Sightseeing in Twillingate

I decided to write specifically about Twillingate because it’s such a beautiful part of Newfoundland. It has special meaning to me as the place where my Nan lives and my mom grew up, but it’s also become a pretty popular tourist attraction in recent years. Twillingate is an island located on the northern central part of Newfoundland. The entire region is a series of coastal islands and its neighbouring Island, Fogo, has become especially popular in recent years since a high-end hotel was constructed that frequents visits from bonafide celebrities. I’m not sure if Twillingate became popular as Fogo’s less-expensive and easier-to-access cousin, but either way, it is worthy of the attention its received in the past few years.

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Unlike Fogo, which requires taking a ferry, Twillingate is connected to the rest of Newfoundland by a causeway. It’s a 5-6 hour drive from St. John’s, so it is a bit of a trek to get out there. My Nan regularly comes in to St. John’s to stay with us, so I haven’t been back to Twillingate since 2015 when we had a family reunion. My Nan is going to be moving out of her house later this year, so I was really keen to go out and stay with her while I was home. It was the August long weekend, so the rest of my family decided to join me. We were hoping to get out cod fishing, which unfortunately was not to be, but we still had a great time.

My Nan has the most beautiful property located right near the water in Bayview, a very small community on the island. Her house is at the end of the road, known as Greenham’s Point after my family (the Greenhams), and has the most gorgeous ocean views. As children we’d always brag to our friends about how we could whale watch right out of the window in my Nan’s kitchen. Because the house is located right at the end of the road, there are several beaches behind the house that, while not actually on my Nan’s property, feel almost like they belong to us.

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The house itself is located on the cliffside, but the back of the house looks out to Back Cove, where you can access the water. At the end of Back Cove, the rocky coastline juts out into what we call High Point. According to my Mom, it was my Pop’s favourite place to be and her favourite place too – such is her attachment that she’s asked us to eventually scatter her ashes there – so definitely a special place. From there you can climb down to Middle Cove and then eventually over one last rock overhang to Swimming Cove. I’m not sure if my family named the beaches or whether the names were passed down, but either way, all pretty self-explanatory.

We arrived late at night, but we got up the next morning to do our standard walk of all the coves. I admit they seemed a lot bigger to me as a kid and the topography of the beaches has definitely changed over the years, but they still hold a lot of memories to everyone in our family.

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Fishing has always been a way of life in Newfoundland and more so on my mom’s side of the family for me than my dad’s. My Pop Greenham was a fisherman and since the moratorium ended my family has always loved to fish. My parents had already been out earlier in the season, but we were hoping to get out while we were there. There are strict regulations on the recreational fishery and you can only go from Sat-Mon during the summer, and fish a maximum of 5 fish per day per a person, with a total of no more than 15 fish per boat trip (regardless of the number of people in the boat). I’ve been fishing with all my uncles at some point throughout the years, but the weather was not ideal for it on this trip.

It wasn’t overly rainy (though the rain did pass through for short periods of time throughout the weekend), but it was pretty windy in Bayview and as a result it was never really calm enough for us to take the boat out. Disappointing, but that’s life. My parents did give me the fish they’d already caught to take home though, so I didn’t leave empty handed!

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Instead we embraced the tourism. I did a bit of googling to see what was new “down arm”, the name locals use for the main part of Twillingate because it’s located on the arm of the North Island (as if things aren’t confusing enough with so many islands, Twillingate is actually comprised of 2 islands). I saw a pop-up for “Cozy Tea Room” and I was intrigued to check it out since I love tea. Mom had never heard of it and assumed it was new.

So we went to visit one afternoon and Mom was dismayed to learned that it is not new at all, but has actually been there for a whopping 19 years! And not only that, it was owned by my Mom’s former teacher, so we had a great chat with the owners and Mom vowed to return on future trips. Unfortunately I was disappointed to learn that “tea room” is a bit of a misnomer. I was expecting a full tea list, but despite having a full menu, they really only served Tetley orange pekoe. We all got a big kick out of this though because it’s just so classic Newfoundland. Everyone in Newfoundland just drinks orange pekoe, mostly Tetley, although some people love Red Rose. It’s a classic part of Newfoundland, drink it with evaporated milk if you really want to fit in!

