Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Drive to Northland

The drive from Rocky Harbour to Quirpon (Car-poon) passed through more little fishing villages and beautiful shoreline along the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Strait of Belle Isle. To the east the mountains got smaller and the land was often a vast flat bog. It was like watching a time machine travelogue of life in Newfoundland unfold through the windshield. While the Northland has many of the modern things one expects in a larger area, in some ways it is still like they are living in another time. In Stephenville we could get three radio stations while in Rocky Harbour we were down to one and in Quirpon there is none. The same is true for cell phone coverage, as we have to drive five miles to the top of a hill to get any coverage here. Another example of this old and new time is that the Wi-Fi at the Viking RV Park is great but the water is not fit for drinking. Such is life down here on the "Rock." Overall, the weather continues to be great but if you don't like it wait five minutes and it will change. The wind is actually helping to keep the bugs down.
Another picture postcard fishing camp. Every town seems like it could be a postcard with so many beautiful colours and the mix of buildings, boats, sky and water.
In one stretch of about twenty miles along the gulf there were many fishing trawlers that were fishing very close to shore. In the background you can see a fog bank that is usually visible off in the distance. In another stretch of several miles the road was lined with wooden lobster pots as the season has ended. They just stack them by the highway and never worry about someone stealing them because, as we were told, that is just not the right thing to do.
That little white speck in the water is the first iceberg we spotted. They say it is a bad year for bergs but we have seen several and most have been much, much larger than this one. You will have to take our word for it but off in the distance is the coast of Labrador where we plan to visit next week. The smudges on the windshield are bugs. We thought we may have killed them all on the drive north but this proved not to be true.
This is another common sight on the Northern Peninsula. Almost every house has a clothes line and they use them every day. You can tell the women whose husbands really love them because their line is on a pulley so they never have to leave the porch.
This is a roadside garden, another unique phenomenon here. Because most people live right on the water where the ground is very rocky, they go out along the road and plant their root vegetable gardens on land the highway department has cleared. The fences are just to keep the moose and caribou from eating the crops.
The wood pile is another highway sight. Individuals can get a permit for eight cords of wood for personal use. It is cut in the winter and brought to the road on the sleds pulled by a snowmobile. There are thousands if not millions of cords of wood all along the road and again, no one would think of stealing it. I guess that's why in most of the small villages people don't lock their doors and most never take the keys out of the car.

These are a few of the things you see in Newfoundland. Some things you won't see are poisonous snakes, skunks, porcupines, poison ivy and oak. It really is a friendly place.
The sun setting at the Viking RV Park.

We are as far north as we have been in the RV at over 51 degrees north latitude. This is almost 800 miles north of WashPA. We are so far north the compass does not work properly. It says we are facing west so I thought we would get the warm evening sun but instead, it is setting to our right. I learned it has something to do with the changing difference between true and magnetic north. Good thing we aren't ancient explorers. The other thing we notice is the sun rises before 5AM and does not set until 9:30 PM. We have been putting a pillow in the bedroom window so it does not awaken us to early.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Gros Morne Part III

On our last day at Gros Morne we drove to Woody Point which is only five miles away as the seagull flies but a fifty-five mile road trip around Bonne Bay in the car. This is another beautiful little fishing village and the location of the park's Discovery Center. The center has interactive exhibits on the various aspects of the park's natural and cultural history. Also on the south side are the tablelands, an orange-brown rock that is exposed Earth mantle material that has been thrust to the surface. This is some the oldest exposed rock in the world.
The flat tablelands and Bonne Bay.
From the Discovery Center Lookout Trail is a 5 km walk that climbs over 1000 feet. The trail starts in the woods then has a boardwalk where it crosses the wet peat bog. It was warm enough for Nanc to be in short sleeves, but as I said it does get windy and at the top it was really blowing. Along the boardwalk is one place we saw a moose.
A panoramic view of Bonne Bay and the Tablelands from the top of the Lookout Trail.
There is very little vegetation on the rocky tablelands. It is not the height but the type of rock that prevents things from growing.
Woody Point Harbour. Of course, no story about this area is complete without a picture of the fishing boats. We had a great time exploring Gros Morne and recommend it to anyone who makes it down to "The Rock", Newfoundland.
On our last evening we went to the pub at the Ocean View Hotel to hear Anchors Aweigh, a group of five natives who do a very entertaining show. If you are in the area don't miss the chance to see them. If you go on the Bonne Bay boat tour you will get to hear three of them play as that is their day job.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Gros Morne -- Part 2

