Thursday, 28 August 2014

The Great Northern Peninsula

We left on another warm, sunny day, heading north.

The bridge to St. Pauls
A lot of the first part of the trip goes along the west coast, with the Long Range Mountains to the east. We stopped at the salmon enhancement project on the Torrent River in Hawke’s Bay.
Interpretation Centre
This is one of the Department of Fisheries and Ocean’s most successful projects. Before 1965, only a small portion of salmon lived in the Torrent River, and these were confined to the lower section. About 2km upriver, there is a 10m high falls

Looking over the falls

which prevented salmon migration upstream. The DFO developed an enhancement program which included a fishway which was a series of stairs up past the falls.

The Fish Ladder
At first, since salmon return to the place where they were spawned, the fish did not use the ladder. Eventually fish were transported by helicopter to the upper river,

The upper part of the river

and the next season, fish who had been hatched above the water fall, used the ladder to get to the spawning ground upstream of the falls. We were able to look through underground viewing windows to see the salmon in the chamber

Salmon- there was one little eel too.

where they are counted before being released into the upper river. We then went on a short walk downriver on the trail, which is a boardwalk

The whole trail was a raised boardwalk
Quietly fishing down river

the whole way down to a campsite, about 3 km downriver.

The first night we decided to stay at Oceanside RV Park, run by the Lions Club, right on the shore
Oceanside RV Park, only 3 of us to share the shore
Looking toward the point, north
Looking South beautiful rocky beach -the tide was always out!!

at Port au Choix. This is a small town right on the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It was still early when we first arrived, so we decided to drive around and look at the French Rooms Cultural Centre. This is built beside a burial ground of the Maritime Archaic Indians,
Burial Ground
the earliest aboriginal inhabitants of Newfoundland and Labrador, from 5000 to about 3200 years ago when this peninsula was an island. The Cultural Centre contains a series of poster boards and artifacts depicting the life of the French fishermen of the region. It also has 1lb bags of frozen local shrimp, which we could not resist.
Waves from a strong onshore wind at the campsite pounded the shore all night. The sites are serviced with water and electric, and there is wifi. However, the wifi is inconsistent. It is strong up in the main building in the washrooms. I turned on my computer to check it, and discovered a BLACK screen. Luckily I had my iPad. I discovered a narrow bench between the washroom doors in the hall, and got good wifi there, to try to figure out what was wrong. It was a little uncomfortable, but it worked! I had a few ‘fixes’ to try, but none worked. So I looked for a computer store. There were several in St John’s and in Corner Brook, but not in the north.

As well, we seemed to have developed an oil leak. On the way out, we stopped to watch a fishing boat return to the harbour,
Just docked with his cod catch in Port au Choix
then John stopped at a gas station to fill up and add oil. The owner came out, asking if there was a problem. He looked at the engine with John, said he thought it was from the oil filter, and disappeared under the truck. A few minutes later, he announced that the filter was loose, went inside the garage and came out with big gloves on, disappeared under the truck, and came out saying he had tightened it, but we should get it tightened by a dealer with the proper wrench. He wouldn’t take any payment, just said he was “glad to have been able to help ‘by’”. So, off we went.
The drive was really interesting. Initially there long Range Mountains were inland.
Long Range Mountains, boggy closer to the road

Frequently there were rocky fingers of rock along the shoreline.

As we drove further north, there were large bogs on the western side and, right up to Eddies Cove, we drove close to the coast. We were driving through limestone bedrock, and some limestone barrens.
Scrub trees and limestone barrens 

The trees became stubbier, and less dense.  We also began to notice large piles of wood, some piled in cords, and some just ‘dumped,’ by the road.

Most of them had a number or marker on them.

We took a side trip into St. Barbe where the Labrador Ferry departs.
More stacks of wood- we learned this is the winter's heating fuel
There isn’t really a town, just a motel and the ferry terminal, a few houses, and a big parking lot for RV’s.

