Rose Blanche trails

His­toric, breath­tak­ing hikes.

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - FRONT PAGE - BY ROSALYN ROY [email protected] Twit­ter: @tyger­lylly

ROSE BLANCHE-HAR­BOUR LE COU, NL – It was only five and a half decades ago that roads were punched through to fi­nally link the com­mu­ni­ties along the south­west coast. Within the com­mu­ni­ties them­selves, in most cases it was sim­ply eas­ier to build road­ways where the old walk­ing paths used to be – but not in Rose Blanche-Har­bour Le Cou.

Basques fish­er­men first came to Rose Blanche in the 1700s, and by the early 1800s it was a per­ma­nent set­tle­ment. Over time, walk­ing trails that linked it to Di­a­mond Cove and Har­bour Le Cou were slowly worn along the cliffs.

These trails are still in use to­day, hav­ing been spared de­struc­tion due to the un­co­op­er­a­tive ge­og­ra­phy, which ren­ders them un­suit­able as roads. Still pop­u­lar with lo­cals to get from one side of town to the other, more and more tourists are dis­cov­er­ing the his­toric and highly scenic paths. There’s sim­ply no bad view from any of the trails.

The town has work­ers to cut the grass and main­tain safety fences and rail­ings, and is aware of the high po­ten­tial for eco­tourism along the trails. Plans have been made with the province to re­pair and upgrade the trails, and to in­stall new sig­nage to help di­rect sum­mer tourists who come across them.

Phyl­lis Hor­wood and Pauline Touch­ings are lo­cals who take ad­van­tage of the trails daily, and of­ten chat with tourists wan­der­ing the hills.

Hor­wood, a life­long hiker, com­pares the town’s trails with the charms of the more fa­mous Sig­nal Hill trails.

“You pass peo­ple’s doors and you get to see peo­ple up close and meet them.”

Sec­tions of the Old Light­house trail and the Big Bot­tom trail cross peo­ple’s lawns and pass in front of their door­ways. Crow’s Head is a steeper chal­lenge, re­quir­ing care­ful at­ten­tion to foot­ing as it passes be­neath a huge gran­ite cliff. Di­a­mond Cove trail is in per­haps the worst shape and will re­quire the most re­pairs.

Some of the paths are over­grown but traces re­main of nar­row walk­ing trails down pre­car­i­ous rocky in­clines. Back then, res­i­dents used to haul heavy sup­plies up and down the steep cliff­side with­out a sec­ond thought, re­gard­less of weather.

To walk with Hor­wood and Touch­ings is to glimpse into Rose Blanche’s his­tory as they re­count mem­o­ries of walk­ing the trails even in ice and snow to get to and from school, or re­cite his­to­ries of lo­cal sea cap­tains and mer­chants who built some of the first homes in the area.

“That was a store at one time,” says Hor­wood, point­ing to a larger build­ing that has been con­verted into a pri­vate home. She sees eco­nomic po­ten­tial in the area be­yond hik­ers, such as a café by the wa­ter.

Right now, there is no café, but there’s an­other store higher up on the hill, and peo­ple still walk over from Di­a­mond Cove and Har­bour Le Cou all year long to fetch their mail at the nearby post of­fice.

The trails me­an­der over and around Rose Blanche’s three har­bours, four if one counts Di­a­mond Cove, which is ac­tu­ally a sep­a­rate com­mu­nity. The trail link­ing Har­bour Le Cou is the most vis­i­ble and eas­ily ac­cessed, the en­trance not far from the town of­fice.

Con­sid­ered an easy trail, the one-kilo­me­ter hike over gen­tle hills crosses two bridges and boasts a look­out where one can spot Petites on a clear day. Tourists will pick blue­ber­ries, bakeap­ples and black­ber­ries that grow wild along the path, though lo­cals tend to find them too small. Like the oth­ers, the trail is used year-round, and not even deep snows and strong winds prove much of a de­ter­rent.

“I snow­shoe this one in the win­ter. A lot,” said Hor­wood, who has seen an in­crease in oth­ers do­ing the same. She paused to wave a hand at the view, of which she never tires, and de­liv­ered a typ­i­cally New­found­land un­der­state­ment. “It’s beau­ti­ful.”

ROSALYN ROY/THE GULF NEWS

The Rose Blanche trail, com­prised of four dif­fer­ent sec­tions, runs through­out the town and con­nects three dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties.

ROSALYN ROY/THE GULF NEWS

The neck at Har­bour Le Cou is vis­i­ble from one of the trail’s look­outs, which also of­fers a view of the aban­doned out­port of Petites.

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