MAY LONG WEEKEND 2016 in GROS MORNE
I was running around like a panicked squirrel, frantically finishing my work, packing my camping gear, doing the dishes (badly) and collecting snacks for the road – including all our perishable foods from the fridge and counter with the hopes of leaving the city at 4pm. I was to meet Brian at work in Long Harbour, and we were going to barrel out of town to Grand Falls-Windsor for the night. We were hungry and tired, and we didn’t really want to be on the road in the dark in moose country but we stopped to eat in Clarenville at Dustabella’s: possibly my favourite restaurant name ever. Forty-five minutes later than planned, we were racing (not really, I only drove 10km over the speed limit) toward Grand Falls-Windsor rocking out to CDs we packed in our canvas CD-holder, with intermittent breaks for CBC radio shows, classic rock stations. This kept us busy for hours. My heart ached at the beauty of driving through Newfoundland country side during sunset. The ponds of water, still from a windless day, the sun hitting the clouds with pinky-purply hues that brought salty water to my eyes. It pained me to drive on, but drive on we did to avoid any sunset moose-confrontations. At one point the sunset was just too gorgeous and there was a perfect turnout overlooking a little body of water I now wish I owned, and I stopped to snap the photo below. If only I could cut out my eyes and share with you the things, the colours, the beauty I saw that night (not like cutting out ones eyes would help you to see what I saw… but you get my melodramatic point.)
Brian booked us a room at a B&B for the night – and we arrived at 10pm. The room was cozy, there was an entire bookcase of DVDs to borrow, there was wireless internet and a big screen TV. The bathroom tub was huge and had jets, and the shower walls were made of wood panelling. We had a great, deep sleep, and woke just in time for the second “B” of our B&B experience: an unsolicited breakfast of pre-syruped French Toast topped with icing sugar. At the best of times (when I am my most flexible with food) I am a savoury breakfast kind of gal. At the worst of times (when I am my pickiest with food – like right now at 36, on a paleo-inspired diet) all I want are eggs, avocado and sweet potatoes for breakfast. This was not that. I highly recommend this B&B, but I cannot personally endorse the breakfast.
We were greeted by another hot and sunny day. This is not typical May Newfoundland weather – and I say this with the authority of a woman who has now spent three May-Months in Newfoundland. We changed into t-shirts and sandals and continued west toward Deer Lake, final destination: Gros Morne National Park.
What can I say about our road trip together? I love being in a car with Brian. First, I love driving, and he loves that I love driving. He’s a fun passenger, willing to rock out to music for awhile, or listen to an audiobook about Grit for seven hours and he doesn’t freak out when I pull off the road to take photos. Where I benefit from his many years of backpacking/camping experience, in turn he benefits from my many years of touring/traveling with my band. I know what snacks to have in car. I know when to stop for a stretch break. I know when to give up the wheel. I know when to play the right songs to get him jazzed, I know when to be quiet. I know how important a good cup of coffee and three bottles of water are for us…. and most importantly, I know when to pull over to pee. We are a good team on the road, and this makes an 8-hour journey feel more like forty five minutes.
We rolled into our camp site around noon Friday, after a picnic lunch in the Deer Lake Foodland (pronounced by me as, FOOD-lind.) We picked up sunscreen (needed it!) wipes (so refreshing when outdoors for 5 days!) and a bag of apples (ate them all!) before heading north. We were the second to arrive at the Lomond camp site – a serene spot we would call home for four nights. I loved it immediately. The couple who arrived just ahead of us took the spot we wanted. We gave them a little space and took the site two down from them, and set up camp.
We set up camp, changed into our hiking pants/short pants and took off for Western Brook Pond (about an hour drive up from where we were staying.) Oh wait, first we went to Woody Point for a surprisingly delicious Americanos then we went up to WBP where we hiked an easy hike for a couple of hours. We were the only ones there, but for two mating toads in the path on our way back to the car. It was perfect picture taking weather, and I snapped away like the shutter bug I am. I had only been in the park for 4 hours and I was already smitten.
That night we had a delicious seafood dinner (cod and lobster) and watched a glorious Rocky Harbour sunset. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. Newfoundland, you continue to sweep me off my feet.
We made it back to our campsite close to 9pm, after a very careful drive from Rocky Harbour. We saw four more moose hanging out near the side of the road, and even managed to snap a couple photos of them. This one was my favourite.
The sunset was too beautiful to drive away from so we stopped so I could enjoy this stunning view for a little while.
The campsite had filled up – mostly with tenters and mostly spread out among the 27 sites. It’s such a beautiful campground that I’m not surprised it had filled up. The spot we had left between us and the first arrivals was now filled with an RV. He ran a generator all weekend to power his RV and his generator backed onto our tent site; our previously peaceful, perfect, serene campsite. And it ran while we brushed our teeth, got ready for bed, and while we watched the sun finally go down. It ran and ran and ran. We were finally headed over to ask him to turn it off so we could go to sleep, when he miraculously turned it off. It was annoying to be sure, but somehow, it didn’t impact the enjoyment of our weekend at all. I mean it did, because every time it ran we frowned and wondered what he could be thinking running a generator into our quiet campsite. But we were busy in the daytime running around and hiking and keeping busy so it only inconvenienced us at night, when we returned to watch the sunsets, and listen to his generator.
