Carnage on the highway: no zombies but lots of humanity

We camped outside of Thunderbay in your basic KOA campground after a harrowing, but craggily beautiful drive between Lake Superior Provincial Park and Thunder Bay. We saw the remains of three transport truck accidents. One was obviously a couple of weeks old, the dead remains of the transport left in a ravine. Another happened earlier in the day. The final one happened minutes before our arrival which necessitated a three-hour wait in a lineup that was several kilometers long. There is only one highway in those northern parts and when it is blocked everything stops. This accident broke our hearts and reminded us of both the precariousness of human judgement as well as the best of human striving toward mutual care.

 

We gassed up around 6pm near Pearl, stretched some dog legs and ate some victuals. We estimated we had another hour to reach Thunder Bay. Almost as soon as we left the gas station we had to stop behind a long line of stopped traffic. There was clearly an accident of some kind on the other side of the rocky hill rising in front of us. After twenty minutes, I got out of the truck to stretch my legs and breathe in some Lake Superior air. I heard someone calling me over. It was a thirtyish man in a red pickup truck leaning out of the driver side. He motioned me over. The pickup was loaded with various and sundry pieces of furniture and suitcases. There was a worried woman in the passenger side and two small children in car seats next to a strapped-in cooler in the back seat.  He had a police scanner, he said. There was a three-vehicle accident about a kilometer ahead with fatalities. Air transport was coming. Having been a Medical First Responder myself, I knew then we would be waiting on that highway stretch for several hours. I gave some quick prayers for the Fire Fighters, OPP, pilots who were offering a sacrifice of service to their communities. Most of all I was thinking heavy thoughts about the three families of the people in the vehicles involved. The red-pickup truck man asked me where I was from. I said Nova Scotia. The five-year old in the back yelled out “We’re from the Cap, but we’re moving!” I considered asking where the Cap was, but the child’s proud face stopped me. The man looked at me and cheerfully announced, “Yup. This is everything we own. We’re moving to Winnipeg to find work. I have a police scanner. I will let you know what’s happening. Okay?” I thanked him and moved back into the truck camper to get some water and snacks. I went to his window and knocked, offering some chocolate-chip granola bars for the kids. The Mom said no thanks and the man exclaimed, “See that cooler? It’s FILLED with food. We are travelling straight on through.”

 

Carl and I reflected on the hazards facing long-haul truckers. They bring us our food and well, just about everything. Their work is hazardous and disaster strikes in seconds. Yet, disaster is a slow-moving beast too. I have had several truckers in the congregations I served. Their work requires them to sit for long times, eat sporadically, sleep fitfully and live with constant stress. Their lives are shorter than most people’s. I have always enjoyed talking to truckers. They are often insightfully philosophical and sometimes theologically adept. You can’t travel to so many different parts of two giant countries, meet an endless number of different people, live constantly with knowledge of your own mortality and spend a lot of time alone without emerging either crazy or philosophically wise.  The work is eminently hazardous and, as a society, we rarely recognize this. This is why, when I am asked to do public graces at gatherings, I always pray for those who gather our food and who transport it, asking that working conditions be fair and honoured.

 

After an hour or so, people began to leave their vehicles and visit one another. Children wandered into the shorter brush with dogs. A couple of men in turbans walked alongside the cars stretching their legs. Several people stopped to exchange pleasantries and information with them. I did some stretching on the pavement in front of the truck but thought better of it after eating three mosquitos. After I got into our vehicle, a black sports car zoomed up the lane beside us and tucked in a space far ahead, disrespecting the car-queue that all the rest of us honoured, narrowly missing a couple of children milling about their parent’s cars. Carl and I looked at each other. We had been remarking earlier that the scene reminded us of a zombie movie. When the black car zoomed past, we looked at each other and I said, “That guy is the first to be sacrificed to the zombies because he is selfish, careless and is that guy in the horror movies that endangers everyone needlessly. Yet everyone tries to save him, even though he would not save any of them. Very un-Christian of me though because grace is the very opposite of choosing to sacrifice the selfish idiot.”  Carl said, “It kind of works out  though, because he would put himself first in line anyway, so the zombies have no choice.” I am sure Carl is onto some kind of fancy theological principle, but I cannot think of one on this drive-recovery morning.

