It would have been tempting to hide away indoors while the wind whipped the water into whitecaps and windows skipped from crest to crest. We could have snuggled warm inside while sleet slipped between misty raindrops and a flake or two of snow flew by. Oh, it would have been so easy to nestle into a soft lounge chair and watch the enveloping fog swallow up the land. But thankfully we didn’t, and we were rewarded with sounds and smells and memories of a glorious day.
The ship inserted itself as far into the lee as possible between Great Caribou Island and Battle Island, partially freeing us from the winds. She soon hid in the veiling mists while we meandered about the shore. Some of us, aided by Battle Harbour Historic Trust guides, saw two hundred years of fishing history come alive. Others found themselves drawn to the hillsides and colors of fall. Bunchberry carpeted the rounded rocky ridges sharing their abode with crowberry and blueberry upon which whimbrels strode and horned larks flitted. Devoid of their orange aggregate fruits, cloudberry leaves turned to gold and maroon. In valleys, purplish monkshood thrust tall stalks almost shoulder high. All glistened with moisture as if adorned with sparkling jewels. No matter the direction chosen, we all eventually followed our noses to feast on fish cakes and local specialty jams.
Even more awaited our exploring eyes as the hands on the clock marched toward afternoon. Sooty shearwaters sliced through the fog as we felt our way towards the mainland and Cape Charles. The misty curtain was cast aside on our approach and Zodiacs flew once more to unknown shores. Summer homes and the paraphernalia of fisherman lined the edges of the sea but once again most of us felt the draw of the land and we meandered high above. Here were trees – real trees, not just carpets of shrubbery obstructing our passage but tallish greenery. Mountain ash and spruce thrived in the narrow valleys. We have left the arctic behind and although the vegetation still struggles with short growing seasons, it stands at least head tall in sheltered situations. Above the harbour in the moody mist, dark tannic pools dotted the landscape. Spongy mosses added a spring to each and every step. In the distance a foghorn could be heard issuing its melancholy warning and reminding us that we are no longer alone. With each step we find ourselves just a little closer to the world outside but having been in the wild we return changed, maybe just a little or maybe a whole, whole lot.