August 2008

August travels took us from the southeast coast of Newfoundland to the northwest coast and then on to the southwest for our return trip to New Harris, Nova Scotia where we started the Newfoundland trip five weeks before.  We towed the RV about 1200 miles in August.

This year, August in Newfoundland was unusually rainy and drizzly – the most frequent comment we got was that July had beautiful weather.  Oh well…the weather didn’t slow us down a bit though - we just shuffled our plans around.  Here’s a quick rundown of how we spent the month.

But first – our monthly food review!  Thumbs up:  Lay’s roasted chicken potato chips, Jiggs dinner, pease pudding.  Thumbs down – Lay’s ketchup flavored potato chips, pork scrunchions.

St. John’s and surrounding area:

Pippy Park is a municipal park and campground located within the city limits of St. John’s.  Pippy was our home for nine nights while we toured the area.  First on the agenda was a trip to the local Boston Pizza, yet another stop on our ‘tour’ of the Maritime Boston Pizzas.  St. John’s also has the one and only Costco in all of Newfoundland – we stocked up on several items while we had the opportunity. 

We found the cost of food to be expensive through the Maritimes but even more so in Newfoundland.  For example, milk cost us $4.53 for two-liters (~half-gallon), compared to the $3.50 or so we pay for a gallon (~four liters) in the U.S.  Skinless boneless chicken breasts averaged over $7.00 a pound. 

Have we mentioned yet how much diesel cost us?  When you convert liters to gallons and Canadian dollars to U.S. dollars, we were paying between $5.60 to $6.10 a gallon – yipes!

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The GEO Center (left) featured educational exhibits that included the Titanic disaster, off-shore drilling and Newfoundland's geology.  The picture on the right shows how the structure that houses the exhibits encompasses the 600 million-year-old rocks it is built upon.

Johnson Geo Centre & Geo Park.  Located in St. John’s, this exhibit can easily keep you occupied for a full day.  We started off with a guided tour of the Titanic exhibit.  The Titanic was an accident waiting to happen – it had only a single rudder; the 4th smoke stack was just for looks to make it look like it was faster than their competitor, the Cunard ships; it didn’t slow down around ice, ignored several telegraphed messages warning them about the ice; an untrained crew (only two out of almost 700 knew how to launch the lifeboats).  3rd class passengers were the majority of passengers but they suffered the most loss of life because they were behind a barred gate (3rd class were immigrants who had to clear Customs upon arrival.)  By the time the gate was unlocked, all the lifeboats were gone.  The owner of White Star Line, as well as the captain, thought they were invincible and made reckless decisions.  It was not an iceberg but the contributing factors that sank the ship.  The surviving crew was made to lie during the inquiries, saying the ship went down peacefully.  It wasn’t until 1987 when the Titanic was found that the truth was revealed – the ship had split in half and sank. 

The Geo Centre is divided into multiple learning centers – we learned about our planet, our province (Newfoundland), people, and the future.  We also visited the ExxonMobil Oil and Gas Gallery and learned that oil was discovered offshore back in the 1980s, and drilling started in 1994.

The building itself is pretty spectacular.  Entry is above ground but most of the overall floor space is underground and is built upon the half-billion-year-old rocks of Signal Hill.  The Earth heats the Geo Centre, with vertical holes drilled over 500 feet into the rock.  Using heat pumps, fluids are circulated that either heat or cool the entire building – cool!

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Cabot Tower was erected on Signal Hill to commemorate the 400th year anniversary of John Cabot's discovery of Newfoundland.  The tower overlooks the harbor in St. John's.

Signal Hill, a national historic site, played a key role in Newfoundland’s military and communications history since the 17th century.  Remnants of over 300 years of military fortifications are located throughout the site.  In 1901, Marconi made communications history by receiving the first trans-Atlantic wireless radio signal at Cabot Tower.  It was pretty foggy the day we were there – the harbor and the Atlantic Ocean were barely visible.  Winds can gust up to 120 mph there – hold on to your hats!

After attending Sunday service at the Gower Street United Church (a beautiful church with an interesting wood-paneled ceiling), we had lunch at Ches’s Fish and Chips.  Ches’s was highly recommended as a must-stop but we were disappointed with our meals – we’ve had better fish and chips elsewhere.

One of the most interesting stops in St. John’s was the NRC Institute for Ocean Technology.  Established in 1985, this is Canada’s national center for ocean technology research and development.  Whether you are a private individual or a corporation – if you want your vessel (boat, sub, oil platform) tested for hydrodynamics, marine safety, performance evaluation, how the structure performs in ice – this is the place to contact.  Mock-up models are built to scale, complete with whatever materials the customer specifies.  The model is then tested in either the world’s longest ice tank; an indoor simulated 3-D ocean; or a 200-metre towing tank.  Some of the participants of the America’s Cup yacht races have submitted their yacht designs to be tested before being built.  All work is confidential.  Because of this, we were only able to view the simulated 3-D ocean and the 200-meter towing tank.  We learned that some of the scenes from the movie Shipping News were filmed here and that actor Kevin Spacey required the water temperature to be 85 degrees before he would get in the simulated ocean.  It took them a week to heat the 200,000-gallon tank. 

The St. John’s Haunted Hike is a fun tour. Tours run from May through September, Sunday to Thursday evenings.  We went on Tuesday, taking the Ghosties and Ghoulies Tour.  The tour started at the steps of the Anglican Church with the Reverend Phineas Fagan conducting the tour.  Some of the ghosts and ghoulies Reverend Fagan told us about:  Catherine Snow was hanged for arranging for her lover to murder her husband.  Two men murdered him – both his employees.  The men were hung first but she had to give birth to her baby before she was hung.  Then there is Phil the friendly spirit that emitted positive auras, as experienced by three girls that shared an apartment.  The weather was ideal for the tour – cool and drizzly, as we briskly walked up and down hills in the downtown area.

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We put on our hardhats and headed down a tunnel segment of the Bell Island #2 iron mine.  When mining ceased in 1966, only 10 square miles of the 70 square miles of ore had been mined.

Nearby is Bell Island, accessible by a 20-minute ferry ride.  Once on the island, we toured the #2 Mine.  This was a great tour, led by one of the granddaughters of the miners.  The #2 mine, in operation from 1902 to 1949, produced low-grade iron ore.  From 1895 to 1966, over 78 million tons of ore was shipped from the world’s larges submarine iron ore mines on Bell Island .  Miners worked by candlelight.  Shovelers were required to load a minimum of 10 cars of 1.8 tons capacity during each 10 hour shift for a mere 12.5 cents per hour. 

We toured just a small part of the entire mine, which extends well under Conception Bay.  Iron ore pillars support the rooms throughout - no wood pillars at all.  60% of the ore was extracted, with 40% left to support the walls and ceilings.  A unique aspect of the early underground operations was using horses to pull ore cars from the ore face to the base of the main slope where the cars were then hoisted to the surface.  The horses were well cared for and lived in underground stables that were padded with extra insulation to keep them warm.  When they returned to the surface, they were temporarily blind until their eyes slowly adjusted to the natural lighting.  A great tour and well worth the rocking and rolling we experienced on the ferry ride over.

Bell Island was the only place in North America to have seen enemy action in World War II.  In 1942, German U-boats torpedoed the pier used to store tons of iron ore.  Four ships were sunk during the attack and 69 men lost their lives.

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The Cape Spear light station has warned seafarers of the treacherous rocks that threaten shipping since 1836.  That light station has been restored to its 1840s look while a more modern lighthouse now takes on its duties.

Cape Spear National Historic Site is the most easterly point of land in North America, guiding mariners entering and leaving St. John’s harbor for over 150 years.  A lighthouse has been in operation at this site since 1836. 

