September 29, 2003

Hurricane Juan hit Halifax late in the evening of September 28th and knocked out the power at Bryan and Tammie's at 1:05 am.  We were awake at the time and  the emergency flash light lit up the room.  With Hurricane Juan came warm tropical winds .... so other than being without power (a most difficult thing to explain to a three year old) we were all comfortable.    Many in the area and even more in Halifax were facing damage from the high winds and fallen trees. 

Around 6:00pm we made our final call to the Nova Scotia/Newfoundland Ferry at North Sidney to get a schedule update and left Bryan, Tammie and the grandchildren still without power at about 6:30 (their power did not return until the evening of Sept 30).

As we drove to North Sidney, the sunset accented the cloud trails of Hurricane Juan.  We sailed at midnight. The 6+ hour crossing was rougher than Sherrie would prefer and we were thankful for the reserved cabin.

September 30, 2003

Arriving in Port aux Basques, we waited for a little restaurant which had been recommended by Lonely Planet to open.  We were the first ones in and remained the only ones except for staff, which when they spoke to each other, seemed to our ears, a foreign language .... yet when the waitress talked to us it was clear.  The food was really inexpensive and tasty and the beginning of a fruit and vegetable reduced diet we would come to experience over the next ten days. 

We took Route 470 east from Port aux Basque to Rose Blanche thinking that we would visit the Rose Blanche historic light house and stay at the Hook Line & Sinker B&B if they had room.   As we drove, distant views were shrouded in fog but we quickly began to appreciate why they affectionately call Newfoundland "The Rock".

At our destination we saw four men standing over the framework of two small buildings in the process of construction and the Hook Line and Sinker B&B.  After an exterior inspection of the B&B which was closed, we went out onto the deck and squinted off into the fog bank.   We could hear muffled voices.  They didn't seem to be coming from the dark interior of the B&B and the only other completed building nearby was a little tool shed.  Voices.  Where could they be from? 

 Terry walked over nearer the shed and female voices became clearer.  They were coming from the little shed.  Terry found the doors ajar and opened them saying, "Hello?"   A dozen ladies were sitting around the perimeter visiting and were certainly surprised at our appearance.   After introducing ourselves they explained that they were a work crew moving gravel from the small mounds we had walked passed to the pathways leading to the light house.  They were moving the gravel by ice cream buckets!
We walked over to the admission building (small shack) for the light house.  Three more ladies were found there.  After paying our entrance fee one of the ladies lifted the light house keys from their hook and joined us for the walk out to the point.   Along the way she told us of the area's history and about the local berries that grow in the shallow earth atop the island of rock.   In the distance the mist ladened fog dispersed enough to show a light house that looked like an ancient church from which we expected to hear the sounds of ancient chants.  Instead we heard the moan of a fog horn ... but not a typical fog horn this one was set in the rock and was activated by wave action.  

Built in 1871 using granite from a nearby quarry, it was restored in 1999 using many of the original methods of building except that the top of the beacon tower was placed with the help of a helicopter.   The 19th century reproduction furniture is mixed with local antiques to bring a clearer visual background to the stories of the families that called this remote sea and wind battered rock finger "home".   Our guide was enthusiastic about sharing and after answering so many of our questions she  explained that with the collapse of the cod fishery many people were unemployed and many Newfoundlanders, such as the ladies we met in the shed, were employed for $6 an hour by the government so they could qualify for Employment Insurance.
In Rose Blanche we stopped at a recommended cafe - Friendly Fisherman's Cafe - overlooking a fishing village that would rival Peggy's Cove.  It's normal 11am opening had been delayed as a result of a lightening strike that had knocked out power, and we arrived just as the power was restored.  Wanting to immerse ourselves in Newfoundland culture, we ordered cod tongue.  Pauline, the owner, was very friendly (a trait we would come to appreciate most Newfoundlanders possess) and not only visited with us but took the time to bring to our table a plate of three raw, light gray cod tongues so that we could first hand grasp the differences between small, medium and large ~
small being about the size and shape of a coffee spoon and large being a little wider but approximately the same size as our own tongues.  Being that this friendly conversation took place before our order arrived, it was probably a tad more information than we needed to know.  "I like the small ones myself," Pauline shared, "because I don't like the jelly in them.  If I get the big ones I have to cut the jelly out ... though some people like it."  Shortly after that our order arrived.  Not wanting to shy away from this cultural experience, we dug in.  Not bad.  It tasted similar to calamari but we had to concur with Pauline on the jelly part.

