August 2007


 

Heading south from St Anthony, we figured we would stop for the night wherever our fancy struck us. We wandered along the French Shore (on the eastern side of the Northern Peninsula) but nothing struck us, so we found ourselves heading back toward the west coast as night was falling. The tourism guide showed us a private campground called Three Mile Lake Campground and we made that our destination, arriving at 8:30 as dusk was just starting to fall. At first it looked like a nice campground. The rope gate was down, and a note at the gate said to go ahead and find a site, and someone would be around at 9 p.m. to collect payment. Good timing. But as we drove through the campground, to most of us it became quickly evident that something wasn’t right.

 

The individual campsites were attractive, well-designed, nestled in the woods above the lake. But they clearly hadn’t been used in a long time. The grass in each site was a couple of feet high, growing right up into the bbq-pit-on-a-stick fireplaces. The road was in terribly rough condition. Not a soul was about, nor any sign of human activity. The dusk was growing and it was spooky. Since a ghost story or two had made an appearance during our previous three nights camping, our reactions to this scene were natural. In particular, the girls and I began to imagine all the worst case scenarios. We would get back to the entrance to find the gate closed, locking us in, and the 9 p.m. reappearance of ‘someone’ would not be favourable to us. We concocted gruesomely silly scenarios until we even got Bill spooked. We made it safely out of there before 9 p.m. and now the pressure was on to find a place to sleep before dark.

 

Bill’s wish came true, that we would do at least a little bit of ‘gravel pit camping’ which is a Newfoundland tradition. I spotted a likely road on the map so we followed it until it ended at the coast. We found a nice secluded beach not far from Plum Point where we pitched our tents as the last light left the sky. The thing about a northern Newfoundland summer night is, unless it’s actually raining, it doesn’t really get fully dark. The wide-open sky above the beach, with the lights of New Ferolle winking in the distance, provided a peaceful backdrop.

 

 

We enjoyed the morning alone at our beach campsite, but a rain shower brought breakfast to an end and it was time to head toward Gros Morne – after a detour to see the thrombolites at Flower’s Cove.

 

The old wharf at Flower’s Cove had the saddest collection of old fishing boats I’ve seen. They were perched optimistically up on their stilty things, which seems to indicate that their owners anticipated that the cod moratorium would only be a  temporary setback. Fifteen years later … these boats were positively ghostly, appearing almost ready to head to sea.

 

We continued south to Gros Morne National Park, where for the next three nights we camped at the Berry Hill campground. The campground has three or four sections, and for some reason the one we liked best had no other campers in it. None, for all three nights. The sign indicating the road into it was missing from its post, so that might have been the reason. We were slightly puzzled by this but enjoyed having the whole area to ourselves.

 

 

Gros Morne National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site on account of its unique geology. The Tablelands are a striking feature of the area. They are formed from a layer of the earth that is normally way underground, but the movement of tectonic plates forced this mass up onto the surface. It was once attached to land masses that now are part of Africa and Europe. It is a truly striking landscape, quite distinct from the landmasses all around it.

 

 

Yes that is snow on the Tablelands, in early August. This was the only place we got a photo of all of us together.

 

 

One day we explored a coastal trail out to Green Point. The trail skirts the ocean along the edge of the ‘tuckamore’, which is the name given to the dense growth of spruce that is typical of the region. \

 

 

Some of us enjoyed exploring the hobbit-like habitat that had formed under the tuckamore. This was an easy trail, a little wet in spots but completely flat. A pleasant walk but not much of a warm-up for the Gros Morne trail.

 

Next: Part 3, in which we tackle Gros Morne mountain, explore the Port-au-Port Pensinsula, then head for home.

A couple of notes about this post: 1. it’s quite long. But parts 2 and 3 will be shorter. 2. I don’t know why there is so much random white space. It doesn’t appear that way in the editing interface, so I don’t know how to get rid of it.

Right at the end of July, we went to Newfoundland to explore its western coast. Fifteen hours before our planned departure, we decided to rent a car: a Toyota Camry. Between its huge trunk and the additional space inside, it held as much stuff as the Civic with a storage thingie on top. This was to be a camping trip, so we had lots of stuff. The four-door format made it really comfortable for everyone: Cathy, Bill, Bill’s two daughters, and Molly the dog. Can’t forget Bob and Patrick. They go everywhere in Bill’s Civic so it didn’t seem right to leave them behind.

 

 

Our destination was the west coast of Newfoundland. Our ferry departed from North Sydney a few hours late, and it wasn’t until we had nearly arrived in Port-aux-Basques that we learned that the delay had been caused by a bomb threat. Lovely. The upside was that instead of arriving at 2 a.m. or so, we arrived at 7 a.m. and didn’t have to drive in the dark, which everyone recommends you do not do in Newfoundland. Because of the moose, you see.

 

We had a general plan for the trip, which was: drive, drive north, until we could drive north no more. Spend a few days in the northernmost part of the Great Northern Peninsula, then head back south to Gros Morne National Park for a few days. Then mosey back south to the ferry home. Ten days total. (My written rambling is pretty long so I have divided this up into three parts.)

