By Peter Armitage
Location: Hodge's Cove, Southwest Arm, to Hickmans Harbour area, Northwest Arm, Random Sound, Trinity Bay
Date: August 11-12, 2007
NTS Map: Random Island, 02C/04
Map of Southwest Arm, Random Sound, and Northwest Arm area of Trinity Bay
In the context of KNL excursions, we'd paddled a couple of times over the years from Little Heart's Ease around West Random Head by way of Butter Cove, Goose Berry Cove, Southport and Fox Island. We'd gazed across Southwest Arm from time to time at the seemingly solid wall of undifferentiated cliff with little interest or incentive to explore that side of the arm. However, with the offer of a cabin for base camp from friends in Hodge's Cove one weekend, Barb Neis and I decided to do something about our ignorance and to examine the northern side of the arm close up.
The wind spirits from the west kicked up a gale for most of Saturday, the 11th, so we were unable to cross the arm until the evening, at which time we pointed the bow of our antique Harry Tieken double in the direction of St. Jones Within. The food fishery had started not long before, and so we had frequent encounters with local folks who were out hand-lining and casting for cod fish. As many of you know, fisher folk are often gobsmacked when approached by stealthy kayakers, as was the case with an elderly couple we met off a small point at the mouth of St. Jones Within Harbour. We figured they'd developed a keen wariness of strangers on the water due to DFO's past surveillance efforts. Such wariness may well have been generalized to any number of outsiders who too quickly intrude upon their fishing activities.
The wind forecast proved much better for Sunday, so we headed back across the arm early the next morning with the intention of paddling to Hickmans Harbour. As the day progressed, we ran into numerous people out after their fish, using a great diversity of vessels, ranging from a longliner, to cabin cruisers and speed boats, small aluminum craft with outboard motors, to trap skiffs. Kevin Price and his spouse, Janet Johnson, won the prize for nostalgia with their make-and-break engine-equipped trap skiff. We caught sight of them cruising by at a nerve-soothing 3-5 kts near Fords Harbour late in the day, the distinctive tik-a-tik-a-tik-a-tik-a beating steadily in the distance, but never loud enough to completely mask the voices of the people aboard the boat. We met Kevin and Janet at the public wharf in St. Jones Within the next day, which is how we were able to identify the trap skiff occupants near Fords Harbour.
Kevin and Janet own the cabin that sits prominently in the grassy meadow in Loreburn, and they spend several weeks there each year. Two of Kevin's older siblings were born in the community which was resettled in 1967. Many of the former residents commemorated the 40 year anniversary of resettlement at a gathering in Loreburn in July 2007.
The Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador says that Loreburn (renamed from Long Cove in 1912) "likely became known to residents of Trinity Bay in the early 1800s as a site for winter woods work. The community was founded by Benjamin Price and his sons Jeremiah, Absalom, Noah and Corbett, who moved from Hant's Harbour qv in 1848....Long Cove/Loreburn is first recorded separately in the 1891 Census, with a population of 25 in five families. There were never as many as 50 inhabitants recorded in any census year, as the Cove was hemmed in by the surrounding hills, with little enough space for the homes and gardens of the extended Price family. The Prices and the descendants of Caleb Meadus (who settled in Loreburn after marrying Jane Price in the early 1900s) supplemented income from the inshore and Labrador fisheries by cutting timber in the country around Long Cove and Rocky Bay, to the east. The Methodist inhabitants of Loreburn built a school/chapel in 1850 and constructed a church in 1916-20. In the mid-1960s it was determined that the topography of the area would make it difficult to extend the road from St. Jones Within qv to Loreburn. In the fall of 1966, with only eight pupils enrolled and little prospect of the school's remaining open for another year, the families petitioned to resettle. In 1967 five families relocated to St. Jones and two to Little Heart's Ease across the Arm" (vol. 3, p.375).
When we met Kevin and Janet in St. Jones Within, we commented on the derelict, partially submerged longliners rotting in the harbour. Kevin said that their owners, who are from neighbouring communities, had illegally scuttled them there in order to avoid paying the costs of proper disposal elsewhere. However, Kevin notified the authorities, after which the culprits were identified, and disciplinary actions taken. Most importantly, Kevin used the incident as an opportunity to educate boat owners in the region concerning the environmental impacts and legal consequences of scuttling their vessels in such a manner.
In general, we were pleasantly surprised at the geological and topographical diversity on the north side of Southwest Arm. In addition to the three harbours (St. Jones Within, Loreburn, and Fords), there's plenty of nooks and crannies to poke into, and the cliff faces are quite spectacular. The views to Southport and Random Island are great from this side of the arm as well. One word of warning; there's virtually no place to land a kayak once you head east of Fords Harbour along the shoreline past Middle Cliff, until you reach Passenger Cove in Northwest Arm, a distance of about 4 kms. Much of this stretch is completely exposed to the prevailing summer, southwest winds, and Middle Cliff itself must surely be a very wicked spot with any amount of swell from the east (i.e. lots of clapotis).
