Days 12 & 13: Labrador. Dense fog cloaked Highway 430 as we left St. Anthony and Newfoundland's northern coast in the rain Saturday morning, straining to spot any moose that might enter the roadway for a closer look at us. Perhaps they slept in on Saturday morning because we saw only one, well off the highway, on a stretch of 430 renowned as 'moose alley.' By the time we reached Flower's Cove, an hour and a half south, the rain had abated, so we paused to check out the Thrombolites Walking Trail.
|Ancient fossils in Flower's Cove|
|Apollo ferry (photo from LabradorMarine.com)|
Actually, the ferry made landfall in Blanc Sablon, Quebec, where we picked up the disconnected eastern fragment of QC-138, which took us the two miles to the Labrador border, hooking up with NL-510, the beginning of the fabled Trans Labrador Highway (TLH) and the Labrador Coastal Drive. Two and a half miles into Labrador, we arrived in L'Anse au Clair (pop. 192), the first in a strand of coastal villages along the TLH as it strings its way up the Belle Isle shoreline. French fishermen established these hamlets in the early 1700s, as home bases for their fishing concessions granted by Louis XIV (or XV) when this area was considered part of Quebec.
After checking in at the Northern Lights Inn in L'Anse au Clair (no Hilton or Marriott properties here), we continued our exploration northward—on the TLH, of course. It was the only road available. About halfway to Forteau (pop. 429), the next town, we spied a guy loading a float plane on a lake between the TLH and the strait. Backtracking, we found a rutted road leading to the spot.
|Load 'er up|
Prior to 2010, John ran an active business shuttling people, mail, groceries, and other goods from Newfoundland to the more remote Labrador during the winter months when the ferry was unable to get across the strait. But that year, a new section of the TLH was opened, finally connecting the south coast with central Labrador and stimulating an increase in vehicular traffic.
With a 96% subsidy from the federal and provincial governments, Labrador Marine began operating a winter (January through May) ferry service between Blanc Sablon and Corner Brook, a town farther south on Newfoundland island. With a greater distance and angular path, pressure on the ferry from the strait's ice cover was reduced. More often than not during these months, a Coast Guard ice breaker accompanies the ferry on its trek. Last winter, a covering of ice 2 to 4 feet thick clogged 90% of the strait during the coldest months.
|Ferry Apollo follows Coast Guard ice breaker across the Strait of Belle Isle (photo from LabradorMarine.com)|
|Ancient burial site (marked by those rocks)|
|Point Amour Light Station|
|Model reveals counterintuitive building method with hardest material on inside.|
The lighthouse's 500-watt bulbs can project a distance of 30 miles with a boost from the fresnel lens surrounding the bulbs. Only one of the four bulbs burns at a time, with another automatically rotating into service should the previous one burn out.
|Remnants of the Raleigh|
All but eleven members of the 700-man crew survived the catastrophe and made their way to the light station, where they were billeted in every square inch of refuge, including the stairs and landings of the lighthouse. A few years later, the British navy destroyed the shipwreck, leaving behind a few last vestiges of the Raleigh's final fateful voyage.
On the way back to the lighthouse, we found a perfect hiding spot for one of our "Love This Spot" letterboxes. It's just off the trail and has a nice view of the lighthouse. Then we called it a day, returning to our hotel in L'Anse au Clair with plans to continue our journey on the TransLabrador Highway the next day, no burden since we had only made it 15 miles up the coast.
|West St. Modeste Lighthouse|
|New section of 510 north of Pinware|
|A 16th century chalupa boat recovered from the waters of Red Bay harbor|
|Red Bay harbor|
- Bring at least two full-sized spare tires mounted on rims.
- Slow down when a vehicle passes you in either direction to reduce the chance of a rock cracking your windshield.
- Slow down when passing other vehicles to lessen the chance of striking them with mud or flying rocks.
- Caribou often cross the road in large numbers.
|TransLabrador Highway north of Red Bay|
The road is narrow, has soft shoulders, high embankments, and steep hills. There are lengthy stretches of gravel surface with sharp rocks, potholes, washboard, and, depending on the weather, clouds of dust or slick mud. Watch out for dangerous curves and loose gravel. (User Guide for the TransLabrador Highway)
In fact, this part of Labrador is so remote that the provincial government offers a free satellite phone lending service because there is no cellular service along the TLH in this area. Satellite phones are preprogrammed to call the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, which will coordinate the appropriate emergency response.
We drove just a few miles north of Red Bay to experience the rugged road. Since the nearest town, Lodge Bay, was some 50 miles away and our rental car agreement nullified insurance coverage for such sections of the TLH, we dared not go further. And besides, we wanted to dip down into Quebec, something which would have to be done today since we're booked on tomorrow's 8 a.m. ferry crossing back to Newfoundland.
Retracing our route down the coast, the TLH became Quebec Route 138 when we crossed the border into Quebec. We were setting out on the far eastern fragment of this major route which traverses most of the province. The Quebec government is in the midst of a massive ten-year project to build missing sections to complete Route 138 from Blanc Sablon to Quebec's border with New York State almost 1,000 miles away. Between Old Fort and the current terminus of the western section at Kegaska lie the final 150 miles of challenging terrain to bridge.
|Brador Falls, just south of Blanc Sablon|
Saturday, June 21, and Sunday, June 22, 2014
More Photos from Labrador
|The ferry's wake|
|Vehicles load into the aft and exit the bow.|
|Signal flags at Point Amour lighthouse|
|Newly re-routed section of the TLH north of Red Bay|
|Wood decking on Pinware River bridge|
|Typical glacial pond, Quebec North Shore|
|St. Paul's River, fishing village near the QC-138 terminus|