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After tea we did a little bit of shopping and then I wanted to stop into Split Rock. Craft breweries have been popping up all over Newfoundland (similar to everywhere else), with the latest addition being in Twillingate. We asked the waitress if there’s an actual “Split Rock” that the brewery is named after, turns out there is, so she told us where to find it and we logged it away for later. We didn’t visit on this trip, but if you like wine, Twillingate also has a fruit winery called Auk Island, which you can do a tour of or make a booking in the restaurant. Newfoundland boasts so many different types of berries and many of them are featured in the wines. (Disclaimer – in case you know my parents, neither of whom drink, these are mine and Emily’s beers).

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I was also keen to do a bit of hiking while we were there (of course). One of the Island’s more popular hikes is known as the Top of Twillingate and is conveniently located 10 minute walk from Nan’s. It’s Mom’s favourite walk and goes up to the highest point on the island. It’s not a particularly long walk and only took us about an hour there and back, but you can see Nan’s house from the top, which is always fun.

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In the past I’ve also gone hiking out around French Beach and Spillers Cove, which is a great hike, but I wanted to try something different, so me and Mom opted to go out to the lighthouse at Long Point and do a loop hike around the community of Crow Head. Long Point is a popular attraction itself, we did a bit of a longer loop that didn’t seem to be super well frequented based on the condition of the trail, but lots of people hike down to Nanny’s Hole when they visit the lighthouse. It’s worth going into the lighthouse as well if you’re visiting, you can go right up to the top and there’s a nice museum as well. The last time I visited was during our family reunion and we actually found a replica of my Great-great-grandfather’s boat (I’m not actually sure how many “great’s” he is but you get the idea.). Also if you’re thinking the water in these photos looks great for fishing, you’re correct, it’s generally calmer in this area, but sadly where we store the boat in Bayview it was still blowing a gale on and off.

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I really enjoyed the hike around Crow Head. It’s a nice mix of hiking through the woods and over the headlands. We found the not-so-infamous Split Rock and enjoyed lovely views down arm and out to Crow Head. There’s one sketchy bit on the trail as you head into Crow Head with a steep rope section, but otherwise pretty easy hiking. We almost lost the trail once, but found it again pretty easy. We got rained on briefly near the end and finished with a trip to the lighthouse gift shop. This is definitely another thing not to miss! The lighthouse sells THE BEST fudge. Mom is a bit obsessed and bought over a pound of about a dozen different flavours to sample, while I enjoyed a very generous scoop of ice cream.

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Otherwise the rest of the trip was spent visiting with family, playing cards, and enjoying the view from Nan’s back deck. Some of our relatives arrived from Ontario just before we left and it was great to get to spend an evening with them. The food was excellent – we had my Aunt’s moose stew, my Uncle’s cooked dinner with turr (known by the rest of the world as “murr”, it’s a gamey seabird), and a delicious pea soup from the Crow’s Nest. I wish I could have stayed longer to go fishing, but mostly I’m just thrilled to have gotten to visit with my Nan.

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Hanging Lake Backpacking Trip

Apparently Mount Assiniboine wasn’t quite enough adventure for me and I decided to go to Hanging Lake near Whistler just one week later. Honestly, it was a pre-planned trip that I probably would have preferred to skip after the drama of Assiniboine, but I had planned it with Carolyn and because of our schedules, it was the only weekend we both had available until late September (we went in mid July), so I didn’t want to miss out on that time with her.

There were a few other people going on the trip, but I was still really anxious hiking with people I didn’t know that well after my experience at Assiniboine, so Carolyn and I did most of the hike on our own. It ended up working well because I wanted to go slow after the heat wave, and Carolyn was tired from recently travelling, so it was definitely one of our slower hikes. It wasn’t anywhere near as hot as Assiniboine, but it was still high 20’s, so not a walk in the park either. We left around 8am to drive out to Whistler and parked her car overnight at the Rainbow Lake trailhead.

