Leanne Sweeney could hardly contain her excitement as she set out on a two-week adventure through western Newfoundland recently.
Sweeney was among 21 students and two professors from Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ont. who just spent 14 days hiking from the Lewis Hills to Gros Morne National Park as part of their outdoor leadership program.
The experience was extra special for Sweeney because, not only do both of her parents hail from Newfoundland and Labrador, but her mom is originally from Flat Bay — not far from where the hike began May 31.
Her dad is from Placentia.
Sweeney, who is from Brampton, Ont., had lived in the province for a few months here and there, but never for any extended amount of time. When she was here, she never went into the backcountry.
“The whole thing was incredible and it was amazing to see Newfoundland in this way,” she said Friday, one day after the trek finished.
The group crossed the Lewis Hills and Blow-Me-Down Mountain ranges on the southern side of the Bay of Islands before being ferried across the bay to the North Arm Hills. They finished up by splitting into two groups that explored the opposite sides of Trout River Pond before wrapping things up with a celebratory lobster boil in Trout River.
“It was amazing going through the different landscapes and feeling so small all the time,” she said. “You’d just drop into these valleys and there would be these massive walls of rock on either side of you.”
Before deciding on this particular hike, the class spent a lot of time researching and debating what they would do to fulfill the requirement to plan and do an extended backcountry trip. Initially, they were going to go to Peru and then considered other destinations in Western and Northern Canada before finally agreeing to do the Long Range Mountains of western Newfoundland.
Thoughts of some who did the hike:
– Easton Rough of Toronto was glad about their final choice to come to Newfoundland.
“We got really lucky and the trail we ended up on was probably the most geologically rich place I have ever travelled through. The sights we got to see were amazing.”
– James Ennis of Georgetown said no photos or videos or words are adequate enough to fully convey the experience.
“For me, it was overwhelming,” he said. “I’m still comprehending it and digesting it. I’ve been trying to tell my family about the experience, but you cannot experience what we saw and give it justice just by telling a story. It was absolutely amazing.”
– Mike MacMillan couldn’t believe the geographical dynamics.
“We’d walk out of a gulch into a marsh that looks like it was out the ‘Lord of the Rings’ and then, out of that, into an area that looked like Mars,” he said of the mantle’s red rocks. “Every day, it was something new.”
– The group experienced a couple of hot sunny days, some below-freezing nights and some stormy winds and hail.
“It was the first time I’ve ever went hiking and had 25 (C) in the day and -2 (C) in the night,” said Ben Dunlop, who is among four of the students who planned to stay a few extra days to explore the Northern Peninsula.