ECR and Terra-Treks exploration of Central Labrador, June 1999
A trip to where the road ends... and then a little past that.
2 - Labrador City to Happy Valley/ Goose Bay
Once we had all fueled up in Labrador City and stopped at the local store for some supplies it was time to press on. Labrador City is a typical mining operation town. It has just about everything you could need from fuel to food during normal business hours, a few restaurants, a hotel, the usual. Once across the border into Labrador English is the first language again, so you can forget about the French phrase book until your return trip through Quebec. Don't expect to find Rover parts anywhere in Labrador City, but if you are prepared it should have everything you need to "top up" your supplies before you head for Churchill Falls. Our schedule called for camping outside of Labrador City. This meant starting down the Trans Labrador Highway eventhough the day was getting late. Just outside of the Labrador City you turn onto a small dirt road, a sign that says "Happy Valley/ Goose Bay" is all that identifies the highway.
Once you proceed down the road a short distance you end up a "driver's alert" sign. If you are an explorer at heart like me, then this is the type of thing you drive 1000's of miles for... signs that say "pass at your own risk" and "no fuel next 240 km". The type of posted warning that make most people think twice... these are the signs that I, and the members of our group, live for. The highway is all dirt from here on out until you reach Happy Valley/ Goose Bay, so extra tires and extra care for your Rover are essential.
The railroad once again crosses the TLH (Trans Labrador Highway) a few times here, and it is in use, so look twice. There are no gates to warn you of on coming trains.
As the sun started to get low it was time to find a camping spot. Camping along the highway is fine in this area, but you do have to find a spot to get off the road. It took us some time to find the right spot, as the absence of side roads makes it hard to find a place for 5 Rovers to pull off and camp safely.
Can you spot the Defender 90 between the trees? The trees are very dense and openings are hard to find, you have to take what you can get. The ground is very soft and moss covered. The going was easy as everything had a hard bottom, but we did learn one lesson about Land Rover mud flaps. If you use Land Rover mud flaps on a Defender 90 in soft terrain such as this moss, or on rocks, the mud flaps catch on the tires as you back up, and this rips the mud flap off. So much for trying not to throw rocks on the guy behind you in the convoy.
Everyone got camp set up quickly and got down to the business of dinner. Here Jason and Ian get their dinner ready.
Angela also gets dinner ready and sets up camp, as did the others in the group. One plus of all this thick moss is that it is very comfortable to sleep on providing you can find an open spot.
We had some time to kill before nightfall so we took a walk down to the lake that was nearby and watched the sunset. Day 2 was under our belt, and no problems of any kind so far. We planned our tip to be early in the season to avoid the infamous bugs of Labrador; however, a heat wave had brought the bugs out a bit early. They were not as bad as in the summer months, but they are a factor. Be sure and be prepared for them.
The next morning was a bit cloudy. This was a welcome change from the heat we had previously had, and we all hoped for a bit of rain to keep the road dust down. The road from here to Churchill Falls is straight forward. A few sections are under heavy construction around the turn to Esker and washboards and pot holes are everywhere, but overall the road is very good considering it is still under construction.
Here our team passes through a construction zone just before the turn to Esker. Be patient and wait for the road crews to give you an opening. There are no flagmen or road cones here like in the USA, but you'll know when they are giving you an opening to pass by. Get out of their way as quickly and safely as possible. Any delays we had for the construction crews were quite short and we had no trouble in these areas.
The Churchill River was once the site of some of the most amazing rapids in North America. The river has since been re-routed underground and is part of the hydro-electric power station that is basically the sole reason why the town of Churchill Falls exists.
A good sized bridge takes you across the river and eventhough the water is gone, the rocks that are left behind and the shapes the water carved them into over 1000s of years is still an awesome site. This picture does not relay the size of just how big this river actually was.
Once past the river and near Churchill Falls you'll pass The Churchill Falls Airport, and your fuel tanks will be getting dry again. If the gas station in Churchill Falls is closed you'll have to wait for them to open, or press on with your auxiliary tanks. As we arrived in Churchill Falls just before mid-day we choose to keep the auk. tanks full, and fill up from the pump.
