Day Eight: Mary’s Harbour

We set off in the bright sunshine this morning, knowing we had a long drive ahead. The first sign we saw as we turned on to the highway was one like this, a familiar sight on the Trans-Labrador Highway.

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Only today’s sign said it would be nearly 400 km to the next gas station.  Something to take seriously!

The first hour of the 6.5 hour drive on Highway 510 South was smooth and paved. We enjoyed it while it lasted. Suddenly we were back to gravel. Over the next few hours, the road got more narrow and there were sections with deep potholes.

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We saw this sign and decided to play a game to keep our minds off the road conditions. We looked ahead and every time we saw a shadow on the road or in a lake, we asked each other, “Is that a moose?”

When we began to climb a hill, I glanced up. “Is that…a moose?” It was. A moose had ventured out into the middle of the road and stood there as if posing for a photo. I did manage to get one before it headed back into the woods. My first ever moose sighting!

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We pulled off the road to stretch at one point and saw a couple of gray jays. Next thing we knew they were landing on the car antenna and on our open hands.

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And in my hair!

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About 1.5 hours from our destination, we came upon road work. And more road work. But as far as we could tell, all they were doing was grading the road.

As we drove through the construction area, suddenly we saw a strip of black in the left lane ahead. They were paving the road!

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And then it got even better…our lane was paved too. After almost 5 hours of bouncing along gravel, listening to the stones hit the car, and dealing with bone-jarring potholes, I wanted to leap out of the car and kiss the still warm pavement. To my partner’s relief, I resisted the temptation.

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We stopped at a lookout point and met some people from Niagara Falls. A friend with them was from the local area and they all recommended that we take a side trip to St. Lewis.

We’re glad we did. St. Lewis is a small fishing community along the Eastern coast.

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We climbed to the top of a hill to find this sign.

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And from there, we could see Newfoundland! In the photo below, look for the furthest island.

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Tonight we are in Mary’s Harbour where the biggest surprise of the day happened at supper. We discovered that the three people at the next table had just arrived by sailboat from Greenland…after trying to sail through the Northwest Passage!

Now that’s a story!

Day Seven: Happy Valley-Goose Bay

It’s been a day of contrasts. We started in Churchill Falls (elevation about 1440 ft above sea level) and tonight we’re in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, elevation 39 ft. Bit of a change!

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We could see it in the landscape along the way. The dark greens and bright yellows of black spruce and tamarack gave way to vivid oranges, reds and yellows of birch, poplar and low deciduous bushes. Steep rocky hills softened into flat sandy valleys as we followed the twists and turns of the Churchill River.

Unfortunately it poured rain all day so my photos were rain-streaked and taken from the car en route.

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With the changing terrain came a difference in wildlife. From road signs warning of caribou, suddenly there was a very large one cautioning about moose.

Still no sightings but in a hike on the Birch Island trail before supper, we did find moose tracks on the beach.

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The hike along the boardwalk through protected wetlands was a highlight of the day. We saw robins, an unexpected sight, and were treated to beautiful colours across Lake Melville and the Mealy Mountains. Lake Melville opens up to the Atlantic Ocean and is, therefore, tidal. The tide was receding when we were there.

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The boardwalk took us into woodlands, across the beach, and through wetlands.

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We had walked for about half an hour when suddenly, the boardwalk ended. Ended as in uncompleted. We had to turn around and walk all the way back again.

All part of the adventure, never knowing how things will turn out!

But this view was worth it!

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Tomorrow is a one of our longer days – about 6.5 hours. We will be heading southeast toward Mary’s Harbour. We’ve heard that a lot of that road is now paved, but not entirely, so we’ll see what awaits!

Day Six: Churchill Falls

Today was a lovely relaxed day. We picked up our satellite phone (available free to residents and visitors driving the Trans-Labrador Highway – there is no cell service and the communities are 300 km apart or more with nothing in between).  Then we hiked up to see Crystal Falls near Labrador City.

 

The start of the hike was hard to find – just a clearing in the woods and a steep path of boulders. We climbed and climbed until we realized we had somehow missed the (also unmarked) turn to the falls. After backtracking, we did find the path into the woods and it was worth the trek.

 

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The highway to Churchill Falls is well paved and we did see some vehicles from time but mostly it was just our car for as far as the eye could see in any direction.

We climbed hills, crossed bridges over immense lakes, passed bogs of tamarack, black spruce and low shrubs, and watched for caribou.

