Sunday, July 12, 2015

Planes, trains and butterflies

Deer Lake, NL – If I were living in certain parts of Saskatche-wan, I’d be thrilled to have wea-ther like we had today. It probably would have stopped a forest fire in its tracks! On other days we’ve had a sprinkle or two, but I’d venture to say today is the wettest we’ve had yet. Too bad we can’t export it.

Before heading to Corner Brook for a look-see, which was our plan for the day, we stopped by the visitor centre here in Deer Lake for information about this area and places we plan to see later in our trip. Stephanie, at the counter, was pleased to show us highlights of her home town of Corner Brook and give us other useful material.
When we mentioned an interest in the French islands of St Pierre and Miquelon, the couple standing next to us told us that’s where they’re from, and proceeded to tell us all about restaurants, hotels and special features of the islands. Joelle kindly noted these in our newly acquired guide book, and added her and her partner Jean-Jacques’ contact information. The conversation quickly switched to French, and we learned that Jean-Jacques is a sixth-generation citizen of the islands and a philatelist by trade. It was a delightful and unexpected exchange!

Corner Brook is about 50 km southwest of Deer Lake along the TransCanada Highway, and a beautiful drive, not only for the grand scenery of mountains and the Humber River, but also for its welcome lack of potholes. The chief source of employment used to be the pulp and paper mill that still operates next to the river. A local resident told Val that it used to employ some 3,000 people in its hey-day; now there are 150 employees. The mill has a huge yard with more piles of logs than I’ve ever seen in one place.
The railroad history of Newfoundland is showcased in Corner Brook, with the last train on display and open to the public. Until 1969, this narrow-gauge railway served most of the southern portion of the island, and the not-so-swift pace earned it the name Newfie Bullet! The small museum had photos of long-serving railroad men, including Patrick Dwyer, who started out in 1922 at age 13 as a telegraph operator (yes, thirteen!) and held nearly every post in the hierarchy before retiring more than 40 years later. It was fun to tour the sleeping car, dining car, caboose and engine outside the building. Our guide told us the snow sometimes reached the top windows of the cow-catcher car in winter!

Next, we drove to the top of the town, where a lovely national historic site dedicated to Captain James Cook overlooks the whole area from great rocky heights. We were the only visitors on this rainy afternoon, but we learned a lot about Cook’s time in Newfoundland, where he first learned about the plane table used to map coastlines. His cartography and navigation skills were honed here and led to his appointment as Britain’s lead man in the exploration and mapping of the Pacific South Seas.

The best rainy-day destination, the Insec-tarium across from our RV park, brought our day’s explo-rations to a close. Housed in a reclaimed barn, this fascinating display of insects and butterflies drew large crowds today. We saw live but-terflies emerging from their chrysalises, and flitting about in their special habitat. I hope the scorpions, six-inch beetles and furry tarantulas in the static displays don’t emerge in my dreams tonight!

No comments: