Tales from TrailPeak.com, Part Two.
With whales breaching not far off the port side of the ferry, our Labrador journey had begun. After meeting Bonnie at the visitor center, it was off to hike the "Jersey Rooms" trail, a 6km round-trip warm-up along the rugged coastline to learn the history of the Jersey fisherman. Misty, rocky, and feeling wild just a small distance from town, Labrador's scenery is already scoring points.
Great walk starting in town, and going in either direction, you've got between 3 and 6 km of walking on a heritage trail along the seashore barrens, with interpretive signs. The trail is crushed stone, as it weaves along boulder fields, tuckamore, and grass. The trail tells the story of the early settlers, primarily those from Jersey (the Island between France and England).
The destination is the archaeological dig area (the foundations of the Jersey rooms) where more interpretive signs describe the fishing rooms and the families that once inhabited them in the mid-19th century. Fortunately, local historians interviewed the elderly residents who could recall enough history about what it was like to live and work here. Certainly, the lifestyle was "all hands on deck" to prosper and live well. And looking around L'Anse Au Clair today, it seems that the families have indeed prospered over the years. The town itself is nestled against the rugged clifftops and benchlands sloping down to a beautiful red sandy beach.
It was an easy walk / hike from our Beachside Hospitality Home (B&B run by Gloria and Norm Letto) to the trailhead, marked by a parking area and signage. I'd even say the crushed stone walkway is wheelchair accessible, and in parts, there is an adjoining ATV trail, however, at times the hiker's only path weaves it's own way across the benchlands. Above you, cliffs with a Stonehenge like feel, ancient weathered boulders and cliffs that make for interesting scenery. Wildflowers abound, however on this mid-August hike, not even the whales wanted to come out and play. But we didn't mind, that's what Goretex is for. We had the trail to ourselves, and enjoyed the misty hike and scenery. Looking back on the bay fine sand beach, we could see the continuation of the trail that would lead us the next day in the opposite direction to Forteau.
In olden days, these footpaths were used to link communities and were the only way to get from one village to the next. It's great to see an interest in hiking grow along the Southern Labrador coast. Based on the ancient footpaths that residents and shipwreck survivors used, it's all there for today's hiker to explore.
The vision to link the towns from L'Anse Au Clair all the way to Red Bay (several days of hiking) is being realized. Currently, one can hike from L'Anse Au Clair to Forteau (and the Point Amour lighthouse) to West Modeste and beyond. This "Pioneers footpath" as it's known will surely get popular with hikers hoping to travel from B&B to B&B.
Starting our 6 day trip with the Jersey rooms as a 6km warm-up, we were treated to boxed lunches, breakfast, and, luggage transport. Assuming one can get here without a rental car, one could conceivably just hike for a number of days, then return, or continue on to Red Bay and the National historic site. But now I am spoiling the write up for other days.
Directions: Ferry from St. Barbe to Labrador via the drive to L'Anse Au Clair. We stayed at the Beachside B&B run by the Lettos) then walked the Jersey shore trail from the B&B and in turn left the B&B the next day for the 15km hike to Forteau and Point Amour Lighthouse, our next accommodation stopover.