Thursday, June 27, 2024

Newfoundland Part 1 - In the footsteps of John Smith & Sandy Banks


We've been in Newfoundland for almost 2 weeks now and I'm pleased to say that it's exceeding my expectations...   which were fairly high.

What a great place!    And such great people.

Speaking of great people - I've named this post about being in the footsteps of two of them...

Our friends Dave and Linda who seemed to always be two steps ahead of us.

When we went to Alaska for the first time, Dave and Linda had been there a year or two earlier and documented it in their blog.    Their blog formed a solid foundation for me to research places to go and things to see.

Then fast forward to now - they had been to the Maritimes several years ago, and again it was just before our first trip up this way.    We never made it to Newfoundland that time because our friends from Switzerland arrived in Miami and said to come on down....  which we did.     

But in planning for this trip, one of my first places to go was back to their blog.   They really seem to squeeze every bit of scenery, history, and people out of their visits to a place - so it's always been a great resource.     I'll never see as much as they manage to do in just one pass, but we can keep coming back to try and even the score.

Thanks you two, for paving the way so many times for us.

Getting off the ferry dumped us onto the beach at about 0400....  way to early to drive the 4 hrs or so to our next stop so we decided to drive about 12 miles to a great parking area next to the highway and take a nap till about 0930.   (Dave and Linda stayed here - sort of like "Geo Washington Slept Here")

The ocean on one side - and tall mountains on the other.

2 busses ready to go

Around 10am we were motoring north, following Rob & Pat

Our home for 6 nights was the Berry Hill Campground in Gros Morne National Park.    We had large boondocking sites, but it was a tight squeeze to get into.   Once settled we had a huge backyard.

My Starlink continues to work like a charm, even in the trees.   The best addition to my travel items since my Lithium batteries.

An interesting place in Gros Morne is "The Tablelands".  Its a place where the Mantle of the earth has been uplifted by the collision of two of the earths plates.   The 500 million year old rock is so high in metal content that it lacks the nutrients to sustain plant life.    High in Iron Content it appears orange due to rusting, but below the weathered surface the rock is really a dark green.

Only about 10 miles as the pig flies from our campground, due to all the long Fjords in the park, it was about a 90 minute drive to get there.

Gros Morne Scenery

Locals both here and in Nova Scotia refer to Newfoundland as "The Rock".   This is undoubtedly due to the rocky nature of the place.    I'd guess that is why Newfoundlanders have taken to painting their houses in such vibrant and varied colors.   The numerous grey days are brightened by all the colorful villages.

Another oddity here are the many houses with door off of the ground with no stairs.   One said that it was the "mother-in-law door".    Another said it was the door that you show unwelcome guests...    Either they won't come in, or if they are leaving, they won't come back.

One explanation was that when Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949, the national building codes required 2 doors but many homes only had one.    So a second door was created, but since the codes did not state that stairs to the door were required.....

Many, but not all,  utility poles all over the province are reinforced by these wooden cribs filled with rocks.    I'm assuming it due to the heavy freeze thaw cycles and ground heaving.  Since a nearby pole might not have a crib I assume its a localized condition.

We also notice some billboards and road signs with the same type of cribs.

While on this side of the island we wanted to go north to see the sights and visit  L' Anse aux Meadows.    A Canadian Historic Site, it is the only undisputed Pre-Columbian site of European contact in the "new world".   Dated to be over 1,000 years old it is thought that it might be where Leif Erickson and the Vikings arrived here - long before Columbus.

Since it was about 4.5hrs each way we decided to spend the night up there and return back the next.

The drove north is mostly along the coast and we were treated to hours of changing seascapes and small villages.

Views along the Newfoundland coast heading north

Newfoundlands use a lot of wood to heat their homes during the winter.   All over we would see large stashes of cut wood.   No one worries about it disappearing.

At L'Anse aux Meadows we were able to visit inside one of the recreated sod houses.   They had a small propane fire bowl going inside and the place was quite warm and confortable.

You can see the peat moss blocks used for the construction.   There is an abundance of peat here and it make for a great building material and provides good insulation.