We toured the original lighthouse – interesting design - the house that the keepers lived in was built around the lighthouse tower.  During our walk on the trail to the most easterly point, we spotted several whales right off the rocks.   We timed our visit well that day – it had been foggy before and after our stop there. The sun came out while we were there, offering us a beautiful view all around, including spotting Cabot Tower on Signal Hill, over 6 miles away.  Also found on the trail are the remains of Fort Cape Spear, a World War II coastal defense battery. 

One of the reasons for being in St. John’s this particular time was to attend the regatta, which featured scull-racing teams from all over Canada.  We had to wade through lots of people to get to the main portion of the event.  More folks were playing games and buying from food vendors (sponsored by different organizations, like Lions and Kiwanis, as fundraisers) than watching the races of the different sculls.  We saw two-man, four-man, and single scull racing. 

Another reason to be in St. John’s then was to attend the 32nd Annual Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival.  We heard a couple of good fiddle/guitar couples, a good group with a variety of instruments, including a box the player sits on which doubles as a percussion instrument.  The best group played last– The Masterless Men.  They are awesome performers with great harmony.  We enjoyed their 30-minute performance and their three-song encore. 

Time to leave the St. John’s area for the Bonavista Peninsula, one of our favorite parts of Newfoundland.  There is so much to see in this area, and we did our best to see it, plus we had another WOW experience.

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Root cellars built into the hillside provided a means of storing food over the winter.

While on the peninsula, we stayed at the Cabot HiWay Cabins and RV Park in Charleston, a small but friendly campground convenient to the nearby sights.  Our first stop was the Elliston’s Visitor’s Center where we learned that Elliston is the Root Cellar Capital of the World!  Over 130 cellars dot the landscape – tucked into hillsides, built of wood and rocks and meant to preserve vegetables throughout the long Ellison winter.  Some have been here 165 years. 

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Puffins and black guillemots were observed close-up in Elliston. 

The highlight of our trip to Elliston was the up close view we got of thousands of puffins.  Elliston Point, North Bird Island and South Bird Island nearby are all famous for their puffins, black guillemots, great black backed and herring gulls.  Elliston Point is less than 100 feet from land – we were there at least an hour watching the birds’ antics.

While there, we met Maureen (part of our WOW experience), who was showing some visitors the local sights.  She told us about a kitchen party she emceed on Wednesday nights.  A kitchen party is a fun gathering of musicians and audience with several hours of Newfoundland music – we decided to stay another day to attend it.

We had lunch at Nanny’s Root Cellar Kitchen where Lucille ordered Jiggs Dinner – very similar to New England boiled dinner – potatoes, carrots, a small chunk of salted (corned) beef and pease pudding (yellow split-peas mashed and blended with some spices) – overall the dinner was very good.  Thumbs down, though, on pork scrunchions – very crispy and salty pork fat.

Other sights on the Bonavista Peninsula:

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The Dungeon resulted from the collapse of a sea cave.

The Dungeon.  A twin entranced sea cave with a collapsed roof, carved into the cliff face by incessant action of the sea.

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The Cape Bonavista Lighthouse featured a clockwork mechanism to turn the light.  The mechanism was driven by a weight that was cranked from above.  The progress of the weight could be observed through a cubby hole to determine when it was necessary to re-crank it.

Cape Bonavista Lighthouse.  Put in operation in 1843, this square two-story wooden structure is built around a masonry tower rising through the center of the building to support the light.  The barometer had to be checked every two hours and weather conditions noted.  About every two hours, the light mechanism had to be wound from the top of the lighthouse.  It powered six parabolic dishes that housed pairs of red or white lights fueled by oil.  The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1962 when the light was automated and placed on an exterior steel tower.  (Maureen, whom we first met in Elliston, was here with her friends.)

