Wreck Path, the 40km Undeveloped Route connects Cappahayden and Cape Race, beyond the southern terminus of the Developed ECT

Spurwink Island Path

Gord Follett

Jul 4, 2012

Wreck Path, the 40km Undeveloped Route connects Cappahayden and Cape Race, beyond the southern terminus of the Developed ECT

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Warning: No Trail and No Signs. Please ensure that you are adequately experienced and equipped to complete your journey without assistance.

South of Cappahayden the East Coast Trail is a wisp of fog, fog blowing in from the grand banks, and fog that foiled numerous ships along this coast and onto the unseen rocks of this essentially unpopulated shore. Fog and wind and storm and dream. But no existing defined trail.

The S S Florizel, built in 1909 in Glasgow to withstand the icy waters on the Newfoundland-Halifax-New York mercantile route, had also put in a few seasons taking sealers to the hunt and transporting the Blue Puttees of the Newfoundland Regiment to the war fields of WW1. It was a strong ship but it went astray in a February 1918 winter storm ending up on the rocks at Horn Head, just south of Cappahayden. One of the victims, Betty Munn, was a three year old girl in whose memory the Peter Pan statue was erected in Bowring Park (St. John’s) by her grandfather.

There is a muddy track leaving Cappahayden a short distance to the south where a sign and a few rusty remnants indicate the resting place of the S S Florizel.

Beyond this point the “trail” does not exist. The land is wooded, with a lot of blow down, rocky beaches and high cliffs. Seals and sea birds can be numerous. Hikers have detoured inland through and around various boggy and marshy patches with pitcher plants, native orchids, bake-apples and many kinds of moss and lichen. Staying essentially towards the coast. There are long distance barrens views of the Avalon Wilderness inland. And there is difficult tuckamore to pass through. And 4 tidal river crossings before arriving at the Chance Cove Provincial Park (camping, outhouses, no other services).

It is recommended not to do this hike without experience, sufficient preparation and a knowledgeable wilderness guide who has done the Wreck Path before. The East Coast Trail Association offers a scheduled experienced volunteer-led hike on Wreck Path from Cappahayden to Chance Cove usually once a year. Pre-registration is required and hikers must be able to complete 20km of no-trail hiking under difficult and probably wet, conditions.

At this time, there are no plans to develop the Wreck Path.

Wreck Path South could be considered the 20km section of undeveloped East Coast Trail linking Chance Cove Provincial Park and Cape Race. As with Wreck Path (above), the underwater shoreline is strewn with numerous 19th century merchant ships gone astray in poor weather. Chance Cove Provincial Park is a lovely setting with a usually swimmable estuary, some open areas attractive to tent campers, and reachable by gravel road (in season). There are clean public outhouses but no other services. There is a walking path leading south along the coast within Chance Cove park – but it is not kept up. This coastal path is identifiable to the grassy head called Frenchmens Cove which leads to a long stoney beach. Once again, there is no trail beyond this point. The coastal cliff edge is full of mostly old blow down trees, the difficult crossing of which can easily take four hours of potential ankle twisting and knee wrenching gym-like antics.

Clam Cove is a small settlement abandoned after the sinking of the Anglo-Saxon ocean steamer in April fog, 1863. The ship carried tea from Liverpool, mail, and immigrants for western Canada. There was a great loss of life and possibly over 100 persons buried in the grassy place next to the river. Another 130 persons made it to shore via a hawser and basket, walking out the Telegraph Road to Cape Race. The wooden crosses and mounds of stone have disappeared from the riverside. Up a rocky wet streambed is an old farmed clearing. Again, there is no trail. Over bog and in generally a south direction, one hopes to find the remaining remnant of the Telegraph Road, now an ATV track that reaches Cape Race after another 8 km.

At this time, there are no plans to develop the Wreck Path South.

Cape Race can be reached by a newly improved gravel road from Portugal Cove South.

This News feature highlights what is meant by the Undeveloped Wreck Path south of Cappahayden and north of Cape Race. At this time, it is not recommended to do this multiday path without experience, knowledge, and the skills necessary for wilderness survival. The ECTA hopes to offer experienced volunteer-led one day hikes on Wreck Path, when able (usually once per year with pre-registration required).

ECTA encourages hikers to purchase the ECTA maps which are available for all our developed paths (see Trail Detail)

Story and photos by J. Van Houwelingen

Upper row: Wreck Path, Cappahayden to Chance Cove
Lower row: Wreck Path South, Chance Cove to Cape Race