The previous evening, while listening for the daily forecast on the 2-way radio, we overhear a segment on CBC's as it happens
about a Newfoundland man who is doing a mental health awareness drive by walking across the length of Newfoundland, stopping every kilometre to do ten pushups. The conversation soon got to whether or not we should undertake the same for the remaining kilometres of our Pukaskwa backpack... which most of us say in jest, but which Gino says he'll do. We scoffed at him and went off to bed. However, during today's hike, Gino holds fast, and starts doing pushups each time we stop for a break. He's not stopping every kilometre, but he is pro-rating based on how far we've come since the last stop. He even does them with his pack on. Impressive! (and for those who want more background, you can read about this guy here
Mental Health Awareness Pushups
It takes us about two hours to complete the overland route from Shotwatch Cove to the Willow river. We know the section is over when we spot a modern suspension bridge over a major waterway. We marvel at its new and sturdy construction, and then bounce happily across. We are glad not to have to deal directly with the sluggish, brownish waters of the Willow River.
Nice Path near Willow River
On the far side of the Willow River, the trail turns sharp left and follows the river's northern bank. Soon we arrive at the river's mouth, where there is a significant inlet and a large barrier sand bar. There are many backcountry campsites here, both of the hiker variety and the paddler variety. We stop at one of them (WR1) for a long lunch break.
The day is beautiful - sunny and slightly breezy. Going out to the beach provides just enough breeze to keep any and all bugs away. I think its safe to say that more than one of us had a few minutes of napping time there.
We cut short our already extended lunch shortly after 1pm. We still had a long way to go before reaching camp, and even though the skies were still clear and beautiful right now, the forecast predicted that would soon change.
The park's generally poor signage situation made itself felt again as we searched the north end of the Willow River beach area for the continuation of the Coastal Path. Eventually we found it, but again, we wonder about the choice to place bare minimum signage in only a few areas and none at all pretty much everywhere else.
Heading off from Willow River
Heading off from Willow River
Our final destination for the day is Hook Falls, situated along the White River a fair ways inland. It is roughly seven trail kilometres from Willow River to Hook Falls. Generally, it is a relatively uninteresting stretch, crossing a lot of generic forested terrain. The trail is not very smooth, either, requiring focus and energy to manage roots and rocks and boulders and such.
The trail is inland immediately upon leaving the Willow River area. At first it follows a drainage that is not far from the coast, but after a few kilometres, it bends to the northeast and heads away from the coast, heading deeper inland. It also starts to climb up to a high pass (well, high for this area) which crosses into the drainage of the White River. There are actually a few nice spots along this higher section, open bits of bedrock slab that provide views of the forested valley and a few nice meadows. At the highpoint, there is a decent lookout north into the drainage of the White River.
Gino's still at the push ups
Descending into White River drainage
It is definitely starting to cloud over as we begin our descent into the White River drainage. Fortunately, the descent into the drainage also means we are close to camp, for the Hook Falls site is along the White River. After descending from the pass, the terrain flattens out as it nears the river and soon we see a park sign pointing to the campsite area.
Although there was a generic sign pointing to the Hook Falls campsite area, there is nothing indicating which site is which, and we spend some time wandering around, trying to decide if this spot or that spot is the campsite. We eventually pick a spot closest to the river (but still separated from the river by trees). A few raindrops begin to fall at this point, accelerating our setup. Later, as we are looking at the park map, we see that it appears as if the HF1, HF2 and HF3 campsites are all *below* Hook Falls. But where we are and the very clear "campsites here" park sign were definitely *above* the falls. And there was a bathroom and bear box here. So, seriously, what gives....? Something was wrong somewhere - either on the map or ... there are more campsites than advertised, or, well, I don't know what. But definitely par for the course on ambiguousity and lack of clarity on the part of the park.
This was absolutely the worst of our five backcountry campsites. It was not at all scenic - it was situated in a drab bit of coniferous forest with no views of anything. It wasn't separated well from the next nearest campsite (assuming that was actually the next campsite, for with no signs indicating the sites it was impossible to know). It didn't help that the still, humid air had returned, and with it, bugs. There was a faint path leading down a steep bank to the edge of the White River, but the views from there were pretty limited. Where all of the other campsites were basically 5 stars out of 5, this one was a 1 out of 5. Maybe.
Rainy Dinner at Hook Falls
After a dinner under the rain tarp (it continued to lightly shower), a few of us headed around to the trail and down to a lookout of Hook Falls itself. It was more of a half-falls / half-rapids sort of affair, but it was still nice, and definitely the biggest river we had seen so far on this trip. There was a very strange warmness to the air around the falls and the river. It was as if the water of the river itself was emanating a noticeable amount of heat. Combined with the warm and humid airmass, the whole area around the river was slightly misty and it felt a lot like a sauna. My camera lenses quickly started to fog up as I took a long exposure shot. It felt immediately and noticeably cooler as soon as we stepped away from the river and started to hike back to the tents.
And so, day five of the backpack had come to an end. The first part of the day had been very scenic and had been excellent hiking. The second half, less so.
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Fish Harbour to Hook Falls - click map to view
Pukaskwa National Park Day 5 - Fish Harbour to Hook Falls - Hike Data
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain:
Total Elevation Loss:
* : +/- 75 feet