Monday, October 3, 2011

Sea to Sea Sept27

While our trip East was to explore the Maritimes, our strongest interest was in Newfoundland and we were not disappointed.  Everywhere we went, it seemed, we wanted to take photos and learn more. We read more plaques and stopped at more lookouts and historic sites than I could count.  Gros Morne National Park was our first stop with that lovely campsite at Lomond and then the hike on to the Tablelands with the lively Angie.  We loved the open tundra -like slopes and boggy wetlands.  Trails were excellent and many were actually boardwalks elevated above all the wet - which was pretty necessary since walking on that terrain would have been impossible.
It was also very very windy! and quite chilly....

Gros Marne National Park Newfoundland - hiking

One of the much promoted trips in Gros Morne is a boat ride into the landlocked fresh-water fiord that was formed when glaciers withdrew.  But the day we thought about going was quite foggy and we decided instead to hike into the entrance to the fiord and see what we could see. 

En route, we were walking mostly on boardwalk and went by this lake. 

In the distance, we noticed a brown and white blob that did not fit with anything else in sight.  We also noticed people further on the path standing still and staring in that direction.  It was a cariboo. He had no trouble trotting through the bog and lucky for us kept coming in our direction so that his blobness gradually became clearly defined into a body with legs and head with antlers and we saw our first cariboo!

Later that day, we drove up the coast a bit and stopped for tea near the beach and walked a couple of kilometres on a deserted sandy beach.

In the evening, we went back to Rocky Harbour to see a show advertised as a Celtic music: Anchors Aweigh.
We expected more Newfie talk and stories as well as fiddling but it turns out -that there is such a thing as Celtic rock :-) 
Well, it was okay and the performance did include some stories and we enjoyed it. 
Celtic Rock band - Rocky Harbour

Left at 11:30p.m. and drove to our private camp site near to the official one.

The great thing about the camper is that we are entirely self-sufficient and can really stop anywhere and avoid the parking lots that campsites for any rvs tend to be.  Actually, these huge  rvs are referred to as "rigs"
From Rocky Harbour, we headed north to the furthest tip of the province where Grenfell had his mission and the Vikings landed and settled.
Along the way, we passed hamlets that appeared deserted.  We left hills behind and moved through a more barren and level landscape.

Abandoned summer fishing village

We stopped at one such village and walked along the beach - the family who had lived here had clearly given up.
Abandoned house
Being a lover of rocks, I had to stop to look more closely at such a wealth of rocks of many colours and shapes.  In this particular cove, the cliff itself was distinctive.  Its layers showed clearly how the earth had risen and the rock upended - the younger :-) layers at the right end, the older at the left.  Geology lessons are offered everywhere in Newfoundland - at every lookout and every information centre.  You do need to appreciate rocks!
Sedimentary rock, upended to vertical

Hundreds of miles of highway without signs

The long road north - winding along the coast, flat, the foam of waves a white frill along the edges.  What Richard much loved was the absence of any advertising signs - no Tim Horton's or Macdonald's or anything else.  Just the land - empty and itself.

We were eager to see the Grenfell museum and happy that we would get to it on its last day for the season (according to the booklet about it) - thus not miss out.  Unfortunately, it closed ahead of schedule.   We have both read Adrift on an Ice Pan and knew of Grenfell's medical practice in NFLD and Labrador, and Richard also had a connection with the Grenfell family from Mostyn House, his prep school in the UK. 

Grenfell centre - St Anthony

We couldn't visit Grenfell's house either but climbed up a trail behind the house to look out over St. Anthony.

View from ""Tea House Hill" - St Anthony 

Some of the plants growing beside the path

Red crack berries 

Along all the paths, we saw a great variety of lichens and mosses as well as tiny asters and daisies, queen anne's lace and some kind of foamy looking white lichen that moose like to eat. 

More cliffs and rocks and another geology lesson
All this driving - which Richard does - and lots of knitting time for me - so I finished a sweater for Alex - a little snug on Richard so it should fit Alex and be lovely and warm!

We discovered another place to go to hear local music - though again it was Celtic rock - but Richard got initiated into a time-honored Newfie tradition: kiss the cod and drink the screech - someone had to take the photos!  He was outfitted with a sou-wester and then did the kissing and drinking and was awarded honorable Newfie status.  To further prove worthy of the title, he had to stamp around in time to a jig of some sort.

After the carousing in the pub, we spent the night in the parking lot at L"Anse aux Meadows, the site of the Viking landing and woke to see the dramatic silhouettes of these iron figures against the sky.

Apparently, when the Vikings came, there were sizable trees growing here and the climate was milder, attractive for summers away from the icy temperatures of Greenland.  Now it is quite barren and local people have given up raising sheep and cows since there is meat in the stores that requires no feeding and butchering!

The site at L'Anse aux Meadows included reconstructed dwellings that archaeologists and historians believe would have been built here to house found here.  When excavations began in 1961, there were simply mounds that could not be identified as Viking.  But over several years, artifacts appeared that confirmed their presence beyond any doubt.  These items are held in cases in the centre at the site.  They include a 3 in cloak pin, two stone discs used in spinning (can't remember the proper name), and some iron nails.  Very few things and so much digging over such a large area!   It was all fascinating and much enlivened by the costumed and very knowledgeable villagers who described their lives, recounted stories from the Norse sagas and demonstrated some of the skills they needed to survive.   

In the forge, we saw how they took bog iron, smelted it and made nails to repair their ships.  The Vikings knew how to recognize that there was iron in the earth in the bog and also how to process it.  No other people who settled in the area had such knowledge and skills of iron work - more evidence of the Viking presence about 1100 c.e. 

There being no other road back, we retraced our route and drove back south to Rocky Harbour and from there, we would cross the province to the eastern shore, to Twillingate and the icebergs and down to St. John's, the capital.

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