Day 13: Back to Gros Morne

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Today is the first day that we’ve woken up to fog, so we didn’t see much point in doing any hiking this morning. In fact, we couldn’t see the ferry until it was pulling up to the dock in the harbour.

It was 2:30 when we got off the ferry, and 4:30 by the time we returned to the Gros Morne National Park area, but we took advantage of our last day to see some of the sites that we ran out of time to see the first time.

The first was Broom Point, which we actually drove past several times earlier in the week, but not during ‘open’ hours. This location was the summer fish camp of a family that lived in Norris point, about 6 hours away by boat. 3 brothers, their wives, and 4 kids would live in one small cottage every year from about April to October.  When the husbands died in the 1970s the wives decided they would donate the property and contents to Parks Canada for the new-ish Gros Morne Park.  You are able to tour the fish shed, which includes all of the contents in the picture below, and the small 3 bedroom, no bathroom cottage where 3 couples and 4 kids lived.

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Broom Point Fishing site at Gros Morne National Park

A few minutes later we were at Green Point, which is a major geological site. It is absolutely mind-blowing, as there are millions of years of sedimentary layers that are laid on their side – this has been a site where scientists have found lots of fossils that have helped with world-wide pre-historic dating.

We spend some time hiking along these fascinating cliffs before doing the final leg of our drive to our final night in Deer Lake.

Deer Lake will be our final night, and we will leave from the Deer Lake airport tomorrow.  We are staying at a fancy place tonight called the Tranquil Waters Inn –  a huge new house, beautifully decorated, that has 4 B & B rooms; the guests basically share the run of the house as no one actually lives here.  This has been a nice place to finish up our trip and try and fit everything back into our suitcases for tomorrow!

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Day 12: Labrador

Our day started by being at the ferry to Labrador by 7 am. Getting on the ferry reminded us of other trips across Canada where we have had to traverse by ferry such as our Georgian Bay crossing in 2010 on our cross Canada trip or our multi ferry trip down the Alaska-BC coast in 2012.

Note: pictures are taking forever to load so we will try to add the rest tomorrow.

We’ve been able to see Labrador across the Strait of Belle Isle for the last 2 or 3 days, so it is nice to actually be here. Essentially, the Labrador coast where we have been is similar to what we have experienced in Newfoundland, except with higher density of potholes.

Off the ferry, we drove to our furthest point, Red Bay, where there is a National Historic Site of a 1500s Basque whaling station. For an extra $2 water taxi ride, we went across to Saddle Island where we did a self-guided hike.  Like most days, there was lots of wind, and cold wind on the ocean side to the point that toques were in order! Here we saw faint remains of Basque whaling camps and a steamer ship wreck.

After another stop at a whale exhibit, we headed to the provincial historic site of the Point Amour lighthouse. Built in 1858, this is the tallest lighthouse on the eastern side of North America, and we were actually able to climb the 128 steps to the top of the lighthouse. Great view!  There were some fish called ‘capelin’ drying; this is a fish that we have heard about our whole trip, as it is what brings the whales to some locations. Speaking of whales,  there was a beached whale not far from the lighthouse.

No extra hikes today! Instead, we headed to the Florian Hotel – the first hotel we have stayed in on this trip. From the sheet metal exterior, it almost looks like a warehouse, but is brand new – built in 2016. We ate at their lovely restuarant for supper and watched TV for the first time on our trip! This will have been the most ‘luxurious’ stay of our trip – like bathrobes, king size bed and goose down quilt!

 

 

 

 

Day 11: L’Anse aux Meadows -Viking Day

Today’s location was undoubtedly spurred by some effective Canadian propaganda from this Heritage Minute in our younger days. The L’Anse aux Meadows site was an archeological discovery in the 1960s that proved that the Vikings/Norsemen, and thus Europeans, had a settlement in North America as early as 1000 AD.  Apparently, they returned to this site 4 times over about a 10 year period, but then abandoned it.

When you visit this Parks Canada National Historic Site you see the lumps in the ground that were excavated and then carefully returned to their pre-excavation state. We arrived in time for the guided tour and this was the most interesting guided tour ever. Our Parks Canada tour guide, Clayton, was a child in the closest fishing village when the dig first began. His parents became friends with the archeologists, hosting them occasionally in their home, and he told first-hand stories of the stages of the dig. He has been connected with the site ever since so was incredibly interesting to listen to.

A ways from the original dig site, there are some reconstructed buildings and costumed interpretive staff that make this a very entertaining and informative experience. We also enjoyed a 2km hike in the surrounding wild, where we found some red chairs.IMG_2003

Across the road from the Parks Canada official site is another reconstructed Viking village called the Norsestead Village. They have a full-size reconstruction of a Viking ship and endeavour to show a permanent Viking settlement, as opposed to the temporary stop-over site that would have been at L’Anse aux Meadows. Some of the costumed lady staff were cooking over an open fire – making a fry bread in a frying pan that seems to be a familiar staple among so many cultures. (Think “bannock”.)

