Rick's Journal

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Newfoundland Expedition, August 2011, Part Xl

Making Breakfast in the Gros Morne Backcountry!

 We awoke on the eleventh day of our expedition, and had a hot breakfast of oatmeal and other cereals.  Hot chocolate was served.   Ben made tea, which Abigail and Nicole had also.  Japhy also had some really funky superfood cereals that got mixed reviews by those who tried it.   I took a pass and just stuck with my cream of wheat or oatmeal.  I forget which we had!   It was still pretty cold, so we huddled around the picnic table and tried to get a little warmth from the two stoves as best we could.

Down the mountain we went, one step at a time.  The sky was blue and clear and it warmed up quickly, and I was happy to be there, and sad to be hiking out and heading south to catch the ferry the following morning.  There trail was good, and I picked my way carefully, to make life a little easier on my aching ankles and knees.  However, our packs were light and the view was good.   I took very few pictures at this point, preferring to just absorb it all and not be in a big hurry to get down.

A wizened old spruce or tamarack tree near our campsite.
I got to the trailhead and found my companions snacking away, rested and having lunch.   We had to repack the car a little, and then we headed out of the park, and south, towards the southern tip of Western Newfoundland.   We were all a little quiet on that part of the ride, as I remember it.

Unripe Crowberries along the trail
It was nice to see this part of the land, because on our way in just a few short days ago, it had been raining and dark so we hadn't seen much except the highway.   I don't know what it is, but I really liked seeing the way the roads wound around the mountains, and the small houses, and the Hydro power buildings that looked like they were about a hundred years old, and the little differences in the stores, gas stations and buildings from what I am used to in New York.
We made it!

I could feel how this place, this 'Newfoundland', had changed me.   We drove south, out of Gros Morne Park, along countless trees, wild rivers and modest houses, listening to CBC, Canada's version of NPR, and thinking...

A close up of "The Big Erik" as
well as the seafood platter, which
Ben and I are having on the left!
Everyone was pretty hungry so we ended up stopping in Corner Brook at C & E's Fish shop, and yes, I did get the Seafood Platter, just for old times.   I wasn't alone, either!    The food was fresh and good, and it felt wonderful to recharge after our hike and the cold and the mountains.   We just sat there, eating outside, in the fresh air, trying to absorb it all.  The culture, the way people talked, the trees and stores and the feeling of expansiveness, and wildlife and possibility.   Yeah, we got that much out of a plate of greasy battered fish!   Okay, maybe it was just me, but there it is.

Heading to Port aux Basques and Corner Brook.
The sun was slowly setting as we made our way down the coast to the small JT Cheeseman Provincial Park, which actually had wifi if you sat on the right bench outside of the ranger station.   We took showers, set up the tent, and were sad that the sun was gone so we couldn't go out on the trail to the ocean to see the waterfalls and the beach before we left.   It was clean, like all of the park facilities we had used on our trip, and our tent site was private and grassy and awesome.

Port aux Basques, in it's natural
cloudy habitat...
Nicole and I went into town for some supplies for breakfast, for food for the ferry ride in the morning, and to just see Port aux Basques.  At night, it is a true, working class town, and it reminded me of a number of factory towns I have lived in or passed through on my travels in years past.   There were fish and chips stands, and places to get clothes, boots, gear, and video stores.   We found a small store that was still open, and got our stuff.  I even got a small bottle of Iceberg Water, too, to show the family back home!

The cars line up to get on the boat.
We bypassed Tim Horton's, too, and got back for a good nights sleep.   In the morning, we packed up and drove the few miles out to the Ferry, and got in line for the boarding, about three hours ahead of departure, as usual.    Ben and Japhy and Abigail made breakfast out of the back of the car, fried eggs, I think it was, which cracked me up.  I had cereal and a banana...  
Parking on the ferry.

The comfy seats on the ferry.
Hey, it's a long ride!
Once we were on board, we found our seats, the big comfy ones near the TVs, but soon left those to explore the ship.   We wandered, checking out the shops, the internet area, the lounge area where someone was performing some traditional Newfie music.  We got some food, played cards, took pictures and brainstormed different ideas for heading back for another Newfoundland Expedition!
The dining room aboard our ferry.

It's a long ferry ride, and I had plenty of time to think.  I slept a little, wrote, read my book, and looked out at the Atlantic.   Nova Scotia was almost upon us, and the mainland was looming large in my mind.  

The view from my window, when the sun
emerged from the rain clouds.
This was the first trip I had been on in many years, since Javier was born, where I was totally exploring and wandering and not working at teaching or running a camp or other program type event.  My companions were great, crowded as we were in my little Xterra, with all of our gear in the back and on top.   I thought of home, and I was looking forward to being home too, to see Trista and Javi and everyone back at Hawk Circle, and the land as summer moved into fall.   I could have stayed another few days, but I knew I would be back, and that made it feel less somber.   Besides, all of my timber framing sore muscles were feeling pretty good and healed up, too!