We have been blessed with four days of sunny skies, so exploring the park has been very enjoyable even with temps a little cooler than our summer standard. Highs have been from the mid 50's to mid 60's and most days are windy. With all the water in the park a boat trip is a must do. Near Rocky Harbour there are two options, one on Bonne Bay where you should see dolphins, whales and eagles or one on Western Brook Pond into the ancient ice carved fjord. Dave and Carol went on the Bonne Bay tour and loved it, we chose the other one and were very pleased. The pond was once a fjord but is now cut off from the sea and is a fresh water lake. The towering walls reminded us of a cross between a walk through Yosemite Valley and the trip we took on the Colorado River. There are several cascading waterfalls coming off the high cliffs.
The Westbrook III is one of two boats in the pond. There is no road to the water so one boat was put on a sled and pulled across the frozen bog in the winter. The other was flown in in pieces by helicopter. There are not a lot of fish because of the low oxygen levels, but a naturally sustaining Atlantic salmon population has begun to thrive.
Since there are no roads to the pond we had to walk a 3 km trail across a bog and through the forest. Nanc is applying her favorite Newfoundland fragrance, Eau du Off.
After a short trip across open water, the boat enters the canyon with the rocks towering on both sides. Slides are not uncommon as the land continues to be changed by ice and water erosion.
The steep slopping bank is the result of the erosion. Pissing Mare Falls is one of the most impressive. I think the name has something to do with going on a flat rock???
At the end of the lake is a dock where back country hikers are dropped to begin their treks. The dark blue water, green trees, gray rocks and blue skies make for a beautiful scene.
As we came out of the canyon it did seem like we were at the edge of the world. The trip on Western Brook Pond is a great way to see some of the grand natural beauty of Gros Morne.
In addition to moose, we have seen many other animals in the park. The fox had three young ones that were playing on the side of the road. Usually, stopping in the middle of the road to look at something is not a big deal in Newfoundland as there is very little traffic.
The wildflowers are fantastic. Because of the cool climate most of the flowers are small and close to the ground. The one we see the most is one of my favorites that I grew in the yard when we had a stix and brix, the dandelion. They are, literally, everywhere.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Gros Morne National Park - Part 1

Gros Morne National Park has been a United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site since 1987. This reflects the fact that the rocks in the park are 420 to 570 million years old and have been used to support plate tectonics theory. The rocks were once part of an ancient ocean and later were thrust up as part of the Appalachian Mountains. All that said, that is not why we are here. The mix of water, land, plants, animals and people with the many small fishing villages make this a truly beautiful place. We really only scratched the surface with a few hikes and driving the length of the park. We did not get into the back country as there are no roads. Hikes of several days across unmarked land is the only way to see it. The drive along the coast to Cow Head and a hike on the Coastal Trail is a great way to see the interaction of all these elements.
On the Coastal Trail at Bakers Brook you can see the water, rocks and an active fish camp with the mountains soaring behind. Even though the highest mountain is less than 2700 feet, the closeness of the water makes them appear to be higher.
This rock formation at Broom Point is different from the one just across the water.
All that is left of the S.S. Ethie, a coastal steamer that ran ground here in 1919, is part of the boiler and engine. All 92 passenger and crew were rescued.
The harbour at Cow Head. Most of the lobstermen here still use the wooden traps. That is snow you see on the mountains and they claim they had a mild winter.
Looking across the water to the winter side of Cow Head. Years ago families crossed a narrow spit of land and lived in the fish camp on the summer side, then moved back to the village for a winter of cutting wood.
Left is the Woody Point Lighthouse that is in the south side of the park. Center is the Cow Head Light that is in obvious disrepair but the hike there offered some beautiful views. On the right, over looking Rocky Harbour, is the Lobster Cove Head Light that was the only one to include a lightkeeper's house.
Everyplace we drove we saw signs warning about the consequences of an encounter with a moose. As you can see, Nanc chose to ignore the warnings and got up close and personal. The two live ones pictured here are proof that you do need to be careful. Moose are not native and were brought here in 1904 to provide a source of meat for hunting. The experiment was very successful as there is now one moose for every five Newfies. I don't think any of them have been Screeched-In.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Welcome to Friendly Newfoundland

