Airstream Time

Exploring North America in an Airstream

Posts from the ‘La Manche Provisional Park’ category

Exploring the Irish Loop, Newfoundland

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

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Sunrise this morning

We have driven half of the east side of the Irish Loop on the Avalon Peninsula, but wanted to see more. We drove south to Ferryland and walked to the lighthouse from the visitor’s center. The harbor is so pretty with islands in the middle and rock cliffs on the north side. Seagulls and other birds are everywhere, and it didn’t hurt that it was a beautiful day. It took us an hour to get out there and walk around the point, where a family was sitting on the rocks watching seals play. 

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We found a field of blueberry bushes, but they weren’t ready yet. I guess in another couple of weeks or so. I figured out a way to make a blueberry pie that Diego wanted so badly, but now he is back in Mexico City.

Ferryland was settled about 1610. I can’t imagine living here then, but unlike so many other colonies in America, the resources they had were plentiful. Trees, lobster, cod, crabs, mussels, oysters, ducks, geese and fresh water made it easier than many locations.

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Then we drove to the southern tip of the peninsula, Mistaken Point, where there is a UNESCO ecological reserve. All the tours were full, but we went in the visitor’s center and watched a video. On rock ledges by the sea, there are thousands of ancient life forms fossilized in the rocks that are 500 million years old. They are the oldest Ediacaran period fossils known in the world. Interestingly, they were discovered by a geology graduate student, Shiva Misra. The wreck of the Titanic was found 600 km from Mistaken Point. 

This area is so different from everything else we have seen in Newfoundland. It is called “The Barrens”. There are no trees, but wide-open grasslands, bogs and ponds as far as the eye can see. Partridge hunting is supposed to be good here, and brook trout plentiful. Little huts are seen next to ponds, perhaps a place where people come to fish and hunt. 

Heading back toward La Manche Provisional Park, we stopped at Bernard Kavanagh’s restaurant with the million dollar view overlooking Ferryland Harbor. We were early, the only ones in the restaurant. A lady sweeping the floor gave us menus and told us to sit where we want. “Number 5 and 7 are good”, so we sat at table #7. What a view! We were embarrassed to just order a tea, so we ordered cod bites, tea and a mixed berry crumble. The waitress said they were frozen cod, and we would be better to order one piece cod, so we did. Another lady brought the cod a short while later. She said they just made two smaller pieces so we could split it, and it was excellent, some of the best we have had. 

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A man came over to talk, but I couldn’t understand a word he said. He didn’t have his hearing aid in, so he couldn’t hear a word I said. However, his hat said “Boss”, and he was the owner. He said it was for sale, saying things were just getting too expensive. He asked where we were from, but wasn’t quite sure where Virginia was. Pointing to a pretty house on a bluff, he said a man from Boston lives there, but he has gone back now. 

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I think we met the whole staff, all coming to say hello. I asked one about driving here in the snow and ice. She said it was difficult, and they get plenty of it. She said it was so hot today, and she couldn’t stand the weather Virginia has had this summer. It was 26 deg C, which is 79 F, but that is hot here. We had worked up quite a sweat walking to the lighthouse earlier. All of these people were so nice! I told this lady we have really enjoyed our visit to Newfoundland, and that people have been so nice. She smiled and said, “Sometimes we are”. 

Back at camp, we didn’t need much for dinner, so we grilled a small piece of salmon and corn over the fire. 

Gatherall Puffin/Whale Tour

Monday, August 19, 2019

Many times we have heard people say they paid for a whale tour and never saw one, but we wanted to see the puffins at Witless Bay Ecological Reserve. Whales would be a bonus. The cost was $70 each for Gatherall’s, the one recommended at the visitor’s center. 

It was a beautiful day, sunny and warm with calm seas. The shoreline going out of the bay was beautiful, reminding me of the Pictured Rocks on Lake Michigan. As we made the turn out of the harbor, the captain advised us to hold onto a rail. The waves were bigger than I expected, hardly rough, but I get seasick. We came to the first island in the reserve, maybe Gull Island. An amazing amount of birds were nesting and breeding, gulls, murres by the thousands and puffins. Puffins only have their distinctive orange beaks during breeding season. They go out to sea for several years and return to the same island and the same burrow with the same mate.

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As we passed by the island, we could see a boat maybe a mile out, and the captain headed for it. Whales had been spotted. I had a good spot near the front of the boat, and it wasn’t long before we could see the splash of a big whale. It took 10-15 minutes to get out there. Several times we could see the whale breach, coming all the way out of the water. Then the captain said there were two, then three, then four, maybe five of them. I had two cameras, one with a 500mm zoom lens. As I put the 200mm down on the deck, I could feel the familiar dizzy feeling. Uh oh, I should stay up in the cool breeze and focus ahead. I checked the camera settings, shutter speed priority, sunlight, action mode, continuous focus and multiple shot fast. Then looking up again, we could see a lot of action from 4 or 5 Humpback whales. 

