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A Trekking 1st: Fisherman Justin Barbour and his dog, Saku, Fish & Packraft Their Way Across Newfoundland

“Reaching a beach was a welcomed break for us. Especially after a day like today when we paddled 28km. And more importantly we reached the half-way point of our trip, the first community in 330km. The shores weren’t always this friendly either. The rocky landscape of Newfoundland presents treacherous boat landings where sharp and jagged rocks lie waiting. I had to be very careful and patient when choosing a docking area ”

A Man & His Dog Make the 1st Trek Across the Remote Newfoundland Wilderness, Feeding Themselves With Fish Along The Way

Over the last few years Justin Barbour has completed and filmed solo long distance trips throughout his province. Last year he found a new adventure partner–his Cape Shore Water Dog, Saku. At only 13 months, Saku has seen a lot of land. Bred for life in the woods and retrieving waterfowl, he always wants to be exploring. Earlier in 2017, Justin and Saku completed the first recorded 450-mile snowshoeing, walking, and paddling trek across Newfoundland, through primarily trackless, remote country. In his social media posts regarding the trip he rarely uses the word “I”. That is because they were a team. Justin (and Saku) wouldn’t have it any other way. Justin hopes that through his films, writing’s and photos, others will learn about life outdoors and also be inspired to chase their own adventures and challenges in life, Wilderness related or not. Thanks to Justin for his recent Instagram takeover. Want to see more? Visit him on Facebook or check out his website.

