Newfoundland: Western Brook Pond

I had to be up at the highly touted Western Brook Pond boat tour at 1230, with the caveat that it's a 3 km hike from the parking lot to the boat dock. So on the way there I hit the Berry Hill Hike - it's a bit of a climb, but great views and the whole thing is only about a kilometre.

Then the drive up the coast to the Western Brook Pond parking lot, and the hike in through the bog. Western Brook Pond used to be a fjord, but after the glaciers melted, the land along the coast "sprang back" and landlocked the body of water formerly known as a "fjord." It can no longer hold that title because it's not connected to the ocean and because it's not salt water. Instead, there's a brook and a large bog between the fjord and the coastline. But "pond" seems a bit of a misnomer when a large boat needs an hour to get from one end to the other.

They have two boats that they run regularly (now that we're in the shoulder season they only go once a day), and both of them were full today - I think 50 people per boat. The initial part of the cruise is across a fairly open body of water, but you can see the entrance "gates" from the moment you start the walk in: they're impressive. The sides of that thing stand 600 metres tall ( ). At the back end, they pull up to a dock and drop off the hard-core: four people hopped out, geared up for three or four days of back-country hiking. No trails, just maps and compasses (and undoubtedly GPSes), but spectacular views of the fjord (oops, "pond"). Back at water level, we saw some lovely waterfalls - partly courtesy of the recent rains. I could go on, but I'll leave it up to the photos I hope I have in the camera.

photo: The fjord wall of Western Brook Pond

Huge stone wall of Western Brook Pond

On the walk back through the bog, I decided I needed to find Sundew plants. Since I was a kid, I've been fascinated by carnivorous plants. I always loved the Venus Fly Trap for its distinctive and sudden action, but Pitcher Plants and Sundews grow in Canada (the Venus Fly Trap turns out to live in the U.S.). The Pitcher Plant is easy to identify, and easily found in Newfoundland. The carnivorous plants developed to counter the lack of nutrients in the soil by eating insects. And Newfoundland is overwhelmed by bogs, which have some of the worst, most nutrient-free soil known to man. But where was the Sundew? For some reason I thought "maybe it's smaller?" Presumably I actually knew that at one point. So when I stopped looking for something 10 cm across, I finally found it: the whole thing is 2 cm across. They're very small. But once you realize that, it turns out they're fairly common ...

My next stop was Earle's in Rocky Harbour. One of my fellow travellers at Anchor Down B&B had particularly recommended their Moose Stew, and since I hadn't had lunch, I made an early dinner of it. It came in a big bowl, and was delicious. Very much like beef stew: lots of brown sludge with carrots, potatoes, and turnips (ugh). And the amount of moose was probably less meat than is currently fashionable in beef stew, but I'm actually in favour of a bit less meat. Not big on turnips, but despite that it was fantastic, so satisfying. It seems I've missed beef stew ...

I drove from Earle's to Woody Point. Rocky Harbour is, as the crow flies, about eight kilometres from Woody Point. But don't let that fool you: practically speaking, the two towns are about 75 minutes apart by car, as you drive 70 km around a large cove, over winding, low-speed roads that have no less than four bridges that are currently one lane as they're repaired.

I'm staying at Blanchard House, which is practically the antithesis of Anchor Down, although not in a bad way: the house says out front "built in 1911," which means that it nowhere has a single right angle left in the carpentry, and walking across the living room makes the entire house creak. But it's well maintained, quite comfortable, and rather lovely. Just don't get the room that has only a tub and no shower at all (I was warned by another resident at Anchor Down).

Scenic Woody Point makes Rocky Harbour (pop. 1000) look like a thriving metropolis: this place supports a population of ~300.

I considered doing the Lookout Trail hike starting at around 1800, but I have to admit I bailed because I was so worried about the rain after the Tablelands experience. Sad, really - that's more representative of my mental state than the environment's.

So I wandered the one block from the suburbs of Woody Point to the downtown core, where I found a store with tourist tat. They had a rather nice Gros Morne t-shirt (not as nice as the one the park itself sells with a tuckamore and the logo ... but they'd run out of XL) on special. I wanted to buy it, but the store was deserted. I waited, then wandered out in the street ... and finally there was the proprietor, coming back from showing some clients into their hotel rooms. "I didn't think there'd be any more walk-in customers."

He suggested Merchant's Wine Bar for a beer (that's not their exact name, but it's close), where I put away a Quidi Vidi Iceberg Beer ("made with 10000 year old iceberg water!" ... and eminently light and dull) and a Quidi Vidi 1892 (better, still dull) while I wrote up a lot of this blog post.

Five minutes into my walk back to Blanchard House, I realized that I'd overheard someone talking about a "boil warning" on the local tap water. Would have been great if the owner of the B&B had mentioned that ... Turn around, head back to Merchant's ... where the door is locked (at 2000). So when a woman came out of the neighbouring Royal Canadian Legion, I talked to her. This is the way it works, at least for me: you get to know the locals when something goes wrong. So we stood outside the legion as she smoked her cigarette, and we talked about where the local travellers come from (a lot from Ontario and Quebec, but also BC, Germany, and Switzerland), and which fish we like (we were right next to a fish processing plant on the waterfront). We both loathe mackerel. She finds cod tasteless, I love it. She recommended capelins (they're highly seasonal - late May to early June - and I'm not likely to find them). And then we went back into the Legion, where 49 women and one man clutched their blotters in the hope of winning big at Bingo (which is why t-shirt man recommended Merchant's over the Legion for a beer - it's Bingo night and busy). I got a couple 500ml bottles of water and headed back to the B&B.

photo: A tuckamore in the bog on the way from Western Brook Pond

A tuckamore in the bog near Western Brook Pond