The Great Northern Peninsula Bikepacking Loop

This is a 700 km mixed surface route with 10,000 meters of climbing which we did over an 8 day period in August 2020. We began the ride in Rocky Harbour and used Hwy 430 to get to Hawkes Bay. From there we used resource roads and the road created for the Muscrat Falls transmission line to cross The Great Northern Peninsula over to the White Bay area. We then headed west (mostly on resource roads) to get to Cormack and we continued west, staying north of Deer Lake to get to Hughes Brook. A very hilly Hwy 440 got us from Hughes Brook to beautiful Cox’s Cove where we picked up resource roads to get north to Glenburnie in the Bonne Bay/Gros Morne area. Hwy 431 took us to Trout River where we picked up a dirt road to take us to spectacular Chimney Cove. We backtracked on the last day to Woody Point and chartered a Zodiac to take us across Bonne Bay to Norris Point. A short uphill from there got us back to Rocky Harbour.

DAY ONE (Rocky Harbour to Hawkes Bay 170 km)

It was never my intention to ride from Rocky Harbour to Hawkes Bay in a day but we did. 160 km on the road, plus side trips to the boat launch at western Brook Pond and a few side trips off the main road made for a big day.

(L-R) Don, Malcolm, Darren and John.

It’s worth the side trip to Western Brook Pond.
There are some opportunities to get off the main road and ride a bit of dirt, such as picking up part of the Heritage Trail near Broom Point and following it to St. Paul’s. We picked it up again after St. Paul’s and rode it to Cow Head.
Another option to get offroad is to ride from Cow Head to Shallow Bay on the beach.

We spent the night at Torrent River Inn in Hawkes Bay. It was a great decision after such a big day. We were able to get food from the restaurant, there was a convenience store nearby, and in the morning we loaded up on coffee and breakfast sandwiches from Robin’s Coffee.

DAY 2 (80 km)

From Hawkes Bay we picked up resource roads and eventually picked up the road constructed to install the Muskrat Falls transmission line.

We were all smiles on the resource roads. A little less smiley once on the transmission line road. Lots of elevation gain, lots of VERY steep sections (20+ degrees!).
The transmission line road is very well constructed.

DAY 3 (85km)

Finding a decent place to camp was more challenging than you would think. You want to be near water, you want the ground to be relatively flat and level. We ended up pitching at the base of one of the transmission line towers. Great choice, until a thunder and lightning storm rolled in during the middle of the night and all I could think about was a lightning strike on the tower…
The morning after the lightning storm.
Lots of up and down.
We’re at the headwaters of the Main River here. Earlier in the season Darren (pictured) began a canoe trip down the Main River at this point.
Cooling off.

DAY 4 (105 km)

We camped beside the Humber River near where Taylors Brook Road meets Hwy 420. We followed resource roads to Sir Richard Squires Park, some pavement to Cormack, then back onto resource roads north of Deer Lake, eventually camping beside the lake itself.

Big Falls.
Busy beavers north of Deer Lake.
Be mindful that you are in bear country. Cache/hang your food away from your tent each night.
Our campsite beside Deer Lake.

DAY 5 (85 km, a shitload of climbing)

We biked from our campground beside Deer Lake to Frenchmans Pond. We began on resource roads (lots of climbing), then onto pavement (more climbing) and ended on resource roads east of Cox’s Cove.

Cox’s Cove.

DAY 6 (Frenchmans Pond to Glenburnie 75 km-ish)

We awoke to this. Not bad.
On the resource road between Hughes Brook and Glenburnie. Them’s the Tablelands in the background.

DAY 7 (Glenburnie to Chimney Covelosing track of distance at this point)

We biked the new trail down to Green Gardens. Hella fun on the way down, just plain hell on the climb back. But worth it – highly recommended.
On the road between Trout River and Chimney Cove.
Chimney Cove.
Chimney Cove – a fine place to spend the night.

