducks looking for a handout.

The honeymoon with Paradise ended abruptly with a sign and tape blocking the way between a strip mall facing Topsail Road and a large building, to the right of the picture, under construction on Karwood Drive. The trail was squeezed into a narrow, irregular cowpath (small cattle only), a real mess.

Compare the condition of the trail today (above) with what it looked like in August 2009 when Google maps recorded this street view.

The trail soon returned to its usual form, finding a way between the busy four-lane highway that Topsail Road has become and some quiet residential streets. Alongside Selby Street the trail widens and, wouldn't you know it, someone chose the trail rather than the street as their truck route.

Neville's Pond was new to us -- nice relief in the middle of galloping subdivisions.

What happens next is gruesome.  Here's the trail, all bleak and forlorn, right at the highway's edge. We continued along past St. Anne's Industrial Path and under the Outer Ring Road to the end of Paradise.  On a patch with lumber yards both left and right, a tarp that once wrapped wood now straddles the trail. 

Near the Kenmount - Topsail overpass the trail diverged from the highway and there was a small wetland, possible the beginning of Waterford River.

There are additional industrial establishments just at the start of Mount Pearl before the trail gets back onto what was clearly the railbed. The trail becomes straight and wide, with a few diversions such as an abandoned bridge and rest areas where you can sit and admire the Waterford River. The marshes displayed fall shades of amber and dull gold.The T'Railway is connected to an extensive network of developed paths that weave through Mount Pearl.

The trail is so well shielded that Commonwealth Avenue took us by surprise. There is no crosswalk to get across the four lanes. We were lured onto the street by an accommodating driver but the next vehicle took us to be fair game.  Trail rules are posted here and a sign from Environment Canada.

The remainder of the Mt. Pearl section, from Commonwealth to Park Avenue, was in great shape. We met several walkers, found a few amenities such as benches and trash cans, and noticed the trail was essentially litter-free.  One remnant of the railway was a warehouse with loading doors accessible only from the trail side.

The trail here is in a more open setting, with Topsail Road visible on the north side.  

Today we enjoyed the luxury of valet service, with my sister Barb fetching us and returning us to our car back in Paradise.


Distance:  7.4 km 

Time:  1 hour 40 minutes

Litter:  Remarkably clean most of the way.  Just a few coffee cups, a problem near the lumber yards.

Trail condition:  Surface conditions generally excellent BUT trail is obliterated as it passes the industrial park in Paradise.  

Scenic Rating:  **  due to ~2 km of lost trail.

Fellow users:  At least 25 walkers, runners and cyclists.  More that all previous days combined. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Leg 7: Spruce Hill Road to Neil's Pond

November 24, 2013  Sunday  See map at the end.

Today we left Conception Bay South and strolled into Paradise. We began on a section where the woods have grown in over the trail, making it relatively narrow and giving us shelter from the wind on this cool day. The trail here runs between the inland terminus of some old roads in Topsail and much new construction straddling Buckingham Drive in the southern part of Paradise.

Early on, this sign posted on private property at the end of Monument Road reminded us of the trail's origin as the cross-island railroad. 

The walking became a real chore due to the ruts, gouges and small ponds we had to circumvent.  Jim used his walking stick to squeeze between the puddles and the trees.

The trail took a wide turn, approaching the Conception Bay Highway and then sweeping back inland. The steep terrain gave us an ocean view.

Here was evidence of a coal spill, presumably from a train taking the turn many years back.

Behind the Woodstock Colonial Inn, one of the oldest restaurants in the St. John's area, we came across the flume that carries water from Topsail Pond to a small hydro plant downhill.  An online search revealed that the Topsail plant generates 2.6 MW of electricity. Not quite Muskrat Falls; perhaps the tiny waterfall on the adjacent stream puts things into perspective.

We met a man who is the lucky owner of a house that backs onto the trail and the brook. He talked about the enormous changes to the area in recent years and the number of times he's been approached to sell his property. He's happy to still have access to open country for fishing, snaring rabbits and cutting firewood. This was the first conversation of any duration that we've had in35 km of trail. We told our new acquaintance that we were walking from Holyrood to St. John's and he became convinced we were doing it in a single day.  We tried to correct this mistaken idea  . . . but didn't really push the point. 

At Topsail Pond we stopped for a look at the dam where water feeds into the flume for the hydro station.

Topsail Pond, Three Island Pond and related waterways are surrounded by large homes side-by-side with smaller residences that date back to when this was cottage country and nobody would dream of taking on a commute of 10-15 miles to work in St. John's.

