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Newfoundland Kayaking (and driving!) Adventure - What a (much longer than I anticipated) Strange Trip It Was


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Newfoundland Kayaking (and driving!) Adventure - What a (much longer than I anticipated) Strange Trip It Was…

Door to Door August 3 (or July 25) - August 24, 2022

 

 

 

A long strange trip indeed… Bracketed by COVID, longer than planned, stranded in Newfoundland and miles and miles and miles (actually kilometer after kilometer after kilometer…) of driving…

Where to begin?  Maybe in Maine, where I spent my annual week with friends on a pond on the Quiet Side of Mount Desert Island, and from which I departed for the first of what turned out to many more than I anticipated long drives…

Or in Halifax, where Bruce Babcock, who had invited me on the trip, and his wife put me up for several days before the second of the many-more-than-I anticipated long drives from his home to the Newfoundland ferry terminal in North Sydney, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia…

Or….?

But first, let’s back up.  Last winter, Bruce was good enough to invite me and  another paddling friend to join him and four other Canadians - Genny Killin and her husband, Michael Embree, Carla Middelburg and Rafik Greiss - for a kayak camping trip in Newfoundland.  Newfoundland has been on my kayaking bucket list ever since I made such a list a number of years ago.  As I’ve always been drawn to northerly climes - and more recently inspired by Kate Hartland’s report of her solo trip to Fortune Bay in Newfoundland  (and her photos of all the totally cool rocks!) - I jumped at the prospect.  (Another group of local friends were planning a trip to a different part of the province, which made it fun to compare notes as we all organized.  As it turned out, they had to postpone their trip, so there will be only one 2022 Newfoundland trip report for folks to read!)  Planning the trip seemed relatively straightforward - particularly since Bruce and Genny had already devoted a lot of time to perusing maps and Google Earth to come up with an itinerary.  (As I was to find out, Genny had already been to the province many times - she estimated about 15 previous kayaking trips there - and had a firm handle on the logistics - cars, boats, weather, camping and so on - for such an endeavor.)  There were actually two back-to-back trips planned, but for reasons I don’t remember now, my friend and I only planned to go on the first of the two.  We’d return with Rafik, who needed to get home for a hiking trip with his son, and who had booked a ferry cabin that we could all share.  Ah…the best laid plans…

So by late winter, I had made reservations on Marine Atlantic for the 16 hour ferry crossing from Cape Breton to Argentia on the southeastern-ish coast of Newfoundland.  (There is another more frequent ferry that has a considerably shorter crossing - about six hours - to Port Aux Basques - but going there means an 800 km drive to get to where we wanted to paddle, so the longer ferry it was!)  Bruce had already booked a four bed cabin, so my friend and I would have a place to lay our heads for the long crossing.  Genny, Michael and Carla would be on the ferry with us, and we’d all meet up with Rafik in Newfoundland, where he’d already spent several weeks touring around with his wife in advance of our trip.

Let me say at the outset, if it isn’t already clear from what I’ve written… Newfoundland is far away and very large!

I left home at the beginning of the last week of July, packed for both a mellow week-long vacation with friends (on land!) on Mount Desert and for what my paddling friend and I were anticipating to be an eight day paddling trip up north.  Our destination: Burin Peninsula on the south coast of Newfoundland.

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 The second trip, which we wouldn’t join - was of equal length, in the Trinity area on the east coast, north of Avalon Peninsula, where the provincial capital, St. John’s, is located.

Things started to go off the rails before I left Maine for the drive north.  The friend who was coming along from the US found out she had just had a close contact with someone who contracted COVID and (I quote her own words here) “was truly devastated about not feeling comfortable going on the trip.”  !*@#$%$ COVID!  My dreams of a fun road trip followed by an even more fun paddling trip with a good friend were shattered, and I briefly considered bailing altogether because…well…it just wouldn’t be the same.  But in consultation with her and with Bruce, I decided to stick with the plan.

And so, dreading the long solo drive to Halifax, I set out on Saturday, August 30 from our peaceful pond in Maine.

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It was a beautiful day for a drive.  I only stopped once, at the visitors center as I crossed from New Brunswick into Nova Scotia, to get directions to Halifax as I’d found the $20 I’d paid Verizon for cell and text service in Canada for the month didn’t mean that Google Maps would work!  (And as I was to find out, it didn’t mean that text service would actually work on the road either…)  It was very windy…but I gather this is an area known for that.

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I did manage to find my way to Bruce and Stephanie’s house, where we spent several days touring around… to the very moving memorial to the 229 victims of the 1998 Swissair Flight 111.

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And then for lunch, where I had an appropriate beer (with an interesting Canadian style lobster roll - pickle and tomato anyone?).

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Driving along the coast (where by the way the few sand beaches were packed with people because of the unusually warm weather), we came upon this plaque:

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Gagarin was the first man in space, and certainly got around (before his untimely death in 1968).  Indeed, this was the second time in my limited travels that I’ve come across a Gagarin Was Here marker…  This one was from a trip to the Orkney and Shetland Islands back in 2015.

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Wednesday August 3 - Thursday, August 4 (Day One)

Little Saint Lawrence to…Little Saint Lawrence

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At last, after months of anticipation and weathering the recent COVID-induced disappointment, it was time to set out for the four and a half hour drive to the ferry terminal on Cape Breton, where we would wait in line for hours before the controlled chaos of boarding 200 cars, RV’s and trucks, their passengers, and walk-ons.  It’s a big ferry…

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While I was disappointed that the gift shop in the modern terminal was empty and closed (COVID!), I was cheered by the first of what would be many Come Home sign in many languages we’d see on the trip.

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The crossing was uneventful…and blessedly shorter than we’d anticipated because the conditions were so calm.  So on a calm and typically overcast morning, we pulled up to the ferry dock in Argentia, Newfoundland

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where workers on the pier tied us to a giant mooring.

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It took time for the orderly emptying of the boat, but once off, the exhilarating thought, “We’re actually in Newfoundland!”  Or, as the welcoming sign right down the road corrected me, Newfoundland and Labrador.

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After connecting with Rafik at an Irving Big Stop restaurant, where we consumed a giant and excellent breakfast, we started the long drive to Burin Peninsula, where we would have set up a car shuttle for our one way trip from south to north.  This first day, the drive was exciting along a landscape of rocks, stunted evergreens and shallow ponds.  (It would get less so the more times we did it, but that’s a comment for later…)  Morning overcast and some rain gave way to a partly sunny day.

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We stopped first at Baine Harbor, a pretty little fishing village.

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Bruce and I had lost contact with our little convoy and weren’t sure where we’d find the rest of the group.  Stopping at one area, we were approached by a large bearded man, and had the first of what would be numerous very friendly contacts with Newfoundlanders.  But when he started to speak, I had trouble understanding anything he was saying and at first thought he might not even have been speaking English at all!  I’d not been prepared for his thick Newfoundland accent.  He pointed across the harbor, where in the distance we could see the rest of our group’s boat-topped cars.  When we met up with them, Bruce posed for a photo

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and Carla in particular demonstrated what a toasty day it was as she posed with Genny and Michael.

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Leaving one car in Baine Harbor, we headed south, along the way admiring this vista of Burin Harbor, which we’d seen again from the water on our way up the coast.

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Finally, as the long day stretched past late afternoon, we were at Little Saint Lawrence, where we would launch.

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On the water in Newfoundland (woo hoo!)…

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Here’s Genny, assuming a typical pose - looking landward for an appropriate camping spot.  All the camping we would do was wild camping, although both Genny and Bruce had maps and charts marked with promising spots.

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And finally, little over a mile from where we’d launched, but late enough that I had no energy to make a proper supper after unloading boat and setting up camp, we were there.  Our first campsite…and the boats below.

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Friday August 5

Little St. Lawrence - Swolho Cove in Corbin Harbor

(~15 km)

We were up, loaded and on the water before 9 am.  With winds typically picking up in the afternoon, we started the habit of getting on the water early-ish.  It was foggy and overcast.

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A quick note here about paddles.  I have always used a Werner, but wanted to try a Lendal Cadence.  Jonathan Oltz had been very generous in lending me one for the whole trip, and I started using it that morning, consigning my Werner - actually for the rest of the trip - to my deck.

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The water was calm but swelly.  Here are Genny and Bruce.

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And Rafik.

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We paddled close to the rocky coast, and on this foggy morning, appreciated Bruce’s bright orange helmet, which made him a beacon, even when he was in the distance.

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We couldn’t see the tops of the cliffs for the fog at first, but as the morning progressed, the fog cleared.  We kept a fairly leisurely pace, which I enjoyed as it allowed time to enjoy the view…and take photos…

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We stopped for a bio break in a cobbly cove

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And on the way out, saw the first of what would be millions of jellyfish seen throughout the trip.

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Michael often headed out in front.  (I have lots of photos of his back!)

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If you don’t appreciate rocks and rock faces, don’t go to Newfoundland!  But if you do, oh my, the shapes, the colors, the mass are very special.  (And if you are indifferent to rocks, be forewarned…  there are many photos of them ro come!)  After a morning coastline of gray rocks, we came upon these red slabs.

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Headland after headland, massive and potentially intimidating, but on this day, merely massive.

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And then we were at these amazing stripey rocks.

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A closeup.

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Bruce headed for an enticing gap in the rocks , but didn’t go in.

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I liked the way the orange on the rocks matched Bruce’s favorite color.

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We’d been traveling along an exposed outer coast so far.  On a day with significant winds and seas, this might have been a challenging stretch, but conditions were perfect.  Several hours after we set out, we could see the first potentially protected area we’d yet encountered - the rocky islands off Corbin Harbor.

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But there were still caves out there to look at

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and rock faces with interesting colors and shapes

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and aqua water below.

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As we headed into the Harbor, the landscape changed dramatically.  Rocky cliffs gave way to what appeared from a distance to be gentler hills, grass and bush covered, and always the scrubby pines.  Here’s Rafik.

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Three hours after we set out, we were at our camping spot for the night.  One of the easy ones.  Carla was quickly out of her boat heading up the hill to a flat spot on top…but distracted - for the first of what would be many times - by the blueberry bushes in the grass.

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We set up camp, and resisting the urge to chill and read a book all afternoon, I joined everyone to explore the area beyond our campsite.  As we were launching, Carla found this totally cool rock, which both of us coveted!  Problem was, this was just the tip of the figurative iceberg (and two feet long at that), so there was no way it was going anywhere.

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We launched…

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And went to to explore a little bay beyond.  We landed at a small cemetery

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where the grass was interspersed with purple flowers.

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On the way back, we passed a small mostly falling-down settlement where one cabin was being rebuilt by a friendly couple.  The man stopped his work to chat with us about the history of the house…and to ask us what we were doing.  We found that virtually all the people we crossed paths with along the way were interested.  Not a lot of kayakers here!

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And then we were back at camp, with enough time to relax in the grass

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and chat.  Here’s Michael, Genny and Rafik.

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It was nice to have time to prepare an actual supper and reflect on the day.  We’d seen otters and gannets and guillemots and eagles…  And it was nice that everything was tucked in for the night, as we soon were as well.

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Saturday, August 6

Swolho Cove - Duricle Cove

~30 km

Oh to wake up in the morning to bright blue skies and no wind!  How many days would there be like this?  Enjoy it while you can!

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We knew we’d have a long day ahead, and the maps showed an enticing coastline of islands, bays and skerries.  Again, we were preparing to launch by 8:30.

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As I said, not many days like this.  Enjoy paddling the wide blue sea under a bright warm sun.

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Enjoy the aqua sea as well…

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We had a tendency to spread out, but not too much, as we paddled.  Michael liked to zoom ahead.  Carla liked to wander.  Genny liked to look down at her deck map and up to the passing shoreline, checking what she’d marked and anticipated against what she was actually seeing  Bruce liked to stop at features.  And Rafik and I moved among everyone, taking pictures and chatting.  Here’s one of the tines when the whole group was close together.

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On we went

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P8064154.thumb.JPG.88663b097743779eae5e06114d26a44a.JPGCarla and rocky island.

And Rafik.

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We stopped on a flat beach

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where fresh water met the sea and Genny took the opportunity to clean her drysuit.

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Bruce and she perused maps for our next stop.

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Not quite sure the significance of what she was pointing out here…

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As we prepared to launch, I noticed this perfect jellyfish washed up on pebbly ground.   As clear as a pane of glass.

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We paddled on toward Burin Island.

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And Genny, as always, head down, looking at her map and up at the land for potential future stopping points, should she ever be here again.

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The rock formations were interesting and rather forbidding.

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Finger and a hole.

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Carla.

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Closeup, so many of the rocks, covered near the waterline with orange and yellow lichen, were quite beautiful.

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Finally, time for lunch

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before heading out again.  I admired this lonely little tree…

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We’d been in the protected area around Burin, its harbor and bay, but it was time now to head outside once again.

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Rocky islands in the distance.

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The water, aqua in color near the rock faces, got more lively and Bruce enjoyed riding as close as he could.

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Here’s a picture for scale.  Tiny boats, big rocks.

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Rafik and Bruce paused at this cave.  A note about caves.  I’ve been places where entering caves was part of the fun.  In Wales and the islands of Scotland, for example, that was one of the goals.  But here, the rocks around the caves looked unstable and it was easy to imagine being inside one at the wrong time.  A helmet wouldn’t help…

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It was lively enough along the outer coastline that I didn’t take any pictures as went along, until I got this shot before we turned a corner into calmer water once again.

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Calmer water…Bruce and Genny were dawdling behind.  You can see them as the specs to the left.

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We had our eye on a spot named Tides Cove, but were dismayed for obvious reasons when we got there…

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Not a private spot…   Another car arrived while we discussed what to do.  People told us that the next place we had our eye on, Duricle Cove, was the terminus for a network of ATV trails that were quite popular.  I think I’ve seen too many episodes of North Woods Law on TV, and had an image of men on ATV’s (generally law-breaking, speeding, not mindful of the environment) that made this an unattractive option, at least for me.  But it had been a long day, and no one was thrilled about pushing my farther.  I bobbed in the water, waiting for the final decision.  Hello, jelly…

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We finally decided to send Michael ahead to the ATV beach and report back.

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When he returned a half hour later, he reported that the beach was lovely and cobbled, good for camping, that there was a pond and stream, and no ATV’s in sight.  We decided to go for it.  It turned out to be an excellent choice!  We were able to pull boats up next to pitched tents.  Carla, Michael, Genny, Bruce and I all chose to be on the beach.

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My private little spot tucked into the rocks and protected from the wind, which was predicted to really start blowing up.  Indeed, in choosing this site, we were anticipating spending two nights because of the forecast for strong winds blowing right us the next day - not a good one for paddling.

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Rafik chose a spot higher up, on a cobbled shelf above the beach.  More on that later.

We all laid out clothes and gear to dry

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while we prepared supper.

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Rafifk was apparently pretty pleased with that night’s meal!  He had made delicious dinners using a dehydrator, and was very generous in gives us tastes (which made those of us - which is to say, Bruce and me - who were relying on Good to Go meals, pretty envious).  But Rafik also made desserts for the group to share, and that was really nice.

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Hard to believe it wouldn’t be a perfect day for paddling the next day…

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A good night for a fire to burn accumulated trash, and for Bruce to try one of the two trays of Jiffy Pop that he’d brought along.  Let’s just say this experiment wasn’t entirely successful.  However, if you like burnt and not fulled popped popcorn, it was just the ticket.

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And then time to retire for the night.  It had been a longish (30+ km) day.

 

August 7

Layover Day at Duricle Cove

Sleeping on cobbles is actually really comfortable once you move aside those one or two rocks that are poking in just the wrong spots.  I had a good night’s sleep …well, except for when nature called in the middle of the night and I turned on a headlamp to find the area immediately outside the tent positively crawling with hoppers, little shrimp like bugs that…well, hop…vigorously, and right into the tent.  Hoppers hoppers everywhere!  In the morning, we all exchanged hopper tales.  They’ll consume food or a piece of toilet paper in no time flat.  And if they’ve gotten into your tent, you’ll find ‘em hopping on your face in the middle of the night.  Ugh!

The plan was to stay, and so we did, although the morning was calm.  Genny and Rafik laid out maps to think ahead.

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While they did, I made silly beach art.

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Then we split up.  Michael and Genny set out for a hike into the town of Duricle.  Rafik and I decided to walk up the ATV trail that would take us over to Tides Cove.  We got a nice view of our cove

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but were soon confronted by a big boggy are that was impassable for anyone who wanted to keep shoes dry.  So we turned back.  Turned out Michael and Genny had a more successful walk, as they soon returned with potato chips and three beers for the group to share!  Rafik with a cup of chips and a can of beer.

