August 2, 2009
Hello from the west side of Newfoundland. This is the most visited part because the short ferry from Nova Scotia takes people to Port aux Basques, on the southern end of the west coast, so most people take that one. Also, the 2 biggest tourist attractions in Newfoundland are on the west coast and both places are UNESCO world heritage sites.: Gros Morne National Park and L’Anse aux Meadows, a former Viking settlement from 1000AD and the only authenticated Viking settlement in North America. That is where we went today. We planned it for today because the weather man said that a high was coming in and there should be good weather all over the entire island today. Well, it started out foggy and cold, but we went anyway. At least it wasn’t raining! We have been having frequent rain which has been somewhat killing our enthusiasm for spending a lot more time here unless the weather improves. Also, the so-called attractions are starting to become repetitive: fishing villages, scenic coasts, aboriginal sites, etc. So we are anticipating that we will be here probably 2 more weeks and then take the ferry back to Nova Scotia.
One great thing about Newfoundland is that there are lots of scenic places to boondock. In Deer Lake, our first night in the west, we happened upon a fishing access site just below the power plant where we spent the night. There were about 4 guys fly fishing in waders from the shore and one guy fishing from a boat, right in front of us. They were fishing for Atlantic salmon because the season just opened up. The amusing thing is that there were about 20 cars parked watching them! I’ll bet only in Newfoundland is fly fishing a spectator sport! Several of the men caught one so we could see them and they are a lot smaller than Pacific salmon. But we learned at a Visitor Information place that Atlantic salmon don’t die after they spawn, as Pacific salmon do. They have to be hardy fish to switch from being in fresh water to going back to salt water several times in their life span. Yesterday we purchased an Atlantic salmon and had it for dinner tonight. It didn’t have nearly as much flavor as Pacific salmon, in our opinion.
Gros Morne National Park is a spectacular place, but we have only seen a small part of the northern section of it so far. Upon entering the park, the road takes you right past the East Arm of Bonne Bay. This is a fjord so the water is very deep and cold and because there is a sill at the entrance to it from the sea, the sea water and fjord water don’t mix very well. There are many different marine organisms that live here because of the huge variety of water depths and temperatures and the variances in salinity. It is also very scenic but we couldn’t get any good pictures because of the mist.
We spent some time at the Visitor’s Center gathering information and looking at the exhibits while waiting for the mist to clear up. When that happened, we drove to the nearby town of Rocky Harbour but it was having quite a bit of fog. Then we drove to Norris Point, just as the mist was clearing and the sun was coming out so we got some good pictures from an overlook.
Since the weather was going to be bad the next day, we decided not to stay but to move on up the peninsula and do more exploring and hiking here on our way back through here when we decide to head for the ferry terminal at Port aux Basques. So we used the rest of the sunny afternoon to drive along the beautiful coast line, which is along the Gulf of St. Lawrence. One of the stops was at Arches Provincial Park. Here glacial action and erosion has caused a huge limestone formation, which used to be on the sea floor, to develop big arches in it. The formation is so big that only half of it is shown in this picture:
Our boondock spot for the night was at Parson’s Pond, on a cliff overlooking the ocean near a picnic area. Here is a picture of Parson’s Pond:
The next day we headed up the peninsula and cut across to Roddickton, on the east side because a huge storm was supposed to be coming in. Roddickton is on the water but quite a distance from the coast because it is on a long inlet. We parked right on the public wharf there so we had a great view of the inlet in front of us and the town cove was behind us.
Yes, a storm came in and dumped a lot of rain, and we had some wind, but not the 60 knot winds that were predicted. The next day we knew there was going to be good weather so we planned to explore all day. First we went to the Underground Salmon Pool. This is a place on Beaver Brook where the river has cut a path under some rocky cliffs and salmon swim into it and spawn there. There are a few developed hiking trails so we had a good hike through the forest and also along the river. The water was a really dark brown color because of tannin in the water, which is very common here, so it was hard to see the salmon.
