Puff “N” Blow Mentoring

Puff “N” Blow Mentoring: Clarice Goodyear

I have been surprised at the number of young women who revealed to me that I had been a mentor in their lives. Having been a recipient of really powerful mentoring in my own life from a number of women, I was delighted, somewhat humbled and more than a little confused. I often had no idea I was mentoring when, apparently, I was doing my best mentoring. I like things to be straight-forward and accountable in clear lines. The idea that the most teachable moments have taken place in almost complete unawareness on my part  is as disconcerting as it is inspiring.

A young professional, remarkably gifted woman tearfully tried to explain at my retirement party how much observing my life had meant to her and her wife. I couldn’t quite understand what she was saying because of the whole tear thing, which was surprising in of itself because she is as tough as old boots.  I knew she would likely get back to me, because she is conscientious. She sent me an email. What she was trying to tell me, she wrote, was that observing the way that Carl and I had to pivot over the last year in terms of our life-plans enabled she and her wife to pivot in a dramatic way too. It was true. Carl and I did have to pivot, sharply. We had planned to take 4 months to explore Canada’s National parks after we retired. However, my father died  this spring which meant that we had some ground-shaking decisions to make as a couple. We had planned to move to Newfoundland and build a house. We had planned to travel extensively in our tiny camper, answering to no one and no thing. Then the pull of needing to be close to my grieving mother as well as close-ish to our grandchildren.  One of them has juvenile diabetes (infant onset) which has meant we want to offer an extra layer of support. Carl and I had many, many difficult conversations amongst the funeral arrangements, retirement plans and the chaos of wrapping up major life-long careers. How could we make these decisions in a way that honoured our needs, obligations, dreams and wants? We decided that whenever we have been presented with major challenges that opened up a variety of pathways in front of us, anytime we chose a path with love as the ethical driver, we have flourished. We didn’t necessarily get what we planned for, or sometimes even wanted. However, love has always had its own way of opening up positive currents in the river of time. We usually end up where we need to be. So, we bought a house in Nova Scotia and cut our trip by half, trusting we will get to the places we need to be, when we need to be there. Watching us make those decisions somehow inspired my younger friend and her wife. Mentoring is weird that way.

I have thought a great deal lately about how I have been mentored. Some mentors, like the Dr. Shelley Finson, feminist scholar and social justice warrior, have consciously mentored me and many other student theologians. Other, earlier mentors probably had no idea how they were influencing me and how critical their modelling was.

I have been blessed to have an unconditionally loving mother who taught me how to love and believe in the inherent power of good in the world. She was and is my original, best mentor. She made my sister, brother and I strong, creative and caring. She had a grade nine education but read almost a book every day. I thought everyone’s mother did this until, as a teenager I was interrupted browsing in the Gander library. The librarian wondered aloud whether my mother would eventually check out every book. It seemed there was nothing she was not interested in. Would my mother be interested in serving on the Board some day since she knew so much about their collection? Gaping, mouth opening and closing, I said she would have to ask my mother herself. I looked at my mother with new eyes after that day. She was so smart, in an unassuming, humble kind of way. Mom was taught there were three options for a woman’s career: secretary, teacher or nurse. Then, after you married and became pregnant, you stayed home to become a homemaker. She had no opportunity to claim one of the three careers herself, but she fervently hoped my sister and I would choose one in case our future husbands abandoned us, a fate our father assured would befall us if we persisted in being as saucy to our husbands as we were to him. Her own father had abandoned her mother, seven children still at home, leaving the family stuck fast in terrible poverty for a long time. In her mind, this possibility floated, specter-like in the future of any young woman. She encouraged us to choose one of the three possible careers.

Clarice Goodyear taught me that women could be kickass leaders and entrepreneurs and there were more than three options. Her daughter, Elizabeth, (Betsy to me), was my closest friend and she went to bat for me, convincing her mother, against her better judgment, to give me a chance as a part-time worker. I worked at Goodyear Humber stores in Gander for two years. It was a terrifying, life-altering, soul-strengthening experience.   I continued to be welcomed with open arms in her house and a place was always prepared for me at the frequent feasts over which Joe Goodyear Senior presided. In the store, however, I was simply an employee. She was determined to hold me to the same high standards she expected of every employee of the store, including herself. I was a teenager, very much interested in enjoying the things teens did in the late seventies, which meant I was often tired on Fridays and Saturdays. No matter, clothes were to be folded, customers attended to, phones answered and cash to be meticulously counted. Once, I heard her voice across the dry-goods floor early one morning. “Linda Butyn! I don’t know what the heck you are doing with that cash register. We have decided you are not stealing because you are over as much as you are under on any given day. Stay away from the cash register until I can give you another lesson!” I looked around. Older co-workers smiled and averted their eyes.  She did give me a lesson, the main crux of it being an assurance that she knew I was smart enough, I just needed to slow down and pay attention to my task. We practiced the cash register. In those days, the electric-but-manual registers required great finger strength, much multi-tasking and reverse change back-counting. We practiced and practiced. Slow down and take the time to do it right, she said. Speed is the enemy of accuracy. This was painfully demonstrated when I, in a hurry to leave with my friends, made a advertising sign that declared an electric blanket was on sale for $3.20 instead of $32.00. One quick-witted senior spotted this and immediately claimed her $3.20 blanket. I thought Clarice would fire me or, at least, take it out of my wages. The tragically bereft expression on my face must have persuaded her otherwise. She sighed and let the lady have her blanket.

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If I goofed off, laying my tired, sometimes hung-over head on piles of cool denim that needed folding, she would, through some magic of telepathy, know. “Linda Butyn! Get your head up! Fold those jeans!” It was easier in the winter-time because she wore hard-heeled shoes and I could hear her striding across vast space of the dry-goods floor. In the summer-time she wore soft, crepe-soled shoes and I was constantly surprised by her popping up somewhere behind or in front of me. I worked harder in the summer-time. In the middle of that last summer I was employed by her, I asked if I could arrange and decorate the store windows. This had been the coveted purview of more seasoned, permanent workers. I could see her considering it carefully. Yes, she said, give it a try, I think you may have a good eye. I was shocked. Then excited. That summer I discovered a talent for creative display and public relations. It taught me how to imagine a consuming public might regard something they didn’t know they needed or wanted until an eye-catching window tableau paused them to consider. This has been a helpful skill in both ministry and blogging. Clarice told me about the positive feedback she had received about the windows. She was a woman of rare but honest praise, so when you received it, you were changed.

More than anything, Clarice taught me that a woman could be a leader and stand toe-to-toe with any man. She could be flinty. Occasionally, on my way to the employee bathroom, I would observe a shoplifter sitting uncomfortably on a chair in her office. Sometimes I would catch their eye and we both knew they were doomed. Clarice would carefully and, often compassionately,  interrogate them. They usually confessed. Their fate was not universal, though. Some of the young ones were made to call their parents. Some, whose parents were absent or awful, experienced other forms of help and referrals. Some, the hardened, unrepentant criminal-type, warranted a visit by the police. There were odd shoplifters, like the Soviets who came off the Aeroflot flights. They were famous for habitually stealing jeans. These small groups of carbolic-soap- scented, pale people would descend on the store. One of them would clearly be watching the rest very carefully – their “minder,” lest they defect. These poor souls simply warranted some observation we were told.  Before they left the store, they were simply asked for the return of the jeans. Clarice reasoned it was difficult enough suffering for Soviet citizens to be saddled with party-minders outside the iron curtain and then burdened with unspeakable treatment behind it. She taught me that justice is not simple and is sometimes flexible in application, but it is always important to apply it.

Of the many dubious things that Betsy talked me into, the most unexpectedly interesting was attending the Girls Self-Esteem course that Clarice and some of the leading citizens of Gander cooked up. I think it was born out of a concern for teen drinking and drug abuse, a chronic problem which was only then beginning to make itself known. A partner in this course was the RCMP. I think we were supposed to learn to be lady-like. There were lessons on health, drugs, fashion and manners. I don’t know if I learned much of that. The unintentional lessons I absorbed were in watching Clarice Goodyear stridently tell, often right in front of us, the somewhat disconcerted male RCMP officers what was acceptable and unacceptable in terms of course content, student behavior, police conduct and so on. THAT meant a lot to me. She was totally unafraid. She was not puffed up. She assumed she had a right to be there, be heard and her role as a community leader involved the fiduciary trust of young teenaged impressionable girls. We watched her eye-to-eye gaze, strong voice and confident body language used with every male leader that entered that room. Holy crap. If she only knew about  the small explosions ripping apart up some of our internalized chains of patriarchy. I love, therefore, that a trail in Glovertown, Newfoundland, named in her honour, is called the “Puff ‘N’ Blow.” No one could blow down Clarice Goodyear and, if she could help it, young girls would be strengthened enough to withstand and breathe through the sometimes shrieking winds of outrageous fortune in their lives.

