Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Trying out the new Jenex XC 125 RC roller skis

   by Keith and Heather Nicol 
These roller skis have 2 rear tires for extra stability
       We like cross country skiing since it gives a great workout for your legs and arms and it helps you stay aerobically fit. During the fall we try to get out and do some roller skiing since the actions of skating or striding on roller skis are so similar to real x-c  skiing that you can shift into winter mode very easily when the snow flies. Roller skis are not just for racers or ski fanatics but are useful for anyone that wants to get a good workout and improve their skiing at the same time. 

Practice without poles to improve balance
        A great new idea from Jenex roller skis (http://www.jenex.com/) is a roller ski with dual rear tires which are more stable than regular skis. We have been testing a pair for several weeks and find that they would be very good for beginning roller skiers. They also have pneumatic tires so they can handle uneven roads and even gravel on the pavement. This makes them a good choice for many roads in Western Newfoundland which are decidedly on the rough side. The only down side from what we have seen so far is that they are quite heavy. But as long as you don’t plan to race on them this shouldn’t be too much of an issue. They even come with brakes so that you can slow yourself down if you find that you are going too fast.
        Obviously pavement is a lot harder than snow so you should wear a helmet and gloves at a minimum. Some skiers also wear shin and elbow pads. We like to use roads that see little traffic and when striding keep to the edge of the road. It is useful if several skiers are roller skiing to put out signs alerting drivers to slow down.  Lastly keep to fairly flat sections of road so that you don’t get going too fast. The last thing you want to have happen is to take a bad fall that keeps you out for the real ski 
season. Below are 2 videos showing these roller skis in action.


Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The fall colours are still amazing in the Humber Valley

By Keith and Heather Nicol 
The autumn colours are usually at their peak over the Thanksgiving weekend in Western Newfoundland but this year they seem to be lasting longer. Over the past few days we have been out kayaking down the Humber River and hiking through the fall splendor in the Humber Valley. One of our favourite paddles at this time of year is the "put in" at the Humber Valley Resort bridge (don't cross the bridge but turn right into a large parking area and launch point). Our usual "takeout" is at the Humber Village bridge along the right hand bank. This is a great morning or afternoon paddle and the river is easy paddling in this section. If you want a longer paddle then you can takeout at Steady Brook (at the community wharf/boat launch) or continue past Shellbird Island all the way to Ballam Bridge where the take out is on the left hand side just below the bridge. 
Paddling down the Humber River is spectacular in the Fall

We also hiked the International Appalachian Trail from Wild Cove Pond to Humber Village.  We wrote about one section of this hike in an earlier post but this full trail was in its full glory this past weekend and will likely still be colourful for another week or two. We did this trip with 15 avid hikers from Corner Brook area on Sunday, October 15 and were hiking in our shirt sleeves with temperatures approaching 20 C. We started at Wild Cove Pond at 10:00 am and finished the 5.5 km hike at Humber Village by 1:15 pm. The trailhead at Wild Cove Pond is 48 58.262 N and 57 49.897 W and the hike finishes at 48 59.262 N and 57 47.001 W. Bring your camera since the views are some of the finest in the province at this time of year. Keep your eye out for trail markers and flagging tape since the trail can be hard to find in places.If there are readers that are interested in learning how to use a GPS for hiking or other applications let me know since we are planning another GPS-topographic map course for November, 2011 in the Corner Brook area. Contact Keith Nicol at knicol@swgc.mun.ca if interested.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Fall Hiking in the Humber Valley, Newfoundland

by Keith and Heather Nicol
      The Corner Brook-Humber Valley area of Western Newfoundland has some of the best autumn foliage in the province due the extensive stands of birch as well as colourful maples in many places. One of our favourite trails to hike is on the International Appalachian Trail from Humber Village to Barry's Lookout.
The trailhead coordinates are: 48 59.262 N and 57 47.001 W. If you don’t have a GPS you should drive to Humber Village and turn left on Maple and then left again on Pine. Drive down Pine and you will see a gate which is often unlocked but you can park near the gate or proceed to a nearby Aliant building with a small parking lot that is often available. Walk down the road a short distance and the trail begins on your right.The open birch forest is magical to walk through and be sure to bring a camera for the views from Barry's Lookout. The will take about 45 minutes to reach the top and it is abit over 1.5 km one way.
The view looking east from Barry's Lookout

      Another favourite spot to hike is on the ski slopes at Marble Mountain. Many of the ski slopes have trails on them that you can walk and as you climb the views get better and better. We usually park in the main ski area parking lot and simply walk up one of the runs under the high speed quad chairlift. Your destination depends on how energetic you feel. The views are great from the top but are also fine part way up. 
The view overlooking the Humber River from the slopes of Marble Mtn.


Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Kayaking with Icebergs in Hampden, Newfoundland

By Keith and Heather Nicol
Icebergs near Hampden
     This is the iceberg season that just won't stop! The Petermann Ice Island which I wrote about in several earlier posts in mid August,2011  is now making its appearance closer to Corner Brook. Not long after we were in St. Anthony the ice island drifted to the south and broke in half. These 2 pieces have been spawning icebergs that have now drifted into the Hampden area of White Bay.  And that is great news for anyone who hasn't seen this "once in a lifetime spectacle" and lives in the Corner Brook area since it is just 120 km away (allow 1.5 hours to drive there). We brought our kayaks and were not disappointed since the bergs were just 400-500 meters off shore and there were several large ones within 1 km of where we launched our boats. The GPS location (UTM coordinates) where we put in was: 21 0511083 E and 5488955 N. You could also see icebergs all along the road to The Beaches. Of course, icebergs can move quickly so you might want to touch base with some one in Hampden before heading out. As I have mentioned in my earlier posts - give icebergs a wide berth if you are kayaking. We saw 2 icebergs calve off large chunks of ice and one sent off a wave that would have swamped a small boat if you were too close.

Paddling past some iceberg debris from a recent calving

Monday, 29 August 2011

Checking out the new artist studios on Fogo Island

By Keith and Heather Nicol
Tower Studio
      Fogo Island is undergoing an interesting experiment spearheaded by the Shorefast Foundation which is trying to promote the social, cultural and economic regeneration of Fogo Island. From the development of a new inn slated to open in 2012 to new artist studios dotted around the island, Fogo Island has suddenly been put on the radar as a place where new things are happening. So we decided to have a look at the artist studios through a tour put on by the Fogo Island Arts Corporation. We were joined by our friends Bob and Pat Ballantyne who were visiting from Ontario and had always wanted to visit this part of Newfoundland.

      So far 4 studios have been built and each is located outside of a community along a trail that takes anywhere from 10-20 minutes to hike to and they have a very different look to them. They have hints of traditional architecture (many are built on posts to simulate fishing stages) but also have a strong Scandinavian influence. As you can see from the attached photos they look very different than anything you would normally see in Newfoundland. We visited 4 studios: the Bridge, Tower, Long and Squish . Our favourite setting was the Squish Studio in Tilting which has been placed on a craggy shore with a view to the open North Atlantic.  The tour, led by Peter Decker, is well worth doing not only to see the studios but to see the different communities in which they are located. The tour takes around 4 hours and starts at 1:00-1:30 pm from the Shoal Bay Church. For more information and to book a tour contact: www.artscorpfogoisland.ca.  

The Squish Studio in Tilting

  After our tour we headed to Nicole’s CafĂ© which had come highly recommended by almost everyone we met. The setting is relaxed and for dinner we enjoyed fresh seafood (from crab legs to cod) and had a delicious partridge berry tart with ice cream for dessert. This place is popular so you might want to make a reservation for dinner(http://www.nicolescafe.ca/).

