Archive for October, 2006

This is one of the East Coast Trail day hikes. It isn’t that hard, and gives you a different view of the oft-traveled route along the Blackhead road from St. John’s to Cape spear. This day was sunny with a light breeze and some interesting boating activity, including a Marine Institute life saving drill (which I unfortunately didn’t photograph). The actual hike includes a couple of moderate climbs, a crossing of a barachois, blueberries, wreckage from at least one ship, a few whales, peace, quiet, and puts you one hill away from Cape Spear.

Fort Amherst Lighthouse

To start the trail, you go along the South Side Road until you see this view of the Fort Amherst Lighthouse. This means you’ve gone too far and you have to backtrack a few hundred metres until you see the sign of the hiker on the hill. It’s a nice view,  though!
Looking South

A look south from Fort Amherst. There’s almost always a little white water on the ledges here.

St. John's Harbour Approaches

You start the hike with a little 500 foot climb. Then you turn around. From this view you would never tell that there is a city slightly to the left that has been settled for almost half a millennium. On the first headland you can see the North Head trail, then Cuckold’s Head, the Quidi Vidi, then…
Signal Hill from South Side Hills

The only way you get this view of Cabot Tower is to climb the South Side Hills, or become airborne somehow.

Trail to Freshwater Bay then Blackhead
Cabot Tower unsuccessfully hiding behind rock cairn. To the left is Fort Pepperell and the Fisheries and Oceans facility in the White Hills.
Freshwater Bay

Freshwater Bay and the barachois. A year or two before a storm had cut the barachois on the south side (left), but natural wave activity had restored it to half of its original thickness.

North Head and Harbour Entrance
You can see Cabot Tower on the hill, and Fort Amherst Lighthouse on the rocks near the middle of the image. Pop Quiz: What is the name of the headland that Fort Amherst is on?
To Blackhead

Peggy’s Leg

Looking North

Signal Hill distant
If you look closely, you also see Fort Amherst.

To Blackhead

To Blackhead
Tuckamore. It is only another kilometer to the road in Blackhead.

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Conception Bay in Newfoundland was a large part of my childhood, especially Chamberlains and Manuels. A large part of this experience were my grandparents on my father’s side. My maternal grandparents had passed away by the time I was 6, and I only have vague memories of them. Nanny and Poppy Mercer were important in our family. They were busy and active almost until they died, and we saw a lot of them.

My grandparents lived on Chamberlains Road, and my Uncle Fred owned some land along the beach. We visited almost every Sunday afternoon; the ride was boring, but when we arrived there was always something to do.

We spent a lot of time on Chamberlains Beach. There was a small pond behind a barachois that was great for pond hockey and skating. The entrance to the beach was about 500 metres from where the Manuels River opened into the bay, and there was always driftwood and interesting castaways. The beach was a typical cobblestone beach, and running along it was always challenging and fun. The best part of the beach was a ledge that extended from the point out into the bay. It was full of little rock pools, and there was always something interesting to find. We also tried swimming there, with the usual amount of success.

If you really wanted to swim, all you had to do was to go the the back of Poppy’s farm, climb down the bluff to The Flats, and swim in the Manuels river. The current was imperceptible, and there was a good diving rock and deep water.

Finally, there was Poppy’s farm itself. The house was old, and in the kitchen there was an old wood-fired Enterprise Stove. My favourite Toutons and Raisin Pudding came from that stove, through Nanny’s masterful hands. You could always smell the yeasty smell of bread dough rising. There was an old wood stove in the living room, and it was really cosy. All the kids would get in front of the black and white TV in the evening to watch the Wonderful World of Disney. Also, there were there neat rooms with drawers filled with strange and interesting things. You could also hide out and read if you wanted a little privacy; if Nanny wanted to find you, she’d always find you amazingly fast.

Then there was the barn. It wasn’t too large, but it had a hayloft with a lot of old junk and treasures. I particularly remember looking into a crate and finding a complete set of green bound encyclopedia volumes. Under Submarines was a state-of-the-art 1912 U-boat! The encyclopedia was published just before the Great War. There was also plenty of hay for fun in the loft, and a fun and forbidden way to the first floor though a hatch in the loft floor. You could also sit with your legs hanging out of the loft doorway, and have a grand view of the farm and other houses.

There was also a chopping block and plenty of wood to cut. We’d often cut an amazing amount of chips and splinters, and occasionally split a useful amount of wood. This was okay, though, since you always needed a little kindling. No child was ever hurt during the performance of these acts. There was also a hunting beagle, a root cellar in a hill, a grove of spruce and a row of maples and crab-apple trees. Life was good.
Here are some pictures of what Conception Bay is like now.