It would likely be surprising to Clarice that her life was such a living act of mentoring for me, as it was surprising that my own has been for other young women. I guess, it is another characteristic of excellent mentoring. It pays itself forward in replication, generation upon generation.

 

 

 

 

Terra Nova National Park: hikes and yikes

 

I was a little worried about Terra Nova Park Trails when I saw the dark-circled, bleary-eyed folk who staggered back into the Newman Sound Campground. Where on earth did they come from, I wondered? Consulting the map, we realized that they had probably taken the 35k Outport Trail. It is multi-day and has a rating of “difficult.” Replete with reputed panoramic views and more than one ghost settlement, it is a favourite of the young, hardy and brave. I say  brave because there were  so many posted, explicit warnings about equally young and adventurous bears.  Fortunately, there are also many other fine, more moderate trails to enjoy.

 

Carl and I did get in some excellent hikes. One of the great features of camping at the Newman Sound Campground is the interesting trail that somewhat surrounds the campground called Campground Trail. If you walk the entire trail, it is an easy one hour, 3k hike.  There are some spectacular views of salt-water beaches and moose-friendly bogs accessed through cool, damp forests.  The beauty of the trail design is that there are several access points to the campground itself. This means you can take the dogs for a quick jaunt and never really leave the vicinity of the campground. It seemed every time we took the dogs for a short walk, we discovered an interesting new feature of this trail. I noticed families would send their offspring to the trail for a little localized adventure while the parents got supper ready and downed a relaxing cool one.

 

We decided one fine morning to combine the Campground Trail with the 9.5 Coastal Trail. It was designated as easy to moderate. We felt it was mostly easy. There were lovely beaches that you could relax on and enjoy the famous “red chair” view. We discovered a quaint waterfall. There was also, occasionally, various and sundry behemoth cast-iron pieces of industrial boat-making equipment. These, we were told, are historical artifacts left to take their place amongst the fauna as a kind of testimony to the human impact on the history of the land. My engineer husband found these really interesting. This trail ends at the Visitor Centre.

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A stream, hiding behind a birch.

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All things die.

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The author, red-chairing it.

 

The Visitor Centre is one of the best interpretive places we have seen in a National Park. There are various rooms to explore inside which help the visitor to understand the natural history, Indigenous history and European settlement. My personal favourite was the demonstration of how much “browse” a moose eats on a daily basis. Yikes! I began to understand why moose grazing has a devastating impact on Newfoundland forests.  They are magnificent beasts but they do pose problems. Moose are not native to Newfoundland, having been introduced in the last century. Four moose were brought to Howley Newfoundland in 1904 and quickly adapted. There are now over 150,000 of their descendants relentlessly munching away and inconveniently placing themselves in front of the speeding cars of unsuspecting tourists. Moose are also, I might add, delicious. I resolved to feel less guilty about eating them.

 

At the Visitor’s Centre you can ask for a set of audio phones to take on the Heritage Trail.  I don’t think people do it that often because when I asked for a set, the young woman had to a) find a set, then b) find a set that worked. This took some time. It is worth doing though. It is a path with several stops which explains how a few families built ships in the cover. More than that, the voice of a young woman with a very thick, lovely Newfoundland accent, takes the listener though the day-to-day life of out port families through more than a hundred years. This was a life not for the feeble of heart. It was harsh and yet filled with celebration and unreasonable hope.  Newfoundlanders are a people whose culture bears some of those marks still.

We also decided to walk the Ken Diamond Trail in Glovertown, but will describe that experience in a separate blog. On a final note, there were an impressive number of guided walks at Terra Nova. If we had more time, we would have taken part in these. Guided walks in National Parks are not only informative and interesting, they put you into relational contact with other campers. One of the purposes of the National Park system is to make connection between peoples who have a love of nature, an appreciation of Canada and an affinity for camping, in all its varied forms.

