The Topsails is the highest point and the most secluded section of the trail in Newfoundland. Imagine 4 freestanding mountains all named after the four sails of a ship, the Main topsail, the Mizzen topsail, the Gaff topsail and the Fore Topsail. I was excited by the idea of a bit more solitude and connecting to the spirits of the Beothuck people, the ancestors of this land. Dating back to AD 1500 these hunter gather people lived all over the island of Newfoundland but moved inland in the 15th century to get away from the Europeans who started arriving. The Beothuck came here to hunt for caribou. The last Beothuck alive was said to have been Shanawdithit and she died in 1829 and the Beothucks were declared extinct. Although some say a few have carried on.
I camp one night on the shore of a brook here named after a 23 year old Beothuck woman whose was captured by the English after her husband was shot and killed in 1819. She had a baby who died after her captivity. Her real name was Demasduit. Her story is a reminder that the 1200 aboriginal women in Canada murdered since 1984 are a continuation of centuries of violence.
I have learned there are some memories time cannot erase, and if you sit silently on the earth she sometimes whispers the story to you. The rivers here flow with their memory, the red rocks a reminder of their blood that flowed and the red ocnhre they painted on their bodies for ceremony. I talk to their spirits not knowing if the wind will carry my words to them, I say sorry for the sins of those who came before me, I say sorry for staying silent for so long.
On my fourth night I arrived at the crest of the top sails to find a sign that says welcome to the Gaff attached to a tree and a collection of small cabins. As I quietly pedaled along two dogs came out to stop me. When I looked around I saw some people sitting on the front porch of a small cabin and a woman beckoning me to come over. So I get off my bike and the dogs herd me over to the deck where three people are enjoying glasses of white wine and within a minute a glass is in my hand and an invitation to chicken dinner with mash and dressing. It is decided I should stay the night. I met Betty, Floyd and Vici. Floyd takes me to the top of the Gaff topsails, tells me of his viking blood, Then we walk in the bog and he shows me a berry I have never seen or tasted before called a bakeapple. And early the next morning I film him trout fishing, he promises his wife Betty 6 trout as we leave at 7 am and by 8 am we are back at their cabin each eating two pan fried trout with a hard boiled egg and some toast. Floyd has the spirit of the old way. He treats the earth as sacred.
After breakfast I left for a long beautiful ride to Deer Lake as I whispered thank you to the spirits of the gaff.