Hiking the Damnable TrailHayley Gendron and Taylor Burk
The name ‘Damnable’ comes from the phrase ‘damn the bell’, which has been part of the vernacular of this region for hundreds of years. We were told the legend of a pirate ship that had been hiding from the British in Saint Chad’s Harbour. The skipper aboard the vessel snarled the words after accidentally striking a bell that echoed through the bay and notified their adversaries of their hiding location. Now, ‘damnable’ has been cemented into the language and history of the peninsula, and is physically represented by a network of bells at different lookouts along the trail system that hikers can ring upon arrival.
While hiking, it is easy to overlook the hard work that goes into building the trails we visit. It is rare to see trail builders at work; they seem to magically and selflessly find time to develop and maintain beautiful paths for the benefit of all who use them. The Damnable trails have brought together the inhabitants of communities in the Eastport Peninsula such as Happy Adventure, Eastport, Sandy Cove, and Salvage to roll up their sleeves and work hard to rebuild and expand the paths of their ancestors. Historic walking and hauling paths have been used for many generations, and after the Salvage fish plant was destroyed in a fire in 2001, many of those who were put out of work were hired by the government to refurbish them to help create part of the Damnable network. All of their passion and efforts have established the region as a top-notch coastal hiking destination with over 30 kilometres of beautifully maintained trails to suit all ages and abilities.
We visited in the beginning of June, and were blown away with the high calibur hiking the Eastport Peninsula offers. We thought about those trail builders often during our hikes, grateful for their contributions. Most of our time was spent on the Salvage trails, and although the weather was not in our favour, the views and terrain still made the area a new favourite for us in Newfoundland and Labrador.
High rocky cliffs plunge into the turbulent Atlantic under scenic trails through boreal forest, with rocky islands beyond. The Salvage hikes have several well-marked spur trails leading to diverse lookouts. We hiked most of them, including Net Point, Southern Head, and the iconic Round Head Lookout.
The side trail to Old Harry Rock Lookout brings you to the namesake promontory jetting out of the ocean, and the massive standing wave it creates, which has been responsible for countless shipwrecks. ‘Old Harry’ is a euphemism for the Devil, aptly named for all of the destruction it has caused.
Net Point may have been our favourite trail and lookout of the bunch; we were impressed by the scale of the rugged cliffs overlooking the Salvage townsite and Round Head. We saw a bald eagle soaring in front of us as waves crashed below, with the moody weather making the scene look especially epic.
During our visit, we based ourselves at the Happy Adventure Inn, and were hosted by such kind and helpful staff who have a long history in the area and passion that proves it. They gave us detailed advice on all their favourite trails and sights (staff members helped build the trails themselves), and even took us out for a boat tour to find puffins and icebergs. The Inn sits high on a bluff overlooking a rocky cove, and is home to Chucky’s Seafood & Wild Game Restaurant, where we had our favourite fresh seafood meals in Newfoundland. Happy Adventure and the Inn serve as a great central hub for hiking in the region. Plus, it is hard not to fall in love with a town with such a charming name!
There are plans to expand the Damnable trail network to eventually link up with the beautiful inland trails of Terra Nova National Park nearby. Such a robust hiking system with rich history and picturesque villages should certainly convince you to add hiking in central Newfoundland and Labrador to your bucket list!
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