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Trails

 

Malady Head Trail: 3.4 k/1.5 hours, moderate-difficult

Mill Cove Lookout Trail: 1.5k/30 minutes, moderate

Louil Hill Trail loop: 3.7k/1-1.5 hours, moderate

Southwest Brook: 4k/1-1.5, easy

Goowiddy Path loop: 8k/3-4 hours, moderate to difficult

Heritage Trail: .5/15 minutes, easy

Coastal Trail: 9.5k/3-4 hours, easy-moderate

Campground Trail loop: 3k/1 hour, easy

Outport Trail, backcountry: 35k/multi-day, difficult

Ochre Hill Trail: 5k/1.5k/2 hours, moderate

Sandy Pond Trail loop: 3k/1hour, easy

Dunphys Pond Trail: 10k/2.5-3 hours, moderate

Fundy National Park Trails: great proximity, incredible variety

 

The great gift of Fundy National Park is the sheer variety of ecosystems contained in one National Park package. The variety of hiking trails reflects this diversity. There are over 100 kilometers of them to explore. What makes Fundy special, compared to other parks, is the proximity of the trails to the campsites. You do not have to travel very far to reach any of the trails. Over the years, the trails we chose reflected the abilities of family members. When little legs had to trot along, we chose shorter trails with an interesting payoff, like a small waterfall or a beaver dam. Dickson Falls and MacLaren Pond would be examples. As those legs grew longer, but attention spans seemed a little short, we would negotiate. During the mornings, we would hike for an hour or two and in the afternoon, we would go to the playground, swim in the pool, play games, go to Alma for a sticky bun. In later years an hour or allow two on their handheld video games might be the post-hike pleasure.

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The fourth generation is introduced to the saltwater pool by her grandmother (me) after some hiking in her baby trail-carrier. Loved the pool toys. Hated the cold water.

Many trails are between one or two hours. You can cover a lot of ground in two hours of hiking. In Fundy that may mean starting at a tidal pool and ending up on a mountain. We have hiked most of the trails and all are worth a trek. There are a few that are special to us because they combine beauty, intersecting ecosystems and local stories of bygone eras.

 

 

 

 

 

Coppermine

This trail is a 4.4 km loop that will take about 1.5 hours. It will take you through deep, green forest. Much of the trail is coastal so you get breathtaking views. Benches are periodically perched along the edge. Take the time to sit and periodically ponder. Some of the trail is old road that led to the copper mine. Eventually, the trail will take you to the old, caved-in entrance to a played-out copper mine. Years ago, there was old mining equipment scattered about which our sons loved to investigate. In these latter years of anxious lawyering, these have been removed, although some interpretive panels explain the significance of the mine.

Matthew’s Head

One of our camping rituals was to find the sign that said “Matthew’s head” and take a picture of our son Matthew underneath, pointing to his head. Besides this happy naming coincidence, the Matthew’s head trail is a wonderful trip that begins with a path through old homesteads and farmland. It is a 4.5 km trail that will take most hikers about 1.5 hours. There is an old foundation that has a riot of rhubarb growing around it, interspersed with once-domestic flowers that someone planted a hundred years ago to cheer their days. Once you make your way through the fields, the trail moves into wooded areas and coastal paths. A fantastic fern forest greets you at one point.  If you want a beach experience, you can go from Matthew’s Head to Herring Cove beach. Fun fact: when I was a girl, there were government run stables at Matthew’s Head where you could get trail rides on horses. We did this a number of times as children. I suspect our parents were grateful to get some “adult” time for those two hours. There was something quite magical about travelling those old settler trails on the back of a horse. I had one that almost bucked me off when it saw a porcupine mid-way up an adjacent tree.

Laverty Falls

This hike tends to be popular. It is 5km and will take about 2.5 hours. The Park rates it as moderate. It can be a little rugged in spots and there is a fair amount of ascending and descending which can be problematic for folks with knee problems. However, your reward is the lovely falls at the end of the trail. On a hot summer day, you can jump in its very cool, refreshing water, so bring a swimsuit or amphibious hiking apparel. There are two levels to the falls, so don’t get there and think you are done. If you go a little higher, you not only see some lovely white water, you also get a great view of the river.  I think every time we hike this one, we are surprised at the number of unhappy young women limping along in flip flops despite signs warning of the rigors of some parts of the trail.

Third Vault Falls

This hike at 7.4 km return trip at about 3.5 hours is rated as “difficult” and it is, in spots. At one point we were climbing flat rock face, which, with small Jack Russells in tow, is no mean feat. We attempted this one for the first time in 2016 with our son and his husband. We loved it. Lots of riverside trekking, rugged forest floors, great diversity of tree species and much bedrock. Carl, the geotechnical engineer found the riverbed and bedrock fascinating. Of course, at the end of the trail, the spectacular Third Vault Falls is the great gift. Again, take the time to climb a little higher and you will be rewarded with a wonderful view of the river

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Taking a break at the top of Third Vault falls

