Southern Labrador 2010
Red Bay & West St. Modeste, NL + Bonne Esperance, QC (Map)
The drive from Corner Brook to the St. Barbe ferry terminal is only 350km (~225mi), but the Friday afternoon ferry departs so early, that you would need to leave Corner Brook in the morning. Since I had to work this Friday, this was impossible & we made plans to catch the 8 a.m. Saturday morning boat.
I already knew that the motel in St. Barbe was $120/night, so we brought the tent to attain a better night's sleep than we would get in the seats of Nicole's small car.
Pulling into St. Barbe at dusk, I suggested camping behind the arena as it was out of sight from the main road & there were only a few houses who could see the tent. I figured that the homeowners could care less about two people who went to sleep within an hour of pulling their car into St. Barbe.
It might also have a bit to do with how much of an arena dork I am.
It worried me a bit that the arena doors were open & I half expected someone to show up during the night or in the morning.
No one ever came & I helped myself to a look around the arena while Nicole packed up the tent.
I'm still confused as to why the doors were open when it didn't seem abandoned; only that it was used for storage.
We eventually made our way over to Labrador via the 75 minute boat ride.
Off the boat, it wasn't long before I pulled the car over at the sight of this guy. I hadn't seen any groundhogs during my previous Southern Labrador trip & actually didn't even realize they were up here.
The ferry crosses early enough that I was still tired & groggy as we drove north along the coast. Add in the fact that I've seen these communities before, and you get an accurate picture of my attentiveness.
That had to add to my shock when I turned the last corner near West St. Modeste and spotted a giant iceberg very close to the shore. I had heard about the large iceberg that our Governor General Michaëlle Jean had seen during her northern visit the day before, but never realized they could move that fast. In addition, this was August! This wasn't the iceberg season! There wasn't a molecule in my body that expected to see an iceberg along this coast, and that's why it came as such a shock.
After another minute of driving, we were at our destination in West St. Modeste.
With an island lighthouse & my recent success with that type of thing, I drove the car down to the old fish plant & hoped to find some weathered soul willing to help.
Once down there, I only found a flock of Herring Gulls & a single Black-Backed Gull.
We walked to the end of the wharf & Nicole laughed at how close the island was. At approximately 150 feet away, she remarked how easy it would be to swim across - if only it weren't for the 40° water.
I was really hoping for a fisherman to be around for a quick & easy pop over to the island, but instead I was forced to walk into town or go home. I really wanted to just leave, but forced myself to talk to some people.
I found three men half-working on a house & half-bullshitting in their front yard. I was still close to the wharf & figured these guys would be good to ask - I knew it would be a hassle, but it's not like the lighthouse is 5km away. The one man who engaged me in conversation didn't seem very interested in giving me a lift & said that he'd only be able to later in the day. This actually worked out as we were going to go up to Red Bay & could easily return in the afternoon - but unfortunately, I soon realized that I think he was simply trying to get rid of me.
We stood around awkwardly for a few moments until he begrudgingly told me about a guy up the road, who had taken out a random Australian just a few hours previously.
I'm still confused as to why he didn't just send us to this other guy in the first place...
I'm really bad with names, but thankfully when we knocked on the described house, we found a man who fit the description. I was willing to come back in the afternoon, but he was very accommodating & insisted that we could boat right now or we could boat later - whatever worked for us!
I was happy to get this one done while it wasn't raining or storming - so since he had no problem with it, the three of us went over to his fishing stage and climbed down to his boat.
I assume we had to have been on the water at low tide, since we moved through the town cove with careful precision. The West St. Modestian avoided the rocks with his paddle and dipped the engine partially into the water as it wasn't deep enough until we escaped the town cove.
I could feel the man's aggravation when I told him that I'd like to actually get on the island as it doesn't count otherwise...and again I appreciated his resolve as he said he could make it happen. I couldn't believe how much this guy was going out of his way to help some random strangers do something simply for fun.
I was set on getting out of the boat quickly and I snatched Nicole out just as quick - allowing the West St. Modestian to get away from the rocks with very little boat scraping.
I wanted to hurry and see the 1956 lighthouse as to not inconvenience this man any more, but he told us to take our time by asking us what the difference was between him waiting 5 minutes and 20 minutes.
There was only one typical life preserver available, forcing me to adopt the full body suit.
I was amused with my full body suit and I was very happy that it was man-sized and not Nicole-sized.
The number of birds on the island was incredible & you could tell that not many mammals make it here, as they didn't seem amused with us forcing them to fly away.
Thankfully they didn't dive bomb us.
You might have noticed the iceberg again in some of the lighthouse shots. After making our way smoothly into the boat, the friendly boatman asked if we'd like to see the iceberg up close and started around the oceanside (as opposed to the wharf side) of St. Modeste Island.
Almost instantly, without the protection of the island, the waves were larger and we were tumbling around a heck of a lot more. I tried to appreciate the oceanside view of the lighthouse - a view which very few non-Labradoreans get to witness - but I was also concerned with our small boat in these tumultuous waters.
I calmed myself down a lot by reassuring myself that the West St. Modestian knew what he was doing & that this wasn't all that bad in terms of weather.
While I was mostly interested in the lighthouse, Nicole was mostly interested in both the lighthouse and the iceberg. As we made our way over, I have to admit that it was damn impressive & worth coming over for - I was suddenly glad that she wanted to go over and see the house-sized iceberg.
We returned to the dock, thanked our West St. Modestian & continued north for another 40km up to Red Bay; the home to Saddle Island, and another lighthouse.