Churchill Falls is a hydro-electric plant, and the town exists because of this installation, there isn't really anything here except for gas and and basic food supplies. (Although the gas station did have a great selection of British candy!!) The installation is very commercial and the town is merely a collection of industrial grade buildings. A few side road exist here and most of them lead to the river for access for sportsmen and for launching small boats. We explored all the roads that were not prohibited to power company vehicles only and found very little. Best to just keep pressing on for Happy Valley/ Goose Bay as you still have a long way to go.
When you head up the hill out of town you'll see a massive field of power poles and high voltage wires. The diverted Churchill River must really put out the voltage!
The bulk of the road construction is between Churchill Falls and Happy Valley/ Goose Bay. The road crews are working towards each other so huge dump trucks and bulldozers are common along the road. Again watch out for them as one incorrectly placed Defender as a dump truck backs up and your trip is over.
As tough as Rovers are... you can't play chicken with a dump truck whose wheel is taller than your entire truck! Jason's Range Rover is parked between the 2 dump trucks, and a Defender is in front. Obviously these trucks were not is use when we took the photo.
Once past a construction zone and back on clear road a call for lunch came over the radio. A little used side road yielded a great water crossing and perfect spot for lunch away from the dump trucks and road work.
Here Bill heads out across the water for our lunch spot.
The views in Labrador are worth the trip alone, just off the TLH you feel as if you are 1000's of miles from anywhere, technically you are, but it is still accessible to your expedition should you want to attempt it. Here the group has lunch over looking the river, a great spot. After lunch came the trip to Happy Valley/ Goose Bay.
The road construction winds down the closer you get to Happy Valley and the road gets better and better. Your average speed will come back as you can pick up the speed along this section after the construction. In a few places you'll be on the old TLH and in some places you can see the remains of the old road off to the side. If we had only done this trip years ago it would have been even more of a challenge.
We couldn't help but periodically pull over to look at the gorgeous view across valleys and rivers.
Once you get close to Happy Valley you'll start to see some small cabins and some side roads that lead to hunting camps. You are still in the wilderness, but you round a corner and suddenly an intersection appears with a tarmac road and cars going by. At this point you have reached the towns of Happy Valley and Goose Bay. Goose Bay is to your right and Happy Valley is to your left.
We stayed at the Aurora Hotel. The place is clean and the people were great as we needed a good nights sleep... the hard stuff was going to be in the morning, so we took advantage of Happy Valley/ Goose Bay for a good dinner and a comfortable bed. The hotel has a bar and restaurant within, but the twin towns also offer a host of other options for you. There are art galleries with Indian art, gas station, grocery stores, auto parts, and more. Happy Valley is the site of a large low level flight training ground for the military so just like any other military base town, services are plentiful. The people of HVGB (Happy Valley. Goose Bay) are very friendly and they are looking for adventure tourism to help them grow. Although we wish the TLH was still a hard core trip, the locals love the road and hope its improvements bring more people from Canada and the USA to their community. Most of the locals we spoke do have not driven the road, they usually fly or take the ferry.
The mayor and tourism officer of Happy Valley/ Goose Bay came to meet us when we arrived at the hotel. Our trip had captured the interest of the locals. Before we left I was interviewed via phone for 2 BBC radio broadcasts for the local area. They had found out we were coming from the ECR web site. They even had us drive to the town office and take a picture on the front walkway for the town's scrap book. This image is of the group and the Tourism Officer of Happy Valley Goose Bay in front of the town office.
In the scope of this trip I knew we could make it to Happy Valley/ Goose Bay without worry. The question was how far North and East could we make it once we left town? None of the locals had any real answers for us. A few pointed to some trails, but no one is truly into 4 Wheeling in this area so they did not know what our needs were. The Mokami Trail was what I was after.. to leave the dump trucks and roads behind, and see just how far you can go after the road ends.
1 -Back to: Start of Trek to Labrador City
3 -Mokami Trail
4 -HVGB to end of trek
East Coast Rover Co.
21 Tolman Road
Warren, ME 04864
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