Motorcycle Camping on the Bonavista Peninsula

camping

Nothin’ to it sure!

I’m not sure why it comes as such a surprise to many people when I say that I’ve never been camping (I don’t consider staying in a camper “real” camping!). Maybe because I love hiking, trail running and off-road riding people just assume that I’m all about living life outdoors. On the contrary, I’ve never felt the urge to cook, eat and sleep outside…I figured that as a species we’ve evolved past that, and do enjoy the conveniences of hot running water and flushing toilets. However…I DO love to explore Newfoundland, and the frugal side of my personality has gotten a bit hung up on the cost of motels and B&B’s. And so I decided to give this camping thing a go, and myself and Mark spent three nights in Lockston Path Provincial Park on the Bonavista Peninsula. And you know what? I actually ENJOYED it! We researched and were fully prepared, and the trip was a success…even through a night of torrential rain. Setting up the tent was a breeze, and Mark quickly engineered an “awning” of sorts when the rain started to fall on our second evening in the park (note to self: we need a bigger tarp). I put myself in charge of meal preparation, and I actually surprised myself with the somewhat nutritious, mostly vegetarian meals I whipped up on our tiny campstove. I liked the simplicity of tent living, and the park was nicely equipped so that things like hot showers and laundry facilities were readily available. It was a truly fantastic trip, and here are a few highlights: Day 1 We left St. John’s on Canada Day with the bikes fully loaded down with gear. In addition to my topcase and panniers, I had a huge waterproof duffle bag strapped to my passenger seat holding our sleeping bags, extra blankets and pillows. Getting from our neighbourhood in the centre of Old St. John’s – with its narrow streets and oddly angled intersections – proved to be the most challenging riding of the trip, and once we were on the highway the bike droned along like a dream.

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Waterproof bags are awesome. Don’t mind the green haze in the picture, it was taken through a window.

Instead of sticking to Route 230, we took Route 235 and took a few pictures on our way to the park. The entire Bonavista Peninsula is beautiful!

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Wide Load!

The road to the park is gravel, but it’s in great condition and we zipped along at a comfortable pace.

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The road to Lockston Park

We got to the park around 4pm, and setting up the tent went a lot smoother than I anticipated. When we got settled away we went for a little ride around the nearby communities. We stopped in Trinity East, and when I saw an old abandoned house I just had to take a closer look. I’m fascinated at the particular way that things fall apart, and how the earth reclaims what has been forgotten by people. DSCN7446

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Does anyone know the story behind this old house?

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Some of the newspaper on the walls is still readable.

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The simple beauty of the outports.

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Port Rexton (I think!)

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Pure tranquility in the park as the day draws to an end.

Day 2 I slept better than I expected (perhaps the beer helped), but after I was awoken by birds and squirrels at 5am I realized that earplugs are a must! The morning was foggy and cool but a good breakfast of oatmeal, protein powder and instant coffee gave us energy and we headed to New Bonaventure to do some hiking. By some stroke of luck, that was the only community we passed through that wasn’t socked in with fog.

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New Bonaventure, where The Grand Seduction was filmed. Fantastic movie, I highly recommend it.

We had planned to hike to the resettled community of British Harbour, and popped into the Random Passage Tea Room to ask where the trail head started. The lady working there warned us that it was a fairly lengthy hike, and that there was an abundance of “wildlife” in the area…namely moose and bears. That didn’t faze us, and off we went on our merry way. We passed by the movie set of Random Passage, filmed in 2002 and kept up as a tourist attraction. From there the trail continued to the resettled community of Kerley’s Harbour.

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Random Passage set

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Kerley’s Harbour, resettled in 1963. Nice spot for a cabin!

Once we passed Kerley’s Harbour the trail became rougher and we started seeing more and more moose tracks and droppings. We also started seeing bear droppings, which made me reconsider the wisdom of what we were doing. But stubbornness and determination won out, and we continued through the woods talking extremely loudly with a can of bear spray at the ready. After just over 6km we reached British Harbour and stopped for a break before hiking back to New Bonaventure.

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British Harbour. Another great spot for a cabin.

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Lunch on the wharf. Mark brought that age-old Newfoundland camping staple while I settled for a Clif Bar.

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Nothing much left but rock walls and the remains of collapsed houses.

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Iceberg in the distance.

When we made it back to New Bonaventure we had sandwiches at the Tea House – I think it was the best sandwich I ever ate in my life – but maybe that was just because I was ravenous after spending the day on the trail. We then rode out to Fort Point Lighthouse, which was established in 1748 by the British to protect the mercantile assets in Trinity. Even though it was foggy, we could still appreciate the scenery.

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Excellent gravel road leading to the lighthouse. For some reason I expect all lighthouse roads to be as sketchy as the road to Cape Race.

