by Russell Wangersky
Russell Wangersky is the Editor of the Telegram in St. John’s, Newfoundland and is a Women’s Post Contributor.
There are no signs that send you to the look-off over Big Broad Cove Pond.
No arrows. No instructions to tell you that there’s even something there to see. It’s a roofless gazebo with a couple of benches, the whole thing painted dark green with that heavy paint that seems to be sold only to institutional buyers, and you can see that same gazebo on Google Map’s satellite pictures – but only if you already know exactly where to look.
You come across it like many things in Newfoundland: by accident, often while looking for something else. No particular reason to pick a dirt road that could just as easily lead to nowhere.
On a recent Sunday, the unlikely gazebo had a panoramic, 360-degree view of one part of the northeast corner of Newfoundland’s Avalon peninsula, the northern end of Conception Bay out in front of you, the big pond down in back, and the rolling barrens lands on both sides, low scrub and spruce and fragrant bog plants as far as the eye could see.
Down the hill to the water of the pond, and the canoe slips easily out into the water, and we were pulling hard under deep, heavy clouds and a quick shower of rain before the sun came out, several kilometres of canoeing, the edges of the pond all tufts of flowers. Drifts of small Arctic succulents with brilliant yellow blooms, and shouldered waves of rhodera, with saucy-mouthed hot-pink flowers that blend together in a drift of colour away from you to the cliffs, grey stone that seems to jut up exactly wherever it wants to, weathered jawbones and wandering teeth in desperate need of straightening.
On the south side, coming back, it was occasional sun and all damp heat, and looking down into the peat-brown water you could see the water deepen as the pond ledged downwards, followed by a sudden steep drop off that took the bottom entirely out of sight. One unexpected and motionless line of seagulls ahead, until we were close enough to realize that they weren’t floating, but standing in line on a long spine of rock jutting out from shore into the centre of the lake, and then that breathless canoe moment when you stop paddling entirely and wait as you whisper over the rock, waiting too for the familiar soft nudge of the grounding.
A quick stop near an abandoned plywood tilt, and through the window, you can see a man’s jacket and a yellow-handled swede saw. Out front, a set of moose horns is toppled into the bog, only the top horn wholly visible.
But here’s the magic part.
On the pond for the afternoon, and we saw exactly three people, two in another boat, and the third flyfishing at the foot of the pond, until we pulled away in the canoe and he turned into a dot. And that, a 50 per cent increase over the two we had seen after an afternoon’s canoeing on the Saturday. And even Saturday’s total was more crowded than the usual none.
It was five minutes’ drive from where the minke whales were chasing capelin near the surface, the whales’ black backs arching wet out of the waves, close enough to shore so that you could hear their puffed exhalations as they surfaced. You didn’t need a boat – you could see them from the car. After that, five minutes from the house.
(I could, if I wanted to, tell you that there is a swimming hole underneath a 20-foot falls on a river closer than a subway-stop away. Or that the same distance away there is an empty ocean beach with fine grey sand where we have only ever seen footsteps – two sets of prints, sturdy walking shoes with a businesslike tread, and a walking stick they used only on their way back. Or that, in August, the blueberries will weigh their plants down like grapes on an arbour.)
Wish you were here?
Maybe you do.
Sorry to say, I’m not missing you.
I guess that makes me greedy.