DAY 8 (Chimney Cove to Woody Point, boat ride to Norris Point, bike to Rocky Harbourmaybe 45 km? Don’t care anymore as there is beer and food at the end)

Waking up in Chimney Cove is a great way to start the day.
Replacing calories in Woody Point.
We chartered a Zodiac to get us from Woody Point to Norris Point as the ferry wasn’t running this year (thanks Covid-19). Robbie at Gros Morne Adventures was there to get us across the bay. Great service, great communication, highly recommended.
All smiles at the end of the trip.

irish loop off road (ILOR)

ilor

400 km, 5 days and 4 nights. Green triangles indicate where I camped.

Over the May 24th long weekend I tackled the route I’ve been calling “Irish Loop Off Road” or ILOR.  If anybody has a better name let me know (Paul C?).  Amy, Paul and I first tackled this route two years ago, that time riding it in a counter-clockwise direction and learning what worked and what didn’t.  This iteration of the route is much better.

This ride has it all:  80% of it is on dirt, the majority of the paved sections are on quiet roads; single track, dirt roads, ATV tracks, 2 hike-a-bike sections; great vistas; wildlife (I saw caribou, moose and a snowy owl on this trip); resupply is easy; free camping; water is easily available.

I now have GPX files for this route – if you would like them just drop me an email:  theslowbiker at gmail.com.

gros morne fatbike 2016

Easter fell during a prime time for fatbiking Gros Morne this year, so Darren and I made plans to go there for the week.  We had a short, preliminary exploration of the park last year and knew that there was lots more we wanted to ride.  We weren’t disappointed…

Our Good Friday feast. At the junction of the Trans-Canada highway and Route 420 is White Bay Convenience. The food is fantastic - we had supper, breakfast and lunch there.

Our Good Friday feast. At the junction of the Trans-Canada highway and Route 420 is White Bay Convenience. The food is fantastic – we had supper, breakfast and lunch there.

 

Western Brook Pond

Day 1

 

Here's the route we took. (Darren McD image)

Here’s the route we took. Taylor’s Brook Road begins on Route 420. Drive in 3 kilometers and you will find Taylor’s Brook Accommodations. Ask for Terry – he will set you up with a place to park for a small fee (we paid $15 for 3 days, two nights). He will also have LOADS of knowledge about trail conditions. Pick his brain. (Darren McD image)

Here's the route with elevation. (Darren McD image)

Here’s the route with elevation.
(Darren McD image)

Darren and I at the start.

Darren and I at the start.

Looking west, on Taylors Brook Road.

Looking west, on Taylors Brook Road. The first 24 km are groomed. At Km 24 our route took a left off the groomed stuff and our real work began.

PR take 2

 

This is the view looking west. That is Matty's Pond in the left of the picture. The arrow shows the cove we camped in.

This is the view looking west. That is Matty’s Pond in the left of the picture, where we made camp.

On Matty's Pond.

On Matty’s Pond.

Stats from our first day.

Stats from our first day. We began at 10 AM and stopped at 5 PM. Elevation gained, fully packed bikes and loose trail for the final 16 km kept average speed low.

Running water was scarce; luckily I found these ice fishing holes near our camp. Unfortunately, they were frozen over the next morning.

Running water was scarce; luckily I found these ice fishing holes near our camp. Unfortunately, they were frozen over the next morning.

Day 2

It went down to -18C our first night and -15C our second.

It went down to -18C our first night and -15C our second.

Our camp on Matty's Pond.

Our camp on Matty’s Pond.

The start of Day 2. Blue sky and no wind.

The start of Day 2. Blue sky and no wind.

The riding was fantastic.

The riding was fantastic.

image

image

Mountain take 2

 

Click on the image above to enlarge it, then look for Darren on the ridge line to get perspective on the vastness we were riding in.

Click on the image above to enlarge it, then look for Darren on the ridge line to get perspective on the vastness we were riding in.

We did it!

We did it!

image

Everyone wants their photo taken at The Gorge.

Everyone wants their photo taken at The Gorge.

Parks Canada staff were checking for park passes. Yes, we had ours.

Parks Canada staff were checking for park passes. Yes, we had ours.

Leaving The Gorge.

Leaving The Gorge.

We stopped to watch the sledders high-pointing.

We stopped to watch the sledders high-pointing.

