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Western Newfoundland offers a wide variety of hiking options

Newfoundland’s hiking trails could be a weekend long pack back trip or a short day adventure; it depends on what you want it to be.
Newfoundland’s hiking trails could be a weekend long pack back trip or a short day adventure; it depends on what you want it to be.

Hiking is one of Newfoundlander’s favourite pastimes and for avid hiker Isabelle Schmelzer, the west coast offers a variety of options.

“Newfoundland has incredible hiking right there and it’s a really enjoyable way to spend the day. Other places have a lot of regulations but here you’re left on your own. It’s truly accessible,” said Schmelzer of the many trails. “It’s really flexible. We are so lucky and there is so much opportunity.”

Newfoundland’s hiking trails could be a weekend long pack back trip or a short day adventure; it depends on what you want it to be. You can also plan for a very long trip and be surprised by weather.

“People are usually caught unaware, you should say to yourself ‘what if the weather comes in?’” said the hiker. “Prepare for changing weather. Fog rolls in, be ready to be delayed. We always have wind, so have a wind breaker tucked away.”

Schmelzer was a member of search and rescue for over 10 years and works as a wild life ecologist, and has been hiking ever since she was a child. Her background has made her more aware of the safety precautions to consider with hiking.

 “For safety, carry a whistle and wear good shoes. Know how to navigate, do not depend on a GPS but know how to read a map and compass. A lot of people think they can use their cell phones but it might be spotty. Don’t always count on that and the battery could drain,” said Schmelzer of safe hiking.

“Let people know where you are going and hiking poles are handy for river crossing and descending. I recommend at least one pole.”

Schmelzer suggests researching different technologies that can help determine your location and signal to others that you are safe once you have reached a destination.

There are a lot of opportunities for people to become more aware of the trails within and around Corner Brook by joining a local hiking group. Anything that you can hike in the winter can be done with snowshoes, Schmelzer said.

Schmelzer has hiked in Labrador, Alberta and Ontario and she highly recommends Lewis Hills for a long trip.

“It compares with the skyline in Jasper and has the same geological formation as the table sands in Gros Morne. It’s world class,” she said. “Bay of Islands area is a just as beautiful as Gros Morne with less tourists.”

Those are only a few of the places Schmelzer has mentioned and there are trails directly within the city, for those starting out or even professionals, but she definitely likes an overnight hike.

“There is nothing like waking up in your own tent with the dawn breaking and no one is around,” she said.

Hiking In Our Own Backyard

In the peak of our Newfoundland summer, without normal school routines, it is especially important that our children and youth remain active.  Extended screen time and gaming can certainly lure our children into more sedentary forms of entertainment, relaxing and socializing. Hiking is a great way for people of all ages to have fun outdoors and learn to love being active. As part of Canada 150, 2017 Parks Canada Discovery Passes are available for free; check it out at http://www.pc.gc.ca/en/index.  This opportunity opens up an abundance of hiking trails, leading to unspoiled, pristine, natural locations in Newfoundland and Labrador. For those looking for a weekend experience; a short, family-friendly outing or staycation activities, consider hiking the trails in this beautiful province.

The following tips can help you to prepare for a positive experience

s      Before leaving, check the weather forecast. Weather can change quickly over the course of your outing, so get up-to-date information before your departure.

s      Make sure everyone is wearing appropriate clothing and footwear.  Remember to carry wipes and band aids in your pack. A sweater and extra socks are always recommended. Hats, sunscreen and sunglasses are also part of your outfit.

s      Pack water and a few healthy snacks. Visit www.recreationnl.com/HealthyEating-DuringSummerBreak for a list of snack ideas.

s       If hiking with pets, remember to bring a water bowl for them as well.

s      Pick a suitable trail. Not everyone is prepared to do Gros Morne Mountain. Trails vary in length and difficulty. Do some homework first and pick a hiking trail that is appropriate for your group.

s      Be sure to let someone know where you are going, the route you are taking and a time for returning. In the event something unexpected happens, this information will be vital.

s      Invite a friend.  Bringing friends can make the hike more enjoyable. When hiking with children and teenagers, a friend can totally change the atmosphere of the hike. A child that just can’t walk one more step will be suddenly energized when her friend sprints forward to explore a fallen tree or a creek. A teenager might not mind a few hours without social media if a friend is along.

s      If you hike with children, release their imaginations. Pretend to be adventurers, scientists, hunters and explorers. Props like binoculars, cameras, pencils, and notebooks can keep them engaged as the hike continues. The search for a moose or rabbit is good game!

s      It is okay if the hike takes longer with children. There may be tears, frustration, and fatigue. Stay positive and respect the limitations of children. The goal when children are young may not be reaching the destination, but rather the development of a foundation for your child to love movement and the outdoors.

s      It is okay to stop and retreat. Bad weather, fatigue, or other occurrence can create a situation where it is better to turn back and try another time.  The silver lining here is that you have something to work towards for next time.

Getting out together in nature is a great way for everyone, especially children, to develop skills, learn to be comfortable outdoors, and stay physically active this summer.  Start small or go big, adventure is waiting in your backyard!

Hiking is activity #150 on ParticipAction’s 150 Playlist. To learn about the remaining 149 activities, check out http://www.participaction.com. This Playlist and the free Discovery Passes are part of Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations. Canada’s 150th birthday is an opportunity to celebrate all that is Canadian, and being physically active is an essential part of that collective identity. The 150 Playlist is part of a nationwide challenge encouraging Canadians to try as many activities as possible and find the ones they love. Each activity on the list includes adaptations and variations, ensuring that anyone can participate regardless of age, ability or level of experience.   Some activities will be quite familiar and others will be brand new.  Sign up to learn more and enter to win great prizes.

Gather your family, a group of friends or co-workers and get active to celebrate your life, summer in Newfoundland and Labrador, and Canada’s 150th Birthday!

Submitted by Tanya Barnes Matthews

Regional Health Educator

Western Health

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