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By noon, the promised wind really started to blow.  So…Rafik’s camp choice.   As one who had various Hilleberg tent misadventures in Iceland involving the propensity of the tent to elevate and head for the sea, I was greatly amused to look up and see Rafik’s tent levitating in the wind, having freed itself from inadequate moorings.  Oh how I wish I had a photo of that!  We ran to capture the tent…and then it was a bit of a task to move it down from its exposed location and onto the beach, where Rafik secured it with much larger rocks keeping the guy lines in place.

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Windy?  Here’s my drysuit as windsock.

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And did I mention it was really really hot.  I hadn’t prepared for California beach weather in Newfoundland even in August, and resorted to wearing my pajama top, the only short-sleeved shirt I had with me.  We walked along the ATV path to a brook where we could get water to filter.

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Here’s the view of our camp on the way back.  To the right is a fresh water pond,

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where the boys took a swim

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and were nice enough to rinse my drysuit.  Unfortunately, not only on the outside… so it was time for an inside out dry…

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With the heat and the bright sun, the only shade was that thrown by the rock next to my tent.  Bruce, Genny, Rafik and I made good use of it.

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And ATV’s?  Well, Newfoundland isn’t New Hampshire and the various ATV riders who showed up on a beautiful sunny Sunday were all delightful.  An older couple come to pick the ubiquitous blueberries.  A younger man on a motorcycle who came over to chat.  A man bringing a relative to the area where their family had grown up.  It turned out he ran the little store in town, and offered to pick up any supplies we needed and bring them back.  I mean, how nice is that?!  As we were planning to head out the next day, we had no need, but the offer was lovely.

The rest of the day…and night…were uneventful.  I was more careful about securing the tent against hoppers, and wasn’t woken by them.

 

Monday, August 8

Duricle - East Broad Cove

~34 km

 

Overcast with threat of rain.  It was to be another early start - before 8 am - because we anticipated a long day to get to East Broad Cove, which appeared from Google Earth to be a perfect campsite where we might have to spend a few nights with wind and rain forecast for the next day.  I took down my tent, leaving a footprint.

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It was an easy carry from the beach to the water for Rafik’s beautiful hand made wooden boat.

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As we started out, looking toward land, it was dark and ominous over Genny.

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But seaward, it was brighter and just the conditions to elicit a smile from Bruce.

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And even though it started raining, something must have been pretty funny, although I have no idea what!

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The rain wasn’t much, but it did wash out the colors

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and got more overcast everywhere, even as the sun struggled momentarily to shine down on us.

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The shoreline featured gaps in rocks to travel through,

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and caves to at least gaze at while remaining safely outside.

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The rain stopped and the sky brightened a bit, but it was becoming more windy, which is not evident in this photo.

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We had an unpleasant kilometer slog across a bay into a strong headwind to what turned out to be a very pretty cobble beach.  All of us left with a few souvenir rocks, and my one regret of the trip was that I didn’t put more effort into finding a bigger keeper as all the rocks from then on were angular and monochromatic.  But I didn’t know it at the time.  I guess I’ll just have to go back to Newfoundland some day to find that perfect rock for my garden.

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Rafik had some experience eating sea urchins, which he claimed were delicious.  He plucked one from the water and cut it open…and failed to convince anyone that this was the case - including him.

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We were now in the lee of the wind so it was possible to play in the rocks, which Rafik did, and managed to get stuck for a time.  He never did stop smiling.

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And with skies brightened and winds diminished, everything seemed nicer, and the various rock faces we passed were variously quite beautiful.

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We pressed on, now with the wind at our back and land visible on both sides.

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Interesting rock formations…but the tide was too low to interact with this one.

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We stopped for a bio break on a surfy beach covered with flat stones.  The sky was clearing.

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This picture doesn’t really do it justice, but we saw that small flat stones were stacked on top of each other, feet deep covering the beach.  There were a few spots where the surface was eaten away and we could see the layered rocks bound by sand.

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When we set out again, the following seas carried us effortlessly along.  You can tell in this photo which direction we were heading in!

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And then, the long day was almost done.  There was an arch to paddle through,

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in both directions.

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We turned a final corner out of the window and were surprised by the sight of a brightly colored tug boat towing a barge.  You can’t see the barge in this picture, but it was a big one.

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We stopped at the “perfect” campsite identified on Google Earth, only to find it was far from that.  As valuable a resource as the app is, and it had steered us to a number of excellent campsites, it doesn’t tell you that what appears to be grass is really deep shrubs, and that there is a four foot shelf between the beach and where one might attempt to pitch a tent.  Bruce and I volunteered to head down to what appeared to be a small flat stone beach about a half kilometer away.  It turned out to be, yes, small, but with just enough room to pitch our tents on flat bits between shrubbery.  The downside:  there was more trash than we’d seen anywhere in Newfoundland.  I dubbed it Trashy Beach, and because the day had already been long and the next possible camp sites would be another hour or so away, we decided to stay for the night.

My spot.

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The boats all parked for the night.

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And finally, at 7:30 pm, we were all sorted and it was time for supper.

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Before we headed to our tents, we discussed plans for the next day.  The weather was going to be turning to crap, and Trashy Beach was no where we wanted to stay for a likely layover the next day and night.  So, again, the plan was for an early start and to do what we hoped would be a short paddle to one of the beaches we could actually see across the water from our camp.

I didn’t sleep well.  It turned out the tug and barge weren’t actually moving.  They were moored in the bay, likely because the forecast of strong winds to come would make moving less than advantageous, especially if they had to go out into a more exposed area.  The hum of the tug’s motor, and a bright light shining from its bow directly into my tent - even from a substantial distance - made it hard to sleep.  And it didn’t help when the wind started blowing and I could hear waves lapping on the beach not that far from my tent.

 

Tuesday, August 9

Trashy Beach on East Broad Cove - Jerseyman Island

 

When I awoke from my restless sleep, it was clear that the wind had continued to ramp up overnight.  It was another planned early start day as rain was forecast to start at 7:30 am.  It had rained briefly during the night, but when we all arose at 6:00 am, it was dry.   We wanted to find and get a new camp set up before conditions deteriorated as predicted.  A brief aside here about clothing choices:  I brought two Smartwool tops - one lightweight and one heavyweight.  Each morning I would have to consider which would make the most sense for the day ahead.  Up until this morning, I’d always gotten it right.  Not today, as it turned out.  We were packed up and ready to launch a little after 7:00 am.The sea was lively…

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and it started raining - at exactly 7:30, as forecast - first as a mild drizzle, then as light rain.  It was actually a lovely paddle.   There was the light patter of rain on the water, the gray hues of sky, water and land and surprisingly little wind.  This was what paddling in Newfoundland should be like, right?

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For the first time on the trip, I started getting cold.  I was wearing only one layer under my drysuit, and should have had two - both Smartwools or lightweight Smartwool and a fleece top.  I had brought pogies but had neglected to put them on.  Body and hands, all cold especially when it started raining more purposefully.  We stopped at the campsite at Jigging Cove we’d been able to see from Trashy Beach.  Our maps showed it to have a flat area backed by a fresh water pond.  It was also appealing because it was it was less than a kilometer from Rushoon, a small village from which we could walk by road to Baine Harbor, where our shuttle car was parked.  If necessary, we could end the trip at Rushoon if weather so dictated.   However, when we arrived and got out to investigate, the first thing that hit me was the stink.  The pond was shallow and very odiferous.  While there may well have been nice places to set up a tent, the thought of breathing that air for the next two days wasn’t at all appealing I don’t think I even bothered to get a photo of the place.  I just wanted to be back in my boat, both for warmth and to get away from the smell.  We could see another promising site across the water on Jerseyman Island.  It was our hope that it might provide protection from the wind when it ramped up fully.

We crossed over - again a short paddle of about a kilometer and a half.  We pulled up onto a narrow beach, backed by a flat cobble shelf just wide enough for our tents to be pitched in a row down the long beach.  There was some discussion about the adequacy of the site for tucking in for two nights.  I advocated strongly for staying as I was by then really really cold, my hands weren’t working properly, and I very much wanted my tent up and to be in warmer clothes.  Bruce was good enough to move my boat from where I landed to right next to where I decided to pitch my tent.

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Tent pitched I got in, put on heavyweight Smartwool and crawled into my sleeping bag to warm up.   Outside, I heard Bruce and Rafik securing my tent guy lines to heavy flat stones they’d retrieved from the water.  What a blessing…thank you, guys!

