THE GREAT NEWFOUNDLAND ADVENTURE: PART 2
RIDE ALONG IN A QUEST FOR LA POILE, NL, OVERLAND
We left the first part of this ambitious little adventure on the wrong side of a wipedout bridge that blocked the northern route over a small gorge. The southern route, east of Port aux Basques (PAB), ended in bogs and dense forests and we had failed to find the elusive quad track. There was still a desire to make the destination, so we discussed the possibility of a northern approach, which was north from Ilse aux Morts, then east across Garia Brook and then south to La Poile. We decided to head into PAB, spend the night in a campground, get a hot shower and ask around a bit for advice. We now had purpose and sleep came quickly in anticipation of new scenery.
Day Four: “Table Mountain”
We found out about some trails leading east from Table Mountain that were well worth a look. The plan was head north to Table Mountain and if we made any progress east, we would camp the night and then push on, or head back down to Ilse aux Morts for “Plan B.”
It was a cool morning but bright and sunny as we prepared for the drive to Table Mountain. That meant digging out earmuffs and my old ski mask; the ‘no doors’ is not as awesome on the highway as it is on the trail.
The drive up to the top of Table Mountain is pretty easy as long as you take your time. We were both in low range to keep the transmission temperatures down below 125°C as we were still both pretty heavy, but the view was awesome. We took a crack at pushing east from the top of Table Mountain but called it quits after I got mired, got out, and then hit a patch of bridging intended for Quads that we did not want to destroy, but could not find another way around. Our northern route was a no-go, time for “Plan B”.
Note: Our plan for bogs was as follows: 1) Push in with the first vehicle as far as you can 2) Winch forward using a tree or
rock as an anchor 3) If (when) in trouble, the second vehicle winches you back out
This was an excellent plan as long as there was a tree or rock to use as an anchor, but out in the Newfoundland wilderness, there wasn’t. This meant there was an everincreasing possibility that we would get two trucks stuck in the same bog, and that would suck.
Up at Table Mountain, daylight was waning so we worked our way down and decided to bed down in J.T. Cheeseman Provincial Park. This is a must see park. The Park rangers are the nicest guys you’ll ever meet and the park is well maintained. Even the outhouses are spotless. Tomorrow we were off to try our luck on the barrens.
Day Five: “Beach and Barrens”
We packed up and rolled out of the park via a road that seemed to skirt the shoreline. As we cleared the trees, we were met with a tropical paradise. It was
a shock to find a white sandy beach in Newfoundland, but there it was!
We then found a piece of the “T-Railway” system that runs between Argentia and PAB, worked our way onto the road to Ilse aux Morts, and the start of the “Mine Road”. This is a well-maintained road that leads deep into the backcountry. The scenery is really breathtaking, very stark, but still beautiful.
This was my favourite part of the trip and I had never been in this kind of terrain. We continued along the road all the way into the old gold mine. There is still active geology and exploration work going on in this area.
Pushing north off of the main road, we quickly met with more boggy ground. Finding a bit of solid ground we hiked the quad trail leading east. There was a lot of bog and no trees to winch to. This seemed to be the right area to turn east but this was not the spot. Our last plan of attack had failed, and we were forced to retreat back to the trucks, set up camp, and started talking about what we would do differently next time. Dwight actually conjured up a load of dry wood for a fire quite the trick in this barren landscape.
Day Six: “Room with a View”
“Friggin’ cold!” That was the thought going through everyone’s mind as we slowly crawled out of our warm sleeping bags. We had established a very smooth, workable pattern to our days: wake, eat, pack, drive, get stuck, drive, set-up, eat, sleep. In between there was ample time for reading, telling a good yarn, or venting about some minor irritant back in the “real world”. Today was a tough day though, from here on in, we would be slowly re-entering the “real” world instead of pushing out away from it. Meh. We had sunshine, hot coffee and a lot more trail to run before then.
We decided to air up and do a bit of sightseeing at Rose Blanche. It’s a very picturesque town. There was a $5 fee to walk out to see the historic lighthouse (“You want $5 for what!?!?”) so that came off the list out of principle... then there was the Tea Room - closed.
We drove out to Barachois Falls and enjoyed the 3 km hike, took a bunch of photos and had “kaffee und kuchen” or “high tea” in the parking lot.
Driving back to PAB we noticed the Jeep (“Dog”) was being mischievous... taking random runs at passing cars and trying hard to roll-over and play dead in the ditch. Kind of scary! I started thinking we had destroyed a ball joint or bent a link so we pulled over for a look-see. Dwight worked the wheel back and forth and I checked for loose joints... all was tight and looked good. I stood up and was just about to tell Dwight to stop when I noticed the hood of the truck seemed to be moving back and forth - not good. Back down on all fours and I saw that the lower connection of the front track bar was cracked in two different spots.
We gingerly drove back to PAB, arriving a 5:00 pm, not a good time to look for a garage. Jim and John in the G-Wagen headed back to J.T. Cheeseman Park to set up while we looked for a shop that was still open. The kind folks at
Canadian Tire directed us to Spencer’s, so off we limped.
They were almost ready to head home to wives for dinner and a cuddle when we showed up. They listened to our tale of woe, got us on a hoist, welded up the cracks, checked to make sure it was safe and sent us on our way. They are the best! If you are ever find yourself there, ask Frank Spencer about his mini-van dragster.
Day Seven: “Last Tango in Port aux Basques”
We woke up to the sound of rain... ugggh... went back to sleep. A little later, I heard a light drizzle and the sounds of guys getting coffee on. Now it’s time to get up. Dwight managed to set my trusty Coleman on fire... he claims demonic possession of my stove... I say he’d better stick to burning wood.
Science Time – did you know that Cheezy’s burn like gasoline? We found some stale ones in the bottom of the food box and chucked them in the fire to see what would happen. Holy Crap!
We finally packed up and wandered into PAB for a few games of pool in Lukey’s Boat. Then it was off to the ferry for our ride back to Cape Breton. When we got to the Agriculture Canada Inspection Station (an unhappy man in a coat), we were informed that due to the state of our trucks we were “a problem”. We apologized and said that if there had been a car wash of any sort in town we would have used it. We were ushered to “the inside lane” where miscreants and very dirty types are sent. There we were met by undoubtedly the happiest young lady in all of Newfoundland. She blasted the mud off of our truck with a huge fire hose all the time smiling like she was the luckiest girl alive.
Our goal of La Poile may have failed but the adventure was a fantastic one. Let's call it a scouting mission, as we are planning to head back. This time we will stay longer; have two to three trucks, two quads, a base-camp trailer and possibly a truck doing a fuel run mid-trip. I can’t wait, and we will be sure to have another great story to tell.
After four nights on the trail, camp gets a bit disorganized.
Checking out Table Mountain.
A white sandy beach in Newfoundland? Who knew.
No doors on the highway means bundling up.
Table Mountain may have been a dead-end, but it had a great view.
The happiest carwash attendant we’ve ever seen.