Concretehenge, Conception Bay, NL

The new bandstand at Topsail Pond Beach Park, before they added the roof. I called it Concretehenge.

Sailing in the Bay
Just south of Long Pond

Highest hills on the Avalon Peninsula, at Bauline.

Looking west from the shore

Going Home
A fisherman heading home in his skiff. There used to be many more.

Blue 2

Bell Island’s northern end.

Kelly's and Bell Island

Bell Island and Little Bell.
Taken from Topsail Pond Beach Park

Z<p><p><p><p>en Garden?

Near Ochre Pit

All lined up

Yellow House

Sunset, Conception Bay

Sail Away
Dusk near Long Pond in Conception Bay.

Conception Bay

Going home
Small fishing boat heading back home to Kelligrews, Conception Bay.

Conception Bay Sunset

Kelly's Island, Conception Bay.
My father built a small dory with a sail, and used to take sheep out to Kelly’s Island so they could graze. Once the boat swamped, and dad frantically tried to get it empty enough so that he could get the sheep back on board without swamping again. You see, the sheep start by floating well, but as the wool gradually gets saturated, they sink lower and lower into the water…

DAY13 053
Bell Island and Little Bell from Topsail Pond.

Brrrr! Getting Feet Wet
Typical amount swimmers get into Conception Bay (at least for more than a few minutes). Topsail Pond Beach, with Kelly’s Island on horizon.

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In the next while I’m going to put up some images from sets I have made on my Flickr account. These sets are the main reason I started using a camera a few years ago. I’ve seen a lot of beauty and great scenery around the Island during my life, and for much of my life I thought that it would be impossible to truly capture what I have experienced, even with a great camera and good skills. After trying photography over the last few years, this opinion has been modified slightly.

A camera will never catch all of a wilderness landscape, and especially not all of the wonderful skies common in Newfoundland. We have a lot of weather, and consequently spectacular skies; so I guess the old saying about clouds and silver linings is particularly true in Newfoundland. Anyway, while you can’t capture the entire scene, you can show elements of the experience that appealed to you the most, or that struck you as being especially striking and significant. The other thing a camera does is to develop the habit of really looking around and seeing things that you would have otherwise missed. So while my hiking speed has been reduced, my appreciation of said hike has usually been greatly enhanced.

Anyway, this is the first major hike that I photographed after buying my first camera. It is of the Long Range Traverse hike in Gros Morne National Park (which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site). It is a 3-5 day back country hike in the inland highlands called the Big Level. You start at Western Brook Pond, a fjord with 700 metre walls near the north side of the park. You get dropped off at the head of the fjord, then climb to the top. The next couple of days are spent hiking south, dodging the occasional Moose and Caribou herd, and finding out the true meaning of black flies and mosquitoes. Regarding that last, I would highly recommend doing the hike in the spring or fall, not, and I repeat not, in the summer! You come out near Gros Morne Mountain, and not far from the top of said mountain, and it is worth a detour to have a look at the fjord just north of the mountain. Then a quick 6 km and you are back in civilisation. Personally, it is one of the best hikes I have ever done.

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Rocky Harbour Lighthouse, near the north side of Bonne Bay in the park.
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Gros Morne Mountain, at 806 metres the second highest mountain on the Island. There’s a wonderful day hike up and around the mountain. The round trip is about 16 km.

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Looking towards Trout River at dusk in Bonne Bay.

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The entrance to Western Brook Pond.

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Note the small bridal veil falls halfway up the right side of the fjord.

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A small waterfall. The tour boat went close enough that people on the stern were able to get some water into bottles.

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South side of the fjord.

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Head of the fjord. To get to the first campsite you follow the valley to the end, then cut right at about 2700 feet high, and hike another kilometre. One thing; there are no marked trails from this point until you reach Gros Morne Mountain.

gros morne

Three sisters?

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The rocky area at the top is where you take a break before hiking south and out of the fjord gorge.

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These people were going to have a nice meal and sleep in cosy beds tonight. Our beds were about 4 days walk from there.

gros morne


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Four hours later we were near the top.

Gros Morne Fjord, Newfoundland

From the head of the Fjord, after climbing 2700 feet. Our first major break.

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Mosse number one. He didn’t mind us getting close, but my friends thought I was getting a little too close.

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The morning of day three.

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A typical view on the Big Level. Mostly we were in these valleys ,but here we climbed out and had a look around.

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Our last campsite. There were three wooden tent pads, and an open air toilet in a bunch of bushes. You sat down on the toilet and everything below your chest was hidden. You had a great view, and enough privacy for decency.

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She came within about 50 feet of us, and every few steps she’d stop and look at us.