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Sea stack

Day 3 We awoke on Friday morning to unseasonably cool temperatures and fog. Hoping that the fog would burn off we hung around the park for most of the morning, but eventually decided to bundle up and head out around the Peninsula and do some sight-seeing. Our first stop was Upper Amherst Cove, where the Bonavista Social Club restaurant is located. I counted over a dozen staff members there, and they were all flat out. It’s great to see business booming in such a small community, and it’s popular for a reason. They use mainly locally-sourced ingredients, and their food is delicious. At the centre of the restaurant is a wood-fired bread oven, and from our seat at the bar we watched our pizzas being cooked.

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You can see some veggies and herbs being grown right outside the restaurant. They also raise goats and sheep on site as well!

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This oven makes amazing pizza!

After lunch we motored on to the town of Bonavista, which we visited a couple of years ago. However, because I was on my Sportster at the time and didn’t want to take it down the gravel road, we didn’t get to Dungeon Provincial Park with its famous geologic attraction. I was determined to see it this time around, and not even a herd of cattle would stop me.

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Free range cows? Not quite sure!

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Well worth the trip!

From Bonavista we continued on to the town of Elliston, to see the memorial for the 1914 Sealing Disaster. The monument honours the crew of the SS Newfoundland who froze to death on the ice when poor communications led them to be stranded in a blizzard, and also the crew of the SS Southern Cross which sank in the same storm. The bronze statue is haunting…it depicts Rueben and and Albert John Crewe, father and son who died frozen together on the ice, embracing each other.

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The detail is unreal.

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Our final stop of the day was Port Union, a very interesting town, and the only union-built town in North America. Construction of the town began in 1916 by visionary Sir William Ford Coaker, leader of the Fisherman’s Protective Union. Coaker’s mission was to unite the downtrodden fishermen of the outports and break the cycle of merchant indebtedness. Many buildings are currently in disrepair but plans are underway to restore the entire area.

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Very odd design for rural Newfoundland!

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Boardwalk in Port Union

Before we left Port Union we took a look at the radar and saw a big green blob heading right for us. We took off for the park and got settled away just as the rain started to fall. The rain became heavy, and continued right through the night. I went to sleep that night expecting to wake up to find the mattress floating on top of a pool of water, but we had only a couple of minor puddles to clean up in the morning. The next morning we packed everything up, loaded up the bikes and headed back to St. John’s. Our first ever camping trip was AWESOME, and I can’t wait to do it again.

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Posted on July 13, 2015, in Roads of Newfoundland and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Princess Scooterpie/Moto_Diva

    Beautiful! one of my dreams is to ride across the country to the Maritime provinces. Hopefully one day! It looks so enchanting, Perhaps you need to add a bear bell to your kit, I used to live in grizzly country, be bear aware πŸ™‚

  2. I love how we all so casually mention what’s familiar to us…

    “Oh, today we rode to a shipwreck and happened to see an iceberg. A pretty average day.”

    Wait! Wait a damn minute! You what?! I didn’t even know such combinations were possible (motorbikes and icebergs). Then again, I’m in the desert southwest of the US, so shipwrecks and big ice-cubes aren’t really on the menu. πŸ™‚ Great narrative, photos, and heartbreaking history, Krista.

    • Thanks so much Ry! It’s funny isn’t it…I look at photos of the American South West with awe. The rock formations, the cacti, the landscape that seems to stretch to infinity. Icebergs, shipwrecks, whales, moose, watching the sun rise and set over the ocean…these things are no big deal to me. I guess everyone craves what they’re not used to, that’s why traveling is so popular πŸ™‚

  3. That was an awesome motorcycle/hiking/camping adventure. I see it pays to travel with 2 bikes – room for more gear: Pillows, blankets – what luxury.

    • Thanks for reading! It was total luxury, which is what I wanted for my first camping trip. Both bikes were loaded to about 90% capacity. If we were riding 2-up we’d need a trailer!

  4. Welcome to the moto camping world Krista! Glad your first outing was a success. Yes, ear plugs are a must for sleeping out of doors. Somehow, sound seems to magnify outdoors at night. The statue of father & son was very sobering. Great history! I agree with Ry, sitting here in 90 degree temps and 90 percent humidity, I can’t wrap my brain around motorcycles and icebergs either!

    • I can’t wrap my brain around 90 degree temps! We’re having the coldest July in over 20 years here, the mercury struggles to get above 50F (10C). I really don’t like complaining but it feels like we’ve been cheated out of summer. 😦

  5. I enjoyed your account of the trip. You packed a lot in, for sure. I plan to check out the trail you mentioned, also will keep the Social Club in mind when I am in the area. I agree with you that the tent is really camping! I am not too brave in bear country so will keep a sharp eye for scat.

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