We started to drive north and since the forecast was for rain, we decided to spend that first night under a roof. It was also a good idea because of our long and not very restful night waiting for, and on, the ferry. We decided to stop in the Corner Brook area and it soon became evident that this was going to be my kinda town.

 


Shelter, Food, Gas, and Knitting!

We went a little past Corner Brook, to Cox’s Cove where Islandview Cabins provided us with a lovely place to cook, sleep, and shelter from the rain for an extremely reasonable price. You should go there.

 

The next day we drove north to Pistolet Bay Provincial Park, which is almost as far north as you can go. We found a campsite then had supper in Raleigh at the Burnt Cape Café. I was pretty pleased to see a few business named after Burnt Cape, because of a visit I made there in 1998. In 1998 I had the privilege of traveling the Northern Peninsula with the Braya Recovery Team, as part of my work supporting projects to study and protect species at risk. Two tiny plant species – Long’s Braya and Fernald’s Braya – are found in very few places in the world. They thrive in harsh limestone barren habitat, and Burnt Cape is one of the few places in the world that both occur. In 1998 I learned that Raleigh was struggling in the wake of the closure of the commercial cod fishery. On that earlier trip I met some folks who used to work in the fishery who were restoring a former gravel quarry site to facilitate the recovery of the rare plants. Now Burnt Cape has been designated as a provincial ‘ecological reserve’, and a few businesses in the small community of Raleigh cater to tourists who like a rugged, off-the-beaten path destination.

Frost polygons are formed as the gravelly substrate thaws and freezes repeatedly over centuries. Larger pebbles form a ring around the centre of the smaller rocks.

We stayed at Pistolet Bay Provincial Park for three nights so we would have enough time to visit the whole area. It is a small campground with good facilities, and ample evidence of moose. This was our kitchen platform:


This is the moose poop that was right beside it.

We saw at least two moose wandering through the campground one night; later, at 5 a.m., Bill and Molly and I lay as still as we could in the tent, listening to a moose chomping on leaves right outside our tent. It seemed that we saw at least one moose every time we got in the car in the Raleigh / St Anthony area.

 

We spent a day in the St Anthony area. It was cold and windy when we got to Fishing Point, which is the end of the road through St Anthony’s. There is a scenic lighthouse, a restaurant and a couple of hiking trails. On the day we were there, the sea was teeming with whales. It seemed that everywhere we looked, we could see the backs of whales slipping through the surface of the water accompanied by the spray from their blows.

 

The water behind me was practically churning with whales.

 

After watching what seemed like dozens of whales from the top of the cliff, we found ourselves heading up the “Daredevil Trail” which was an effective way to warm up in the chill wind. We wanted to do some hiking every day to prepare for our anticipated climb of Gros Morne mountain in the days ahead. The dreaded Gros Morne … I climbed it in 1999 or 2000, and it was very difficult for me. In 2004 I wimped out and let Bill climb it himself. This time I thought I wanted to do it, but can’t say I was looking forward to it.

But I digress. At Fishing Point, Daredevil Trail itself wasn’t too difficult because it mostly consisted of a very high, steep staircase.

 

The view from the top was, of course, worth the effort.

 

The next day in the farthest north part of NL had a Viking theme. We went to the L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site to learn about the only Viking settlement in North America. We enjoyed the archaeological evidence and the ruins, and had a nice time hanging out in the longhouse with the Vikings. The ladies were working on some handicrafts – embroidery and nallbinding – which were naturally of interest to me. And the chieftain’s wife had some pretty nice bling that I was coveting.

Above: Covetous glances at the Viking glass beads

On our way out of the site, we saw the ultimate Newfoundland scene. We saw many moose during our trip, and we saw several icebergs, but this was the only time we saw iceberg and moose at the same time. And not just A moose, but THREE moose: mommy, daddy and baby. This is a real photo. Should be in National Geographic don’t you think?

 

 

Our next Viking stop was Norstead, [link] another recreated Viking village. This one had a larger population and included a greeter, Lamby, who was the resident fool/wise man. He was entertaining and persistent, and the magic wasn’t really spoiled all that much by our sighting of him in the local Foodland the next day. Because Norstead is a private enterprise, the atmosphere in the longhouse was a little more relaxed than at L’Anse aux Meadows. Lamby showed us his boat. This recreation of a Viking boat has been sailed from Europe to Newfoundland, and also along the coast of Newfoundland.

 

 

We chatted with the young blacksmiths, and with a large group of women who were working on their sewing. Everyone was quite friendly, alternating between their Viking personas and their convivial Newfoundland personalities. I couldn’t help but reflect that it was interesting to see the jobs created by these places for people who formerly probably worked in the fishery. We enjoyed a nice walking trail that led up from the village to the top of a big hill. I was stylishly attired, as usual, in matching camouflage pants and bat bag.

 


 

Before heading back to our campsite, we went to see what Cape Onion was like. The name on the map drew us, and the setting hooked us. Another iceberg, spectacular scenery, and a lovely walking trail provided by the owners of the Tickle Inn through their property. The photos speak for themselves I think.

 

 

After our few days far north, it was time to head south toward Gros Morne and the big climb. I was still wondering if I would be up to it.