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Thursday, May 18, 2023

Hurricane Fiona Changed our Hike at Grand Bay West

Channel-Port Aux Basques is where most who "come from away" first get introduced to "The Rock."  The 6-hour ferry from North Sydney, Nova Scotia docks here. We disembarked here when we visited in 2018; we did again this visit.  The town is set picturesquely on a mammoth hunk of rock overlooking a deep-water harbor, and its allure to us is irresistible.

"Why is it called, 'Channel-Port aux Basques?'" you ask.  Let me tell you.  The "Channel" portion of the town was settled by fisher-folk from the Channel Islands (British islands off the coast of Normandy) in the early 1700's. "Port aux Basques" refers to the harbor, which was a favored sheltering and watering place during the early 1500's for Basque whalers from that region of the Pyrenees on the border of France and Spain.  While the French initially settled this area permanently in the 1700's, France ceded this and all of Newfoundland to Great Britain.  The present town wasn't formally incorporated until 1945, when Newfoundland was separate from the rest of Canada.

We contemplated all of this as we sat in our own Newfie version of Canadian red chairs at the trailhead on Wednesday, May 17, 2023:

We had originally planned to hike all along the beach before exploring the ponds and barachois north of the Atlantic Ocean beach but, as it turned out (and, as pointed out by two locals we met as we tried to orient ourselves at the trailhead), we couldn't take the most direct route to the beach because the trail, its boardwalk and all of the trailhead facilities had been wiped out by Hurricane Fiona in September 2022.

This was shocking to us, but even more shocking to the residents of Channel-Port aux Basques.  Over 100 house in the town were washed into the sea.  One (thankfully, only one) person lost their life, being washed out to sea in the storm.  The entire beach was devastated, and, as we looked around, we saw endless piles of debris and trash deposited by the storm-swept sea as it pummeled this little community.

We modified our hiking plans and used the trails that were available.  The first part of our hike led out toward the far end of the beach, looking toward Cape Ray and the southern end of the Long Range Mountains in the distance:

At several points, our trail offered branches veering out toward the Atlantic coast beach, but we demurred and stayed inland toward the ponds:

We reached First Pond, with a commercial building on the far side:

We climbed a hill, far enough to get a view of Second Pond --

-- before turning back to walk along the shore of First Pond:

First Pond connected to Rocky Barachois (a barachois is a coastal lagoon that is partially or completely separated from the ocean by a sandy or rocky bar), and, as we walked along the barachois, we were offered observation decks at several spots.  This one was graced with two Adirondack (or, to Canadians, Muskoka) Chairs, but, unfortunately, these were brown -- not red -- and so they were not eligible to be included in Kathy's Red Chair Hall of Fame.  Therefore, we thought it would be a sacrilege to sit in them.

Rocky Barachois offered some pleasing views, and it demonstrated why it is called, "Rocky":

We reached a logical endpoint before walking all the way around the barachois to the other trailhead.  Retracing our steps, we walked back out to the Atlantic coast beach next to Second Pond.  Kathy was on the hunt for beach glass, and it can often be found on rocky or gravelly beaches.  Well, we were certainly blessed with a rocky beach:

Kathy's take on this outing was only one small piece of sea glass.  However, we found some other treasures, such as this beautiful, green-stained sea urchin skeleton:

Some observation decks survived the destruction of Hurricane Fiona, including this one with a view along the beach:

Beautiful and unusual rocks littered the beach; some of them were too large to take home, so we satisfied ourselves with photographs:

Someone on the trail committee didn't get the memo about the importance of red chairs, so this observation deck was randomly decorated with chairs of different colors.  Never mind -- they were pretty anyway:

We reached the end of the gravelly/rocky beach and made our turn back to our own trailhead.  We got one last view of this wild seacoast before leaving the beach:

We thought that last scene was a fitting picture of houses and other structures along the coast of Newfoundland, and it whetted our appetite to get to some of the outports we haven't yet visited, to see what picturesque scenes might await us.

Stay tuned!

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