dempster highway

The Dempster Highway is a 735 km gravel road that begins near Dawson, Yukon and ends in Inuvik, Northwest Territories. I rode it, up and back, in early June on my Surly Pugsley. It took me six days up and six days back = an average of 120 km per day. The weather was cool for the most part; I was in short sleeves for only 3 days, but this made for good riding. There was no trouble with bugs, the winds were light and the road was in good condition. I experienced periodic showers on a few days and only one day of drizzle/rain. I’d like to believe this was all due to good planning but good luck played a part.

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Within two hours of starting off I got caught in a terrific thunderstorm (with hail) and encountered a grizzly bear.  Things can change quick up here.

Within two hours of starting off I got caught in a terrific thunderstorm (with hail) and encountered a grizzly bear. Things can change quick up here.

As you can see the road is in good condition and very wide.  Distance markers every 2 km are very helpful.

As you can see the road is in good condition and very wide. Distance markers every 2 km are very helpful.

There are a number of territorial campgrounds along the way.  They provide a bear hang, pit toilets, a covered shelter, a water source and firewod.

There are a number of territorial campgrounds along the way. They provide a bear hang, pit toilets, a covered shelter, a water source and firewood.

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A trip like this requires a lot of calories.  I managed to pack 20,000 + calories into my framebag.

A trip like this requires a lot of calories. I managed to pack 20,000+ calories into my framebag.

 

A selfie at the Arctic Circle.

A selfie at the Arctic Circle.

Being this far north around the time of Summer Solstice meant 24 hours of light.  This picture was taken at midnight.

Being this far north around the time of Summer Solstice meant 24 hours of light. This picture was taken at midnight.

The Dempster is notorious for its mud when it is wet.  Thankfully I only had to deal with this for one morning.

The Dempster is notorious for its mud when it is wet. Thankfully I only had to deal with this for one morning.

Making it to Inuvik was a new "furthest north" for me at 68 degrees north.

Making it to Inuvik was a new “furthest north” for me at 68 degrees north.

A contrast in styles -  the Dempster can be ridden with fat tires and little gear or skinny tires and a lot of gear.  John is from Alaska and I met him first on my way up and then caught up with him on my way down.

A contrast in styles – the Dempster can be ridden with fat tires and little gear or skinny tires and a lot of gear. John is from Alaska and I met him first on my way up and then caught up with him on my way down.

My Surly Pugsley in bikepacking mode.  Tent, sleeping bag and pad on the handlebars, food and stove/pot in the frame bag, clothes in the seat bag and bear spray in the top tube bag.

My Surly Pugsley in bikepacking mode. Tent, sleeping bag and pad on the handlebars, food and stove/pot in the frame bag, clothes in the seat bag and bear spray in the top tube bag.

Random thoughts:

 

  • If a person was going to ride the Dempster one way, I would suggest riding it north to south. This would end the trip on a “high note” of the Tombstone Mountains. Going south to north the ride ends on a rather boring 150 km stretch of road from Fort McPherson to Inuvik that is flat and unchanging.
  • If a person wanted to ride in-and-out I would suggest only going as far as Fort McPherson and then turn around, for the reason noted above. Fort McPherson has a decent sized grocery store that would allow a cyclist to resupply.
  • Cars and trucks were very considerate for the most part, slowing down when they passed and stopping to check if everything was OK if I was stopped.

goals

I don’t know when it started, but some time ago I started writing down my goals for biking.  I don’t think it really started as goals but more as a way of remembering ideas I had.  Many of these ideas would hit me as I was surfing Google Earth, looking for possible routes, both on road and off.  I do know that one of the goals/ideas, # 4 on the list below, precedes Google Earth by many, many years.  Essentially, the idea is to bike down Shoal Bay Road then bike ‘n’ hike to Bay Bulls via The Spout, then bike back on the old rail line that runs inland.  And funny enough, though it is probably the oldest idea on the list, I have never done it.

At some point I started writing “done” when I completed the ride and then at some point I wised up even further and started recording the date.  Here it is, completely unedited:

 

Cycling Goals
1. Tour Irish Loop May 24th weekend (DONE!)