Unscripted Trails

Fundy has a lot of lovely abandoned roads and ghost villages of ancient hostels and tiny tourist cottages. In the sixties when the nation’s youth were wandering about finding themselves, a youth hostel came in handy. Only the rubble of the foundations of the youth hostels exist now. The road to the hostel begins opposite the golf course. We call this the “Emerald Road” because the asphalt has been colonized by moss, so you find yourself climbing through a tunnel of green, with a canopy of overgrown tree branches above and soft moss below. It is breath-taking. Carl says it is lovey to jog on early in the morning. The air, he says, is absolutely saturated with oxygen. The preponderance of bear scat can be a little unnerving. I tell myself that Atlantic Canadian bears are small and shy. When you take these little unscripted hikes, you can meet some interesting people. We came upon university students counting fish from the river that meanders alongside the golf course in parts and were able to ask them a few questions about their research. We often forget that National Parks are places where ground-breaking research of our natural world takes place.

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Scientific researchers taking a break from fish counting

Note: another post about fascinating tide walks will be forthcoming.

 

Easy Trails

Caribou Plain: 2.1 km loop,  60 – 90 minutes (forest, wetland)

MacLaren Pond: .5 km loop, 15 minutes, (forest, pond)

Shiphaven: 1.0 return trip, 30 minutes, (forest, coast)

 

Moderate Trails

Black Horse: 4.4 loop 1.5-2 hours (forest)

Coppermine: 4.4 km loop, 1.5 – 2 hours (forest, coast)

Dickson Falls: 1.5 km loop, 30 minutes (forest, brook)

Dobson Link: 2.6 km one way, 60 – 90 minutes (forest)

East Branch: 5.6 km loop, 2-2.5 hours (forest)

Herring Cove Beach: 1.0 km return trip, 1.5 hours (coast)

Kinnie Brook: 2.8 km return trip, 1.5 hour (forest)

Laverty Falls: 5 km return trip, 1.5 hours (forest)

Maple Grove: 8.0 km return trip, 1.5 – 2 hours (forest)

Matthews Head: 4.5 km return trip, 1.5 – 2 hours (forest, coast)

Point Wolfe Beach: 1.2 km return trip, 40 minutes (forest, coast)

Tracey Lake: 14km return trip, 5 hours (forest, wetland)

 

Difficult trails

Bennet Brook: 15.4 km return, 5-6 hours (forest, river)

Black Hole: 11 km return trip, 4 hours (forest, river)

Coastal (East): 6.4 km return trip, 3-4 hours (forest, coast)

Coastal (West): 13.8 km return, 5-6 hours (forest, coast)

Foster Brook: 8.8 return trip, 3-4 hours (forest, river)

Goose River: 15.8 return trip, 5-6 hours (forest, coast0

Marven Lake: 16 km return trip, 5-6 hours (forest, wetland)

Moosehorn: 4.8 km one way, 2 hours (forest, river)

The Forks: 6.8 km return trip, 3-4 hours (forest, river)

Third Vault Falls: 7.4 km trip, 3-4 hours (forest, brook)

Tippen Lot (North): 4.6 km return trip, 3 hours (forest, wetland)

Tippen Lot (South): 3.8 km return trip, 5-6 hours (forest, wetland)

Upper Salmon River: 17.6 km return, 7-8 hours (forest, river)

Whitetail: 11.4 km return trip, 4-5 hours (forest)

Fundy National Park Trails

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gros Morne: Trails? Finest kind.

Gros Morne National Park: Trails? Finest kind.

Are there trails in Gros Morne? Finest kind, to use a Newfoundland colloquialism.

There are four sections of the Park: Gros Morne North, Gros Morne Central, Gros Morne Southeast and Gros Morne South. Discover interesting, beautiful trails in all four.

A previous posting told the evolving story of our relationship with the Green Gardens Trail. This post will describe two more favourites.

Coastal Trail

This trail is do-able for a group of hikers of diverse abilities, including the occasional elderly or small child hikers. We have often found trails rated “easy” to be, well, boring. However, this trail takes you along cobbled ocean beaches, alongside a fishing river, past dense tuckamore trees, into forests for a bit, then ends at Green Point where there is an excellent interpretive display about the importance of those astonishing cliffs. To add interest, there is an intriguing little collection of homes on the beach at Green Point with a wharf and a couple of boats. Much of the trail exists because it was previously used as a mail trail to this little collection of fisher homes.