Back in Port aux Basque we checked into Hotel Port aux Basque and shut our eyes earlier than usual.

October 1, 2003

We drove up the north west peninsula of Newfoundland towards L'anse aux Meadows. 

 On the way there we stopped to look at the remains of the S.S. Ethie that ran aground on December 11, 1919 during "the worst storm ever".   Her 92 passengers and crew feared for their lives as the icy water and rock lined shore over-powered her steam driven (she also had sails) efforts.  Her 92 passengers and crew were all saved including a baby sent ashore in a mailbag. SS Ethie's tale lives on in folklore and in song ~ " O, what a fright, the exhaustion and cold.  The depth of my story will never be told!  And all you brave fellows gets shipwrecked on the sea,  You thinks of the fate of the S.S. Ethie." 
We stopped further along and looked at the beginning of the Western Brook Pond trail which is the gateway to a network of developed trails leading to the shores of Western Brook Pond which is actually a land-locked fjord cut off from the sea by a coastal lowland. 
  It is a 3km walk (about a 30 to 40 minute hike) from the spot where we now stood to the fjord where a scheduled tour boat takes visitors on a two and a half hour boat tour.
We made plans to experience the trails and take the tour on our return trip down the peninsula.
Our next stop was to admire The Arches ~  rock archways on the coast.
The Arches were formed over millions of years by a combination of glacial action, erosion by wind and water and other geological changes.   Severe storms continue to slowly change The Arches.

Far in the future they will probably be reduced to rock pillars or sea stacks.

We stayed the night at Jeannie's Sunrise B&B ~ a delightful place and an even more delightful hostess ~ and booked for a second night.   She hurried us off to a local restaurant for a late bowl of fish chowder before it closed.  

October 2, 2003 

Our main destination for the day was L'Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site ~ the only authenticated Viking site in North America and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Believed to have been settled for a brief period 1,000 years ago by Leif Ericson, it is felt the L'Anse aux Meadows settlement was a base from which the Vikings explored Vinland, an area that encompasses the entire Gulf of St. Lawrence and the northeastern seaboard of the United States.  The site has a Visitor Centre and reconstructed sod huts, in which costumed re-enactors portray life as it might have been at the site 1,000 years ago.

Except for the friendly and accommodating staff, we pretty much had the place to ourselves appreciating all the well marked archives, information boards and film about the finding of the site and the archeological digs that followed.  

Should you be interested in such findings, we encourage you to visit the site.  It would certainly be on our "to-do list" should we ever return to Newfoundland.

Ringed pin (shown above left) is a bronze pin used to fasten a cloak over the shoulder; a common find on Norse sites.  This particular type occurred only in the Norse Atlantic area.

The iron nail (shown above right) was probably made on the site from local bog iron.

A spindle whorl (picture on left shows replica. Picture of original did not turn out well.) was used as a flywheel on a spindle of wood for the spinning of thread or yarn.  This artifact was an important part of a Norse woman's work kit.  The whorl was made from a fragment of soapstone.

A pivot base (pictured lower right) for a wooden door post or a stone oil lamp.  Such pivot bases were common in the West Norse area.  