And so, with the wind now howling, and heavy rain, Michael, Genny and Carla set up a tarp, securing it to the incongruous picnic table that had greeted us on the beach and which they’d moved (for what turned out to be the first of four times) to the end of the beach next to a rock outcropping that provided tarp tie-down opportunities.   Genny walking down the beach in wind and rain.

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We huddled under the tarp and ate lunch.  It was good to be out of the rain and wearing multiple layers against the cold.

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But it’s only enjoyable for so long to hunch under a dripping tent when a warm, dry tent beckons.  I answered the call, and ended up only leaving the tent once between 1 pm and when I got up the next morning.  Cold supper - but dry!  I’m not much of one for selfies, but here I am!

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I spent the rest of the day alternating between reading and napping and just lying there listening to the wind and rain, the latter lashing the tent in angry sheets.  With both boat and tent so close to the water, I started worrying about the loud waves - that they might reach my boat and pull it away.   With both my wallet and passport inside.   And so I dragged myself out into the rain at 8:15 pm and pulled the boat up closer to my tent.

 

Wednesday August 10

Layover Day on Jerseyman Island

 

Oh but did it ever rain and did the wind ever howl through the night!  As I lay warm and dry in my sleeping bag, I listened to both and thought how nice it would be if it were only wind or only rain.  But it was a powerful combination of both.  I was very grateful for the bombproof Hilleberg.  But I was also mindful of my Iceland experience, when the tent had blown away and headed for Greenland!  I didn’t want to leave it for fear it might take off, despite the work that Bruce and Rafik had done the day before to secure it.  It felt as though the night were just one of waiting…waiting…waiting…for the wind to die down or shift direction (it was assaulting the beach head on - despite the fact that we’d chosen this spot in anticipation it would shelter us from the wind)…or for the rain to diminish…or better yet, stop.  The loud sounds of both made me feel trapped, not comforted.  As the night went on, the wind kept up, but at some point - I must finally have fallen asleep - the rain did stop.  I lay in my tent and just listened - the wind…and the sound of the waves, just feet away, was like the uneven breathing of a living creature.

We got up to a beautiful cool and windy morning.

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You can see here how close Rafik’s tent…and boat…were to the water.   One of the day’s projects would be move both a few feet higher onto the beach.

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I saw that a boat fairy had come in the night and with a bit of cord found on the beach had tied off the tunnel of the spray deck I’d put over the cockpit.  No water got in. Thank you, Michael!

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The picnic table had made its second move by the time I was ready for breakfast.  Too windy for the tarp, but there was this little area under the trees that would provide some wind protection - and maybe some from rain should it start up again.

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Breakfast time!

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And so, a lovely layover day on Jerseyman Island commenced.  The beach was long enough to walk on.

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And the wind strong enough to keep us off the water but perfect for drying gear.

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Conversations on the beach…

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I joined Rafik at the end of the beach, where there was a tiny cavelet to duck into.

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And then lay in my tent reading my novel.  Here’s the view.

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After a while, Rafik and Bruce came by and lounged and we all chatted.

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And Bruce modeled his nifty waterproof “socks” - made from two dry bags.

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It was clearing up so no need for stashing the picnic table in the woods, so we carried it back onto the beach…

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where it was in a perfect location for lunch and dinner.

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Rafik was good enough to model his scary knife.  It was wicked shahp (as we in Boston would say) and I was glad that it never cut anything but sausages!

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Late afternoon…blue sky, puffy clouds…and surf on the beach.

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Altogether a very satisfying day after a wretched night.

And tomorrow we’d be off the water - I thought for good.  Little did I know…

 

Thursday August 11

Jerseyman Island - Baine Harbor takeout

 

So…Our Burin Peninsula paddle was almost over…and I was ready to be done.  I need a more comfortable and bigger sleeping pad for one thing as I’d had night after night of less than optimal sleep.  And would it be TMI to say that I very much looked forward to the comforts of living in civilization - like…ready access to bathrooms 😉   Showers are nice, too…

The wind and sea had calmed down overnight.

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On the water at 8 am - the picnic table having been moved for the fourth and final time back to its original location, where Genny and Mike had made camp.

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We crossed over to the mainland for the 4 km paddle back to Baine Harbor along less forbidding rocky shores than many we had passed by over the week.

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The marker for entrance to the harbor.

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This sweet house stood sentinel at the outer edge of Baine Harbor.

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Friendly waves from people taking picture of me taking picture of them.  Apparently this boat ferries people out to their camps in places not reachable by road (most of what we saw on the trip).

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A refurbished house and its friendly owner…next to one long abandoned.

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Baine Harbor from the water.

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This is where motorboats sleep at night, I guess...

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Nicely painted fishing boats…

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And finally, our boats, mine on land for good…  Or so I thought…

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Genny and I waited with the boats while the others shuttled back to Little St. Lawrence where we had launched a week before.  While we did so, an older man on a four wheeler drove up and initiated a conversation.  Again, news apparently travels in these small towns, or else it doesn’t take much for an activity - a group of kayakers traversing up the peninsula - to be news.  He talked about life in Baine Harbor, where he’d lived his whole life, and where it was nearly impossible to keep kids from leaving.  He was in no hurry to move on and we talked for a time.  Finally, the cars all arrived and we loaded boats and gear and set out for Clarenville, a centrally located town of close to 7000 people, where Rafik had managed to find what turned out to be perfect - and convenient - accommodations.

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In about an hour and a half, we arrived.  For $70 (Canadian!) a night,  we each had a clean, good-sized private room with bathroom (hallelujah!) at Stanley House., a 10 room not-hotel.  Stanley House was located in the industrial part of town, near the waterfront, and was apparently more popular with oil refinery workers (a sign at the door instructed us to remove our shoes) than tourists.  But if you’re ever in Clarenville, I’d highly recommend…and it proved to be godsend when our trip went off the rails…

My plan had been to stay there for several nights (we’d built in extra time if weather kept us on the water longer than we’d planned), then leave with Rafik for the ferry back to Cape Breton…and on to home.

Oh the best laid plans…  We celebrated the successful completion of the Burin trip with a nice meal at a restaurant.  While we were there, I encouraged Rafik to call Marine Atlantic reservations to add my name as a passenger in his car.  He expressed some surprise at the need to do this, but went ahead and called anyway…to find that I could not be added as the ferry was FULL!  Even though he had room.  Even though he had a cabin onboard for four.  Capacity is capacity - life boats and all that - and they would not allow me to book.  Well…I’d been looking forward to getting home…and now…I couldn’t get there!  Not quite sure why I was so distraught about this, but distraught I was…   I’d been gone since mid-July…but why did I need to be back…really?  The more I thought about it, and the more the group very sensibly said that I could just join them for the second trip, the better I felt…  I mean, there are worse things than being stranded in Newfoundland for a second kayaking trip where there’s nothing you have to get home for.  And so a new plan was hatched.  There was enough time to resupply - all it would take would be a quick trip to Sobey’s (Canada’s big national supermarket chain) for sausage, cheese, tortillas and fruit - and between Bruce and me we had enough extra Good to Go suppers to carry me through.

 

Friday August 12

A Day trip to St. John’s, the Provincial Capitol

 

I woke up wondering why on earth a major change of plans had been so upsetting.  one of the benefits - and joys - of retirement is that one is generally free to do…whatever.  So today’s whatever would be a trip to St. John’s, a mere 200 km distant from Clarenville.  Have I said Newfoundland and Labrador is a big province?  Yes, I have!  And it is is…it surely is.  Bruce was good enough to agree to drive and off we went for a day of touristing.  But first, a stop at the closed Railroad Museum in Clarenville, just a few steps from where we were staying.

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And then another seemingly endless drive along the Trans Canada Highway - with the endless views of scrub pines, rocky piles, distant small mountains and numerous puddles/ponds of water.

Our St John’s day had a three item agenda:  1) Shopping at the Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador, 2) getting to the top of 500 foot high Signal Hill, which overlooks the Narrows at the entrance to the harbor and 3) lunch at The Rooms, the modern museum in the heart of the city.  Mission was accomplished!

One path to the top of Signal Hill, looking back at the city.

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Cannons protecting the city.

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The requisite tourist picture with lighthouse very tiny in background.

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And finally, the entrance to The Rooms

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and the view from the excellent restaurant.  We got there late enough that we lucked out in getting a window seat!