We did see several icebergs over the last 24 hours, many at a considerable distance, but another one quite close-up in the harbour at Saint Lunaire-Griquet as we were leaving. With the binoculars, we could see some pretty amazing features. We also drove through caribou territory yesterday and today, but alas, it seems we will not have seen any caribou on this trip.

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Thrombolites at Flowers Cove

We arrived in our B & B town of Flowers Cove around 4 pm so that gave us some time to check out the local highlight – geological features once again.  We did 2 different hikes to discover each of these unique features. The most famous are thrombolites which look like huge round pillows made for an incredible low tide walk and scamper. The second were limestone barrens. This was thick limestone rocks with cracks in between. It is like walking on a puzzle as you step from rock to rock, and then you peer down each crack to see what type of plants are growing in this protected environment.

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Limestone barrens at Flowers Cove, Newfoundland

We stayed at a most lovely B & B last night called Jenny’s Runestone House which was in Hay Cove with about 10 other houses – a 2-minute drive from L’Anse aux Meadows. Jenny and David are from Ontario and come seasonally to operate the B & B and provide their guests with a wonderful 3-course breakfast and a wealth of information about the area. For instance, why are there random fenced gardens in the ditches? Turns out that this is where the soil was turned over by the big road building machines so the locals just came and planted their gardens in the ditch – the fences are to protect from the moose. And in the northern peninsula here, there are wood piles galore in the ditches (in other parts of Newfoundland they are mostly in the yards). Nobody steals anyone else’s wood, and there are ‘wood sleighs’ all over that are used to transport the wood over the snow during the winter cutting season.

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Timber piles like this are neatly stacked in the ditches in the north, but more commonly in yards in other parts

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Wood sleighs – these are not rare!

 

Day 10: Most Beautiful Drive on the Island

Today we left Gros Morne Park and drove the “Viking Trail” – Highway 430 – eventually ending up at L’Anse aux Meadow on the very northern tip of the peninsula.  What an incredible drive. This is a most wonderful ‘coastal’ drive that gives the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island a run for its money.  In other parts of Newfoundland, the coastal drive is slow and winding, as you have to slow to 50 km for the communities and each community is separated from the next by trees, so you really only get occasional glimpses of the coast as you drive along. Driving the Viking Trail on the northwest part of the island is mostly clear open coastlines with great views, including views of whales.

We ended up taking the whole day to get to L’Anse aux Meadows, even though the actual driving time was about 4 hours. The first quick stop was at the Arches Provincial Park. This site is right along the highway, and the arches are just a short walk to the beach.

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Arches Provincial Park – on the Viking Trail in western Newfoundland

An hour later we arrived at Port aux Choix National Historic Site. We toured the interpretive center which describes archeological digs that uncovered the communities of 4 distinct groups of people that have lived on this peninsula over the past 5000 years, many coming seasonally to hunt seal. We did get to the lighthouse and the red chairs (not part of the ancient anthropology) but it was very cold today so we didn’t hike to the various interpretive panels and the dig sites.

The highway cuts to the east side toward the top of the peninsula, where we ended up spending the afternoon in the main center of St. Anthony. This wasn’t in our original plans, but throughout our trip, we have read so much about Dr. Grenfell, that we felt compelled to visit his town of St. Anthony where his home and Labrador/northern Newfoundland medical and missionary career were based out of. This was an incredibly well-done museum with a wealth of artifacts and pictures very professionally curated; the site also includes the house he built (referred to in the early days as ‘the castle’) and murals in the newly built hospital.  We then went on an iceberg hunt 8 km away in Goose Cove (where we saw several icebergs quite far out at sea). We then returned to find an iceberg right in St. Anthony’s bay, but we had to go to the lighthouse to see it. Brian also had another fix of whale sightings.

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Fox Point Lighthouse in St. Anthony – whales and icebergs nearby

We finally arrived in L’Anse aux Meadows and had a great chat with our lovely host, Jenny, of Jenny’s Runestone House B & B before going back down the road to Northern Delights Restaurant, renowned for being in the top 10 Fish & Chips restaurants in the province.  It is very cold here (getting down to 2 or 3 degrees in July at night) so we hiked – but only a bit – a to check out the gorgeous views at sunset.

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Jenny’s Runestone House B & B in Hay Cove, near L’Ans aux Meadow – the Viking Place

Day 9: Gros Morne National Gem

Gros Morne National Park has so many great natural treasures. So many in fact, that it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. Today we experienced several of them. Interestingly, it was Gros Morne Park that started with the Red Chair thing, and then Parks Canada picked it up for Canada’s 150th. Gros Morne now has 18 pairs of chairs – we sat in 6 of them during our time here. (Unfortunately, wi-fi isn’t strong enough to upload pictures again tonight, so you’ll have to come back and look at pictures before the ‘tour’ ends.)

We started the morning with a quick 2 km hike around Berry Head Pond, where we saw several rabbits and a frog that posed for pictures.  This was a good omen for wildlife, as we saw a moose a few minutes later.  They say that there are 100 000 moose in Newfoundland, yet we’ve spoken to many tourists who have not seen any.

