|La Poile, 2012|
La Poile Bay, Newfoundland (Map)
It was some forgettable weekday when my phone suddenly rang. Seeing as I never get phone calls, I confusedly answered.
My friend Johan was on the other line & wondering if I was going to be around Newfoundland in a few weekends time. Of course I was going to be and so, plans were made to return to the South Coast outport of La Poile.
Johan initially planned to come back in September 2011 for the outport's first wedding in 5 years - an event which I wouldn't have missed. Unfortunately those plans fell through. Left in a position with not enough pictures for his photographic work, a flight was booked & a return trip to La Poile was planned for 2012.
Last year, after camping behind the local school for a few days, a sign against camping behind the local school appeared overnight.
Respecting the school keeper's wishes, we walked through the entire community, finally past the church, past the cemetery & to a flat-enough, boggy spot midway between the cemetery & the garbage incinerator.
I can't lie here, I was looking forward to hanging out with Johan, but I wasn't overly looking forward to La Poile. There is only so much to the town & there is only so much that goes on. There's truly only excitement first thing in the morning, when the ferry arrives & then in the evening.
I had spent a full day here with Johan before & while it was pretty good, I wondered if this time it would be the same-old, same-old, and whether I would grow restless throughout the day.
That was tomorrow's concern though.
Tonight La Poile was starting out really well, in that Johan knew one of the guys on the boat. He had met Curley on one of his previous trips & struck up conversation. We were invited to his fishing stage for drinks, which we gladly followed through on after we set up our tent & sleeping mats.
I had never had this before. I have a hard enough time making townie friends in Corner Brook, let alone out-the-bay friends away from
Rum & beers in hand and within rain jackets, we walked the ATV pathways of the town until turning left onto the one which leads down to the town wharf. Cutting alongside a different stage, there was a footbridge of tightly-spaced, pop can-girth logs; which elevated us above the slippery rocks, starfish & detritus below. Watching my head on the door, I popped into the stage & was instantly enamored with the signed posters from Canada-wide talent - a product of ole' Curley having been to such working-class places as Fort St. John.
Johan took pictures while I inspected the names on the wall. Not just the posters either (har, har), but also the graffiti all along the supporting 2x4s. I would peer out the window for a bit too, as Curley has himself a nice piece of real estate. Boats surrounded the place & I don't know if there's a more centralized fishing stage. It was a drizzly, dreary night outside and as I walked along the weathered floorboards & heard the rain against the window, the atmosphere was fantastic.
It wasn't all atmospheric assessment though, as eventually the fireplace was fired up & we sat passing the rum around. I eventually almost got myself in trouble with Johan's superior drinking ability, but thankfully Curley called it an early night & I was saved by the bell.
Instead of drizzle it was now raining as we made our way over to the other end of town where our tent was located. The rain would increase over the night & I woke up several times from the wind/rain noise on the tent...and then the fact that there was a inch of water to my right.
I guess that's camping along the southern coast of Newfoundland atmosphere for me.
After much needed breakfast the next morning, we went for a walk through town. There wasn't much that had changed in a year & I wondered how much would change in a decade.
The weather wasn't the greatest this morning & since we had all day, we decided to walk back towards our campsite to read/nap inside the town church.
Noticing a Yellow Warbler in the bushes just outside the building, Johan went ahead as I stalked the bird for 10-15 minutes.
Eventually going inside the church, I managed to read for a half-hour before eventually deciding on a nap as well.
Slow pace, eh?
Well that was all going to change since Curley invited us out in the boat for the afternoon!
Having been in a boat in nearby Burgeo where the guys thought it was funny to go as fast and as dangerously over the waves as possible (finding it amusing how much the mainlanders were uncomfortable), I wasn't exactly looking forward to this boat ride as this is what I envisioned was ahead.
Speeding out of the La Poile harbour, I was a bit nervous, but we were already going slower than I had been in many other boats.
This wasn't going to be like those other uncomfortable, unenjoyable boat rides.
This was going to be sweet.
We set out to explore La Poile Bay today, heading north once we exited the La Poile Harbour into the much larger La Poile Bay.
We rounded Tooth Head & passed Kennedy Point, coming upon Cow Beach. Before I knew that we were going out in a boat today, I had examined the topographic maps for the area and saw that the hydro line went from the town of La Poile to this Cow Beach. Seeing this, I had planned on hiking the 2km for something to do during my quiet day.
How much easier it was to reach by boat!
I chuckled to myself at the sight of Cow Beach as well, for it looks like it may be sandy in the (admittedly poor) satellite view on Google Maps, but when we passed it we found a steep beach entirely made of rocks. Burgeo this was not.
Anyway, this isn't even Cow Beach. After passing Cow Beach, we passed Cow Head and the handful of buildings built on the flat grasses in its shadow.
There was a tiny channel here which Curley explained you could use to get into Barasway Pond at middle or high tide. Standing up & examining the depth of water before us, he decided it was alright & we carefully crept above the visible ocean floor. Motoring against the visibly strong current, there were a few seconds of boat scraping, but eventually we sped into Barasway Pond.
