Over forty years ago, I was teaching Biogeography and Computer Mapping at Memorial University in St Johns, Newfoundland. In the Summer, we conducted field research on the west coast in Gros Morne National Park. This was complemented by ten-day back-packing trips into the Long Range mountains for Black Feather outfittersSs.
Heather and I returned to the west coast of Newfoundland these past two weeks to see what had changed in the landscape and to ourselves.
We took Highway 430, the Viking Trail, from Deer Lake to St. Anthony. We camped and hiked Gros Morne Mountain and Green Gardens. We drove from Rocky Harbour to St. Anthony on a paved road. Forty years ago it was a dirt road from the Northern boundary of the National Park. This had proved a major deterrent in the past.
We had many personal realizations. While we had studied the plants in the National Park, visiting the serpentine Tablelands and the barrens on the top of Gros Morne, we had not gone North of the park. Over the last forty years, scientists have rediscovered the geology and biology of the Great Northern peninsula, in particular the uniqueness of the limestone barrens.
As you travel North from the Port aux Basques ferry you can obtain regional maps : southwest coast, Humber Valley, Gros Morne and the Great Northern peninsula. Each regional map identifies things to do and see. For the Great Northern peninsula, categories include hiking trails, parks and ecological reserves, cultural experiences, heritage and museums, attractions, tours and adventures.
A second realization was the engagement of the fishing communities with the scientific community, plus government and academic institutions. We were able to pick up a copy of Burzynski, et al., Exploring the limestone barrens of Newfoundland and Labrador. This book was published by the Gros Morne Co-operative Association. It gave us the story and the location of the different ecological reserves. We stopped at Burnt Cape, White Rocks, Port au Choix. At Sandy Cove, we noted the sign ‘Home of Long’s Braya’, a species first identified by Fernald.
Aside from hiking and botanizing, there was also the human story. The Viking Trail leads to L’Anse aux Meadows, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Helge and Anne Stine Ingstad discovered the site in the sixties. The Viking Trail takes you to St Anthony, where you connect to the life and work of Wilfred Grenfell. The Grenfell Mission improved the lives of the fishing communities in Southern Labrador and along the Northern Peninsula. At St Lunaire-Griquet, we visited the Dark Tickle Company. They produce a wide range of jams, sauces, drinks and relishes from wild berries.They belong to the Economusee network, promoting local products.
We returned slowly to the Annapolis Valley, stopping in Cape Breton Highlands National Park for more hiking and botanizing.This allowed us to reflect on the different approaches to rural development, as well as the similarities, between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.
On our return, a copy of Nick Mount’s book Arrival. The Story of CanLit. was waiting for me at the Lawrencetown library. It describes the changes in the Canadian literary scene, starting in the late sixties (1967 Expo in Montreal). Of note, the copy was donated by his Mother who lives in Deep Brook, NS. ( see earlier blog).
I have the same sense of ‘Arrival’ after revisiting the landscapes and people of Western Newfoundland. We returned to hiking, Botany and Geography. We used regional maps which engage the local communities, share their unique ecology, cultural history and local economy; all done in typical Newfoundland style and flair.
Nick Mount. 2017. Arrival. The Story of Can Lit. House of Anansi Press, Toronto.
Michael Burzynski, Henry Mann and Anne Marceau. 2016. Exploring the Limestone Barrens of Newfoundland and Labrador. Gros Morne Co-operating Association.
Artisans at Work. Economusee magazine. Summer 2017. economusees.com
Patricia O’Brien. 1992. The Grenfell Obsession. An Anthology. Creative Publisher, St Johns.
Ronald Rompkey. 2009. Grenfell of Labrador. A Biography. McGill -Queens University Press.
For the regional maps of Western Newfoundland, check gowesternnewfoudland.com