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One of the strange things was the way she bounced along like she was on springs, especially the part where she climbed out of our little valley. It was like sproing..sproing..sproing..
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Baker's Brook Pond
The last day. We were hiking though fog, and then it burned off quickly and this appeared. This landlocked fjord is just north of Gros Morne Mountain in Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland and Labrador. We were at about 700 metres above the pond when I took this, and we’d been in the wilderness for 4 days. It was great to see this, as it meant we would be back in civilisation by that afternoon.

It was a wonderful hike, with Caribou herds, Moose, Black Bear, LOTS of Black Flies and Mosquitoes, good weather, and surreal scenery. One nice thing about the hike is that the number of people allowed on the hike is limited to about 6 a day. When we did it, there were the three of us.

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The males were on top, and the females were scattered around below. We think it had something to do with a breeze, the black flies, and a bit of sexism on the part of the males.

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Bakeapples. A local delicacy.

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Moose number three. She was playing around unconcernidly in the water, even though there were a dozen people around.

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A kilometre from the parking lot, and our last look at Gros Morne Mountain during the hike. After 4 days of hiking with 50 lb packs ,we went swimming, then showers and shaves. We didn’t swim far…

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This blog entry was made with performancing, an add-on developed by Jed Brown. It is built directly into the firefox pages, and seems fairly fast and flexible.

Here is what the interface looks like:

This was done with a right click to the image.

Here is a Flickr example:
A Tramp Abroad

Here is another one, using the image link function:

This is a check on font sizes, not part of the rich-text editor in WordPress (of course you can add it using the html format option). The color feature is not integral to the WordPress editor as it is here.

The procedure is simple. Within a web page just right-click, then choose your options, including blogging a page, bookmarking the page, page text (what I am typing now), or FTP file upload.
It works well with a number of blogs.

The nicest thing I find about it is the flexibility and speed. It seems much less painful than editing within WordPress itself. One con is that you can’t add a new category, but you can easily add old ones.

Other features include image upload, FTP, and the ability to use performance to bookmark to del.ici.ous and to manage bookmarks within del.ici.ous. You can also automatically bookmark your posts. Technorati tags can also be added.

So far it seems promising. I’m looking forward to learning more.

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Today I noticed a lot of comments appearing concerning the poem Fog by Carl Sandburg (I had a copy of it on my poetry page). It seemed to be from a small group of people, possibly from a class or chat room. All of the comments were initially coming from the same IP address. It seemed to consist of several males “pooh-poohing” the poem (literally and ad nauseum), and a few females trying to defend their appreciation of the poem. It was the first flame-war I have seen in a long time, and reinforces my habit of avoiding situations where such things occur. The level of maturity of the guys was also abysmal.

After about thirty posts going back and forth I decided to shut things down. This was the first time such a thing had happened to me, so I had to go hunt through the WordPress dashboard for possible methods to eliminate or reduce the problem. Here are a few of the things I found useful.

  • Dashboard > Options > Discussion then go to Comments Blacklist. Here you can list names, IPs, URLs, and email addresses to blacklist. For today’s problem, with 3-4 annoyances involved, this expedient was a good try. But somehow one of the gremlins was still getting through. So then I tried…
  • Dashboard > Options > Discussion then find Before a Comment Appears and check the third box (“Comment author must have a previously approved comment”). This will send messages from a commenter not previously approved to Dashboard > Manage > Awaiting Moderation. There were advantages to this method. First, after a few minutes I checked it and found those people who were being sensible and allowed their comments to be posted. Second, I had a ball watching the idiots trying to get through, and I fully appreciated their frustrated comments as they discovered they were shut out. After a few minutes of chortling and rubbing my hands together I used the batch method of labelling their comments as spam, and so far nothing has made it through, even to the Awaiting Moderation page. QED.
  • To minimise further problems, go to Dashboard > Options > Discussion then find Before a Comment Appears, and then check the second and third boxes. The second box (“Comment author must fill out name and e-mail“) helps you if you decide to blacklist someone as described in the first tip. The third box(“Comment author must have a previously approved comment”) reduces the number of people that you have to screen.

Finally, I would like to thank three of the brave souls who fought the good fight. They were the aptly named Dragoness, the cool-headed Ice Princess, and the appreciative Sahara. I think some of them don’t back down from an argument. Keep reading the good stuff, and don’t let the turkeys get you down.

Nonne amicus certus in re incerta cernitur 🙂

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When I came to work in Nova Scotia, I kept hearing about Peggy’s Cove. To the uninitiated, it may be the single most popular tourist attraction in Nova Scotia. There are a number of reasons for this. First, it has an almost iconic lighthouse on exposed rocks. Second, there are often spectacular waves breaking on the shore. Third, there is a picture book fishing village with a population of about 40 people. Fourth, it is easily accessible to the tourists in Halifax, especially the tourists off the cruise ships. And last but not least, it is in one of the few areas in Nova Scotia with barrenlands.