Curley showed us where they ski-doo from La Poile & across Barasway Pond in the winter, and I tried in vain to photograph a yellowlegs wading about the inundated grasses. We stalled in place for a few minutes, before making our way back out of that tiny channel, which involved pulling up the motor and letting the current pull us through.
Going further north into La Poile Bay, we navigated into Broad Cove as Curley showed us the town swimming spot (a set of waterfalls about 50 feet up the hill). He also explained that this was the best beach to come and pick snails.
Now I almost missed what Curley was saying because of his accent, but Johan understood & seeing as Johan is Scottish, he was really excited about the picking of snails. Apparently they have pickled snails in Scottish pubs and conversely, the idea of pickling snails & having pickled snails at drinking establishments excited Curley very much.
I comically felt very out of place during the whole conversation. The oceanic people had bonded over snails.
Moving northwest out of Broad Cove, Vineyard Island was ahead of us and we charted to its right. Noticing a bald eagle on the island, we were ready for pictures, but the eagle flew away before we were even remotely close.
I also think it was around here that Curley slowed down & stopped at a random spot, confusing both Johan & I. He then pointed at the water & we watched as you could just barely make out a rock during the wave troughs - impressive and scary stuff when you think about anyone in uncharted waters. This made me think of sea kayaking, where you'd be kayaking your face off around this cape of land, trying to get past these steep cliffs, then suddenly you'd hear your kayak scrape along some mystery rock. Eeek.
After Vineyard Island, the coastal features disappeared as there was only steep cliffs on both sides guiding us further into La Poile Bay. We veered west into North Bay once at the fork, moving at a good pace through this now tighter, and consequently more impressive, steep-sided channel of a bay.
We pushed upwards into North Bay, towards the community of the same name. The La Poile River empties out into North Bay here, forming a gorgeous, scenic river delta of sandbars and water channels.
We navigated up one of the delta rivulets until we were 'close enough' to North Bay. Curley didn't have plans for us to stop here, so once we started to get into really shallow water, we reversed our movement.
For how much time I spend looking at maps & studying the history of Newfoundland, I never even knew this place existed. There are many former communities along this coast, but I had thought the isolation & the small town size would have resulted in very little being left behind today.
People here in North Bay started leaving even earlier than resettled communities. In this hamlet where the population never grew above 80, the last year-round resident left in 1968. The reason it survives today is that it transformed into a cabin community, where all of the old saltbox homes were eventually torn down, replaced with the cabins people use today.
Apparently there is a salmon fishing lodge which still operates here. This tells me that I need to be more on my game, as I should know about these places & visit simply to take pictures, no fish.
We returned to whence we came, exiting North Bay back into La Poile Bay. Rounding North Bay Point & Dolman Head, we went into the smaller Northeast Arm - seemingly working on a circumnavigation of La Poile Bay.
We started sweating in North Bay & by now, we had taken off our rain slickers and we were in t-shirts. The sun was coming out to bless our already fantastic day.
We actually docked & got out of the boat in Northeast Arm, as we were over here to visit a La Poile resident who had went to his cabin for the weekend.
I thought it a bit peculiar to have a cabin when you have such a quiet village normally, but it was explained to me in that the village is so quiet, that anything you get up to becomes the talk of the village. When you live in a village like that, you want to have a cabin, so you can get away from it all, attaining privacy in the woods.
I remember they left for cabins in Francois & McCallum as well & I thought it was simply a matter of better fishing spots. It was interesting insight.
We sat around for a good 2 hours as the day grew into the evening. I had already had a few beers & then the cabin owner wouldn't let my glass sit without any rum in it (and I, of course, couldn't help but drink what was in my glass). Needless to say, I was eventually feeling pretty good & euphoric in the warm evening upon this pretty coast in such an obscure location.
The only interruption was when one of the kids brought out smoked capelin and was wolfing them down. Since I'd never had salted capelin, I decided I had to try (a capelin looks like a sardine). Now while I'm not one to make a scene, I don't know what I was thinking...I rushed over to the shore and spit every last particle back into Northwest Arm. Boy was it foul!
Then again, seeing as I don't like smoked food & I don't like sardines...maybe I should have been able to figure that one out?
Washing away the smoked capelin with more rum, I was now feeling really good.
We climbed back in the boat and set off. The wind had died down, the sun was casting gentle light through its evening angle, and now here we were, passing these now-familiar sights.
We actually dillydallied around so much that it was dark by the time we sped down La Poile Bay towards La Poile Harbour. It was cool, not cold as I sat at the bow, watching the darkness envelope us. I had that warm buzz feeling, so I sat with a half grin as we moved through the night.
I made sure to set my mind to record & store this moment, as I knew it was something that I would grow nostalgic towards for a long while.
Eventually we would see the light of the offshore Ireland Island beacon0 & then the harbour light in La Poile.
Curley said we could sleep in the fishing stage instead of our tent, so I insisted that Johan move his stuff to the fishing stage, as when else would I have the opportunity of sleeping in a fishing stage.
(My sleeping bag smelled like fish guts for months.)
We would leave La Poile on the government ferry the next morning.
Good times in La Poile (yet again).
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