A friendly snowmobiler offered me a beer.

A friendly snowmobiler offered me a beer.

Stats for the trip from our camp to Western Brook Pond look off and back. Check out that max speed!

Stats for the trip from our camp to Western Brook Pond look off and back. Check out that max speed!

Day 3

The descent down onto Matty's Pond was a scream; the climb back up, not so much...

The descent down onto Matty’s Pond was a scream; the climb back up, not so much…

Snowmobilers were always courteous and encouraging. (Jeff Spurrell photo)

Snowmobilers were always courteous and encouraging. We were loosing elevation on the way out and the trails were firmer, so it only took 4 hours to reach the car versus 7 hours to get in. (Jeff Spurrell photo)

Wigwam Pond

The weather was lousy all day Tuesday but we did manage to get in a night ride on the Wigwam Pond trail.

The weather was lousy all day Tuesday but we did manage to get in a night ride on the Wigwam Pond trail.

Ten Mile Pond

Ten Mile Pond sits at the base of Gros Morne; anyone who has climbed to the summit has looked down onto this pond.  We went looking for the chance to be on the pond looking up at the summit.

Logistically, this is an easy ride.  Park at the Gros Morne Visitors Centre in Rocky Harbour.  Ride up to Route 430 and across the road you will see a road that leads to Eastern Arm Pond.  Follow the snowmobile tracks.

 

Heading in to Eastern Arm Pond. That is Gros Morne to the right.

Heading in to Eastern Arm Pond. That is Gros Morne to the right.

On Eastern Arm Pond.

On Eastern Arm Pond.

After crossing Eastern Arm Pond the trail twists and turns through a small forest.

After crossing Eastern Arm Pond the trail twists and turns through a small forest.

A river, a forest, mountains and a twisty-turny snowmobile track to follow; fatbiking doesn't get any better than this.

A river, a forest, mountains and a twisty-turny snowmobile track to follow; fatbiking doesn’t get any better than this.

Careful where you step, though...

Careful where you step, though…

(a Darren McD photo)

(a Darren McD photo)

The entrance to Ten Mile Pond. (a Darren McD photo)

The entrance to Ten Mile Pond.
(a Darren McD photo)

Ten Mile Pond with Gros Morne in the background. (a Darren McD photo)

Ten Mile Pond with Gros Morne in the background.
(a Darren McD photo)

(a Darren McD photo)

Click to enlarge for the full perspective. (a Darren McD photo)

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At the end of Ten Mile Pond.

At the end of Ten Mile Pond.

Returning from Ten Mile Pond with The Tablelands in the distance.

Returning from Ten Mile Pond with The Tablelands in the distance.

Stats for our ride into Ten Mile Pond and back.

Stats for our ride into Ten Mile Pond and back.

Tablelands / Trout River

This was our view of The Tablelands. Visibility was poor so we didn't venture up there.

This was our view of The Tablelands. Visibility was poor so we didn’t venture up there.

The postmaster came out to ask if we were the fellows who biked to The Gorge. She had heard the piece on the radio and seen our picture on Facebook.

The postmaster came out to ask if we were the fellows who biked to The Gorge. She had heard the piece on the radio and seen our picture on Facebook.

Link to the radio interview on CBC Corner Brook: click here.

The beach at Trout River.

The beach at Trout River.

The bumper sticker says it best.

The bumper sticker says it best.

Thank you:

  • Tim C for use of your GPS and your local knowledge
  • Darroch W for letting us stay at your house while we were in Rocky Harbour

cottonwood trail, kluane national park

The highlight of my trip to Yukon (in a trip filled with many spectacular experiences) was a bikepacking trip on the Cottonwood Trail in Kluane National Park.  The trail itself is 83 km long and all but approximately 7 km of it (from km 74 to 81) is rideable.  The unrideable part is one heck of a hike-a-bike; not impossible, but hard. 

We rode the trail clockwise, beginning on Mush Lake Road.

We rode the trail clockwise, beginning on Mush Lake Road.

Another view of the route.

Another view of the route.

This is the elevation profile of the route. We liked doing the route clockwise because we gained elevation early in the trip (and quickly!) but then gradually worked our way down, mostly on singletrack.

