EX­PE­DI­TION 2018

Ex­plor­ing the Trans Labrador High­way Two cou­ples head out for a 14-day jour­ney along one of the most iconic routes in Canada to dis­cover the true, un­touched beauty of the East Coast.

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We set out with two F150 trucks fully-rigged with caps, roof racks, Wild Coast roof top tents, awn­ings and trail­ers that con­cealed fridge/freez­ers, stoves, propane, bed­ding and an as­sort­ment of other es­sen­tials. Of course, chaos en­sued as we scram­bled to pack last minute items right be­fore our de­par­ture. Nev­er­the­less, we were packed with enough gear to han­dle al­most any sit­u­a­tion.

My hus­band Peter and I, along with an­other ad­ven­tur­ous cou­ple, Sandy and Barb Swan­tee, were ready to roll on an ex­pan­sive jour­ney that would take us from our home base of Bear River, Nova Sco­tia through New­found­land, Labrador, Que­bec and New Brunswick via the Trans Labrador High­way. It was a trip we wanted to do for years and af­ter much con­tem­pla­tion, we made a plan for the open road in early Septem­ber 2018.

Af­ter meet­ing up with Sandy and Barb for lunch in Hal­i­fax, we dou­ble-checked our gear and hit the high­way for the four­plus hour drive to North Syd­ney, Nova

Sco­tia. It was here where a ferry would take us to Port Aux Basques New­found­land, the be­gin­ning of the first leg of our jour­ney.

Since we had been up since dawn, we stopped for a well-de­served cof­fee break, then din­ner, be­fore join­ing the line of ve­hi­cles for en­try to the ferry. We fi­nally got the green light to board and with a lengthy seven-hour, overnight trip ahead of us to Port Aux Basques, we set­tled in for a long ride since we didn’t opt to re­serve cab­ins.

When dawn broke, the mere thought of get­ting off the ferry raised my spir­its. It was go­ing to be a good day. Af­ter pulling into Port Aux Basques, we stopped for fuel (and more cof­fee) and hit the vis­i­tors cen­tre. The first stop on our trip was Mar­ble Moun­tain where we en­joyed some zip lin­ing – if you have never been, make the time if you are in the area. It’s well worth it with the stun­ning view of wa­ter­falls.

Af­ter a joy­ful day, we spent the night at Trout River in Gros Morne Na­tional Park where had the chance to ad­mire the famed Table­lands, a stun­ning, rust-coloured moun­tain­ous re­gion, as well as Western Brook Pond to see the amaz­ing fresh wa­ter fjord. Af­ter ex­plor­ing the park, we headed slightly north to Port­land Creek and set up camp for the night.

Re­al­iz­ing we had an ex­tra day in New­found­land, we drove to St. An­thony where we stayed at nearby Pis­to­let Pro­vin­cial Park. We setup a snow peak fire pit, a ta­ble and savoured some red wine, Dis­arono and lis­tened to mu­sic – what else could be bet­ter?

With rain overnight and into the morn­ing, we packed up our soggy mess and headed up to L’anse Aux Mead­ows. We went for a hike to see Vik­ing Vil­lage and took in the breath­tak­ing scenery and in­cred­i­ble his­tory. Since our ferry was depart­ing the next day, we chose to stay at an RV park in St. Barb near the port. While the park was noth­ing spe­cial, it gave us chance to dry out our gear and en­joy din­ner.

It was a bit of a wob­bly ride on the ferry, but we all made it in one piece to Blanc Sablon, Que­bec. Fol­low­ing a short drive, we crossed into Labrador. Al­though it was rain­ing and over­cast (and of course, windy), the stun­ning scenery made up for it. With so many lakes, rivers, rolling hills and end­less wilder­ness, it was a sight to be­hold.

Our first night in Labrador we camped in a gravel pit of sorts be­tween St. Lewis and Mary’s Har­bour. We setup camp, cooked din­ner and sat by the fire. The evening was cold, clear and a cres­cent moon and a shoot­ing star made for a stun­ning sky. We all had a rest­ful night and our Por­ta­ble Buddy Heater soon be­came one of our favourite pieces of gear.

