Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Captivating Fogo

North of Gander in central Newfoundland lies the port of Farewell, terminus for the ferry to Fogo and Change Islands. These island communities are not only beautiful but culturally captivating -- they provide a glimpse into a traditional Newfoundland way of life that's fast disappearing in many places. Change Islands is dealt with in another post, but Fogo is worth a bit more exploration. One highly recognizable feature of Fogo Island is the abundance of fishing stages painted in shades of red ochre. They are especially striking when seen in evening or morning light,
like the one above. The landscape is uncompromising: barrens and scrubby trees give way to rocky headlands; houses and fishing stages cluster in snug harbours while surf pounds the exposed shorelines nearby. There's no question that Fogo Island holds almost endless appeal for photographers, but the island has a vibrant life of its own. As in much of Newfoundland and Labrador, fishing remains an important source of income for many
islanders, as reflected in the song "The Joe Batt's Arm Longliners". There's commerce as well, and a thriving tourism industry in the summer months. Change is afoot on the island, though, as the Shorefast Foundation works to create opportunity for local entrepreneurship. Fogo Island is nearby and yet a world apart; it is an unforgettable destination filled with stark beauty and strong character.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Branch and the Cliffhouse

I always look forward to visiting Branch, a picturesque community nestled on the shores of Newfoundland's St. Mary's Bay. The setting for this village of approximately 300 is striking: a river flows through pasture land where horses, sheep and cattle graze. Colourful fishing boats line the apron of the small, sheltered harbour. Scattered farms draw the eye upward to the surrounding hills, and waves crash in on a broad, curving beach front. Overlooking it all, from a vantage point high on a cliff, is a charming bed and breakfast, the Cliffhouse at Red Point.
What a setting! The inn is perfectly situated to enjoy sweeping views of the village, the Wester Cove, and Hayjer's Rock, whose name seems to be a corruption of "Hare's Ears". The Cliffhouse was purpose-built as a bed and breakfast, and its three well-appointed guest rooms have comfortable beds and private four-piece baths stocked with lots of thirsty towels. The amenities and the view would provide ample reasons to stay here, but the true treasures at the Cliffhouse are its hosts, Chris and Priscilla Mooney. Priscilla is the mayor of Branch, and its staunchest supporter.
She works tirelessly to further the interests of its residents, and is a vocal advocate for the area's culture and traditions. Her husband Chris is a naturalist interpreter at Cape St. Mary's Ecological Reserve, a few miles away. Thanks to them, the Cliffhouse at Red Point provides an opportunity for not only accommodations and a hearty breakfast but great conversation that explores Branch's rich heritage and folklife, making a stay in this intriguing place even more memorable.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Autumn in the Bay of Islands

Autumn in the Bay of Islands on Newfoundland's west coast is one of Atlantic Canada's best-kept secrets. Dramatically sculpted hills are covered with mixed forests that provide some of this region's finest displays of fall foliage, and the city of Corner Brook provides a scenic focal point for all this splendid color. The Humber River was named by Captain James Cook during his hydrographic survey expedition to the area in 1767. In 2012, a statue of Cook by renowned sculptor Luben Boykov was unveiled; it can be seen on a hilltop overlooking
Corner Brook and the Humber Arm. Cook spent several years charting the coasts of Newfoundland, beginning in 1762; his stay in the Bay of Islands region marked the final year prior to his voyage to Tahiti. The broad, sheltered waterway he mapped is lined on both north and south sides by a series of small communities that boast impressive views of Guernsey, Tweed and Pearl Islands in the distance or of Corner Brook itself. A short drive along the south side of the bay leads to York Harbour and Lark Harbour, while a similar trip along the north side leads through Irishtown and Summerside, ending at beautiful Cox's Cove (seen below) where in summer, True North Charters provides a boat tour that explores the nearby coastline, including the striking headland known as Penguin Head.

The Corner Brook area also boasts a network of walking trails that is well-used by local residents; the sections that lead alongside the Corner Brook Stream are particularly attractive during foliage season. A short drive to the north is
Marble Mountain, Newfoundland's best-known ski hill, where the autumn color of the surrounding valleys is reflectedin the pools and rills of the Humber. This region of Newfoundland's west coast is beautiful at any time of year, but the brightly painted hills of fall make it well worth an extended visit.