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Rainbow Lake is a pretty popular hike – it climbs up 800m of elevation over 8km to Rainbow Lake, which is the Whistler municipality’s watershed. Because of this, we found it to be a pretty well maintained and easy trail. There are lots of fancy new bridges and outhouses because it’s essential not to pee or poo in the watershed. Despite the substantial elevation gain, it’s a pretty gradual incline for most of the hike and just gets a bit steeper towards the end. It’s not a bad hike for a hot day because most of it is in the trees, but it is incredibly disappointing not to be able to swim in the lake at the end, so take that into consideration.

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The Metro Vancouver watershed is entirely closed to the public, so it’s pretty unique that we can still hike in the Whistler watershed and we should do everything we can to protect it when visiting. They’ve outfitted the lake with a really nice trail and lots of benches and picnic tables, so it makes for a great lunch stop, which is what we did. Carolyn and I have both been experimenting with cold soak lunches lately and used this trip to try some of them out. Cold soaking is basically choosing foods that will rehydrate just by soaking in cold water for a few hours. Lots of people soak their dehydrated meals pre-cooking, but cold soaking doesn’t involve any heat.

I have two recipes that have been working out well for me, one is instant rice with dehydrated veggies and taco seasoning and nutritional yeast (cheese flavour). The other is a dehydrated pasta salad that I cold soak and add a small bit of salad dressing and fresh cheese. Carolyn’s been experimenting with some couscous and quinoa recipes. They’ve been working out great for me and I enjoy them a lot more than eating cheese and salami on tortilla day after day after day.

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There were a fair number of people hanging out at Rainbow Lake, but it never felt particularly crowded and we didn’t see many people on the actual trail. Most people just hike up to Rainbow Lake as a day hike as there’s no camping allowed, so we had decided to continue on another 2km to Hanging Lake. The trail continues along the back of the lake and I recommend doing this part of the trail even if you’re just day hiking. The trail starts to climb up over a pass at the back of the lake and in my opinion, was where you could get the best views of Rainbow Lake! After you hit the top of the pass, you’re out of the Whistler watershed and can descend down to Hanging Lake, where camping is permitted.

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It’s a bit steep going down to Hanging Lake, but short, so not a big deal. There’s space for 10 tents at Hanging Lake and it has some really nice new facilities, including an outhouse and bear cache. Tiiu and Spencer were already at the lake when we got there and we were joined a bit later by some more of their friends. We were surprised to find the campsite almost entirely empty! Aside from our group, there was only one more tent there, otherwise it was completely empty. Based on how busy everything has been during the pandemic, I really didn’t expect that on a Saturday night. We’re not sure if the lack of people is just because the trail isn’t actually that popular, or if it’s because travel had recently re-opened and a lot of the locals had cleared out of the province (or the region) for a holiday. Either way, it was great for us!

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It was around 3pm when we arrived and we hung out at the lake for the rest of the day. Everyone went for a swim, but the water was freezing and not very deep. We later realized we were super lucky as there was a nice breeze that kept all the bugs away. The breeze dropped down while we were eating supper and the mosquitoes came out with a vengeance, sending us all to bed by 9pm.

Instead of coordinating, we decided to be totally self sufficient on this hike. Carolyn and I have been working on upgrading some of our gear to try and be more lightweight. We had both purchased non freestanding tents in the last year that weigh only 2lbs, so we opted to each bring our own tent, stove, and food. I actually really enjoyed it and couldn’t believe that my bag was only 28lbs with all my gear and 2L of water. It’s mostly due to only having to bring 1 day of food, but it was nice to have a lighter pack and still have all my own gear. I’m hoping to upgrade a bit further over the next year or so to get it even lighter.

