Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Day 19 - St. John's

Today we awoke early, in our warm, dry room, a little disoriented by the sounds of air conditions, traffic, and construction going on outside our windows.  A glance outside showed that although the sky was overcast the predicted rain and wind had not yet begun.

We spent a slow morning, taking showers, going down to breakfast, doing laundry, washing and drying out our camping gear, and making reservations for a bed and breakfast in Bonavista for the next two nights, and for the shuttle up there.  Surprisingly, although there are many B & B's in Bonavista, most of them seem to be booked solid for the next few weeks.  

By noon our chores were finished, so we decided to check out the Memorial University Botanical Gardens.  The very helpful students at the check-in desk printed off a map for us which showed how to get there on foot, and we set off across campus, through the hospital grounds, to the Long Pond and Oxen Pond trails.

The trail began behind the hospital, and took us up a forested hill.  The path was wide, level, and covered in fine gravel.  No mud or boulders!  We climbed many sets of well-maintained steps, and emerged onto a lookout point, which gave a us a great view back over St. John's.  It was fun to see some of the places we had hiked across.  We also saw smoke from a forest fire in the vicinity, which apparently is still burning.

After the lookout point we walked a section of more or less level trail through a dense spruce forest.  The path was well used by joggers, families, children at camp, and hospital patients.  It felt strange to be in the same kind of forest we had been walking through on the ECT, but enjoying such an easy walk!  Soon we arrived at the road, and entered the botanical gardens.

The botanical gardens have a large cultivated garden area, five nature trails, a gift shop, and a cafe.  The cultivated gardens are divided up into themed areas - such as alpine plants, or plants used for medicinal purposes, or pollinators.  They were very beautifully arranged, and very interesting to explore.

The nature trails led through the cultivated gardens, and then into a spruce forest, through a marsh and meadow, and around a pond.  The combination of cultivated and wild plants was really interesting and fun to explore. 

We walked around a pond, and stopped to feed a group of Mallards.  Apparently many of these birds have clipped wings, and when the university requested that people stop feeding them bread on the university property, they nearly starved.  As a result, Memorial U now sells bags of healthy duck food (a mix of corn and wheat), and encourages people to feed them.  As we enjoyed their company, we also watched a couple Tree Swallows foraging above the pond and taking food into a nest box just off shore.

Once we had finished our tour of the gardens we stopped in to the Garden Cafe for a slice of homemade cherry pie and maple ice cream.  It was a welcome treat on a hot day.  All in all, we enjoyed our visit to the gardens very much, and would highly recommend making a stop there if you are in the area!

In the evening we returned to MUN, fed the last of our approved duck food the American Black Ducks and Rock Pigeons in the pond outside our residence, and had a good dinner at the Fort Amhurst Pub.

Tomorrow we will head up to Bonavista.

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