The Grey Islands, Part 2

Bell Island of the Grey Islands Chain, Grey Islands, Newfoundland (Map)

Summer 2012.


Waking the next morning, I heard the rain hitting the window beside my bed. I was in no hurry to get anywhere and breakfast wasn't made with any speed either. Into the afternoon hours, everyone else played Choose-Your-Own-Adventure, as I read a book about Detroit history instead.

I'm still not quite sure why - even though I knew the forecast called for rain - that I didn't bring rain gear.

Eventually that cloudy sky would form cracks, open up into clouds and then let light through. As we sat around for dinner, I looked out of the bay window to see that at least this day would provide an incredible sunset.

The group moved out onto the rocks again, but that knoll from yesterday sat directly in the setting sun's path.

So I turned left instead, scurrying to summit the hill to our southeast before sundown. Whereas that knoll from yesterday is slightly over 50 ft, this southeast hill is over 150 ft.

It wasn't all that difficult & that knoll was no longer a problem (it's that little hill to the right of the setting sun in the above picture).

What an incredible sunset it was.

Being so far out on these islands, the sun would still set behind the Northern Peninsula, but it was so far away that it might as well have been an oceanic horizon.

I sat up there for a while, examining the warm light on various pieces of illuminated land. Then once most of the land was dark, the sky and ocean flowed red & violet intermittently. Lastly, it was started to get dark enough that I could see the Nid Island Light beacon flashing at the other side of the next harbour to the east.

This was the best experience of the Grey Islands.

I would soon recognize it was getting dark; I had covered some ground over to this southeast hill, but I didn't have a flashlight - it was time to get back to the cabins.

Upon returning, I found out that the group was amused and surprised by my speed up to the top of the hill - "I saw you turn left, then bam! You were up there!"

"Couldn't miss the sunset b'y."

We had a few more beers this night, relaxing on the rocks within a beautiful, warm summer's night.

I took this as an opportunity to set up the tripod and shoot off 3-5 minute exposures of the scenery and the cabins. The stars out here were incredibly bright, but you're talking about zero artificial light & the photo sensitivity of a point-and-shoot Canon.

Speaking of the impressive stars, Christian is much more of an astronomer than I, so he took to showing me constellations and planets. He also showed me an actually useful application which identified mysterious star groups and forecasted when certain planets and the moon would rise and set.

So we all stayed up late into the night, watching the moonset; then Jupiter & Venus rise.

In fact it was so late at night, that staying up for the sunrise soon crossed my mind.

Slogging through a bog at 5am to try and get high enough to see over the eastern hills was good fun. It was funny how much less gusto I had now that I was quite tired.

In addition, I probably should have just climbed the same 'southeast hill' as before, as I ended up in a mediocre spot where I couldn't see much of the eastern horizon.

At least it wasn't the greatest sunrise anyway.

Oh well, next time.

Waking up to a beautiful afternoon, I set off for the southeastern point of the island, planning to summit the 300 ft hills near Keefes Point. They enticed me from the cabin with easily traversable, barren land cover; as well as the promise of good sea views over various harbours and islands (according to my topographic map at least).

Pine Grosbeak halfway up the hill.

It wasn't very hard to move up the hill or move from one hill to another.

The scenery grew more pleasant with every step upwards and the next peak kept presenting itself.

Eventually I ran out of land as I found myself atop steep cliffs which provided a stunning view over the unnamed harbour to my north.

Nothing separating me from Iceland besides ocean...

I could see a long stretch of the eastern Northern Peninsula off to my left. Looking in front of me, I could see land which I thought was the Baie Verte Peninsula around La Scie & Fleur-de-Lys, but now that I look at a map, the Horse Islands make much more sense.

Even though I didn't think I could see the Horse Islands, I still thought about the various large, mysterious islands of this province. Brunette, Sagona, Horse, St. John, Merasheen, Great Colinet. They now seemed possible, as anything was possible now that I was standing near the southeast point of the Grey Islands; islands which I've always looked at my wall map in wonder upon.

It was with that feeling of accomplishment, along with the straight-up beauty of what surrounded me, that left me sitting down for a while, enjoying the moment.

As mentioned, the cliffs were steep, but I found a slot which led me down to the shore of the harbour. As I climbed down, I couldn't believe the size of the rocks around me. I felt very small and very alien climbing around rocks 15x my size.

The harbour was a bit of a let down as it took me 30 minutes to fight my way back out of the chest deep shrubbery, but I do like the above picture.

I was in a rush as the day was moving into the evening & I still had additional plans. So as I hustled through a bog and moved towards the less difficult shoreline, I finally noticed the silhouette of a caribou thirty feet before me.

Damnit I don't have time for this!

Thankfully he moved at a perfect pace: I was able to snap some pictures, but he retreated past the old fish drying rocks and into the trees and rocks to the north in a timely fashion. I moved to the shoreline and spent 5 minutes at the cabin before keeping on the move...

I was trying to go past our home harbour, around another harbour, and reach a few houses I had seen from the boat two days ago. Whereas I thought our home harbour was where Grey Islands Harbour was located, I was starting to grow suspicious.

This hike was through that boggy wet stuff again, but I went north at the cemetery this time. Thankfully there was a path to follow in light of time restraints, but also because it had makeshift bridges over a couple of small streams.

I would later learn that these were the streams that the group tried to fish earlier (with little luck in that they only caught one fish between the four of them).

I eventually came out into a tidal flat with the red rocks finely illuminated by the angled evening light. Birds fluttered about the shallow water picking at muddy insects, whereas I stepped from rock to rock in an attempt to avoid such muddy places.

Eventually I would come to some trees for the first time, with a grassy path cutting through them. As I came out of the forest cover, I startled an eagle into the air, but I was too slow with the camera.

So for all of these songbird & shorebird pictures included here, I messed up the one bird y'all might be actually interested in! Ha!

^The Caribou hunters cabin from the first day is the white dot along the upper shore to the right.

I was starting to come across the remains of a few walls and various pieces of junk - signs of the former homes once in this area.

As I was starting to really run out of time, I came across yet another Caribou cabin.

These guys must've been really happy when the government introduced Caribou onto the Grey Islands as a source of additional food for local people.

The sun was just barely above the tree line & I knew I should be getting back. After all, I didn't want to find myself without a flashlight for that portion with the trees and the tall grasses or that portion of bog with poorly defined paths.

I made it back safely and bathed in the harbour upon returning, drinking Blue Stars in the Atlantic.

Once I was all cleaned up, it was finally time for relaxing after an afternoon of constant movement. Our last night was fairly quiet0 and the boat did come the next day, ending our Grey Islands adventure.

It was a long and sleepy 7-hour drive back home.

0 - We did have a few more drinks as it was the last night - which made
for a rough 2 hour boat ride back in rougher seas, under greyer skies & with unbalanced stomachs.


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