After a couple of hard days of travel and a night in a parking lot we decided we would only drive about 100 miles to the Zenzville Campground in Stephenville and spend some time catching up and doing a little sightseeing. First impressions of Newfoundland are that it is a beautiful rugged land with unpredictable weather and warm friendly people. As I write, we have been here five days and the weather has been different every day with no day being a total washout. The first day everyone we talked to was complaining about the heat as it was the hottest day so far this year at 62 degrees. There has been rain, sun and fog and usually all three each day. As for the people, we quickly learned that the time needed to do anything will be longer than expected because so many people will want to talk. It could be the owner of a campground when checking in, the bank teller when exchanging money or just someone who is standing beside you enjoying the scenery, they will talk to you and it is not just hello and have a nice day. They want to know about you and to tell you about themselves. It has been great meeting people and learning about the local areas.
Cape St. George on the Gulf of St. Lawrence where we saw a whale spouting and buoys for lobster pots in the water. While walking along the cliff we met three groups of people who, of course, wanted to talk and know where we were from and what we thought about their province.
At the cape is this communal bread oven. Anyone can sign up to bake on the days they fire it up. Kind of a throw back to an older sense of community togetherness.
All these pics are from one stop at Hidden Waterfalls, a place the tourist office told us not to miss. You can't see it from the road and when you drive down to it there is a little "fish camp" that is typical of what you find in isolated spots all along the coast. The shed is for storage of equipment. The lobsterman coming in had emptied his pots into a holding pot in the water as it was to late in the day to take them to market. The boats are pulled out of the water on to the log ramp by a permanent winch in one of the buildings. There were three ramps at this camp. We talked for about a half hour with the lobsterman and the crew.

From Stephenville we travelled to Gros Morne RV Campground and Motel in Rockey Harbour. This park is well located to explore Gros Morne National Park. The first evening after a dinner overlooking the harbour we stopped in at the Gros Morne Bar, Grill and Convenience Store for a drink. There we met Carol and Dave Henwood from Alberta and several locals. We had a grand time and at the end of the evening Mona the owner asked if we would like to come back the next day at 4:00 and take part in the Newfie Screech-In to earn the title of Honourary Newfie. Hey, we are going to be here for five weeks so we should become honourary natives. The ceremony goes back to WWII when after a drink of unlabeled rum an American soldier let out a screech and the name stuck.
As you can see from the picture the ceremony involves two things near and dear to the Newfie heart, cod fish and Screech Rum. We first kissed the cod and then had to down a shot of Screech. That was followed by the swearing in oath where we were asked "Is ye an honourary Newfoundlander?" and had to answer, "deed I is me ol' cock, and long may your big jib draw".
Anthony, our ceremony host who must be a native-born Newfoundlander and wear a Sou'Wester, with the fish and Nanc with the Screech.
After the kiss, the rum and the swearing in we were surrounded by mummers and danced to the mummer song. This is another old Newfoundland tradition when at Christmas the masked mummers would visit homes in the village.
The hosts and new honouraries Anthony, Tom, Pat, Mona, Dave, Carol, Jim and Nanc. Can you pick out the natives? From the smiles I think all the tourists had a grand time.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Crossing to Newfoundland

The drive to Cape Breton where we would catch the ferry to Newfoundland was one of the worst we have had weather wise. There was wind, rain and even a little sleet and hail, but at least the Canadian roads were nice and smooth. To top it off, when we arrived at Adventure East Campground the car battery was once again dead so we had to jump it. Another problem to be solved. As if to signal better days ahead the rain stopped long enough for us to set up. The next day we were up early (6:30 AM) and had clear skies for the forty mile drive to the North Sidney only to discover we could have dry camped at the ferry for free. Oh well.