This is the elevation profile of the route. We liked doing the route clockwise because we gained elevation early in the trip (and quickly!) but then gradually worked our way down, mostly on singletrack.

We brought topo maps but found ourselves referring to the "Detailed Description" from the Park site most frequently. If this is your first time on the trail I recommend it strongly that you print off a copy of this and use it to aid in navigation.

We brought topo maps but found ourselves referring to the “Detailed Description” from the Park site most frequently. If this is your first time on the trail I recommend it strongly that you print off a copy of this and use it to aid in navigation.

Mush Lake Road was a mostly pleasant and fun 16 km ride.

Mush Lake Road was a mostly pleasant and fun 16 km ride.

Crossing a channel of Alder Creek.

Crossing a channel of Alder Creek.

Overall the route is well marked - look for these posts (some have toppled over) and/or moose racks to guide you.

Overall the route is well marked – look for these posts (some have toppled over) and/or moose racks to guide you.

DCIM100GOPRO

Charles enjoying the alpine singletrack.

Charles enjoying the alpine singletrack.

This route just kept on giving.

This route just kept on giving.

We did this route in 2 days, one night, making camp at km 46.6, shown here. We travelled for 7.5 hours on day one and 10 hours on day two.

We did this route in 2 days, one night, making camp at km 46.6, shown here. We travelled for 7.5 hours on day one and 10 hours on day two.

Charles relaxing at camp.

Charles relaxing at camp.

Day 2 started with a brief water crossing...

Day 2 started with a brief water crossing…

...and then became endless alpine meadow singletrack.

…and then became endless alpine meadow singletrack.

Where Victoria Creek enters into Louise Lake. We worried about this crossing as it has the potential to be impassable. We found it challenging and were very cautious, only brining one bike across at a time with the person NOT carrying the bike bracing the person who was.

Where Victoria Creek enters into Louise Lake. We worried about this crossing as it has the potential to be impassable. We found it challenging and were very cautious, only brining one bike across at a time with the person NOT carrying the bike bracing the person who was.

Kathleen Lake.

Kathleen Lake.

The hike-a-bike up from Kathleen Lake is hard...

The hike-a-bike up from Kathleen Lake is hard…

...but the view is outstanding. Note Victoria Lake waaaay in the distance.

…but the view is outstanding. Note Victoria Lake waaaay in the distance.

 

 

it’s the 24th of May and we likes to get away…

…up in the woods or going out the bay.

I chose to go out the bay, Conception Bay North (CBN), to be exact – as tempting as the gravels pits were. 🙂  I’d done this route two years ago and wanted to ride it again and the long weekend in May seemed as good a time as any.  The weather cooperated (for the most part) and Dan T joined me for two days – his first bikepacking trip.

CBN 2015 001

Here are some instructions I wrote for a Dutch couple that rode the route last year. The T’Railway from St. John’s to Brigus Junction is pretty straightforward but once started on the old CBN branch line the track disappears from time to time.

CBN 2015 002

CBN 2015 143

Looking across to Bell Island.

CBN 2015 146

This large erratic on the beach always intrgues me.

The train station in Avondale.

The train station in Avondale.

First night camping spot, halfway between Avondale and Brigus Junction.

First night camping spot, halfway between Avondale and Brigus Junction.

It's was nice to see this guy out the next morning.

It’s was nice to see this guy out the next morning.

Into The Wild, Newfoundland style.

Into The Wild, Newfoundland style.

Dan considers trading in the fatbike for something a little racier.

Dan considers trading in the fatbike for something a little racier.

Bay Roberts.

Bay Roberts.

Sometimes the trail becomes a river.

Sometimes the trail becomes a river.

CBN 2015 157

Spaniards Bay.

The Kyle, in Harbour Grace, with an iceberg in the background.

The Kyle, in Harbour Grace, with an iceberg in the background.

The point of land in the right of the picture is where we camped.

The point of land in the right of the picture is where we camped.

The view from the tent.

The view from the tent.

CBN 2015 135

Dan negotiating a washout.