2. Tour Cape St. Mary’s July 1st weekend (DONE!)

3. Irish Loop in one day

4. Mtn bike The Spout to Bay Bulls then
back to the Goulds offroad

5. Do a bikepacking trip (again) (DONE!)

6. Follow the dirt road I think leads to
Witless Bay Line

7. Bike the T’railway across NF (DONE!)

8. Ride The Great Divide Trail

9. Circumnavigate the island of NF by bike
and coastal boats (Can’t be done now)

10. Get to NS to mtn bike with Marc (DONE!)

11. Tour the Cabot Trail

12. Ride the Ronde Van Vlaanderen (Belgium)

13. Bike The Dempster Highway

14. Bike the north shore of Quebec

15. Evening mtn bike ride – bring light –
ride from supper ’til midnight – think of a good route for this.

16. Trans-Labrador highway (Probably not worth doing)

17. Irish Loop in Two days (KINDA SORTA DONE)

18. Bell Island day trip

19. Tour to Grates Cove (DONE – AND OFFROAD!)

20. Ride the Wunderstrand

21. Across south coast then back by trailway

22. To trepassey by bike and/or hike in late winter

23. The Spout in winter (DONE – March 15, 2014)

24. Get a fatbike (Ha! Wasn’t even on the list and I got it done)

25. Goulds to Fort Amherst offroad (DONE!)

26. Irish Loop offroad (Done – July, 2014)

27. Bikepack Burin Peninsula (Done – Aug 2014)

28. Bikepack Bonavista Peninsula (Done – Aug 2014)

29. Across NF in winter

30. Circumnavigate Miquelon by fatbike

31. Iceland

32. Renews to Fermuese on old track then back by Kingmans Cove Road in winter

newfoundland by bicycle – a guest post

Daniel and Jen are a couple from Vermont who toured much of the island of Newfoundland in July and August. We had lots of email correspondence, but despite our hopes to meet up on the trail/road this was the closest we came:

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Daniel floated the idea of writing a guest piece for the blog and I jumped on it right away. What better way to document more about the cycling opportunities here than through the eyes of someone visiting Newfoundland for their first time? So, I give you: Daniel and Jen’s Most Excellent Adventure!

Introduction

In July of 2014 we set out on what became a 5 week bike tour of Newfoundland, beginning on the west coast and making a clockwise loop around the island. While known for its icebergs, codfish and abundance of moose, Newfoundland is also home to a seemingly endless network of gravel, dirt and secondary paved roads. We opted for routes that would get us into the more remote parts of Newfoundland, places better suited to bike than car. Our efforts were repaid with a real sense of wildness, a fascinating combination of sea and sky, and the friendliest folks we’ve ever come across. For the adventure-minded cyclist, it doesn’t get any better than Newfoundland.

For those interested in the details of our trip we’ve provided information on routes, gear, logistics, etc. at the bottom of the page.

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Here is a map of our travels.

 Before embarking on the T’railway, we loosen up our legs with some rocky doubletrack near Gros Morne.  Western Newfoundland has an impressive network of single and doubletrack, and no shortage of amazing views to match.


Before embarking on the T’railway, we loosen up our legs with some rocky doubletrack near Gros Morne. Western Newfoundland has an impressive network of single and doubletrack, and no shortage of amazing views to match.

Deer Lake to Huxley – Our first of many encounters with quads and quadrupeds.  Sections of deep, golf ball sized gravel made the first 30k a bit of a slog but we rode, and pushed on, hoping conditions would improve.

Deer Lake to Howley – Our first of many encounters with quads and quadrupeds. Sections of deep, golf ball sized gravel made the first 30k a bit of a slog but we rode, and pushed on, hoping conditions would improve.

Howley to Gaff Topsails – With railbed grades that rarely exceed 3% we forgot that we’d been climbing almost nonstop from Howley. However, diminishing tree height and increasing rain/fog/drizzle remind us that we’re gaining elevation.

Gaff Topsails – At 1554 feet up the weather lifts just long enough for us to get a glimpse of the famed Gaff Topsails.  Trail conditions surrounding the Gaff Topsails were generally rockier, and more technical, than any other section of our trip.

Gaff Topsails – At 1554 feet up the weather lifts just long enough for us to get a glimpse of the famed Gaff Topsails. Trail conditions surrounding the Gaff Topsails were generally rockier, and more technical, than any other section of our trip.

Gaff Topsails to Grand Falls-Windsor – Drying out after the wet and wild Gaff Topsails.

