Victoria Day Weekend, a Year Ago in Newfoundland

La Scie High Lookout Trail at duckish
La Scie High Lookout Trail at duckish

Duckish. 

At the head of the Baie Verte peninsula in northwestern Newfoundland, it’s the word the folks in the port of La Scie use to describe the time between sunset and dark.

Happy to find a camp spot in such a gorgeous setting, Magellan and I hiked 1.6 km up to High Lookout while it was duckish. On the way up, a man in his 60s resting on a bench struck up a convo, in the friendly way of most Newfoundlanders. “Lived here all me life and never been to the top,” he told us. 

We didn’t exchange names but I’ll call him “Miles” for the distance he’s travelled in fishing boats over the years. 

Miles ran a sixty-foot fishing boat with a crew of five men. He talked about the past when cod fishing was a lucrative business. “It’s mostly snow crab here now, “he says. “My son-in-law Dwayne took over the business. But he calls me every day about the weather or somethin.” Miles says there are now only about 50 longliners and 30 smaller boats fishing these waters. “All the fish is processed away,” he said, matter-of-factly. I wonder how Dwayne is doing with the price of snow crab at $2.20 a pound, down from $7.60 at this time last year. Canada is the world’s largest supplier of snow crab. More than half of the catch comes from Newfoundland and last year accounted for 61% of the province’s fishery value.

La Scie, (“the saw” referring to the surrounding hills that resemble the teeth of a saw) was settled by the French, though the Basque arrived first in the 1700s. 

Miles had gone home by the time we came down from the Lookout but it wasn’t long before a guy named Doug came over to campsite #6 and introduced himself. He was a volunteer for the community owned Island Cove Park campground.

For twenty-three years Doug worked as a fisherman. “Only took two weeks off in me life,” he said. A week when his daughter was born, a week when her little brother came along. 

Keen to see icebergs and being this far north near Labrador, we asked Doug about our chances.

He told us the story of he, his dad and a friend out in a boat to see icebergs up close three weeks earlier. 

One of the icebergs had an arch and they were tempted to run the boat through it. 

“Father was, how you say it, curious. But me friend who was with us were too scared, so we didn’t go tru.” 

For a few hours on Sunday morning we wandered through the closed-tight town, the light heavy with the chance of rain, gladdening our decision to have hiked earlier in the weekend when the temperature matched the date in May. Although it’s home to about 870 people, no more than half a dozen of them were out and about.

Miles and Doug would likely say “Idn’t dat fulish bye” (Isn’t that foolish) if we told them we’d be hiking the Fleur de Lys Hummock Trail at the next day. The trail forces you to traverse thick patches of snow, hopscotch on hummocks of matted grass (and snow as Magellan found out) to avoid sinkholes, caterpillar under logs fallen across the trail and navigate broken boardwalk. Aptly named, the 6.8 km loop trail climbs three hummocks, each with a viewing platform overlooking the Blomidons and Humber Arm.

Paquet Ocean View, the other trail we hiked, offers scenery that’s even more stunning. Remarkably, for the long weekend, (though probably not in the eyes of Mile and Doug), no one else was on either trail. 

There are places in Newfoundland that feel as if they’re like us—in our duckish years. But my guess is you won’t be seeing the starns (“behinds”) of us or those towns anytime soon. Long-haulers we are, like Queen Victoria herself. 

Navigation

Dymnet, Luke. “Newfoundland snow crab standoff places provincial economy at crossroads.” The Globe and Mail. May 9, 2023.

La Scie town website.

8 Responses

  1. Loved it! Especially loved the “Moses” light on one of the photos. Great hikers you two are.

    1. The “Moses” light is from the top of the High Lookout at La Scie. The Hummock Trail, in the summer season, is probably a cakewalk with no need for prayer in any location.

  2. Always a great Sunday morning read..Following you two on the travels of the globe, near and far..always interesting. Thanks for sharing. I have never been to the east coast, maybe one day…H

  3. Do you know the name of the plant/flower labeled exquisite, looks like a Raspberry ice cream, cone?

    Quite the tour you were on and the country looks beyond delightful, a bit of work to it but nothing is easy when your hiking.

    Interesting people the newfies, like all folks, some good some just interesting🤔🤔🤔🤔

    Cheers,

    1. It’s a Rhodiola Rosea, sometimes called a Sedum Rosea and a member of the Stonecrop family. Google says “Rhodiola rosea is found on moist cliffs, ledges, talus ridges, and dry tundra. In the Arctic plants typically occur in crevices or among mats of moss and other vegetation, often near shores, and sometimes in rather rich substrates.”

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