Dwight Peck's personal website

Newfoundland is still there (2006)

The island that became part of Canada about the time that I was watching Captain Midnight on a 10-inch B+W TV screen and sending in my cereal boxtops for the code ring.

Change Islands in the north

It's hard to guess how we've missed this place in the past, but, oh well, nearly everyone else has, too.

You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

The queue for the Change Islands ferry, 16 June 2006. A real convenience for the inhabitants of the islands, this ferry is, who only got a few paved roads and generator electricity in the 1960s and got put on the Canadian electricity grid only in the 1970s, and doubtless they view regular ferry traffic as one of the normal modern conveniences.

Kristin contemplating a belated dinner at the Seven Oakes B+B in just another half an hour. There are two Change Islands (so-called because in elder times the fishermen summered there, and then when the frosty nip came upon the air, they "changed" to somewhere else) -- the southern one extends from the ferry dock 12km northward past virtually nothing but scrub forest and bog to the Change Islands village and bridge across the "Main Tickle" to the tiny northern island. That's where we're going now. And we're pretty hungry.

And now we're here, at the Seven Oakes, where a nice little dinner was kept waiting for us. A piece of cod (alternating with a piece of salmon every other evening), some potatos, and some steamed veggies -- EXCELLENT on the first night's late arrival. QUITE GOOD on the second night. WELL, OKAY on the third night. On the fourth night, we went out looking for a restaurant. Only there wasn't one. But there was a café with a dinner menu. But with only two items on it. The "grilled ham and cheese sandwich", alas, turned out to be a cold scoop of tinned ham-and-mayonnaise salad between two pieces of toast. (But the service was friendly, and the price was right.)

The view from the porch around the Seven Oakes is worth nearly any tourist privation.

From the town's Web site: "The incorporated community of Change Islands is built along the shores of a long and narrow tickle that separates the two largest islands. There have been fishermen here since the latter half of the eighteenth century when the Labrador fishery rose to prominence. By the beginning of the twentieth century, this was a prosperous settlement with a population of over 1,000 people (1901 - 1,067; 1911 - 1,087; 1921 - 1,075) who fished the adjacent North Atlantic waters or worked in the many large merchant premises that were established in the coves and on the rugged shores and the many adjacent smaller islands. With the introduction of modern fishing technology and the recent closure of the northern cod fishery, the population census has reduced to 360 in 2001."

This is the view from the Seven Oakes B+B, at the north end of Change Islands, which is a restful place much appreciated by a devoted clientele from Montreal and Toronto who really want just to chill out, read novels on the porch, and dine well on cod/salmon, potatos, and steamed veggies. It was a bit of a shock, however, to discover that, according to traditional local culture, the village store boasts an ample cold room stacked full of urine-style beers like Molson Ice and Bud Lite, but no real beer and, worst of all, no wine whatsoever on the island.

Having settled in nicely, however, we're ready for a brisk hike. The Change Islands scenery is very likely the best in the world, except for Switzerland of course, and maybe northern Scotland, but there is one problem. The terrain is covered mainly by bogs or by "tuckamore" -- a Newfoundland word for the stunted balsam fir and spruce trees that grow all in a warped little impenetrable tangle -- so you hike pretty much only where they've made trails for you.

A stunning suburb, Paine's Cove, just near the Seven Oakes B+B as we head up the road for the trailhead of the "Squid Jiggers Trail", a wonderful route around the northern island and back into the main village.

Regional joie de vivre.

Narrators appreciating nature on a windy grey day on the Squid Jiggers Trail

Hike leaders expressing impatience with stragglers

An outhouse thoughtfully placed halfway along the hiking route

The view along the Squid Jiggers Trail

Kristin, tired of trying to jigger squids, heading off towards the village

The end of the Squid Jiggers trail, past the water-logged cemeteries dating back to youthful childbirth tragedies and 20-something shipwreck victims from 150 years ago, and octogenarians up to recent times. All the tombstones leaning one way or the other because of the boggy ground.

Drawn eerily back to those graveyards askew, one of us trots amiably back over the Squid Jiggers trail, and passes by the convenient outhouse again.

