Colorful trails through Canada
Vail CO, Colorado
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of travel stories from Edwards resident Dennis Jones about his journey through Canada. Jones is a professional photographer. View more of his work at http://www.dreamcatcherimaging.com.
“So, are you going to get screeched?” asks the stunningly beautiful, green-eyed, blonde counter agent as she hands me my boarding pass. Both of us give blank looks. “Yes,” she laughs, “you get screeched and then you have to kiss a cod!”
So begins our introduction to the very unique Canadian province of Newfoundland. We are at the airport in Halifax, Nova Scotia, awaiting our flight to North America’s eastern-most city.
Yolanda and I left the promise of beautiful, land-locked Colorado fall for a month experiencing autumn along the rugged, North Atlantic cliffs of Newfoundland and the tiny fishing villages of Nova Scotia.
We arrived in St. John’s, the capitol and the oldest city in Canada, on an overcast, blustery mid-September afternoon. Surprisingly, we find a city that is a riot of color instead of the staid conservatism we expected from the “windiest, cloudiest, stormiest, foggiest, wettest, snowiest” city in Canada. Each of the neat, two-story,19th century houses lining St. John’s hilly streets is painted a different color.
We reserved a bed-and-breakfast in Pouch Cove (pronounced “pooch”), a small village tucked into the base of a large, rocky cove opening east onto the North Atlantic.
“First to see the sun,” is its motto.
Earlier in the summer, whales and icebergs would have been a common sight. Points East Guesthouse is a 100-year-old fisherman’s house. It is perched 100 feet above the crashing surf. Like its owner, it has its eccentricities.
The stairs are narrow and list to leeward. Our upstairs bedroom looks to the sea ” a spectacular view. Its door though is very odd; four inches shorter than my six feet and with a door handle eight inches lower. It was likely a bedroom for seven or eight of the dozen children that originally lived here along with granny and the parents.
Elke, our host, hails from Germany via UC-Berkeley. She stayed on after finishing her Ph.D. in Folklore, in St. John’s, to raise a thriving family of goats, chickens, dogs and cats.
The gentle crashing of the surf wakes us on our first morning. The promise of hiking the extreme northern portion of Newfoundland’s East Coast Trail beckons us.
The East Coast Trail is a 240-mile world class system running the length of the eastern Avalon Peninsula. It winds along spectacular rocky headlands, through parks and preserves, passes historic lighthouses, the graves of numerous ships and charts the five hundred year history of this unforgiving coast.
The small section we hike today offers only a tantalizing morsel of what exists further south. The trail is very well marked and maintained. It runs along extremely rugged cliffs, the grave of the Waterwitch, an 1875 schooner that ran aground with all hands lost, and climbs to rocky outcrops with panoramic views of the coast and cove.
Further on lies the site of a World War II American observation post. German U-boats plied these waters, sinking many a merchant vessel. We Americans played an important role protecting the shipping in these waters.
The trail climbs through miniature boreal forests of spruce and fir growing amidst a carpet of blueberries. We pick them as we hike and meet not a soul on the trail.
The trail reaches Cape St. Francis and turns south along the west coast and into Conception Bay. We don’t make it that far today, but the section we do hike offers a glimpse of what lies further on.
The locals created a confederation of bed-and-breakfasts to help hikers explore the trail. They will pick you up at the airport, drop you at points along the trail that allow you to hike a stretch and end up with a hot meal and warm bed in a different bed-and-breakfast each night. Information can be found about this service at http://www.trailconnections.ca.
Oh yes, about getting screeched. Screech is a local concoction of high octane rums.
There is actually a ceremony performed in which you become a true Newfoundlander. And yes, you do have to kiss a cod. After a session of getting screeched, I doubt you would even know whether it was a cod or your wife you were kissing.
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