Dan negotiating a washout.

CBN 2015 113CBN 2015 130

I came across some unusual road kill on the way home...

I came across some unusual road kill on the way home…

...so I put her up in a tree, because that's where monkeys belong.

…so I put her up in a tree, because that’s where monkeys belong.

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:

BonaBurin2014

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.

1

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

33

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.

irish loop off road completed

Blue = rideable.     Red = hike-a-bike.  Pink = section not ridden 'cause I decided to drink coffee and get Amy to pick me up.  :-)

Blue = rideable. Red = hike-a-bike. Pink = section not ridden ’cause I decided to drink coffee and get Amy to pick me up. 🙂

What an adventure! Long, challenging days, got to places I had never been before and time with friends. Here are the details in no particular order:

* total distance was 425 km
* it took 7 days
* we rode at an average speed of 7 km/h and hike-a-biked at 2 km/h (this includes time for stops, food, swims, berry picking, etc)
* the section from the top of Holyrood Pond to Trepassey was a major hike-a-bike
* resupply was easy – we passed at least a store a day and often more
* we ate a lot of fish ‘n’ chips and club sandwichs at take-outs
* a bald Endomorph tire on the rear and a well-used Larry up front worked just fine
* blackflies and deerflies (“stouts”) were an issue – thank god it was windy
* Point La Haye to St. Vincent’s and Renews to Cape Broyle were the highlights in terms of trail conditions and scenery
* we saw moose every day
* we drank beer most nights ( thank you Liquor Express!)
* the trails in and around Renews will make for great winter riding
* locals are disappointed when you tell them you are from St. John’s – by the end I was tempted to start lying

Paul, Amy and myself at the start.

Paul, Amy and myself at the start.

Our rigs - a Mukluk, a Beargrease and a Pugsley.

Our rigs – a Mukluk, a Beargrease and a Pugsley.

In Avondale.

In Avondale.

Relaxing on the beach in Avondale.

Relaxing on the beach in Avondale.

In O'Donnell's.

In O’Donnell’s.

Hard to believe Amy is a top-notch Enduro rider.  :-)

Hard to believe Amy is a top-notch Enduro rider. 🙂

The trail between Admiral's Beach and Mall Bay was some of this...

The trail between Admiral’s Beach and Mall Bay was some of this…

...this...

…this…

...this...

…this…

...and this.  That climb you can see in the background (out of Mall Bay) is a killer.

…and this. That climb you can see in the background (out of Mall Bay) is a killer.

Near Gaskiers.

Near Gaskiers.

Foreshadowing.

Foreshadowing.

From Gaskiers to St. Vincent's the ride is through pasture land and the views are wonderful.

From Gaskiers to St. Vincent’s the ride is through pasture land and the views are wonderful.

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The barachois across the bottom of Holyrood Pond.

The barachois across the bottom of Holyrood Pond.

In St. Vincent's.  The dog was friendly but Skipper didn't think much of our plan to ride up the shore of Holyrood Pond.

In St. Vincent’s. The dog was friendly but Skipper didn’t think much of our plan to ride up the shore of Holyrood Pond.

The shore of Holyrood Pond is rideable - but just.  After 5 km we got off and rode to St. Mary's on the road.

The shore of Holyrood Pond is rideable – but just. After 5 km we got off and rode to St. Mary’s on the road.

On the trail from St. Mary's to the top of Holyrood Pond.

On the trail from St. Mary’s to the top of Holyrood Pond.

The start of Day 4, or as Amy put it: "The day we took our bikes for a walk."

The start of Day 4, or as Amy put it: “The day we took our bikes for a walk.”

We pushed our bikes up the pole line but once we got to the top discovered that there was a better trail out - doh!

We pushed our bikes up the pole line but once we got to the top discovered that there was a better trail out – doh!

Looking down Holyrood Pond from the top.  The hike-a-bike started a couple of kilometres later.

Looking down Holyrood Pond from the top. The hike-a-bike started a couple of kilometres later.

Caribou.

Caribou.

Moose.

Moose.

Half way into a 15 km hike-a-bike (7.5 hours) and Amy is still smiling!

