In the deep of winter’s dark, sometimes you just need to chase the light. The instant that rays of sunlight refracted through my window to tear at my closed eyelids, the hunt began. I drove out to Maddox Cove, where the wild gold was ecstatic on the waves, and headed for the East Coast Trail trailhead that points for Cape Spear.


Slow and careful on the icy path, I soon realized it was safer to walk near the path, in the patches of grass, than on it. At once in a tunnel of trees, I watched glinting slices of sun pool across the forest floor, reaching out across the trail.


I abandoned the path and set to wandering, chasing these pools of light. The way low sun falls on the forest floor, catches on trunks and branches, and squints through the trees is perhaps my favourite thing about winter.


I wandered in this non-linear pattern for a few hours, occasionally coming upon gorges where the sea crashed somewhere below me. I emerged from the trees on a slant of rock to sit and drink peppermint tea while the sun began to toy with the hills of Petty Harbour opposite. The sea was all turquoise and gold below, washing over the rocks that jut out from the headland.


Best Conditions for this trail:

  1. Any kind of sun. Full on blue sky, or glimpses of rays through the clouds, either works.
  2. An amount of snow is magical under sunlight, but the forest floor works as well, and makes for easier maneuvering.
  3. Pick a trail with lots of tree coverage to truly appreciate the magic of light leaks.


For Real Advice:

  1. Probably be cautious of lurking in the woods on the side of the trail if you hear other hikers coming. Try not to scare kids by popping out of the bushes.
  2. Try not to wander so far from the trail that you lose it. Unless you are skilled with orienteering and armed with a map and compass.
  3. Be wary of things that lurk in the underbrush when you stray from the path. Like snares, traps, barbed wire, and other metal things.


About this Adventure:

  1. I hiked from the Maddox Cove trailhead about 3 km into the trail toward Cape Spear. However, this was not even remotely linear and I did a lot of wandering. (It is a gorgeous trail though, be sure to tackle the full thing at some point too.)
  2. Information about the Cape Spear Trail, including directions to the trail heads and parking information, can be found here (insert link: