Nfld. & Labrador

One man, one dog, and a 700-km trek through unspoiled Newfoundland wilderness

A teacher with an adventurous streak 700 kilometres long is gearing up for a trek across the remote woods and waters of Newfoundland.

'I guess I am a sucker for punishment,' says Justin Barbour

Justin Barbour and his travelling companion, eight-month-old Saku, a Cape Shore Water Dog. (Maggie Gillis/CBC)

A teacher with an adventurous streak 700 kilometres long is gearing up for a self-propelled trek across the remote woods and waters of Newfoundland.

I think I get bored living the everyday lifestyle.- Justin Barbour

Justin Barbour won't quite be going solo — he'll have his dog Saku by his side to help him tackle the ungroomed wilderness of the interior for an expedition he's called, Newfoundland West to East: For the Love of the Rock.

"For me it's about a challenge, it's a personal thing, a physical, a mental challenge, and I guess I am a sucker for punishment at the end of the day," said Barbour.

Barbour will use cameras to document his experience and says he usually takes notes on what he sees along the way. (Justin Barbour)

The competitive hockey player has always loved camping and fishing, but really got hooked on wilderness trekking about five years ago while studying at Memorial University.

"I did a canoeing course with the physical education program and we went off for a couple of nights off the Salmonier Line and the hook was in after that," he told CBC's St. John's Morning Show.

Part of Barbour's gear for the expedition will be a small, portable, inflatable boat called a packraft. (Justin Barbour)

"I bought a canoe and I have just been steadily going out and doing as many trips as possible. I think I get bored living the everyday lifestyle."

A 120-kilometre solo trek through the Avalon Wilderness Reserve in 2015 was a tough challenge both mentally and physically, but those 14 days alone in the woods gave Barbour a taste for more.

"I just kind of got this thirst to want to do something bigger and that's when I got this trip in my mind," said the 29-year-old, from St. John's.

"Being on my own doesn't bother me."

Man's best friend 

Barbour didn't deliberately decide to tackle a 60- or 70-day trip through the woods alone.

There just weren't any willing participants.

"Of course I ran it by two or three people, and it was a quick, 'You're cracked,' or 'You're nuts,' or, 'No,' and at some point in time you can't wait around," Barbour said.

"I realized that I'm going on my own, but if I'm doing it I'm going to take a dog with me. They're man's best friend and it's a companion."

Saku has been getting used to being in the woods since he was a puppy, and has been doing longer hikes, 'pretty much every day since he was old enough to do some steady moving,' says Barbour. (Justin Barbour/Facebook)

Saku won't be Barbour's only company in the woods. He's planning to carry about 15 pounds of electronics to document the trip — including an SLR camera, two GoPros, solar chargers, batteries, and a tripod.

"Of course the camera is a bit of a friend too, I'm talking to myself, yeah, but I mean I am doing it to share the beauty of what I'm about to see."

Safety considerations

He'll also carry a satellite phone with unlimited minutes and a GPS system with an alert function in case of emergency.

"Which has insured SOS on it up to $100,000," said Barbour.

All the snow coming now is making things interesting, but that's just part of the fun.- Justin Barbour

"I also know a couple of pilots around the island so there is more than one way I can get out if needed."

A lightweight tent and sleeping bag, an inflatable raft, cooking supplies and dehydrated food will add up to a backpack weighing about 70 or 80 pounds.

On the drive from St. John's to the west coast, Barbour will drop supplies at three locations along his trek route, one in Conne River, another at a hunting cabin along the Burgeo Highway, and the third near Swift Current. (Justin Barbour)

Barbour plans to start the trip from Robinsons on the west coast around April 20, and he intends to stay off man-made paths for most of the 700-kilometre journey to Cape Broyle on the Avalon Peninsula.

"I'm going to go through some places that haven't really been trekked in before, or very few people have been in there," said Barbour.

What's on the menu?

Barbour will carry about 30 pounds of food, such as granola and beef jerky, in his backpack, and he will have three supply drops set up along the route containing food and clothing.

Even Saku will carry some of his own food, and the pair have been out everyday for the past couple of months training with weighted packs.

However, Barbour hopes most of what they'll both be eating — once the season opens two or three weeks into the trek — is freshly caught fish roasted over an open fire.

Justin Barbour says he is a big lover of hunting of fishing. (Justin Barbour)

One thing is for sure, this trip is all about the journey, not the destination.

"I don't want to rush through it, I could go out and try to do this as quick as I can, but it's not a speed challenge," said Barbour.

"I want to enjoy the point A to point B because that means a lot to me too."

Starting the trip in April means Barbour will be dealing with winter conditions, at least for the first part of the trek.

"All the snow coming now is making things interesting, but that's just part of the fun."

With files from the St. John's Morning Show