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Saturday, August 11, 2018

Walking Signal Hill

My cousin Allison was up for meeting in St. John's for a hike, so we met at Signal Hill.

If you're looking for a walk, the Grand Concourse website should be able to help you out.  We started at the Geo Centre parking area on Signal Hill Road and headed down to Cabot Street before making our way to the Battery Road.  Looking at a map I'm guessing we made about a 4km loop out of it all.

Allison's dog Chance pulled her along, while I kept trying to get a look at all the colorful homes and shops.

I'd stay here, how about you?

I'd never heard of Chain Rock Battery, one of St. John's earliest defenses along with Fort Amherst. It got its name because at the time it was constructed, it was an anchoring point for a large chain that would be placed across the Narrows (the entrance to St. John's harbour) at night as a defensive measure to prevent enemy ships from entering. 

old photo of St. John's "Narrows"

In 1941 Fort Chain Rock was once used again to protect the Narrows. This time however it became the anchoring point of anti-submarine nets that spanned the harbour to protect it from enemy U-boats. The fort was later turned into a two gun AMTB battery to protect the minefield outside St. John's harbour. The two 75mm guns were originally stationed at Fort Amherst before being upgraded. Along with this the troop was equipped with two 60 inch searchlights. (Information courtesy of Hidden Newfoundland)

Chain Rock Battery

The North Head Trail starts (or ends, depending on your perspective!) at the end of the Outer Battery Road and winds along the cliffs beneath Cabot Tower and then it makes it way back upward where you could access other trails if your knees can handle it.  If you're lucky you could see whales or icebergs, but I have not been lucky enough to see either this year.

Much of the trail is boardwalk and stairs with handrails, so while it is exposed it is very safe.  Many locals use this trail as part of their regular fitness routine.  This section of trail just re-opened on August 1st after having some stairs and bridges replaced.

We were fortunate that someone offered to take our picture when we stopped at the Red Chairs for a rest and a drink of water.  Wayne and I sat in the Red Chairs on the Coastal Trail in Terra Nova three years ago.  Where does the time go?

Looking back I was amazed at what the trail looked like as we neared North Head.

Great view of the Narrows

I visited Fort Amherst last time I was home and I don't see a post about it anywhere on the blog so I'm thinking I may have misplaced the photos and didn't get them up.  Strange because I think it was near sunset, I'll have to look for them and if I find them I'll write it up.

Crumbling Fort Amherst below, lighthouse above

There is a section of the East Coast trail over there on the other side of the Narrows, maybe one of these years I will get to hike it.

More Red Chairs overlooking a cove

I noticed a new plant out on North Head - Gall of the Earth is a North American native plant and is part of the aster family.

Allison and Chance were busy noticing the view and keeping an eye out for whales.  Most hikers start at Cabot Tower and return after reaching this point at North Head but then miss out on the cliff hugging adventure that we had.  Either way your knees will be sore when you're done, though Chance seemed to have enough energy to do the loop twice.

While we didn't see any whales we did see gulls - lots of them!  We heard them before we saw them, and had to peek out over the edge for a closer look.

While in Canada these past few weeks I have listened to absolutely no news (Canadian or American) and aside from a conversation on the flight in I have not heard the name Trump or heard his voice.  I highly recommend this type of vacation to all my fellow Americans as it has been delightful to put all the drama aside and just live in the moment.

Cabot Tower

For those who are not familiar with Cabot Tower's historical significance, it is where Marconi received the first trans-Atlantic wireless message in 1901.  It was built in 1898 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of John Cabot's voyage to the New World.  In 1920 one of the first wireless trans-Atlantic transmissions of the human voice was made there.

Flag signaling also used to be done from Signal Hill (the name makes sense now!) warning ships of weather hazards or signaling the arrival of ships like the one passing through the Narrows in the photograph above.   I wonder what kind of flag would have signaled its arrival?

Cabot Tower 

The red sandstone tower is 3 stories high and its octagonal shape is an easily recognizable symbol of Newfoundland that I've seen my whole life.  I don't think there has been a time I've visited where I didn't at least see it from a distance.

Happy hikers 

After we made it up all the brutal stairs to Cabot Tower's parking area we had a view down on St. John's and a view of the Signal Hill Tattoo readying for its morning performance. Performances are at 11:00 and 3:00 on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from July 3rd to August 14th.  We didn't stick around for the re-enactment and the cannon fire but I did add it to my list of things to do someday.

I'm sure Wayne will want to come back and see the cannon fired at some future date!

Approximately 65 youth take part in the Tattoo every year, and admission is $10 for adults.

While I went in the Chocolate Cafe and bought some treats from the Newfoundland Chocolate Company, Allison and Chance made friends with some of the performers who must have been quite warm in those uniforms on a summer day.

Here's a short video of the music they were playing as they waited for showtime.

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