Town with a Fault
Aug 27, 2008
|Moose soup and tea on the Dover Fault - Wednesday, August 27
Since Newfoundland’s economy has always revolved around the cod fishery, it stands to reason that this huge island is populated mostly along it’s coastlines. Not to say that there aren’t some significant towns inland (there are) or that the coastline is crowded with people (it isn’t) - but fishing villages is what Newfoundland is all about, and even a cursory look at the map confirms that fact.
To give you an idea of Newfoundland’s size, consider that if it was a state in the United States it would be fourth in size after Alaska, Texas and California. It is not uncommon to meet a middle aged person, born and raised on the island, who readily admits to not having seen all of Newfoundland yet - nor do they expect to before they die.
We have only 18 days left, so we won’t either - but we do want to see as much as possible - and with a convoluted coastline that literally stretches out for thousands of miles the question is always ‘Where next?’. Today’s answer to that question turned out to be a mid-sized rocky peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic from Newfoundland’s northeast corner.
It has no name, but it is home to the towns of Gambo, Hare Bay, Dover, Centerville, Newtown, Lumsden, and Musgrove Harbour, not to mention some other towns with strange names, and Deadman’s Bay Provincial Park. This page will focus on Gambo, Dover and Newtown because those are the places where we stopped to spend time and take pictures. I’m sure beautiful pages could be made from the dozen other places we didn’t stop, but life is all about choices and these were ours.
We left our nice RV park at Square Pond and got on the Trans Canadian Highway headed east. Shortly before coming to our turnoff at Highway 320 we spotted a roadside fruit and vegetable stand and we pulled off to check it out. This turned out to be a good decision, because not only did we buy some potatoes that were picked (dug up) that morning, but we also got the most beautiful head of cauliflower we’ve ever seen. It is some kind of hybrid that looks like a tiny forest seen from the air, and it is almost too pretty to eat.
The veggie vendor was set up at a turnout called Joe’s Overlook, so we walked up to the viewing platform to see what that was about. We were treated to a most magnificent view of Gambo and Freshwater Bay. Gambo is made up of several little communities that got together under one name. Freshwater Bay is brackish and tidal, but it is named that because of the several freshwater ‘brooks’ that feed into it. Just as Newfoundlanders refer to lakes as ‘ponds’ they call rivers ‘brooks’. It’s a habit they probably picked up from those understated English folks across the Atlantic ‘Pond’.
From Gambol, Highway 320 follows the north side of Freshwater Bay. Every meter of every kilometer is scenic, but at Dover it does seem as though the Creator was showing off a bit. The excuse for this performance is a fault line in the earth’s crust - a feature that never fails to generate excitement. In Dover’s case the fault line is the one where Europe, Africa and North America were once joined at the hip, and if the geology of that gets pretty complicated never mind, because the resulting scenery is spectacular!
There are interpretive signs that explain the plate tectonics, but we tectonically challenged tend to gloss over those and go “Yeah, yeah - but look at the reflections on the water!” Intellectually it’s important to know that the same forces that created the Dover fault created the Appalachian chain of mountains, but emotionally that is the last thing you think of or care about when you are gaping at the sheer beauty of the result.
Dover, which calls itself ’The Town with a Fault’, is a small town. Their Municipal Offices share space with the Dover Fault Interpretive Center and Gift Shop. It was lunchtime when we arrived and both were closed. The Municipal Offices opened at 1:30, but the Interpretive Center never did. It is operated by local students who have all gone back to school. The municipal ladies directed us to the overlook and since it is open and free, we headed up there.
The trail climbs steadily, and along the way there are wild blueberries for the picking, and a piece out of the tail section of a B-18 Bomber. This was left after the airplane it was attached to crashed and burned in 1942. The crew survived, and a Mrs. Parsons gave them dry clothes, hot tea and moose soup, while she washed and ironed their uniforms. A wonderful piece of Dover trivia that is really not so trivial at all. We enjoyed the Dover Fault Overlook for a while and then headed back down the trail, picking blueberries and partridgeberries all the way.
Our last stop of the day was another 30 miles up the peninsula in Newtown, where we took an hour and a half guided tour of the Barbour Living Heritage Village. It was another of those wonderful finds that is off the beaten path and worth everything it took to get there. To quote from their brochure:
“In the early 1900’s the Barbour Site was completely developed with houses, fishing stages, wharves, fish flakes and a general store. Along with the general store, the Barbours owned several large schooners, operated a ferry service, bought and sold cod fish and played a major role in the seal fishery. The property remained in the Barbour family until it was purchased by the Cape Freels Heritage Trust Inc. in 1993. Today the Barbour Living Heritage Village has 17 buildings, some restored and others built to replicate the original site.”
Like Battle Harbour in Labrador, this is an opportunity to take a look into Newfoundland’s colorful past. It’s a chance to be moved by history, and enriched as a person by the experience. The two jewels of the village are original Barbour homes dating back to the turn of the century. Both are over a hundred years old, and both have private apartments in them which are still used by members of the family. The rest of each home is accessible to the public, and offers a rare opportunity to look closely at the lives of common and uncommon people who lived many generations in the past.
Our guide for the tour was a personable and knowledgeable young woman who succeeded in making it a memorable experience. From Newtown we continued on to Lumsden where we found an adequate but unremarkable campsite for the night. That was OK because our heads were still full of all we’d seen and done in another amazing day.