Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Witless Bay Line Barrens

[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.


Michael said...

What fun Alison! The whole scene, the tent, the setting, the stove, the fur branches on the floor, everything, makes me nostalgic for Kuujjuaq where we once had winter camps identical to the one in the photos. We'd head out most weekends to fish and especially in the spring when we practically lived on the land. Thanks for the post!

Stan Mac Kenzie said...

God that Bannock looks good. Looks like a wicked camp, I can imagine the fun you all had.

Alison Dyer said...

Hello Stan, Michael,
Well Peter really knows his winter camping! And because of a long winter he was able to camp again in April and invite friends along. Now I want back country skiis!