The ECT follows the East Coast of Newfoundland along the Atlantic Ocean (full route). In total, the thru-hike is 193 miles long. I did about 124 miles (not counting 2 rides I hitched) before deciding to stop. This is the longest hike I've done.
Underestimated the climate. The weather was consistently grey. I saw the sun for about 4 hours during my 11 days in NL. It was also consistently wet even when it wasn't raining, which meant all my stuff would get wet and have zero chance of drying out on trail.
Underestimated the trail. No drastic elevation changes, but over a day I'd still accumulate a couple thousand feet (did ~12.5k up and down total). Much of the trail was slippery rock, slippery wood/tree roots, mud, fallen trees - surprisingly technical despite looking unintimidating.
I planned on cruising through trail, sleeping almost exclusively in my tent, and only eating camp food until I finished. In reality the trail wore me down, I slept indoors every couple of nights, and I took advantage of almost every restaurant in my path to boost my morale.
Honestly, there were only a couple of days I enjoyed out of the 8 days on trail: the first day when I was ecstatic to be starting, and the day the sun came out. I blame myself for this misery - I was underprepared. But I gained some valuable experience on this trip (how to handle wet trail/feet, how to pick a tent spot, what a guy line is, to never leave my poles behind, planning mistakes), so no regrets.
Trail starts on grassy path right next to ocean. It's foggy, mystical. I'm walking through people's backyards. Shoes get soaked immediately. Throughout the day the trail switches between open mossy cliffsides and patches of overgrown forest. Run into 1 hiker in the woods. A local, not thru hiking. Trail passes through a town (Renews) and it starts pouring. Feet start feeling raw towards the end of the road walk through town, but I keep going looking for a good campsite. End up camping at the next trailhead. Feet had been in soaked shoes for 11 hours by the time I crawled into tent, they look insanely pale and wrinkly.
Slept good, but feet crazy dry in the morning. Definitely feeling the feet as I walk. Cloudy and foggy, but no rain. Trail is hard for about 8 miles - up and down, mud, rocks and tree root. Fell once and hit my knee, not too bad. Super happy when I get out of that section. Road walk through town (Aquaforte). See crab fishing place - just bins and bins of crabs, kinda bizarre. Next trail is closed due to dispute with property owner, so I continue on road. Walk maybe 1.5 miles before couple offers me a ride. I take it and skip 3 more miles of highway walking. Get dropped off in Ferryland, walk a bit more and stop at restaurant. By this point, every step really hurting. I start inspecting my feet and researching what I can do. Start learning about "trench foot" and panicking. Trying to self diagnose. Decide I shouldn't continue and get ride back to St. John's and stay in hotel.
After rest and more research, decide to get more socks and some foot care stuff and go back to trail. Get dropped off back at same restaurant. Extra foggy day. Feet feeling much better with moleskin and double sock. Pass through Calvert - lady pulls up in car and gives me bag of fruit, so nice. Taking it easy, set up camp after short walk. Felt right knee a little. Short chat with couple from Calvert going on an evening walk.
Camp was cold, learned not to camp by water. Woke up in middle of night from boat and lighthouse playing Marco Polo with foghorns, kinda cool. Guy pulls up in car asks if I need a ride, I say no. More muddy trail. Super foggy, very low visibility. Got rained on and slipped on plank and dunked both feet in a river. Feet did much better by periodically wringing out socks during day. Switching socks is pointless - instantly soaked. Stop at restaurant in Cape Broyle, ate moose for first time. Got rained on for hours from restaurant to camp. Got drenched. Everything in tent is wet. Very demoralized, want to go home.
Tent surprisingly warm and dry in morning. Try to dry stuff out before packing up camp, doesn't work - super humid. Group shows up and starts exploring the little island I camped on. Guy tells me he saw thru hikers yesterday that were getting place to stay due to weather. Trail muddy as usual, but a little more maintained. Still lots of overgrowth and fallen trees everywhere. Did a barefoot river cross. Foggy all day, could see a little sun through fog sometimes. Feeling the legs and knees on inclines/declines. Book a BnB from trail. Hitched ride to skip ~5 miles of highway walk. Driver said weather is especially bad because icebergs finished melting just recently. Usually done by April. Drying everything in BnB room feels great.
Foggy morning, then sun finally comes out! Feels amazing. Trail still muddy and overgrown but much drier today. Feet stay 95% dry all day. Could actually think on trail for first time. Some good introspection. Sun burns fog away, and views are really pretty. Stop in Bay Bulls at greasy local joint, eat a burger. Left foot arch super sore, knees getting more sore. See a few groups on trail - not thru hikers. First people I've seen on trail since first day. Hiked until sunset.
Foggy again. Able to dry tent stuff out a little bit before packing. Trail overgrown at start, but gets better. For some reason, so many spider webs. Must have walked through like 50 with my face through the day. Trail not bad today, but legs and foot arches really sore. Knees hurting on even slight decline. Body feels exhausted. Pass by "The Spout" - a wave powered geyser. Pretty cool. No other people on trail today but see a trail runner when I am close to Petty. Get an AirBnB from trail so I could do a zero day, dry off, do laundry. AirBnB freezer has a bunch of cod and chunk of iceberg.
Lots of laying down with legs elevated. Ate at Chafe's Landing - good food, live music.
Foggy, rainy, windy. Trail started in open with lots of creeks. Very wet. Run into day hiker who volunteers for ECT, he says he feels bad for me for the weather. Pass through Cape Spear, the eastern most point in North America! I don't see whales but hear couple saying they'd seen one a bit ago. Continue on wet trail, get to Freshwater Bay and do another barefoot river cross. Trail gets hard from there. Steep, rainy, really windy. Feeling knees a lot on descents. Realize that I'm no longer enjoying the trek and chances are weather is not going to improve. Also trail gets more up and down from this point, and worried about knees. Decide to end the trek early.