Trepassey to Hawke Hills (Day 5)

The story of a camping trip through the Avalon Wilderness Reserve (in 7 parts)

On September 22 I woke up at 7 a.m. to the sound of a truck coming up Frank’s Pond Road. I stuck my head out of the tent and waved. The two guys in the truck looked bemused, waved back, and kept going. Later, when I was almost finished breaking camp, they came back. We talked for a bit. They were partridge hunting, but hadn’t had any luck. I wasn’t surprised. They seemed more interested in driving than hunting. Breakfast that morning consisted of oatmeal garnished with the last few blackberries I could find on the beach.

The morning was quiet and the air cool as I made my way up Frank’s Pond Road. I admired the rocky hills to the northeast and spied in the distance a remarkably large erratic boulder sitting in some low land near a pond. Near the tip of the northeast arm of Frank’s Pond I left the road and headed straight north towards the canal that flows from Frank’s Pond to Middle Pond. This bearing took me over marshland and through a beautiful stand of well-grown forest. The forest floor was a luxurious carpet of green moss. It was easy walking. I arrived at the canal in no time.
Day 5 Map
The canal-bed consisted of muddy soil and tufts of long grass stretched out by the current. I forded the canal barefoot. The mud and grass were pleasant underfoot, the water cool and clear. That evening, feeling thirsty after a meal of fish and brewis, I wished I could go back for a long draft of that canal water.

After eating lunch by the canal, I set a bearing that took me along the north shore of Middle Pond. It was mostly marsh and tuckamore there, with intermittent patches of forest. As usual, caribou and moose trails came in handy to get me through the tough spots. Some of the caribou trails in that area were getting quite overgrown, probably due to a lack of caribou. Gunshots echoed from across the pond.

The Hills west of Cape Pond

At the east end of the pond I took another bearing towards four gullies which lay just to the north and at a higher elevation. Reaching those gullies, I stopped to stretch, eat, and enjoy the scene. The wind blew briskly from the south across the gullies and over a marsh, making the grasses whisper and tremble. The clouds were grand and puffy. The sun shone between them intermittently. I was pleased that day to be finding so many marshy and barren passages among the tangly growths of tuckamore.

Marshes and barrens north of Middle Pond. Photo by Aaron O'Brien.
Marshes and barrens north of Middle Pond. Photo by Aaron O’Brien.

From these gullies I took a bearing towards The Drop, a prominent rocky tolt just to the north of Cape Pond. Along this bearing I made my way over a height of land between two low hills, then descended a marshy valley towards a low rocky hill that guarded the way to The Drop. On my way down the valley I saw three moose halfway up the slope to my right: a rutting male with two females. I quickly reached for my camera, but my hasty movements spooked them and they ran.

I stopped for another lunch at a small hill covered in tamarack trees near the bottom of the valley. I was feeling especially hungry that day because I was eating Cliff Bars for lunch instead of my usual peanut butter sandwiches. Late blueberries were plentiful where I sat, so I added those to my meal as well. The sound of the wind in the tamaracks was soothing.

After lunch I continued on towards The Drop. I walked between two more small hills, then turned north towards the eastern arm of The Drop Long Pond, a large body of water just to the west of The Drop. The view to the south was impressive. Numerous rocky knobs rose over straw-yellow and rust-red marshes, with patches of green tuckamore interspersed. Rugged rocky hills abound in the land north and west of Cape Pond. It is certainly one of the most beautiful areas of the Avalon wilderness, rivaling even the southern coastal barrens that I’d passed through on my first and second days of walking. To the east I glimpsed Nipple Rock, a small tolt with an erratic boulder perched prominently at the top. It looks remarkably like a nipple on a woman’s breast, but more so when seen from its eastern side.

The Drop Long Pond

Descending toward The Drop Long Pond I scared up two more partridge. Arriving at its shore I found a mossy, sheltered campsite in a patch of woods. A stream with decent water flowed nearby.

Just down the shore from my campsite I found what seemed to be an old landing site and fueling station for a motorboat. Oil containers and sundry bits of garbage were left behind, as well as old pieces of painted wood, which I guessed were the remnants of a boat. It looked like it had all been abandoned quite some time ago. The site is probably associated with an old ATV trail that I discovered on the marsh just south of The Drop Long Pond. The trail also looked like it hadn’t been used for quite some time, the marsh plants having pretty well reclaimed it. The waters of The Drop Long Pond are part of the Salmonier River watershed, so having a boat stationed there would allow access to a great deal of good fishing. However, motorboats are not permitted on that pond, since it is not accessible by road, and ATVs are absolutely prohibited in the Reserve.

The rocky barrens northwest of Cape Pond. Photo by Aaron O'Brien.
The rocky barrens northwest of Cape Pond. Photo by Aaron O’Brien.

The mossy grove was a nice place to cook supper, abundant slug population notwithstanding. The ground was soft for sitting and the wind in the treetops made a lovely hushing sound. It was a little oasis from harsh exposure on the marshes and barrens. I cooked fish and brewis and brought it to the edge of the pond to eat. A loon kept me company not far from the shore. A flock of ducks flew swiftly from the west, flapping rapidly as if being pursued. The salt fish was too salty after all – I hadn’t soaked it long enough – and the ginger I’d added didn’t suit the dish. But ginger cookies and dark chocolate made a satisfying desert.

After supper I engaged in my new favourite evening activity: watching darkness settle in. The only sounds were the songs of robins on the opposite shore. Here the pond was sheltered from the wind, so the water hardly moved. Everything just got darker and quieter.

Read the previous parts of Aaron’s journey through the Avalon Wilderness Reserve: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4.

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