Newfoundland/Labrador Day 10: Gros Morne National Park
It’s been another great day on the road with weather the locals say almost never happens, but too many more great days like this one and I’ll have to stop for a while. One of the most signifcant parts of seeing western Newfoundland is seeing Gros Morne National Park, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its significant geology. It’s a large park and I’ve only seen parts of it but what I saw today was beautiful, rugged and unlike any place I’ve ever been to. Interestingly, the mountains here are actually the northern end of the Appalachian chain, created at the same time as my North Carolina mountain on which sits my humble cabin when two continents collided hundreds of millions of years ago.
I’m tired and sore for reasons I’ll explain in a minute so this blog will be short. I’ll make up for it with some great pictures. Still no new pictures on Flickr, by the way, and I don’t know when I’m going to find a strong wifi to add more. Will create a link when new pictures go up.
I headed about 50 miles up the road from where I’m staying to one of three visitors centers they have in the park to pay my fee ($8.90 is a bargain, believe me) and to get some suggestions for how to attack the park. The Parks Canada staff was helpful as they always are at all the National Parks I’ve been to in Canada. The young staffer helped me sort the park into different areas and then suggested that I take on the southern half today and the northern half tomorrow or Sunday. She mentioned about four or five places I could go today, but, as it turned out, I only got to two of them.
One section of the park is known as the Tablelands and it’s literally a world-class example of the power of plate tectonics. The barren red rock at the top of the mountains in the Tablelands was once a seafloor and the oldest rock is at the very top while the youngest is down near the base. I stopped and took it in before heading to my real destination for the day: the fishing village of Trout River and the Trout River Pond hiking trail.
I didn’t spend much time in the village because there wasn’t much there. It’s not a tourist spot. It’s a real-life fishing village where people try to squeeze a hard and dangerous living out of the sea.
I had said I wanted to do some hiking (and maybe some kayaking) on this trip and this was my first opportunity to hit the trail. I’m not sure I chose wisely. The Gros Morne National Park visitor’s guide described the trail I chose as “gentle” though noting that it was an approximately 9 mile round trip. No problem, I said to myself, remembering the last back packing I did for a week 25 years ago in the Sierra Nevadas. The key to that last sentence is “25 years ago.” Body-related things, apparently, have changed since then.
I had a clue that I might be in for some trouble before I even set foot on the trail when I spoke with a park ranger who rode up on a mountain bike. “Did you make it to the end of the trail?” I said. “No.” he replied. “Too muddy. Winter was hard on the trail this year.” Undeterred and determined to take a brisk walk in the mountains, I set off. It didn’t take long to discover the truth of his “too muddy” statement. Long sections of the trail had water running down it and mud several inches deep. And the forest was too thick to get off the trail and go around the mud. So I slogged on. After about the first hour the nature of the trail changed and the mud was no longer a problem. But now the trail consisted of large rocks and gravel with sharp, pointy corners. Oh, did I mention I was wearing running shoes. Running shoes! Did I think I was going to outrun a moose? But my only other choice was my motorcycle riding/rain boots and I didn’t think they would work well either.
So onward and, literally, upward I went as the trail veered away from the rivulet-filled forest and the lake I had been following and up the side of one of the Tableland Mountains. With only the occassional huff and puff, I hiked my way further along the lake and further up the mountain. Finally, after about two hours and 4 1/2 miles, I came to the end of the trail, which consisted of a big pile of rocks and two bright red adirondack chairs. I enjoyed the sit down briefly, but knew I had to walk back the same way I came in. There was no bus service in the wilderness.
By now my old feet, old legs and old knees were wondering why I hadn’t chosen a flatter, dryer, softer trail and began to scream obscene questions at my brain. By the time I got back to the motorcycle (having seen no one all day except the ranger on the bike), putting one sore foot in front of the other was becoming increasingly difficult. You can’t imagine how glad I was that I opted NOT to sleep in a tent and sleeping bag on this trip (but thanks for the offer, Greg). I knew I could get a hot bath and a glass of Jack back at my room. But that was still two hours away over Newfoundland roads that apparently had the same problem with winter that the trail did.
When I got back I hobbled over to a theatre to listen to some local Newfoundland music played by six reasonably talented musicians/singers. They were good and I enjoyed the evening. But I’ve seen “Men of the Deeps” and I’m spoiled.
I had planned on taking a nine-hour round trip motorcycle ride tomorrow to see the Viking site at L’Anse aux Meadows on the northern tip of the island, but I think I’ll hold that until Sunday, if I go at all. We’ll see how quickly this old body recovers.
Everyone take care. Watch out for moose. I know I do.