The first time I visited the site, it was somewhat of a let-down. My overall impression was of a typical outport in Newfoundland, with slightly different architecture, and with a typical (albeit unusually well-kept) lighthouse. The rocky terrain was nice, but not that unusual for home, and I’ve seen waves as good or better at Cape Spear. Finally, the barrens were very typical of home.

Strangely, I kept coming back, and the area grew on me, almost without my noticing. It is a good place for waves and looking at the ocean, and in the off season there aren’t too many tourists. There are still real fishermen in the village, along with the nick-knack shops. And the rugged coastline has a certain grandeur.

I finally realised that the reason I like it now is the same reason that made it a bit of a let-down to me initially. It reminds me of of home, and makes me appreciate home more and more. In fact, if I stay here much longer I’ll probably end up loving the place!

Here are some pictures from a walk through the barrens and then to the village, from a little while ago. Add some steep hills and a few moose and pitcher plants, and it would be Newfoundland.

Rock on the rocks
The main boulder is completely off the ground. It is sitting on four stones. You can barely see Peggy’s Cove light on the right (west).

Peggys Cove from the East
Looks pretty exposed, doesn’t it?

Turtle Head

For some reason I kept thinking of the Transvaal in South Africa

Tree on the rocks

Evening on the barrens
The barrens in the fall have amazing shades of red. It was true in Newfoundland, and it is true in Nova Scotia.

The Eastern Long-legged Photographer
The barrens in the fall have amazing shades of red. It was true in Newfoundland, and it is true in Nova Scotia.

Peggys Cove Nights 2

Duck Flotilla

Peggys Cove Nights 4

Peggys Cove Nights 5

Light Before Dark

Light and Dark

Light After Dark

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I was driving in the Gaspereau Valley in near the Minas Basin and Wolfville in Nova Scotia on Sunday. It was a sunny evening and on a hill near the Gaspereau River I saw a white tower on a hill, mainly surrounded by trees. I saw no buildings very near it, and it didn’t look like a church steeple to me. The other thing it reminded me of was the Dingle tower, but that made no sense either. The Dingle tower commemorates responsible government in the province,  is made of stone, and is ten stories high. This tower was wooden, was about 3-4 stories high, and was in the middle of nowhere.

Anyway, it piqued my curiosity, so I tried to get near before dark. This is what I saw when made it to the hill. You could call it “the Newfoundlander who went up a hill but came down a conundrum.”

Hill tower through the trees-West Side
I caught glimpse of this tower on a hill from a great distance. It looked very out of place in an agricultural valley, and at first I thought it was a church steeple.

Hill tower through the trees-East Side
There was an open area, almost like a very short ski slope, leading up to the tower. It reminded me of a much higher stone tower in the Dingle in Halifax.

Finding the path
A field near the path leading up the hill.

Nearing the top
This made me think of Robert Frost, but I took it anyway. This is near the top of the hill.

White tower of the Gaspereau Valley
The tower is 3-4 stories high, and seems to barely have room for a staircase. It could be a look-off tower, but why have one in the first place, and why place it next to a very small graveyard in the second place?

Looking in
This was the only window at ground level. All I could see was stairs.

Three grave markers covering 200 years
The small graveyard next to the tower holds up to twenty graves, but has only three markers. It is a common thing in Nova Scotia to use each marker to commemorate a number of people.

There are four to six male family names between the three markers in the plot. The oldest birthdate I saw was 1818, and the most recent death was 2001. The family names were Brown, Mitchell, Perry, Stirling, Tamplin, and Trenholm. The only information I could find was here:
the Wallbrook Trenholm Cemetary .

“Name and Address:Stirling Cemetery, River Road, Wallbrook
Location:Between Gaspereau and West Brooklyn turn off by the old look-off tower
Comment:Believed to be a family owned cemetery”

Mitchell Marker

Looking Northwest into the valley
The Gaspereau Valley is famous for the vineyards and for general agriculture. It is at the eastern end of the Annapolis Valley, and just south of Wolfville and Grand Pre.

Last look
This reminded me of the tower in the Dingle in Halifax.

I still don’t know the history of this site, and why there is a lookout tower here. At the base of the hill are two farms, and one looks like it has been there for a long time. Also, many of the trees on the hill look like they’ve been planted, with small groves of fir next to spruce near the upper slopes and with deciduous trees on the lower slopes. It looks like a woodlot to me.

The path back
Across the road from the entrance was an old barn, and there was one small window to be seen from the path.

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