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Monday, July 31, 2023

Problog and Epiblog - Sunny Cottage and the Fairy Rocks


Somehow the hike along the Coastal Trail and around Mile Pond isn't complete without additional context.  Here we will add ours.

Before our hike, we drove over to Sunny Cottage for breakfast.


The 3-story house is a landmark in Harbour Breton.  It is painted white with a burgundy trim, graced by a widow's walk up top, and covered with gingerbread.  It was built in the Queen Anne style for merchant John Joseph Rose and his wife Mary Ann.  One of their descendants, John Boyce Stewart, married Blanche Snow, a schoolteacher.  They had 8 children.  They sold the house to the town of Harbour Breton in 1996.  It is now open to the public as a heritage center, and one of their children, Pansett (known as Pansy) manages it for the town.  A gregarious woman, Pansy loves talking about the house where she grew up.

Sunny Cottage advertises breakfast from 8 am and the museum open from 9 am.  We arrived around 8:45 to find Pansy just arriving.  As it happened, Pansy advised us that the restaurant was closed for breakfast, but she would serve us anyways.  She took our orders and let us look around.

When breakfast was ready, it was a hearty serving of eggs, ham (or bologna), toast and jam, and coffee or tea.  We hungrily enjoyed our meal while Pansy regaled us with stories about her adventures in managing Sunny Cottage.  We met her summer assistants and went on our way, grateful for her hospitality.


The Mile Pond boardwalk is graced with fanciful gatherings of painted rocks depicting various fanciful themes, such as "Fairland, Disney characters, characters from the Simpsons TV show, and other well-recognized cultural sources.  Rather than describe the various rock collections, instead we will show you some of them here.  If you're curious, come to Mile Pond and see all of them!

Hiking Harbour Breton's Coast Trail to Mile Pond

Here we are -- last day in Harbour Breton, Newfoundland, on the Connaigre Peninsula.  We decided today should be less ambitious because we wanted to check out the local heritage site, Sunny Cottage, and also handle some chores.  Nevertheless, this was a six-mile (10 km) hike along the Coastal Trail from our campsite in Deadman's Cove RV Park to Mile Pond, around the lake's boardwalk, and back again.

The day started cloudy, but it was already getting unexpectedly sunny as we started our hike:

From where we started our hikes along the cliffs above Deadman's Cove, we could see Brunette Island, which has a unique history:

According to a local gentleman we met as we hiked, a fishing community was established on the island in the 1800s, and at one time there were about 300 residents living on Brunette Island. In 1865 a 30-foot high lighthouse was built on the island.  The entire island was resettled to towns on the main coast of Newfoundland in the 1950s.  In 1964, an experimental attempt to introduce bison to Newfoundland was made, using Brunette Island as a test site; the attempt did not prove successful.  The rocky landscape and sheer cliffs on the island were significantly different from the wide plains to which the bison were adapted, and many of them died.  Eventually, many of the bison were hunted and the experiment ended in failure. 

Our hike also led us past Gull Island (in the background in the photo below), which provides a nesting ground for gulls and terns, and also contains an archaeological site:

The far side of Gull Island presented itself as Western Cove.  At the far end we spotted Black Island.  We decided to hike down to the beach and combed Western Cove for sea glass -- to no avail.  The beach was rich with beautiful quartz conglomerate stones -- polished as smooth as if they had been put into a mechanical polisher.  But there was no sea glass.

At the far end of Western Cove, we climbed again and hiked for a way along the cliff, only to find another steep trail down to a drainage, with a stair climb on the opposite side:

While there isn't much wildlife in this section of Newfoundland, the diversity of plant life is remarkable.  We found some of the most dramatic black spruce cones we have seen anywhere:

Another stairway led up from the beach and, as we reached the top, we turned to admire the view:

Eventually, we reached Mile Pond, which sits in the northerly sector of Harbour Breton next to Highway 360 that winds its way up the Connaigre Peninsula from Harbour Breton to Bishop's Falls.  The hike around Mile Pond is about 1.8 km or a little over one mile.  
 Someone has graced Mile Pond with a series of fairy rocks, painted with various themes.  We published an epiblog with photos of those fairy rock ensembles, along with a brief problog about our visit to Sunny Cottage in Harbour Breton before our hike.
We stopped on the far side for lunch and gazed at a panoramic view of the lake and surrounding hills:

After lunch, we continued around the lake, enjoying some bucolic views of the lake, lily pads on the surface, and the uniquely Connaigre-shaped hills in the background:

As we returned along the near shore of Mile Pond, Kathy spotted a ripe blueberry.  First blueberry of the season!  She popped her bounty into her mouth before David could even ask for a taste.  Oh, well, to the victor go the spoils.

