Personal Best: Dispatches from The Rock

Seniors columnist writes on her travels in Newfoundland.

I’m on the rock. The northernmost part of Newfoundland is a long peninsula on the west side of the island populated mostly by descendants of the Irish-English fishermen that came to fish the cod, but stayed to live on the wild coasts in bays, bights and coves raising their families and sustaining them through many hard times by sheer will power, hard work and determination.

We visited L’anse Aux Meadows last Sunday, an archeological site almost at the tip of the Northern Peninsula where Vikings first came in the ninth century, long before Columbus showed up to discover America. They came mostly to cut timber for their tree-deprived settlements in Iceland and Greenland and to secure iron for their tools. They stayed only 10 years but left indisputable evidence of their brief occupation and this settlement has been declared a World Historic Site and is beautifully preserved.

This environment in the north is amazing and reminds me of Alaska with stunted black spruce stands in abundance, replaced by bog, ponds and rock as we travel the roads, the sea appearing and disappearing as we climb up the steep cliffs and back down into numerous ports, once separated but now joined by this ribbon of gravel, dirt and pavement.

Brightly painted fishing boats line the small local harbours, the crab and lobster pots lined up and ready for the next season. One of the fishing villages we visited on the north east tip of the peninsula was Conche. First settled by renegade French sailors, it is now populated by mostly Irish-Catholics and is a tight, close community with frequent social gatherings. In the spring, ice bergs float in the harbour and sometimes you can hear whales at night according to the residents.

While on the Northern Peninsula we stayed at a lodge located on a large forested strip of land between the shores of a small lake and a deep bay of the ocean. The big main two-storey building was constructed of polished pine logs with long verandas and bay windows and attached annexes.

The dining room and kitchen were located in this building as well as a massive sitting room with the proverbial large stone fireplace. A polar bear skin overlooked the tourists dining while a caribou head on the opposite wall kept it company.

Close by, an additional large pine building also provided luxurious sleeping accommodations, with several other small buildings scattered about this forest- surrounded settlement.

It was a fabulous setting on the side of a hill that gradually sloped to the lake where the sound of loons calling echoed in the early morning and at dusk. It doesn’t get better than this folks!

Tuesday we started back down the peninsula to Corner Brook, the only large town on the west side of Newfoundland, to stay in a house on the side of a mountain for the remainder of the trip before we leave on Saturday for Toronto. Early this evening we are going on a fishing boat to look for whales, seabirds and whatever else we can find while we listen to Newfie jigs, reels and incredible stories.

My time away in the east is almost over and I fly home to Vernon next week. It has been a wonderful trip and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world, but there is something about coming home that is so heart-comforting and I can hardly wait to round that last curve on the road from Kelowna to see the distant Monashee Mountains marching by and view my beloved hometown of Vernon.

If you have any comments or questions for Pat Black, The Morning Star’s seniors columnist, you can reach her by e-mail: blackmail1@telus.net.