Friday, 31 August 2012

Enjoying Springdale and King’s Point in Central Newfoundland


by Keith and Heather Nicol
      On our most recent trip to Springdale and King's Point area of Central Newfoundland we stayed at the
luxurious Riverwood Inn (http://www.riverwoodinn.ca/
which received the “Accommodator of the Year” award for 2011 from Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador. It has a spectacular setting overlooking the Indian River and has walking trails that start right from its front door. 

View from the deck of Riverwood Inn
     When we asked Tracey Penney, the Inn’s manager, about what to see in the local area she recommended checking out “glassy beach”, the local Springdale hiking trails and King’s Point pottery in King’s Point. “You can get to glassy beach by driving  .8 km on the gravel road at the far end of Springdale. Here is my cell phone number if you have any questions” she told us as we headed out to enjoy the sunny late August day. We easily found the 140 meter long trail from the road to the beach (look for a sign Bowers 136136 at the trail start) and the small beach was covered in hundreds of smoothed, wave washed fragments of broken glass. Amazing!
Glassy beach near Springdale
       From there we headed to the estuary end of the 5.5 km Indian River walking trail where we enjoyed the boardwalk and interpretative signage. Be sure to bring your binoculars to help with bird sitings. We then had lunch at the other end of the trail at the George Huxter Memorial RV and Tent Park where there is a waterfalls and salmon ladder on the Indian River.
The boardwalk trail allows you to see the estuary of the Indian River
After lunch we headed to King’s Point Pottery (http://www.kingspointpottery.com/) where we met Linda Yates and David Hayashida. They produce very beautiful pottery that they sell along with the work of many other artisans in their craft shop.  They even offer pottery lessons which we had signed up for.  “Why not come back around 7:00 pm tonight after we close the shop and you can each make a bowl on the potter’s wheel! In the mean time be sure to check out the Humpback Whale Pavilion, the King’s Point museum and Joshue Toms general store in Rattling Brook.” Linda told us. That gave us plenty to do that afternoon. 
King's Point Pottery has lots of great gift ideas.
The Humpback Whale Pavilion is just up the road from King’s Point Pottery and it opened in 2010. It features a humpback whale skeleton from a whale that was entangled in fishing gear in 2001 near Twillingate. It was then towed to King’s Point where it was cleaned and stored until the pavilion was built. 
The Humpback Whale Pavilion is a must see in King's Point
Joshue Toms General Store in Rattling Brook
 Further up the road is the King’s Point Museum which has also recently been started. Our guide, Justina Morey Hollett told us that the museum was a project of the local heritage society and that the house is over 100 years old. The Joshua Toms general store (complete with pot belly stove) has been run by Dulcie Toms for the last 58 years and she told us that more recently she has added a museum component. There were a steady stream of visitors reminiscing about the dishes, medicines and other items on display.  That evening we had a very interesting pottery session with Linda and David and we can’t wait to receive our dishes in the mail after they have glazed them. 
David helping Heather decorate her bowl

















Friday, 24 August 2012

Sampling the Blomidon Golf Club and Harmon Seaside Links in Western Newfoundland


by Keith and Heather Nicol
Putting on the first green with Humber Arm in the backgrd
     A few weeks ago we had an opportunity to try out 2 golf courses in Central Newfoundland and we recently had a chance to check out 2 others in Western Newfoundland. On Wednesday, August 22 we played  at the Blomidon Golf Club in Corner Brook. Although a few showers passed overhead in the morning by the time we hit the first tee at 12:40 pm the sun was out and fluffy white clouds drifted across the sky. The Blomidon Golf Course was the host of the 2012 Provincial Golf Championships and is a very scenic course, especially in the fall as the trees change colour. This challenging course provides amazing views of Humber Arm and the distant Blow me down Mountains as well as the community of Corner Brook.  The demanding course is quite hilly but still suited to walkers. There is little water on the course but some of the sand traps will come into play if you are not accurate with your approach shots. The course is easy to access for visitors since it is just off the Trans Canada Highway and they welcome golfers with a great deal - a cart and two 18 hole green fees for just $75.00 plus tax. This must be one of the best bargains in the province for golf. They typically close in mid October. For more information see: http://www.blomidongolf.com/
Looking toward the 6th green at Blomidon
Putting on the 8th green with Little Port Harmon behind
       The next day (August 23) we drove to Stephenville to try the Harmon Seaside Links. This is an 18 hole –par 72 golf course right across the road from Bay St. George. The course is very flat so is great for walkers and we had a very enjoyable day exploring this course which we don’t get a chance to play very often. There is quite abit of water but it really only comes into play on a few of the holes and although everything appears to be wide open you need to be accurate with your tee shots to avoid the rough along the sides and fairway sand traps. Unfortunately I ended up in a couple of those traps. The course provides good views of the Indian Head Range and the community of Stephenville can be seen in the background. On the day we played the wind was not an issue but be aware that it often can be windy, particularly in the afternoon.  We really like this course and plan to play it more often.  Joan Tobin, the pro shop manager, told us that they had had a great summer and that quite a few visitors had dropped by to play. Like the Blomidon Golf Club in Corner Brook they expect to be open until about mid October. For more information see: http://www.harmonseasidelinks.com/
The 18th green with the Indian Head Range behind