 

After three-and-a-half hours, the OPP were able to open up the shoulder of the road to move the traffic. I went behind and wished the small family God-speed. He insisted they would be driving through. That would have been fourteen hours of driving. They did not want to stay in a hotel. I thought a lot about that small family and their courageous, hopeful spirit. We did not hear of any accidents on the way to Winnipeg, so they must have made it. Plucky people. Motioned onward into the night by police with flares, we filed past a white transport truck with the front caved in. A beat-up white pickup truck was in the ditch. Grim-faced firefighters surrounded it, while weary OPP officers motioned traffic through the strewn site. We, the still-living, encased in our steel, snaked our way through a setting of shocking destruction. We were only able to do so thanks to the service of all of those responders. I remembered the feeling of being at some of those sites. Your adrenalin gets you through your task, then you collapse at home. Sometimes tears come, more often they don’t. Mostly, you try to forget the images so that you can go to the next site.   I thought of those small children and hoped they were asleep as their parents maneuvered their way through the vehicular carnage.

 

We later heard in the news that a couple in an SUV stopped to make a left turn off of the highway and were slammed into by a transport truck from behind, moving them into the path of the white pickup truck with four people in it. The two in the SUV died. The trucker was charged with careless driving. The people in the white pickup truck were taken to hospital with non-life-threating injuries and released. There are scores of families whose collective and individual lives are permanently altered.

 

What do I take away from this? Life can change in a second. Some humans choose to be selfish, speeding ahead in the lineup, narrowly missing creating more tragedy. Most humans choose to reach out, connecting in whatever way they can in a crisis. The basic seeds of hope for our collective human future were evident in that three-hour scene. Young families, packing their belongings and migrating to somewhere where their future might be brighter. People of differing  cultures connecting and sharing information and food. Multiple generations, deprived of cell and internet service rediscovering conversation with one another. Men and women offering their volunteer and professional lives to rescue strangers, thereby putting themselves physically and mentally in harm’s way. And surrounding it all, this vast, living land unforgiving in its topography but filled with life from the tiniest microbe to the bears that no doubt silently observed this strange lineup of wheeled monsters, then much later in the resumed silence, ambled down to see what edibles they left behind in the ditches.

Manitoba sign 2019

On our way to Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fundy National Park: Getting There

Fundy National Park: Getting There

As you might expect, Fundy National Park is on the Bay of Fundy, the southern coast of New Brunswick. The Bay of Fundy separates the province of Nova Scotia from the province of New Brunswick. The Bay is the site of the largest tides in the world, one of the world’s great wonders (more about the mechanics of that in a later post by Carl, the engineer). Both provinces are currently trying to figure out how to harness the power in those cyclical walls of water. So far, the Bay has simply chewed up and spit out any kind of turbine put in her. The Bay of Fundy is a crucible of incredible bio-diversity and adaptivity by flora, fauna and humans.  You will enjoy getting the travel to the Park.

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By Decumanus at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11123462

The good news is that New Brunswick has quite good highway systems now. In the olden days, part of the adventure of getting to the Park was wondering if you would survive the drive. Of prime importance in those days, was choosing a route with the least possibility of crashing into another vehicle while attempting to avoid gargantuan potholes. No more! In the north-eastern parts of New Brunswick we noticed significant buckling and rutting of the asphalt. This is due to heavy truck traffic. However, the southern roads are quite passable for people towing RV’s. In order to get to the Park by wheeled things, you have two possibilities of approach. You can come through the north end of the Park, or you can approach it from the south east.

