Venturing into the Wilderness
In the June issue, our readers get the inside story on a five-day trek by the Avalon Venturers Scout Troop along the historic d'Iberville Trail. For their last summer as Venturers, the troop wanted to embark on a journey they would remember for the rest of their lives. And reading their personal travel journal entries, it's obvious this trail provided exactly what they were looking for. Read a few excerpts below, and see the June issue for more entries from their journals. To find out about Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville (for whom the trail was named) and his infamous career in Newfoundland, see www.heritage.nf.ca/exploration/f_presence.html
Beth Spencer - Day three dawned nice and sunny. We downed our morning breakfast, consisting of half a cup of oatmeal, half a cup of nuttella and a quarter of a cup of brown sugar. It didn't taste as bad as the gruel of the previous day! We packed our bags, which were finally completely dry after the previous day's rain, and had an early 9:00 a.m. start.
At this point we were in the middle of the Avalon Wilderness Reserve and the scenery was spectacular. After weaving around several small lakes, we scrambled up the side of a ridge for a panoramic view of the area (unfortunately, no caribou were visible). Then there was a long hike across a series of bogs and barrens, with a short stop to pick bakeapples along the way. We finally scrambled out of the bush onto a dirt road, the only road in the whole reserve.
We stopped on a bridge for a lunch of pasta, and then we sped off down the dirt road for 9 km. This was the easiest terrain of the whole trek and ended far too soon. Back into the thick undergrowth we went. At this point Skye went swimming with her pack on (she fell in the river). The flies, which had stayed away in the highlands, returned in droves, but we dared not stop because the whole land appeared to be infested with red ants. After 2 km we finally emerged onto the top of a hill with a small lake and, mercifully, some wind to chase away flies; we all dropped down exhausted.
We decided we had gone far enough today and set up camp there, cooking a wonderful supper of mashed potatoes with butter, herbs, tuna and bacon bits. After a quick wash-up in the lake, everyone went to bed, either in tents or under the stars. We had come 17 km in one day, 8 of them with no trail - there is no way anyone did this with a cannon!
Hilary Price - Okay, you know there's something wrong when your first thought of the morning isn't suitable to be printed in Scout Magazine. My lower back hurt, my upper back hurt, my calves were stiff and my side was killing me. It turns out that we managed to find the most rocky, uneven piece of ground in the whole of the Avalon Wilderness Area to pitch our tent. It took quite a bit of breakfast-smelling encouragement to finally crawl out of my sleeping bag. Peeking my head out of the tent, my sleepy eyes opened up to an incredible view of wild ponds, barrens, misty hills and my best friends.
On the first few days, we each carried a full liter of water and our own personal bag of snacks. However, it soon became obvious that there was no point hauling so much extra water around all day. Most of us began carrying half a litre at a time to reduce the weight. To compensate for this, the group was always on the lookout for streams and clear ponds to refill our supply. Our old Beaver motto - sharing, sharing, sharing - became everyone's favourite again when we stopped for breaks. I've never seen teenage boys try so hard to give away food! (Once again, to reduce our loads.) That unusual element of cheerful, teasing helpfulness in everybody created an atmosphere of optimism and unity in the group; no matter what challenge we were literally up to our knees in.
We unanimously decided over breakfast that we were going to do an easy 8 km day. On that note, we didn't leave camp until 10:30 in the morning. The walk was fairly easy over dry, rolling hills, but nature presented a new challenge for us: heat. The stiff wind of the previous days had disappeared, so there was no way to alleviate the stifling heat. The sun was brutally hot, and every uphill sprint was torture with our heavy packs on. Needless to say, it was an easy decision to stop when we spied a beautiful sandy beach on the far side of a pond.
We ended up staying for three hours, just swimming in the cool water and eating chicken soup. Some of the more ambitious members of the group decided to drop their packs and climb Bread and Cheese Hill, the highest point in the whole reserve. They said they could see the ocean on both sides of the peninsula from the summit. Apparently it was well worth the effort. However, our explorations came to an end as we resumed our trail and came across some of the hardest terrain we'd ever encountered.
The word tuckamore may not be familiar to people who live off the island of Newfoundland. Basically, take your average pine forest and squish it down so that it's four feet high in about half the original area. You end up with a massive, impenetrable, prickly misery that even moose tend to avoid. The only way through is to tunnel.
It was a nightmare; our bloody shins can attest to that. Over the barrens, we managed to hike five kilometres per hour. Through the tuckamore, we averaged one tenth of that. Most of us eventually stopped caring about getting scratched or ripping clothes, and just plowed our way through, teeth gritted and arms thrashing. After 5 km, no one wondered why d'Iberville burnt his way across the peninsula. In fact, we were having similar thoughts ourselves. It took severe self-restraint and another look at the wilderness area permit to be nice to nature that day.
We ended our day at a beautiful campsite overlooking a pond with, I'm happy to report, much more tent-friendly terrain than the night before. We were all disappointed to see a cabin roof in the distance. Being so isolated spoiled us, and coming back onto the fringes of civilization was really hard to get used to again.
Our nighttime routine pulled off without a hitch (by then we were pros). It wasn't long before we were cocooned in our sleeping bags, staring up at the Milky Way. The stars were so close that you felt like they were going to fall down on you. It was only then, in our last few conscious moments, that any of us realized that this was our last night out together. That our incredible journey was coming to an end, and that tomorrow would bring only cars, noise, roads and houses. These were good days. I went to sleep happier than I've ever been and sad at the same time.