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Enjoying the Vinland Music Camp in Gros Morne National Park


by Keith and Heather Nicol
     On Monday, August 20 we decided to check out the Vinland Music Camp which is now in its 12th year at Killdevil Camp in Gros Morne National Park. We had been in touch with Eric West the organizer of the camp about popping in for a short time to see how it worked and he said “Please come along and see what we do”. We were very impressed with the range of music being taught (including harp, fiddle, accordion, bodhran, mandolin and tin whistle) as well as sessions in song writing and story telling. Eric told that he is also trying to create a festival flavor to the camp and this year the Dardanelles from St. John’s kicked things off on Monday night with their own special brand of toe tapping Newfoundland music. 
The Dardanelles wowed the crowds at the Vinland Music Camp
     The next morning we stopped in for some sessions and Gayle Tapper was leading the beginner tin whistle session. “Be sure to hold your fingers flat so that they completely cover the holes” she told us to avoid the ‘squawking’ sound novices tend to make. She then led us through “Mussels in the Corner” patiently working with each person until they could play the song. 
Learning to play "Mussels in the Corner" 
     Gayle also showed a small group of us how to play the celtic harp and it is certainly a beautiful sounding instrument. Again she worked with each of us individually to make sure we got the correct fingering technique to play scales, chords and a simple tune. We were impressed with her great teaching ability. Thanks Gayle!
Trying the Celtic Harp
      We also attended a workshop with Daniel Payne on the bodhran or irish drum.  He had a large class of 16 to deal with but he effectively covered some basics on how to strike the drum and taught us some common rhythms. “Think about flicking some water off the stick” he told us to give some snap to the sound. After lunch there is some practice time/recreation and then more sessions followed by supper. In the evening there is a chance to learn folk dancing and listen to more music by guest artists or camp members. And this repeats for 5 days! It looks like a great way to learn a new instrument or two as well as have a great time. We were impressed! The camp gets people from across Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and other provinces and as well as the U.S. and even Europe. For more information on the camp contact: http://www.vinlandmusic.ca/site/
Practicing the bodhran with Daniel Payne

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Some activities to try in Terra Nova National Park and Gander, Newfoundland


by Keith and Heather Nicol
Yellowlegs along the shore
       On our most recent trip to Central Newfoundland we were focusing on seeing places and doing activities that we had not done before. We had been very impressed with the Barbour Living Heritage Village in Newtown and were blown away with the scenery, hiking and beaches on the Eastport Peninsula. We then turned our attention to Terra Nova National Park (http://www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/nl/terranova/index.aspx) and decided to head to the Visitor’s Centre where the staff suggested doing the hike to 3.5 km (1 way) to Buckley Cove. The trail winds along the ocean before winding inland to Buckley Cove. The highlights were the coastal views and seeing shore birds-several greater yellowlegs feeding on the beaches. 
Walking on the Buckley Cove Trail
     We also joined Coastal Connections for a boat tour of Newman Sound. The Coastal Connections boat tour is unique in the province with its emphasis on interpreting the marine environment. Part of the tour includes hauling up several traps in different locations to illustrate what lives in these waters. The kids on board loved helping pull up the various traps and everyone wanted to see what fish, star fish, sea urchins or other creatures might be trapped inside. The highlight was the crab trap that was in about 120 meters of water and everyone on board helped haul in the trap. It held about 15 snow and toad crabs which Cap’t Lloyd Phillips said is about 1/10th of their normal haul! Depending on the tour you may also see whales and eagles. For more information on this popular boat tour see: www.coastalconnections.ca
Passengers checking out some of the snow crab that we hauled up
      From Terra Nova National Park we drove to Gander to see the North Atlantic Aviation Museum. This museum is conveniently located right on the Trans Canada Highway and has many aircraft parked out side. Inside we met the manager, Catherine Torraville, who was very helpful explaining the evolution of aviation in Gander. The museum has just had a facelift and has a new 9-11 exhibit which should be very popular. We enjoyed this museum with its interactive displays and we recommend it to people of all ages. They also have a small gift shop and for more information see: http://www./northatlanticaviationmuseum.com/ 
Catherine Torraville (right) explains to Heather about the highlights of the museum
       That evening we saw the “Beyond the Overpass “Dinner Theatre and Show (http://www.beyondtheoverpass.ca/) at the Hotel Gander. They have several plays (mostly with a musical component) and their season runs through early September.  
Country music at the dinner theatre at the Hotel Gander