Ye Matthew Legacy, located in Bonavista. The hardy little ship brought Cabot and his crews to the “New Founded Landes” over 500 years ago.  The Matthew is an example of a 15th century caravel - a small three-masted sailing ship, rigged with three square sails for long distance voyages.  It housed a crew of about 20 men.  Only three cabins aboard ship –for the captain, barber-surgeon and boatswain.  Everyone else found places wherever they could.  (We saw Maureen here also, with her friends.)

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The Matthew is a full-size replica of the ship that brought John Cabot and crew from England to Newfoundland.

The ship set sail from Bristol, England, believing that it was possible to reach Asia by sailing west across the Atlantic Ocean.  Instead of Asia, within six weeks, they made landfall, discovering not spices or silk but cod.

Maureen suggested we visit Keels, site of the Devil’s Footprints – strange holes in the rocks that have puzzled geologists as to their origin.  Some of the footprints were in the backyard of a house owned by a couple from the Washington, DC area, who bought the house 25 years ago.  For three weeks every year, they try working on it.  It’s been declared an historic site with most of its original furniture moved to the museum in St. John’s.  The handrail to the second floor is interesting – all hand carved with a pocketknife.  The ceiling and door openings were very low – it’s a very small house with a lot of character and a lot of work yet to be done.  Their view of the bay from their backyard was stunning.

Trinity Historical Walking Tour.  The walking tour was led by longtime resident Kevin Toope (he teaches chemistry in St. John’s during the school year and conducts tours during the summer).  Toope was brought up in Trinity, as were his parents, grandparents.  Kevin led an informative and interesting tour which lasted 2.5 hours.  He told us about five centuries of Trinity’s military, industrial and social history. We learned so much, we can’t remember it all but here are some of the highlights. 

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Trinity is a very small village that has seen its population move away due the cod fishing moratorium enacted in 1992.  St. Paul's Anglican Church is still active though local schools are no more.

St. Paul’s Church, built 1892 to 1894, is constructed of pine with oak furnishings and is a Gothic Revival style.  The original bell is still used to call people to worship.  Interesting is the baptismal font – a pulley system is attached to the font lid. 

Among those buried in the cemetery is Reverend William Clinch.  Rev. Clinch, a medical doctor, was a friend of Dr. Edward Jenner, who developed the smallpox vaccine.  Smallpox was decimating the Trinity population in the late 1700s.  Rev. Clinch couldn’t convince the residents to be inoculated with another type of pox so they refused treatment.  He inoculated a 17-year old relative and had him lay down next to a 68-year old man with smallpox.  The relative never contracted the disease and after that residents were then willing to get the vaccine.

Only four school-aged children are left in Trinity.  After the 1992 moratorium on cod fishing, just about everyone moved away so they could make a living.  Children are bussed to a nearby town that has all twelve grades, total of 120 students, with only four in the 12th grade.  The cod moratorium also forced folks to get educations beyond the 11th grade.  Prior to the moratorium they didn’t feel a need for further education.  They were all either fishermen or worked in the fishing industry processing the catches.  Now that students are graduating from high school, then going on to college, they aren’t returning to the small communities because there is no work for them.  The moratorium caused a brain drain.

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The Trinity Catholic Church, now used for baptisms and weddings, still has no electricity. 

Trinity’s small Catholic church fell into disrepair because there were no longer any practicing Catholics in Trinity.  The Catholic Church wouldn’t pay to keep up the building until the brother of the last two remaining Catholics started a campaign to save the church.  The historical society got involved and the church then provided some funding as well as declaring it an active church.  Baptisms and weddings are now held there.  Interesting is that the church never did have and still doesn’t have electricity. 

We learned about saltbox houses – first, second, third, and fourth generation.  First generation is a single story only with a single story lean-to.  The second generation is two-story with a single story lean-to; third is two-story with a two-story lean-to; fourth is two-story with no lean-to, but a little big larger house and a very square house.  Kevin is not sure where the name came from.  Speculation could be because salt used to come in square boxes with a peaked top.  All new buildings in Trinity have to be built as saltboxes.  Non-residents can easily purchase homes, especially as the resident population is aging.  Several US and Canadian families buy the homes to use either as B & Bs or as summer homes.

