Breaking the Ice

Sunday, June 15, 2014 Road Junkies 0 Comments

THE BIG CHILL, Chapter 5:  

Day 6:  Trinity to Twillingate Island

Retracing our journey back to the Trans-Canada Highway, we bade farewell to the historic Bonavista Peninsula.  Soon after reconnecting with the TCH, the highway entered Terre Nova National Park, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the boreal forest, dominated by thick stands of black spruce.  (Pictured above:  Sandy Pond, Terre Nlova National Park)

With a lot of miles to cover and no exceptional feature luring us to further exploration, we enjoyed this expansive landscape as a scenic drive, grateful that the park was bisected by the TCH.

In Gander, we paused long enough to check out the tiny airport that began life in the 1930s as a refueling stop for transatlantic flights between the U.S. and Europe.  With the advent of longer range jets in the 1960s, the Gander airport's star began to fade with only their air traffic control retaining relevance for planes on the great circle route.

The small airport remained active for flights within the province, averaging just a handful of arrivals and departures daily.  Then came September 11, 2001.  In an atmosphere of unprecedented uncertainty, air traffic control sought to keep commercial aircraft from major Canadian cities, making little Gander a top destination for planes blocked from U.S. airspace.  On that day, this tiny facility received 39 major airliners carrying almost 6,600 passengers and crew.  And they all stayed for four days while Gander, a town with fewer than 10,000 residents, embraced them like old friends, saw to all their needs, and earned a sterling international reputation for kindhearted compassion and gracious hospitality.

From Gander, we turned north on Highway 330 to Gander Bay, where we took the causeway to 331, a road that carried us across the peninsula to the 340, where we began island hopping.  Driving near the little village of Fairbank, we spied in the distance what appeared to be an ocean of ice.  Then for the next half hour, we drove up and down a plethora of tiny roads in search of a spot that would afford a closer inspection of this phenomenon.

Little Harbour, NL
At last, we hit the jackpot when we ventured down Little Harbour Road, which led us to Little Harbour, a drive-through, 13-family community hugging an arm of Notre Dame Bay.  A profusion of ice greeted us as we drove into the harbor area.  Numerous large bergs idled offshore, and pack ice filled the tiny harbour.

Like the icebergs, the much smaller pieces of pack ice had drifted down from Greenland and other points north.  A generous flow of pack ice promises a banner iceberg season for Newfoundland because the pack ice surrounding large bergs protects them from wave damage as they float southward.

Of course, we were unable to resist the urge to touch a piece of this 10,000 year old ice that traveled all the way from a Greenland glacier.  Since icebergs calve off glaciers formed from falling snow, iceberg ice is not salty and is, in fact, quite pure.  Bottled water, beer and vodka are produced in Newfoundland using the crystalline water from icebergs.

More Little Harbour
Reluctantly, we left Little Harbour's ice show and drove to Twillingate on the opposite shore of South Twillingate Island.  At Long Point lighthouse, we bided our time with a picnic lunch before going to search for the letterbox allegedly hiding there.  After all, we were zero for about ten thus far in our letterbox attempts in Newfoundland, so we had no sense of urgency.  What a pleasant surprise when we found the letterbox sitting just where the clue described.

A bumper crop of pack ice and icebergs lolled in the waters off Long Point, and a substantial crowd had flocked to land's end to admire them.  So we left the congestion and drove around Harts Cove to Durrell where we hiked French Beach Trail over to the shore, finding an unspoiled vista of rugged coastline, rock formations, and more icebergs.

French Beach Trail
By the time we returned to Twillingate and shopped at the local Foodland, it was check-in time at the Anchor Inn.  Georgie's Restaurant on site served up an adequate dinner.  On this busy Father's Day evening, the staff had their hands full juggling guests and a hoard of locals dining out in honor of dad.

As we walked past the front desk on the way to our room, the desk clerk asked our name.  When we told her, she told Ken that he had lost his passport at Foodland.  What??  It turned out to be not the document itself but a copy that I dropped from my wallet.  Still, it held enough critical information to warm the heart of any identity thief.  Lucky for us, this valuable document had been turned over to the store manager, who happened to be the desk clerk's sister.

Taking a chance, the manager called the inn (one of only two hotels in town) to ask her sister if we were guests there.  Only after she told her sister why she was inquiring did the desk clerk verify that we were there.  In an exceptional gesture, the store manager then drove to the inn and delivered the paper for us, giving us an opportunity to experience the same type of big-hearted kindness demonstrated by the folks around Gander in 2001.  We were amazed and very grateful.

Sadly, our itinerary included only one day in this hospitable town.  Tomorrow we'll head west to Deer Lake, our jumping off point for a couple of days exploring Gros Morne National Park.
SUNDAY, 15 JUNE 2014

Little Harbour
Little Harbour

Long Point Lighthouse