Old Road to St. John's | U24O Bikepacking Adventure

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

If you followed any of my other U24O (Under 24 Hour Overnight) fat bike adventures, you may remember my trip to Clam Cove in Portugal Cove South (PCS) where I was mauled by black flies and terrified by unknown noises in the night.

When my wife and I visited PCS on a road trip, I scoped out another trail that caught my attention while scanning aerial maps in Gaia. With boots on the ground the trail looked promising as it reached in over the hills. Good enough for me.

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

Back at home based I poured over Gaia and estimated the trail to be about 20km and looked like it connected with with Chance Cove Provincial Park. If it worked out, that 40km in-out would become a 40km loop with an overnight at Long Pond. I mentioned the trip to a buddy of mine and he said he was interested in tagging along.

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

Having a date in mind, I started watching the weather as I really didn't want to be bikepacking in nasty conditions. I prepped my camping gear - stuffing a whole bunch of stuff in panniers - and got the '20 Bigfoot 1S ready to roll.

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

The long range forecast was calling for RDF (rain, drizzle and fog) and cooler temperatures. I was honestly on the fence until the night before when I decided I was going regardless of the weather. When I advised my buddy . . . I wasn’t sure if he was excited as I was about this possible soggy trip.

Heading out early the following morning, we loaded the bikes on my rack and were greeted by overcast skies at the start of the two-hour drive to the trailhead.

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

During the drive we encountered every type of weather, except for snow, but as Chance Cove Park came into view the skies cleared giving us blue skies intermixed with white clouds. So much for the weather forecast.

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

As we were strapping gear to the bikes, a local came over to say hello and asked what were we doing. He understood that the trail used to be the old road to St. John’s and it 
was now used by ATVers. And he wasn't sure if we could make it to Long Pond or the park. 

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

We hit the trail around 11:00 and it greeted us with a wide dirt track and a climb – seems like every ride starts this way. According to route I planned, the trail would climb 150m in the first 10km and that elevation would be lost a little more quickly in the following 10km.

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

There was hardly a tree in sight and the barrens seemed to stretch out and touch the sky. I can only imagine what this would be like during a cold February blizzard.

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

The trail was not always dry . . . with a few water crossings thrown in to mix it up a little.

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

Climbing a hill, I heard a strange screeching squeal coming from the direction of my buddy who was further up the trail. When I got up to him he was looking at his rear axle. A loose piece of paracord had wrapped around the axle and eventually tightened to the point where the bike stopped. He was not pleased. We rotated the tire and cut the cord to make it easier to remove. I pocketed the 3ft piece of rope figuring I would use it later.

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

We stopped for lunch just short of the half way point, finding some scruffy trees to prop up the heavy bikes.

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

Again . . . as far as the eye could see there was nothing but scrubby barrens. I scarfed down some pre-cooked pasta and my buddy had some spicy bean concoction. I guess I would be riding out front the rest of day.

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

Hopping back on the bikes, the trail continued to throw variations at us . . . including this section of fist sized rocks.

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

If you don't think nature is tough . . . just look at this little guy growing on a rock.

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

Continuing in the trail we encountered a more barrens, some odd rock formations, more water, a few boggy spots and a couple of remote cabins.

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

As we started our decent, the trail began to deteriorate into more mud/bog/tundra instead of hard packed dirt. This is where I really appreciated the flotation and grip of the fat tires on the Bigfoot 1S.

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

On this particularly damp section I glanced behind and noticed my buddy had stopped. I laid down my bike and walked back to see what happened and discovered the rack holding his seat bag had cracked. I had nothing in my tool kit to remedy this, but my buddy had a small roll of Gorilla Tape. A few intertwined layers later . . . we were back on the trail.

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

Checking the Gaia app it looked like we were about 5 km from Long Pond (our planned overnight campsite) when the trail totally disappeared. We were left with a vague ATV trail that veered off the planned route. It was around 4:00 when we decided to follow the ATV track hoping it would loop back to the planned route.

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

For a little over an hour we mostly pushed our bikes across the barrens as the wet sponge texture of the ground soaked up a lot of pedal energy. I kept myself amused by searching out and snacking on large amounts of yummy ripe bakeapples (cloudberries) . . . while unbeknownst to me my buddy was getting increasingly irritated.