The park employess even let the dogs take the full tour inside the huts.

You can see the grass roofs of the dwellings in the left center of the picture below.

One of the reasons to come up to Newfoundland is to see icebergs.     April thru June is the best time.   Unfortunately all the locals are telling us that this is the poorest that they've ever seen but we were still fortunate to see about 5 of them while we were up north on the peninsula.

Iceberg in St Anthony Harbor

We spent the night in a small lodge along the highway.   It was certainly nothing fancy but it was clean, quiet, and the water in the shower was plentiful and warm.    An added bonus was that the next morning our host Lyndon made us hot breakfast with all the fixins including twin yolk eggs.

Pat, Kate, and the pups in front of one of the many colorfully painted buildings.

And more scenic views on the drive south the next day.

If a cove is named "Nameless Cove" can it really be called "Nameless Cove"?

Nameless Cove Turnoff

On the way south we made a quick side trip to Port au Choix National Historic Site.   The museum here tells the story of over 5000 years of human habitation in this area.

It is also a stop for the Caribou on their migrations north and south

Santas Reindeer - lost in Newfoundland

This is our trip map in Newfoundland up to here.    The blue line shows our travels from the ferry to Berry Hill Campground, and onward to the northern tip of the island at L'Anse aux Meadows.

Our travels on the Newfoundland West Coast

Arriving back at camp we had a few hours to regroup, feed the dogs, then it was off to our 830pm "Anchors Aweigh Show" at the Ocean View Hotel in Rocky Harbor

Anchors Aweigh Show

It was a really fun time.   The musicians were quite good, and the music was a lively mix of local and Irish sounding tunes interspersed with some home-spun humor and audience participation songs.

Below is a short video of one of the audience participation songs.

We did not reserve a table and were at the rear of the room.   The good about that was the door to the patio was just behind me so I was able to step outside during a break and see the sun setting.

Right next to our campsite was the trailhead for the Gull Pond hike.    It was a nice hour or so hike around the pond thru some mixed forest.

Leaving the campground one day we had a young Moose walking in the road in front of us.

We visited the nearby Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse.   Inside the lightkeepers house, interpretive panels told all about the daily life of the keeper and his family.   William Young became tbe 2nd lightkeeper in 1902 and was succeeded by his son George in 1941 who remained the lightkeeper until it was automated in 1970

On the day of our visit, one of the Young family descendants had just left after searching for some family photos in a closed archive storehouse.    Due to that, the keeper of the locks was there and allowed me to take a peek as some of the stuff inside that is not normally seen by the public.

Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse

View from the lighthouse.

Inside the lightkeepers house

A particularly interesting story concerns the wreck of the SS Ethie.   Caught in a raging winter storm in December 1919, covered with ice and sinking, the Captain decided to run it around and try to save the passengers.

One of the passengers was a young infant named Hilda Batten.    When a line was rigged to shore and passengers were transported to shore on a bosun's chair, young Hilda was placed inside a mailbag and sent to shore inside of it.  That mailbag was kept by her mother and donated to the lighthouse museum decades after.

Mail Sack that transported young Hilda Batten

Well I had planned on bringing you up to date with this post but....  

After Gros Morne we've moved on to Twillingate, and then to Musgrave Harbor where we are now.  

There is so much to tell about each place, the blog would just be too long.  Perhaps in a day or two I'll send out another post with our further adventures.

Let me just say that Twillingate will definitely be one of the highlights of our trip - but again - that will be for the next post.

From Musgrave Harbor Newfoundland....

For now.


  1. Linda Hatcher aka John Smith and Sandy BanksJune 27, 2024 at 12:00 PM

    Don’t worry about the blog being too long! I want all of the details. Those not interested can certainly scroll on by, lol. Reading this brings back soooo many delightful memories!!!

  2. Newfoundland sounds amazing. Love following your travels x

  3. sounds amazing safe travels

  4. And the reason I love your blogs - is to use them for planning my future trips. Might even tap into John and Sandy's as well for the 'real' insider information.


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