The first time I hiked the trail (many years ago) Carl told me about these trees that were several hundred years old. They rivaled the redwoods, he said. For the life of me I could not see them. About halfway through the hike I demanded, “Where are these old trees you promised?” “You are standing on one,” he said, “they are called ‘tuckamores.’” I looked down to see my feet encroached on the lower branch of a hobbit tree. I had expected to see giant pines of some kind. Living next to the ocean, punched and ripped by the winter winds, these little gnarly pines grow slowly. To our delight, a little further along the cobbled path there were tuckamore trees that had grown together to create a series of caves. Our boys loved to go in under them when they were young. They didn’t go too far because it gets pretty dark in there.

Another bonus of this particular hike is that, although it can get windy, on a really hot day there is no more refreshing place to be.

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Coastal trail

Gros Morne Mountain

As you might expect, the 16 kilometres hike up and down Gros Morne mountain is one of the signature hikes of the Park. It takes 6 to 8 hours and so some basic planning needs to be done. You will need lots of water, some food and really good shoes. You will need to wild-pee, so bring biodegradable tissues, if you need them. The cobbles were the most difficult part of the hike going up. The cobbles are about 3 to 5 inches in diameter and scatter and shift as you walk on them. If you have flimsy shoes, you are doomed to wreck them and possibly your ankles. Once you get past the cobbles, the hike is steady and steep but is strangely rewarding if you keep looking back to see how far you have come. When you reach the peak, the panoramic view is predictably stunning. What is not predictable is the cloud cover. Make sure you go on a clear day or you are just as likely to get up there and see nothing but fog. It is a great thing for the Park that this hike is so popular. The bad thing about this trail is the pressure that this number of hikers places on the ecosystem.  It is the only hike in any Park that we have been on where you have to be very clear and careful about hiking etiquette. Slow? Get out of the way of the ones behind you. Fast? Let people know you are coming behind them and say “thank you” when they move aside. Passing is no easy feat on some points of the trail. Gros Morne mountain participates in geocaching, which also requires some etiquette. Going down the mountain is more difficult that going up. The constant descent takes a toll on knees and ankles, but it does go quickly. Finally, it is weird to have to say this, but, people, if you have to do number 2 on the trail, bury it – all of it. Since no dogs are allowed on the trail, it is the humans creating this problem of human waste and associated tissue.

There are three favourite points on this trail: the beginning, the peak and the end.  The beginning is a point of optimism, excitement, hope and some trepidation. The peak is place of beauty, rest and appreciation of the ancient wildness of Newfoundland. The end of the trail is a place of tired gratitude and a sense of accomplishment.

 

List of Gros Morne Trails

 

Old Mail Road – 2 km return, forest sand dunes and a tiny fishing community

Steve’s trail – 1 km return, seaside meadow, view of Long Range mountains

Western Brook Pond – 6 km return, view of Western Brook gorge, coastal bogs, forests

Snug Harbour – 8 km return, harbour at mouth of gorge, rated black diamond difficult

Coastal Trail – 6 km return, beaches, tuckamore forests, ocean, birds

Berry Head Pond – 2 km loop, forest, pond

Bakers Brook Falls – 10km return, waterfalls, forests, bog

Berry Hill – 1.5 km return, views of coastal lowlands

Berry Hill Pond – 2km loop, wetlands, ponds, forest

Gros Morne Mountain – 16 km loop, highest point of the Park

Mattie Mitchell – 250 m loop, forest, stream

Southeast Brook Falls – 700 m return, waterfall, forests

Stuckless Pond – 9.5 km loop, forests, pond

Lomond River – 6 km return, river valley

Stanleyville – 4km return, old logging community, forests

Lookout – 5 km loop, 300 m climb, panoramic vistas of Bonne Bay, Gros Morne Mountain, Tablelands

Tablelands – 4 km return, serpentine barrens, walk on earth’s crust

Green Gardens – 9 km return, valleys, hills, coastline, cliffs, wetlands, meadows

Trout River Pond – 14 km return, deep valley which continues into Tablelands

 

 

Gros Morne National Park trails: Green Gardens. Learning to hike the hard way.

Gros Morne National Park: The Green Gardens trail – sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don’t…

When Carl and I were honeymooning, young and stupid, we decided to hike the Green Gardens trail. In those days it was a 20-kilometre loop. It is no longer a twenty kilometre trail, in part because dumb people go unprepared, get lost, suffer from exposure or have to be rescued. We didn’t get lost, exactly, but it was a miracle we did not suffer from exposure. We thought it sounded like a nice thing to do for an afternoon. It was heart-attack rugged.  We traipsed up and down mountains, valleys, rock falls, shorelines and so on. I think we brought a bottle of water and nothing else. We were young and stubborn. Even when we knew we were in trouble, we just kept going. It was cold, drizzly and we were not wearing raingear, although our windbreaker jackets were euphemistically called “water-resistant.”

