When we first started planning our trip to the northern tip of Newfoundland Five String was very excited that we would have the opportunity to visit the Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve in Raleigh. This reserve is composed of limestone barrens surrounded by ocean on three sides. As such it has the lowest average annual temperature of any location on the coast of Newfoundland. Surprisingly even with such low temperatures and a short growing season this barren peninsula is considered one of Newfoundland’s most important botanical sites.The unique climate and geological makeup of Burt Cape creates a habitat for over 300 plant species with several of these being quite rare.
Needless to say were were very excited to visit Burnt Cape. However, when we contacted the provincial park system a few weeks ago about a tour (they encourage people to visit with a trained tour guide) we were told that the tours were discontinued due to budget cuts. Disappointed we drove to Raleigh and viewed the peninsula from across the bay before moving on to other activities. However, our exploration of the Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve was not over thanks to a very friendly gentleman that we met while climbing the rocks at Fishing Point in St. Anthony. He has been a resident of Raleigh all of his life and encouraged us to head back to Burnt Cape Reserve and at least walk the access road to the sea caves that have been carved out of the limestone over time.
After doing some further research online we decided to take his advice. So, on a gorgeous Newfoundland day we drove back out to the Raleigh and hiked along the limestone barrens. This was definitely one of the most challenging hikes that we have undertaken with the kids due to the distance to the caves and the fact that it was very important to keep the kids on the path and stop them from picking the many flowering species that dot the landscape. However, it provided a good lesson in respecting natural areas, especially one as precious as Burnt Cape. While the kids missed scrambling up trees and jumping over rocks they did enjoy counting the number of different plant species that we saw and looking out at the icebergs that surrounded the peninsula.
After what seemed like an eternity to our three little hikers we reached the first limestone cave know as the Big Oven. While we couldn’t get really close to the cave due to a very steep cliff it was still an amazing sight. Happy to move the kids away from the dangerous drop-off down to the ocean, we headed towards Whale Cave, which was even more spectacular since we could see all the way to the back of the cave. Unfortunately, the entry to the cave was a bit too difficult for the younger Fives to manage and they were disappointed to have to sit at the entrance while Five String ventured in alone. However, after promising that we would return when they were bigger the kids settled themselves along the rocks and were content to just look at the awesomeness of their surroundings. They felt even better when Five String returned and presented them each with a piece of maple candy that he miraculously found tucked in the snow in the way back of the cave. Good thinking Dad 🙂
Finally we pulled ourselves away from our cliff-side perch and started the long hike back to the car. Along the way we were fortunate to see Frost Polygons, a sign of the extensive frost activity occurring on the peninsula due to extremely low average temperatures. When we made it back to the car we all felt a sense of true accomplishment and appreciation for the super nice Newfoundlander who had encouraged us to revisit such an amazing part of his hometown.