West Norse oil lamps of stone were identical in appearance to the pivot base, so it is not possible to tell which function this piece served.
After spending an hour or more in the interpretative centre, we walked out to the actual site where mounds still mark where the settlement stood all those many years ago before Helge Ingstad discovered the site in 1960 and  with his wife, Ann, and supported by international teams of archaeologists from Scandinavia, Iceland, the US and Canada began the dig that produced a convincing picture of a small Norse settlement.   What the diggings have revealed is a complex of eight turf-walled buildings located on an ancient marine terrace above a brook and overlooking shallow, rock-strewn Epaves Bay.  
The form of the buildings, the hearths and forges they contained, and the artifacts found in association with them, all indicated a Norse presence dating to about AD 1000.  From 1973 to 1976 Parks Canada undertook a second series of excavations that examined the bog areas below the house sites.  Thousands of bits of debris from the boat repair activities were unearthed in the Norse layer.  Ingstad's theory had been confirmed and the saga stories were vindicated.  While no one can say that L'Anse aux Meadows is one of the sites mentioned in the sagas, or the work of an anonymous expedition, it is certainly proof the Europeans visited and perhaps lived for awhile in North America, five hundred years before Columbus.
Our own adventure was not over yet.  
Beyond the original Viking site, Parks Canada, erected a settlement in the Viking way with a few sod buildings.  Mark, a costumed interpreter kindly led us through and with words, articles and actions helped us better understand the daily living conditions of the Vikings who worked from this site.  
Mark was most informative - as if we had stepped back into Viking time.  He helped Terry to dress more appropriately and to our delight armed him with a very heavy sword and an even more weighty wooden shield.
Beware the birth of a barbarian!

It wasn't until we were just finishing up Mark's informative tour at the blacksmith's shop where he was explaining how they gathered and made bog iron, that we were joined by other visitors.

On our way back up the path to the interpretive centre, gift shop and the parking lot  we passed a couple.  Stopping to chat for a moment, we learned that they were from Port Alberni, BC.  Before reaching the centre, another couple were on their way to the Viking site and told us they were from Nelson.  At the interpretive centre we met a couple from Cranbrook.

Not one to buy many things during our travels, Sherrie saw a silver broach in the gift shop styled in the way of a Viking cloak clasp and purchased it.  Wanting to know who had crafted such a treasure, the lady in the gift shop said, "Mark".

 It would be a week or so later that we would receive an email from the Alberni lady saying, "we thought you looked familiar but by the time we had looked at the guest book and run out to the parking lot you were gone ... are you still interested in judging the sheep classes in Port Alberni for 2004?"   It is a small small world!

Leaving LíAnse aux Meadows we stopped in at a restaurant call Northern Delight and had a plate of snowy white, succulently sweet, melt in your mouth cod ~ the body this time ~ without doubt a superior choice over cod-tongue.
As we drove back we kept aware of the warnings about moose accidents which happen most often at night. There are approximately 40,000 moose in Newfoundland and many find living conditions close to towns and highways desirable ... but with that comes accidents ~ reportedly more than one a day. Imagine running into a beast the height of a horse and weighing 400kg (900lbs) with the added threat of thick antlers spreading 2 metres across. 
Itís hunting season, at present, for moose and while we were watching out for them to avoid causing harm to them and to ourselves, pickup truck after pickup truck outfitted with gun racks and men in neon vests drove slowly along the highway banked by marsh lands. Terry came to a sudden stop as a cow moose leaped up onto the highway. With the stop of our car she moved, confidently and slowly, back to the protection of trees. We took three pictures of her ... each one a little closer (we miss our zoom lens at times like this).
October 3, 2003

We left Jeannie's Sunrise B&B and moved south once more through Gros Morne National Park ... another site in Newfoundland designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The parkís geography is varied, from rock shores to table top mountains, from bogs to steep sided fjords, as is its wildlife, from moose and caribou to whales, seals and a multitude of birds.

It was not a good day .... weather wise. Storm clouds tumbled across the sky and the wind whipped whitecaps up on the Gulf of St. Lawrence. We wondered about our planned hike and boat trip on the fjord. We were still hopeful as we arrived early at the beginning of the trail to Western Brook Pond and the fjord tour. As we waited, we looked out to sea. Not good. Terry took a jog out along the trail and returned just as it started to rain. Our hopes were washed away with the downpour that followed. So hard was the rain that drivers were pulling off the highway to wait out the worst of it.