Gaff Topsails to Grand Falls-Windsor – Drying out after the wet and wild Gaff Topsails.

Gaff Topsails to Grand Falls-Windsor – The T’railway made clear the weak points in our bike kits.  A snapped front rack (shown), a demolished pedal, an abraded pannier, and a cracked water bottle cage forced us to spend a day repairing and rethinking our setup.

Gaff Topsails to Grand Falls-Windsor – The T’railway made clear the weak points in our bike kits. A snapped front rack (shown), a demolished pedal, an abraded pannier, and a cracked water bottle cage forced us to spend a day repairing and rethinking our setup.

Grand Falls-Windsor to Twillingate – Having rode the T’railway as far as Notre Dame Junction we decided to head north in search of icebergs.  The paved stretch from Notre Dame Junction to Twillingate was buttery and fast compared to the gravelly railbed, although the throngs of retirees wielding house-sized RV’s were a bit unnerving.

Grand Falls-Windsor to Twillingate – Having rode the T’railway as far as Notre Dame Junction we decided to head north in search of icebergs. The paved stretch from Notre Dame Junction to Twillingate was buttery and fast compared to the gravelly railbed, although the throngs of retirees wielding house-sized RV’s were a bit unnerving.

Twillingate – This iceberg was grounded just offshore . . . in waters 150 meters deep.

Twillingate – This iceberg was grounded just offshore . . . in waters 150 meters deep.

Twillingate – Just north of Twillingate, on the road to the lighthouse, we found one of our favorite campsites.  An abandoned park named Sleepy Cove provided us with a full evening’s worth of entertainment: icebergs, a group of humpback whales, and spawning capelin.

Twillingate – Just north of Twillingate, on the road to the lighthouse, we found one of our favorite campsites. An abandoned park named Sleepy Cove provided us with a full evening’s worth of entertainment: icebergs, a group of humpback whales, and spawning capelin.

Twillingate to Gambo – On a whim, we decided to ride highway 330/320 which hugs the coast from Gander Bay to Gambo.  Although paved, this was one of our favorite rides of the trip.  The ocean was always in view, traffic was light, and we got invited to a birthday party (!!!).  Unfortunately our camera battery died shortly after and we discovered that we left the charger back in Deer Lake.

Twillingate to Gambo – On a whim, we decided to ride highway 330/320 which hugs the coast from Gander Bay to Gambo. Although paved, this was one of our favorite rides of the trip. The ocean was always in view, traffic was light, and we got invited to a birthday party (!!!). Unfortunately our camera battery died shortly after and we discovered that we left the charger back in Deer Lake.

Gambo to Goobies – Thankfully we were able to borrow a charger in Glovertown.  Back on the T’railway, we wound our way though the boreal forests just west of Terre Nova Provincial Park.

Gambo to Goobies – Thankfully we were able to borrow a charger in Glovertown. Back on the T’railway, we wound our way though the boreal forests just west of Terre Nova Provincial Park.

Gambo to Goobies – Though quiet and car-free, the T’railway offers little in the way of protection from the sun.  With temperatures regularly climbing into the 30s we often had to find some midday relief.

Gambo to Goobies – Though quiet and car-free, the T’railway offers little in the way of protection from the sun. With temperatures regularly climbing into the 30s we often had to find some midday relief.

Gambo to Goobies – Luckily there are thousands of rivers and lakes to wash away the heat and dust at the end of the day.

Gambo to Goobies – Luckily there are thousands of rivers and lakes to wash away the heat and dust at the end of the day.

Goobies to Fortune – At Goobies the T’railway continues east to St. John’s.  Given our timing and penchant for lingering we thought it best to leave the Avalon Peninsula for another trip.  With a cold and damp handshake, the fog welcomed us to the Burin Peninsula.

Goobies to Fortune – At Goobies the T’railway continues east to St. John’s. Given our timing and penchant for lingering we thought it best to leave the Avalon Peninsula for another trip. With a cold and damp handshake, the fog welcomed us to the Burin Peninsula.

Goobies to Fortune – At times Newfoundland is impossibly charming

Goobies to Fortune – At times Newfoundland is impossibly charming

Goobies to Fortune – The road down the Burin had relatively light traffic after 10am and a reliable southerly headwind.  If we could have seen through the fog, we’re convinced that the view would have been spectacular.  By the time we got to the bottom of the Burin Peninsula, the fog had lifted and the Atlantic, once again, came into view.

Goobies to Fortune – The road down the Burin had relatively light traffic after 10am and a reliable southerly headwind. If we could have seen through the fog, we’re convinced that the view would have been spectacular. By the time we got to the bottom of the Burin Peninsula, the fog had lifted and the Atlantic, once again, came into view.

Fortune to St. Pierre et Miquelon – From the southern tip of Newfoundland it’s only a hour and a half ferry ride to the French colony of St. Pierre et Miquelon.  We intended to say a couple of days.  Instead we stayed a week and even then were reluctant to leave.

Fortune to St. Pierre et Miquelon – From the southern tip of Newfoundland it’s only a hour and a half ferry ride to the French colony of St. Pierre et Miquelon. We intended to stay a couple of days. Instead we stayed a week and even then were reluctant to leave.

Miquelon – Though St. Pierre’s bakeries and cobbled streets were lovely, we were drawn to the wilder islands of Miquelon and Langlade.

Miquelon – Though St. Pierre’s bakeries and cobbled streets were lovely, we were drawn to the wilder islands of Miquelon and Langlade.

Miquelon – This remote island, two ferry rides away from the far southern coast of Newfoundland, had everything a cyclist could want.  Sweet (and a little salty) oceanside strawberries!

Miquelon – This remote island, two ferry rides away from the far southern coast of Newfoundland, had everything a cyclist could want. Sweet (and a little salty) oceanside strawberries!

Miquelon – A herd of wild horses!

Miquelon – A herd of wild horses!

Miquelon – And grassy singletrack!

Miquelon – And grassy singletrack!

St. Pierre et Miquelon to Bay L’argent – After taking the ferry back to Fortune from St. Pierre we began retracing our steps back up the Burin Peninsula.  Same road, same fog.

St. Pierre et Miquelon to Bay L’argent – After taking the ferry back to Fortune from St. Pierre we began retracing our steps back up the Burin Peninsula. Same road, same fog.

Bay L’argent to Burgeo – The outpost communities along Newfoundland’s southern coast are accessible only by passenger ferry.  Because cars are not allowed on the ferries, most travels we met were limited to an out-and-back.  With bikes, however, we were able to cross the southern coast from east to west and complete a rather elegant loop of Newfoundland.

Bay L’argent to Burgeo – The outpost communities along Newfoundland’s southern coast are accessible only by passenger ferry. Because cars are not allowed on the ferries, most travelers we met were limited to an out-and-back. With bikes, however, we were able to cross the southern coast from east to west and complete a rather elegant loop of Newfoundland.

Bay L’argent to Burgeo – Outpost communities, like McCallum, harken back to a time when fishing dominated the culture and economy.  Today the story is much different.  Declining poplulations, lack of employment opportunities and incentives to relocate are threatening the longevity of these coastal communities.

Bay L’argent to Burgeo – Outpost communities, like McCallum, harken back to a time when fishing dominated the culture and economy. Today the story is much different. Declining poplulations, lack of employment opportunities and incentives to relocate are threatening the longevity of these coastal communities.

Bay L’argent to Burgeo – After a morning’s ferry ride we had a chance to stretch our legs riding from Poole’s cove to St. Jacques.  With the McCallum-Francois ferry running just once a week, we took a few extra days to explore the towns (and hills) northwest of Fortune Bay.

Bay L’argent to Burgeo – After a morning’s ferry ride we had a chance to stretch our legs riding from Poole’s cove to St. Jacques. With the McCallum-Francois ferry running just once a week, we took a few extra days to explore the towns (and hills) northwest of Fortune Bay.

Bay L’argent to Burgeo – While biding out time between ferries, we spent the weekend at the South Coast Music Festival in St. Jacques.  We were two happy campers having found ourselves with an abundance of traditional Newfoundland music, fish cakes and wild berries.

Bay L’argent to Burgeo – While biding out time between ferries, we spent the weekend at the South Coast Music Festival in St. Jacques. We were two happy campers having found ourselves with an abundance of traditional Newfoundland music, fish cakes and wild berries.

