Central Camping, Randomness 2015

Fortune Harbour, Moore's Cove, Lewisporte, Gander, Bishop's Falls, Botwood, Newfoundland (Map)

Autumn 2015


Looking to drum up interest and reward fans outside of the big city, the St. John's Ice Caps announced that they would be touring small town Newfoundland with games in Stephenville, Corner Brook & Gander. Having never seen the Gander rink, I decided this was a good excuse to make up for all of the times I meant to go see the Gander Flyers of the Newfoundland Central West Senior Hockey League.

My friend has come along for most of my journey to see every village in Newfoundland, to the point that she now only has about 100 villages left herself. Some of these places were up on the NL-352 north of Bishop's Falls, which gave us something to do on this Saturday before the Sunday afternoon hockey game.

I was also curious about the forestry roads up here past Fortune Harbour and the areas they could access at the top of central Newfoundland. Lo and behold, there was much more of a road network here than I expected. We drove for a while and it didn't seem like there was any end in sight, so I'll have to return one day to explore the area better.

(If only I would have checked Bing instead of Google before I left, I would have seen these "new" roads. Oh well, at least now I can see where I went and how far the roads reach into this peninsula. Hilariously enough, we were actually pretty close to the end of the road when we stopped.)

Without much else on the plate today, I drove down the two side streets of Fortune Harbour and stopped at any interesting houses that caught my eye.

I didn't have much luck for checking out the inside of this one, but I loved the Olde English "L" shutters.

Further up the road was this beautiful pink house and stopping here was the easiest decision of the trip.

The first census to include Fortune Harbour was in 1836, counting 99 residents in 14 dwellings. Now I don't know if this house is that old, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if it was from the 19th century.

In addition to Fortune Harbour, we had to turn off at nearby Cottrell's Cove to drive 2km (1.2mi) in order to see and count Moore's Cove.

There was a long drive after Moore's Cove, but after passing the above house on a handful of other trips, it was time to finally stop.

Just like at the other houses, I again struck out at finding a way inside. The only thing was that this house had to be cooler than half of the abandoned houses I actually manage to wander into; because walking into the backyard I discovered a tractor-trailer (minus the trailer) in the bush beside it.

Suddenly I wanted to take a look inside even more. Unique things left behind usually make for a good explore, but the house, although ramshackle, was well sealed.

Tomorrow morning's business was all the way over by Lewisporte, so we hurried and bought some snacks and beer and then went scouting for a spot to stealth camp.

Going into this trip, I was thinking about a day trip to Gander to see the game, but the weekend temps happened to be an autumnal blessing of 7 or 8 degree lows (mid-to-high 40s). As such, I was able to wring out one last camping trip for 2015.

Camping site prospects were looking slim as we left Lewisporte and hoped for somewhere to tuck into the woods along the ocean (or at last resort, up on a forestry road to the east). Happening upon an overgrown two-track down into some oceanside woods, I pulled into the narrow slot and found a decent trail. Soon enough my car pulled into a promising little clearing.

The trail was so good and the clearing so clear that I was concerned about how close we were to someone's house; while my friend surprisingly didn't have any concerns at all. I went for a walk to see if any houses were nearby, but she was already setting up the tent and totally comfortable with spending the night here. I shrugged and accepted that this little bit of land was going to be camped upon tonight.

After camp was made, the tiniest bit of bushwhacking spit us out onto a beach with plenty of rocks to sit upon & sip something cold. Meanwhile, the pink and orange skies breathed above the distant glow of Lewisporte with its church spire and holding tanks. This was a decent finale for camping 2015.

The next morning I had something in mind to film for my biking video, so after a quick rush to Tim Horton's, the rest of the morning was spent biking instead of bringing you more exterior photos of abandoned houses.

Soon enough, we had to get going as the game was going to be underway down in Gander. As you can see, Gander doesn't have some amazing old rink & that's why it took me so long to visit.

Gander was established as a town because it was a prime location for an airport at the tip of northeast North America (back when you would need to refuel to cross the Atlantic). Settled in 1936 and incorporated in 1938, Gander's first hockey arena was an ice surface installed in an old aircraft hangar.

In the 1950s, the popularity of both playing and watching hockey would grow and lead Gander to convert an old drill hall on the army town site into a hockey arena with artificial ice. This would be the first Gander Gardens, opened on March 10, 1956.

The drill hall arena's replacement, simply called Gander Gardens again, opened on the corner of Lindbergh and Airport on February 1, 1963. Of course I would love the drill hall Gander Gardens where they converted the Masonic Lodge rooms into dressing rooms, but sadly it was demolished somewhere along the way.

Amazingly, and it took me 5 hours of research to confirm this instead of simply calling the Cohen's in Gander, the second Gander Gardens still stands and is in use by the local furniture chain (Cohen's). They took over the building and converted it into a space to lay on beds and open/close cabinets.

The Gander Community Centre opened in 2000. The only thing the CBC article references in replacing the 1963 arena - which sat more people and had 6 dressing rooms - was that it was "aging". A Gander Beacon article talks of the wooden bleachers and gives you a better window into why people may have wanted a new arena.

Considering my lack of motivation to see this built-in-2000 structure, I actually didn't mind the Gander Community Centre. I liked their purple seats that matched the Gander Flyer colours, the seating rows were confusing & there were windows to the outside world with household blinds. In short, it wasn't as sterile and quirk-free as I imagined. I have to admit as well, that it was simply a well-kept, clean building. Lastly, there were a couple of appreciated displays with the history of the older Gander rinks.

