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Report 1901: A Month on the Rock

By Eleanor from UK, Fall 2010

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Page 13 of 31: Burnt Cape and the Coastal Barrens

photo by Michael

Boat Harbour

Next morning was bright and sunny so we drove to Pistolet Provincial Park to book places in the minivan for the guided tour ($5CAD) to Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve. This needs to be done on a good day as there is no shelter and it is very exposed.

Pistolet Provincial Park is mainly trees with a small camp site and day parking area beside a large lake with beach and picnic area. There are no trails.

It is a good gravel road from Raleigh to Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve but the road through the reserve is very rough. We were glad we hadnít used our car, although it would be possible to park by the entrance and walk in.

The area is limestone with a few erratics. It forms a massive block with no fractures or pavement. Frost thaw action has broken the surface down into smaller fragments of all sizes. The area had been a quarry producing road stone.

The botanist Merritt Lyndon Fernald visited Burnt Cape in the early 1900s and discovered many new species of plants, some of which only grow here. It is recognised as being one of the most important botanical sites on the island with a lot of rare flowers. When the quarry closed the area was turned into a reserve with the agreement of the local community.

We made different stops to look at the different plants and at an area of frost polygons. We drove to the end of the Cape for the views. The tours no longer include the geology trip to Big Oven although one group had brought their own car and were given instructions to find it.

It was an interesting visit as we were shown the different flowers and the scenery is good.

After being dropped off at Pistolet Park we picked up our car and drove back to Raleigh. The season had finished. The cafe was shut until 4pm. The craft shop was shut although a neighbour let us in to have a look.

Raleigh is a long straggling settlement along the shore. At the far end are some nice old wooden houses and stages. There is an ongoing program to restore these as a 1940-50s fishing enterprise. There is a sign saying Ďno admittance unless on a tour.í We could see fish flakes with cod drying and an old fisherman explaining their use to two visitors.

We spent the afternoon exploring the road down to Boat Harbour. It was a nice run along the edge of Pistolet Bay with some good views. The tide was well out but by time we drove back it had come in and was lapping near the road.

We made a brief stop in Cook's Harbour, a large settlement with an old wooden church (now used for storage) and shop with a big hardware section which sold everything from baked beans to screws.

We followed the road round the low lying headland across the limestone barrens (not a tree in sight) through Wild Bight (few desolate houses) to Boat Harbour. This had a very sheltered harbour with a few houses scattered along the coast line. There was no church, shop or school but there were lots of small waders searching for food in the muddy coves around the settlement.

The cemetery was out on the headland surrounded by a white wooden fence and reached by a track built by the locals. We walked out through the lush vegetation as far as the headland. There was a low, rocky shoreline with flat flags of limestone with reefs further out, so waves broke before reaching the shore. There was a good sea running with lots of white horses. It was a lovely spot.

After leaving Boat Harbour we parked at the side of the road and ambled across the barrens, enjoying the scenery and looking at the vegetation. Apart from the birds, we were the only living things to be seen. This had been another good day.

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