Be sure to stop at Nicole's Cafe along the way

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Hiking on Fogo Island

by Keith and Heather Nicol
     We were blessed with sunny skies as we left the Paradise Bed and Breakfast in Twillingate on Wednesday August 24 and headed for the 11:15 am ferry at Farewell enroute for Fogo Island. On Fogo we had wanted to do some hiking and also find out more about the new artists’ studios that are being built on the island. We had our friends Bob and Pat Ballantyne in tow and they were keen to check out some of Fogo's hiking trails. We started with a Fogo classic- the hike to the top of Brimstone Head. This hike is about 500 meters (1 way) but climbs many stairs so allow about 40 minutes to do the return trek. It is a very popular hike and we saw many groups on this day. The coordinates of the trail head are: 49 N 42.899 N and 54 17.807 W and there is a large parking area. 
Pat on the Brimstone Head Trail

      We then headed across town to the Lion’s Den Trail which starts near the Marconi Wireless Interpretation Centre. This centre is worth a visit in its own right and the view of the Fogo is fabulous. The trailhead for the Lion’s Den trail is 49. 43.167 N and 54 15.715 W and this trail travels in a broad loop.  We really liked this trail for its ocean views and interpretative plaques describing the communities that were once located along this shore. 

The Lion's Den Hike was a favourite with Bob and Pat

      The next day we decided to walk the Fogo Head Trail. This trail has a few options but we decided to do a traverse from the starting point along the entrance to the harbour (49 43.496 N and 54 16.890 W) which ascends many stairs to a couple of lookout platforms.  The trail then descends along a ridge to a road in the community where we parked a second car (49 42.999 N and 54 17.496 W). This route is about 2.5 km long and you should allow about 1 hour. The hike gives great views not only of the ocean but also back to Fogo and Brimstone Head. 
Hiking to the top of Fogo Head provides good views of the islands just offshore

Our final hike was at Tilting where we hiked the scenic Turpin’s Trail. We decided to do this trail from the community of Tilting (49 42.477 N and 54 03.844 W) to the Sandy Cove day use area just outside of Tilting (49 42.463 N and 54 04.889 W). The trail passes by one of the new artist’s studio and along a low rugged shoreline. This part of the trail is about 2 km and you should allow 30 minutes to hike it. 

 Bob on Turpin's trail which provides a good overview of Tilting

Hiking and "Split Peas" in Twillingate, Newfoundland

By Keith and Heather Nicol
Fred shows off one of the new hiking signs in Twillingate
      Our last visit to Twillingate and Fogo Island was in the fall of 2010 and we wanted to return to find out about the hiking trail development in Twillingate and to walk some of the many trails of Fogo Island that we had heard about. So at midday on Tuesday August 23 we headed out from Corner Brook to central Newfoundland. We also had some friends from Ontario in tow and they were very keen to revisit this area having seen it over 10 years ago on a driving tour of the province. In Twillingate we checked out the new signage that Fred Bridger had been installing on the trails and he said that he had received lots of good comments on the trails. Fred seems to be a one man trail crew and his love of the hiking opportunities around Twillingate is infectious. He also runs the 4 star Paradise Bed and Breakfast (http://www.capturegaia.com/paradiseb&b.html) with his wife Mildred and it must have the best view of any B and B in Twillingate. We recommend several coast hikes in the Twillingate area which is known for its rugged coastline and possible iceberg sitings in season.

For anyone interested in more information about these hiking trails in Twillingate and others in Central Newfoundland see: http://www2.swgc.mun.ca/~knicol/easternhikes.htm.  That evening Fred suggested we see “The Split Peas” and they entertained a full house with their fine music. You can even have a touton and a cup of tea at intermission. 

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Ed and Ed’s B and B serves up laughs in Cow Head, Newfoundland

by Keith and Heather Nicol
A scene from "Ed and Ed "
      “Ed and Ed’s B and B-Where you are a Stranger but Once” is the third play in this series. Since we hadn’t seen any of the previous “Ed and Ed” plays we were not certain what to expect other than the programme billed it as a comedy. Many of the plays at the Theatre Newfoundland Labrador’s Gros Morne Theatre Festival deal with local themes so this play fits right in since the Bed and Breakfast that Ed and Ed are opening is right in Cow Head. And the names of the people in the play are evidently based on real folks you might run into in the community. The play pokes fun at just about everything and everyone and actors must have had a great time rehearsing the play with its steady stream of doors opening and closing. I won’t give away the plot other than to say there are many cases of mistaken identity. It’s a perfect play for Cow Head and it had the sold out crowd laughing throughout. For more information on TNL’s Gros Morne Theatre Festival schedule or to book tickets to a show see- www.theatrenewfoundland.com or call 1-877-243-2899.

