Viking Trail

July 23, 2013
Posted on October 19, 2013

It was yet another beautiful day in Newfoundland’s Great Northern Peninsula, so we took advantage of it by making a long trip north to St. Anthony and back, traversing the entire Viking Trail. It’s about 3 hours each way, if you don’t make any stops or side trips, which wasn’t going to happen anyway, so we started the day fairly early.

Morning in Rocky Harbour

A mysterious something in the St. Lawrence Gulf

We passed the Gros Morne National Park and all the familiar scenery we have seen on the previous day. Near the northern edge of the park is a small community of St. Pauls, situated near a bay, with the highway marking a separation of the inland bay and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. We stopped for some photos, and chatted with a local man, who mentioned that seals often spend time in this inner bay, coming from the gulf. The bridge over the bay was grated metal, and a bit shaky to ride over, but no big deal (the bigger deal was still a couple days away).

A bay near St. Pauls

The landscape changed bit by bit and became more flat and grassy, with no mountains in sight shortly after passing the park boundaries. The highway became more elevated and there was now a cliff separating it from the shore. Occasionally it came back down to sea level, allowing us to see the picturesque empty beaches. On one of them we saw a motorcycle making its way through rocks and sand.

It was time to find fuel, and we planned to do that in Port Saunders, which is about halfway to St. Anthony. We had reason to believe there could be a gas station there, so we headed that way. It’s only 6km from the highway.

Riding through Port Saunders

Port Saunders is a town where fishing is alive and large scale. There are many boats on the shore, both small, local vessels and huge, from other provinces and states. This was one of the best boating photography sessions we’ve had so far. We hung around a shipyard and admired the painted bows of the numerous ships. Despite not finding a gas station, we were still very glad to have turned to this town.

Clear blue water, lobster traps and fishing vessels in Port Saunders

Fish processing plant in Port Saunders

Large vessels in the shipyard

Pirate ships, arrr!

After that small side trip, we went back to the highway and continued north. Soon enough, the mountains reappeared, in all their majestic glory, rising ahead of the curves in the road.

Definitely one of the most beautiful views on the northbound Viking Trail

Eventually we stumbled into two gas stations side by side. Seriously, in the middle of pretty much nowhere, when you are counting the meters left until your tank runs out of gas, and there is not one, but two fuelling stations!

After a while we were finally in St. Anthony, travelling all the way to the end of the highway, which gets renamed a couple of times, follows the southern side of the St. Anthony harbour and terminates at Fishing Point. This is where we stopped for lunch at the Lightkeepers restaurant, feasting on some seafood and bakeapple desserts (bakeapple has nothing to do with baking or apples, see additional info). Although we did not stay overnight, we still had time to hike around the area, which is a municipal park and has several trails and boardwalks with great views of the town and the ocean. The grassy hills were full of flowers, bakeapples, and curiously, pieces of crab shells and sea urchins. My theory is that birds catch those right in the water and bring them up to the hills for a picnic, so that the sea creatures have no chance of escape.

This aircraft is a memorial to flyers who served in the Fire Fighting Services, with a special dedication to a pilot who died while fighting forest fires in 1967.

Fishing Point Park

St. Anthony Harbour

View of the restaurant and gift shop at Fishing Point

Bakeapples. Red means green – ripe bakeapples are solid orange in colour.

An old lighthouse keepers residence at Fishing Point was converted into a gift shop, where we could not resist some bakeapple flavored tea and partridgeberry jam, apparently made by the shop keeper’s mom.

View towards the ocean

It was time to head out if we wanted to make it back by nightfall, so off we went. Again we stopped quite a few times for photos as the scenery was just amazing, and the light was very different than on our way at midday. At some point the Labrador coast comes so close you can actually see it from the road.

Flower’s Cove

The winds going across the coastal highway were very strong and we had to ride at an angle for quite a bit. Because of this wind we really couldn’t go very fast and had to stick to the middle of the road so it wouldn’t blow us off the lane. Alex kept suggesting to line up the bikes to reduce drag on the TU. I did not feel it was worthwhile, and in the end (or rather in the middle) the low fuel light came on my bike 3/4 of the way it was expected. Wow, 25% reduction in range for riding in the wind and constant uphill/downhill conditions. A bit disappointing, but we did get to a gas station before it completely ran out.

As it kept getting darker we saw a pick up truck parked on the side of the road – apparently the driver spotted a large moose nearby. It was a male with huge antlers, the first we ever saw this way.

We stayed there for quite a while taking photos of the moose until it went into the forest. By that time we were still an hour away from Rocky Harbour, but the sunlight was almost gone. That meant that as much as we wanted to get back to the cabin faster, we had to drop the speed to avoid any wildlife surprises. And it was actually a great idea, as at one point we saw a young caribou on the road, just standing there and refusing to move even as we came closer. It only strolled off lazily when honked at. We thought it might have been a deer at first, as it was dark and hard to see, but in retrospect found out that there are no deer in Newfoundland. That’s the first time we saw a caribou in the wild! Made it to the cabin at 10pm and went to sleep soon after (but not before tasting some of the goodies we brought from St. Anthony) in anticipation of the last day in Gros Morne the next morning.

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