Playing Cards on the Six Hour Ferry ride back to Nova
There are two more stories that I have to relate pertaining to our last days heading back to New York.   Once we got off the ferry, we drove through Nova Scotia, which is beautiful, too, by the way, and as we headed south and west, we searched for a place to get seafood, you know, like, fresh lobster or fish or something.   I mean, we were right there, by the ocean, all of the time, so it was like, 'C'mon, what do we gotta do to get some shellfish around here?!!!!'.   Anyway, we drove for about an hour, and the sun was beginning to set, when we saw a huge place that advertized "Fresh Lobster Dinner: $9.99".   It was pretty touristy, but we decided to take a chance, and it was the only place we had seen at this point.   Plus it was right by the highway.  

Abigail caught me in a reflective moment on the ferry,
as I thought about our trip.
So we get out, and see huge racks of T-Shirts, sweatshirts, hideous nick-knacks and tacky trinkets that advertised New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Canada in general.   But the real freaky thing was, as we got out of our car, this guy, who was about fifty or maybe sixty, came running out and lights off these bottle rockets and fire crackers, and tries to give us sparklers!   He asked where we were from, and invites us in, and pours us ice water into paper cups.    His eyes were kind of wild, and he cornered Abigail and Nicole, who are too nice to tell him to back off, and started asking them all kinds of questions about the US and Obama, and stuff like that.   I cruised through the crowded crap in the shop and found a section that looked like there had been a dining room at one point, where they might have served food and lobster about fifteen years ago, but it was all covered in papers, clothing, boxes and conservative slogans on computer paper.

Our misty campsite, somewhere in Nova Scotia
I determined that we needed to get out of there right away.   I hadn't drank any of my water (if that is what it was) and gave the signal to get back in the car.   The guy started asking me if I was Jewish, to which I said no, but he didn't believe me.  He asked me what my name was, and when I told him, he started talking about illegal immigration.   I know he spouted a bunch of stuff like:   "Just because we live in Canada, we know what's going on down there in the States" and he sounded like a lot of conservative talk radio hosts in his babble and talking points.   I felt like I was so close to turning around and walking back to him and his diatribe, but I saw the look on the faces of my companions, so I just got us all in the car and we took off.   It was a long while before we all felt normal again.
The stomping deer tracks...

"Did that just really happen?" I asked several times.    We never did get our lobster dinner.

We ended up driving through the rain, and stopped at Boston Pizza, a Canadian combination of Applebees and California Pizza Kitchen, and then we listened to a science fiction audio book deep into the night.   I finally was able to drive no further, and we pulled off the road at the same location where we had stopped and had dinner on our first day in Canada, two weeks ago!   It was an old logging trail, and we drove up and parked, set up our tent and fell fast asleep.   I vaguely remember hearing the alarm snorts of deer all around our tent in the night, but it wasn't enough to rouse me to do anything except turn over.   Coyotes also howled and yipped, to the same response.   In the morning, before everyone got up and packed, I checked the rough road for tracks and saw some great impressions of a deer stomping the ground in alarm, which was cool.

The second story was how we kept hearing on the radio news about Hurricane Irene, which was barreling up the coast and supposed to wipe out New England, and everyone was battening down the hatches, so we made good time through Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, the Border Crossing and into Maine.   Once in the USA, I felt an immediate difference in the culture, as we got gas at an exit near Baxter State Park.   Cars and SUVs with canoes and kayaks on top were all around us, heading back home, even though it was only Saturday, to escape the storm.   The store clerks basically ignored me as I shopped, and I knew I was back in America.    We got our gas and headed south.
The Hawk Circle Bridge, after Hurricane Irene, August, 2011

We drove through Maine but as we got closer to Boston, the traffic was just stopped.   We just inched along, so we took the first exit and headed down some back roads going anywhere west and south, trying to circumvent the traffic.   I don't know if it actually saved us time or not, but we saw a lot of run down mill towns in New Hampshire, and some that were nice and coming back, too.   Then we got on the Mass Pike and our speed improved.  

To make a long story short, it started raining and we saw utility truck after utility truck driving the other way, to begin making repairs I guess in anticipation of the storm.   So I just kept on driving, determined to make it home before it hit.    I don't really remember that last hour back past Albany, which is scary, but we made it, and got to sleep in our own beds, through the rain and wind and wild weather.

By noon, our bridge boards and timber framed railing had been washed away, as the sheer volume of water was so intense that what normally takes 36 to 48 hours of steady rain to make the creek rise to flood level happened in 12.    There was no way to cross.   The Schoharie Creek had flooded, and bridges were out all around us, to the south, east and even the north and west of us.   Her flight home to catch her trip to Vietnam had to be delayed by a day, but eventually, she made it home, safe and sound.   We rebuilt the bridge, sans railing, and life went on.   It was a climactic ending, literally, for our trip north.

(Editor's Note:   Sorry this last segment of my trip has taken so long to write and complete.   It has been a very, very busy and eventful year, and I promise I have a ton of new things to get out in the next week or two.   I hope you enjoyed reading about our adventures and our time in Newfoundland, too!)