Further down the highway we pulled over at Photographers Lookout. The Bonne Bay Valley is indeed beautiful even on a day like this. But, as the information board informed us there are dangers that lurk beneath the calm. In places the water is very deep (up to 230 metres) making safe anchorage for boats difficult, a factor which kept Basque fishermen out of the bay. 
The area can also be the site of punishing hurricane force winds when a cold easterly flow drops down from the highlands and compresses in the valley. As this air flows out it creates a low pressure area which results in winds that can blow roofs off houses and produce waves that damage local wharfs.

We drove inland and stayed the night in Grand Falls.


October 4, 2003

A quintessentially Newfoundland day as we experienced the beauty of Twillingate. The weather cooperated with clear blue skies, bright sun and balmy temperatures. As we approched, we took time to walk on the high cliffs with binoculars in hand and were rewarded with the view of porpoise (or were they one of the smaller whales species that frequent these waters).


The picturesque fishing villages were a feast for our camera. We stopped at a private wharf and boldly asked a fisherman at his cleaning table if he would mind a couple of tourist bothering him with questions and pictures. He had just cleaned his second to last squid and on the last he cleaned it slowly (slow to him .... it still seemed fast to us) and talked us through the processes of catching, cleaning, drying on lines and then on net racks and sending them to market.
Though Twillingate gave us a feast for the eyes, it also gave us one for our tummies - fresh, pure white, sweet ... oh, so sweet ... and succulent cod with the slightest crunchy crust and served by a window that gave us a view the best of artists could appreciate.
As we reluctantly left Twillingate and drove over one of the causeways between the islands we saw fishermen ... and women .... and child ... in five boats linked together jigging for squid. We parked the car at the end of the causeway and walked back. We exchanged friendly waves and then just sat there and watched and contemplated the lives they must lead .... the hardships of it and the comradery of tackling the elements and life in general as a community ... they are independent souls with a great deal of pride in what they do and for whom they do it. We waved our good byes and hoped they could "feel" our appreciation for the time spent "with" them and drove on to Gander where we spent the night.

October 5, 2003

We started off our morning with a solemn visit to the Silent Witness Monument. On December 11, 1985, Arrow Air Flight MF1285R, a Douglas DC-8-63 of US registration, departed Cairo, Egypt on an international charter flight to Fort Campbell, Kentucky via Cologne, Germany and Gander, Newfoundland. On board were eight crew members and two hundred forty-eight passengers, their personal effects and some military equipment. The passengers on this flight were members of the 101st Airborne Division, US Army - the Screaming Eagles - returning from peacekeeping duties in the Sinai Desert. The flight arrived at Cologne on December 11 for a planned technical stop. A complete crew change took place before departing at 11:20pm Gander time. The flight arrived at Gander at 5:34 am where passengers were de-planed and the aircraft was refueled and serviced. The flight departed Gander at 6:45am. The aircraft gained little altitude after rotation and began to descend crossing the Trans Canada Highway approximately 900 feet beyond the departure end of runway 22. The aircraft continued to descend until it struck down sloping terrain approximately 3000 feet beyond the departure end of the runway.

The aircraft was destroyed by impact forces and severe fuel-fed fire. All 256 occupants perished.

The aircraft came to a final rest in what was once a heavily wooded area - now a peaceful grassy field.

The Arrow Air Crash was the worst air disaster on Canadian soil.

In 1990 a dedication ceremony was held in memory of the 101st Airborne Division. This memorial depicts an unarmed American Soldier standing atop a massive rock holding the hands of two civilian children. The children, a boy and a girl, each hold an olive branch, indicative of the peace keeping mission of the 101st Airborne in the Sinai. Behind them rise three tall staff each bearing a flag, Canadian, American and Newfoundland. As the trio stands looking into the future, they are surrounded by trees, hills and rocks of the actual crash site overlooking Gander Lake in the direction of Fort Campbell, Kentucky. These natural surroundings are the "Silent Witnesses" .