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

We decided to ditch the bikes and find a high point to get our bearings as we were not “looping back” like I expected. Scanning the horizon I saw a large pond off in the distance and zooming down on Gaia I discovered that we were not as close as I thought to Long Pond.

We discussed options: keep pushing the bikes across the barrens into the unknown or retreat to where we veered off the trail. There was less of a scowl on my buddy’s face with option two . . . so that’s what we did.

Pushing the bikes for another hour I felt the pinpricks of little daggers originating from my soon to be ex-riding buddy. Following the Gaia route – now on full zoom – we picked up a patch of dirt that looked like a trail. There might be a chance we make it to Long Pond before nightfall.

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

Following the trail, it led to a river crossing and something that kinda looked like an overgrown trail.

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

I turned to see if my buddy wanted to bushwack through the trees . . . 5 minutes later I discovered that the trail went nowhere and I had to give my buddy the not so good news.

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

It would be getting dark in a couple of hours and we needed a place to pitch the tents. We backtracked a couple of hundred feet to an opening in the trees that led to a small hill. We hiked to the top and discovered it overlooked a small pond, had a killer view and a slight breeze to keep the mosquitoes at bay. This was going to be camp.

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

We left the bikes down on the “trail” and carried our gear up to camp. Luckily the ground was covered in dry tundra that would make a very soft mattress, unfortunately that meant no fire tonight.

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

We set up the tents quickly. 
The view was absolutely amazing. I decided to put a tarp over my tent as there were clouds off in the distance that did not look overly friendly. That 3ft piece of paracord came in handy when tying down the tarp.

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

A quick wash up in the pond and it was time to cook supper. I gathered a handful of small twigs and sticks that should provide enough fuel for my woodstove. Propping the stove on the top of a large rock, the cuscus concoction was warmed up in no time. Isn’t it funny that the simplest of meals when and cooked outside can taste amazing.

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

We had some evening left and decided to do a little fishing. Despite our best efforts the only thing biting were the mosquitoes and black flies. We did see a couple of loons playing in the water though.


Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

Dusk settled in as we got back to camp and cracked open a couple of adult beverages. As we chatted about the day's adventure I could tell that my buddy was no longer grumpy and I wouldn't have to sleep with one eye open.

We crawled into our tents and it was only moments before I heard snoring. I took a peek at Gaia to see where we were in relation to the planned route. So close but yet so far. It wasn’t very long before the long day and the super soft natural mattress claimed its next victim.

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

It was around 6:30 when I awoke to discover that we did not have the rain as forecasted and the ground was still dry. We had a quick breakfast – black tea, flavoured oatmeal and boiled eggs for me – packed up our gear and loaded up the bikes. We were back on the trail around 8:00.


Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

The first 30 minutes of the ride was just getting back to where we veered onto the ATV trail yesterday – which included fording a deep stream and getting our wet feet.

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

We picked up the main trail for the start of a long wet, rocky, muddy steep climb to the top of the ridge. The ride down was certainily more fun, but the Bigfoot 1S shod in Johnny 5s pulled me to the top of the ridge.

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

With the biggest climb out of the way the remainder of the ride back to the vehicles was a slow and steady decent to sea level. We ran into a couple of locals on ATVs. One guy was heading in to pick bakeapples, another was heading in to work on his cabin and the last was a family out for a ride.

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

Except for a loosened rack bolt on my bike, my buddy’s seat bag spewing snacks out on the trail and encountering a family of partridge . . . the trip out was pretty uneventful.

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

As we rolled up to the vehicles I took a peek at the time and it was 11:15 . . . just 15 minutes over 24 hours. A 37.5 km round trip, average speed 5.5 kph and almost 7 hours ride time. 

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom

While the “Old road to St. John’s” did not get us to our expected destination, the forecasted rain and miserable weather did not materialize either. I was really hoping that the push-a-bike session across the marsh would have gotten us to Long Pond, but we did find a pretty decent location to spend the night. 

For me its less about the destination and more about the journey.

Fatbike Republic Fat Bike U24O Bikepacking Bike Camping Adventure Overlanding Portugal Cove South Newfoundland Norco Bigfoot Gaia Axiom


RIDE FAT!







Comments