Leav­ing camp about 9 am, we made our way to St. Lewis and Ice­berg Al­ley, which stretches with scat­tered ice giants from the Coast of Labrador to the South­east Coast of New­found­land. About 28 km (17 mi) off the high­way from Ice­berg Al­ley is a long dusty road that leads to the beau­ti­ful, ru­ral town of St. Lewis. We stopped for fuel and vis­ited the most east­erly point of main­land Canada.

This turned into an epic, off-road ad­ven­ture that was filled with mud, rocks, roots, steep grades and des­cents. We also made a bril­liant (and suc­cess­ful) ef­fort to turn around on a spot the size of a postage stamp! A lo­cal stopped by to give us each a lit­tle homemade gift and told us about life in St Lewis. He ex­plained while it was a gor­geous place to live, it’s also very iso­lated.

On our way to Cartwright, we ad­mired the vast scenery and words just can­not do it jus­tice. Even though dust clouds en­sued, we made it to Cartwright for fuel, more cof­fee, and of course more dust…did I men­tion the dust? Our mis­sion was to find a place to setup for the night.

We fi­nally found an­other gravel pit to camp in and when we opened the trailer and truck, we were greeted to a sea of tal­cum pow­der-type dust! It was ev­ery­where. It was on the trailer marker lights, wires, safety sticker, and some paint on the trailer was stripped off to bare metal. The Scout trailer, how­ever, en­dured the least of the two with just a lit­tle paint stripped off the fend­ers and dam­age was min­i­mal.

How­ever, once we set­tled in, the night was warm yet windy and a mag­i­cal sun­set made for a per­fect evening. Later that night, the rain just poured down. The next morn­ing, we hun­kered down in the an­nex room be­fore a very wet pack up.

Dur­ing our pleas­ant run to Happy Val­ley – Goose Bay, we were hop­ing to spot some moose and thanked our lucky stars for the rain, which made it eas­ier to travel. At one point, the road was un­paved with pot­holes and wash­boards as we only clocked be­tween 60-70 km/h (37 – 43 mph).

Al­though we still hadn’t come across any moose, we did see a few geese, ptarmi­gan,

and grouse. There were also a few vi­brant, yel­low colours on the shrub­bery, in­di­cat­ing that fall was on its way. While we were in a very re­mote area, we saw the oc­ca­sional Inuk­shuk, not to men­tion end­less trees, lakes and rivers. All the soli­tude made us feel so small as we were sur­rounded by such an in­cred­i­bly vast, un­touched land.

About 140 km (87 mi) be­fore Happy Val­ley – Goose Bay we stopped for a break only to dis­cover that Sandy and Barb’s rig had a blown out back win­dow! Ap­prox­i­mately 650 km (404 mi) of rough gravel roads took its toll but it’s noth­ing that some Go­rilla Tape and a tarp couldn’t fix. Once more, dust en­cap­su­lated our ve­hi­cles as we mo­tored on to Goose Bay.

At this point we had trav­elled ap­prox­i­mately 2500 km (1553 mi) and when we got to Happy Val­ley – Goose Bay we cleaned up, did laun­dry, checked email and did some shop­ping for din­ner. Af­ter get­ting more fuel, we looked for a spot to camp for the night. We drove quite a while be­fore find­ing a po­ten­tial spot us­ing the iOver­lan­der app. How­ever, we came across a pow wow with many glares and stares in be-won­der­ment as to what on earth we were do­ing there. So, we made a quick re­treat!

While it was get­ting late, we fi­nally set­tled into an­other gravel pit. The evening was beau­ti­ful – our best yet – with bright, shim­mer­ing stars in a very dark sky.

In the morn­ing, we awoke to ice on our roof top tents and once again, it started to rain as we packed up. It was an­other wet start to the day as we set out on the long drive to­wards Churchill Falls. Chat­ting, snack­ing, click­ing shots and be­ing cut off from so­ci­ety was the or­der of the day.

We ar­rived in Churchill Falls and had lunch at a com­mu­nity build­ing, which housed a ho­tel, a school, gift shop, gro­cery store plus a diner. What’s in­ter­est­ing is you can only live in Churchill if you work there. So, as soon as you re­tire or leave your job, you must leave. In­ter­est­ing place!

