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Marble Mountain ziplines great way to take in scenic Newfoundland

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by Keith Nicol & Heather Nicol | Times & Transcript Staff

Fall is at its peak in Western Newfoundland right now (from the end of September to mid-October) and there are several great reasons to make the trek in this direction from anywhere in the Atlantic region.

The first is that two new zip lines at Marble Mountain have been added to the six existing ones, making this the largest zipline operation in Atlantic Canada by far.

The second reason is to hike a classic section of the newly created Appalachian trail in the Humber Valley.

For sea kayakers or canoeists, a third reason is to cruise down the Humber River.

Although you can do this itinerary in a weekend, if you have more time, you can do many other hikes in the area since the area has many nooks and crannies to explore. You can fly into Deer Lake which is just a few minutes from the Humber Valley or you can take the Marine Atlantic Ferry and drive for 2-1/2 hours from Port aux Basques to reach Corner Brook and the Humber Valley.

We suggest you overnight at The Lodges at Humber Valley Resort (www.humbervalleylodges.com). Then, on Saturday morning head out for the 9 a.m. Marble Zip Tour which is just down the road in Steady Brook. These tours run every 2 hours so you can mix and match these activities depending on weather, etc.

For those people who have never seen or heard of a zipline, imagine two cables strung across a gorge with a landing and take off platform on either end. Next picture yourself being fitted with a harness and helmet and attached to the cable with a wheeled device that allows you to 'soar' over the gorge while being suspended from the cable. If you are wondering about the purpose of the second cable it is a safety cable should the first one break! Double Yikes!

"(But) we could support a couple of cars under this cable without it breaking," says owner Martin Flynn as he told our group about the safety measures that have gone into his new business.

"Everything you are wearing has a breaking strength that is far beyond any stresses that you are going to be putting on it. So, who's going first?"

My wife Heather was the first taker and once she was clipped in she pushed off and "zipped" along the cable to the other side. In sequence we were each clipped in and sailed across the gorge. The first two ziplines are designed to get people comfortable with the idea of hanging underneath a cable while the ground falls away from under their feet. The next ziplines get progressively longer and the two new ones are close to 1,400 feet long according to Martin.

My favourites were the third and fourth ziplines which suspended us directly over Steady Brook Falls and Steady Brook Gorge.

At times we were an amazing 285 feet in the air above the gorge. Triple Yikes!

In all there are eight zip lines and the area is especially scenic right now with the red maples and yellow birches lighting up the hillsides.

Greg Pike, lead guide with Marble Zip Tours, told us they are the only year-round zipline operation in Atlantic Canada and, if any skiers are reading this, yes, you can even "zip" this winter. Be sure to bring your camera and for more information contact www.marbleziptours.com.

After experiencing the ziplines, you may be in the mood for something a little tamer so in the afternoon set your sights on Humber Village and the International Appalachian trail.

The Appalachian Trail in the U.S. is a well-known long distance hiking trail which stretches from Georgia to Maine. Since Western Newfoundland is geologically part of the Appalachian Mountains, a group of avid western Newfoundland hikers have banded together to help develop a trail that runs from Port aux Basques to L'anse aux Meadows.

One of the classic sections is in the Humber Valley and is especially colourful in the fall when the extensive birch forests turn a brilliant yellow. This section is well marked and I recommend starting in Humber Village (trailhead is at: 48 59.262 N and 57 47.001 W). The trail climbs from the start to a superb viewpoint overlooking the Humber Valley. There you will have spectacular views of the entire valley all the way to Deer Lake.

You can then follow the trail along a ridgeline all the way to Wild Cove Pond. This is a 5-kilometre hike (one way), however, it only takes 45 minutes (1.5 km) to get to the viewpoint for those interested in a shorter walk. For more information see International Appalachian Trail in Newfoundland and Labrador (INTNL) web site at www.iatnl.ca. 

The next day you can opt for hiking up Marble Mountain Ski Resort (there is a road you can follow to the top), hiking on another nearby IATNL trail or going kayaking/canoeing on the Humber River. We recommend kayaking from the Humber Resort Bridge to Humber Village. All types of paddlers will enjoy this trip and since there is only one section of minor rapids it is especially good for novices or intermediate paddlers.

Once again the fall colours really make this trip which can be done in 2-3 hours. And if you have more time available, the hiking trails in the nearby Bay of Islands are second to none in the province and the following web page offers lots of ideas-http://www2.swgc.mun.ca/~knicol/NLhiking.htm