ROSE BLANCHE LIGHTHOUSE

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The Drive As we left each curve behind to start a new one, the 45 km (28 mi) drive presented amazing views, revealing rocky contours supporting a variety of unfamiliar plants and small ponds. There was not one tree in sight. Even our concentrated surveillance for any sudden appearance of a moose, an animal much associated with this island, didn't hinder our fascination with the scenery. The landscape boasted untamed mystery to me, as I am used to soaring trees and a different variety of plants all growing in abundant soil. The drive to Rose Blanche extended my enthusiastic first impression of Newfoundland, which I had immediately felt on our arrival in Port aux Basques. We were heading to the Rose Blanche Lighthouse - famous for its existence as the only granite lighthouse in Atlantic Canada. The structure was built in 1871 and ran from 1873 to the 1940's. After it was abandoned it fell into ruins, which led to restoration beginning in 1996. Though I had read it was completed in 1999, we would discover scaffolding attached to one of the walls during our visit. Nearing the fishing outport of Rose Blanche, I spotted the lighthouse in the distance between two hills, as if it were teasing us to find it from the winding road. The name Rose Blanche comes from a form of the French words "roche blanche" meaning white rock. French migratory fishermen had seen the white quartz on their first approach to shore in the early 1700's. The Destination We took a couple of wrong turns before finding the one leading to the outport. We soon pulled into a U-shaped area surrounded by large solid rock hills. Fronting them were assorted miniature cabins, each painted a different bright colour. While we looked around, several people congregated at a picnic table scattered to their designated buildings. They must have decided it was time to get to work; we were the first visitors to arrive. Looking at the assorted structures, I realized one held a ticket office. We were to pay $3 each for our lighthouse tour - a bargain I would come to realize, especially with the accompanying scenery. While I absorbed our surroundings - noting a gift shop, a restaurant and a couple of empty places - the silence invaded my senses, giving me the sensation of standing in a vacuum. A passageway indented in one of the hills led us to the other side where a powerful panoramic view of the Cabot Strait with chiseled rock shores opened up to us. The cadence of waves rushed to my ears, filling the silence. Helen mentioned that the dense rock must absorb the sound, keeping it from the parking area. The Shoreline We hadn't traced the pathway for long when I grabbed an opportunity to escape to the shoreline. I let Tessi wander freely there. Once she again found undrinkable saltwater, she kept to the puddles in the dips of the rock to search for prey. Though she found none, she enjoyed sniffing around. I wandered among bits of sea vegetation -  kelp and seaweed pieces - all looking like plastic. Helen wanted to rid Missy of the bits of dried mud on her since our adventure at Hopewell Cape in New Brunswick, so they followed us down. Missy detected what was coming and clutched unto Helen's shoulder, eyes begging me to save her. Before Missy could be dipped into the water, Helen accidently slipped her foot in. If the strait could be counted as the ocean, Helen could now brag that she had placed a foot in the ocean - and her shoe and her sock. She gave up on Missy's bath. We rejoined the pathway, which from then on skirted high above the waves, meandering through a carpet of vegetation with outcropping of cracked rock, eventually reaching the lighthouse. We passed small signs explaining some of the plants, such as the starflower and the pale laurel, sprinkled amongst the green. A few signs warning of dangerous edges interrupted the view. I ignored one sign, where a few rocks at the top leveled out the steepness before slipping to the sea. I have a healthy respect of heights, and this section was hardly sloped. As I sat on the hard rock, my forgotten voice recorder and lens cap in my back pocket almost punctured me, causing me to come to a quick, wobbly stand. A steep edge could have proved dangerous. Once I emptied my pocket, Tessi and I sat for a bit. I reveled in the scenery so common to the locals who call it home, yet so unique to me. I also contemplated the many shipwrecks lost beneath the waves. In the meantime, Helen continued to the nearby lighthouse. The Lighthouse Back on my feet, we continued on to find Missy leashed to the stairs at the building's entranceway. Dogs aren't allowed inside. I tethered Tessi beside Missy and headed in. I had missed part of the tour. The guide at the door apologetically told me my friend was ahead of me. Before she could say whether or not she would lead me on the tour, I accepted her apology and moved on to meet Helen. Helen's guide spoke meticulously and thoroughly in a careful tone. The young woman had just started her job a couple of days before, Helen would tell me later. I was intrigued by the sixth-order Fresnel lens on display in one of the rooms. I have held a spark of interest in them since my discovery of the Cape Croker Lighthouse in Ontario with its beautiful Fresnel lens. Helen, a seamstress, noted three old sewing machines, each placed in a separate room. Shopping Back at the small buildings, I strolled through the gift shop. Beyond the generous selection of standard souvenirs, such as key chains, mugs and t-shirts, the store was selling, on consignment, mounted photographs and paintings of the area. Knitted hats and mitts rounded out the merchandise offered. After I purchased a keychain for a friend, who collects them, and a pen for myself (I am, after all, a writer), and Helen finished her perusal, we once again joined the roller coaster highway to find our next destination. For More Info Rose Blanche Lighthouse 

(c) Cheryl Smyth, 2010

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