A Fogo State of Mind

The tourist influx is in full swing in Twillingate, with people racing from cove to cove asking “Have you seen any icebergs?” like it was a game of real life pokemon. It’s an energy that’s hard to describe, but I haven’t felt it since leaving the crowded Bay of Fundy. I’ve come to thrive on the solitude I’ve experienced since being in Newfoundland, and as my friend Ed recently said, “I miss the empty.”  My favorite Jimmy Buffett mantra kicks in, “There’s just too much to see waiting in front of me, and I know that I just can’t go wrong with these changes in attitudes, changes in latitudes.”   So I leave Twillingate after only 24 hours.

Another entry into the belly of the whale.

Another entry into the belly of the whale.

This is the tightest fit I've ever experienced on a ferry. Since it's a no reservation ferry, they try hard not to leave anyone behind, but it sure makes me nervous!

This is the tightest fit I’ve ever experienced on a ferry. Since it’s a no reservation ferry, they try hard not to leave anyone behind, but it sure makes me nervous!

Steering from the flying bridge.

Steering from the flying bridge.

I’ve been shadowing Ed and Marti for a month now as we move in synch, clockwise around the coastline with me being a couple of weeks behind them.  I’ve come to realize that we have a similar cadence when it comes to travel styles, moving slow enough to seek out the remote locations, but fast enough to keep it fresh.  So when they hole up for an entire week on tiny Fogo Island, I take note.

National Geographic has this to say about Fogo Island, “Fogo Island is not so much a place as a state of mind.”   And since Newfoundland itself is an island, that makes Fogo “an island off of an island.”  An island state of mind…of course, I have to go!

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The ubiquitous Fishing Stage, seen all over Fogo Island.

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This one is in the township of “Tilting.” How apropos.

There's a saying that the fishing stage doesn't belong to the land, nor does it belong to the sea.

There’s a saying that the fishing stage doesn’t belong to the land, nor does it belong to the sea.

It’s another ferry ride, this one much cheaper at only $24 CAD ($20 US) round trip.  The good news/bad news is that they don’t take reservations, and the first ferry is known to fill up fast.  If you’re not in line at least an hour beforehand, you’ll likely be waiting on the next ferry at 11:30am.  So I decide I’ll try boondocking on the ferry dock in order to be on the 8:30am ferry.

I arrive to find the dock much more remote than I could have expected.  In fact, there is nothing there but a closed “chip wagon” (food truck) and a travel trailer holding a construction crew of two.  I don’t see any restrictive signs, so I ask one of the guys in the construction crew if he thinks it will be okay to overnight on the dock.  His response is one of my favorite Newfie answers yet… “Why by Jingles, yes!”

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The relaxed atmosphere is palpable after only a short stop at the visitor center. It’s a bit of a paradox in that there doesn’t seem to be anyone here, yet there is infrastructure to support a summer crowd. I send a text back to Ed and Marti saying, “Why on earth are all those people bunched up back there in Twillingate, when they could be here for only a $20 ferry ride?” It’s a puzzle.

But then, it would appear there’s not much to do on Fogo Island. Unless you like hiking. Or photography. Or free museums. Or art and architecture. Or local culture and traditions that have been passed on from generations of European settlers to modern day fishermen intent on not letting the collapse of the fishing industry force them out of their “place.”

I love the name of this church..."Our Lady of the Snows." I have a feeling the lady comes often.

I love the name of this church…”Our Lady of the Snows.” I have a feeling the lady visits often.

St. Andrews Anglican Church. There are burials dating back to 1763 in the graveyard.

St. Andrews Anglican Church. There are burials dating back to 1763 in the graveyard.

The structure at the top of the hill is the Marconi Interpretive Station, a free museum dedicated to the first wireless station.

The structure at the top of the hill is the Marconi Interpretive Station, a free museum dedicated to the first wireless station.

View of the town of Fogo from the front porch of the Marconi Interpretive Center. The large hill is Brimstone Head.

View of the town of Fogo from the front porch of the Marconi Interpretive Center. The large hill is Brimstone Head.

Fogo Island is made up of ten different townships, the largest being that of “Fogo.”  Others with quirky names like Joe Batt’s Arm, Seldom, and my personal favorite, Tilting, are all within a 20 minute drive.  It’s larger than I first thought, with over 300 square miles and around 2,700 people who call the island home.