Back to the Seven Oakes, just in time for another splendid piece of cod-or-salmon ("fetched fresh-frozen from Fogo"), boiled potatos, and steamed vegetables, with a very nice wine if you're brought it along yourself.

Kristin tucking in at the Seven Oakes, really really ready for the cod or salmon piece, and did you bring down the wine?

These fish-processing huts are called "stages" and are being renovated for tourist purposes, which is all to the good, as they are extraordinarily lovely and bring the visitors right back to the days when these fishing villages had fish.

Overfished? Isn't everybody? Newfoundland lived on cod and tinned vegetables for probably four centuries -- if you count the French, Portuguese, Basque, and English fishing villages here (and the Indians for centuries before that) -- and now that the cod is all gone, all we've got are history and tinned vegetables. Why's the cod all gone? Ask the locals, but more pointedly, ask the Spanish and Russian industrial trawler fleets that scrape the ocean bottoms everywhere and remove everything. Same results in Senegal as here -- no more fish.

But sunsets, we've still got splendid sunsets.

Kristin snapping away at our new friends at the Seven Oakes B+B, who are also (like Kristin) real liberals from Wisconsin

Our Wisconsin liberal friends snap away at us as well at sunset, Kristin with her broken-metatarsal boot on (which luckily she didn't wear whilst hiking all about during the daytimes). What a lovely evening that was (especially with the cod/salmon).

The Seven Oakes at twilight. The Oakes had five children, which made seven in all when the proprietress, an original Change-Islander, insisted that the family come back from Deer Lake and develop this establishment, which is evidently the only B+B on the island still. Many years later, she continues to entertain a large devoted clientele of fans of this splendid location, hospitality, and cod/salmon with potatos and steamed vegetables. BYOB.

Kristin passing a pleasant three evening hours hoping that more Atlantic seals will come in and play about in the shallow water. We thought they'd already come but that was only the tide breaking over coastal rocks, and we haven't had the heart to tell Kristin that.

The Burgundy Squid, a very catchy name for a café, though possibly chosen out of a hat. The enterprise is owned by the Stages and Stores Heritage Foundation, an admirable local arts-and-crafts marketing consortium; it's they who are refurbishing the fishing sheds or "stages" to create an improved tourist ambience. Things are going better in summers now, one hopes, but probably still pretty grim in the winters. The formerly robust cuisine of the region, founded upon local seafood and tinned items, may (since the collapse of the seafood industry) have been left without much of a solid foundation for the future (though they're still getting lobsters, we're told). But the café also serves as a gallery for a smattering of local craft items, so, to sum up . . .

. . . this is an excellent place to come for a cold beer or a good hot cup of tea, and of course the ambience, and perhaps some woven socks with colorful squids on them.

One last hike on the Change Islands. In 2000 the mayor of Change Island emphasized her forward-thinking approach to the economy of the island, particularly in the creation of three hiking paths for the tourists, the beginning of a new touristical future for the region. Now, in 2006, we still have those three touristical hiking paths on the two islands -- one, the Squid Jiggers path, we've done that one, and today we're out on the "Shoreline Path" (where Kristin can be seen investigating why this stuffed rabbit has got a pole stuffed up its butt as well), and the third is a 20-minute lookout walk that isn't worth mentioning. So for hikers there's a mixed verdict on the Change Islands, to wit, a few hours ought to do it.

But it's a great place to read a novel and gaze long out to sea. BYOB.

map courtesy of http://www.changeislands.ca/

Aficionados of northern coastal architecture can take a breather here, too, from their labors, because this is mostly prefab doublewides, but fans of tinned vegetables, boardwalk hiking, and tap water with their dinners can be assured of quiet summer weeks of relaxation on the porch amid some of the most stunning scenery to be found anywhere. Winters -- probably to be dissuaded.

But if, whilst luxuriating here, you should anyway get bored, there's nearby Fogo.

Where they have a wine store and an ATM machine.

So we're off to Fogo for a day with the ATM!

Newfoundland 2006

Gros Morne: Trout River

Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 6 August 2006, revised 22 July 2013.

Newfoundland 2006