Bay L’argent to Burgeo – The southern coast has a number of remote communities, each one worth exploring.  However, after a week of sailing on, or waiting for a ferry we were antsy to get back on our bikes.  Wolf River, pictured above, will have to wait for another trip.

Bay L’argent to Burgeo – The southern coast has a number of remote communities, each one worth exploring. However, after a week of sailing on, or waiting for a ferry we were antsy to get back on our bikes. Francois, pictured above, will have to wait for another trip.

Burgeo to Deer Lake – From the map, the Burgeo highway didn’t seem terribly inspiring.  However, this stretch of road was unexpectedly awesome.  Very few cars and a ripping tailwind made for a whooping and hollering kind of ride.

Burgeo to Deer Lake – From the map, the Burgeo highway didn’t seem terribly inspiring. However, this stretch of road was unexpectedly awesome. Very few cars and a ripping tailwind made for a whooping and hollering kind of ride.

Burgeo to Deer Lake – Views like this made us feel like we were passing by an unexplored landscape.  No roads, no trails – the Annieopsquotch Mountains are an adventure waiting to happen.

Burgeo to Deer Lake – Views like this made us feel like we were passing by an unexplored landscape. No roads, no trails – the Annieopsquotch Mountains are an adventure waiting to happen.

Burgeo to Deer Lake – With rumors of an impending 3-day storm, we made quick work of the last stretch of the T’railway.  When the gravel got deep we dreamed of coming back to Newfoundland with fatbikes. . .

Burgeo to Deer Lake – With rumors of an impending 3-day storm, we made quick work of the last stretch of the T’railway. When the gravel got deep we dreamed of coming back to Newfoundland with fatbikes. . .

Burgeo to Deer Lake – On our last night a cold wind began to blow, a reminder that summer, and our bike tour, was coming to an end.  The following day we pedaled the last 80k back to Deer Lake and soon after we were on the ferry, watching Newfoundland disappear beneath the horizon.

Burgeo to Deer Lake – On our last night a cold wind began to blow, a reminder that summer, and our bike tour, was coming to an end. The following day we pedaled the last 80k back to Deer Lake and soon after we were on the ferry, watching Newfoundland disappear beneath the horizon.

The Bikes

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Jen’s Surly Disc Trucker.

34

Daniel’s Surly Troll.

Daniel’s bike

Surly Troll
Revelate frame bags with a rear rack and small Jandd Mountain Pack Panniers

Jen’s bike
Surly Disc Trucker
Arkel rear panniers with a Revelate Tangle frame bag and Velo Orange front rack and bag

Both bike configurations worked well. The Revelate frame bags felt solid on the bumpy stuff, while the Arkel panniers offer almost bottomless amounts of waterproof storage. Our only complaint is the lack of waterproofing on some of the Revelate bags and the Jandd rear panniers. Days of rain, drizzle, fog kept our non-waterproof bags in a state of perpetual saturation. Non-waterproof bags work fine in a drier climate but in Newfoundland, waterproof gear is essential.
Jen ran 2.0 knobby tires while Daniel ran 2.2 knobbies. Tires with high volume but low rolling resistance worked well for our mixture of paved, dirt and gravel roads. The loose gravel sections of the T’railway were the most challenging and got us thinking of the benefits of fatbike touring. Though there is no perfect bike for this type of our, a rigid mountain bike with bikepacking bags or tight-fitting panniers would work well for most sections. As Malcolm has shown, a fatbike takes the edge off of the more gravelly sections, while less voluminous tires would make for speedier road riding.

Logistics

The ferries along the south coast have an irregular schedule so it’s best to call ahead to determine when each ferry runs. We found that the easiest way to do this was to call the ferry office (1-888-638-5454). Outside of the Avalon Peninsula the only bike shop we came across was in Corner Brook. We brought a beefy repair kit and were happy to have extra parts when the T’railway rattled our bikes. Extra spokes, tire boot, spare brake pads, an assortment of nuts and bolts, pipe clamps and dry chain lubricant proved to be very useful, in addition to the standard repair kit.

Route(s)

Our ride took us in a clockwise circle and the only backtracking we had to do was a couple of days on the Burin Peninsula. We came across a few other bike tourists (maybe 10 other people) but everyone else was riding across the island and returning by bus or ferry. In addition to our loop, we discovered another possible variation on this loop. A dirt road runs from Howley to Buchans and then from Buchans to the Burgeo highway. This would allow for an abbreviated loop or an alternative to returning west from the south coast.

the bonavista branch line

GoogleEarth_Image

The Bonavista Branch Line was a railway line that ran from Clarenville to Bonavista (seen here in blue). It was in use from 1911 – 1983.

