Why Not More Picnics?

I’m up early from my boondocking spot at Cape Spear, because I want to be among the first to see the sun rise at 5:35am on the furthest eastern point on the continent.  But long before my alarm beeps to life, I wake to the long and low moan of the fog horn, warning of low visibility.   It’s like trying to see the sunrise with a white blanket over my head.   Oh, well, my consolation prize was getting to spend the night beneath another lighthouse.

Another gorgeous drive along the Avalon Peninsula.

Another gorgeous drive along the Avalon Peninsula.

Fog is lifting over Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove.

Fog is lifting over Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove.

Fog is a common site along the Avalon Peninsula.

Fog is a common site along the Avalon Peninsula.

I drive south along the coastal road toward Ferryland.  I’ve read several articles recommending “Lighthouse Picnics,” a company run by a couple of female entrepreneurs, one whose great grandfather was once the lighthouse keeper, while her grandmother was born in the Ferryland Lighthouse residence.  Once the light was automated in the 70’s, the light keeper’s residence was vacated, and began falling into disrepair.  So they leased the abandoned building from the community of Ferryland, built a kitchen inside, and began offering picnics, complete with basket and blanket.

This sounds like a novelty I’d like to try, because just about anything with “lighthouse” in the title is my cuppa tea.  I phone in advance to attempt a reservation, but they are sold out through the rest of August and all of September.  Alrighty then!

View from the path to Ferryland Lighthouse.

View from the walking path to Ferryland Lighthouse.

It's a 2 km walk to the lighthouse along a narrow gravel road.

It’s a 2 km walk to the lighthouse along a narrow gravel road.

One must walk along the "isthmus" to reach the lighthouse.

One must walk along the “isthmus” to reach the lighthouse.

Beautiful views on both sides of the isthmus.

Beautiful views on both sides of the isthmus.

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As I stop in Ferryland to have a look around, it’s an absolutely gorgeous, picture perfect day…one of the best I’ve experienced in Newfoundland. The fog has lifted, and the real rarity of the day…no wind. The temperature is warm enough for shorts with a light sea breeze blowing, just enough to keep the flies away. The Newfies have a slang saying when the sun is shining and it’s a warm day, “The sun be splittin’ the rocks!”

Arriving at the Ferryland Lighthouse, built 1870.

Arriving at the Ferryland Lighthouse, built 1870.

Arriving at the Ferryland Lighthouse, built 1870.

The original tower was brick, but in 1892 they had to encase with iron because the bricks kept crumbling.

These "breezeways" between the light tower and lightkeeper's residence are a common feature to protect lightkeepers from gale force winds after some lightkeepers were swept away during storms.

These “breezeways” between the light tower and lightkeeper’s residence are a common feature to protect lightkeepers from gale force winds after some lightkeepers were swept away during storms.

Even though the picnics are all reserved, I decide to make the 4km/2.5 mile RT walk out to the lighthouse. It’s only accessible by footpath down a narrow gravel road. Up and down a few hills, the path continues through a grove of evergreens, opening up into a clearing before one gets a glimpse of the lighthouse. This is an added bonus in my book….less drive-by tourists. Those who are there to see the lighthouse, not just for the picnic, must earn it. 😉

Once I arrive and take my photos, I decide to check in with the picnic office and see if they have had a cancellation. She tells me since I am “only a party of one,” they can accommodate me! “Pick your menu selections and grab a blanket, and we’ll have your basket right out to you!”

Inside the lightkeeper residence, now kitchen for Lighthouse Picnics.

Inside the lightkeeper residence, now kitchen for Lighthouse Picnics.

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I ask her where her favorite place is to enjoy the picnic. She directs me to a point where whale activity has been spotted. I climb down the gully and high up on a ridge to get away from the others. I find a perch with a slanted rock for a back rest. I spread out the soft, padded plaid blanket, and set my basket of goodies in the center.

Sitting cross-legged on the blanket, I unpack them one by one. A roast curried chicken sandwich on soft, molasses oatmeal bread made onsite that morning. A warm orzo and fresh mint salad with peppers, tomatoes, and chunks of Parmesan cheese. A slice of chocolate ganache cake with a dollop of whipped cream. And a mason jar filled with iced, fresh squeezed lemonade with just enough pulp to prove it’s the real thing.