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The almost three hour drive back was wearing, but we made it - after a quick Sobey’s stop - in time to meet the rest of the group, who had found a lovely coffee shop right on the water a short walk from Stanley House.  We thought we’d sit and enjoy watching them finish the beers they’d ordered - the restaurant was closed by the time we got there…  but…  oh my, the best laid plan for poor Rafik…

We arrived to some bustling distress, finding that it was a moot point that I hadn’t been able to book a berth on Rafik’s ferry…because…the ferry was broken (!) and wouldn’t be running, leaving 500 people and 250 cars to rebook at the busiest time of the year.  Rafik didn’t have the luxury I did as he had planned a week long hike along the West Coast Trail in British Columbia, which was to start two days after his return to Montreal.  It took a lot of scrambling but everyone was able to work things out for him - involving leaving his car and boat behind, flying to Montreal and later retrieving his things in Halifax..   He handled this grand screw-up with good grace - much better than I had with mine the day before.

 

Saturday August 13

Second Trip Commences

New Bonaventure - Random Island

 

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We all said our goodbyes to Rafik, and set out for the short drive - only a little over an hour - from Stanley House to Port Rexton, where we scouted out what we planned to be the landing beach on Robin Hood Bay at the end of the trip.  But first, we had to find a place to leave the cars.  Genny started knocking on doors of the small group of houses behind a popular coffee shop, and soon found two older sisters - who raised standard poodles! - who were glad to have us park there.  I’d learned by then that this is how you do things in Newfoundland, where the friendliness and desire to be helpful of everyone we met was really quite remarkable.  (Maybe not so surprising for my Canadian compatriots, seeing as how they all come from such a polite country, but it wasn’t something I was used to in the good old U S of A.)

And having that worked out, we all drove another 45 minutes to New Bonaventure, where we would launch.  New Bonaventure was a lovely little town, with several houses with unusual bowed roofs.  (I include these two photos for my sister, an architect, who I think will appreciate them!)  At the end of the trip we were able to speak with one of the owners, who told us that there are five curved roof houses in the town and that they are unique to the area.

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We unloaded here - after talking with yet another friendly couple on a four wheeler who said the one car we’d leave there would be safe.  They also said that this bar was actually open for brief festivities - including karaoke! - last year but not this.  What a disappointment!

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On the back deck, this painted rock told us who wears the pants around here.   Always good to know.

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Here’s the beach where on another warm sunny day we loaded the boats.  You can see another curved roof house up on the hill.

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The boats were all loaded and by mid-afternoon, the shuttle back to Port Rexton had been set up and we were on the water once again.

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As always, good looking rocks (although the photo unfortunately overexposed…).

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And more…

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And, yes, more - this headland notable for its big contrasting stripes.

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And this rock face, also striped and less angular.

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More and more to look at, as Michael was here.

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It was a bit swelly, and every now and again the water met the rocks in the right direction for a nice little explosion.

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Here’s Carla

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and the view across the Thoroughfare to the end Random Island on the right.

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Had we wanted to, we actually could have left our cars at Stanley House and launched about a quarter mile from there and paddled down to where we were now.  Random Island is a big one - we could see it from Clarenville.

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Genny remembered an earlier trip where they’d camped at a place called Delby’s Cove.  We stopped there

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only to find that it was one of the few spots we’d seen where the tide mattered.  At low tide, it would be a pain to land, launch or deal with boats.  While some explored, I stayed in my boat and admired this rock…

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Across the way, a bank of fog had formed in less than a half hour.

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It began to drape over the island

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and filled in from sky to the horizon.

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We did the three kilometer crossing in good time, and found a good spot to land.  I got out and Bruce debated moving the boats to a rocky ledge where the others had pulled up, but then decided to bring them back to where we’d originally landed.

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Our plan was to stay here for three nights and do day paddles from camp.  This seemed an excellent idea as this was the prettiest campsite we’d found.  Carpeted with low bush blueberries and with plenty of room to spread out and flat spots perfect for pitching a tent and having a good night’s sleep.  Here’s my home.

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Fifteen minutes after I took that picture, the fog found us…  The view from my tent.  Time for bed.

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Sunday August 14

Ireland’s Eye Circumnavigation

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Up for breakfast at 7:00 am with no need to rush today.  Here’s Genny enjoying the morning.

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And here’s our little breakfast buddy.

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Evidence that the season will be changing in not too long...

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At 10 am, on the water.  Can’t read much on this chart the way it is!

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As we headed toward Ireland’s Eye, a five kilometer long island, we saw piles of old-fashioned lobster traps stashed here and there on the rocks.

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You don’t see those in Maine anymore…   And there were precious few buoys, so not sure where they were searching for lobsters…

We crossed over to the west side of Ireland’s Eye

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Where we found a glassy smooth inlet lined by dead trees.

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As we went along the coast, I managed to get a shot of this rather fearless common tern.

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We passed more interesting rocks, folded here…

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and meeting the water in a great slanted slab here…

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Going counterclockwise, we started to round from the protected west side to the exposed south, and the start of what would be a lively ride down the length of the outside of the island.

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I didn’t take many pictures on the outside, keeping two hands on the paddle, but there were three large harbors that provided respite along the way and which we explored.  This was the most interesting one, Traytown Harbor.

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How so interesting, you ask.  Because it announced its history as we reached the end of the almost kilometer long entrance to find this rock and sign.

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The history of the Canadian government’s resettlement of isolated fishing communities is an interesting one - and I’d encourage anyone interested to Google it.  The government wanted to encourage residents of small settlements to move to more centralized population centers.  Before 1965, every resident had to agree to resettle and each family was paid $600 - more than what a fisherman might earn in a year.  Traytown had eight families and was resettled in 1964.  While this was apparently a voluntary program, I don’t know to what extent that voluntariness was driven by the threat of loss of services such as electricity to affected communities.

The abandoned cabins - together with the sign - left me with a sad feeling, even if everyone had truly wanted to leave their homes.

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We headed out of the harbor, where there were more rocks to admire. (I know, I know...always more...)

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Our next respite from the lively seas was Ireland’s Eye Harbor, a smaller harbor where wildflowers grew over the abandoned village.

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A couple of cabins were still standing, and we found people who were working to restore this family home.  The dock to the right had collapsed, and they had to land some distance away to carry materials for the repair.

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More lobster traps with no sign of buoys in the area.  Maybe just out of season?

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And there were jellies to admire.  (I haven’t said much about jellyfish.  There were A LOT of them along the way - both the first and now second trips.  We paddled over areas with jellies in layers and layers down into the deep.  From very small to quite large.  Didn’t make me want to hop out of my boat and swim!)

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Out on the lively coast again...

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We turned the final corner and headed west along the inside the island along the Thoroughfare, where the water was once again calm and beautiful.

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We were back at our campsite by 5:00 pm and had a leisurely supper as evening approached. I took pictures of sea urchins, shells intact and bleached after being dropped from on high by gulls, I’d imagine,

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and of blueberries, some ripe, others ripening, while the low bush leaves started to turn red with fall around the corner.

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We moved down to a rocky beach where I admired some sea glass

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and where Bruce started a fire to try and improve on the first batch of Jiffy Pop.

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He succeeded!

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And the, day is done...

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Monday August 15

A Leisurely Paddle Southward Along the Coast of Random Island

 

I didn’t sleep well, I think because I was hungry.  I had no food with me in the tent, and the boats were some distance away, so there was nothing to be done but lie there, debating whether it would be worth it to get out and stumble down the hill under the light of my headlamp to find a snack.  It wouldn’t be, so…  not much sleep.

Bruce ready to launch at 9:30 am.

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I haven’t talked about fresh water yet.  More later on that.  But there was an easy fresh water source dripping from the rocks in our little inlet.

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Another calm start to the day.

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We hugged the coastline, in no rush to get anywhere.  A nice day to look at the rocks and enjoy just moving.  But there was one thing that put a damper on the day…as it had on  previous days.  I haven’t spoken yet about the number of dead birds - mostly gannets and murres - we’d been seeing over the course of both of our trips.  Especially when the water was calm, as it was this day, it was easy to spot a white bundle floating in the water.  At first it wasn’t clear what these were, but when we got closer and saw that it was a bird, it was increasingly easy to spot them from a distance.  Avian bird flu was - as we were to learn when we had access to the internet - decimating the Newfoundland bird population.   And true to what we were seeing, newspaper articles identified gannets and murres as among the most affected.