We were looking forward to a sunny, but windy 100 mile ferry ride across Cabot Strait between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. But soon after checking in at 9:15 for the anticipated 11:30 departure we learned that the sailing had been delayed to 12:45. We soon saw the reason for the delay as our ship the MV Caribou was moved and replaced by the MV Joseph & Clara Smallwood. At 11:15 the loading began with everything from cars to trailer trucks and about a dozen RVs going on to the two vehicle decks. We could not stay in the rig during the crossing which was not a big deal for the expected six hours trip. But again, soon after we were on the passenger deck it was announced that the departure was being delayed further by a couple of problems with the ship. One was a computer satellite issue which caused everything from the ATM to the radar to stop working and the other problem was they could not close the bow door we had driven through to get aboard. NOT GOOD!! Finally at 4:00 everything was ship shape and we were on our way with only a slight list to starboard that made walking from side to side like going up and down a ramp. That's the bad news, the good news was the crossing was uneventful and dinner was on the house because of the long delay. We also had plenty of time to talk to our fellow travelers who included a circus troupe of 35, vacationers and fellow Escapees who were going for the summer. There was even shipboard entertainment by Bugs and Debbie. I guess the crew knew what they were doing as we made it to Port aux Basque at 11:00 PM. That is 11:00 PM Newfoundland time which is ½ hour later than Atlantic time and 1½ hour different from WashPA. This is our sixth time zone this year.
We did not have a reservation near Port aux Basque as we had planned to have enough daylight to find a spot we had heard about along the highway 15 miles out of town. That had to change as we have never driven the rig at night and the moose infested roads of Newfoundland was not the place to start. The ship steward told us there was a small shopping plaza just a couple miles away where we could park. We got off the exit as he told us and pulled into a closed gas station with another rig from the ferry, but did not see any place to park. Within a minute we met our first Newfie who stopped and asked if we needed help. After explaining our situation he said the building across the street was empty and that we could park there and NO ONE would bother us. Welcome to Newfoundland.
Spray from the ocean waves blows over the Canso Causeway as we enter Cape Breton.
The MV Caribou, the ship we were supposed to sail on.
Cars, RVs and trucks lined up before boarding the ferry.
RVs driving onto the top vehicle deck as a trailer truck heads for the lower deck. The huge bow was the thing that would not close and delayed our departure.
Opus looks to the crew for directions.
It was just a little tight with four rows of vehicles squeezed on board.
Finally!!! Departing North Sidney Harbour.
The way things started out I figured I had better know how to use this thing.
Bugs and Debbie helped pass the time with their lively show.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Friends and Hopewell Rocks Rock

After the inspection we went through for our two hour visit to Campobello Island we approached the border crossing at Calais, Maine with great trepidation. There was no one in line when we drove up and we figured we were in for a long looking over. The guard asked where we were from, how long we were staying in Canada, did we have any guns, booze or tobacco and then wished us a good day and sent us on our way. The whole thing took less than two minutes. Phew!!!
Our first stop in New Brunswick was Ponderosa Pines Campground on the Bay of Fundy. This is an excellent place to stay to see the affects of the bay's huge tides at Hopewell Rocks. The tide the day we were there was over 42 feet high and the shoreline at low tide was 160 feet from were it was at the high point. The height of the tide depends on the phase of the moon with full and new moons producing the highest. The tide rises at six to eight feet an hour and if you stood a couple of feet from the water looking at the impressive rocks, your feet would soon be wet. Over 100 billion tons of water enters and exits the bay twice a day. This is equal to all the water all the world's rivers discharge into the oceans each day. Seeing the tide is impressive and make sure if you visit that you have several hours so you can walk on the bottom and then see how it changes as the tide comes in.
These pictures show the difference in the tide at the bottom of the stairs. On the right it is already two hours after the lowest tide. The kayak tours are always near high tide so if someone runs aground they will soon be floated off by the rising water. Getting grounded during a receding tide could result in being stuck.
This peregrine falcon chick was up on a ledge of one of the flowerpots waiting for mom to return with a meal.
Here we are standing on the bottom of the ocean. The rock formations are called flowerpots because of the mini forests growing on top of them.
These people will soon be in over their heads if they are not back to the stairs in time. There is an emergency tower at the far end of the park for anyone the rangers may miss on their final sweep. If you are stuck there you have to wait atop the tower for a few hours until the tide recedes so you can walk out.
The arch best illustrates the change during the rising water. In the third shot I made the sacrifice and waded in to show how deep it was just before the kayaks came by. The background shows the color of the water which is always a chocolate brown because the silt never settles.
This is what the stream behind the campground and every other stream flowing into the bay looks like at high and low tides. The water actually flows 'upstream' during the rising tide.Our next stop was at the home of Omer and Sylvia Mathieu in Wentworth, Nova Scotia. We met them at Betty's in the spring and they offered us a place to park overnight on our way to Newfoundland. They have a great place in the forest that is surrounded with Sylvia's beautiful flower gardens and feeders that attract many different birds. After feeding us a great meal, Omer got out his guitar and entertained us while we drank his very good homemade wine. We can't thank them enough for their hospitality and they made us feel like we have known them for years. Meeting people on the road is truly the best thing about this lifestyle.