At the beginning of the trail, about two kilometres in, we encountered a young British doctor who was doing a locum in Corner Brook. A young woman accompanied him. She wore shorts, pretty sandals and appeared soaked, sad and cold. As Carl and he talked, she conversed a little, shivering in her thin clothes. She was from Corner Brook and was flattered to be asked to hike with the handsome young physician. I could tell by the looks of resentment she flashed at him, the glamour was quickly fading. We said our good-byes. The Doctor appeared a little crestfallen. As we left we could hear them arguing. We encountered them on the next couple of kilometres as you do when you are on a trail. Sometimes we would stop to rest or wild-pee and they would catch up. Then, they just stopped catching up. I suspect the good, young Doctor’s hope for a bit of sexual recreation that evening may have been in jeopardy.

We persevered. I became cranky as my out-of-shape legs and lungs struggled with the jagged terrain. I startled when we encountered lots of poop on the trail, which turned out to be sheep, not the herd of bears I feared. They look nothing alike (the poop or the animals) although I did not know that then, newbie as I was to hiking in deep Newfoundland woods. Carl knew the difference but I didn’t believe him, because, well, the Green Gardens hike was endless and we had no more water and I wasn’t in a mood to trust very deeply. Finally, we came to an interpretive panel which said, “You have hiked ten kilometres.” We patted each other on the back and generally felt elated, then screamed “Nooooo! That means it’s ten kilometres to go back!” Soon it would be dark. It began to rain. Parched, I opened my mouth to catch drops. I remembered my Canadian Armed Forces Reserve training from two summers before which taught us that fast moving water was safer.  We decided to drink from the first fast-moving stream we could find. As we filled our lone bottle from it, a moose regarded us calmly a hundred feet away or so. Thirst slaked and bottle filled, we moved as fast as we could. Kilometre nineteen brought on semi-delirium with visions of sheep-bears sneaking up behind me. We staggered out, gingerly packed our aching limbs into our tiny Datsun and took the Woody Point Ferry (which no longer runs). We collapsed in our tent. After we had a bite to eat, we marshalled up the energy to have showers because we were filthy and cold. Carl had a lovely long, hot shower. The women’s shower ran only cold that evening. He emerged looking like he stepped from the Sears catalogue. I simply emerged, growly. Suffice to say, the English Doctor wasn’t the only one who missed out on recreation that night.

Like most stories of foolishness and/or hardship, this one became a favourite of ours, a kind of marital talisman tale. About every five years Carl and I would challenge ourselves to do the twenty-kilometre loop again. I am proud to say that we have always managed to finish it. We enjoyed, even relished, the newer experiences because we brought food, water, dogs and good gear. I will not lie, there have been times, particularly when I was recovering from cancer, when I thought the helicopters may have to come and pick us up. However, I still managed to stagger out. It has been a kind of “touchstone” hike for us. To finish it means all is well with us, with each other and with Newfoundland.

 

The rigour of the trail continued to confound other travellers as you can read in this CBC article, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/ontario-family-hikes-gros-morne-in-the-dark-1.3696696. Possibly for this reason, as well as some upcoming needed pricey trail maintenance, Green Gardens has been modified to a nine-kilometre trail and is still rated as one of the top five wild flower trail hikes in the world. You can see forest, shoreline, volcanic stacks, valleys, streams, steep cliffs, grassy fields, marshes, wetlands, mountain tops and more. The sheep seem scarce these days, but there are plenty of moose, and probably bear, to keep you company.

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“Sheep on Green Garden’s Trail” by Natalie Lucier, (Creative Commons)

Forillon National Park Hiking: We encounter a Canadian lynx who may have thought Pax was a potential snack

One of our favourite things to do, whether we are camping or not, is to hike. We discovered this on our honeymoon in Gros Morse National Park 34 years ago. We were 22, grossly out of shape, unprepared and kind of stupid. We decided to hike the 20 kilometer Green Gardens trail. It was astonishing we emerged from that particular hike at all. When we recovered three days later, we had to admit we liked the experience of walking through vast expanses of nature, observing and/or dodging wildlife and challenging ourselves to push a little farther than we thought we go. We were hooked. We have been hiking pretty much weekly ever since.