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Gros Morne Summer Music teams up with Daniel Payne for night of traditional music


by Keith and Heather Nicol
      Daniel Payne is a well known musician from Cow Head who is in demand as a performer across the province. In fact, when we saw his Gros Morne Summer Music performance on Tuesday, August 7 he told us he had just arrived from the St. John’s Folk Festival just before the show was to start. He had planned on getting to the Corner Brook Arts and Culture Centre earlier than 7:50 pm (for his 8:00 pm show!) but there was fog on the Avalon Peninsula to which he said “That is no surprise” but then he got a flat tire just outside of Grand Falls “and that was a surprise”. Despite having just driven across the province and with some technical problems with his show, Daniel Payne played on showing his expertise on a variety of different instruments. He started with the wooden flute (which he said he has picked up recently) and then the accordion, the mandolin (the instrument he first learned to play) and finally the fiddle. The fiddle he told us had come from Labrador and was so well worn that in places you could see which notes had been most commonly played. “I just got it fixed up last year and now it makes a great sound” he said before launching into a fiddle tune from the late Emile Benoit of the Port au Port Peninsula. The second half of the show involved projected  video performances of his friends and relatives which he accompanied with a variety of instruments on stage. He finished by playing and singing some of his favourite traditional songs. If you like traditional Newfoundland music then be sure to take in this presentation by one of Western Newfoundland’s most accomplished  musicians. The show-The Wind Through the Window- runs Tuesdays until August 21 in Corner Brook and Thursdays until August 23 in Woody Point and you can get more information at: www.gmsm.ca
Daniel Payne uses a multi media show to "play" with relatives and friends (photo R Butt)
      While taking in a Gros Morne Summer Music performance in the evening, check out the Corner Brook Museum and Archives during the day. This museum has been closed for almost 3 years due to the construction of the new city hall and it has just reopened. Our guide, Tyler Locke, lead us through the exhibits which cover a variety of themes. On the main floor we started with a look at various articles from the Corner Brook area households and businesses. These items span many decades including a sewing machine dating from 1868. In another room on the main floor there is a new Captain Cook display including a copy of one of his original maps. There are also panels depicting the first nations presence in Western Newfoundland and information about Newfoundland’s role in World War I, II and the Korean War. Downstairs there are displays on of wildlife, rocks and birds of Newfoundland and a large area devoted to changes in wood harvesting and Corner Brook’s  pulp and paper industry. On the top floor, which used to be the Corner Brook’s court room, there are more photos and other information about Corner Brook’s history.  The museum is well worth a visit and Tyler told us that they have received lots of visitors since it recently reopened.  For more information see: http://www.cornerbrookmuseum.ca/
Visitors getting a tour of the wildlife portion of the Corner Brook museum