So we moved along, and saw as we had been seeing, bird carcasses floating usually next to the shore, where they’d been blown by the wind.  But as we paddled, I saw a gannet swimming close by.  I slowly paddled forward to take a picture.  I got one, then moved closer and got another…capturing its beautiful blue eye and distinctive bill.

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My next picture - well, it was a blurred wash of white as the frightened bird attempted to lift off, landing instead on the deck of my boat, frantically and ineffectually flapping its wings until it fell off the other side.  My heart was pounding, but once I had moved away, the fear and excitement gave way to  feelings of guilt and sadness.  Obviously the bird was ill - that was the only reason I’d been able to get so close in the first place.  And when, at the end of the day, we saw a dead gannet on a rock in the same area, I feared - and was convinced - that my desire for a photo and the panic that it had caused in the bird had turned out to be what finally killed him. I know, if he was sick he was going to die anyway, but feeling that I’d had something to do with it…well, the thoughts about it didn’t leave me.  I also worried that I night have had contact with the bird - in all the excited flapping I don’t know exactly what happened.  But the toll the avian flu was taking was a constant feature of our trip.

So what to do but distract myself with nature’s artistry.

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Enjoy watching Bruce enjoying a blocky cave that he feared to enter.

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We came upon another abandoned cabin.

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On the outside, are North and South Bird islands.  I shudder to think what we might have seen (Avian flu) there had we visited them…

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We kept coming upon caves and slots into the rocks.

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This was a nice passage that made it feel as though we were on a lake, not the ocean.

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The rocks lining it were beautiful.

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And sharp-eyed Bruce found this wasp’s nest attached to a small rock overhang, only a few feet off the water.  Weird.

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We stopped for lunch

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by a field of wild flowers.

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Another rock - painted with veins of white.

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Slabs of red rock.

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And finally, heading back toward home, this view - which instantly made me think of seeing Mt. Desert Island in Maine from an offshore island.

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This made me think of Maine, too.

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And finally, our lovely campsite.  Easy to see all of our tents - except for Bruce’s a small green Hilleberg.  It’s there if you look for it.

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We were back early enough to sit and read and reach out and pick blueberries right next to us.  And it was another pretty evening.  I played with the sea urchin shell.

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And watched the sunset…

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Tuesday August 16

Random Island - Kerley Harbor

 

We had planned to stay another night, but the weather forecast called for strong easterlies and we didn’t want to get caught out in them. We had hoped to get all the way to Port Rexto,  which would require paddling along cliffy headlands completely exposed to thousands of miles of ocean…  And so it was another quick pack - pretty efficient by this point in the trip - and off we went.  It sure didn’t look as though it would be a challenging day to paddle.

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We decided to go southwest along Random Island, cross back to the mainland and then go northeast…stopping for the night…well, we didn’t know where.  It was another morning of flat water and rocky islands.

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Turned out that the coast of Random Island wasn’t very interesting, so we crossed the Thoroughfare to the mainland, where we could see a much more interesting rock cliff coastline.  We entered an interesting harbor with bright blue water and lots of jellyfish.

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A small village of trailers in various stages of disrepair.  How did they get here?

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On the way out, more interesting rocks.  (And remember, I warned you…  If you don’t like rocks, you wouldn’t like paddling in Newfoundland…or trying to get through this long report!)

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We stopped for lunch at Delbys Cove - the tide higher than when we’d passed there before and it was easy to land.  And when we continued, there was Ireland’s Eye across the Thoroughfare.

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And more rocks - the colors, textures and patterns just endlessly mesmerizing to me.

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And, looking up,  a ring around the sun - a solar halo.

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And, oh my, but the rocks just kept on coming.

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As the day went on, the wind from the east finally did pick up, and it got a bit bumpier with a beamy headwind.  We had originally planned to keep going a few more kilometers to Cat Cove (just the name appealed to me!), a few kilometers past where we had launched days before.  It was seeming increasingly unlikely that we would make it all the way to Port Rexton given the forecast and that we were experiencing now was confirming it.  No one was thrilled about paddling along high cliffs with big beam seas and no protection.  So…why would we go past where we had launched and would have to take out?  We decided to head into Kerley Cove - close to New Bonaventure - to see if there would be a good camping area.  It was nice to get out of the wind.  At the end of the cove, a bumpy area visible from the water, but on closer inspection, up above, a big flat field next to a hiking path.  And so we landed and set up camp - for the last time.

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We were on the site of another resettled village.

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Genny, Carla and I went for a walk on the path passing an outhouse nailed shut against the wind, but with a handy hanging hammer to remove the nails.  We didn’t.

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We crossed a pretty bridge over a stream flowing into the harbor.

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A rathe unique tree.  Carla wanted to climb up it, but it was just a bit too challenging to get to the first rung.

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We ran into Bruce on the way back.  He was berry picking, having decided he’d just have oatmeal for dinner.  We were both completely sick of our Good to Go’s!

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Dinnertime.

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And our own last little settlement at 7 pm.  Bedtime.

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Wednesday August 17

Kerley’s Harbor - New Bonaventure

 

Another morning where it was hard to believe that the weather would affect plans, but we’d made the decision to return to New Bonaventure and end the trip rather than risk a 20+  kilometer paddle along the exposed coast where the wind would likely pick up as the day went on.

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I mean, really, we can’t paddle in this? 

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But remember, the forecast, the forecast…  And frankly, the thought of a bed…and a bathroom… was pretty appealing.  We had reservations at Stanley House for the next night, and if necessary could camp again, but we all really wanted to find a place that wouldn’t involve setting up camp again.

Rocks…

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And then we were at a Newfoundland movie set!  Random Passage is a novel set in Newfoundland at the turn of the 19th century.  It was made into a mini series that was apparently much beloved as we’d seen numerous signs for “Random Passage Site” along the highway to alert lovers of the tv show to places where it had been filmed.  I ended up reading the book and this set was not at all how I envisaged the settlement.

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And then, without landing to explore more, we kept going and there was New Bonaventure.

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Newfoundlanders like their churches!  I mean, this thing was huge given the size of the town!

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And just beyond this trap-covered dock

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we were landing where we’d started.

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The pretty curved roof houses…

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And all our stuff

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waiting for pickup when the reverse shuttle was completed.

So…what to do now?  We were supposed to be on the water for another two days, so where to go?  I’d heard folks talking about Trinity - a beautiful little town close by whose beauty made it a tourist attraction, which in turn made it less of an attraction for us.  But I was still curious to see it, so we decided to go there for lunch.  Our first view of Trinity.

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We parked in a big public lot, joining scads of tourists, some of whom were pouring off of packed buses.  We walked quickly toward the waterfront to find a restaurant - where we could eat outdoors because of COVID - and because it was a beautiful day.  Although we’d beaten the bus crowds there, and all the brightly colored picnic tables were empty, we were turned away because every seat in the place had been reserved by a tour bus.  So we walked through town.  Yes, beautiful little houses, as brightly painted as the picnic table had been with immaculate gardens bursting with flowers.   But there was something about it that was…Disneylandesque…

A big cheerful Anglican church.

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We eventually found a small restaurant with outdoor tables and enjoyed a lunch of burger and beers.  Much anticipated and much appreciated. We enjoyed the view (colorful houses).

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In short order, Genny found us a place to stay for the night. The house ($40 - Canadian! -  a night per per person) was in Elliston, aka The Root Cellar Capitol of the World.  Really.  Google it.  One hundred and thirty structures built into small hills to preserve food, apparently half of which still in operation.  But even better than all those Hobbit-house root cellars was a puffin viewing site.  On the way to the site, this simple abode drew my attention - so typical of the province.

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Admission to the puffin site was free, with a big parking lot and helpful signs.

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Along the way were beautiful mini-coves at the bottom of cliffs, but I didn’t take pictures because the view was marred by the cobbles littered with dead birds.  Too sad.  But soon, a quarter mile away - was a large flat-topped rocky outcropping across a small channel.  See all those white dots?   Puffins!

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I wish I’d had a proper camera with a telephoto lens instead of the iPhone I was using here.  Here’s the best I could do for a closeup.  At the least, it gives a sense of just how many of the birds were there.

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On the way back, the little house I so liked.

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And then, just a few minutes away, our own little house - which we all very much liked!  We walked in to find it immaculate and clean with full-sized brand new front loading washing machine (yay! clean clothes!) and dryer, a nice bathroom, two big bedrooms and an open living room and kitchen.  And best of all…a hose outside for washing gear!  Bruce set up his tent to dry.  (I just draped mine across a table on a windy deck out back and that worked just fine as well.)