The Marconi Interpretive Center is also the trail head for the Lion's Den loop trail.

The Marconi Interpretive Center is also the trail head for the Lion’s Den loop trail.  Note icebergs still offshore.

This is a gorgeous 5K/3M loop offering rolling hills, a few stairs, and dramatic views.

This is a gorgeous 5K/3M loop offering rolling hills, a few stairs, and dramatic views.

The Lion's Den is the sight of an abandoned settlement. They don't know if the name was a biblical reference, or named for the rough seas at the entrance to the cove.

The Lion’s Den is the sight of an abandoned settlement. They don’t know if the name was a biblical reference, or named for the rough seas at the entrance to the cove.

Best part of the hike is that I only see 4 other people on the entire loop.

Best part of the hike is that I only see 4 other people on the entire loop.

Fogo Island is definitely one of those places best explored on foot.  It would be near impossible to explore any of these townships without stopping to engage in conversation with locals along the way.   They are very proud of their heritage, and are eager to share it.

The Newfoundland fishing stage, or shed out over the water is as ubiquitous as a conical hat in Vietnam, and a magnet for a photographer wannabe like me.  I stop to ask a man if I can come on to his property for a photograph, and he invites me into his stage for a tour.  He proudly points out the over 100 year old construction using “longers,” or split logs from small trees his grandfather used to build the stage.

He explains that though once used to store salted fish, stages are more commonly used today to store gear, or to store their “punts,” or small boats for the winter.  Each stage has a wooden splitting table used to clean fish, with an easy access opening to the water called a “trunk hole” to dispose of the unwanted offal.  He also shows me the “pounds,” or wooden compartments lined up along the wall where fish were stored.  Each has a slot where boards could be added to increase the depth of the pound as more fish were added.

Next, he leads me down to the water to show me his small rowboat that he made. He will be taking his grandkids out cod jigging later this evening, if I want to come ‘round.  I regret not having returned.

Working on the days catch. Limit is 15 per boat, and everyone seems to make that in not much more than an hour.

Working on the days catch. Limit is 15 per boat, and everyone seems to make that in not much more than an hour.

Ahead is the hike to Brimstone Head.

Ahead is the hike to Brimstone Head.

Who knew there was a "Flat Earth Society?" Turns out Brimstone is one of the four corners. ;-)

Who knew there was a “Flat Earth Society?” Turns out Brimstone is one of the four corners. ;-)

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The Brett House, 1870, one of the many free museums all over town that is staffed by young students. They offer free narrated tours.

The Brett House, 1870, one of the many free museums all over town staffed by young students working for the summer. They offer free narrated tours.

The house was donated by the family in 1997, complete with all original furnishings.

The house was donated by the family in 1997, complete with all original furnishings.

Root cellars are common in Newfoundland, and still in use today.

Root cellars are common in Newfoundland, and still in use today.

A typical Fogo Island house.

A typical Fogo Island house.

One line for drying the clothes, and one for the cod.

One line for drying the clothes, and one for the cod.

Community or "honor system" gardens are also a frequent site in all of Newfoundland, not just Fogo Island.

Community or “honor system” gardens are also a frequent site in all of Newfoundland, not just Fogo Island.

There are over 20 hiking trails on the island, and I walk at least one each day, sometimes two.  They are all scenic beyond description. Each one hugs the coastline or climbs up for some view out over the sea.

The Wishing Well along the 5.7K/3.5M Joe Batts Point trail.

The Wishing Well along the 5.7K/3.5M Joe Batts Point trail.

Along this trail are many "Gazes," or blinds used by hunters.

Along this trail are many “Gazes,” or blinds used by hunters.

Joe Batt's Arm Point Trail.

Joe Batt’s Arm Point Trail.

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This 6ft tall bronze statue of The Great Auk, hunted to extinction in the mid-19th century, marks the end of the Joe Batt's Arm Point trail.

This 6ft tall bronze statue of The Great Auk, hunted to extinction in the mid-19th century, marks the end of the Joe Batt’s Arm Point trail.

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Note the string of punts to the left, small rowboats seen all over Fogo Island.

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This was my view from one of my favorite boondocks on Fogo Island.