I pick my spot with the lighthouse in view, but far away from the other picnickers.

I pick my spot with the lighthouse in view, but far enough away for a little peaceful solitude.

The food is as good or better than it looks!

The food is as good or better than it looks!

It’s a quintessential perfect day on all counts, one I want to remember. As I lean up against the rock, my legs outstretched in the warm sun, I savor the lunch little by little, but not as intently as I savor the view. To my right, I see the Ferryland Lighthouse, it’s iron tower now a little faded and weathered after serving as navigational beacon high up on the hill since 1870.

To my left is a small rocky crag of an island from where a cacophony of squawking seabirds serenades me. I can hear the rush of the waves as they pound onto the rocky surface below. And in front of me, whale spouts are firing off in the distance.

This island off the promontory is a haven for birds.

This island off the promontory is a haven for birds.

There are hiking trails all around the lighthouse, each with gorgeous views.

There are hiking trails all around the lighthouse, each with gorgeous views.

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There are times when a “solo experience” can feel a bit awkward, most often in romantic setting like a fancy restaurant on a Saturday night.   A picnic certainly has enough “romance factor” to fit in that category.  As I walk across the moor carrying my picnic basket, looking at pockets of families and couples perched on the hillside, I wonder if I have put myself in an awkward position.  I always maintain that it’s not being alone that feels awkward, but rather those sympathetic looks from others who project empathy for that “poor woman who is all alone.”  But it doesn’t take long, stretched out on the blanket in the warm sun, a sweater wrapped around my shoulders, soaking in the sights and sounds around me, to feel myself drifting away on my own magic carpet, oblivious (impervious?) to judgment.

I sit there in the sun on this perfect day, basking in the bliss, and wonder, “Why don’t I have more picnics?”  I vow to rectify that in the future…

Panorama of my "Lunch with a View" as Pam would say...

Panorama of my “Lunch with a View” as Pam would say…

If you are traveling along the Avalon Peninsula only 90 minutes from St. John's, don't miss this experience...but be sure to call ahead!

If you are traveling along the Avalon Peninsula only 90 minutes from St. John’s, don’t miss this experience…but be sure to call ahead!

15 thoughts on “Why Not More Picnics?

  1. Wow, what an incredible experience, you couldn’t have “planned” that any better. Your psyche must attract the showcase of whale sitings.
    The solo experience has its challenges in so many ways. Sounds like you have the ability to rise above it all and make it a memorable time. I haven’t quite perfected that part, but trying hard. Always enjoy your adventures.

  2. Suzanne, you are definitely my inspiration for enjoying solo travel. I try to avoid the “awkward” feeling as much as possible…sometimes it just requires a change of attitude, right? And I’ve found that it’s caused me to view and admire other solo travelers in a whole new light.
    More picnics for sure!
    Kat

  3. I got a feeling this is not the last we’ll see of you in Newfie-land. You might love the mountains and west, but you’re a “salty dog” at heart and seem happiest when near an Ocean. Unlike the PNW an the other Canadian shore, it looks like you can camp without as much competition (crowds) there…even boondock in parking lots near the sea.
    Oh, and no lack of color there either, be it Puffins, houses, or rock. :)
    P Pal Mark

  4. Spectacular photos of an amazing place! So glad you also got to experience such a perfect picnic. Now I understand why this part of the country seems to be calling me out of the Northwest for a visit.

  5. What a perfect re-use of a lighthouse! The views, including that of the lunch are perfect, and as usual your non hesitance in asking once again gave you that lunch.
    Thanks.

  6. Lovely! I think my favorite picture this time is the fourth from last, where you can see the sideways-turned geology. What a lovely place, and how wonderfully you capture it. As a solo traveller myself, I appreciate your reflections. Attitude is everything. 😉

  7. I’ve been fortunate to have traveled atop many a magic carpet in my lifetime. As with angels, the trick is not in seeing them but in acknowledging them (and climbing aboard) when they appear. What a wonderful experience this picnic on a magic carpet ride held for you…

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