There were several shipwrecks in the area.  We learned about one in 1939.  The Bishop was visiting Trinity and the entire town came to hear him, including the lighthouse keeper and the one who operated the foghorn, thus leaving their stations unattended.  A local merchant was under full sail when he ran right into the island, 50 feet under the foghorn.  A storm had blown in suddenly and the ship’s captain depended on hearing the foghorn to warn him of the approaching island.  Because religion was so important then and the Bishop was in town, it was felt necessary for everyone to be there and no one was at fault for the accident that took many lives.

Cod fishing may never return after it was almost decimated by 1992.  The commercial fishing industry is allowed limited fishing during season, as are locals who are allowed to catch five fish each, total of fifteen per boat, during a short three-week season in July/August and again in September.

We learned about resettlement.  When Newfoundland joined as the 10th province in Canada in 1949, several communities were closed down and the residents resettled to more populous areas.  The government did this as an economical move, providing medical, police, and other support services to a central area rather than spread out over hundreds of square miles.  The idea makes sense, unless you are one of those being asked to resettle from an area that generations of your family have occupied.  Found on a current map is Big Brook Rd, with a note in red on the map that the road is to be closed.  At the end of Big Brook Rd, is Big Brook, with yet another note that the community is to be relocated.  Big Brook is located on the shores of Unfortunate Cove – appropriately named.

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The Skerwink Trail weaves through forest, over open hillsides and along sharp drop-offs to the ocean below.  Even the persistent fog did not spoil the hiking experience.

Nearby in Trinity East is the Skerwink Trail, rated one of the 35 best hikes in the world.  The trail runs part inland and part along steep cliffs with views of sea stacks.  Fog was rolling in so the scenery wasn’t as spectacular as it could have been

We attended the kitchen party in Goose Cove and had a great time.  Maureen emceed the entire evening, occasionally singing some songs – she’s got a beautiful voice.  Traditionally held in a kitchen, increased attendance of both guests and musicians has caused them to have the kitchen party in the Lions’ hall.  The musicians played a variety of instruments - accordions, fiddle, guitars, banjo, mandolins, bodhrans, spoons and great singing.   After the first set, tea, coffee and goodies were served (all part of the nominal admission fee.)  Lucille even won a door prize – woo hoo!  The entire evening was a WOW moment.

Time to leave Bonavista Peninsula, heading towards the central part of Newfoundland.  On the way, we stopped for a quick visit of Terra Nova National Park.  We checked out the displays in the visitor center and watched a video on the park.  Larry played with some starfish and scallops in the touch tank.  We hiked the very short Heritage Trail where we learned that during the winter time, inhabitants of that area worked inland doing forestry work, and then moved to the shore during springtime to get their boats and nets ready for a summer of fishing before moving back inland  - a hard life.

While at Terra Nova, we met a member of the Coast Guard’s Search and Rescue Team for the inland waters.  He explained about the orange suits that we saw whale watchers wearing.  They are survival suits in the event you end up in the water.  They are insulated to help protect you from the cold waters.

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In Gander, Newfoundland, the Silent Witness Memorial locates the spot where a chartered aircraft carrying soldiers from the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division crashed in 1982.  All aboard died.

We spent several days in Gander, but between the rain and the need to have some downtime to relax, the only thing we saw was the Silent Witness Memorial nearby.  In December 1985 a chartered jet transporting members of the 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, crashed soon after take off from the Gander Airport.  All 256 aboard died – crew and soldiers. 

Back on the road for the western part of Newfoundland, our final leg before leaving the province.  We opted to drive to the most northern part of this area, stopping overnight at a roadside picnic area outside of St. Paul’s.  It had been raining all day, making driving miserable, especially going up and down the steep hills around Gros Morne National Park. 