The Bonavista Branch Line runs for 145 km between Clarenville and Bonavista.  I recently rode this in 4 days (return trip = 290 km) and thoroughly enjoyed the trip.  The railbed, for the most part, is in fantastic shape.  There are a couple of sections that have not been repaired since Hurricane Igor struck in 2011 but there are easy workarounds to those.

The first 15 km of the trail runs along the water from Clarenville to Georges Brook and offers some good views.  But after that the track often remains inland and it is typically bordered by dense forest so the vistas tend to be few and far between.  The upside of this corridor of trees is that it blocks the wind and provides shade, a real bonus as the temperatures were very high when I rode this in early August.

Running water wasn’t plentiful on this ride so I often resorted to taking water from ponds and filling up whenever I passed through a town.  I had access to a store once or twice each day so resupply was easy.

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Filleting cod near Georges Brook.

This gives you a good sense of how the trail typically is.  Note the good quality of the former railbed and the corridor of trees lining it.

This gives you a good sense of how the trail typically is. Note the good quality of the former railbed and the corridor of trees lining it.

The track leads you to Trinity and the surrounding communities which were a real highlight of the ride.

The track leads you to Trinity and the surrounding communities which were a real highlight of the ride.

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East of Trinity there are two trestles that collapsed in 2011's floods, but you can get around them by taking the road.

East of Trinity there are two trestles that collapsed in 2011’s flood, but you can get around them by taking the road.

Again, you get an idea of what the riding is like - smooth trail lined with trees.

Again, you get an idea of what the riding is like – smooth trail lined with trees.

I didn't see much wildlife but I did see a pair of nesting osprey.

I didn’t see much wildlife but I did see a pair of nesting osprey.

Yep - it was hot.

Yep – it was hot.

After reaching Bonavista I started the return journey by riding down Highway 235 then picking up 236 (dirt road) back to Trinity.  I did this because the section between Bonavista and Trinity wasn't interesting enough to repeat AND...

After reaching Bonavista I started the return journey by riding down Highway 235 then picking up 236 (dirt road) back to Trinity. I did this because the section between Bonavista and Trinity wasn’t interesting enough to repeat AND…

...I wanted to hit the Bonavista Social Club in Upper Amherst Cove.  Pizza from a wood-fired oven after riding all day?  Yes please!

… I wanted to hit the Bonavista Social Club in Upper Amherst Cove. Pizza from a wood-fired oven after riding all day? Yes please!

The food was fantastic and as I ate a pod of 6 humpback whales were breaching in the water below.  It doesn't get much better than that.

The food was fantastic and as I ate a pod of 6 humpback whales were breaching in the water below. It doesn’t get much better than that.

An iceberg on the horizon.

An iceberg on the horizon.

Looking back at Upper Amherst Cove.

Looking back at Upper Amherst Cove.

I'm now back on the railbed near Port Rexton.

I’m now back on the railbed near Port Rexton.

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I had a fantastic continental breakfast at The Twine Loft in Trinity.  It was so good I came back again the next day.  Fresh fruit, yogurt, toast, cereal, muffins, tea buns, cookies, juice and coffee all for 8 bucks!

I had a fantastic continental breakfast at The Twine Loft in Trinity. It was so good I came back again the next day. Fresh fruit, yogurt, toast, cereal, muffins, tea buns, cookies, juice and coffee all for 8 bucks!  Plus, the owner, Tineke Gow, went out of her way to be helpful by pulling out topographic maps and calling her daughter for the status of some of the trestles I would have to cross.

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Fresh blueberries on my oatmeal in the morning were a real treat.

Fresh blueberries on my oatmeal in the morning were a real treat.

It was so hot on this ride I had to jump in a pond and drink beer at the same time just to cool off!  :-)

It was so hot on this ride I had to jump in a pond and drink beer at the same time just to cool off! 🙂

cape shore & irish loop

Cape Shore

Our route. Yellow blobs mark where we camped.