Today's exhibition game was between the farm teams of the Montreal Canadiens (the St. John's Ice Caps) and the Toronto Maple Leafs (Toronto Marlies). This was a chance to see some skilled players that I wouldn't normally be able to see in Western (or Central) Newfoundland. For example, the guy you see near the glass is Michael McCarron, who was drafted 25th overall and played 31 NHL games for the Habs last year. Of course I was more exited by Russian Nikita Scherbak, but he only got a cup of coffee with the big club last year (3 games, 1 goal).

My favourite part of the game was the local announcer struggling with quite easy names like Nikita Scherbak. Noticing this, I spied Nikolai Skladnichenko & started praying to the gods that Skladnichenko would score a goal, for the hilarity of the announcer sighing over the p.a. and then butchering Skladnichenko.

And what would happen? Not 10 minutes later, Skladnichenko picked up some garbage in front of the net and put it in! Unfortunately the announcer then showed me, by simply abandoned announcing the goals after this point, haha.

Photo from October 2010. Note the sidewalk on the left.

^Same sidewalk.

About 3 weeks later I returned to central Newfoundland, but on a filming trip with next to no exploring. As such, I'll quickly include it here.

One exploring bit was stopping by the site where GFW Academy used to stand. I'd seen this area from the road after the old school was demolished, but hadn't taken the time to stop and check out the new townhouses on the property up close.

I also stopped at the new skatepark in Bishop's Falls, but unfortunately it was wet. Maybe I should have given it a go anyway, because I've since stopped two more times and both times everyone in the skatepark stopped and stared, and I simply pulled back out of the parking lot because I don't need a kid riding beside me yelling "ooo's you!?!"

Cruising around Grand Falls, Bishop's Falls and Lewisporte, I was having an incredible biking day that was far more successful than usual. Near the end of the day we stumbled upon the new park in Botwood, which I didn't even realize existed. I guess the Canadian Ramp Company (CRC) is really attacking all of these small Newfoundland towns as soon as they assign any money to building a skatepark.

One thing that bumped Botwood up the rankings was that there were a few added things to compliment the insufficient CRC ramps. Pulling out the bike here, I hopped the fire hydrant to check off riding another skatepark in this province. (I have about 1/2 of them now because the distant St. John's area has like 20 skateparks alone.)

In addition, if they're going to start putting fire hydrants in skateparks, it helps me not look like such a park rat - which helps out with the street cred.

The next morning, waking up at the ol' reliable Trailway Inn on the Windsor side of Grand Falls-Windsor, the roof frost showed why we weren't camping.

Don't get me wrong, I would camp in this, but it's not the most fun when you're bothering a friend to come film you for 2 straight days & you're falling all over these streets on your bicycle. It's nice to sleep in a bed, shower and lick your wounds under such circumstances.

Tired and sore, I managed to film a couple more things in Grand Falls-Windsor this morning before heading home.

On my way out of town, I stopped at this old house I always suspected of being abandoned, but as I was sweaty and ready for the long ride west, I didn't explore much more than taking a picture from the road.

In the meantime, I've since been back through GFW and noticed that this house disappeared sometime in 2016 or 2017. It looked like one of the older houses on the Windsor side of GFW.

(Streetview of this house standing in 2009.)

Driving out of town, we happened upon one last thing when I spotted a ruined bridge from the road, even as it was so tucked away that my friend thought I was pulling her leg. She simply couldn't believe that I spotted it while going 120kmh (75mph) and insisted that I must have knew about it beforehand. I didn't.

This used to be a provincial park and like Piper's Hole Provincial Park on the Burin, this was another place on the island where there was a provincial park set along the road by a waterway.

There's a geocache here & while I don't geocache myself, I find their site to be useful for local knowledge. Geocaching.com user Snaggles, who created the cache here, says this was Aspen Brook Provincial Park. (Me: closed in the 1990s in the wave of 47 park closures by the provincial government). Snaggles goes on to say they had school trips here from Badger and there used to be an upriver dam that made this river 3-4 feet higher, which meant a fun school swimming trip every June.

As for the bridge itself, this is all of 250m (~800ft) from the Trans-Canada Highway and I have to imagine it was part of an old alignment. This area is very close to the location where they finally finished the Trans-Canada & I stood here thinking about older cars taking their time to pass each other on this rudimentary bridge, going much slower than the 120kmh (75mph) of today.

Of course I loved that this bridge is still standing in ruins instead of "needing" to be torn down. As I can't find a provincial assessment of said bridge, I guess this provincial park land was simply abandoned like Piper's Hole or Holyrood Pond.

About a year ago the provincial government set out to determine ownership and sell off these old parks, so we'll see if anyone really wants this property. I don't know if a ruined bridge 250m from the province's major highway holds that much appeal to anyone but me though, haha.

(N.b.: I have no plans to buy Aspen Brook Provincial Park.)


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1 - Nikita Scherbak, HockeyDB
2 - Pushing the Parks, July 27, 2015. The Compass
3 - Aspen Brook, Geocaching.com
4 - History of Gander Gardens, NLHHS
5 - Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador, volume 2
6 - In With The New, Terri Saunders, Nov 8, 2012 - The Gander Beacon

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