The Cow Head area is ideal for biking
  In other blogs in this series we have focused on what to do in the area when you aren’t being entertained by a TNL play in the evening. This part of Gros Morne National Park has a wide variety of hikes and sea kayaking opportunities or those good weather days and museums to visit if it rains. You can even golf at nearby Gros Morne Resort, Western Newfoundland’s newest 18 hole golf course. Some other ideas for those interested in exploring is to visit the nearby Broom Point exhibit run by Parks Canada. Here you can learn about the Mudge family fishing operation as it was in the 1960’s. Park interpreters from the local area tell the story of the site and it’s a perfect opportunity to learn about the fishery of the past and what is happening in the fishery of today. Another tip for anyone that is spending the weekend in Cow Head is to bring along your bikes. This area is ideal for biking since it is flat and as well there is little traffic. When we were there we biked to the “Head”, around town and even out to Shallow Bay Beach. 

The Broom Point exhibit is well worth visiting while in the Cow Head area

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Close Encounters with Icebergs in St. Lunaire and Quirpon Island, Newfoundland

Keith and Heather Nicol

     Monday, August 15 dawned sunny and a light southwest breeze indicated that we had again been lucky with weather. Tobias Hillier, the owner of White Island Boat Tours, gave a great tour through a maze of icebergs that the Petermann “ice island” had been calving off over the past few days. He told us this was the best sailing day of the summer and he brought us close to countless icebergs. We also saw a couple of minke whales but even more impressive were the soaring gannets that would plunge like a spear into the water to catch fish. White Island Boat Tours is based in St. Lunaire-Griquet and he gives 3 tours a day at 10:00 am, 1:00 pm and 4:00 pm (ph. 709-623-2112 for information).

Paddling at St. Lunaire, Newfoundland
 After lunch we headed to the wharf at St. Lunaire where we had seen many icebergs the day before and launched out kayaks. These bergs were not jammed together like the previous day at the community of St. Carols and we spent a great 2 hours paddling around several icebergs in the harbour. Again we gave them a wide berth since we heard frequent cracks of ice breaking. On one occasion we saw a large piece of ice calve off of an iceberg which sent out a small wave in our direction which we easily rode out. From here we loaded up our kayaks and headed for our final adventure for this trip. We planned to stay at Quirpon Lighthouse Inn (www.linkumtours.com/) which is located about as far north as you can go on the island of Newfoundland. Simply getting there is quite a production as 5 of us (plus the driver) boarded a speed boat to take us to a dock at the far end of the island. From the dock we walked to the Inn and had a welcome cup of tea and a snack. We spent the late afternoon exploring some hiking trails, sighting humpback whales and a watching a family of foxes! That evening the full moon rose as several icebergs paraded in front of the Inn. It was a great end to an amazing day of icebergs and wildlife on the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland. 

Quirpon Lighthouse Inn has an amazing setting

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Stellar kayaking and icebergs in St. Anthony, Newfoundland

 by Keith and Heather Nicol
Icebergs galore from the tour boat
        At 7:30 am on Sunday, August 13, 2011 I peered out the window at the Hotel North in St. Anthony and the fog was so thick I couldn’t see across the parking lot. “I guess our 9:00 am boat trip is going to be scrubbed” I told my wife Heather.  But a few minutes later she pulled back the curtains and said she could see across the harbour. The fog was lifting rapidly and so we quickly had breakfast and headed just down the road to the Northland Discovery boat tour dock. By now the sun was breaking through the fog and it promised to be a spectacular day. The boat tour was amazing with a tour through icebergs that had been delivered by the score  by the large Petermann “ice island” which had grounded just off St. Anthony. Not only did we see icebergs up close but also many humpbacks and white beaked dolphins too. Paul Alcock, the owner of the Northland Discovery boat tour (http://www.discovernorthland.com/) said that he had never been so busy and was turning away people for many tours so if you plan to see this “once in a lifetime” spectacle you better book ahead. 
Next we decided to check out nearby St. Carols where the icebergs had jammed into the harbour.  We thought it would be a great place to put in our sea kayaks to get another perspective on these varied ice sculptures in the ocean. Indeed the harbour was full and we had the experience of a lifetime winding our way between the icebergs. We gave them a wide berth since we often heard sounds like thunder and could see large pieces of ice topple off an iceberg. Paddling into the iceberg debris you could hear the snap, crackle, pop of ancient air bubbles in the ice being released. My wife said “This has to be my pinnacle sea kayaking experience” and I had to agree. 
We gave the bergs a large berth since they were melting rapidly in the sun