Paul and I headed out recently to ride both the Cape Shore and the Irish Loop – 500 km in 4 days.  We were blessed with wonderful weather and often favourable tail winds.  Summer has finally arrived in Newfoundland.

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Leaving St. John’s I’d suggest riding out to Witless Bay and then cross the Witless Bay Line to gain access to the Trans Canada Highway. There’s less traffic, it’s more scenic and it leaves only 10 km of riding on the TCH.

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Next exit for Salmonier Line.

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I’d suggest Route 93 for Colinet vs. Route 91. Again, more scenic.

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In Colinet there is a store and nearby is this Newfoundland pony, a breed of pony unique to here.

Between Colinet and Placentia is 21 km of gravel road.  It's in generally good shape.  I've ridden it with 28c tires, fully loaded (the bike, not the rider, though that's not a bad thought), with no issues.

Between Colinet and Placentia is 21 km of gravel road. It’s in generally good shape. I’ve ridden it with 28c tires, fully loaded (the bike, not the rider, though that’s not a bad thought), with no issues.

The section between Point Verde and St. Bride's is very hilly for 40 km.  You've been warned.

The section between Point Verde and St. Bride’s is very hilly for 40 km. You’ve been warned.

The roads on the Cape Shore are in good shape and have very low traffic.

The roads on the Cape Shore are in good shape and have very low traffic.

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The view as you cycle along the shore.

The view as you cycle along the shore.

Ship Cove.

Ship Cove.

These magical cows in Ship Cove produce...

These magical cows in Ship Cove produce…

Guinness!

Guinness!

Gooseberry Cove.  This is a provincial Day Park, though I've camped there without issue.

Gooseberry Cove. This is a provincial Day Park, though I’ve camped there without issue.

Gooseberry Cove.

Gooseberry Cove.

The long and winding road.

The long and winding road.

Near the turnoff to Cape St Mary's Ecological Reserve is this restaurant and campgound.

Near the turnoff to Cape St Mary’s Ecological Reserve is this restaurant and campgound.

We didn't go to the Cape this trip but it is worth a visit.

We didn’t go to the Cape this trip but it is worth a visit.

This is part of what you would see if you went there.

This is part of what you would see if you went there.

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This is where we spent our 2nd night, in Harricott.

In St. Vincent's, now on the Irish Loop, Day 3, where we saw lots of humpback whales.

In St. Vincent’s, now on the Irish Loop, Day 3, where we saw lots of humpback whales.

We spent our 3rd night in Chance Cove where it is free to camp.

We spent our 3rd night in Chance Cove where it is free to camp.

The road to the camping area is 6 km of gravel.

The road to the camping area is 6 km of gravel.

It is worth every km to get there.

It is worth every km to get there.

On the way out the next morning.

On the way out the next morning.

We spotted this caribou.

We spotted this caribou.

For those on the run.

For those on the run.

Tors Cove.

Tors Cove.

Random bits:

– we did this in 4 days but 5 would be more pleasant, especially if you were to take in Cape St Mary’s

– we saw moose, caribou, grouse and humpback whales

– resupply was easy as many towns had small stores

– traffic volume is low except when you get close to St. John’s

trans-newfoundland

I’m heading out on Saturday to ride across Newfoundland on my fatbike.  I’ll be following the old railway line which is now officially called Newfoundland T’Railway Provincial Park.  It is 900 km long and runs from St. John’s in the east to Port-aux-Basques in the west.  I’ll be riding it west to east with the hope that the majority of the wind will be tailwinds, as the prevailing wind here in the summer is out of the southwest.  I’m taking the DRL bus to Port-aux-Basques on Saturday (13 hours – groan!) which is a reasonable $154 total for me and my bike.  The trailhead is just minutes from where the bus lets off (ETA 9 PM) so my plan right now is to ride for an hour or so once I arrive and set up camp where I have a good view of the ocean.

There are many parts of this trip that I am already anticipating.  The section from Port-aux-Basques to Corner Brook will offer great scenery: I’ll ride along the ocean, see mountains, face potentially high winds in The Wreckhouse, cross rivers and follow the shores of ponds.  In Corner Brook I look forward to catching up with Peter O of Cycle Solutions about his mountain bike trail building progress and tipping a few beers with long-time friend Jon P.  In the central part of the province I am very excited about finally seeing the Gaff Topsails and as I get closer to home it will be interesting to ride the isthmus of the Avalon Peninsula. 