Half way into a 15 km hike-a-bike (7.5 hours) and Amy is still smiling!

A refreshing swim in a pond...

A refreshing swim in a pond…

...and a bag of candy can be real morale boosters!

…and a bag of candy can be real morale boosters!

Trepassey is finally in sight.  We pigged out at the restaurant and then went to the store to pick up beer and chips.

Trepassey is finally in sight. We pigged out at the restaurant and then went to the store to pick up beer and chips.

The trail between Trepassey and Biscay Bay has had upgrades up to this bridge - about the half way point.  We found a trail up to the highway and made camp.

The trail between Trepassey and Biscay Bay has had upgrades up to this bridge – about the half way point. We found a trail up to the highway and made camp.

 

The old road from Portugal Cove South to Chance Cove is in pretty good shape, though it peters out near the park boundary, and, you guessed it...

The old road from Portugal Cove South to Chance Cove is in pretty good shape, though it peters out near the park boundary, and, you guessed it…

...more hike-a-bike!

…more hike-a-bike!

Near the wind farm in Fermuse.  This section was lovely for the scenary and trail conditions.

Near the wind farm in Fermuse. This section was lovely for the scenary and trail conditions.

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Ferryland.

Ferryland.

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Taking a dip near Cape Broyle.

Taking a dip near Cape Broyle.

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I said goodbye to Amy in Cape Broyle and rode up Horse Chops Line to Mount Carmel Pond.

I said goodbye to Amy in Cape Broyle and rode up Horse Chops Line to Mount Carmel Pond.

The water levels were high in the resevoir so the beach riding wasn't as good as the last time I rode here.  I cut it a bit short and did a hike-a-bike over to Cape Pond.

The water levels were high in the resevoir so the beach riding wasn’t as good as the last time I rode here. I cut it a bit short and did a hike-a-bike over to Cape Pond.

 

Sunset on the last night of the trip.  On Cape Pond.

Sunset on the last night of the trip. On Cape Pond.

 

 

Please see Amy’s blog for her excellent write up of the trip.

irish loop off road

ILOR final

Red = off road, blue = pavement

In a few days a group of us will set out on our fatbikes to pioneer a route I’m calling Irish Loop Off Road (ILOR). The route is approximately 400 km in length and 320 km of that will be on a combination of The T’Railway, dirt roads, beaches, ATV trails, abandoned railroad branch lines, old roads and a bit of bog hopping and bushwacking thrown in for good measure. I’m anticipating it will take us six days to complete. A full write up with pictures when I get back.

across newfoundland by fatbike

The Newfoundland T’Railway is a 900 km long linear provincial park, stretching from St. John’s in the east to Port-aux-Basques in the west.  The notion of riding it has long been on my mind and this year I attempted and completed it.

The beginning.

The beginning.

The stats

The route is 900 km long.

I completed it in ten days.

Riding west to east was a good decision – I had tailwinds on 7 or 8 days out of ten.

I had one day of rain.

I saw lots of ATV’s and zero cyclists, zero hikers.

I saw no moose but lots of other wildlife sightings (see below).

Traveling time ranged from 8 - 12 hours per day.  The rest of the time I was doing this.

Traveling time ranged from 8 – 12 hours per day. The rest of the time I was doing this.

The gear

I used a Surly Pugsley for this trip set up in a bikepacking mode and in my not so humble opinion it was the perfect bike and set up for the trip.  The big tires provided cushioning against the uneven surface and float when the ballast got deep and loose.  Bikepacking mode kept the overall weight low.

The scenery

As predicted the section from Port-aux-Basques to Badger was the most scenic.  Central NF (Badger to Terra Nova Nat’l Park) was mostly boreal forest – the good news is that the trail in this area is in good shape and you can make good time.  From Terra Nova to St. John’s there is a great mixture of scenery.

I camped on this beach the night I arrived in Port-aux-Basques.

I camped on this beach the night I arrived in Port-aux-Basques.

Start my trip with some beach riding?  Yes Please!

Start my trip with some beach riding? Yes please!

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Cape Ray.

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Codroy Valley.