We then hiked the 3km (one way) to the popular Western Brook Pond boat tour. This boat tour takes you 16km into a freshwater fjord – a place which is virtually impossible to reach otherwise, unless you are a caribou. The cliffs are over 600 m high in many places, and they continue below the water to 100-150 m. As a special treat on the way back, one of the boat crew just happened to be an aspiring singer – he played guitar and sang 6 or 7 Newfoundland style songs.

IMG_1881Part of what makes Gros Morne so incredible is that you have this incredible mountainous beauty and geologically special features, and then you have these incredible coastal parts. We took another short coastal hike before we decided that we had enough time to drive to the southern side of the park (separated by the very large Bonne Bay that you have to drive around).

The southern portion of Gros Morne has the Discovery Center which explains its geological significance, including the role that it played in the discovery of plate tectonics. And then the stunning geological feature on the south side is called the Tablelands, which can be experienced with a 4 km hike (or a longer one if you page $44/pp for a guided tour).  All of a sudden these huge, orange, mountainous plateaus with minimal vegetation take over from the surrounding green mountains. These mountains, dense with iron, magnesium and other minerals that aren’t hospitable to plant life, are part of the earth’s mantle that was forced up from the ocean floor when the continents collided.  The hike we did was in the valley where the earth changes from rocky orange to green with vegetation.

All of the features we saw today we very distinct from each other. The one site that I had hoped to get to was a Fisherman’s house and pier reconstruction, with former fishermen as guides (at Broom Point). A couple staying at our B & B went and did this after the boat tour (it was 5 minutes away, and was our original plan until we decided we had time to ‘go south’); they said that it was so intriguing to hear the stories of the fisherman from the 1960s when there were not any roads connecting the area, and all travel was done by sea! We could have spent another day or two here and still had a list of things to see!

 

Day 8: Across the Interior to Gros Morne

So really all you can do to get to the west and north of Newfoundland is just get in the car and drive. Across “the interior”. It becomes clear why it took so long to “open up” the interior, and why the Beothuk people couldn’t survive solely in the interior without sea access. That being said, we made it to Gros Morne National Park with time to do some exploring. While we have seen moose warning signs across the province, they seem to be especially plentiful here in the national park. IMG_1822

After a short stop at the Gros Morne visitor center to get ourselves oriented, we went to the Lobster Cove Lighthouse. This was another nicely done Parks Canada site, and we were just in time to catch an interpretive tour, so we got some good stories from the guide who happened to be a local gent. We walked/hiked a bit around the lighthouse before checking out several other stops (like for some red chairs) on our eventual way to Cow Head. IMG_1845

Cow Head is the community that hosts the Gros Morne area dinner theatre. We had a cod supper as we enjoyed a musical dinner theatre called the S.S. Effie, based on a boat of that name that ran aground nearby in a December 1919 storm. (We actually passed the crash site of the S.S. Effie on our way to the dinner theatre; after seeing the sign we pulled a u-turn and we able to go down to the beach to see the remains of the old steamer.)

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Remains on the beach of the S. S. Effie (Dec 1919)

It seems like very many of these Newfoundland communities have a theatre company that perfoms nightly, including dinner theatres. This is one way to adapt to the growing tourist industry and gives the tourists something to do in the evening, as most shops and museums close at 5pm.

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Red chairs – near Sally’s Cove in Gros Morne Park

After the theatre, we finished the day with a hike on some white sandy beaches (a rarity in Newfoundland) at Shallow Bay.

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Sunset at the sandy beach at Shallow Bay in Gros Morne National Park

Day 7: Hiking Twillingate

It was nice to not have to drive any distance today, although everything is so spread out in these never-ending, up-and-down towns that we still seemed to be driving back and forth to get anywhere. Every time you turn a corner, there is more cove or bay with more houses!

Today we did some more fabulous hikes. One before lunch, one after lunch. Speaking of lunch, we had a nice picnic in a sheltered cove out of the windy wind.

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View from a cliff on one of our hikes

Other than hiking, we took it pretty easy. We drove across this island to a coffee roasting shop, but it was closed Mondays! Other than that we stopped at a few gift shops, visited the Split Rock Brewery, and took a quick tour of another lovely, but less ornate Anglican church (built in 1840 to seat 1000).

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They have lots of different fruits here – partridge berry, crowberry, and bakeapple (which is a berry, everyone in Newfoundland talks about it, and it is apparently very hard to pick and sort.) We bought some bakeapple jam to have with breakfast tomorrow.  Speaking of fruit, nothing is in season yet. Blueberries don’t come until September and wild raspberries don’t come until the end of August!

Plant-wise, there are wild lupins (pink, purple and white) everywhere and they have these incredible purple wild irises. They are smaller than our garden variety irises and grow in some pretty rocky, desolate spaces. There are some garden patches that we have come across – the potatoes are about 2 inches tall and nothing else seems to have popped through yet.  Lilac bushes are still in full bloom and I saw some tulips today, so their growing season definitely starts later, but I don’t think that they have the early frosts like we do. Ok, the horticulture detour is over.

We ate supper on our deck overlooking the harbour and have just come inside after having an evening bonfire.

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An evening fire just outside of our harbour-side cottage.