Solace in nature

Explore coastal coniferous forest, filled with balsam fir and black spruce trees

T here is a narrow creek that runs through the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC’s) Maddox Cove Nature Reserve in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Alongside it, there is a small clearing where, if you remain silent, you can hear the water moving below your feet. When you close your eyes and take a deep breath, the scent of fresh balsam fills your nostrils. As you exhale, the cold, crisp breeze gently presses against your face.

Compared to the expanse of ocean nearby, this spot might not be considered particularly noteworthy. But for Megan Lafferty, NCC’s Newfoundland and Labrador former program director, it’s her favourite place at Maddox Cove.

Walking along the edge of Canada

The property’s coastal coniferous forest, where moss decorates the forest floor, creates a picturesque background for hikers along the Cape Spear Path on the greater East Coast Trail.

“Setting out along the East Coast Trail toward NCC’s Maddox Cove, you really appreciate that you’re walking on the edge of North America,” says Megan. “Balsam fir forest grows on one side of you, while steep cliffs on the other side drop down into the cold Atlantic Ocean.”

A must-see coastal destination

NCC’s five-hectare (11-acre) Maddox Cove Nature Reserve is the easternmost NCC property in the country. Located at the edge of the scenic town of Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove, just outside St. John’s, the Maddox Cove Nature Reserve is on the Avalon Peninsula – listed by National Geographic in 2010 as the world’s top-rated coastal destination.

“In the forest, you can see songbirds flitting about overhead as you navigate through the trees,” says Megan. “Depending on when you visit, you may glimpse icebergs, rafts of seabirds or even whales as you look across the bay.”

East Coast Trail

The East Coast Trail (ETC) consists of 26  paths spanning more than 300 kilometres that wind along North America’s easternmost coastline.

The trail integrates wilderness with community, taking hikers through dynamic natural landscapes and coastal towns. The Cape Spear Path runs through NCC’s Maddox Cove property.

Species to Spot

– American black duck
– bald eagle
– black guillemot
– common eider
– great black-backed gull
– herring gull
– humpback whale
– minke whale
– Virginia rose
– yellow-rumped warbler

Watch out for ghosts

Turning to the forest, keep an eagle eye out for ghost pipe. Since it’s only four to eight inches tall, it may be hard to spot among the other flora.

“It’s one interesting species NCC staff and I regularly see at Maddox Cove,” says Megan. “Unlike most plants, this one is white in colour, as it does not contain chlorophyll. It’s able to grow on shady forest floors, like the ones here, since it does not depend on sunlight.”

Connect with nature in your own way

As you hike the trail, you become immersed in a nature experience unique to Canada’s East Coast and can feel a deep connection to this dynamic landscape.

“I think it’s important for Canadians to get out and explore nature, because we are so fortunate to be surrounded by a wealth of it here in Canada,” says Megan.

If you can’t make the trip east, NCC has created a way to digitally explore this Nature Destination.

“I think it’s neat that everyone has the freedom to experience and explore nature differently and in their own way,” says Megan. “In 2016, we had the opportunity to make Maddox Cove ‘live’ on Google Maps using the Google Trekker. I really enjoyed the opportunity to show off our rugged natural beauty.”

Each time she visits Maddox Cove for field work or while on a hike along the East Coast Trail, Megan makes sure to visit her favourite spot to stop and listen to the sounds of nature.

“When I’m out in nature, I feel like I can appreciate what is truly important and see myself as a small piece in a much bigger world,” she says. “Nature allows me to challenge myself. The satisfaction and empowerment felt when finishing something like a hiking trip – to look at a map and see what I was able to accomplish – is something that can’t be matched.”

Photo Credits (Top to bottom): NCC; NCC; NCC; Lorne: Sean Landsman.

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