© Photo by Terry Roberts/The Compass
Serena Hancock looks towards the ocean from the deck of the Heritage House in Bay de Verde.
By Serena Hancock
Two years ago, my husband and I bought a little house in New Chelsea, on the Baccalieu Trail, a part of the Avalon with which neither of us was very familiar. Since then, we have been out exploring the many hiking trails and visiting the small communities that are threaded around the shoreline.
Ever since we became seasonal residents, my husband and two sons have wanted to hike across the barrens from Northern Bay to New Chelsea. July 28 promised to be a good day for such an adventure, with temperatures of low 20's, slightly cloudy, enough wind to keep the flies away and no rain in the forecast. So I volunteered to drop everyone off in Northern Bay, and then pick up cold refreshments for their return home. My plans then were to go home and spend a quiet afternoon reading a mystery novel out on the deck.
But those plans soon changed. It was a beautiful day. After dropping off the boys, I went to Sandals' Cafe in Northern Bay, and while communing with my freshly-brewed coffee I decided that, since I had my binoculars and hiking boots with me, I would take a more leisurely journey back home. On my drive north, I detoured down many coastal side roads in Gull Island, Burnt Point, Job's Cove and Lower Island Pond Cove. I was constantly astounded at the rugged beauty of the coastline.
In many places, I was able to walk along the coast for miles, picking the sweet wild strawberries, smelling the intoxicating wild roses and, it being the first week of the recreational fishery, gazing upon the boats that were floating in liquid sunshine upon the calm waters of Conception Bay.
Just before I got to Caplin Cove, I stopped at the Look-out, joining a handful of other vehicles there, all from out-of-province. Two folks from Ontario were marvelling at the landscape, and were ecstatic to have their first sighting of whales. It brought home to me just how beautiful this province is. I could not think of any other place I would rather be.
When I got to Old Perlican, where I bought the refreshments for the cross-country hikers, I made a detour from highway 70 to Grates Cove. There, I climbed the look-out with views of Baccalieu Island. I lunched at Beyond Baccalieu Café, which overlooks the harbour with the little fishing boats all in a row. For lunch, I had their delicious cod chowder, a homemade scone and fresh coffee.
Next stop was Bay de Verde, one of my favourite places. As I was coming down into the town, a huge splash caught my eye off to the right. I pulled over, fixed my eye on the spot, waited a few minutes and, as I had hoped, a huge humpback whale raised itself out of the water, turning, catching the sun on its skin, and returning to the ocean with a splash. This was repeated several times more before all was quiet again.
Bay de Verde is always high on our list to take visitors. With the ocean on both sides, small, steep roads, and houses that cling to the rocks and hillsides, it makes for a very unique and picturesque place.
I have been to Cinque Terra, in Italy, and Bay de Verde is much like one of the villages of the World Heritage Site, which consists of five hillside villages on a steep rugged coast linked by a hiking trail. In Bay de Verde, the view is just as spectacular, especially from the faithfully-restored Heritage House (the Blundon House), where the entrance fee is just $4 and includes freshly-brewed tea or coffee and a raisin bun. Visitors are welcome to come back at no extra cost.
But we have more. On the deck this day, I really didn't know which way to look. To my right there was a huge splash. Keeping my eye focused on that spot, I was rewarded with the sight of a humpback. In fact, there were whales on both sides of the community, along with hungry gannets from Baccalieu Island. A feast for the eyes!
And then, I went to the local fish plant and bought fresh crab, to take home to the hikers. Throw in Newfoundland hospitality, which is second to none, and you are amazed that unlike Cinque Terra, we do not have the problems of too many visitors.
I headed back home to New Chelsea, with the required, and undoubtedly anticipated, refreshments. But the hikers were not yet back. So I went to the small sandy beach in my community, where I had a refreshing swim in the salty pristine water and met some friends, whose children were making sandcastles.
So that was my unplanned day on the Baccalieu Trail. I know, now, why I love vacationing in this province and why I love living on the Baccalieu Trail.
And yes, the hikers made it out for their refreshments by 4:30 p.m., after a lovely day on the barrens, tired but with the satisfaction of having completed the hike they had planned.
Serena Hancock is a resident of St. John's, but lives seasonally in New Chelsea, Trinity Bay. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org