 

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We saw two otters playing in a lake and stopped for a photo. The wind was so strong, I couldn’t hold the camera still and I was nearly blown off my feet.

Just before arriving in Churchill Falls, we pulled over to take a photo of a large split rock.

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Then we noticed a road leading down further. We followed it and discovered a hiking trail that took us through the woods, clambering over fallen trees to a series of lookout points over the Churchill Falls.

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The community itself reminds me of Fermont, Quebec. It’s also a company town and includes a large building that houses the hotel, library, post office, swimming pool, school, and sportsplex. The houses are clustered not far from this central building. And for a good reason – it gets really cold here in the winter.  The school is only closed when the temperature reaches -50 C (-58 F). So if it’s -49C, kids still have to go to school!

When we checked in at the hotel, we were asked if we wanted to do “the tour” (the tour of the Churchill Falls generating station). As soon as I heard it involves going 90+ stories below ground, I was out.

Instead, the desk clerk told us of a steep gravel side road we could take down to a section of the Churchill River where the diverted water rejoins the river. The company has created a lovely recreational area with benches, a boat ramp and dock. That is where we watched the sun set tonight.

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And on the drive back up to town, an Arctic hare bounded across the road in front of us!

 

 

Day Five: Labrador City

This afternoon we arrived in Labrador.

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But let me back up bit.

It’s September 27th, and we had our first taste of…snow! It is cold and we were pretty high up but I thought it was rain blowing in sheets across the mountains. Wishful thinking!

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The next surprise was a spot where the road split into a divided highway with a grass-filled median, a sidewalk along one side, and openings for driveways…but no houses. In fact, no buildings at all.

This was the site of the former town of Gagnon. It was a bustling mining town of 4000 between 1959 and 1985. It had a school, churches, a hospital, stores, a mall, an arena, a curling rink, an airport and much more. And then the mine closed, all the jobs were lost, people moved away, and the entire town – all of the buildings – was demolished. All that is left now is a flag and three memorial plaques beside the river.

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It was a stark reminder that nothing is permanent.

When we reached Fire Lake, another mining area, the road changed from paved to the same slippery muddy clay we had experienced a few days earlier. This time I was whiteknuckling it as we curved up and down, across railway tracks (11 crossings on the same road!) and came way too close to washed-out ditches for my nerves.

I’m sure many of the truck drivers who saw us today were shaking their heads at the sight of a Mini navigating these roads!

I wasn’t prepared for the magnitude of the mines here. Photos do not capture the size, or the layer upon layer of tailings.

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We eventually made it to Fermont, another  community built around mining.

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The town of Fermont is known for The Wall. The Wall integrates shopping centres, apartments, schools, a library, cinema, daycare and a sportsplex so that people never have to go outside in the winter.

You have to look closely in this photo, but you can see the long line of red, brown and white building joined together to create a solid “wall”.

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And tonight we’re in Labrador City. We entered a new time zone when we crossed into this province (one hour ahead), and the language changed from French to English.

We headed out for a lovely walk around Tanya Lake, savouring the sunshine, although the wind was strong and cold.

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Tomorrow, Churchill Falls as we continue the journey north and east.

 

 

Day Four: Relais Gabriel

Today has been…interesting.

As we headed north from Baie Comeau to the Daniel-Johnson hydroelectric dam, the road was well paved with wide shoulders. We saw a number of logging trucks heading south (and they do move fast) but none came up behind us. In fact, there were very few vehicles on the road for most of our 4.5 hour drive.

We did watch for moose (none seen) and gas station signs, but what no one mentioned was the importance of stopping at the two or three port-a-potties randomly located at the side of the road. We didn’t stop…

The scenery was spectacular in spite of the heavy rain.

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When we arrived at the dam, we hoped for a tour but the season ends August 31. It’s the highest multiple arch and buttress dam in the world. It’s hard to convey the size in this photo which was taken from the road near the top of the dam. It is overwhelming.

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After that, the road deteriorated. No more pavement. Just sand, gravel and mud.

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For over 20 km the mud was about 4 inches thick, grabbing the wheels as we continually turned up and down steep hills. But our trusty Mini (and my trusty driver) handled it all like a pro.

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It was an isolated drive. There are signs for SOS phones periodically (and Bell telephone booths with a satellite phone when you get to the spot). There is no cell coverage at all.

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We did pass a rental van and trailer (carrying a car) in the ditch along the way. We stopped but no one was around so they must have been picked up. It was a sobering moment.