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How does a salmon get to its spawning area when there is a 30 foot waterfall in its path?  Up a ladder, of course.  The ladder also allows wildlife management people a means of counting the salmon population as they swim past an observation window.

The following day, the sun was shining – a clear day at last.  The scenery heading north on Hwy 430, which follows the coastline most of the time, is absolutely gorgeous,.  Shortly after setting off, we stopped at the Torrent River Salmon Interpretive Center to learn about wild Atlantic salmon and its comeback to the Torrent River.  Before 1965, only a small population of Atlantic salmon lived in the Torrent River, confined to the lower section. A 10-meter high waterfall prevented salmon migration into the larger spawning areas upstream.  They built a fish ladder with 34 chambers to help salmon get up over the 10-meter falls.  The fish are ‘guided’ through a chamber that counts the fish as they pass, so the center knows how many salmon are returning – each year since the program has started, the count has gone up.  From 58 fish in 1971 to an average of 4,000 salmon since then, the program is successful.

Wild Atlantic salmon is different than wild Alaskan salmon.  The Atlantic species live up to 10 years or more, not dying after spawning.  They don’t eat at all when they are back in fresh water and may actually not eat for 22 months, depending on when they get back to the river and if they decide to winter there. The salmon stay in the river for the first four years, then go out for a few months, then return to the river.  The second year, they’ll go farther in the ocean to feed, sometimes as far as Greenland.  

After a quick lunch there, we resumed our travels north, arriving at the Viking RV Park in Quirpon (pronounced ‘carpoon’) around 4 pm, our base while we were in the area. 

L’anse aux Meadows and area:

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The above sculpture renders, artistically, the meeting of two worlds, the Europeans (right) with the North American Aboriginals.  L'Anse aux Meadows is the site of a Viking encampment dating to around 1000 AD.  It is the first known Viking site in North America.  A re-creation of the original encampment is located near the original excavations.

L’Anse aux Meadows, a National Historic Site of Canada.  Spending about two hours there, we first watched a 30-minute video, followed by a guided tour of the area.  This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site – it is the first settlement by Vikings from Greenland about 1000 years ago.  Thanks to Dr. Helge Ingstad, an historian and explorer, and his wife Anne Stine Ingstad, an archaeologist, this Norwegian couple was determined to prove the North American existence of the legendary site spoke of in the Norse sagas.  The Ingstads narrowed their search down to this particular part of Newfoundland. With the help of local fisherman George Decker, who had noticed unusual grassy mounds in the area, they began archaeological research in this area.  These mounds turned out to be the remnants of eight 11th century Norse buildings – an amazing find.

Vikings came to what they called Vinland to get wood to bring back to Greenland.  They’d occupy it for a few years, and then abandon it a few years, then return.  Park interpreters, dressed in period Viking clothing, recreate life as it was in this harsh environment 1000 years ago, inside full-scale reproductions of Norse sod buildings. 

One of the interpreters we met played an odd-looking instrument, similar to a lyre.  We found out he plays music Tuesdays evenings at the Norsemen Restaurant in the town of L’Anse aux Meadows.  He invited us to play a couple of tunes there, which we did that evening, after enjoying dinner there.  Wade Hillyer (our new ‘Viking’ friend) has a pleasant voice and is a talented guitar and accordion player.  He had never seen a dulcimer and enjoyed watching us during his break while we played a couple of tunes.  Playing to the restaurant crowd added another notch in our Maritimes world tour.

Dark Tickle Economusee.  First of all, a little translation here.  A tickle is a narrow channel of water, oftentimes saltwater.  An Economusee is an enterprise that demonstrates the use of traditional skills and knowledge in the production of fine crafts and specialty foods.  In this case – the specialty foods are berries – partridgeberry, crowberry, wild blueberry, bakeapple (or cloudberry) and squashberry.   At Dark Tickle, we watched berry jams being processed into jars, tasted samples of the different jams, and browsed through their local crafts on sale. Outside the Economusee is a boardwalk through the different type berry patches, some of which were starting to ripen.  A short set of stairs brought us to a platform overlooking the town of Griquet.  The Economusee was a pleasant place to spend an hour while learning about the berry industry.