We also found plentiful ripe bakeapple berries, which, while Kathy loves them, David thinks they have a mite to musty a taste.  Nevertheless, they are a Newfie staple, so we love them:

Leaving Mile Pond, we headed back up the boardwalk toward the cliff.  It appeared that the boardwalk continued into infinity:

As we reached the southern end of Western Cove, Kathy suggested that we finish the hike with a final, goodbye walk along the beaches of Western Cove and Deadman's Cove.  And so we did:

All in all, this six mile hike was rich in scenery and other bounty.  The day was gorgeous, the light bountiful, and the sea scents rich.  We returned to our campsite invigorated and happy that we had sampled what might be Connaigre Peninsula's greatest treasure -- its seascapes, meadows and mountains. So, until our next blog, which will be from Gander, may your glass be full and your spirit fuller!


Sunday, July 30, 2023

Circling Connaigre Bay to Pass Island

 Sunday, July 30, 2023

Hi Blog!

We are continuing our summer of exploration in Newfoundland and Labrador. With rain expected today, we decided to skip the hiking and take a drive around Connairgre Bay. The bay was named after the first settlement which stood at the base of the black rocks surrounding the bay.

Our first stop was the viewpoint just outside of Harbour Breton. From here we got a great look at the bay, but we can barely see the end of the far point on the opposite side of the bay.

Connaigre was listed as Cap Negre (Cape Negro) in the Census of French Population and Agriculture, 1686, with a total population of seventy-two. It was the second largest French fishing station after Plaisance. Connaigre was later called Great Harbour in the 1763 census, with 5 inhabitants and twenty-eight servants. In the 1836 census, the population was forty-three. In 1954 the entire community of twelve remaining families was resettled to another town.

Our drive followed Route 364 through the communities of Hermitage, Sandyville, Dawson's Cove and Seal Cove all the way out to Pass Island at the end of the bay. The drive through the hills and valleys was spectacular.

Our first stop was the head of Connaigre Bay:

We passed several sites run by 360 Marine, a local aquaculture company. They grow shrimp, talapia and mussels. They also provide services to other aquaculture companies.  The fence-like structures in the water in the photo below contain the fish being raised:

We saw a sign for Furby Cove and couldn't resist taking the drive down to the cove. The settlement was possibly named for a migratory fisherman named Furby who was attached to one of the English West Country fishing ships which were known to frequent the bay in the eighteenth century. Today, Furby Cove is a sleepy cottage community.

As we continued our drive toward Pass Island, the road took us past a number of ponds and coves. There was water, water everywhere.

We took a short drive into Hermitage. A daily ferry service from Hermitage travels to the isolated outports of Gaultois and McCallum. We watched as small boats came and went into the harbor. Folks are allowed to cod fish on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. No doubt, the boat coming into the harbor had caught his limit, while the boat heading out was hoping to catch theirs.

Our next stop was Dawson Cove. A beautiful pink gravel beach beckoned, but the rain held us back.

Once we reached the town of Seal Cove, our beautiful paved highway turned into a pink gravel wilderness road. Dusty was more than ready to accept the challenge. However, Kathy was not. She turned the wheel over to David for the rest of the 10 km drive out to Pass Island.

Once we passed the cutoff for the former community of Grole, the road became increasingly narrow. Grole was once the largest salt-fish producer in the area and also reported catches of salmon and lobster. The community was resettled to Harbour Breton.

As we continued to Pass Island, the road became so narrow that Dusty was brushing back bushes the entire time.

At one point, we drove with water on both sides.

Out of the misty rain, the light atop Pass Island appeared.

In 1914, a one-story, flat-roofed fog signal building and a keeper’s dwelling, both painted white with one black horizontal band around them, were erected on Pass Island. The fog alarm was powered by air compressed by an oil engine and would give one four-second blast every ninety seconds. The original light was destroyed by fire and replaced with the steel tower light at the top of the island shown in the photo above. However, you can still see the original keeper's house.

At the end of the road, Dave took this video at the headland opposite Pass Island.  Because of the steady drizzle, we decided to picnic in the Jeep.

Rain or no rain, Kathy was determined to check out beaches for possible sea glass.

While there was no glass to be found, she did find this really cool painted rock.  It will take a place of honor in our yard at home!

Since we drove out the road to Pass Island, and were fully aware of all the potholes and water traps, the drive back was much faster.  Just before we arrived in Seal Cove, we stopped at Saltwater Cove to check out the small bridge and beach. Unfortunately, it was too rocky for beachcombing.

We stopped at the Capelin Cove Lookout when we spotted the wood sculpture at the entrance. It was created by Clyde Drew, a Mi'kmaq artist living in nearby St. Alban’s.  The beauty and powerful imagery of his work comes from the songs and stories of his people which he learned from childhood in his home town of Conne River.  