My campsite on Georges Lake.

My campsite on Georges Lake.

You see a number of old rail cars converted to cabins along the way but this was the best.

You see a number of old rail cars converted to cabins along the way but this was the best.

Taking refuge on the only day of rain.

Taking refuge on the only day of rain.

The Gaff Topsails are stark and desolate.

The Gaff Topsails are stark and desolate.

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A granite quarry in The Gaff.

A granite quarry in The Gaff.

The view from a campsite in Central.

The view from a campsite in Central.

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The pitcher plant, our provincial flower.  It thrives in bogs and is carnivorous - how appropriate.

The pitcher plant, our provincial flower. It thrives in bogs and is carnivorous – how appropriate.

Near Terra Nova.

Near Terra Nova.

A statue of infamous premier Joey Smallwood - half Stalin, half Buddy Holly.  In Gambo.

A statue of infamous premier Joey Smallwood – half Stalin, half Buddy Holly. In Gambo.

Along the isthmus.

Along the isthmus.

In Avondale you will see the only remaining section of rail line.

In Avondale you will see the only remaining section of rail line.

As you approach St. John's there is a lovely section that goes along Conception Bay.

As you approach St. John’s there is a lovely section that follows Conception Bay.

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Bridges

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St. Fintan’s.

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Robinsons.

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Fischell’s Brook.

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The longest bridge is this one at Bishop Falls.

The longest bridge is this one at Bishop Falls.

Maps

All I used was a free road map from NL Tourism.  It shows a thin red line for the T’Railway and that was enough to navigate the whole route.

Thin red line 002

Click on image to enlarge.

One of the best things I did was copy and paste a distance table from the T’Railway web site.  This was invaluable for planning throughout the day where I might get food, might think about setting for a target for the day, etc.  I referred to it often.

The table I took from the T'Railway website.  It tells you the distance between towns and the distance to St. John's.  I taped it on with packing tape.

The table I took from the T’Railway website. It tells you the distance between towns and the remaining distance to St. John’s. I taped it on with packing tape.

People

As always on adventures, meeting people is a highlight, and an especially welcome break from yourself when traveling solo.  I met two couples on ATV’s on the west coast who offered me cookies and a can of pop, another couple on an ATV who stopped and asked “Is that a Pugsley?” (I just about shit) and offered me a place to stay if needed in Grand Falls, and a mountain biker in Deer Lake who was all jazzed about my bike and what I was doing, to name just a few.

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These kind proprietors filled my water bottles with ice.

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I met the Calnen brothers, who were from Nova Scotia.  They come over every year because Newfoundland is so ATV friendly.

I met the Calnen brothers, who were from Nova Scotia. They come over every year because Newfoundland is so ATV friendly.

The trail

The condition of the trail was good.  The roughest section was in the Gaff Topsails which are the most remote section of the trail and the section that gets the worst weather.  The only time I dropped my tire pressure was in this section as there were a lot of “baby heads” and I was bouncing a bit.  The trail was in its best shape in Central and approaching St. John’s, where you could easily ride a road bike.

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There were a few times when I could ride beaches instead of the rail bed, like this section near Stephenville Crossing.

There were a few times when I could ride beaches instead of the rail bed, like this section near Stephenville Crossing.

It was heaven compared to the rough surface of the trail!

It was heaven compared to the rough surface of the trail!

You ride until you come to this bridge; cross under it, come out the other side and head for the road bridge because...

You ride until you come to this bridge; cross under it, come out the other side and head for the road bridge because…

...this bridge is closed.

…this bridge is closed.

Though the rail line crossed the top of the Main Dam in Deer Lake users are now rerouted below it.

Though the rail line crossed the top of the Main Dam in Deer Lake users are now rerouted below it.

I took every opportunity I could to take a dip.  Near Howley.

I took every opportunity I could to take a dip. Near Howley.

The only day of rain was in the Gaff Topsails.  Note the water on the trail.  A lot of days like this would be really unpleasant.

The only day of rain was in the Gaff Topsails. Note the water on the trail. A lot of days like this would be really unpleasant.

The high point on the trail is in The Gaff.  Mile 328 refers to the distance from St. John's.