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We did loads of laundry, took showers, drove to the a small market 20 minutes away for food and libations, and settled down for a night of hunching together on the sofa watching funny cat videos on an iPhone and in general just enjoying being in a civilized place.  That enjoyment was soon to change…

 

August 18 - 23

Flight from COVID…and then Touristing…and Heading Home

 

Bruce was up early for a walk to a nearby beach where he’d seen appealing surf the day before.  He returned to report that the beach was littered with bird carcasses, some of which had been memorialized.  He took this picture - the only dead bird picture I have of the trip.  So sad…

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Others were up a bit later, and one announced that they had awoken with a sore throat and a headache.  Oh no…  My immediate reaction was to request that everyone please test…  COVID tests appeared from luggage, and after 15 minutes or so I looked up to see one person sitting at the table, masked - which had not been the case a few minutes earlier.  “I tested positive,” they said, and another chimed in that they had the same result.  Bruce and I were both negative and instantly got up and with apologies, started packing to leave.  We wouldn’t be staying a second night together, nor would we spend the day of fun activities that we’d all talked about.  It took about 20 minutes to repack all our clean gear and we were out the door, in the car and on the road - feeling guilty for the quick escape even as we knew it was the only option.  Fear of contracting COVID…and on my part, conviction that I would… overshadowed the rest of our time in Newfoundland.  An evening hunched together over an iPhone looking at videos with a highly contagious COVID variant the predominant strain, in Canada as in the US.  Spoiler alert:  Bruce and I - seemingly miraculously - didn’t end up getting it, but we stayed  masked everywhere (which had actually been our MO throughout the trip when we weren’t on the water or in camp) for the rest of the trip.

So…what now?  We drove to an area that I knew had cell service (not something you can take for granted in Newfoundland, as we’d found out throughout the trip) and immediately called Stanley House - which was able to accommodate us that night before our previously made reservations kicked in the next day.  That sorted out, we wondered what to do next.  I recalled we’d all talked the night before about going to close-by Bonavista Peninsula.  It was an overcast drive - suiting the new mood of the day - out to the point of the peninsula, a high rocky area with a red and white lighthouse.

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The sea crashing against the rocks was impressive, and we stood - a respectful number of steps back from the edge - and looked down into the water, speculating on areas that we might be willing to paddle.  Mostly, not user friendly!

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We spent the rest of the day driving a slow coastal route back to Clarenville and Stanley House, passing through numerous small villages along the way.

The next day we decided to go back to to St. John’s (six hour roundtrip drive as we did it) to spend time at the museum - and have another nice lunch there.   The Rooms, as the museum is called, sits high over the city and is designed as a nod to the fishing rooms where locals processed their catch.  It is an important provincial cultural repository that focuses on art and artifacts reflecting the province’s history, its people - immigrants and first nation residents alike - and its art.

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I liked an exhibit of old travel posters.

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And in this Come Home 2022 year, there was this 2020 license plate from the time of COVID.

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It was now familiar long drive back to our digs in Clarenville.   But it wasn’t enough to have spent all the time we had on the road that day.  Bruce had been wanting to visit the Cape St Mary’s Ecological Preserve, a mere three hours drive away.

So the next day - Saturday 8/20 - we set out, stopping first at the Castle Hill National Historic Site (thus extending the drive), where Bruce posed with some cannons.  Something about the British and French fighting for control o the local fishing industry, and thus the province, and thus the country.  Or something.

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From there it was a long drive along the coast, high above a long curving cobble beach that ran for miles and, and dipping down into small settlements.

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And then, most strangely, the landscape changed.  When we finally turned off the road to Cape St. Mary’s Preserve (many kilometers from the main road), the landscape was different than anything we’d seen in Newfoundland thus far.  massive flat expanse of grass and wildflowers.  Where were the scrub pines, the rocks, the shallow ponds?  Nowhere as far as the eye could see.  We finally reached the preserve - which turned out to have an expectedly large and modern reception building with exhibits about the preserve.  We had a quick lunch before embarking on the mile walk to the cliffs where we were led to believe we’d see substantial numbers of gannets.  Here I am lunching in the sun and wind, and behind me, endless grass as I described above.

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An impressive vista…

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from the path we were on.

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We were soon joined by several juvenile kittiwakes, one of whom was a bit of a slowpoke.

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A warning sign as we approached the gannet colony.  Look more closely and you’ll see birds draped all over the cliffs behind.  (And I will also say that the guano stench was pretty overwhelming, even on a windy day.)

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If you like gannets, you’ve come to the right place.  All gannets, everywhere.  And blessedly, very few carcasses that we could see…

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We visited the exhibit when we were done with our gannet-viewing.  A woman there told us about an unusual white sand beach that we just had to visit not far from the Cape.  “Not far from the Cape” turned out to be over an hour away.  And when we got there, the beach was indeed very nice, but we were discouraged from setting foot on it when we saw that a large group of men were blasting shotguns on the beach not far from where we’d parked.  Didn’t seem to be our kind of place and we hightailed it out of there.

And having already taken an hour detour, we decided not to retrace our coastal footsteps, but instead took a long way home -  including on a numbered “highway” that was actually a dirt road.  Music from Deliverance played in our head as we passed ramshackle homesteads and rusty trailers.  No cell service and if something happened to the car…  But we managed ok and were back on the Trans Canada Highway for the two more hours back to Clarenville.

Sunday was a day of rest and packing and walking to the local coffee shop to buy some things.  And finally it was departure day.  We were both eager to be on our way home - it had been an unplanned month for me, and Bruce had things at home to attend to - and so left Stanley House, our reliable refuge,  for the last time.

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Back on the TCH…

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with hours to kill before the car line for the ferry in Argentia would even open, so we aimed for the town of Cupids, which Bruce had seen in a travel guide.  Notably, there was no sign on the TCH for the town, and as we followed Google Map directions, the sketchy road soon turned into a dirt road…and I put my foot down!  We were too close to being done to risk something happening out in the middle of nowhere.  (I later looked at photos of the town online, and it did indeed look like a beautiful destination…just not for the last day with a ferry to catch!)  So we went instead to the place I’d vowed not to visit - the notably named town of Dildo, where town-named t-shirts were available in any color you’d want in the few small stores and one tavern in town.  No thank you!

We stopped at this sign explaining the Pothead Drive.  No, not what you think…

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I liked this building, painted on all sides.

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And then, a full month since I’d left home for Maine, we were in an hours long ferry line before we finally boarded.  It was another smooth crossing, and surprisingly warm when we went out on the deck around sunrise.  Here’s some of the 200+ cars on board.

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The start to the day couldn’t have been more lovely…

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And then all that remained was the drive back to Halifax, then a 14 hour solo hours home, which went off without a hitch.  It felt good to cross the international border, and fill the car with $4 a gallon gas.  I was definitely ready to be home.  Two and a half weeks away had turned into a month.  But the extra time had allowed for seeing a different bit of Newfoundland  - both on the water and on endless drives on land.  I continue to feel blessed by the chances I have had to see beautiful, challenging far-away places with good company.  First off, thanks to Bruce for the invitation and for all the expert driving over many many many many many miles (!).   Thanks to Genny for her Newfoundland expertise and for all the work she (and Bruce) had put into organizing the trip.  Thanks to Michael for making up really useful maps.  And to Carla for her good spirits, and for all the cool pictures she showed me of the highly artistic hooked rugs she has m

But I started out saying it was a long strange trip.  Long - well, you get that.  Strange - COVID-bracketed, broken ferries, messed up plans.  Unlike other international trips I've taken, this was not an expedition; it wasn't a grand adventure of wild and challenging seas and white knuckle paddling.  It was, in many ways, the kind of trip that I most enjoy - taken at a pace that allowed for really enjoying all the beauty around us.  While toward the end, I didn’t know whether I’d spent more time on the road in a car than I had on the water, but the process of editing the photos and writing up the trip reminds me what it was really about, and I hope that if you’ve read all the way through, you’ve gotten a sense of that, too.

 

 

A Few Words About This and That

 

What follows are some reflections on various aspects of the trip - some of which are really reminder notes for me for future voyages, and others of which may be of more or less interest to others who’ve managed to actually read this far and get to this point!