There was a noticeable change as we entered the next trail section.  It took a long, straight uphill route and it was in excellent condition.  The track followed behind the houses on the north side of the pond.  Many houses had paths giving them access to the trail, but some had erected barriers to prevent motorized vehicles from driving through.  

We hiked behind Rocky Pond and then caught a glimpse of Octagon Pond. Then the T'Railway shared space with the Paradise Walk, part of the Grand Concourse network of urban walking trails through the greater St. John's region.  

There was pleasant surprise as the trail intersected McNamara Road. On both sides of the road there was a landscaped entrance and signage marking the trail.  I believe this was the first instance we have encountered of a municipality acknowledging the T'Railway.  We called it a day just short of Neil's Pond.

Map prepared using the Trans Canada Trail website.


Distance:  6.5 km 

Time:  2 hours

Litter:  A clean trail except for the intersection with Three Island Pond Road, where commuters park their cars and discard their drink containers.

Trail condition: Awful from the start of Paradise to Topsail Pond.  Very good from Topsail Pond to McNamara Road.

Scenic Rating:  ***+  This trail section was devoid of industrial sites until McNamara Rd.

Fellow users:  One walker, one ATV operated by a man with a babe in arms. (Man and child both had helmets.)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Leg 6: Mineral's Road to Spruce Hill Road

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

This was a perfect fall walking day. I was armed with a fine set of maps obtained from .  The site has maps of Conception Bay South showing every house and commercial building.  Rivers, streams, parks and - most important of all - the T'Railway are all shown.  The maps permit you to measure your route and let you print maps of selected areas to the scale of your choosing.  Here is a small sample.

We left off last time at the mid-point of our 50 km trek from Holyrood to St. John's.  Today we parked at the CBS Recreational Centre and joined the trail by crossing the intersection of the Conception Bay Highway and Mineral's Road.  A few steps away from highway traffic we found a small farm on our right with a lone cow holding the fort.  Then came a bridge spanning a river crowded with ducks.

Over the next few kilometers the trail crosses over several town streets.  At the start of each new segment there is a sign indicating that the trail is closed and a barricade of boulders to enforce the closure. We climbed over the armour stones each time and found that the trail was in great shape. Well, it would be, since it is completely unmolested. There have been many media reports in recent years about problems with ATVs taking over the T'Railway, which is meant for non-motorized traffic. The quads make it unsafe to walk or cycle, and result in dangerous encounters with cars as they zoom across roadways between sections of trail. ATVs also damage the trail surface. What is not clear is why the trail now appears to be closed to everyone, even walkers and moms pushing strollers. Not that it stopped us, of course.

This was an attractive section of trail, often with open fields or lightly wooded areas on one side and housing on the other.  The developed sections switched sides as we walked along.

Once again, as in Foxtrap, we found an area in Manuels where the trail had become a de facto roadway for a short distance. It appears that the trail has become the primary access route for some homeowners.

The trail moved closer to the Conception Bay Highway and we could see over Villa Nova Plaza to the Royal Newfoundland Yacht Club, with Kelly's Island in the background.

As we approached the Manuels River, the trail was adjacent to the sidewalk, then it disappeared and we took the sidewalk to Mason's Road before entering the trail again.  

We passed behind the Manuels River Interpretation Centre and hiked uphill parallel to the river, but high above it. We stopped at the bridge to eat our sandwiches and admire the view.

The trail here was very different from what we had found earlier in today's walk. Motorized vehicles have full access to the trail and it shows with the usual gouging and hummock formation.

The underpass beneath the Manuels Bypass is a place for artistic expression.

The trail narrowed in the Chamberlains area, which is appealing for walkers, except . . .  There has been intensive housing development here beginning several decades ago and continuing in high gear today as new subdivisions are opened up further inland. The trail has become the channel for water run-off.  
There is an area between Tobin's Road and Fowler's Road where the land on the ocean side was still open, with fields below us and long views over the bay.  A park bench is perfectly situated.

As we walked uphill we noticed evidence of recreational activity on and near the trail. The trail appears to be an integral part of various outdoor pursuits that take place in a heavily wooded gulch. Informal paths came onto the trail from both sides and there was localized surface restoration. It was hard not to wish that the steep contours of the ravine might make development unattractive for the foreseeable future. 



Distance:  6.5 km 

Time:  1 hour, 40 minutes, including a lunch stop

Litter:  Fairly clean for most of the way.  In the section near the CB highway fast food litter was common.

Trail condition: Good in the 'closed' section, gouged where it parallels Manuels River, water damage in the uphill section northeast of the river.

Scenic Rating:  *** 

Fellow users:  One woman, a friend of ours who lives far from here but likes to hike the trail when her husband is working on their boat at the yacht club.

Link to the map of our full route:  Trek-to-town