My forehead and neck are so sunburned that it looks like I fell asleep in a frying pan.
My ankles are ridden with mosquito bites that will NOT STOP ITCHING.
My fingernails are flaking away in layers.
But dammit, I love camping.
I did about all the hum-bugging I could possibly do before the camping trip, but when I stepped out of the car and onto the trail, all doubts disappeared. I inhaled a deep breath of evergreen trees and fresh air, and was suddenly transported back to my hometown. I can’t believe I ever took those things for granted.
Our site was actually quite close to a small town called Baline East, so we weren’t exactly stranded in the middle of nowhere. But we did have unspeakably disgusting outhouses, and we all shared the same bowl for washing dishes, and we didn’t have showers. And holay jezus I killed 300 spiders in my tent.
Anyway, our first voyage was a boat tour out of Bay Bulls. Our aim was to circle the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve (the bird islands) and to take in the shoreline of the area, but halfway to the reserve we spotted a spout of spray in the distance. As we neared closer to one of the islands, a mama humpback whale and her calf started playing around our boat. They were exceptionally friendly and playful, frolicking around and showing off for the girls. The calf particularly seemed to enjoy the attention, and I don’t blame it… we were mesmerized by these caplin-gorging mammals.
The clamour when we approached the largest of the bird islands was out of this world. 2.2 million birds, in one protected area, with absolutely no land predators whatsoever. And then we spotted the almighty symbol of Newfoundland, the PUFFIN! Countless awkward, cartoon-like birds wobbling over the rock face, skimming the water, chillin’ in their burrows. It was actually the first time I’ve ever seen one.
Quote our tour guide: “This is one place where you don’t wanna look upwards with your mouths hanging open in awe.”
Sunday afternoon we hiked 4 km to La Manche, formerly an old fishing settlement but now a provincial park. We paused for a lunch at Doctor’s Cove, trekked through the East Coast Trail, and crossed one hell of a suspension bridge. The old one was wiped out by a rogue wave.
On the other side of the valley, we cooked Kraft Dinner over tiny camp stoves and then burned milk cartons of wieners for delicious hot dogs. The kids remained cheerful and optimistic the whole time, besides one or two shitheads who constantly had to pause and remove rocks from their shoes or to tinkle in the bushes.
Not gonna lie…despite an incredible weekend, I was relieved to get home. Camping is amazing but I basically babysat 30 kids all weekend, and frankly it was fucking exhausting. I didn’t climb into my sleeping bag until 2 a.m. on Friday night, and didn’t sleep a wink because I had to pee so badly and refused to venture to the outhouse alone in the dark. Then, at 4:30 a.m., the girls in the tent next to me woke up and started chatting animatedly, and I actually considered going over there and slashing their tent.
Plus my “healthy detox weekend” turned into “binge on all the cookies, 2% milk and chocolate cake you can handle.” And the hot chocolate, oh god! And the endless, stupid campfire songs. And the disapproval of me cursing like a sailor.
But I love Newfoundland more than ever. The endless expanse of land and open sky and stretches of ocean never fails to amaze me. How do people possibly leave this place? If I wanted to disappear into the forest and live out my days in a little cottage somewhere without EVER being found, I could easily do so. But then again, I don’t wanna end up like that poor kid in Alaska.
And somehow, somehow, I formed a healthy bond with the girls, and got suckered into guiding with the Rangers group next year (ages 15-17); which means a great deal more camping, and a whole lot cooler activities (i.e. rafting, rock climbing, gossiping about boys). I can’t wait.