[Photos: top & bottom by Alison Dyer; group shot by Graham Openshaw; 2 skiers by Peter Armitage, April 2008]
"What time of day do you call this," says Graham, as daughter Ella and I, stunned by a glazing sun, scramble with our x-country skiis. We'd left St. John's and arrived about 40 mins later - now noon - out on the Witless Bay Line - a road known for its winter white-outs, over the barrens between the Trans Canada Highway and the coastal Southern Shore Highway.
I mumble something about being at the kayak pool sessions the night before with both kids. And now we are here - where my buddy Peter Armitage has his winter camp (a canvas Innu tent). He, his partner Barb Neis, mutual friends Graham and Janaki (an Aussi) and a few others are out for the day - or weekend - camping and skiing. Ella and I decide to join them for the afternoon across a vast white terrain scattered with erratics and irregular life - like something belonging to the White Witch: a landscape bewitched by a dazzling sun, and magnificent chards of sparkling glass beneath shorn larch and grizzled spruce (a thaw following a freezing rain).
Early on - and far behind - attempting a snow plow, my left ski hits a bare patch of caribou moss, grabs onto it like a drowned man to a tossed lifejacket, and sends me caterpaulting into the albeit fresh and tasty air. I land unceremoniously like a sack of garbage. So be it... I paddle therefore I am... I ski because winter doth cover this land for 8 months (i.e. I suck at skiing but try to make the most of it).
The landscape is marvellous - we're tired, and after two plus hours head back to camp, finding it by its trail of wood smoke. Tea, Innu donuts and a ritual bowl of instant noodles are enjoyed laying on a bed of fragrant fir boughs. Sore muscles, red cheeks, and warm food usher us into a trance-like nap.