Trail blazing

“We’re ordinary people with extraordinary dreams.” That’s how Randy Murphy, East Coast Trail president, describes the people who work on the trail. Right now they’re working on dreams that involve expanding and restoring.

This month, two new sections of trail were added between Torbay and Flatrock. Father Troy’s Trail and Silver Mine Head Path joined the 540 km of trail already established. Another 18 km between Cape St. Francis and Bauline are also in the works, with Murphy estimating the project will be complete in about three years.

Igor’s no match

Along with growing, maintenance is key. Last year’s Hurricane Igor left its mark on the trail and downed 5000 trees, but Igor was no match for the 30 staff members. By Christmas, they cleared the trees from the trail and stacked them for removal.

Restoring existing trail is another big component of caring for the ECT. The sections between Fort Amherst and Cappahayden — the oldest part of the trail — are getting some attention, including trail bed reconstruction and boardwalk repair.

“If looked after it would last for generations,” says Murphy.

Getting noticed

Looking good is important for other reasons, too. The trail is getting noticed internationally as the Avalon was chosen the # 1 coastal destination by National Geographic in 2010.

Tourism is a big part of the ECT. Not only does it show off the Avalon’s natural beauty, it also takes hikers through many communities. Part of the fun of the trail is exploring the towns it leads to. It’s our own Camino de Santiago.

Towns are on the receiving end of benefits of being on the trail and are welcoming hikers. There’s no shortage of places to take a break and stay awhile. Between Bay Bulls and Cappahayden alone there are about 200 beds available in B&Bs.

How to build a trail

With the philosophy of exploration at the heart of the ECT, it determines each new trail. When an area for a new section is chosen, three groups of two people cover the area. Each group follows their own path and makes notes of what appeals to them.

When they meet, they find common ground between the routes and sights they all like. The association then works with the municipality through which the trail runs to make sure the route is agreeable to everyone. The foundation of each section of trail is consensus.

It’s good for you

Arguably, one of the main benefits built into the trail is good health. Murphy says he’s hiked the entire trail, and plans to do it again this year. He claims that after hiking the trail, his resting heart rate dropped significantly.

If you feel like going on your own pilgrimage of nature, the ECT could be your route. Its starting point is probably closer to your front door than you think.

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