The high point on the trail is in The Gaff. Mile 328 refers to the distance from St. John’s.

Signage overall is lacking; it is at its best in Central.

Signage overall is lacking; it is at its best in Central.

The trail often crosses the Trans-Canada Highway - where it does tunnels have been put in place.  They are a great place to take shelter from the sun or rain.

The trail often crosses the Trans-Canada Highway – where it does tunnels have been put in place. They are a great place to take shelter from the sun or rain.

In St. John's the trail runs parallel to some major streets...

In St. John’s the trail runs parallel to some major streets…

...but just as quickly you are back into sections where you wouldn't know you were in a capital city.

…but just as quickly you are back into sections where you wouldn’t know you were in a capital city.

The railway station is the green roofed building and the end of the trip for me.

The railway station is the green roofed building and the end of the trip for me.

Food and fuel

Access to stores occurred every day. Most communities have a small convenience store where you can get a least the usually array of junk food;  I was able to get bananas, for example, most days. For those of you not from Newfoundland convenience stores here also sell beer, and if you are really lucky they may also have a Liquor Express so you can get wine and distilled spirits as well. Also, fuel for alcohol stoves was readily available in most of these stores as well – it is sold as gas line antifreeze, about $1.60 for 150ml (three good burns).  Canisters and white gas were available in the major centers (Corner Brook, Grand Falls, Gander).

I couldn't wait to eat these again.  They are called "Scramblers" and they are available at a convenience store in Stephenville Crossing.  They are tart sheels filled with egg, onion, green pepper, cheese and topped with bacon!

I couldn’t wait to eat these again. They are called “Scramblers” and they are available at Karl’s Konvenience  in Stephenville Crossing, right next to the T’Railway. They are tart shells filled with egg, onion, green pepper, cheese and topped with bacon!  I ate two there and bought two more for the road – just $1.50 each.

You MUST go into this store in Howley.  It has been years since I've seen a general store like this.  They have EVERYTHING!

You MUST go into this store in Howley. It has been years since I’ve seen a general store like this. They have EVERYTHING!

Be sure to stop here when passing through Gambo.

Be sure to stop at Chestnut Tree Cafe when passing through Gambo.

I ate a lot of wraps with peanut butter.

I ate a lot of wraps with peanut butter.

Critters

I saw no moose for the entire ride but did see rabbits, grouse, spawning salmon, fox, caribou and beavers.

A beaver patrolling the pond.

A beaver patrolling the pond.

This beaver dam interrupted the entire trail!

This beaver dam interrupted the entire trail!

My best wildlife encounter was when I came upon this family of foxes...

My best wildlife encounter was when I came upon this family of foxes…

...Dad approaches...

…Dad approaches…

...pisses on a plant...

…pisses on a plant…

...and then walks by me with a look that implied "And I'll piss on you if you mess with my family"!

…and then walks by me with a look that implied “And I’ll piss on you if you mess with my family!”

I also enjoyed watching this beaver for the longest time...

I also enjoyed watching this beaver for the longest time…

...and then it was joined by another!

…and then it was joined by another!

Spot the grouse.

Spot the grouse.

A true friend

Nancy was kind enough to meet me at the end of the trip with a cold beer and to snap this picture of me.

Nancy E was kind enough to meet me at the end of the trip with a cold beer and to snap this picture of me.

ADDENDUM

CB to DL

I failed to point out when I posted this a few years ago that I got from Corner Brook to Deer Lake by staying off (mostly) the Trans-Canada Highway.  Leave Corner Brook via Riverside Drive.  This will take you to the highway, which you will have to ride on for 3 km until you get to Steady Brook. In Steady Brook get on Marble Drive and head east until it ends at a farm on your left.  Follow the easement through the farm to Strawberry Hill Lodge. Cross under the highway to Johnson Drive, then turn left on Bonnell Drive. Cross under highway again then cross river into Humber Resort.  Follow Lakeside Drive until it ends.  Bear right and then start using Google Earth or whatever you use/have to negotiate the woods roads on the north side of Deer Lake to the town of Deer Lake.