Why not in Winter?

Fogo Island (Newfoundland).

January 2010.

After making a friend over on the other side of the island in St. John's, we wanted to hang out; even during the atrocious winters characteristic of Newfoundland.

It would be risky for her to come to Corner Brook or for me to go to St. John's, since a sudden snowstorm could make for a long day of driving; as the normally 7 hour trip could swell to 12 hours because of poor weather conditions.

We resolved to find something in the middle of the province and when I proposed Fogo Island, that was agreed upon.

I drove 3 hours to meet her in Gander on Friday night, before boarding the ferry to Fogo Island the next morning. You may remember that I've been on this ferry before, back when I went to the Change Islands in the summer of '09.

Fogo is the largest island off the Island of Newfoundland and 1 of the 7 islands which you can reach by coastal ferry in Newfoundland.

Fogo was one of the first Newfoundland geographic features marked on French maps - as Ile des Fogues, meaning Island of Fire; possibly because of the native Beothuk fires, which the European explorers spotted from sea.

The island was first settled in the 1750s by the Irish in the community of Tilting. There is some argument that the Tilting Irish Cemetery may be the oldest Irish cemetery in North America.

The actual community of Tilting will come later as there are actually eleven communities on the approximately 25km(15.5mi) by 14km(8.7mi) island.

We moved through Stag Harbour quickly and onto the village of Seldom - home to 1 of the 86 lighthouses in Newfoundland.

Within 10 minutes, I was seeing the #1 thing I wanted to see on Fogo Island, as I don't see many new lighthouses in the winter.

It's a boring, modern skeletal tower...but it's still one of the 86 that I have to see.

You probably can't understand my excitement to see Burnt Point Lighthouse.

Like scores of other Newfoundland lighthouse sites, Burnt Point has been the location of a light station for a very long time - in the case of Burnt Point (Seldom), since 1905.

The original lighthouse wasn't the most grand structure you've ever seen, but it was definitely superior.

Overall, it didn't bother me that much that there's now a modern skeletal tower; but I felt bad for the town because the original lighthouse is on the town signs and various mailboxes - and you always have to wonder why something couldn't have been done when a community has such pride in its lighthouse.

A church we passed along the way in Seldom Come By.

I actually forgot where this church was during this write-up and had to search Flickr. While determining it was in Seldom Come By, another thing I discovered was how much nicer it looked in 2010 (above) then it did in 2008.


Next up was a left turn and 4 kilometres (2.5mi) towards the villages of Deep Bay & Island Harbour. After getting used to driving & driving all over this province, it was neat to reach new places in no time at all.

We were enamored more so with Deep Bay and drove throughout the entire town. Along our way, I noticed an abandoned house and attempted to turn into a parking lot to take a picture - until the car started to dip into a ditch!

What happened was that you couldn't see the ditch because the snow was unmolested, so next to the bridge to the parking lot, was a ditch which I put the car in! Since I hate asking for help, I hurried out of the car and tried to push feverishly so that we could get away without embarrassment.

That didn't work.

The car was stuck enough that I wasn't pushing it anywhere...and sure enough a truck pulled up in about 10 seconds. "Needs some 'elp b'y?" he asked and I replied that I did. This man went back to his house for a tow rope, while another man pulled up to help.

After only 2 minutes, we were out of the ditch, the Deep Bay citizens were on their way after being thanked, and all was back to normal in Deep Bay. The residents did agree that they should do something about the ditch as you don't have any clue it's there in the winter.

Carefully, I now pulled into the parking lot, managing to safely navigate the bridge. Behind the abandoned building I noticed a staircase to a lookout over Deep Bay - the Kinden's Hill Lookout.

Going into this trip, my friend & I questioned what we would be able to hike in this, the height of winter.

We were pleasantly surprised. This trail was mostly stairs and rocks - i.e. there was nowhere for the snow to accumulate.

It was cold & breezy, but it was a great view of Deep Bay. After the help I received from residents, I was happy that I could take a flattering picture of their community.

We spent about 10 minutes atop Kinden's before moving along.

Now, you wouldn't believe how much Newfoundland shuts down when it's not tourist season. For this reason, we were concerned with finding somewhere to eat & made sure to eat at the first place we came across: the ChesterFried/Greco.