The next morning we woke up, made coffee on the camp-stove, and headed out for Gros Morne Mountain. The plan was to hike up the mountain and enjoy the clear day from the top. We sun-screened up and set out for the mountain – as it’s an eight-hour hike. It’s a beautiful hike and this unanticipated great weather was making hiking 10 per cent easier. We arrived at the base of the mountain where a ranger was stationed sending people away. Apparently between May 1st and June 24th, you can’t hike up the mountain. This is an effort to protect the wildlife (specifically the Ptarmigan) during mating season. Who knew? Who thought to check? Not us. We didn’t even consider looking anything up in advance. Our only concern had been weather. We also failed to notice the 8.5 x 11 notice on the trailhead sign warning that you can’t climb the mountain during mating season. Oops. Still, we hiked 4km to the base of the mountain to this view:
And back out again through forest beauty like this:
Our eight hour day plan was no longer, so we went into Rocky Harbour for lunch at Jackie’s. We grabbed a table, ordered a couple of sandwiches and fries, 2 cups o’ joe, and feasted. Our day was our own again, and since it was too late to embark on a different long hike, so we decided to explore Norris Point. There was a music festival happning that weekend – Trails Tales and Tunes. Of course, we hadn’t done any prep going into this trip so we didn’t know this until I got a text from my friend Erin, who asked me if I was planning to attend the festival while I was there. (Slaps head.) Norris Point is cute – and there were about 1500 people down at the harbour enjoying the music festival on a perfect spring/summer day. We stopped for gas, and wandered down the short trail from the Jenniex Heritage House. Our day ended with a drive down to Trout River for dinner at the Seaside Restaurant. I loved Trout River – a small oceanside town in the middle of nowhere. With a clear and beautiful May 24th weekend it felt like the whole town was hanging around at the water, with a beer in hand watching a spectacular sunset on the water. The owner of the restaurant moved us halfway through our meal so we could enjoy the sunset from the big picture window. It was so beautiful. I wish, again, that my photos could do it justice.
When we headed back to our campsite, again at sunset, I couldn’t help but stop the car every few minutes to look at the sunset. I love this photo below. I love that the sky was pink and red and purple. The way it hit the mountains on the other side of the road turned them blood red. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen in Canada. I tried, but I couldn’t capture it the way I would have liked to share with you. This is the best one I have from that drive back to camp.
We settled at our campsite next to Mr. Generator man and cuddled up inside our sleeping bags and read to each other from my Anne Lamott book Bird by Bird. I’m always awake later into the night than Brian is. He’s so good at falling asleep, it’s almost annoying. I use earplugs on planes to fall asleep and dull the outside world, and I carry them with me everywhere I go – even while camping. I finally fell asleep 30 minutes later listening to the wind blow the tent around.
We woke up even earlier on Sunday morning. We made coffee and enjoyed the silence of the campsite before Mr. Generator woke up and revved his engine. Brian and I are big into breakfast, I think it’s my favourite meal of the day and eating an apple and almonds is just not enough for me. The plan was a big Tablelands hike that day, and I wanted eggs to help fuel that adventure. Woody Point is a lovely town, and has a great coffee shop that serves breakfast. We had a great, straight-up egg, bacon and hash brown breakfast and enjoyed this view from the coffee shop.
Now fuelled for the day, we set out on a Tablelands hike after a quick stop at the Visitor’s Centre. We hobbled over boulders and for a few hours, until we turned back because it looked like rain. The idea of another couple of hours on boulders in the rain didn’t appeal to us or our ankles. The views were beautiful, the wind was thick. It was my favourite morning spent hiking under overcast skies. Below is a photo of me at the Tablelands that Sunday.
The rest of the day we spent eating and photographing the park and we decided to watch the sunset from Lobster Cove Head lighthouse. We brought snacks and drinks, and while Brian chucked rocks in the ocean, I watched a few dozen birds circle around two Minke whales about 100 yards away. This was our view from Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse.
The sun came out hot and early that morning. We didn’t want to leave. We let the morning drag out a bit at camp; procrastinating tearing down camp, enjoying the quiet morning of coffee and the view. Three hares danced around our tent site, chasing each other in some sort of weird mating ritual. We had an eight hour drive ahead of us, on a sunny day that made me want to cancel our return plans for St. John’s. I know our perfect, sunny weekend in May was a rare one. I know my first experience of Gros Morne was beyond beautiful and will be hard to beat when I return. I know I’ll try to make an annual pilgrimage to our campsite at Lomond to remember this perfect first visit. I’m in love with Newfoundland, and when the sun is shining there is nowhere else I’d rather be. Here’s Brian, enjoying a final cup of coffee at camp Monday morning before we packed the car and headed east on the TCH.
We saw a caribou on our way out of town, putting our animal count to:
2 mating toads
2 Minke whales
3 mating hares
Not too shabby Gros Morne. Not too shabby at all.
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