Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Grand Codroy RV Park in Doyles to Cheeseman Provincial Park

Last night a thick fog rolled in, so this morning dawned damp and cool. The campground was mostly quiet when we woke up at 6:30 am, except for one excited little girl who was more than ready to begin the day's adventures.

It was hard to leave the peaceful campground. As we packed our gear we listened to the sounds of a Red-breasted Nuthatch, Black-capped Chickadee, and family of American Robins. We stopped to enjoy a coffee and homemade muffin before heading out, and had a final chat with the friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable owner of the park.

The trail was a lovely treed corridor bordered by colourful wild flowers. In the background were steep, emerald green mountains, some of which still had patches of white snow. The scenery in this section was stunningly beautiful, and at least as impressive and interesting as what Gros Morne offers. Not only is this region beautiful, it also offers world class birding in three Important Bird Areas, as well as many interesting places to visit. We would highly recommend spending a few days in the Codroy Valley area if you ever get a chance!

An added bonus today was that we were walking along the top edge of the Codroy Valley Important Bird Area for the first part of the morning. We certainly saw many birds along the trail in this section. Some highlights included a Norther Harrrier that swooped low over the trail, several Cedar Waxwings, Black-throated Green Warblers, and a pair of Mourning Warblers feeding their young at the trail's edge.

As we were hiking along enjoying the birds, an ATV stopped beside us. This is not unusual, but we were very surprised to find Gary and Ruby inside! Gary was on the tour we took to Cape St. Mary's with Bird the Rock way back in May, and his wife told us she saw us on the news and on TV! This is not the first time we've recognized someone we've met before on the trail, which makes Newfoundland seem very much like a community. We stopped to chat, and Gary showed us some excellent bird photos he'd taken before we parted ways including Merlins and baby Plover! It seems like an odd symmetry to meet someone from our first days on the island just before we leave.


As we continued on the trail took us alongside a broad river, and then a lovely deep blue lake. The houses along the shore looked new, modern, and large, like this is a developing area. It is easy to see why, with the fantastic mountain and lake views.

Around noon we passed Murray's Beach, which was a lovely sandy beach full of small children enjoying a swim. Just past that we found the J and L Grocery, where we stopped for orange juice and cookies. We had hoped to find oatmeal and granola bars, which we are very short of, but instead we found a nice take-out restaurant and ended up having a nice long chat with Alice, the owner and a proud native of The Rock.

Not long after our break we rounded a corner in the trail, walked past a colourful fishing village, and suddenly found ourselves on the coast! There were white sandy beaches, cliffs reminiscent of those found on the east coast of Avalon, and tuckamores! The views back down the shore were beautiful, and it was exciting to see seabirds again. Highlights included a Northern Gannet, a flock of Black Guillemots, a large group of Double-Crested Cormorants, and a Common Loon fishing in the waves.

As we made our way along the coast the wind really began to pick up. We found ourselves struggling against it as we climbed the gravel track. Not that we were complaining - the wind felt good on the otherwise hot sunny day, it kept the bugs off, and we understand that it was considered 'insignificant' by normal standards (only 40 kph). This stretch is known as 'The Wreckhouse' and is famous for the train frequently being derailed by the wind there, and now cars and trucks being swept off the Trans Canada Highway in high winds. We were lucky, but I still felt a little like Piglet in a windstorm.

We had originally thought that we would stop 20 -25 km into the walk, but the coast was far to windy and exposed to stop and set up the tent. In the end we continued on - trekking more than 30 km - to J.R. Cheeseman Provincial Park, which is another Important Bird Area. Part of its designation was provided because the sandy beaches there provide breeding habitat for the endangered Piping Plover. As we approached the park along the sand dunes we kept a sharp eye out for any plovers, but didn't end up seeing anything today.

We did pass an estuary with several Greater Yellowlegs foraging at the low tide, and a Great Blue Heron fishing.

It was a 2 km walk into the park, which seemed pretty long at the end of tiring day. It seems to be a very nice park, but not too long after we got everything set up it began to rain - hard. As we lay in the tent in the dark, listening to the rain pelt down, we can also hear a fog horn blowing on the coast, and what sounds like large waves crashing on the shore. It was a long day, but it was filled with wonderful know your typical day here in Newfoundland.

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