Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Leg 7: Spruce Hill Road to Neil's Pond

November 24, 2013  Sunday  See map at the end.

Today we left Conception Bay South and strolled into Paradise. We began on a section where the woods have grown in over the trail, making it relatively narrow and giving us shelter from the wind on this cool day. The trail here runs between the inland terminus of some old roads in Topsail and much new construction straddling Buckingham Drive in the southern part of Paradise.

Early on, this sign posted on private property at the end of Monument Road reminded us of the trail's origin as the cross-island railroad. 

The walking became a real chore due to the ruts, gouges and small ponds we had to circumvent.  Jim used his walking stick to squeeze between the puddles and the trees.

The trail took a wide turn, approaching the Conception Bay Highway and then sweeping back inland. The steep terrain gave us an ocean view.

Here was evidence of a coal spill, presumably from a train taking the turn many years back.

Behind the Woodstock Colonial Inn, one of the oldest restaurants in the St. John's area, we came across the flume that carries water from Topsail Pond to a small hydro plant downhill.  An online search revealed that the Topsail plant generates 2.6 MW of electricity. Not quite Muskrat Falls; perhaps the tiny waterfall on the adjacent stream puts things into perspective.

We met a man who is the lucky owner of a house that backs onto the trail and the brook. He talked about the enormous changes to the area in recent years and the number of times he's been approached to sell his property. He's happy to still have access to open country for fishing, snaring rabbits and cutting firewood. This was the first conversation of any duration that we've had in35 km of trail. We told our new acquaintance that we were walking from Holyrood to St. John's and he became convinced we were doing it in a single day.  We tried to correct this mistaken idea  . . . but didn't really push the point. 

At Topsail Pond we stopped for a look at the dam where water feeds into the flume for the hydro station.

Topsail Pond, Three Island Pond and related waterways are surrounded by large homes side-by-side with smaller residences that date back to when this was cottage country and nobody would dream of taking on a commute of 10-15 miles to work in St. John's.

There was a noticeable change as we entered the next trail section.  It took a long, straight uphill route and it was in excellent condition.  The track followed behind the houses on the north side of the pond.  Many houses had paths giving them access to the trail, but some had erected barriers to prevent motorized vehicles from driving through.  

We hiked behind Rocky Pond and then caught a glimpse of Octagon Pond. Then the T'Railway shared space with the Paradise Walk, part of the Grand Concourse network of urban walking trails through the greater St. John's region.  

There was pleasant surprise as the trail intersected McNamara Road. On both sides of the road there was a landscaped entrance and signage marking the trail.  I believe this was the first instance we have encountered of a municipality acknowledging the T'Railway.  We called it a day just short of Neil's Pond.

Map prepared using the Trans Canada Trail website.


Distance:  6.5 km 

Time:  2 hours

Litter:  A clean trail except for the intersection with Three Island Pond Road, where commuters park their cars and discard their drink containers.

Trail condition: Awful from the start of Paradise to Topsail Pond.  Very good from Topsail Pond to McNamara Road.

Scenic Rating:  ***+  This trail section was devoid of industrial sites until McNamara Rd.

Fellow users:  One walker, one ATV operated by a man with a babe in arms. (Man and child both had helmets.)

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