My chicken poutine ended up being fucking epic.

I had another chicken poutine the next day and I'd have another right now.

After lunch, we turned down Highway 334 towards Tilting.

As previously mentioned, Tilting was the first place settled on Fogo Island.

In addition to this history, Tilting is also attractive as many old structures still stand today - to the point where the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland & Labrador named the entire town as a Registered Historic District.

This is definitely one place which I regret having to experience in winter. Although I imagine there's some tourists in the summer, I would still love to be able to walk through Tilting casually on a warm summer's day.

The Brett House in Joe Batt's Arm.

Away from St. John's, I know of 4 stone churches in all of Newfoundland...so I was surprised to find one here on Fogo Island at Barr'd Island.

The Mercer Memorial United Church was built in memory of Reverend William S. Mercer in 1952. The church lost Reverend Mr. Mercer to a snowstorm in 1924.

Apparently the Anglicans tried to build a similar church at the same time but failed during construction. I wonder what ever happened with that site?

Anyway, it looked like there were some new churches being built while this one sat idle...so seeing this beautiful stone church did have some pitfalls with it - I really hope it sticks around.

Our last community to see, and the location of our lodgings, was the Town of Fogo.

Now in Fogo, I remembered an attraction from the Fogo Island website - Brimstone Head.

A large rock outcrop connected by a land strip to Fogo, on a peninsula into the Atlantic Ocean; it definitely looked like something interesting to climb - although I wasn't sure about it in the wintertime.

Deep Bay changed my perception on what was possible to hike in January; so I asked my friend if she was up for conquering Brimstone Head. She was all for it and I was nervous at first because our clothes were somewhat wet and we were worn down...this in addition to the rising wind speeds as we moved up the staircase rounding Brimstone Head (see above).

I'm not going to make it sound more epic than it actually was. It was a bit unnerving, but we eventually made it up top and we started to feel comfortable as our body temperatures rose with stairs stepped.

Away from being a neat geographic feature, Brimstone Head is also one of the four corners of the flat Earth!

I actually forgot about this until I saw this board at the top (the Flat Earth Society believes this is one of the four corners of the flat Earth).

Looking back towards the town...

By now it wasn't really late, but we had already exited the car for 3 (albeit small) hikes through snow and therefore, we were tired. Our clothes were wet from melt plus sweat and we were exhausted from trudging through snow - we were simply ready to kick it and relax.

After stopping at the convenience store in Fogo, we got the key for our accommodations and moved forward with some much needed relaxation and showers.

If you're wondering what we got for accommodations during the slowest of the slow season in obscure Newfoundland - we actually stayed at some decent efficiency units: a Newfoundland term for a small apartment style locale for short stays. Imagine a one bedroom apartment with a full-sized kitchen, bathroom and living room...and you have yourself an efficiency unit.

I was ready earlier in the morning, so I went for a walk around Fogo before my friend was ready to leave. Once she was ready, we went for another walk, simply taking the community in.

When I went back to edit these pictures, I noticed that I took very few (pictures) - a product of the frosty weather conditions perhaps?

Anyway, above you have the Anglican Church in Fogo and below you have the Chinese option in Fogo - Kwang Tung.

I was itching to try the Chinese, but I decided against it on Saturday night...I guess you can add it to my list of life regrets.

We still had an hour & a half before the ferry would come, so we decided to tackle one last trail.

As the Fogo Island website says, the Fogo Head Trail seems daunting at the start - with its view of 400 steps upward - but I begrudgingly accepted the challenge brought about by my friend's excitement.

I don't think I would have did this trail without my friend pushing me...and I don't think she would have hiked up it without me pushing her - so it was good to see us working together.

Climbing back down, we would drive to the wharf at the bottom of Fogo and eventually make it back to the Island of Newfoundland. While definitely not for everyone, if you keep an open mind, I think Fogo makes a fun experience even in the deepest depressions of winter.


1 - Fogo Island - Wikipedia

2 - Burnt Point Lighthouse - FogoIsland.net

3 - "Fogo Island: The Issues." Decks Awash 7 Vol. 4; August 1978

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