Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Newfoundland - part 2

Newfoundland again. I need a thesaurus to find words to describe what we've seen! We are into week ten now, which is a record for us, and we just now are headed south again. I checked the other day, and it was 2500 miles in a straight line to Houston.

I guess we left off at Terra Nova Natl. Park. Teachers started back to work Monday a week ago, but we were stuck here in Newfoundland. Why not take a hike? We started the day with a walk to the top of Ochre Hill . There was a beautiful panoramic view of the bays, ponds, and mountains all around. We ran into just one other person on our hike.

                                    From the top of Ochre Hill in Terra Nova National Park

There are a lot of peninsulas around the island. There are too many for us to explore them all, so we chose Cape Bonavista as one of them. There is a collapsed sea cave called The Dungeon that was a must-see, and a historic lighthouse near where it is has been agreed upon that John Cabot landed. There is a little island near the lighthouse that is a nesting place for puffins. It was fun to see where they live, and we were lucky enough to see a few coming and going from their burrows. Even with the orange beak, they are hard to spot. Our campground that night was about 6 km (3.6 miles) down a very bumpy road. We were glad we only had to take the round trip once.
The Dungeon

Cape Bonavista Lighthouse

View from Cape Bonavista

The big city of St. John's was our next stop (pop. 100,000). Still, 'city driving' is not fun, especially when you aren't sure where you are going. St. John's is known for the colorful houses, but we didn't stop to take many pictures of them. We spent our time at two historic sites- Cape Spear and Signal Hill.
      Cape Spear is the easternmost point of North America, not counting Greenland, so we had to go there to get a geocache names “Extreme East”. Signal Hill is above the harbor entrance, and has been the site of many battles between the French and British. At the top is a stone building called Cabot Tower. Early radio transmissions were received here, and there is a recreation of the radio room.
As far east as you can go by car - Cape Spear

Cape Spear Lighthouse

Cabot Tower on Signal Hill

Looking down from Signal Hill as a ship entered St. John's Harbor

Kris signing the log of a geocache below Cape Spear Lighthouse - a precarious perch

On Signal Hill, there is an attraction called GeoCentre. It is a museum about geology UNDER the hill. They carved the museum into the rock of the Signal Hill. We decided to spend another day in St. John's to see what it is like. You can see all of the layers going back billions of years. It was quite informative, and not too busy, so we really enjoyed the day not driving around.

It was time to escape the big city. We traveled west to Placentia Bay and Castle Hill National Historic Site. There are remains of French and British forts there, along with the history of how forts have changed due to technology. Gunpowder and rifles barreled guns made a lot of difference!

It would have been nice to visit France – There are two French islands off of the coast of Newfoundland, but it was too much money to justify a visit to France, although it would have been a new country to Geocache in!

The Trans Canada Highway isn't very busy compared to Houston freeways, and is a comfortable drive. The only problem was that I drive the speed limit, so people were frequently on our tail. One good thing, though, is that they actually use their turn signals to pass! Amazing, for sure.

Well, we've gone as far east as we can, so why not head farther north?  One of the places we HAD to go back to was Gros Morne National Park on the west coast. We camped another night, and then headed north to L'Anse aux Meadows, where the Vikings had a short-lived settlement in 1000 A.D.. We took an excellent tour, guided by a local man that grew up playing on the 'Indian Mounds' that turned out to be the remnants of the Viking dwellings. National Parks always have interesting guided tours, but we have been very lucky this trip to have two guided by people with direct connections. This guide worked on the archeological digs in the area and helped reconstruct the buildings that are used in the living history exhibit.

                                                  Brian strikes a pose with Leif Ericson

Our tour guide with remains of the original Viking dwellings behind them.  
They were excavated and then covered over to preserve them.

A reconstructed Viking dwelling with sod walls 6 feet thick

Inside a reconstructed house

Another historic site on the northern peninsula is in Port Au Choix, where four different prehistoric groups of people have lived over the course of 5,000 years. We took a short hike on one of the trails, and were lucky enough to see a lone caribou on our walk.

We took a short hike on Raven Trail that is the northern terminus of the IATNL – International Appalachian Trail Newfoundland – but we haven't been able to learn much about it. It was another wonderful view (this time on the first day the kids were back to school) and this time, we didn't see ANY people!

The view from Cape Raven (and a geocache)

Today, we did the tourist thing and took a boat tour on Western Brook Pond, an ancient fjord that is now a freshwater lake. The two-hour ride was breathtaking, and well worth the 3 kilometer hike to get to the boat dock. I liked the fact that I wasn't doing the driving.
                                          Western Brook Pond - Gros Morne National Park

Our boat trip on Western Brook Pond

Kris here – my 2 cents worth:
We had planned on spending one week in Newfoundland but extended our visit to two weeks. Although we could see Labrador across the Strait of Belle Isle about 25 km away, we had to draw the line somewhere so we didn't take the ferry across to visit it. L'Anse aux Meadows was well-worth the drive up to the end of the Northern Peninsula. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (as is Gros Morne NP) and I have always been intrigued by the place. I wasn't sure we were going to have time to visit, but adding the time to our Newfoundland expedition made it possible. We saw a 10-foot statue of Leif Ericson that was a tribute to all people of Scandinavian heritage so it was fitting that I saw it and thought of my Norwegian ancestors. The tour guide was excellent and is a living witness to the discovery of the ruins and played a role in the preservation. He has worked for Parks Canada for almost 50 years and really knew his “stuff.”
Surprisingly, we haven't seen much wildlife. Too late in the summer to see whales, but NFLD supposedly has the highest population density of moose anywhere in the world and we haven't seen even one, despite the ubiquitous warning signs along the highways. I was thrilled to see one caribou, a handful of puffins, and a hare that hopped through our campsite last evening.

We have booked a night crossing on the ferry back to Nova Scotia where we will resume our sojourn at Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

Geocaching warning!
This trip hasn't been all about caching. Yes, we look at them, but we are fairly picky. We have averaged about ten finds a day. We aren't racking up big numbers, but we have found quite a few places that we wouldn't have seen if there wasn't a geocache there.

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