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

Terra Nova National Park: a reintroduction

We were in our twenties the last time we camped at Terra Nova National Park. Carl and I had just started dating and were with our university friends for the May 24thlong weekend. Newfoundlanders are determined to camp on this weekend. Wild fluctuations in day-time and night-time temperatures at that time of year mean it is a shock-and-awe tenting experience. We slept in a pup tent, drank copious amounts of adult beverages and, in general, just celebrated being alive and finished with another term of post-secondary education. We therefore honestly couldn’t remember much about the park. Our interests in those days did not extend to hiking, assessing facilities and wondering about interpretive programs. We have always camped in Gros Morne when we are in Newfoundland because of proximity to Carl’s Mom. How would Terra Nova measure up to Gros Morne we wondered?

The first thing we had to do is decide which campground to inhabit. There are two main ones. We needed electricity and wanted to be handy to some good hiking trails so we chose Newman Sound Campground. Carl and I had a little bit of an argument as to whether this was the campground we all took residence in during that wild weekend so long ago. Carl thought it was. I reminded him there was only one in our group who had a car. Our friend Obes owned an ancient, tank-like Volvo with no brakes. Every time we had to make a daily beer run, he took a couple of guys with him in case he went into the ditch. They had to make several passes at the Traytown turn-off from the highway before he could get the Volvo slowed enough to manage the turn. I recalled that we camped as close as we could to Traytown to minimize the danger. You can’t beat the safety logic of 19-year-olds. That meant we would have been in the Malady Head Campground. Yes, that is the name of a real place. One thing you get used to in Newfoundland is colourful and strangely appropriate place names. The Malady Head campground is close to Traytown and Glovertown while the Newman Sound Campground is more centred in the Park, sheltered in the Newman Sound Inlet.

The Newman Sound Campground was beautifully laid out with easy access to everything you might need. It is remarkable how they manage to fit so many campers into the Campground without it seeming crowded or intrusive. In our Newman Sound Campground, there were raised gardens, bird houses and evidence of the craft-fruit of other facilitated children’s programs around the campground. There are child activity centres in the campground areas in which many interesting programs take place during the day. Terra Nova is also trying to develop a dark sky sanctuary, which I did not know until I saw the bat exhibit at the children’s resource centre. The park is a great example of “if you build it they will come with kids.” It was lovely to see and hear so many children and families camping together. This has not always been our experience in National Parks. The Park seems to have purposely arranged playgrounds, activity centres and trails such that mixed aged groups can all find something to do together. The shower areas and comfort centres were clean and well kept. There are laundry facilities and even a general store. The campground dumping station was positively industrial in scale – 4 well-spaced receiving stations.  Our only disappointment was that fire pits are only found in communal areas. This is to mitigate risk of forest fire. Central Newfoundland can get quite dry in the summer time.

As with many National Parks, there are a number of different eco-systems to explore: boreal forest, seashore, ghost remnants of a ship building village, woodlands, ponds, bogs and more. Hiking, kayaking, boat tours, canoeing and swimming are all possible in this Park.

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Visitor Centre interactive interpretive display.

Terra Nova has some informative, well-staffed and interesting interpretive centres at Sandy Pond including a Marine Exhibit and a very interesting self-directed audio tour around a very old ship-building site.

My mother-in-law is a Newfoundland West-Coaster and is therefore very attached to Gros Morne National Park. When Carl and I returned from our Terra Nova excursion she asked me in a tone weighted with expectation of the correct answer, “So, did it measure up to Gros Morne?” I replied that Terra Nova exceeded our expectations and was astonishingly beautiful in its own way.

How to Get There:

Presuming you have found your way to Newfoundland either by air or by ferry, you will need to take the Trans Canada Highway. If you took the ferry which lands at Port Aux Basque your ferry ride will be about 6 hours. You will need to travel east for about 8 hours. Gas stations are not plentiful so fill up when you can. If you took the ferry to Argentia your ferry ride will be about 13 hours, but your land trip to Terra Nova will be between 2-3 hours. Both ferries will require reservations. Make them well ahead of time. It is a sad sight to see tourists languishing on the edges of the ferry terminal parking lots while they wait for space on the ferry.

Contact Information:

Visitor Centre (Salton’s Brook): 709-533-2942

https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/nl/terranova