Fine dining at the Norseman Restaurant
    From there we headed north by car to see what other surprises lay around the corner. As we checked into the very comfortable Southwest Pond Cabins (1-709-623-2342) in St. Lunaire-Griquet we were told that there was another boat tour operation in the area so we phoned Tobias Hillier (709-623-2112) for a spot on his morning tour the next day. We also scoped out the St. Lunaire harbour and were pleased to see many icebergs dotting the harbour with an easy place to offload our kayaks. That evening we enjoyed a superb meal in what we think maybe the best dining in Western Newfoundland-The Norseman Restaurant (http://www.valhalla-lodge.com/restaurant.htm) in L ’anse aux Meadows. And the view of the setting sun over the harbour had many patrons out on the deck snapping photos. As we left the owner of the Norseman Restaurant , Gina Noordhof, mentioned to check out the Newfoundland music at Skipper Hots Lounge.  There we heard good music and even got in some dancing. All in all it was a stellar day!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

St. Anthony is iceberg heaven!

Icebergs in Goose Cove
by Keith and Heather Nicol
      Who would have guessed that an event in Greenland little over a year ago would bring tourists flooding to the St. Anthony area this summer. On August 5, 2010 a large piece of the Petermann Glacier broke off and became an “ice island” measuring 280 square km in size. A year later it has worked its way south and in now off of St. Anthony at the tip of the Northern Peninsula. Over the past couple of weeks the “ice island” has been breaking up producing dozens of icebergs at a time of year when usually there would be no icebergs. And the quantity of icebergs is mind boggling…..no local people we spoke to have ever seen anything like it. This is likely a once in a life time event and is spectacular beyond words. We drove up to St. Anthony on Saturday, August 13, 2011 from our home in Corner Brook and pulled into the newly refurbished Hotel North (http://hotelnorth.ca/three/ ) where we were staying that night and asked the front desk clerk where the best place was to see icebergs.  She said “I would head to Goose Cove and down to the Fishing Point area for starters” she told us. In nearby Goose Cove we walked the 1 km Pumley Cove Trail and saw many icebergs that had been pushed to shore by the easterly winds. The trail is easy to find but the coordinates are at: 51. 18.337 N and 55 38.275 W for those people with a GPS. The lighting was perfect and the scene was surreal – here we were in shirt sleeves and yet here there were tons of icebergs just off shore!

The Viking Feast feeds your "Viking" appetite
       Then we headed for Fishing Point and here there were several large bergs that again had been pushed right up against the shore by the east winds. Some enterprising folks were down picking up iceberg chunks along the shore and there is a fine trail system here that allows you walk along several sections of this coastline. For a great view of the entire area I recommend a hike up the set of stairs (trailhead is by a cemetery at 51.21.368 N and 55 33.607 W). This hike is just over 500 meters long but has almost 500 steps so will still give you a work out. When I did this hike my timing was off since just as I arrived at the top the fog rolled in obscuring my view of the icebergs and the lighthouse. We ended the day by heading over to the Viking Feast which is right next door to the Fishing Point restaurant. This apparently is the only place you can eat in the sod covered building in North America and besides a filling buffet of moose stew, jiggs dinner and other Newfoundland fare, you can settle any domestic disputes with a “hearing in a Viking court of law”. Each case is “settled” by whoever can provoke the most vigorous thumping of the tables by the audience. It is a fun evening and is worth checking out. For more information see: http://www.fishingpoint.ca/feast.html. To see where the icebergs are now be sure to check out this web page: http://www.icebergfinder.com/
Icebergs at Fishing Point in St.Anthony, Newfoundland