As far as potential campsites are concerned, I suppose one could find some level patch of meadow in Loreburn to camp, but I recommend asking Kevin and Janet's advice (and permission?) when deciding where to park the tent. In Fords Harbour, we found only one decent beach with level and dry land nearby for tenting. This spot is found in the northeast corner of the harbour, and benefits from the close proximity of a brook which may flow well even during the driest summers. Two other possible camping places in the harbour have been taken for cabin development.
Although we did not investigate the inner reaches of Black Duck Cove for suitable camping places, a brook enters the deepest part of the cove thereby providing a good source of drinking water, and possibly a camping location as well, although it's bound to be very buggy in July. The cove faces Hickman's Harbour which rules out its suitability for people in search of a "wilderness" camping location, or the illusion thereof.
Strong Tickle, a short distance to the east of Hickmans Harbour, may have some good camping places. The tickle is a lovely, somewhat secluded, sheltered area with access to a brook and some flat terrain for camping at the west end. My neighbours in St. John's, who have a house on Random Island, tell me that they camped in Strong Tickle during their honeymoon. People from Hickmans Harbour used to wood in the tickle, and the young fellas would party there out of sight of their parents. According to a young man we met deep in the tickle (see photo of him holding a cod fish), Strong Tickle used to be very good for scallops but scuba divers pretty much cleaned out the local stock. Same old story...The blue buoys currently in the tickle probably constitute a spat farm for commercial mussel operations somewhere else (spat = spawn or larvae of shellfish).
We highly recommend the Hodge's Cove to Hickmans Harbour route as an alternative to the Little Heart's Ease paddle, and KNL may wish to consider this location for a future club paddle. Our paddle was close to 30 km which may be a bit long for some folks in terms of a day paddle, however, a few kilometres could be knocked off the trip by launching from St. Jones Within instead of Hodge's Cove. A shuttle from Hickmans Harbour is also a possibility.
On the negative side, however, is the fact that this route has little shelter from the prevailing summer, southwesterly winds, as noted previously, and there are no escape routes between St. Jones Within and Hickman's Harbour should the wind come up unexpectedly. We had the advantage of base camping at a cabin in Hodge's Cove over a longer period of time and could therefore pick the best day for the trip. This luxury is not available to the organizers of club paddles who must pick their paddling dates many weeks in advance, hoping that a chosen date will work for us paddlers in distant St. John's. In any event, it's great to add another paddling route and destination to our repertoire of Trinity Bay paddles. If only the Deer Harbour destination between Little Heart's Ease and Sunnyside were so easy...
The shoreline between St. Jones Within and Loreburn. The 4th photo on the right was taken late in the afternoon once the sunshine had returned (photos Peter Armitage)
Entrance to Loreburn (photos Peter Armitage)
Various photos of Loreburn, Southwest Arm (photos Peter Armitage)
Looking towards the northwest end of Fords Harbour. No good camping places in that corner of the harbour (photo Peter Armitage)
Potential camping area in Fords Harbour, northeast corner (photo Peter Armitage)
One of two cabins in Fords Harbour (photo Peter Armitage)
Extensive cliff face between Fords Harbour and Middle Cliff
View of Random Sound from Middle Cliff, Random Island in the distant left, and West Random Head in the distant right (photo Peter Armitage)
Spot the eagle high on the cliff (photo Peter Armitage)
Cliff face at Middle Cliff having rounded the headland into Northwest Arm (photo Peter Armitage)
Lots of folks on the water after a few cod fish. Note the sculling oar in use in the photo on the right (photos Peter Armitage)
View up Northwest Arm (photo Peter Armitage)
Lunch spot at Black Duck Cove, Northwest Arm, across from Hickmans Harbour (photo Peter Armitage)
Skeletal remnants of days gone by, buried in the pebbles near Black Duck Cove (photo Peter Armitage)
The deep recesses of Black Duck Cove (photo Peter Armitage)
View of Hickmans Harbour from Black Duck Cove (photo Peter Armitage)
View from the entrance to Strong Tickle, west up Northwest Arm (photo Peter Armitage)
One of the entranceways into Strong Tickle with West Strong Island on the right. Barb in the bow (photos Peter Armitage)
View up the west end of Strong Tickle (photo Peter Armitage)
A local fellow from Hickmans Harbour and his early morning catch of cod fish (photo Peter Armitage)
What appears to be a mussel spat farm in Strong Tickle (photo Peter Armitage)
View east from Northwest Arm through Random Sound (photo Peter Armitage)
The beach at low tide in Passenger Cove. Not much of this beach remains at high tide (photo Peter Armitage)
The view east up Random Sound, Randem Island on the left, West Random Head on the right (photo Peter Armitage)
Approaching the headland at Middle Cliff on the way back up into Southwest Arm (photo Peter Armitage)
A tranquil pocket beach on the east side of the mouth of Fords Harbour. Yours truly doing his "stretchies" (right) (photos Peter Armitage and Barb Neis)
Paddling back along the north shore of Southwest Arm near Loreburn (photo Peter Armitage)
"Somewhere over the rainbow..." near the entranceway to St. Jones Within (photo Peter Armitage)
The view east along Southwest Arm from our point of origin in Hodge's Cove (photo Peter Armitage)
The same view from Hodge's Cove at sunrise (photo Peter Armitage)
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