[Monday, June 30]
Yesterday's little sea kayaking adventure was on Bonne Bay, a beautifully scenic little bay surrounded by the mountains of Gros Morne, and home to several small towns - Norris Point on one side, Woody Point, Shoal Brook and a few others on the other side. A water taxi can shuttle you back and forth in 15 minutes, but it takes an hour and a half to drive on the mountainous roads from one side of the bay to the other.
From our kayaks, Christine pointed out The Tablelands, which from our vantage appeared as a reddish-brown, bald mountain. Gros Morne National Park is home to a large number of geological oddities, one of those being the area called The Tablelands. It's a barren, rocky expanse where more of the earth's mantle is exposed than any place else on earth. I don't know what that means, but if the weather clears up, I'll find out tomorrow morning.
From the visitors centre in Rocky Harbour, we made a few phone calls and found a room - actually a cabin - in Trout River, on the other side of the park, then we drove around the bay. The road rises in altitude, and you're soon among the mountains that you've been seeing from a distance. You also see those geological oddities very clearly. At one point the road slices through a valley. One one side of the road, the mountains are lush and green. On the other, the same-shaped mountains are completely bare - devoid of vegetation - and red. It looks more like a moonscape than like Newfoundland.
As we drove into Woody Point, I was really glad we came to the other side, rather than staying in Rocky Harbour and driving back and forth. Rocky Harbour is developed and commercial - not to an extreme degree, but relative to the rest of the area - and it services the majority of Gros Morne visitors. Woody Point is an old community, settled in the 1910s and '20s - isolated, but vital and beautiful. We drove past big old homes, well cared for, with lovely gardens and gorgeous views of Bonne Bay.
In the centre of town - four or five buildings at a crossroads - there's a few restored houses - Aunt Jane's B&B, the Old Loft Restaurant, where we would have stayed and eaten if we had settled on Woody Point, and the Granite Coffee House. We stopped for lunch at the coffee house, empty when we got there, then suddenly swamped by a horde of seniors from Pennsylvania. The poor server was overwhelmed. "A toasted 'am melt? Hon white or 'ole wheat?"
After lunch we stopped by a studio called Molly Made, because I loved Molly's logo with the curly sheep. There are craft and visual art studios all over Newfoundland, but for whatever reason we didn't see any of them until now. We opened the door to Molly Made to find Molly working at a table in her one-room, brightly lit cottage. On the walls were works by Molly and husband, mostly hooked rugs.
These are not the kind of hooked rugs I've seen (and made) in the past, with long fibers, made with a latched tool. Molly told me this kind of hooking is found in Atlantic Canada, but rarely anywhere else - another way this region is so different. They're made with a tiny hook, with which you pull yarn very tightly. The finished product looks more like embroidery than a rug.
Molly uses a lot of found materials to make art with mixed media. My favourites were made with both hooking and driftwood. Another terrific one was hooking and painted wine corks. I took a few pictures, but when I tried to include Molly in one, she said, "Oh, you don't need a picture of me in there."
Molly also teaches hooking and other crafts to both children and adults. The studio was filled with yarn and all kinds of materials. The work I liked best was well out of our price range, but I did buy a hooking kit for my mother, who is a champion knitter and a tremendous appreciator of all kinds of crafts. (And if she's reading this, there goes the surprise.)
We were admiring some work in Molly's little studio kitchen, which turned out to be by her daughters when they were little girls. And what are her daughters doing now? One is a college program for adventure tourism... and she works for Gros Morne Adventures with Christine, our guide from Nova Scotia (who of course Molly knows well). When Molly's daughter Kathleen graduates the program, she'll be able to apply all her credits to a university course for environmental studies.
On the same road, we saw the little communities of Middle Brook and Curzon, then doubled back to another turn-off, towards the tiny town of Trout River, which is more isolated, but closer to The Tablelands and the Green Gardens hiking trails. It's completely quiet and not touristy out here, but still doesn't seem depressed the way so many towns on the northern end of this Peninsula did.
We found the cabin we booked, way more space and amenities than we need, but for the same price as a B&B, the privacy and space seemed wonderful, and it's convenient for our plans.
By now it had started to rain, and was windy and quite cold. We were feeling extra lucky that we had the warm, partly-sunny day for yesterday's Western Pond boat tour and kayaking. We couldn't decide if we should bother with the Green Gardens hike or not. Crazy to try it? Silly not to try it? We finally decided that we'd give it a go, and if it the weather was too awful, we'd turn back. Better to try than not try.
