HAPPY VALLEY -GOOSE BAY : If you are going to get weather-bound in the north, this is one of the best places to be.
And yes, we are still here, waiting for the murky conditions up the coast to clear so that Air Labrador can fly our group to Saglek Fjord.
At least the rain has stopped, after weeping down out of a sky of battleship gray all day yesterday.
Lord, how it has rained! Wry residents of this city of 10,000 greet us with 'Welcome to Labrador weather' ... quickly followed by reassurances that what has been going on up here for the last three weeks is neither normal nor natural.
GOOSE BAY, LABRADOR -- Canoe builder Joe Goudie stands in his shop in Goose Bay. Goudie, a former MLA, is currently working on the plan to formalize the Mealy Mountains National Park near Goose Bay. His mother, Elizabeth, wrote a well-known book, Woman of Labrador, about her life as a trapper's wife. (Michael Peake photo)
HV-GB has become a logjam in the flow of people and goods heading north. Hotel rooms were getting hard to come by yesterday, and we lost ours at the Royal Inn (nothing we did or said, by the way, and the wonderful staff were most apologetic. But rooms pre-booked are rooms pre-booked).
And so we have found ourselves for two nights at the Al-Ving Motel, attached by a restaurant called Lavenia's Country Kitchen to the Hillbilly Ranch bar, and don't say it too loudly but that rain may have STOPPED.
A group of Dutch hikers, headed for eight to ten days of guided rambling amid the country around Mudford Tickle (north of Nain), thought they were leaving this morning (they have been enviously eyeing our rooms) but it seems now they will have to wait, too.
We have strong suggestions, if not actual promises, of flying out tomorrow.
But under the heading of clouds having silver linings, Thursday was an outright joy in terms of people met, meals had and topics discussed.
It started with the good nature of those folks at the Royal, where we got more leeway than is reasonable with our pile of clutter and camera boxes, muddy boots and raingear for a late checkout.
At noon, a walk in the rain (what else) brought about a propitious meeting between the HACC and the amazing Doris Saunders and her staff at Them Days
Geoffrey and Sean Peake check out the back issues of the Labrador history magazine Them Days in Happy Valley Goose Bay. The history of trapping and fishing in northern Labrador is great and the magazine has published oral histories of trappers and residents for many years. (Michael Peake photo)
Their dedication to the recording of Labrador life, from its earliest available journals and photos to the present, is simply magnificent. My paddling partners tell more about Doris elsewhere in the website.
From there, hunger led Tom and I to Lavenia's Country Kitchen, where friendly conversation over the daily special, followed by stunning bakeapple pie, unearthed the rooms we're now occupying.
Interwoven through the entire day, however, was the presence of Joe Goudie.
It must be said that all roads to the real Labrador seem to lead through Joe's inviting livingroom. Simply stating that Joe is a canoe-builder who has been a CBC broadcaster, provincial MLA, cabinet minister and national parks consultant barely scratches the surface.
It's also true that without the kindly loan of his truck we'd have been uncomfortably wet by the end of the afternoon.
(Isn't it funny how water in any form seems fitting out in the bush, but in town, even in canoe clothes, you'd rather be dry?)
Dinner at Joe's last night was one of those special experiences. Was it the caribou steaks? The smoked char? The golden glow of the pine ceiling in his warm, hospitable home?
Or the conversation running easily through the guests gathered?
People who, like ourselves, have seen so much of the north. But who, as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, brought a very personal perspective to the laden table.
Either way, dinner with Joe, at Joe's, was not to be missed.
And would you believe that we still have his truck - the easier to see more of the area before, hopefully, that Twin Otter gets stuffed with Old Town Trippers and gear again tomorrow morning and we, finally, go canoeing.
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