Af­ter mak­ing it to Labrador City, which is a bustling, in­dus­trial min­ing town with trains run­ning round the clock, we man­aged to find some­where to shower, but de­cided to press on to find a camp­ing spot. We drove for some time look­ing for a suit­able area and ended up leav­ing Labrador and en­ter­ing Que­bec. As there weren’t many op­tions, we opted to stay at an­other gravel pit for the night.

Fol­low­ing a night with a wind chill tem­per­a­ture of about 2°C with a hor­ren­dous, howl­ing wind, snow and rain, the trailer swayed due to the weather and none of us had a great night’s sleep!

The morn­ing couldn’t have come sooner, and the cof­fee was a god­send! Trav­el­ling on, the trees now bowed to the weight of the first snow­fall and as the snow per­sisted, so did the mud. The road snaked up around the hills as we headed higher while vis­i­bil­ity de­creased, and grey clouds hung low over the hills. We fi­nally hit a paved but snowy road with a re­sound­ing “ya­hoo!” from Peter. We stopped at the only gas sta­tion we had seen since leav­ing Labrador City. We def­i­nitely rec­om­mend fill­ing up be­fore you leave. At a $1.77per litre, it was a lit­tle pricey.

An in­ter­est­ing site to see in the area was the Man­i­coua­gan reser­voir. Lo­cated in Cen­tral Que­bec, the reser­voir is claimed to be formed by an as­teroid that hit Earth some 214 mil­lion years ago. In fact, it’s so large it took us more than an hour to drive past it. Fur­ther into the day, we passed the Manic 5 Gen­er­at­ing Sta­tion and the Daniel-John­son Dam, which is the high­est mul­ti­ple-arch-and-but­tress dam in the world.

As our wind­shield wipers worked over­time, we pushed on to Baie Comeau, which is ap­prox­i­mately 400 km (249 mi) from Que­bec City. The time trick­led by and it was very late when we ar­rived in Baie Comeau. With no signs of a dry evening, the thought of set­ting up a tent in the rain left us feel­ing unin­spired. We once again hosed down our ve­hi­cles and trail­ers that were coated in mud and grime. We had been driv­ing since 9 am and felt pretty travel weary. So, we grabbed a mo­tel room for the night where we had a de­cent shower, caught up on some emails, booked the ferry and sorted out our gear.

The ferry from Baie Comeau to Matane, which took us to the Gaspé Penin­sula in Que­bec on the south shore of the Saint Lawrence River, fi­nally left af­ter a de­lay. Fol­low­ing the two-hour cruise, we hit land and made our way east to­wards Kouch­i­bouguac, New Brunswick. Beau­ti­ful forests, rivers and hills blended in with the turn­ing colours of fall. Yet, the rain still re­fused to re­lease its grip on us!

Ar­riv­ing at Kouch­i­bouguac in the late af­ter­noon, the name of the game for the day was rain! Af­ter set­ting up camp, we made some din­ner, a fire and sipped gin and ton­ics around the fire pit in our rain jack­ets and en­joyed the evening be­fore turn­ing in.

On our last day, we awoke at 5 am to the rum­bling of con­struc­tion. We said our good­byes to our won­der­ful friends and hit the high­way. Af­ter a 5.5-hour drive, we pulled into our drive­way to un­pack and clean out our F150. With 4000-plus km be­hind us, we aired out our gear, cleaned all the dust, while rem­i­nisc­ing about our jour­ney.

The Trans Labrador High­way was an ex­pe­ri­ence that we will al­ways trea­sure with its un­touched beauty, pris­tine rivers, pic­ture-post­card com­mu­ni­ties and most im­por­tantly, true Cana­dian cul­ture at its finest.

A gravel pit to call home.

A visit to western brook pond to see the fresh wa­ter fjord.

An epic off road ad­ven­ture filled with mud, rocks, roots, plus very steep grades and des­cents

St Lewis.

The first night in Labrador we found a gravel pit of sorts to camp at some­where be­tween St Lewis and Mary’s Har­bour.

Manic Dam.

Beau­ti­ful sights in Labrador.

Th­ese gravel roads were rough enough to blow out a back win­dow.

The rain just poured down that night so we hun­kered down in the an­nex room for our morn­ing brew.

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