We arrived on THE ROCK via the ferry from North Sidney, Nova Scotia and spent the night outside of Channel-Port aux Basque at the visitor’s center with other like minded travelers like ourselves. The ferry arrives at Port aux Basque after everything has been closed down.
On Thursday, July 10, 2003
After the requisite trip to the visitor center, where we received everything that we needed for a stay in Newfoundland (as the lady said, “If we don’t have the information, you don’t need it”), we headed North on the TCH (the Trans Canadian Highway). We found a camping place at Cheeseman Provincial Park for $13.00 per day: no hookups. Our campsite backed up to a river estuary. Across the inlet was the Gulf of St Lawrence, separated by the old Newfoundland Railroad trail. We could see the tide in action as it covered the rocks in the river bed at high tide and exposed them at low time, about a two foot difference.
Being still early in the day, we took the advice of the lady at the visitor’s center and traveled to Rose Blanche, a fishing village forty kilometers East of Port aux Basque on the Southern shore. Route 470 provides spectacular views of seascapes on the South and small lakes, ponds, waterfalls, and rugged mountains on the North. At every turn in the bend, the scenery changed. We felt like we were transported into a different world, one of impeccable beauty and serenity. Along the road are small fishing villages with names of Margaree, Isle aux Morts, Burnt Islands, and ending at Rose Blanche with its granite lighthouse. We ate lunch at the Friendly Fisherman’s Cafe in town. The portions were overwhelming. We split a fish and chips: three four inch in diameter pieces of deep fried fresh cod and a heaping mound of French fried potatoes. When the waitress brought out the plate, our jaws dropped. We barely were able to finish the meal. We were the first customers from Illinois to have dined there. We signed their guest book and left in a very happy and sedated mood. (Read food comas.)
On our way back home, we stopped at Barachois Falls. A boardwalk, in need of repair, took us out to the falls. Along the way were rivulets meandering their way to the sea. The water, crystal clear, was browning in color due to the tannin excreted from the plants.
After the falls we stopped at Isle aux Morts to see the Harvey Trail. George Harvey, a Scottish Immigrant in the 1800s, was a fisherman who lived on one of the islands with his family of nine children. In the years of 1828 and 1838, he, his older children and their dog rescued over 160 people from two shipwrecks. He is known as a local hero and legend. A seven kilometer trail winds along the coastline. Because of the strong winds, we only went a short distance.
Returning to Port aux Basque we visited the Newfoundland Railway Museum; a narrow gauge railroad which operated across the island to St. Johns. The railroad closed in the 1980s, being replaced by the TCH. Today you can still hike the 500+ mile railroad bed from one end to the other.
Friday, July 12, 2003
Another beautiful sunny day. We went to visit Codroy Valley. Directly outside the entrance to our campground is a large sign: high winds for the next 20 k. This is an area known as Wreckhouse, where the winds have been known to blow more than 120 mph. The winds are compressed between the set of mountain passes and explode in velocity through this area. Any truck, train, trailer or large camper trying to travel through there is at great risk. Lauchie MacDougall lived there and was called the “human wind gauge”. He had a special knack for predicting high winds in the area. He would often notify the railroad by telephone that a blow was coming. After being warned a couple of times and having their trains blown over, the railroad started to believe him and hired him to warn them of impending blows. Plans are in place to reconstruct the house in which MacDougall lived. A parking lot is there now with trails that lead to the rail bed and a four kilometer boardwalk to the Table Mountains across the bog. We took the table mountain trail, an invigorating hike. Lots of moose tracks in view but no moose yet.
The Codroy valley boasts a designated wetlands, where many birds stop off in their migrations. We were fortunate to have seen two whooping cranes in flight. The valley has many small farms which dot the hills. To the East are the Table Mountains and the West is the sea. This is definitely a very charming area.
Later that day we took Mo for a walk to see the piping plover, an endangered species, which nest on the shore in Cheeseman Provincial Park. We walked over a mile looking for the elusive birds. We saw many birds, most probably gulls. But every time we got close to them they flew farther away.
On the way back we took an alternate road , which lead us to Cape Ray and its lighthouse. Archeological excavations show that Paleoeskimo Dorset People were there more than 7,500 years before. The had built dwellings and left many artifacts, e.g., arrow and spear heads, etc. They were hunters of seal, whale and other animals. They left the area during the global warming during the Middle Ages.
Saturday, July 12, 2003
The weather changed, with rain and high winds. Instead of braving Wreckhouse, we stayed put and rode out the storm. Speaking to some of the rangers, who drove through Wreckhouse that day in their cars, we were very happy to have stayed put. Some campers tried to brave the winds and were almost blown off the road. They pulled off before the worse part of the wind tunnel.
Sunday, July 13, 2003
The winds subsided and we broke camp and drove through Wreckhouse without incident. The mountain tops were shrouded in a cloak of morning clouds and fog, changing the landscape from the other day. We traveled to Stephenville, The Acadian Village, about fifty miles up the TCH. This was an air base for the US during W.W.II, which now acts as a regional airport. Beyond the town is Port au Port Peninsula, also called the French Shore, because of the ancestry of the inhabitants. The road travels fifty miles around the peninsula. Because the area was fogged in, we decided to forgo the trip and continue on to Corner Brook. When we arrived at Kinsman Campground in Corner Brook and talked with a visitor from Montreal. He said that we did not miss anything. Port au Port was a boring trip.
Corner Brook started as a paper and pulp mill town on the Humber River. It is the second largest city in Newfoundland. We took the Cook Trail, the Southern shore of the Humber River which leads out to Lark Harbor at the mouth of the Gulf of St Lawrence. The scenery was beautiful all along the way.
Monday, July 14, 2003
Drove the North shore of the Humber River out to Cox Cove. The view from this side is different from the South side. You see the snow still on the Northern faces of the mountains across the waters rising behind the town. At Cox Cove the Bay Islands are visible in the haze and the beginnings of Gros Morne Park are visible.
Drove up to the Captain James Cook Memorial overlooking Corner Brook, the Humber River Valley, and the Bay Islands. In 1767 he was commissioned to survey the Newfoundland Coast after the Seven Years War. The French had ceded the Lands of Newfoundland and the Maritime Provinces and most of the fishing rights. The British, not trusting the French, had the area surveyed. Because Cook did such a good job, he was rewarded the opportunity to do the same in the South Pacific, where he lost his life. Students from the drama department of Memorial University of Newfoundland in Corner Brook give a free comedic performance about Cook’s exploits in the Humber Valley.
That evening we attended a dinner theater presentation by the same group in town. It was entitled, A Concise History of Newfoundland and Labrador in a funny revue. The food was good, cod or chicken, and the show was very entertaining.