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The Happy Camper: Searching for Pirate Treasure in Newfoundland

By Kevin Callan
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There are some incredible hills along the eastern shore that are just as jaw-dropping gorgeous as the western shore’s more commonly known Gros Morne Mountain. So, after a quick visit to some outward islands to film thousands of puffins, the crew pulled our kayaks up on shore and began a side-trip inland for a couple of days.

The trail system we utilized was a network of paths and old cart trails once used to link the families living in the remote villages of Salvage, Broomclose, Barrow Harbour and Sandy Cove. The trail is marked, but hardly used, and there were times we left the main trail by following the meandering footpaths of caribou and moose. Some sections took us through peat bogs, across brooks and around ponds, other sections had us clambering above the treeline and over a glacier-carved landscape comparable to the surface of the moon. The scenery was transfixing, the wildlife sightings were extraordinary, and for me, it felt good to walk in the woods again instead of floating out on big water.

On a fog-cloaked morning we walked down from the highlands and boarded our kayaks once again, heading back now to the town of Happy Adventure and a cozy room at The Inn at Happy Adventure. The locals at Happy Adventure claim their name comes from three possible origins.

The first is that the first settlers were quite joyful upon arriving in this scenic place; the second was that George Holbrook, a British surveyor was “happy” to find shelter here during a storm in 1817; and the third is to commemorate a ship belonging to a 17th century pirate, Peter Easton, who also found shelter here.

I like the third, and so did the camera crew. So we spent a good part of our paddle time heading to Happy Adventure touring some caves and coves looking for hidden treasure. We never found any of course, but we got to explore a place called the Dungeon; an incredible hole in the shoreline that you paddle directly into. It’s a good size chamber and comes complete with water trickling from high above and the booming echo of the ocean waves crashing outside. If I was a pirate I’d hide my treasure in here.

We all enjoyed the warmth and hospitality of the Inn at Happy Adventure. Chuck, our boat driver for the camera crew during our first half of the trip, is the owner and operator. His wife, an incredible artist, and daughter, help run the place. They shuttled our rental car here from where we started our trip and we spent our last two days, using the inn as a hub, exploring other small hamlets along the coast. My favourite was Salvage. This place is like walking into a tourism postcard — its made up of rustic but charming seaside homes, a wharf with well-used fishing boats, and one of the oldest 17th century graveyards in Newfoundland. It’s been called a catalyst for artists and a dreamscape for the historian. Harrowsmith Country Life Magazine even listed it as of of the top 10 prettiest towns and is labelled one of the oldest continually inhabited communities in North America.

This quaint village also has some of the nicest people — most of them being fisherman — and we all thought it would be fitting to end our film with a scene of me fishing for cod with some locals. Fishing has been the backbone of Newfoundland’s economy for over 500 years and it would be as suitable as running huskies in Alaska or drinking single malt whisky in Scotland.

Luck would have it that the cod ban was lifted for a short period, and getting the scene was as simple as having me walk up to a couple of locals on the dock in Salvage and ask them to take me fishing. They accepted without question. We all caught a cod, kissed it, cleaned it, cooked it, and eat it while we gathered along the ocean shore, sipping beers and listening to one of the locals play the fiddle as the sun set over one of the most beautiful, tranquil places I’ve ever been.