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Petit-Gaspé trail

Every journey to a camping site is a commitment on our part to hike as many trails as we can. We prefer hikes that are a minimum of 6 kilometers to a maximum of 15. We have done longer ones but it is difficult to take the dogs as Pax has a bum leg. Given those parameters, Forillon was somewhat of a disappointment to us. Despite being called a “hiker’s paradise” it did not have many trails that fit within this range. You mostly needed to be a super-ninja hiker, that is 20-35 km hiking) or a slow leisurely walker kind of hiker (.6 to 3 km). Nonetheless, we did the few that fit us best and they did not disappoint.

First, it should be noted that Forillon is famous for being the mainland tail-end, or the beginning depending on your perspective, of the International Appalachian Trail (IAT). As you travel through Forillon Park various trails and roads are marked with the IAT symbol accompanied by some information about trail section length and difficulty rating. John Brinda from Washington State hiked the entire trail from Key West in Florida to Forillon in 1997. There is a nice plaque and information kiosk about this at near the lighthouse on the L’Anse-Aux-Amérindiens trail. As you travel throughout the Appalachians in the Gaspé you can often see these IAT signs.

The Petit-Gaspé Beach trail, a 7.2 km loop, was busy with friendly, hiking campers. Many groups included children and dogs. All were affable and seemed to be enjoying themselves. It was a well-groomed trail which culminates in an impressive observation tower at an elevation of 283 metres. The view is gorgeous as can be seen in the image below. There were several interpretive panels which were helpful as were the sporadically placed benches and the famous “red chairs.” These scarlet adirondack chairs are placed by Canada’s National Parks in the locations with the best views. They are ideal places to take a breath and let the beauty flow into you.IMG_0062

The most memorable event occurred on the L’Anse-aux-Amerindiens trail which we took from L’Anse-aux-Améridiens to Cap Gaspé. That hike gives you the option of walking on a dirt road or the IAT trail that runs alongside. As it was towards the end of the day and I simply did not feel like mountain-goating up hillsides we took the nicely banked dirt road. At this point I should confess our failings as dog-owners. Despite attendance at many obedience classes, we cannot get Pax to heel when hiking. Or ever, actually. She is 11 pounds of muscular feistiness. She is less unruly when she is able to trot ahead of our other dog Russell. She was not lead dog a number of times on this hike. When she is behind him, she is heart-broken and irate which means she emits sounds akin to that of a dying animal.  When we arrived at the lighthouse, the apex of the hike, I was looking at the ocean, while Russel growled and barked next to Carl. This is unusual for Russell.  Carl said, very quietly, “Linda, turn around.” There was a HUGE cat that was intently observing us about 50 feet away. It had come out of some tall grass, then crossed the lawn as it coolly surveyed the dogs. It disappeared into more tall grass. We think it is possible that it was following us because of Pax’s incessant wounded-animal cry. We had a little family meeting. We decided that if we are attacked by a bear or a Canadian lynx, Pax may have to make an honorable sacrifice to the carnivore gods if we cannot scare or beat the bear/lynx away with our hiking poles. Russell could not speak, but we feel strongly that he would be on our side in this matter.

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Cap Gaspé, after the Canadian lynx

We also saw seals and many different kinds of seabirds. Whales come by there, but we did not observe any.

We did several iterations of the Les Graves beach walks. These were always lovely. It amazed me though how humans need to constantly re-arrange the environment. Rather than leave driftwood as is, there were constant piles and structures being made by visitors. One evening, however, I do think God looked back at me from one of these, as yet unorganized, pieces of driftwood.

 

 

 

Trails

Prélude-a-Forillon:  .6 km loop – easy – universal access trail (boardwalk)

La Taîga:  3 km return – easy – observation blind, view of marsh, boreal forest, fragile environment

Les Parages:  3km loop – easy – Grand-Grave heritage site

La Chute:  1km loop – moderate – 17 m. waterfall, boardwalk and stairs

La Graves:  various possibilities from 6.4 km to 15.2 km, all return – moderate – coves, pebble      beaches, Cap-Gaspé, marine mammals.

Mont-Saint-Alban:  two possible loops from Petit-Gaspé beach and Cap-Bon-Ami – moderate – sea and cliff scenery, observation tower at 283m, 360-degree panoramic view

La Vallée:  9.2 km return – moderate – L’Anse-au-Griffon river system

Le Portage:  20 km return – moderate – connects the north and south sides of the peninsula

Les Créte:  35.4km return – difficult – wooded, mountainous, backcountry campsites

Les Lacs:  36.6km return – difficult – park highlands and wilderness lakes, back country campsites