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My new tent is a Gossamer Gear tent called The Two. It sleeps 2 people, but it doesn’t have any poles (instead you set it up with your hiking poles) and it’s only a 1 layer tent, which makes it a lot lighter. I’m still testing it and haven’t quite figured out how I feel about it. It’s super easy to set up and I love that it’s lightweight. It’s also quite large and has giant vestibules. The only thing I’m still assessing is the 1 layer set-up. It has mesh sides, but the main body of the tent is just 1 layer, which means that the top of the tent will collect condensation and there’s nothing separating you or your gear from that layer of condensation. I knew this would probably be slightly annoying, but am willing to try and deal with it in the interest of saving some weight.

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I’m not sure if it was just the weather conditions on this trip, but it did get A LOT of condensation inside the tent, like I was shocked by how much collected. So I had to be careful not to touch the walls with my bag or it would also get wet. I was a little disappointed with how wet it got on the inside (it took me a while to dry it out the next morning), but I have since tested it in the rain (and wind) as well and it held up remarkably well. It was really humid the second time I used it and the inside didn’t get any condensation and when it rained, it actually still stayed dry on the inside wall as well and kept the rain off no problem. I thought it might be dicey in the wind, but it held up well against that as well. So I’m not ready to make my verdict on the tent yet and am looking forward to trying it out more.

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Unfortunately it was still buggy the next morning, so we had a quick breakfast and packed everything up. Carolyn wanted to go for another swim before we left, so we went for a quick dip in our birthday suits before starting the climb back up to the pass. The rest of the group wanted to check out a side trail for Ninja Lakes, so we said goodbye and planned to meet up for beers in Squamish. It was a faster hike out, though hard on the knees with all the downhill. We hit up Backcountry Brewing on the way home, which is one of our favourite places to stop (honestly, the beer is just okay imo, but the pizza’s are amazing!). We had to wait forever to get in, but the pizza was worth it!

So overall, a pretty lowkey, but fun hike up to the lake. We’d tried to do this one last fall and it had been closed due to a bear, so it was nice to return and cross it off my bucket list!

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Kayaking Keats Island

Following up on my post about kayaking the Sooke Basin, the other day kayaking trip I want to write about is the time Seth and I rented kayaks from Gibsons and paddled over to Keats Island. We were over on the Sunshine Coast for my beautiful friend’s wedding and we decided to stick around for a day afterwards to explore in Gibsons and go for a little paddle. I’ve been over to the Sunshine Coast a few times, but I’ve only spent limited time in Gibsons, so we had a blast exploring around the town centre.

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We had a yummy breakfast at Molly’s Reach, which some of you might know from the popular TV show, Beachcombers, which ran through most of the 70’s and 80’s. My parents were incredibly enthusiastic about it the one time I took them to the Sunshine Coast, so it was remarkably my second time eating in the diner. We spent some time strolling along main street window shopping, before heading over to Alpha Adventures to rent 2 kayaks for a couple hours.

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We’d been partying it up at the wedding the previous evening, so we weren’t looking to do anything too strenuous. It was a bit windy, but nothing too worrisome. Alpha Adventures have some really nice kayaks and it didn’t take us too long to get going. We decided to head straight across the channel and paddle along the edge of Keats Island to the Shelter Islets. Little islands are always a great place for wildlife watching and we were hoping to see some seals.

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I feel a little bit like I’m cheating to call this post “Kayaking Keats Island”, because we only paddled a very small portion of the island, but we did see several seals hanging around the islets and we decided to stop on the beach in Plumper Cove Marine Park for a snack break. it was pretty sheltered paddling along the shore of Keats, but it did feel like the wind was starting to pick up, so we decided to head off again and cross the channel to get it out of the way.

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It wasn’t too bad paddling back across the channel because the wind was hitting us sideways, but it was a bit of work paddling along the Gibson’s coast to get back to the Marina. In my opinion this stretch is better seen from Gibson’s town, so in retrospect, I likely would have preferred to go the same way back along Keats Island. Oh well, we got a nice arm workout on the way back and were thrilled to end the trip with a visit to the Tapworks Brewing Company for a flight! Tapworks is located right along the main road and has an upstairs balcony, so it’s a great place to hang out and we really enjoyed it!

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