Saturday, 11 August 2012

The Eastport Peninsula offers a big variety of summer activities


by Keith and Heather Nicol    
      Central Newfoundland is a huge area of scenic coastlines and large inland rivers. One place we have spent very little time is the Eastport Peninsula adjacent to Terra Nova National Park (TNNP).  In fact, our only other previous visit was restricted to a night of camping at Malady Head in TNNP many years ago.  So we decided that another visit was in order and in early August, 2012 we arrived the Prints of Whales Bed and Breakfast (www.theprintsofwhalesinn.com) in Sandringham  around 5:00 pm. Our hosts Wayne and Ruth Hallett welcomed us at the door and I mentioned that we had heard some odd noises coming from the driver’s side rear wheel. “We have garage just down the road and if you need to leave your car there tomorrow you can borrow my car if you like” offered Wayne. We were blown over with the offer and ended up taking him up on it since our car was in the shop for most of the next day. 
Burnside is a very scenic community on the Eastport Peninsula
       Fortunately our vehicle problems didn’t influence our visit since we got to see and do pretty much all of what we had planned thanks to Wayne. We started our day at the Burnside Archeological Museum (http://digthequarry.com/Home.html) where Susan Hapgood showed us around and discussed some of the key aspects of what they have found and are still finding in the local area in terms of artifacts from Maritime Archaic, Paleo-Eskimo and Beothuck native cultures.  Burnside is a scenic community and there is also a short hike (500 meters return) called the Long Chute Trail which gives a good overview of the area. From there we had a picnic lunch overlooking the broad beach at nearby Sandy Cove and also visited the community of Happy Adventure which is located in a picturesque cove. 
The view from The Inn at Happy Adventure
       In the afternoon we visited the Pinsent’s Art Studio (featuring the art work of Walter Pinsent-http://www.pinsentart.com/) and saw more local art in the lobby of the Beaches Heritage Centre (www.beachesheritagecentre.ca) which is just across the street.  There we ran into George Innes who was a former board member of the Beaches Heritage Centre and he told us about how active the centre is in organizing everything from accordion to literary festivals. Unfortunately we were too late for the 10 day Ray Babstock Beaches Accordion Festival and the Winterset Literary Festival wasn’t until mid August. Oh well, maybe next time.  We then headed to Salvage which is especially picturesque and has many hiking trails. We only had time to try 2 short trails to lookout platforms and the view from the Round Head lookout is especially impressive. Since the weather was getting warmer and sunnier by the minute we decided to spend an hour lounging on the beach at Eastport before picking up our car from the garage. We finished the day with a fine meal at the Inn at Happy Adventure which must have one of the better views of any restaurant in the province. We realized that the Eastport area has much to offer and next time we will have to plan our visit with the Beaches Heritage Centre event schedule in mind. 
The view from Round Hill Lookout in Salvage
The beaches of the Eastport Peninsula are impressive


Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Gros Morne Summer Music scores with Andrew Lloyd Webber


by Keith and Heather Nicol
       One focus of Gros Morne Summer Music (GMSM) for this year is Andrew Lloyd Webber who is best known for creating some of the best known musicals of the last 40 years.  Musicals like Jesus Christ Superstar, The Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Evita, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat are just some of his creations. They have garnered many awards from 7 Tonys, 3 Grammies and even an Oscar! The Gros Morne Summer Music production features an 8 piece orchestra and 4 singers. The vocalists include well known local Corner Brook singers Yvette Coleman, Jim Parsons, Matthew Payne and Wendy Woodland who sing 18 selections as well as a couple of medleys. The songs are mostly sung individually but there are also some duets and all 4 singers combine for the medleys. Even if you have not seen these musicals, many of these songs will be familiar since they became hits on their own on popular radio. The orchestra, made up of international musicians, is first class and the singers are outstanding. The large crowd was very appreciative and we heard many people say that they were going to return next Wednesday to hear it all again. “The Best of Andrew Lloyd Webber” plays every Wednesday night until August 22 at the Corner Brook Arts and Culture Centre and you can get more information at: www.gmsm.ca
Matthew Payne (left) and Yvette Coleman  (photo: Ryan Butt)
        Almost everyone has heard of a Global Positioning System or GPS as it is more commonly known and it has greatly changed the face of “off the beaten track” recreation. These devises use a constellation of orbiting satellites which transmit signals that GPS units receive. Once the GPS device receives signals from several of these satellites it can determine where on the earth’s surface the GPS is located and can give a position in various coordinate systems like latitude and longitude. Prior to the advent of GPS technology, most wilderness navigation involved using a topographic map and compass which generally relies on good visibility to be able to see the terrain ahead and the ability to interpret contours.  So for many people who like the out of doors and like to explore the backcountry of Western Newfoundland on foot or snowmobile,  the GPS has become a god send. But before you head off into the wilderness it is a great idea to practice with your GPS closer to home. And an ideal activity for this is geocaching which was started twelve years ago.  Today there are over 1.5 million geocaches found around the world.  In fact a recent check of the Geocaching web site (http://www.geocaching.com) , showed that there are over 80 geocaches in the immediate Corner Brook area.  Geocaching is a great way to explore a new area and the photo below shows a geocache on the nearby Man in the Mountain trail. So while you are in town enjoying a GMSM performance in the evening you could easily spend  part of the day or a full day geocaching. 
The geocache on the Man in the Mountain trail-with Corner Brook in the distance