All about this fitting monument there are indications of the many visitors who have come to mourn - perhaps to some a personal loss - and to reflect on how unpredictable death can be and how very precious is each life.

We arrived at the bed and breakfast we would be staying at in Saint Johnís .... as we entered the driveway we said in unison "Oh! What a view!" .... the name of the B&B .... Oh What A View B&B.


October 6 and 7, 2003


Using the B&B that sits above St. Johnís harbour as our home base we set out to discover this beautiful part of Canada. The architecture of North Americaís oldest city, St. Johnís shows itís European beginnings and is a delight to the eye. 

The weather was not too hospitable but the people were. Some places we visited a second time after the clouds lifted a bit. Once such place was Signal Hill.
Signal Hill makes up one side of the narrow channel that ships must navigate to reach the inner harbour of St. Johnís. 
It was here in 1762 that the British took control from the French and fortified their position ~ some cannons still stand as a reminder. At the top of the hill is Cabot Tower - a tribute to John Cabots arrival in 1497. Built in 1900, it was here that Guglielmo Marconi received the first wireless transatlantic message in 1901.

The following, excepted from the display within the tower, tells the story of Marconiís triumph.

Marconi arrived in St Johnís on Friday December 6 1901 with two assistants, GS Kemp and PW Paget, a large wicker hamper and several crates containing wireless equipment as well as two balloons and six kites to hold an antenna aloft. The next day Marconi met with Governor Sir Cavendish Boyle and Prime Minister Sir Robert Bond. They discussed Marconiís work and the great potential of wireless to improve safety and reduce loss of life at sea. Bond and Boyle were enthusiastic and offered Marconi their full support and the use of government facilities for his experiment. Marconi did not reveal the true intent of his presence in St. Johnís. Instead he claimed that he would be conducting ranging experiments with ships at sea.. This ensured that, if he was unsuccessful, it would not become a large public failure.

After inspecting several possible location in St. Johnís, Marconi selected the summit of Signal Hill. It had good elevation, appropriate ground conditions and ample open space to fly balloons or kites. A former military barracks at the summit, then in use as a hospital, was made available to Marconi for his experiment.. By Monday, December 9, Marconi and his assistants were ready to begin work.
December 9 and 10 were spent setting up their equipment, filling a balloon with hydrogen and a hired local firm covered the ground in the area with large sheets of zinc that would reflect electromagnetic signals onto the antenna. The original signal was not expected to be strong. Because of this, Marconi chose to use a telephone receiver instead of his Morse recorder. With everything in readiness, Marconi cabled Poldhu (pictured left), in Cornwall England (a station earlier set up) to begin transmitting on the 11th. The signal was the Morse code for letter "S". It had been selected as the simplest transmission that could be accurately distinguished through background noise and static.
The next day the balloon was sent up in high winds with 150 metres of antenna wire attached. The winds were too strong and the balloon broke free and was lost. December 12 the wind was even stronger but they launched a kite with two wires attached ... but it too was carried off by the wind.

 A second kite was launched with 150 metres of wire. This one held and shortly after noon Marconi began to listen for the three dots sent into the air from Poldhu 3468 kilometres away.

Marconi later described the event "Suddenly, about half past twelve, there sounded the sharp click of the Ďtapperí as it struck the coherer, showing me that something was coming and I listened intently. Unmistakably the three sharp clicks, corresponding to three dots sounded in my ear but I would not be satisfied without corroboration. ĎCan you hear anything Mr. Kemp?í I said, handing the telephone to my assistant. Kemp heard the same thing as I."

The signal faded out but was detected again at 1:10 and 2:20pm. The letter "S" was heard about 25 times in all.