A short drive past the town of St. Anthony brought us to the Fox Point Lighthouse, still an active lighthouse.  What luck to get there when the lighthouse keeper was there.  He invited us for a tour, including going all the way to the top.  Current day keepers no longer live on site but commute to work.  Dennis was just starting a two-week long shift and was glad to have some company.   Lighthouse duties today are considerably less than they were before automation.  We spotted a lawnmower under the stairs – he is probably the groundskeeper too.  On a clear day, this would have offered up beautiful views of the ocean and several whales below the rocks. 

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We spent the night near Bellburns, above, and stopped briefly for photos of Parson's Pond (left).

After leaving the L’Anse Aux Meadows area, we drove south to Rocky Harbour, within Gros Morne National Park.  We drycamped at another roadside picnic area near Bellburns, this one overlooking the ocean with stunning views of the sunset.  Back on the road the next morning, we made a quick stop to take pictures of photogenic Parson’s Pond. This small community used to produce oil – available offshore but not easily accessible.  That didn’t last long – too expensive to extract it.  They also used to depend on the cod fishing industry until the moratorium.  Today it’s a picturesque town – we’re not sure what industry, if any, is there now.

Gros Morne and area:

We timed our stay at Rocky Harbour to coincide with an Anchors Aweigh concert.  They perform at the local Ocean View Hotel a few nights a week.  Tickets are sold only the evening of the concert when the door opens.  The room they perform is the hotel’s bar and lounge so seating is limited.  We got there at 7 pm to make sure we got good seats – the concert didn’t start till 9 pm. When the group started, we had to leave after only a couple of songs.  They were way too loud for such a small room.  Our ears were ringing immediately and did so for the next hour after we walked out.  Karen and Galen had seen them in 2004 and had enjoyed the concert but it wasn’t loud like it was this time.  We were very disappointed – they are excellent musicians who don’t have to play that loudly.  Karen and Galen spoke to the leader during the break and he said that other groups use their equipment and Anchors Aweigh hadn’t done a sound check before using it that night.   We eventually got a refund but are disappointed we didn't hear the group perform at a more reasonable sound level. 

Gros Morne National Park has so much to see and do there that we barely scratched the surface the week we were in the area.  Gros Morne was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 because of its geological significance.  This park is a geologist’s dream with the many types of rocks, strata, formations and spectacular landscapes found throughout the park.  The rocks and geologic features exposed within the park tell the story of Earth’s transformation.  You can see the results of the continents colliding millions of years ago. 

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The Lobster Cove Head lighthouse was built in 1897. Pre-fabricated sections of cast iron were hauled up from the shore by oxen.

Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse.  You can see how people lived along this coast and made their living from the sea.  The light tower still marks the entrance to Rocky Harbour.  There are several short paths that lead to spectacular viewpoints with stairs providing access to the shore in some areas.  One trail leads you down to the beach to a quirky display of sea flotsam and jetsam that has washed ashore which then ends up as part of a shelter.  Lots of ‘people’ rocks are scattered throughout this area - we added to the collection by building our own small rock person.

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The tablelands are flat on top, hence the name.  During our visit, rain and fog limited visibility but the Canadian Parks Guide more than made up for the weather with her interpretive hike.

Tablelands.  Tablelands appears to be a barren, windswept, almost tree-less area but Kim, our interpreter, did an excellent job explaining how Tablelands was formed (earth’s plates colliding.)  We walked on the earth’s mantle during our guided tour - awesome.  We saw trees that were over 100 years old but because of the wind - they looked like Bonsai plants. The pitcher plant, Newfoundland's provincial flower, has a sticky fluid inside which dissolves bugs that get caught inside the plant because of fine hairs inside the top of the plant.  Kim gave us pipettes to draw fluid out looking for larvae (mosquito and midge flies) and bug parts – cool!