I was on the left side, behind a nice gentleman who moved aside as I stuck the big lens next to him. The big waves made the boat go up and down, so I leaned against the rail, spread my feet apart and tried to keep the lens on the action. When the whales went down, you didn’t know where they might come back up, so you can’t continue looking through the lens. I tried shooting without looking through the lens, but that didn’t work too well. But these whales just kept playing, jumping, splashing, blowing, waving and even growling. The captain said this was very unusual and we were very lucky. We were probably there 15-20 minutes before we had to head back. The other smaller boat stayed put. It was quite a show!

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As we got closer to the island, a couple of girls on the back of the boat released 22 baby puffins. We had seen several signs warning of baby puffins crossing the road. Apparently the young ones get confused by the lights at night and head for them. There is a baby puffin patrol that drives around and picks them up. These were the ones found just last night. They are so cute, you just want to take one home. On the way in one of the young Irish crew sang a song everyone must have known, as they all joined in.

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I was quite happy to put my feet on solid ground. We went up the road to hike the East Coast Trail from Bay Bulls to the Lighthouse going north. It was about an hour before I stopped feeling wobbly and nauseous. We have walked this trail a lot now, and it has been beautiful every time. We’ve been very lucky this week with perfect weather. It is so different when the sun is shining. The water is so blue, clear and then green when splashing against the rocks. The trees and grasses are so green. On a gray day, the water is gray and even the grass loses its color. This is why Newfies paint their houses bright colors, so they get color on gray days.

La Manche Suspension Bridge Trail

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Sunday, August 18, 2019

Diego went for a run for a little over an hour, while Martha and I rested on a warm, sunny morning. Then we hiked the Suspension Bridge Trail to La Manche, a tiny settlement that was destroyed by a terrible storm years ago. 

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La Manche is a beautiful spot sitting on a rock bluff above a river flowing into a beautiful bay. The East Coast Trail comes right through here. Diego has been wanting to hike the Appalachian Trail for a week with me. I told him I would much rather hike this trail. The scenery is spectacular and there are no rattlesnakes or bears. Every cove has a settlement where you might resupply and find something to eat. 

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Martha had enough, but Diego wanted more hiking, so he went ahead for another hour before turning back, while Martha and I headed back to camp.

We had a dinner reservation at “The Fork” in Mobile, so we got cleaned up and drove south for a couple of hours, exploring the villages along the way. We just got to Ferryland before we had to turn back, but we could see we needed to come back, as it is beautiful.

“The Fork” has only been open a couple of months, and is not exactly on the beaten path. Still in construction stage, the drive and parking lot are rough. Grass grew through the deck leading to the front door. Once inside, it was very nice with views of the harbor. The staff was very nice. It’s a small restaurant, but people kept driving in as we placed our order. Some walked up the drive. Did they come from a B&B or do they live here – maybe some of both, but the restaurant soon filled up.

We shared a starter salad and wonderful dish of brussle sprouts. Then we all ordered Tagliatelle with scallops, peas, mushrooms and parmesan. Bread rolls came with partridge berry and honey butter, which was quite different and good. Then we shared a desert of Pavlova, a dish with meringue and strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, sprinkled with oats and cream. Martha and I have been overeating, so we said we would just have a bite, but this was so good we couldn’t help ourselves. I asked if I could lick the bowl.

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I was happy to get into bed to read my book after a great day

Hike The East Coast Trail Tors Cove to Mobile

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Martha said we were getting an early start at 8:30. It was a bit chilly, about 59 degrees, or 14C, as we drove north a few km to Tors Cove to pick up the East Coast Trail. We had hiked it at Signal Hill in St. Johns, and wanted to hike it at Cape Spear where we had a good chance of seeing whales, but we didn’t make it. The trail runs along the coast for over 300km from Portugal Cove to Cape St. Francis to Cappahayden. Our plan today was to hike the section from Tors Cove to Mobile.

We were looking for water, as La Manche’s water had to be boiled before drinking. We stopped at a convenience store in Tors Cove where I asked if I could fill a water bottle. A nice lady said I could just outside at the spigot. Martha got to talking to her, asking where the trailhead was, and Diego asked where we could get some blueberry pie. Fortunately, they both bought some things, but I’m not sure that mattered. She was from this Tors Cove, and her brother owned the store. She lives in St. John’s and drives 35 minutes to work two days a week. He was sick today, so this was an extra day. Gladys was her name. She asked where we were from, and when Diego said Mexico City, she said she had been to Cancun and somewhere else she couldn’t remember. She said one of the best hikes is in La Manche Provincial Park. It is the one with a swinging bridge and goes to what was once a town called La Manche. Gladys told Diego he might try the bakery in Burnt Cove for a pie. Then she told us about a restaurant in Burnt Cove that might have blueberry pie. She also told us where to find “The Cribies”, and that they are restored, old saltbox houses, and she advised us to stop in at “Running the Goat” bookshop.

