Outside Channel-Port-Aux-Basques, NL (Southwestern Newfoundland)
Rolling out of town at a casual hour, the three of us were off for overnight adventures. My friends being easy going and unlikely to have their hearts set on a specific location, had long ago approved my suggestion of an area down in the southwest of this island.
Following a 2-hour drive, we briefly checked out the campsite, before astutely deciding to get our hiking done this afternoon instead of leaving it for the impaired morning. Returning along the gravel road which led from the Trans-Canada Highway to our campsite, we slowly crawled about a half kilometer, until we found another rough road on the eastern side of the highway. This new road would quickly deteriorate and narrow, leaving us to park Steve's poor van after only traveling about 200 meters (650 feet).
Christian and Steve jetted up the incline, while I bought needed time with washroom breaks and retrieving water from my backpack. Unfortunately, I couldn't think of any other items to slow them down, so soon enough, they left me far behind like Candlebox, as I wondered why I have such trouble with mid-sized inclines.
Another break thankfully came when I could hear a side-by-side approaching and I had to move out of the way. The couple surprised me by asking if I wanted a ride, but thinking more about my pride than humour, I turned them down. When I finally caught up to my friends after I had warmed up and the road grew gentle, Christian let me know that it would have been hilarious if I zoomed by them with the middle-aged Newfoundland couple in their side by side.
As the road turned north, we were now above 1300 ft, having left Steve's van back at 175 ft a short time ago. The plateau road we walked was flanked by a sloping hill off to our right, revealing an inviting canyon and grasslands which looked like you could set off to explore for days. We would later meet a man up here picking berries who had recently did just that - setting off from the Starlight Trail and camping or staying at friend's cabins as they backcountry hiked over 50km (30mi). I was jealous, but then again, I suddenly doubted my ability after holding the group behind on the service road hike.
Coming to a fork and cutting northwest, the given trail led us towards a radio tower, and it wasn't long before we rounded out to the front of Table Mountain, mouths suddenly agape.
My walk turned into a crawl as I wondered how I had let hiking up here linger incomplete for so many years. How was this not a more popular hike? How close can I get to this edge?
Although I crept close enough to take pictures, the others were certainly more comfortable out on the edge.
Jeez, they're more competent when it comes to hiking & they have a greater amount of bravado when it comes to cliffs edges - I guess it's a good thing there isn't Prince Edward County Nation or Vancouver Nation...
...forget that. I can veer out to the granitic edges too!
We would all take some time to sit around, my mind pondering where Table Mountain sits amongst the great sights of this island. Surely it is up there; maybe in the top 5? What would beat it? Gannet rock at Cape St. Mary's, the canyon leading up to the Cabox, Francois and the Tablelands? Is that it?
Then again that's such a subjective thing. I'm sure I could wake up in a different mood tomorrow and swear that Wreck Cove down in Bay d'Espoir or the village of Bay de Verde or any other number of sights deserves to be higher.
Just as I was really starting to break it down, the boys made their way over and we were on the move again.
Back at that earlier fork in the gravel trail, we explored the other prong, since I knew that there were some ruins of a WWII American radio relay station up here.
What you see above is where they would have had tanks for heating oil.
I knew that there was a cable tower on the edge of Table Mountain quite a distance from where we were, but had no idea that these foundations and even wood/engine pieces remained up here as well.
There was pleasantly a lot more to explore up here than a short, simple cable tower.
The reason a radio relay station was put here was because of the mountain's sudden gain in elevation and the proximity-to-Europe reasons I've covered here in regards to Newfoundland war ruins in past updates.
Table Mountain also provided an added advantage in that U-boats could be spotted in the waters off of these coasts (remember that German U-boats sank a passenger ferry here during WWII). In fact, the people in the side-by-side stopped to chat with us and the man said you could sometimes see Nova Scotia from up here (Nova Scotia would be about 100 km from here, but remember that it would be near Cape Breton National Park - another place with high mountains to spot. There's also St. Paul Island, which is only 80 km away.)
We didn't make it over to the cable tower, as the boys were getting tired and I had a growing rip in the crotch of my shorts (what was wrong with me today?) Opting to leave that exploration for another day - especially as I'd like to return on a nicer day anyhow - we trotted down the back road, until working in bigger steps down the inclined portion.
It wasn't long until we had made our way back to the camp site, thankfully thinking ahead to pre-purchase sausages & whiskey instead of having to drive to Channel-Port-aux-Basques while tired, hungry & thirsty. Imbibing at the train-repair building ruins, the sun set lazily as we basked in the warm temps and satisfactorily washed down delicious food.
Meanwhile, Table Mountain watched over our activities.
The sun set off to the northwest in a good enough spectacle. We had obviously made it to the roof by this point, with a pool of water giving us about 8 feet of dry tar to walk around on all edges. The two more talkative members of the threesome attended to excited conversation, while I snapped long exposures with my other camera.
As my phone hilariously thought we were in the far-off Quebec islands of Īles de la Madeleine, we watched lightning strikes lashing down on those Francophone lands. Maybe it was that incredible visibility that we had described to us earlier ("you can see Nova Scotia!") but the storms sure took their sweet time moving towards us. What we thought would be a short display, turned into an hour of gabbing on the roof, occasionally seeing lightning strikes behind whoever had turned their back on Quebec. I even had time to set up my tripod and watch as the wind blew my camera clean off the roof! (Bonus: it didn't break! Score!)
The rain would come and the three of us climbed off the roof, with notably less dexterity than we exhibited getting up there. We would continue into the night, now taking advantage of having the ruins over our heads as light rains fell outside and the winds grew in intensity.
Thankfully the thunderstorm never turned out to be much more than that.
We'd slowly pack up in the morning, eventually heading into Port-Aux-Basques for breakfast/lunch, then acknowledging that none of us would want to climb up Table Mountain in our current condition.
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1 - High Service - The Gulf News
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