Freshwater Bay, Newfoundland
It had rained all night and the woods smelled amazing. The trail was springy, with boardwalks over the wettest parts, and downhill all the way in. It opened onto a view over Freshwater pond, the bay, up the coast, and out to the ocean - the opposite view of our Southside Hills walk. A tea-coloured river tumbled out of the woods, which we crossed on a sturdy footbridge. We stepped from boulder to boulder across the barachois. Water everywhere, underfoot and in the air, out to sea and up in the woods. Maybe it feels good because we are also mostly water. The damp grey days are beautiful out here.
Location: Freshwater Bay, near St. John's, Newfoundland
Length: 5 km
Companions: Stephen & dogs
Date: 29 October, 2018
Brigus Lighthouse Trail, Brigus, Newfoundland
It was a glorious day, full of bright light and subtle colour, all backed by the blues of Conception Bay and sky. Time constraints kept us from hiking the length of the trail to the lighthouse, but we walked far enough for a good view from the headland to the north-east of Brigus. A stream ran across the trail and downhill into the sea. The light playing with moving water and the sound of it made us sit still in the sunshine for a little while at the intersection of trail and stream. A poet was walking the trail that same day, as we learned at a poetry reading in the rain the next day. The threads that weave us loosely together were evident that weekend, running long, colourful threads across space and through time. The ways we are woven into each others’ lives, even when we don’t really know it. The surprising red of blueberry bushes.
Location: Brigus Lighthouse Trail, Brigus, Newfoundland
Length: 4 km
Companions: Karen, Cathia, Evelina
Date: 27 October, 2018
Quidi Vidi to Westend, St. John's, Newfoundland
A sunny, lovely day with crows: Quidi Vidi Gut, Mallard Cottage, Quidi Vidi Lake, the Dominionstore; the Anglican Cemetery, Government House, Military Road, Rawlins Cross, the Rooms; Long's Hill, back paths, side streets, Brine Street, Deanery.
Location: Quidi Vidi to Westend, St. John's, Newfoundland
Length: 6 km
Date: 24 October, 2018
Southside Hills, St. John's, Newfoundland
A trailhead I've never noticed before. A steep and sweaty climb up the Southside Hill. Appreciating the new angles: looking down at the Battery; straight across to Cabot Tower; and the view of St. John's, all of it, spread out like a boomerang across the harbour. Partridgeberries and blueberries are still underfoot. There are ponds up here, good swimming holes. The hills are wide, and we follow a path across the top until we are stopped by a cliff and a view. Freshwater Bay barachois to the right, Cape Spear straight ahead, and the Grand Banks somewhere out to the left. The views, and the particular shades of green, and the rocks, and the water everywhere. The rhythm of walking and talking, wind and breath, punctuated by happy dogs. It was a good walk, this one.
Location: Southside Hills, St. Johns, Newfoundland
Length: 4 km
Companions: Stephen & dogs
Date: 23 October, 2018
Southside Road, St. John's, Newfoundland
It's an industrial route, passing by the shipyards, the powerlines, the Coast Guard, the wastewater treatment plant, Irving oil, the factory fishing ships, small local fishing boats, wharfs and warehouses, the road itself under construction. A narrow road, no sidewalks, with a scattering of houses tight between the hillside and the street, home still to a few families.
Across the Narrows from the Battery, and across the street from the Small Boat Basin at Fort Amherst, I dropped by to visit an artist at his studio. We had tea with honey in his half-renovated wooden house that leans into the rocky hill, and talked about art. Raymond accompanied me partway back. It matters who you walk with, as they influence the direction of your gaze, your thoughts, your conversation, and your footsteps. In a good way. Back to the footbridge across the Waterford River, and off on my own towards downtown again.
Location: Southside Road to Fort Amherst, St. John's, Newfoundland
Length: 7 km
Date: 17 October, 2018
St. John's, Downtown & Signal Hill
This is the tourist route in St. John's - downtown, along the Harbourfront, Water Street, Duckworth Street, the Battery, and on along the trail around Signal Hill. If you have one day in town, this is the recommended walk. It's a good one, and it was a lovely day for it.
Location: Downtown and Signal Hill, St. John's, Newfoundland
Length: 10 km
Date: 15 October, 2018
Downtown St. John's, Newfoundland
On a sunny Sunday morning, I set out for one purpose, ended up with another, and time in between to wander around the downtown neighbourhoods of St. John's. My old neighbourhood. Picked up by a friend at the corner of Prescott and Gower, I went on about the day with this 20-minute wander tucked in my mind's eye.
Location: Downtown St. Johns, Newfoundland
Length: 4 km
Date: 14 October, 2018
Gampo Lhatse, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
It rained all day as I drove around the Cabot Trail, and didn’t let up when I hiked up Gampo Lhatse. It’s a steep climb, so I was warm in spite of being soaked through. The view of shore hills rolling up the coast, wild and treed, and the ocean below. The smell of wet pine and earth. The trail narrow and rooted, and the enormous friendly boulder about halfway up that I pat as I go by. The sudden darkness of singed forest with a cave-like shrine to Kuan Yin. Tattered prayer flags tangled in the branches. Ashes and rain.
Gampo Lhatse is a symmetrical, wooded hill at Gampo Abbey, a Buddhist monastery in Cape Breton. Gampo Lhatse is a Tibetan mountain spirit, and the protector of Gampo Abbey. Gampo Lhatse is where the ashes are buried or scattered, including those of Ani Migme who taught me during my days as a monastic at the Abbey. I have a history with this place too.
Can it be that residue of experiences resides in the place where they happened, that memories remain in the soil and are revived when you set foot on it again? It seems that way sometimes, and what a bundle of memories were waiting for me here. Climbing Gampo Lhatse with Norbuu after the consecration of the stupa, the hum of monks chanting resonating in our bones. Walking back from the village one night after a baseball game with Rachel, Spencer, and Clarity, the four of us walking hand in hand in hand, spread out across the road and full of love. The long walk through the snowy forest on snowshoes with Karma Ghyatso, making it back just before dark with snow-covered robes. So many walks that were taken just to have a private conversation, because living in community and largely in silence meant that the only place to talk was outside and on foot. The moose and fox that we’d see on those walks, and all the rainbows. Walking in starlight so bright it flung our shadows across the ground.
Location: Near Pleasant Bay, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Length: 2 km
Date: 3 October, 2018
Sandra Cowan likes to walk on trails, paths, and city streets. She is based in southern Alberta, Canada, as a visitor in the land of the Siksikaitsitapi (Blackfoot Confederacy).