This was my view from one of my favorite boondocks on Fogo Island.

While sitting on a hand-carved bench at the top of the hill in Tilting watching the waves crash below, I strike up a wonderful conversation with a local woman. She lives over on the island of Newfoundland now, but she and her husband are building a retirement house in Tilting. As we look out over the crashing cobalt blue surf below, she tells me she likes meeting visitors, because seeing it fresh through someone else’s eyes helps her not take it for granted. This strikes a cord with me, because I always said those exact same words about visitors when I lived in Manhattan. About as great a contrasting comparison as you can get, but working at a fast paced job, I often took my unique surroundings for granted, forgetting I lived and worked in one of the world’s biggest tourist attractions.

I tell her how friendly the people have been here on Fogo Island. She says “I reckon about the friendliest in all of Newfoundland.” I add, “I reckon in all of North America….”

The Turpin's Trail, 5.4K/3.5M out and back along the shore.

The Turpin’s Trail, 5.4K/3.5M out and back along the shore.

I sat for a long while watching these waves crash.

I sat for a long while watching these waves crash.

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On one of my walk-abouts, I met this local cleaning his 15 fish per boat limit for the day. We had a lovely chat, as he talked about the different parts of the cod fish, and how they were prepared.

On one of my walk-abouts, I met this local cleaning his 15 fish per boat limit for the day. We had a lovely chat, as he talked about the different parts of the cod fish, and how they were prepared.

At the end of our conversation, he offered me a fillet. I brought it back into the Winnie and pan fried it for dinner, coated in Panko bread crumbs. I hope I never forget how good that fish tasted...more like fine fois gras.

At the end of our conversation, he offered me a fillet. I brought it back into the Winnie and pan fried it coated in Panko bread crumbs for dinner. I hope I never forget how good that fish tasted…too fresh to even taste like fish.

Next Up:  From a Fogo State of Mind to a New York State of Mind…

18 thoughts on “A Fogo State of Mind

  1. Makes we want to experience it for myself! Gorgeous photos. Tom and I will need to add it to our list of possibilities…

  2. Making note of Fogo for sure when we do our Maritime Provinces trip in another year or so. Curious, once on the island, is there any fuel available? We have no solar so might have to use the generator a bit while boondocking. Looks like a place we would love as you do. All those activities are our favorites! and few people. Who could ask for more.

  3. Beautiful and so peaceful looking! Makes me want to hop in the RV and head that way. Wonder how it would be in a Sept/Oct visit?
    My mom used to live at an assisted living place in Belleville IL called Lady of the Snows. :)

  4. Sad we missed it now! Glad you enjoyed it though. We cut our time in St. John’s short (only a few hours) because after so many quaint fishing towns and middle-of-nowhere places, being in a big city made us anxious. It just felt out of place here, which I suppose is the charm to some. We felt a little guilty, but glad to know you understand.

    • Brooke, My wife and I bumped into you at Avalon in Ferryland. We chatted for a few minutes at the museum before you moved on. Nice to know you know Suzanne! We are with her now in St. Johns.
      Ed and Marti

  5. These are your most beautiful photos! really great photos. And by the way, be glad you’re not on the west coast, smoke all over the place in Oregon and Washington and BC.

  6. I can just imagine how good that piece of cod tasted. Did he say that the cod stocks had dwindled. With overfishing and global warming of the seas around the UK our cod stocks have severely decreased and in some places disappeared.

  7. It is so good to have a chance to catch up with you Suzanne. What a wonderful post. I hope I have the opportunity to visit what looks to be a beautiful island. Looks like the perfect place for a walkabout. Sounds like you are enjoying your summer NOB.

  8. Oh, Suzanne! You are so doing this trip the right way…one smaller RV and boondocking! You are experiences so many unique places and people. This will be a trip that is tough to top. Lovely photos! Thanks for taking us along:)

  9. You’ve got me convinced that we should take in Fogo Island on our next trip to Newfoundland! Here in Canada the main thing we hear about is that fancy expensive hotel. You’ve totally changed my impression! Thanks.

  10. Having been off line for a few weeks I am reading these in reverse order. The pleasure of your text and photos is undiminished. Newfoundland is definitely next on our bucket list. Thanks.

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