From Eddies Cove to the turn-off for Viking RV Campground at Quirpon, we travelled across the peninsula- more bogs and stunted trees, and barrens, but a good road.
At times, a fairly flat and straight road
However, when we headed north on highway to the campground, the road surface deteriorated! We drove by delightful small towns and fishing villages,
Hare Bay-Turning North toward Quirpon
Looking North from Gunner's Cove

to Viking RV Campground just a few kilometres from L’Anse aux Meadows. This is a small campground in a field. Tent sites are around the outside in the brush, fairly level, gravel RV sites are in the centre and along one side, with electric and water, but with a boil water advisory. There are 2 washrooms and 2 showers; however, one washroom door did not lock. On the plus side, the owner baked wonderful bread and fruit pies, and would cook breakfast. We continued to meet interesting people, some who were travelling like we are, and others who are on a shorter holiday. One couple, who are also retired, became our 6pm cocktail buddies. They moved out before we did, but plans were made to keep in touch and meet up further south.
There is much to see in St. Anthony and the surrounding area. We went on a whale watching and iceberg sighting boat trip with family owned, Northland Discovery Boat Tours. It was wonderful with Newfoundland music and knowledgeable guides. Our captain took us out into the northern waters of Iceberg Alley. We saw 5 or 6 whales cavorting near the boat.

Two of the Humpbacks
[Actually, once we spotted then, the captain drove to the area where they were.] There were three big icebergs

This was 6 miles further out from the one we went around

and lots of smaller growlers and bergy bits in the area,

Growlers and Bergy Bits

they chose a sheet iceberg for us to get close to and go around.

The blue lines are pure water melted and refrozen

Sheet iceberg- actually compressed snow, 10,000 yrs old

It was an incredible sight, estimated by our guide to be about 60 feet high, 300-400 feet wide and 500-600 feet long. There was even some Greenland earth on one side!

These icebergs are over 10 000 years old and have taken about 2 years to come down from Greenland. He caught a small piece of the iceberg in a net,

and broke it up so we could each have a taste of the purest frozen water.

When we came back to the dock, I asked the young man in the ticket booth if he knew of anyone in town who could fix computers. He gave me directions to the Viking Mall and Aurora Computers. On speaking to the owner and only employer, he said bring it in, he thought he could fix it.
Before driving home, we headed out to see the lighthouse,

and have some seafood chowder that had been recommended. Then we drove to Goose Cove,

Goose Cove

and walked part of the trail around the bay. We saw another small iceberg close to shore, with several young people gathering small pieces of it.

Kids pulling Bergy Bits to shore

Our bit of the Iceberg- John is on the boardwalk in the midst of a field of Iris.

John climbed down and was given a chunk of it to take home.

On the drive back to our RV Park, we decided to check out the Triple Falls RV Park, just outside St. Anthony’s. We were driving around when we spotted a moose ahead of us between two trailers.
right in the middle of the RV Park -not paying any attention to us...
He was just grazing not paying any attention to us, so we stopped and watched him for a while.
Then he looked up, but then just continued to graze

As we drove down the hill, about 150 ft away, there was a caravan of class A’s with a group of people sitting between 2 of them. We stopped and told them about the moose. At first they didn’t believe us, but when they came around the side and saw him, they scattered to get cameras and crept up closer. He didn’t move, not even when we turned the truck around and crept past him to leave.

We drove out to L’Anse aux Meadows, a UNESCO World Heritage site. As we have the National Parks’ Discovery Pass, entrance was free. We decided to take the guided tour, then go back to the Interpretation Centre. This is an excavated remains of a Norse settlement which was inhabited around 1000 years ago, when a Norse expedition from Greenland landed on Newfoundland’s Great Northern Peninsula.
You can see the thick walls of the house
This building was dug further into the ground, a workshop
This was the largest, thought to be the Chief's house

It is the earliest evidence of European settlement on this continent. Under Leif Eriksson’s leadership, 60 to 90 people set up a sturdy encampment of turf-walled buildings that served as an over-wintering base, called Vinland, for exploring to the south, mainly for the hardwood. Over the next decade, several more expeditions travelled to the region. It was then deemed not to be economical to continue, so the village was burnt and the site abandoned. The archeological dig uncovered many artifacts which are on display in the Interpretive Centre. To be declared an historical site, the dig had to be put back in situ. The three halls and five smaller buildings’ outlines can be seen, but no details. The walls of the buildings, however can be seen to be about 4ft thick. There is also a reconstruction of a Viking village with a sod house
of a merchant-adventurer and his wife, with several rooms furnished with reproduction artifacts
The fireplace in the middle of the room, bed to the right
making rope, twisting twine

a servants’ house and an outdoor forge.