I’ll update here if I get a chance and will do a proper write up with pictures when I’m done.

the irish loop

Irish Loop sign

Packed

Packed and ready to roll!

The Irish Loop is a 300km circuit south of St. John’s that should be on any touring cyclist’s radar when in Newfoundland.  Named after the rich Irish heritage that populates the coastline this ride has it all: barrens, the ocean, moose, caribou, whales, head winds, tail winds, quiet roads – the list goes on.

Irish Loop map

If starting in St. John’s I highly recommend heading out to Bay Bulls and then crossing the Witless Bay Line versus heading out on the Trans-Canada Highway (TCH).  The roads are quieter and Witless Bay Line gives you great exposure to the glacial barrens that you will be seeing all along the trip.

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The town of Bay Bulls

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The barrens of Witless Bay Line

I like to do this trip in 3 days, 2 nights, typically camping near St. Mary’s on the first night and at/near Chance Cove the second night.  I also strongly advise you to ride this counter-clockwise for two reasons:

1) During fair weather the winds are typically out of the southwest; this puts the wind at your back while crossing the barrens which begin near St. Vincents and end near Cappahayden.  I’ve ridden it the other way (clockwise) and this section was pure hell with a headwind.

2) There are many more towns in the last 100 km if ridden counter-clockwise which makes for easier resupply when you’ll need it the most.

This time I did the trip in two days and a bit, leaving after supper on Friday and returning home on Sunday.  I camped the first night on Witless Bay Line (40 km), near Chance Cove on night two (160 km) and then rode the final 100 km from there.

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Relaxing at camp on Witless Bay Line barrens.

Moonrise

There was a lovely moonrise that night.

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Dreaming of big mileage the next day

If you take the Witless Bay Line then there is just 10 km to ride on the TCH until you get to Route 90 or what is know as the Salmonier Line.  This road heads south and again, if the weather is fair, this will be the section where you encounter a headwind.  This section of the road gets less traveled the further you go, winding itself through boreal forest, along rivers and eventually the ocean.

Salmonier River & Pratt house

The Salmonier River. That is Chris and Mary Pratt’s residence – highly regarded painters.

Salmonier 2

About 10 km on Salmonier Line is this nature park – a great place to see Newfoundland wildlife.

St. Saint

Saints, saints – everywhere there are saints!

The Worker

Clearly St. Joesph knew about headwinds.

Mouth of bay

The mouth of the bay.

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Near Gaskiers.

At the southern end of Salmonier Line is the town of St. Vincents.  It is significant for two reasons:

1) there is a great beach there where you can often see humpbacks feeding, and;

2) The road takes a sharp left (east) and the wind finally is at your back!

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Chillaxing at St. Vincents beach

whale spout

Can you spot the humpback whale spout?

Fence & bike

From St. Vincents the road begins to climb from sea level up to the barrens.  I think this is my favourite section of the route.  There is just something about all that nothingness that tickles my fancy.

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Atop the barrens looking back at St. Vincents beach.

the barrens

Why it is called the barrens.

caribou

This was the only caribou I saw and it was shot!

Plummeting down from the barrens with a tailwind is a real thrill and gets you to the town of Trepassey where there is a motel with a restaurant, a take-out and two convenience stores.  Another great way to ride the loop is to do it in two days, staying overnight at the motel.  This allows you to pack light and make better mileage each day.  Doing it counter-clockwise means doing 170 km the first day and 130 km the second.

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A well deserved fish ‘n’ chips at First Venture take-out.

After leaving Trepassey you soon pass by the road to Cape Race; it was here where the distress call from the Titanic was first picked up.

cape race

A side trip to Cape Race should be considered. The road is gravel, but rideable. Oh, and there are a few hills. Don’t say you weren’t warned! It is 20 km each way. Along the way you can also visit Mistaken Point, a place where some really significant early life-form fossils were found.

At Portugal Cove South the road turns north and you are in the barrens for another 15 km.  Beginning at Cappahayden, however, you start getting into small fishing communities every 10 km or so.  You also get into the hilly section, which lasts all the way to Bay Bulls.

Aquaforte Hbr

Aquaforte

tongues

Fish for sale along the way. Yep, we eat every part of the cod, including the tongue.