Part of our hike brought us to the very windy Winter House Brook Canyon – winds as strong 120 mph, similar to those in Wreckhouse (a town south of Rocky Harbour where strong winds have blown 18-wheelers off the road) sometimes blow through here but they weren’t that strong that day.

Because the area is rich in iron and copper, the rocks are nicknamed bronze rocks. Due to the high metal content, lichen doesn’t grow on them.  Rocks with a snakeskin pattern are called perodite.  Colts foot, an invasive plant, is a favorite of moose and also the ingredient in Ricola cough drops. A fabulous hike made even better by our guide.

Speaking of moose – they were introduced to Newfoundland for sport.  In 1897, a pair of moose was brought over from Nova Scotia.  Apparently, their numbers weren’t increasing fast enough so two pairs were brought from New Brunswick in the early 1900s.  Today’s population of moose is now over 100,000 and reputed to be about 15 moose per square kilometer.  The animal we tourists think is so endearing is really a nuisance.  The moose are quickly eating themselves out of their habitat – too many moose, not enough food.

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The Western Brook Pond was more of a fresh water fjord than a pond.  Towering granite walls and numerous waterfalls made for an excellent tour.

Western Brook Pond boat tour.  A 3-kilometer walk from the parking lot brought us to the boat docks for our guided tour of the ‘pond’ where we learned that the massive cliffs visible from the boat were formed as glaciers carved through this 1.2 billion-year-old block of granite and gneiss.  We spotted several waterfalls amongst the cliffs.  Another excellent guided tour.

Norris Point.  Larry finally got to get in some sea kayaking, paddling in calm waters, learning more about the geology, but seeing it from a different viewpoint.

Green Point for the Stroll thru the Strata tour.   A quirky but knowledgeable ranger led this tour.  He starts off the tour telling us that he’d recently passed three kidney stones in July, has to drink a lot of water, so he may stray off the path during the tour and not to follow him if he does (too much information!)  Part of his quirkiness was his outfit – hiked up trousers, white socks and black shoes.  He may not be a fashion plate but he sure does know his geology.  His passion for the subject comes through during the tour.

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At Green Point the layering of the rock was readily apparent.  As you walked from right to left you could observe rock strata that went back 500 million years.

We learned that the area we saw helped define one era from another, going back 500 million years.  Each hundred yards we covered was like traveling through a time tunnel, going back in time ten thousand years at a time.  At the last stop on the tour, we located fossils amongst the shale.  By involving the tour participants, he showed us that slate is softer than limestone, which is softer than granite.  Another awesome park program.

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On our return from Newfoundland, we took the ferry Caribou.  Friends Karen and Galen are shown towing their RV aboard the ship.  After 5.5 hours we were back in Nova Scotia.

After spending five weeks in Newfoundland, it was time to leave and start our journey back to the US.  We got on the ferry for North Sydney, Nova Scotia, at Port Aux Basques.  The ferry was originally scheduled to leave at 8 am but we finally boarded and left shortly after 1:30 pm.  The crossing was very smooth and thankfully short – we were back at North Sydney 5.5 hrs later.  We put Shelley in the RV just before we boarded – her ride was easier this time.

After overnighting at the KOA outside of North Sydney, we headed out the next morning, destination Moncton, New Brunswick, where we located a WalMart to stock up on stuff and to spend the night. 

Coming up:  A few days’ stay in Burlington, Vermont, while we catch the Woods Tea company in concert, then planned stops in Montreal (Quebec), Ottawa and Pembroke (Ontario), heading west across Ontario to drop back into the US at Sault Ste. Marie in Michigan.  But plans changed quickly on September 7th – details when our September travels are posted.  

 

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