 

 

BOATS - Bruce and I had our composite Cetus kayaks, Rafik had a wooden one he’d built from a kit, and everyone else had plastic Valley boats.  Their owners swore by their ease of use in this harsh environment.  There was much pulling of their boats up rocky beaches, while the other boats had to be carried and handled more carefully.  They had a point there - although I’ve also heard that dragging plastic boats deposits microplastics into the ocean.  Clearly not a major source of the oceans pollution but a small something to think about.  I very much appreciated all the work others did to help me with both landing and launching my boat.  Once in the waters I was very glad to have the Cetus.  I’ve done trips in plastic boats -  twice with P&H Scorpios - and have always been very happy to get home to the greater ease of paddling my Cetus.


TENT - I’ve mentioned my Hilleberg tent more than once.  I was very happy to have it, particularly when we suffered through one day-long spell of pouring rain and strong winds.  I brought my Allak, a two person tent, while Bruce had a one person Hilleberg Soulo.  One more than one occasion, I wondered whether I should have brought my Soulo instead of the Allak.  While it was nice to have the room the bigger tent provides, I envied Bruce’s ability to tuck his tent just about anywhere.  I also wish I’d brought a bigger sleeping pad.  While the Sea to Summit Comfort Plus is very comfy as promised it is small and I was continually rolling off of it, particularly when the sleeping surface wasn’t level.  On the other hand, Bruce had a large pad that filled almost the entire tent, and so he never rolled off.  I’ll definitely consider that for my next trip.  I did two weeks in Alaska, and two weeks in Greenland in a Soulo and managed fine.  Also, smaller tent means more room for larger pad in the boat.

 

FOOD - Oh man am I sick of Good to Go meals.  Even they’re actually quite good for what they are - the best I’ve found.  Actual flavors, not a ton of salt, but day after day…not appealing.  I had sausage, cheese and tortillas for breakfast - and on the rare cold morning, hot tea or lemonade; energy bars, jerky and dried fruit for lunch; Good to Go for supper; and snacks of various kinds that I pulled off the shelf at Whole Foods.  Plus chocolate of course.  I very much admired almost everyone else, who ate real food - not from a packet - for supper.  Rafik in particular put together some truly elegant suppers (who else has something with duck confit while camping?) and also some fruity desserts that he shared with everyone.  I left the wine behind this trip and didn’t miss having it at all.

 

WATER - I’ve been spoiled by trips to Iceland and Greenland where one can drink unfiltered/untreated water anywhere you find it.  While we did have a couple of small filters (for filling a one liter bottle) and water treatment tablets (that didn’t make the water taste too terrible), all of us brought water from home - one of the advantages of transport by car, not airplane!  I started with 14 liters, and it saw me through the first trip.  Two MSR water bladders stored under my knees, and multiple 1 and 2 liter Platypus containers tucked behind my seat.  I would recommend this approach.  While we found various water sources along the way (two ponds and a stream) it was nice not to be focused on water until we were getting low.  One question, for which I’d appreciate an answer from anyone… Why does the water from one (but not the other) of my MSR bladders taste awful…and what can I do about it?

 

CAMPING - As indicated, all the camping we did was wild camping - no formal campsites, although our last night in Kerley Cove came closest as it was a big field next to a marked hiking trail.  Almost all of our sites were just fine.  Trashy Beach, not so much, and another at the beginning that required a longish walk from the boats up a steep hill.  The best were the cobble beaches.  Except for one night of extreme hopper action, they were clean and comfortable and had the advantage of being very close to the water - and the boats.   The tides were pretty unremarkable and with one exception didn’t affect our choice of a place to camp.  Google Earth, maps and charts were indispensable and identifying potential sites - some of which turned out to be as perfect as they looked, and others of which, not so much.

 

BUGS - Hardly any!  Was it the hot dry summer?  The time of year?  I think I put on a bug net once - the last night in Kerley Cove - and got no bug bites, which is pretty extraordinary for me as I am a complete pest magnet.

 

MAPS/CHARTS - Many thanks to Michael for printing up connected topo maps of the area.  Bruce also had a marine chart.  Interesting that the same places at times had different names on map and chart.  Bruce and Genny had scoped out potential sites on Google Earth and marked them, so we didn’t go into looking for stopping or camping spots completely blind.

 

WEATHER REPORTS - Obtained through cell phones…when there was cell service.  We found not only on the paddling trips, but on the driving ones as well, that cell service is extremely spotty in Newfoundland.  (I would also note that I paid Verizon for a month of service in Canada and it hardly worked at all!)

 

WILDLIFE - Otters, some seals (not a lot), gannets, guillemots, murres, terns - and lots and lots of dead birds.  Articles I read on my return spoke of the devastating effect the Avian Flu was having on the province’s bird population.  We didn’t see any whales - although talked to tourists who’d seen one in the harbor at Trinity that morning.

 

COVID - The group didn’t escape it.  Two got infected, one with more symptoms (that also lasted longer) than the other.  We were all vaccinated and had tested before the trip.  Some of us were more rigorous about mask wearing when in stores and restaurants than others, and I don’t regret having been.  I also was a bit surprised that more people seemed to be wearing masks in stores and so on than in places I’ve been in close to home.  It seemed that most people working in stores were masked.  It all just went to show that even on a mostly outdoor trip in a far away, lightly populated place one hasn’t escaped the pandemic.  A sobering realization.

 

DRIVING - Bruce and I in particular did a lot of it.  (Well, Bruce did the driving, I sat and watched the scenery go by.)  The province is huge and distances between places one might want to go are substantial.  Five to six hours on the road for a day trip were common.  Gas was expensive - $8 a gallon (US!).  The Trans Canada Highway was our main road.  As was my experience  everywhere in Canada, drivers were more law abiding (less speeding!) and more polite (no tail-gaiting!) than at home.  But it was still wearing to be on the road so much.  The scenery got monotonous (unlike on the water) with the unending trees, rocks and shallow ponds.

 

Prudence

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Edited by prudenceb
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I loved reading your trip report. I loved all the rocks - Newfoundland really is a geology lesson, inscrutable to me but beautiful. The Trashy Beach describes many of the beaches I found - that's just the way it is. Everything you reported felt familiar to me, the friendliness of the people, the abandoned towns, the difficulty understanding the local dialect, the crappy cell coverage (at least you got better weather reports than I ever did), the continual quest for somewhere to camp, the long distances to drive from one place to anywhere else. I admire how you rolled with the multiple punches, finding ways to work everything out and continue to enjoy the trip. Seasoned traveler. And I'm glad you didn't get sick. Thanks for every single photo and all the detail in the report. Really makes me want to go back a fourth time. Fabulous trip report. Thank you.

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Great trip report(s), Prudence: thank you!

Now: birds again -- first avian photo showed a tern, yes; but you cannot say for certain "common tern", for the common and the Arctic are too similar to differentiate unless in the hand!  Hence "comic".  <I> cannot tell the difference: I learned this from a professor of "bird-ology" (or whatever -- oh, ornithology, I mean).

Your juvenile kittiwake was certainly a black-legged kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla), as opposed to the similar red-legged (R. brevirostris), who lives on the other ocean and, finally, your gannets are, of course, the northern (Movus bassanus), as opposed to M. capensis, with whom I am much more familiar -- the cape gannet.  To see gannets feeding on a shoal is really astounding and wonderful!  It always reminded me of the Bayeux tapestry, depicting the rain of arrows coming down on the Saxons from the Norman archers -- yes, the birds diving look just like that!

Dreadful shame about the avian 'flu victims you encountered...and that is the reason that Massachusetts poultrymen are not allowed to sell eggs that are totally free-range.  The authorities are scared that birds unfenced-in and uncovered might be infected by wild birds...other states must be less concerned, for you can find free-range eggs from NJ, PA, etc. quite easily.  

You certainly had some fun along the way: I'm green with envy!

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Really enjoyed reading your Newfy trip report and viewing your pictures. Brought back memories of my trips to that unique beautiful Island. Wondering why you chose to use the Lendal Cadence paddle more than the Cyprus paddle???…I recall you making a brief statement regarding those paddles. Strangely, I have and use both Lendal Cadence and Werner Cyprus paddles…..But wonderful trip report. Thanks much…

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Great trip report, Pru!

I doubt that there are many paddlers (as in many paddlers on planet Earth) who can match your completed locations on their bucket list: CT, RI, MA, NH, ME, CA, WA (?), AK, Mexico, Greenland, Newfoundland, Iceland, Scotland, Wales, Croatia, New Zealand. I am probably forgetting some. What's next? Antarctica or Kamchatka?

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