Following his success on Signal Hill , Marconi considered building a powerful station in Newfoundland but was served papers from Anglo-American Telegraph Company (one of the transatlantic submarine telegraph cable companies that moved to protect their interests) threatening legal action if he continued his work.
On Christmas Eve 1901 Marconi left St. Johnís to travel to New York. In addition to threats of the cable company, Marconi had also received numerous messages of support. On December 26, when the boat from Newfoundland docked in North Sydney, Nova Scotia, Marconi was met by representatives of the Nova Scotia government including the Premier who convinced him not to board the train for New York but instead look for a site where Marconi could build his wireless station.

He did find a place at Table Head in Glace Bay and the next day Marconi left for Ottawa to settle the deal with the Government of Canada. Marconi made a commitment that when Table Head was completed his cost for transatlantic messages would be set at ten cents per word - 60% less than the cable company rate.
Again, our restaurant meals focused on experiencing local cuisine. At Chesís we had fish and chips and stuffing (like the kind you have with turkey) and gravy (no vegetables). We shared the restaurant that evening with Rex Murphy from CBC-TV. For Terryís birthday dinner October 7th, we had moose stew. Another evening at the Classic Cafť West we enjoyed fish chowder and had our first taste of toutens - a sort of panfried flattish donut served with either syrup or molasses. In the evenings we went to George Street which is lined with pubs and watched local talent entertain with modern and folk music.
Quidi Vidi is another of Newfoundlandís picturesque fishing villages. This one boasts the oldest cottage in North America. It was nice but we if we had to make a choice because of time constraints, we feel the villages in Twillingate more picturesque (admitting that the weather had been kinder to us there as well).

Also to celebrate Terryís birthday, we went to the most easterly point in North America ~ Cape Spear. There we walked through the heavy gun batteries built in 1941 to protect the harbour during WWII. The wind was blowing strong and the rain became stronger .... so we gave up on nature and headed indoors.

A new site in St. Johnís is the new store owned by tvís Designer Guys, Chris and Steve. It is their first store and the only thing stopping Sherrie from taking advantage of their classy styles and fair pricing was the thought of traveling with it for the next two months and where it would be placed in our down-sized accommodations when we got home. 

Chrisís mom, Marilyn, manages the store and it was a pleasure meeting this charming lady and very proud mother.
On our second trip to Signal Hill Terry took the hike out to the point , along a path that hugs the steep cliff that forms one side of the narrow harbour channel, just before sunset, while Sherrie drove the car down to the harbour to pick him up at the end.
St. Johnís was much more than we had expected and would most certainly be a 
place we would happily return to ~ perhaps next time in the late spring or early summer when the weather is improving and huge icebergs near the harbour entrance are a common sight.


October 8, 2003

We began to make our way back to Port aux Basques with a shorter than expected stop at Trinity. Trinity is a well preserved historical village and although off the beaten track, it attracts many visitors through the summer months.
 Unfortunately for us, their tourist season ends between September 30 and Octoberís Thanksgiving weekend and even the famed ĎTheatre in the Bightí ... a historical pageant cancelled itís evening performance for lack of reservations and we were not allowed to witness the rehearsal that was taking place on our arrival in town. 
With so much of the village closed we decided to push on and made it back to Gander before calling it a night.


October 9, 2003

Primarily a travel day back to Port aux Basques and preparation for our ferry trip back to Nova Scotia.


October 10, 2003

We boarded the ferry early in the morning and it was not long before Sherrie was feeling queasy and turning white ... even though the crossing did not seem that rough. Terry went in search of Gravol. They are no longer allowed to sell Gravol but recommended wrist straps with pressure point buttons. We had heard of these straps but had never met anyone who had actually used them. 

They were worth a try .... but success was not expected and the package said that they should be applied five minutes before sailing. Following directions, Sherrie put them on and prepared for 6 hours of hanging on. The sick feelings did not get worse, in fact they improved and in thirty minutes colour had return and she was up walking, reading and working on the lap top. The pressure point wrist bands were keepers.

We disembarked in North Sydney in the early afternoon and began a pleasant two days of driving Cape Bretonís Cabot Trail. Cape Breton is a large island off Nova Scotiaís northeast mainland and the Cabot Trail is a 300 km drive passed scenic seascapes, rocky interiors, lush valleys and numerous rivers and lakes and at this time of the year the colour of the trees make hillsides appear as though they have been covered with an antique Aubusson carpet.

