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.