Photos & text by Justin Barbour

“Saku and I taking a time-out in the Avalon Wilderness Reserve during the dying days of our 700km west to east crossing of Newfoundland, Canada. It was the first documented expedition of its kind on our island. A challenge like no other, but there was no quit in us. We moved by snowshoe, raft, foot and finger nail. Most times we were off the trail and miles from human contact. It was the wildest and most exhilarating thing I have ever done in my life! The real deal. Raw experiences and living in the moment. All in our beautifully rugged province. I can't say enough about how lucky we are to live here.”
“Saku and I taking a time-out in the Avalon Wilderness Reserve during the dying days of our 700km west to east crossing of Newfoundland, Canada. It was the first documented expedition of its kind on our island. A challenge like no other, but there was no quit in us. Variety is everywhere in Newfoundland’s landscape. Forests, mountains, barrens, oceans, lakes, ponds, rivers, bogs, fens, and marshes. It all laid in our path at some point or another. And by snowshoe, paddle, foot, and fingernail we maneuvered our way through it. Most times we were off the trail and miles from human contact. It was the wildest and most exhilarating thing I have ever done in my life! The real deal. Raw experiences and living in the moment. All in our beautifully rugged province. I can’t say enough about how lucky we are to live here.”
“Reaching a beach was a welcomed break for us. Especially after a day like today when we paddled 28km. And more importantly we reached the half-way point of our trip, the first community in 330km. The shores weren’t always this friendly either. The rocky landscape of Newfoundland presents treacherous boat landings where sharp and jagged rocks lie waiting. I had to be very careful and patient when choosing a docking area ”
“Reaching a beach was a welcomed break for us. Especially after a day like today when we paddled 28km. And more importantly we reached the half-way point of our trip, the first community in 330km. The shores weren’t always this friendly either. The rocky landscape of Newfoundland presents treacherous boat landings where sharp and jagged rocks lie waiting. I had to be very careful and patient when choosing a docking area.”
“As majestic and mysterious as some remote streams looked, they were no place to paddle down. In this one we could only move in 10 or 15 foot intervals until rocky and shallow sections presented themselves. They were my easiest path to advance on though. It was that or bushwhack through forest which was thick and unforgiving. When this situation arose, instead of hopping in and out, it made the most sense to walk the raft through the water, which at times, was waist deep. That was when my heart would pump wildly and the feeling of excitement would run up my spine. Each unknown step out there is intriguing and it is impossible to guess what will happen next”
“As majestic and mysterious as some remote streams looked, they were no place to paddle down. In this one we could only move in 10 or 15 foot intervals until rocky and shallow sections presented themselves. They were my easiest path to advance on though. It was that or bushwhack through thick and unforgiving forests. When this situation arose, instead of hopping in and out, it made the most sense to walk the raft through the water, which at times, was waist deep. That was when my heart would pump wildly and the feeling of excitement would run up my spine. Each unknown step out there is intriguing and it is impossible to guess what will happen next.”
“Home is where ever you want it to be. Having a camp near running water is soothing and mediative. It’s where I sleep the best. This photo is of the Meta Pond area in Newfoundland's Bay Du Nord Wilderness Reserve. Minus the transmission line (that I despise) in the southern extremities, this place is still very wild and remote. It is a vast 2,895 square km paradise for the outdoor enthusiast, with prime opportunities for fishing, hunting, foraging, paddling, hiking, observing wildlife, and just living the dream. In my travels there I have seen very little sign of human disturbance. Let's try and keep it that way.”
“Home is where ever you want it to be. Having a camp near running water is soothing and mediative. It’s where I sleep the best. This photo is of the Meta Pond area in Newfoundland’s Bay Du Nord Wilderness Reserve. Minus the transmission line (that I despise) in the southern extremities, this place is still very wild and remote. It is a vast 2,895 square km paradise for the outdoor enthusiast, with prime opportunities for fishing, hunting, foraging, paddling, hiking, observing wildlife, and just living the dream. In my travels there I have seen very little sign of human disturbance. Let’s try and keep it that way.” For more information on ways to enjoy the BDN, visit their website.
“A sunrise in Newfoundland’s Long Range Mountains will cleanse your mind. I witnessed many. This winter site laid on upwards of 7 feet of snow. To create the camp I needed to endlessly walk the ground with my snowshoes to ensure we had a solid compacted base while Saku cheered me on. But it was well worth it. The area was basically untouched besides the odd hunting/fishing lodge and the views are indescribable. Being here made me feel small. With barren, inhospitable land surrounding me from all angles, it gave me goosebumps that I still feel today. Chase your dreams folks, anything is possible!”
“A sunrise in Newfoundland’s Long Range Mountains will cleanse your mind. I witnessed many. This winter site laid on upwards of seven feet of snow. To create the camp I needed to endlessly walk the ground with my snowshoes to ensure we had a solid compacted base while Saku cheered me on. But it was well worth it. The area was basically untouched besides the odd hunting/fishing lodge and the views are indescribable. Being here made me feel small. With barren, inhospitable land surrounding me from all angles, it gave me goosebumps that I still feel today. Chase your dreams folks, anything is possible!”
“Paddling in the Atlantic Ocean was one my greatest experiences during the crossing Newfoundland expedition. My Alpacka Raft gave me the trust I needed to travel a total of 19 miles through the salty seas. When you go on the ocean in a small vessel it makes your surroundings seem that much bigger and captivating. During this fiery sunset I paddled into our provinces only aboriginal Mi’kmaq reserve. It was the the first community in 220 miles and also the half way point of our adventure. To think Saku and I had made it this far on our own power was unbelievable and I will remember that moment forever”
“On my 450-mile expedition across Newfoundland, Canada, the first documented of its kind, I began travelling by snow-shoe and sled in early spring but knew I would need my raft eventually. Rivers and lakes began to open and the only way across was with the Alpacka Mule I towed behind me. In temperatures around zero degree celcius (32 degrees fahrenheit) Saku and I paddled into the frigid waters. The lightness and compactability of this raft made it the only option. It is truly one of a kind.”
“Basically we lived off the land and whatever we could carry in our packs. Fish was a huge part of our diet, and we relied on it for the extra calories and nutrients to keep us going. The longest gap between resupplies was 150 miles. That took us 25 days through some of the roughest terrain and biggest lakes the province had to offer. You can only carry so much food when you are off the beaten path because a heavy pack digs a little deeper into your shoulders when you are making your own trail. While paddling, the raft had limits on weight too. So for many reasons, I took less food and tried to catch more fish. This meal above lasted us for lunch, supper, and breakfast. Saku would always get the first serving. Being only nine months old, he needed the most.”
“Basically we lived off the land and whatever we could carry in our packs. Fish was a huge part of our diet, and we relied on it for the extra calories and nutrients to keep us going. The longest gap between resupplies was 150 miles. That took us 25 days through some of the roughest terrain and biggest lakes the province had to offer.”
“You can only carry so much food when you are off the beaten path because a heavy pack digs a little deeper into your shoulders when you are making your own trail. While paddling, the raft had limits on weight, too. So for many reasons, I took less food and tried to catch more fish.”
"This meal of fish (in the two photographs preceding this one) lasted us for lunch, supper, and breakfast. Saku would always get the first serving. Being only nine months old, he needed the most."
“This meal of fish (in the two photographs preceding this one) lasted us for lunch, supper, and breakfast. Saku would always get the first serving. Being only nine months old, he needed the most.”
“Basically we lived off the land and whatever we could carry in our packs. Fish was a huge part of our diet, and we relied on it for the extra calories and nutrients to keep us going. The longest gap between resupplies was 150 miles. That took us 25 days through some of the roughest terrain and biggest lakes the province had to offer. You can only carry so much food when you are off the beaten path because a heavy pack digs a little deeper into your shoulders when you are making your own trail. While paddling, the raft had limits on weight too. So for many reasons, I took less food and tried to catch more fish. This meal above lasted us for lunch, supper, and breakfast. Saku would always get the first serving. Being only nine months old, he needed the most.”
“Paddling in the Atlantic Ocean was one my greatest experiences during the crossing Newfoundland expedition. My Alpacka Raft gave me the trust I needed to travel a total of 19 miles through the salty seas. When you go on the ocean in a small vessel it makes your surroundings seem that much bigger and captivating.”
“Paddling in the Atlantic Ocean was one my greatest experiences during the crossing Newfoundland expedition. My Alpacka Raft gave me the trust I needed to travel a total of 19 miles through the salty seas. When you go on the ocean in a small vessel it makes your surroundings seem that much bigger and captivating. During this fiery sunset I paddled into our provinces only aboriginal Mi’kmaq reserve. It was the the first community in 220 miles and also the half way point of our adventure. To think Saku and I had made it this far on our own power was unbelievable and I will remember that moment forever”
“During this fiery sunset I paddled into our provinces only aboriginal Mi’kmaq reserve. It was the the first community in 220 miles and also the half way point of our adventure. To think Saku and I had made it this far on our own power was unbelievable, and I will remember that moment forever.”

Justin Barbour lives in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Currently he teaches K-12 Physical Education/Science. As a child, he developed (and still has) a deep passion for adventure and nature. Now he wants to share it with others in an age where he believes these values are being lost. To do this he began documenting his wilderness expeditions in beautifully rugged environments. Justin loves pushing the limits and going outside his comfort zone in the elements. This is when he is at his best and feels the most excited to live.