A third sod building is being constructed.
We spent an hour or more in the Visitor Centre, tracing the Viking journey with huge wall maps, examining the beautifully constructed scale model and artifacts which proved the site’s authenticity, and listening to translated Vinland sagas. Before we left, John and I decided to follow the Birchy Nuddick Trail from the parking lot,

Part of the trail is a boardwalk

The 2 red chairs- They are scattered around all the National Historic Sites this year

Looking across the Cove

along the shoreline and inland over bogs and barrens.

On the way home we decided to drive into Quirpon (Car-poon),
Quirpon- narrow roads
to see the lighthouse. We drove through the pretty village, and off on a road to the lighthouse; however, after about ½ hour, we found ourselves back at the main crossroad, and nowhere near the lighthouse. It was time for cocktails at our friends’, so we just drove home.

Not far away is Norstead, a Viking village and Port of Trade.
Here modern-day Vikings demonstrate their lifestyle. There is a boathouse with the Viking ship, Snorri, a replica of a Norse cargo ship,

a Chieftain’s hall,
The chieftain's wife [right], and servant

a church
Inside the Church
and a blacksmith’s shop. It was really interesting talking to the “Norse” as they stayed in-role for most of the time. I did not realize that some of the people who came were slaves picked up from Ireland. The red-headed Irish actually have Norse in their ancestry. Apparently the Norsemen, from Scandinavia, became known as Vikings as they began to conduct raids; however, the terms are now generally used interchangeably. The church was Christian, and mainly for the slaves.

On the way back to our campsite, we discovered a little café just off the highway, on the water, with the most delicious lattes and home baked treats. After all that walking, we felt we deserved a huge oatmeal-raisin cookie for me and a cinnamon bun with cream cheese icing for John.
When we took the computer in, he said to come back in an hour or so. We toured the city of St. Anthony and went over to the Seafood plant to buy shrimp. We could only get a 5lb bag, but we knew we’d be able to fit it in the freezer. We would have loved to get the crab too, but they only sold it in 35lb boxes, and we had no room for it. The shrimp are small, but are so delicious that when we put some out to thaw, we end up eating a lot of them frozen!

When we went back to check the computer, we discovered that he would not be able to fix it, the mother-board had died, but the good news was that he was able to save the hard drive with all the data. The bad news was that it meant buying a new laptop. When we looked at where to buy one- the only two options were go back to Corner Brook or wait ‘til St. John’s.  [Aurora only built desktops, and did not carry any laptops.] Corner Brook it was, as I really needed the computer and all the data including pictures, and we had to go down to Deer Lake -60km from Corner Brook- anyway to travel across the province to the east coast. We had an external hard drive that I used for back-up, so we went back to the campsite, got the hard-drive and drove it back in. We were to pick it up on our way out the next day.

On the way south, we stopped at Flower’s Cove to walk along the White Rock Walking Trail and the Marjorie Bridge and Thrombolites Walking Trail. These are both fascinating walks. They are part of the limestone barrens habitat of the northern peninsula. The White Rock trail wanders over large flat limestone bedrock, polished by the glacier then buried beneath sand and gravel.
Another boardwalk over boggy and sensitive land
A blue bench - copying the red chairs!

Once covered by forests, the natural acids from rotting plants seeped into cracks in the limestone eating away rock, and making the cracks wider. Eventually, the forest died as soil slumped into the cracks and was washed away. Now the fractured landscape of clints [rock knobs] and grikes [deep cracks] is exposed, where unique and endangered plants grow.

The Marjorie Bridge, built in the early 1900’s was once the only way for Folks living in Flower’s Cove to travel the coast or go to school or church.
A boardwalk over the marsh to Marjorie's Bridge
The Thrombolites are huge bun-shaped Cambrian mounds. They are the growth form of millions of tiny algae and bacteria. Called living rocks, they are endangered microbial structures.

They look like huge pillows
We decided to stay once again at the Lion’s Campground at
There were a few more RV's this time
Port au Choix, so we could drive out to the lighthouse before we left. The wind was not quite as strong as last time, but the surf still pounded all night. We stopped first at the Visitors’ Centre then drove out to the lighthouse,
The ruins of the lighthouse keeper's house
The "Dorset Doorway" an artist's representation of a Dorset Paleoeskimo house
out at Riche Point, another part of the limestone barrens.  We watched fishing boats checking their mussel fields,
and searched for caribou and whales, but without any luck.
The last step of this stage took us back to Rocky Harbour, via the Arches Provincial Park.
Arches created by wave erosion
It started to rain, so we didn’t walk far!
Next- back to Gros Morne and to the Humber Valley...

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