And now we’re at Relais Gabriel, a truck stop with rooms for the night, a small restaurant and a gas bar. And we’re watching American football in French, on the only tv channel.

We have another 4 hours to go to Labrador City tomorrow. Curious to see what that drive will be like 😁

Oh and did I mention we crossed the 51st parallel today?

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Day Two: Tadoussac

We arrived in Tadoussac late afternoon by ferry. It’s a free 10-minute ride across the Saguenay River. Apparently, you can sometimes see whales in the fjord near the ferry.

We didn’t but the scenery was picturesque.

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Before dinner, we followed a short hiking path that took us out to large rocks overlooking the St. Lawrence.

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And then wandered back through the town to find a restaurant for supper.

It’s a quaint community with a long history: a hotel that was originally built in the 1800’s, a chapel with a cemetery dating back to the same era, and a Protestant church built by pioneers. So many of the buildings are white clapboard with red trim.

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Near our B and B I saw several barns that were evidently very old. Oh, the stories they could tell!

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As we walked back to our B and B after supper, the full moon rose over the hills, casting an orange glow on the town below. The colour reminded me of the changing leaves we have been seeing along the way.

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I wonder what surprises tomorrow will bring.

Day One: Quebec City

Our next adventure has begun. We are on a road trip to Labrador and Newfoundland for the next month.

Day One found us in Quebec City. We’ve been here before, and have a few favourite haunts. We revisited part of the Old City, wandering along the cobblestone streets, and browsing the shops.

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Old Quebec is always a treat for the senses: colour, fragrance, tastes, sounds… Here are a few more photos to illustrate what I mean.

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Then we drove to the breathtaking Montmorency waterfalls.

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Spectacular, even if you don’t climb the many stairs to the various viewing platforms opposite the falls. The cliff face into which the stairs are anchored is sheer slate.

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It does make me wonder how stable it is! But hundreds of tourists climb up and down the stairs every day. If you’re really adventurous, you can even take a zipline across the falls!

 

Day Three: Baie Comeau

Oh what a day! We turned a two-hour drive into an all-day adventure by taking a few detours, planned and unplanned. And we’re glad we did!

As we left Tadoussac this morning, we chose a drive through the town that we thought would eventually link back to the highway. And we discovered…sand dunes. As far as the eye could see.

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We even found moose tracks as we explored the area. It turned out that the road was closed beyond a certain point (it became a bike path) so we had to backtrack a bit but the dunes were worth it.

Next stop was the Cap-de-Bon-Desir Interpretation and Observation Centre near Les Bergeronnes.

They have created an area among enormous flat rocks where you can sit for hours and watch whales surfacing and diving.

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And, yes, we saw whales! So close that you didn’t even need binoculars.

Awe-inspiring.

In another small community, we took a short hike through dunes and marshes to a long sand spit and saw…seals playing in the water! (I don’t have a photo of the seals but this is the bay).

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In addition, while we were there, a large flock of snow geese flew right over our heads.

Does it get any better than that? And this is only Day Three!

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Next we leave the St. Lawrence and turn north, on our way to Labrador City. We’ve been cautioned to watch for empty lumber trucks speeding along and moose crossing the road. And so we will.

The adventure continues!

Reconnecting

Today I unpacked some beloved friends – from childhood and from adulthood. Well worn and well loved.

Treasured books.

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They have been buried in boxes for several months while we navigated a move. I have felt bereft and lonely without them. Today I freed them from the confines of the closet and introduced them to their new surroundings.

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Simultaneously I am reading Marie Kondo’s book, “The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up”. So, as she suggests, I spread all my books out in front of me and picked up one at a time. I asked myself her simple question, “Does this book spark joy?”

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I kept the ones that ignited a feeling of joy. The others I set aside to give away so that they will bring joy to someone else.

My bookshelves are emptier now yet filled with books that make me smile.

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And there are five fewer boxes in the closet! Bonus! 😊

 

What a Beautiful Morning!

IMG_20180805_084205.jpgOh what a beautiful morning! I woke up to the best possible news…a child has been born. My child’s child. My grandson.

The birth of any child is a miracle. When it is within your own family, your heart expands even wider with love to welcome this newest member into the fold.

Such joy! And heartfelt thanks for the safe and healthy delivery of this precious being into the world.

And so today, I offer this blessing to my new grandchild, and all other children in the world.

“May joy and peace surround you,

Contentment latch your door,

And happiness be with you now,

And bless you ever more.”

(Irish blessing)