Thankfully Saddle Island was even easier to reach, as Red Bay is a National Historic Site & there is an organized ferry on the hour.
Unfortunately, I wasn't sure if this actually counted as a lighthouse...and when I got home, I checked some of my resource websites & discovered it wasn't. Sigh. The general rule is that it is only a lighthouse if you can stand up inside.
A picture of the 1906 lighthouse is available. It was replaced with the above skeleton tower at some undisclosed time.
I still sort of enjoy skeleton towers as long as they aren't that hard to reach. With that in mind, since it was easy to get to Saddle Island & since we would have been in Red Bay so Nicole could see the town anyway - it really wasn't that big of deal that it didn't count for a lighthouse; more of an annoyance that we wouldn't be able to increment our lighthouse number by 1.
In addition, Saddle Island ended up being worthwhile on its own as we had an interesting little guidebook which told us what all the building foundations were. You see, there was a Basque0 whaling station here in the 16th century & Parks Canada has did a good job identifying the purposes of all the buildings and making an interesting hike.
The wreck of the Bernier also sits by the shore of Saddle Island and it makes for interesting scenery as well.
Continuing on the island's path, we passed the Basque cemetery, passed more confused and annoyed seagulls, and eventually rounded back towards the island's wharf.
We sat around for a bit before the ferry returned us to the mainland.
Back into Red Bay, I was surprised to find the convenience store from my last update still standing; but as I was admiring that, I remembered the Red Bay Airport (think airstrip) which was right behind the convenience store.
This airport was actually privately constructed, giving it some uniqueness. I thought maybe it would be abandoned after all these years, but the hangar just needed some paint.
We returned south through Labrador & into Quebec. Stopping at a dépanneur (convenience store) I was excited to check out their beer selection, ever since it occurred to me that I would actually be able to get 40s here - since I was in Quebec!
(This realization only came to me, after Nicole told me about how she brought her 40oz-loving roommate a bunch of 40s back from Quebec, when she was briefly in Blanc Sablon earlier in the year.)
Unfortunately, Labatt Bleue & Budweiser 40s don't really excite me and I actually ended up getting some strange French 12oz bottles instead.
We weren't sure where exactly we were going to camp in this land without campgrounds, but we did know that we wanted to spend the night in Quebec.
We scouted the shore just past Blanc Sablon, but before the next community of Bradore. We found a spot beyond a small crest in the land, which meant we were out of view from the town of Bradore. In addition, a dirt road let us park the car, hidden all of 10 feet away.
After we had set up our accommodations, the temperatures quickly grew too cold for Nicole; but I stayed outside the tent as I was enjoying the sunset and the ambiance. The Ephemere Apple beers I had purchased were less than ideal, but at least now I can say that I know what a skunky "Mouth-watering bouquet of Granny Smith apples, nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon" beer tastes like.
The quality of the beer didn't matter much and it didn't bring down my mood; a mood which was even higher while laughing at a groundhog which was hanging out & keeping an eye on me. With these cold temperatures, I doubt Mr. Groundhog sees that many campers in his backyard.
The darkness would eventually come and the only light was the moon and a buoy out in the Bradore harbour. I finished up another Ephemere Apple as I remarked how incredible it was, that this little buoy light could navigate mariners into the Bradore harbour.
Eventually I found my way into the tent.
The next morning we had enough time to enjoy the drive down Quebec's highway, instead of the rush which I had last time.
We stopped at the Bradore Falls which I wanted to on my earlier trip; happy to get a picture, even with overcast skies.
Continuing through Middle Bay (a place which I had already visited), it was on to new land in the form of Riviere-St-Paul.
I liked the look of their Siberian looking church & once I saw the building it was housed in, I had to get something in their General Store as well.
I believe the road turned to gravel after Middle Bay, but we were both confused when we hit paved road again in Vieux-Fort.
Vieux-Fort is at the end of Quebec Route 138 and that's why we didn't expect to hit any more pavement once the gravel started. The funny thing is that the paved road was in worse shape than the gravel road! It seems someone made some friends in Vieux-Fort by paving the road, but has since let it deteriorate.
I was excited because I thought I had driven all of a Quebec Highway, but apparently this Q-138 continues in Natashquan - the community where the road starts again after 300km of isolated fishing villages. From there, Quebec-138 continues until its western terminus in Constable, NY.
I definitely haven't driven all of Quebec-138.
Vieux Fort was a sizable town & we were meticulous in making sure we drove on every street there.
In the above picture, you can see what I called Fort Mac Street; as I don't think the modest shrimp fishery buys these types of mcmansions.
We returned to Blanc Sablon & still had time left over.
Since my only trip to the Point Amour lighthouse was in the rain, fog & heavy winds, I decided we should check it out on this fine day - which had went from overcast to sunny, as we drove back from Vieux Fort, Quebec.
Another groundhog greeted us at Point Amour.
How did I not see one on my first trip to Southern Labrador?
Of course when you to go Point Amour at times besides 7am, they typically have the lighthouse open & you can walk up to the lantern room!
The view from Canada's 2nd tallest lighthouse was magnificent & I suddenly appreciated having the sunny weather at this moment in the weekend.
We watched some whales breaching out in the Strait of Belle Isle, listened to the informative student lightkeeper & admired the light.
Eventually it was time go spiral back down the stairs, towards the car & back onto that ferry to Newfoundland.
1 - Unibroue.com - Ephemere Apple
2 - TourismLowerNorthShore - Old Fort Bay
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