Wow! What a wonderful storyteller Adrian Payne has turned out to be. From the moment I cracked open the book, I was hooked.
I can easily imagine the author sitting in an easy-chair, re-telling his adventures to the next generation of would-be explorers enraptured by his every word. His tales resonated with me on a number of levels, for although I am not a native Newfoundlander, I have spent a good number of my adult years in this wonderful province. And I, as did Payne, wondered what lay on the far side of the mountains.
I can vividly recall standing at the confluence of the Great Codroy river and Brooms Brook, and looking at a flight of geese lining up for a landing somewhere on top of the mountain, and imagining the ponds and brooks that could be discovered up there. Eventually I did get there, guided by my brother-in-law and best friend Tom Kettle, when we climbed the sheer face of the mountain to reach Campbell’s Pond, just for the joy of casting a fly at the trout.
Payne recounts the hardships of going to the other side out of necessity during the later parts of the year, during the cold months, getting caught by early snowstorms, or being lost for many hours in a dense fog, just doing what needed to be done in order to put meat on the dinner table, for there were no grocery chain stores around the corner in those days.
What really captured my imagination was Payne’s description of the beauty, indeed the splendor of the old growth forest. What he decries is the devastation of some of that pristine beauty through either neglect or ill-advised regulation. Of course, things changed dramatically when travelling in-country became much easier with the arrival of modern conveyances such as ATVs and snowmobiles. Then there are the rules set out by various levels of government.
In one example, he describes how the decades-long prohibition to hunt moose in the Gros Morne resulted in an explosion of that population, and due to lack of forage ended up destroying a large segment of the old-growth forest therein. It may take a century or more before the forest recovers.
The author also describes the struggles between the diverging interests of conservation and fiscal responsibilities of government and industry.
I believe that in re-telling his adventure he is hoping to instill in a younger generation a love of nature, as well as a sense of adventure, a desire to experience the wonders of finding new paths, of possibly rediscovering some of these early structures that had to be built in order to seek shelter.
The only portion of the book I could not relate to was when Payne talks of his travels around the world. I felt it took away from the first part, and was not a suitable ending to what was otherwise a beautifully crafted tribute to this province and region. For that reason, I have to knock off a mere half point from In the Shadow of the Long Range Mountains, whereas with a different ending I would have easily rated it higher. But make no mistake, this is a fantastic read and well worth your time.
I give this book a 4.5 out of 5 stars.