It was pouring rain and windy, but when we got to the Green Gardens trailhead, the rain had stopped. We already knew there were two Green Gardens hikes, a very challenging 16-kilometer loop that calls for fording two creeks (yeah, right), and a shorter but still challenging 9-kilometer loop. Sue from the kayak office suggested we do half the smaller loop. We could follow a path to the coast for great views, then walk along the coast trail as much as we wanted, then take the same trail back. She said it was all downhill on the way there - you know what that means! - but the views were well worth the struggle on the return trip.
So when we got to the Green Gardens trailhead, it had stopped raining. It was very windy, but the wind was at our back. (You know what that means, too.) The first part of the trail is over bare, rocky ground, then the trail enters the woods. And you know the thing about rain? It stops, but then it starts again. As we hiked the mostly downhill, rocky trail, I started to feel fatigued. It was late afternoon (not my best time of day), and damp (people with arthritis don't like the damp), and windy, and we weren't on a loop. I had to rest frequently, and after a while I wasn't sure we should continue. Then it started to rain. Hard.
We tried to continue for a while, but it was ridiculous - especially since the best part of this hike is supposed to be the view. We couldn't see two feet in front of our faces.
We turned around. It was uphill. We were walking into the wind. It rained harder. The wind was blowing the rain sideways. We tightened the hoods on our windbreakers and pushed ahead. Every once in a while, Allan would turn around to check on me, and we would just laugh. The rain and wind just got harder and more vicious. When the rain hit our faces, it hurt. We thought it might be hailing at one point.
I was very tired, and very wet, and the walk back to the car took a very long time.
At one point Allan turned around and said, "Too bad we're not camping". We were laughing to keep from crying. But towards the end, I thought I might cry anyway. When I finally reached the car, it was so windy I couldn't open the car door. A few times, I tried to walk forward and felt the wind push me back.
At the cabin, we stripped and dried off and found wonderful clean, dry clothes. If we had been prepared for cabin living, it would have been the perfect night to make dinner and not leave the house for the night. Too bad we weren't at all prepared, and the only stores for many miles were convenience stores. (We have noticed this is usually the case. If you ever travel Newfoundland by RV or by staying in efficiency cabins, you'll want to shop way in advance of your destination towns.)
So after getting into dry clothes, we had to go out again. It was still great to have the cabin - a laundromat to dry our things, extra room to hang things, a sitting area to curl up in.
There's only one restaurant in Trout River, The Seaside, but it has a far-reaching reputation, having been written up in "Where To Eat In Canada," and several other national publications. We had an excellent meal, the usual local fare but much better than usual quality. Have I mentioned cod tongues? It's a popular dish out here - thin disks of fish, pan fried, a slightly different texture than the cod itself. I think they're very yummy. I'm a little sad to think I've eaten my last cod tongue dinner. I also love partridgeberries, so we had to have something with partridgeberry for dessert. Sometimes it's partridgeberry pie or crisp; this time it was partridgeberry cheesecake.
Random note. In addition to the familiar provincial flag of Newfoundland and Labrador, many people display the flag of the "Republic of Newfoundland," a tri-colour flag like Ireland's, but with pink instead of orange. It was never an official flag, but it represents Newfoundland between Britain and Canada - an independent Newfoundland.
It's impossible to say how much it's meant as a joke or a wish and how much separatist sentiment there is here, or what percentage of Newfoundlanders think of themselves this way. From what I've learned about Newfoundland, its challenges and its economy, I can't imagine how it could exist and thrive outside of Canada. It would seem to be a beneficial relationship for Newfoundlanders. But I haven't spoken to anyone about this, except our host in Bonavista, who said it was the best decision Newfoundlanders ever made. I'd like to hear about it from all points of view.
Random note. On our Western Pond boat tour, we chatted with some women from Vermont, who told us they saw whales in Witless Bay, the area south of St. John's where we had our first boat tour. They saw two humpbacks, and the boat followed them for quite a while. We've been hearing reports of whale sightings in almost every town we visited earlier in the trip. Strangely enough, this actually made me feel better about not seeing whales. It means our (almost) whale-less trip was just luck of the draw - no whales happened to be around while we were there - rather than massively poor trip planning.
Everything I read said whale season was June to October, yet when we got here, several people said June was too early, that whales typically don't show til July. I wondered how I could have mis-planned so badly. As it turns out, many people see whales in June. Bad luck is better than idiocy!
No one in Trout River has wireless internet access for guests, so I don't know when I'll get to post this. While we were calling around, one host laughed at me for asking about internet - which is a bit odd, considering she has a website and an email address. We're already booked in a motel with internet access in Deer Lake for our last night. Last night?!
Pictures of Woody Point are here.
Pictures of Molly Made and other crafts we saw (or bought) are here.