Driving through Tors Cove, we had a bit of a hard time finding the trailhead, and we found nothing called “The Cribies”, but finally parked in front of an old church at 10:00.  A sign at the trailhead said it was 5k to Mobile, so 10k out and back. Sounds reasonable right, or as Newfies say, Eh? It starts as a narrow path along steep hill overlooking the harbor. Some fishermen were unloading and cleaning fish below us, with seagulls waiting all along the rooftops for the scraps that would soon come. A beautiful island lay just offshore, and there was a picnic table on a rocky beach opposite it, maybe a good place for lunch in 2 hours.

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The path turns into a dirt road that runs beside two brightly painted old saltbox houses, “The Cribies”! OK, that’s two for Gladys. I don’t know what cribies means, but these are very cool houses in a beautiful setting in green fields along a pretty, dirt road. There were also very nice, modern homes along the road.

Then the trail goes through a forest before breaking out to the coast, running along the edge of a bluff above the sea. It was cloudy all day, but it was perfect for a hike. We came out to to a grassy point and spotted a seal swimming around it. I went ahead to get a better look and found three women taking pictures. I think we had seen the mother, but one lady said there were babies swimming in this little cove. Then we could see them again at the mouth of the cove. After some picture-taking, she asked where we were from. “Oh my”, she said when we told her Virginia and Mexico City. Turns out she grew up in Mathews, Virginia. My parents had a little vacation house there for some time. Crazy, isn’t it? She said she married a Newfie from here. They live in St. John’s, but come back here often. She was with her sister-in-law and a friend.

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They went on and we followed, stopping to take pictures along the way. Near Mobile we met again, and Diego asked if there was a restaurant in town where we could get some blueberry pie. They said there was a restaurant, “The Fork”, but they only served dinner or certain nights. They were staying at a B&B, and began describing their breakfast this morning of blueberry pancakes with blueberry syrup over them. Diego was dyeing and asked for the name of the B&B, thinking we might go there for breakfast tomorrow.

We thanked them for all their help, took a picture and turned around for the hike back. We had taken 2 1/2 hours to get to Mobile, stopping to take pictures, enjoy the scenery and talk to these nice ladies. Martha and I were tired, and not mentally prepared for this long a hike. Not that it was particularly difficult, but longer than the 5.5k the trailhead said. 

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We figured two hours back as we sat and ate a granola bar and drank some water, and that’s about what it was. We passed several other couples. Diego has always been in great shape, playing several racket sports, soccer, and he has always enjoyed running marathons. He and his step-daughter, Luisa, just ran a marathon last week. This kind of hike is a walk in the park for him, but for Martha and I, it is like a half marathon for us. 

As we came out to the dirt road, a lady was trimming bushes along the fence in front of a beautiful, newer house. She asked how far we hiked and was surprised we had gone to Mobile and back. She wished us a good afternoon as we walked up the dirt road to the Cribies.

Diego had gone ahead to get the lunch, and met us at the picnic table for a pretty spot. Looking at my fitbitch, we had walked 9.5 miles and 20,600 steps and 4 hours. How did that work when the sign said 5.5k? As we were eating, a group of young ladies, all with the same hats on saying “SQUAD”. I had to ask if they were on a team, and they said they were the bride and bridesmaids out for a walk before the wedding. The bride, wearing a white cap, asked if I could take a picture, so I did. She said I could send her a bill, and I told her I would next week. Off they went climbing the steep hill through the pasture like it was nothing.

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We drove back through Tors Cove and wanted to find out about Puffin and whale tours. Whale season is about at the end, but we did want to see puffins. We drove through Mobile to find “The Fork” restaurant, but it was closed. It looked nice enough, and had a menu on a table. We read it through the window. but It didn’t list deserts. Then north to Witless Bay to a tiny visitor’s center. The young lady suggested Gatherall’s for the puffin/whale tour. On the way out of town, we stopped where we could get cell service to book a tour Monday, the warmer of the next two days. 

Now on to Burnt Cove to the bakery. It was 4:30 when we got there. Sadly, Carmel, the owner, didn’t make pies, but we did buy some rhubarb squares and blueberry cake. When Martha asked if she had ice cream, she said she didn’t, but we could get some at the store in Tors Cove. Martha said, “At Gladys’ place?” “Yes, that’s right. We all know each other”, she said with a smile.

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Picture in bakery. I have been wondering if a moose could be domesticated. I guess this answers that question.

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Another picture in the bakery

By the end of the day we had walked 11 miles and 24,000 steps. Fare of the evening was lobster tails and vegetables after horsedouvres of carrots, celery and roasted red pepper dip. I read two pages of Patton before falling asleep. It talked about how Hitler was coming apart at the end of the war, still thinking they could win. They had lived in the bunker for a long time now, and it was getting to all of them.

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