The south coast of the Connaigre Peninsula is filled with rolling barren hills that plunge through inaccessible valleys into the open ocean. The land appears completely inhospitable, but that didn't stop the resilient people who settled in the few relatively flat areas and sheltered harbors. The region is a hidden wonder that few tourists have explored. In fact, it's Sunday night and our campground is completely empty, except for us and the locals who -- every night! -- drive their elderly parents to the beach, and around the campground, after dinner. 

I guess there is more than one way to appreciate the natural beauty of the Connaigre Peninsula.

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Stroll Through Harbour Breton

This is a Double-Blog Day!  That doesn't happen often, but today our 6-mile walk included 3 miles on the Between the Hills Trail to the Rocky Point Lighthouse, and then a walk back to our campground through the town of Harbour Breton.  You can read the prior blog entry for the first part of the hike.  But here we start home from the lighthouse:

A lighthouse, one of the first out-harbor lights designed to serve the fishing trade on the south coast, was built on Rocky Point in 1873 to mark the entrance to Harbour Breton. The square, wooden tower stood 4.3 metres tall, was painted white with red on its corners, and was topped by an octagonal lantern, whose sides were painted alternately red and white. The light's first keeper was William Lorenzen, who was paid $48 per year. 

In 1877, the light’s eighth-order lens was damaged when the lamp’s chimney glass broke during the night. The keeper was not blamed as his pay was not sufficient for, nor did his instructions “require a continuous nightly watch.” Besides, the inspector noted, “everyone knows that a lamp glass, on a carefully trimmed and regulated lamp may break at any time from unascertained causes.” The same accident happened in 1879, causing Inspector John T. Nevill to suggest that if dwellings were provided at lighthouses without one, the keeper could visit the light from time to time during the night rather than just light it at sunset and return in the morning to extinguish it. In the case of Rocky Point, however, Nevill felt the keeper was distracted by numerous other duties, and quoted a visitor to the lighthouse who said “a new lens and a new keeper are required.” 

A second lighthouse was constructed in 1881 to replace the old lighthouse, the present-day Rocky Point Lighthouse is a 28 foot tall round, cylindrical, prefabricated cast-iron tower surmounted by a lantern of triangular-paned design. It is located at the southern seaward entrance to the community of Harbour Breton. The lighthouse is the oldest extant lighthouse on the southwest coast of Newfoundland.

After absorbing the history of the lighthouse, we descended a long rank of stairs to the docks maintained by the Newfoundland-Labrador Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture:

Two boats were at the dock; one was a Coast Guard vessel, and the other a boat from 360 Marine, which is a local company that provides services to the marine and aquaculture industries on the Connaigre Peninsula:

We continued our walk back into the town of Harbour Breton, looking across into the Barasway part of Southwest Arm.  It was truly a grey foggy day:

Someone keeps or feeds ducks along the Southside Drive in Harbour Breton.  We saw several groups of ducks, including this mixed group --

-- and these white ducks mustering their little ducklings away from us as we walked by --

-- as well as these Rouen ducks:

On we walked through town, past the Elliott Premises, which was the base of the Newman family enterprises, which were merchants in seafood as well as port wine.  While the museum and cafe were closed today, we could walk out back and view part of Harbour Breton across the harbor:

Harbour Breton is a pretty town, and the largest on the Connaigre Peninsula of Newfoundland, with a population of over 1,500.  It has a variety of services for residents and travelers.

Situated on the northern side of Fortune Bay, it has a magnificent harbor and is one of the oldest and largest fishing centers on the south coast of Newfoundland. The harbor was used in the seventeenth century by Bretons (from Brittany, France), who were based at Placentia, on a nearby peninsula. After the Treaty of Utrecht between the British and French in 1713, the south coast was reserved for English fishing ships.

Harbour Breton suffered a significant tragedy on August 1, 1973. Around 3 am that day, after several weeks of rain, drizzle, fog and overcast conditions, a landslide swept down the hill above the monument site. Four houses were caught in the landslide and swept into the harbor. Four of Jack and Olive Hickey’s children died as a result of the landslide. The youngest survivor was 21 month old Cavell Hickey, the youngest daughter, who was still in her crib when water and mud carried her into the attic of her house. Protected by the sides of the crib, she was found by rescuers who cut through the roof of the destroyed house to bring her to safety. Slope movements continued over the next few days following the disastrous slide.  The families who lost their houses during the landslide, and those whose homes were considered at risk, were relocated to other sites in the community and a ban was imposed on further development in the landslide area.

Further along Southside Drive, we came across this pretty cascade tumbling down from a lake above the town into the harbor near the causeway connecting two parts of town on opposite sides of the harbor:

Another 1.5 miles, and we were home at our campground, having gotten a unique tour-by-foot of Harbour Breton!  We settled into our little home on wheels while westerly blew fog in over the campground from Deadman's Cove.  

Tomorrow is due to be rainy, so we are planning a drive around the Connaigre Peninsula.  We'll share that with you when we get back.