We stayed the night in Ingonish, at the eastern entrance to Cape Breton Highlands National Park.


October 11, 2003

After breakfast, we parked the car at the Keltic Lodge on the Middle Head Peninsula and hiked the 2km trail to the peninsulaís point. The trail starts off on an early 1900s carriage road which linked a country estate with summer fishing shacks.

In 1890 while touring Cape Breton with his good friend Alexander Graham Bell, Mr. Henry Carson, of Ohio, spotted this peninsula from Cape Smokey.  He decided to build his summer home here.

In 1938, Middle Head became part of Cape Breton Highland National Park. In 1951, the Carson home was replaced by the Keltic Lodge, now owned and operated by the Government of Nova Scotia. Mr. Carsonís cattle once rambled down this trail pausing at the drinking trough just outside the gate (Terry pictured at drinking trough).
The rolling footpath led us through picturesque view points to a stunning view of the Atlantic Ocean from atop steep cliffs. The weather could not have been more perfect.
Farther along the Cabot Trail we stopped at a view point to see the highland plateau, the largest tract of wild land left in Nova Scotia protected since 1936 within the Park.

Before leaving the National Park we spent some time at French Mountain Bog. It is on the highland plateau, 410 metres (1350 feet) above sea level. This typical highland wetland is guarded by board walks so visitors will not damage the fragile ecosystem which already battles to survive in a harsh environment.

Wetlands, like this one, dot the highland plateau. They are common because of poor drainage and a cool, wet climate. This "bog" is more accurately called a "slope fen".  Bogs receive all their moisture and nutrients from rain, fog and snow falling directly onto them.  Fens have an additional source: seeping ground or surface water.   Despite differences, this fen resembles a true bog in many ways.   

Bogs, fens and other wetlands are crucial to humans and to wildlife.  These giant sponges soak up and store runoff when rain is plentiful.  In dry periods, they slowly release water.  This reduces flooding and helps maintain stream flow.

Plants of highland bogs face harsh conditions: extreme heat and cold, infertile soil, fierce winds and sometimes drought.  Few species can survive here.  Those that do have special adaptations.    Tiny sphagnum mosses, like the one pictured centre above, carpet the ground.  Sphagnum is typical of bogs.  It readily absorbs the limited available nutrients, and grows layer upon layer.  Sphagnum limits other life in a bog by releasing acids.  It also keeps the soil waterlogged; although the ground appears dry, much of it is like a soaking wet sponge. 

Every spring the Buckbean's (shown growing in water above right) fuzzy white flowers decorate these pools. Bright yellow fruit appear by early July and wither by mid-summer.  Like many northern plants, Buckbean completes its reproductive cycle quickly to cope with a short growing season.  Speed is especially important here on the highland plateau where snow banks linger until late May and frost returns again by September.

Some Black Spruce and Eastern Larch on the plateau are a hundred years old, yet only one meter (three feet) high.   Poor soils and a cool climate stunt tree growth.  So does ice-blasting; strong winds drive snow crystals into branches higher than the snow cover.  These exposed branches often die. 

We made the decision to drive "home" to Truro and made a phone call to Tammie and Bryan to request that they leave the door unlocked for our late arrival. 

We stopped at Cheticamp to have a traditional Acadian dinner at Co-op Artisanale Restaurant.  Before going into the restaurant side of the building we first toured the museum and store to learn more of their famous hooked rugs which are now treasured all over the world including the White House and Windsor Palace in London.  A lady in the shop took the time to show us how to hook a rug ... or many other articles made from this ancient craft.

Our dinners included poulet fricot (a potato and chicken soup) and a beef and pork pie traditionally served in Acadian homes after Christmas Eve Mass.  Delicious.  

As we drove towards Truro the sun set on this leg of our North American Drive.

Continue to October 12, 2003