Next we drove a gravel road to a small fishing village called Conche. There is a wonderful overlook just before the outskirts of the town from which it is possible to see quite a lot of the triangular-shaped peninsula, which has a huge protected bay in the middle. There is an interpretation center in Conche which describes a lot of the history of the French Shore, which is what this area is called because the French held legal ownership of the shore and fishing rights until 1904. But it was a beautiful, sunny day and we wanted to hike instead. Tried to hike to the headland, but we kept losing the trail so we gave up and did the boardwalk trail over on the shores of the inlet.
Then we drove to another small fishing village called Englee. This was also a picturesque fishing village with several inlets and lots of hiking trails. But by now it was overcast and late and we had done our allotted hiking miles, so we just looked around and headed back to the rig.
Yes, another storm blew in and we had seen what we wanted to see in the area so we drove north to St. Anthony. On the way we saw 2 moose crossing the road but luckily, they were way ahead of us. St. Anthony is one of the biggest towns in the northern peninsula but there still isn’t that much there. One attraction which made it worth the drive was visiting the Grenfell Interactive center and also the Grenfell Home. Dr. Grenfell was one of the earliest pioneers to bring medical care to the fishermen who first seasonally lived in Labrador and northern Newfoundland, and later to the communities which developed there and also to the Indian communities, such as the Inuit. He established things like orphanages and cooperatives as well and when he retired, he left a huge medical and social assistance network which eventually was sold to the government for $1. It still is in operation today. He did lots of fundraising in the USA and all over the world and also wrote lots of books helping to bring attention and help to this very neglected part of the world. What an immense contribution he made here!
Late that day we drove up towards L’Anse aux Meadows and stopped in a small town just off the main road to boondock on a cliff overlooking a small picturesque cove littered with islands. It was actually in the library parking lot. The next day, just as we were getting ready to head for the UNESCO site, a mama moose and her baby ran right across the lawn of the houses down below us. The actual L’Anse aux Meadows site is almost as far north as you can get in Newfoundland and has excellent exhibits at the visitor’s center as well as replications of the buildings that the Vikings built there in the year 1000AD. It was a Norwegian couple, Helge and Anne Ingstead who figured out from Scandinavian sagas that the Vikings must have had a settlement in North America and they set out to search for where it was. They searched all over Labrador and northern Newfoundland and asked local people everywhere if they had found any hint of ruins and finally they met George Decker, a resident of L’Anse aux Meadows who told them about the suspicious depressions and mounds there. Here are some today, after they recovered the excavated site to protect the ruins underneath:
They spent years excavating them and discovered artifacts that indicated conclusively that they were Norse. Parks Canada took over after that and did more excavating and then rebuilt some of the structures and installed the very excellent visitor’s center. Here is a picture of the reconstructed building with 6 foot thick sod walls:
We took a very informative guided tour and also learned a lot from the costumed interpreters that they have on site in the reconstructed buildings.
Here is a picture of the inside of part of the building:
Just down the road there is another reconstruction of a Viking seaport called Norstead, which sounded a lot like a small amusement park, so we didn’t go to it.
Just as we were leaving, we ran into Chris, Marianne and Billy who were arriving to see the site. So we had a happy reunion with them and got some travel tips from them as well as giving them some from the places we had been since we last saw them. They had just taken the ferry to Labrador the day before and didn’t really think it was worth the time, expense and trouble, so that helped us decide not to go.
The last time we were with them was when we were all parked at the Wal-Mart in Grand Falls-Windsor. A guy from CBC radio stopped by to see if he could interview all of us for his show called “Tourist Talk”. So he came in and asked us all some questions about touring Newfoundland and the next morning we heard it on the CBC. I guess that makes us all “celebrities” here!
August 3, 2009
This morning, we drove into Port aux Choix where there is an interpretation center for the 4 different types of indigenous people who have lived in this area for the last 4500 years, and also some hiking trails that go through the various types of plant areas they have here. So we did 2 of the hiking trails and then learned about the Archaic Indians, Groswater Indians, Dorset Indians, and Beothuk Indians. There was an interesting movie about them and a few exhibits but we didn’t think this visitor’s center was nearly as good as the Grenfell one or the L’Anse aux Meadows. The best part was finishing the hiking trail before the rain came.
We are heading back to Gros Morne now to do some hiking and enjoy the spectacular scenery there.