Late-season hiking at the Gravels

Keith &
Keith & Heather Nicol
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Heather Nicol, left, Gwen Lawson take a late season hike along the Gravels trail with dog Pi.

The Gravels hiking trail sees lots of use in just about all seasons. Although we have never done the trail in mid-winter we have walked it in many other times of the year and our most recent trip was in late November.

On this particular day it was getting lots of use from families, dog walkers and runners. Since it is fairly level and is only about 3.5-kilometres one way it suits a variety of users.

Some hiking trails really showcase an area’s geology and this trail is a classic in this regard. At one time this area was a warm, shallow ocean located near the equator and over time limestone was created. Then over hundreds of millions of years the continents shifted and tectonic plates collided. The rock was pushed up and the limestone was slightly tilted and exposed along this shoreline.

This trail is well marked and can be found at the end of the gravelly spit that connects the Port aux Port Peninsula to the mainland. There is a large parking lot and interpretative signs have been posted describing the area.

The trail winds along the shore and the sloping limestone bedrock has been carved by wind and waves into intricate shapes in many places. The water is remarkably clear and keep your eye out for different types of fossils. The trail winds past several scenic bays and on a clear day you can see the Lewis Hills, which is the province’s highest point.

There are several side trails which lead to rocky headlands and this is the best place to look for fossils embedded in the rock.  In the summer there are many wildflowers growing along the trail and there are numerous benches which make ideal resting points.

On our most recent trip we had lunch overlooking a protected cove with the Long Range Mountains in the distance. You can also take a side trail to visit the large church at Aguathuna, one of the province’s oldest wooden buildings.

On this particular visit, we were also fortunate to visit a cranberry operation located near Stephenville Crossing.

We had never seen cranberries being harvested and it was an elaborate production. To harvest the crop the fields had been flooded to collect the berries. It was quite a sight. There was a huge sea of red berries floating in the water. They were being mechanically scooped up and would be sent away to be made into cranberry juice.

The cranberry businesses seem to be expanding in Newfoundland and we were told that the first crops in the province were harvested from these fields several years ago.

Cranberries have lots of health benefits and it is nice to see them being produced in Newfoundland.

Contributors Keith and Heather Nicol live in Corner Brook and are avid explorers of Newfoundland. Keith can be reached at knicol@swgc.mun.ca

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