We have almost always come from Nova Scotia, so we approach the Park from the east. From Moncton, you just need to follow all the signs for Fundy National Park heading southwest on Highway 114. On this route, which follows a coastal trail, there is much to see including mixed Acadian forests and old farmlands. You can often actually observe the movement of the tide while you travel toward the Park. There are many restaurants, outfitters, kayak tour-centres, gift shops and interesting family-run enterprises along the way. Quaint villages are replete with very old buildings that used to house some of Canada’s oldest institutions such as banks and early railway centres. Some houses have long since been abandoned. These have a haunting beauty which I always find strangely compelling. We turned a corner one time to see an ancient house, long abandoned, its shakes faded to almost a white-grey. Faded gingham curtains, bottoms shredded from stark winter winds, blew gently out of an upstairs window. I asked Carl to stop, no mean feat when towing an RV on those narrow roads. Rhubarb and lilacs rebelliously surround the house. I stood in front of the house and was strangely delighted to see an old iron bedstead and night stand just beyond the curtains. Could I see dishes on it? What, I wondered caused the sudden abandonment of such a once-beloved home? You see all kinds of things just waiting to tell you their story on this route.

Along this route you will also encounter the  Hopewell Rocks. This is a much visited, famous attraction and is really quite something to see up close. Book off at least two hours if you want to see the “Flower Pots.” These are heaps of rock sculpted by the relentless tide. If you have a full day to spend, you could also take a kayaking tour, but these have to be timed with the tide.

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By XeresNelro – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=65339836

If you come through from the north, chances are you have will have come from Fredericton. If so, to get to the Park, you will need to head east on the TransCanada (number 2) highway, turning south at exit 365 onto Highway 10 to Sussex, which we discovered has a decent hospital, should you unfortunately need one. Then head northwest on Highway 1 turning east on Highway 114 at exit 211 to the Park. Frankly, although New Brunswick is always beautiful, we have not found this approach very, well, interesting.

Whether you come from the north or the east, be sure to stock up on groceries before you enter the Park. There is only a rudimentary grocery store in Alma and you will pay top dollar for supplies there. Also, although New Brunswick is quite good at fencing off the highways so that carsand moose can avoid annihilating each other, there is still some risk of moose-strike. Remember, you may kill the moose with your car/truck which is bad enough, but you will not fare well either. Avoid travelling at night if you can.

Finally, it is also worth noting that New Brunswick is Canada’s only truly bilingual province. As such, you can almost always receive a warm welcome and services in French or English.

 

 

 

 

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: a UNESCO World Heritage Site for lots of reasons

 

Many years ago, Carl and I spent our honeymoon in Gros Morne National Park, where, as you would hope, we fell even more in love with each other. What we did not expect was how deeply  we would fall in love with Gros Morne National Park. I had trouble writing this post because it is so very difficult to convey into mere words such astonishing beauty. A combination of mountains, a freshwater fjord, the highest waterfall in eastern North America, salmon rivers, deep lakes, ocean seashore, dense forest and the occasional misty field make it a stunning buffet of panoramas. The multiple options available to explore these make it a struggle to choose your daily adventure!IMG_0280

Gros Morne is a UNESCO heritage site partly because of its picturesque splendour, but also because of its unique geological features. Orange, naked, mineral dense, weathered rock from the middle layer of the earth called the Tablelands, has been thrust up next to beautiful, forest-covered mountains through the stresses and strains of plate tectonics over 500 million years. You can walk on some of both in the span of a day. The geological tectonic thrusting about combined with glacial scouring during the last ice age to create interesting mountain cliffs, valleys and a freshwater fjord.The Tablelands of Gros Morne is one of the few places on earth where you can see, touch and walk on the Earth’s mantle. Every time we go to Gros Morne I need to walk on the Tablelands, lay my hands on the wrinkled rock and just breathe. It feels like holy space to me. At Green Point, seaside cliffs are layered with markers of deep time. Fossils mark the boundary between the Cambrian and Ordovician periods. This is a geological benchmark for the rest of the world, referred to as “Green Point Time.”

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Green Point: plate tectonics make interesting patterns. All of these, including the section that looks like a castle “wall,” were sculpted and cut by the earth’s crust .

If you camp, time seems to bend at Gros Morne. The five campgrounds are well maintained with clean comfort stations and good showers. You can choose from forested areas, shoreline or mountain views. Newfoundland is one of the last bee, bat and bird havens in eastern Canada. Since it is an island, the diversity of mammal population is more limited than that of the  Canadian mainland. You will notice that besides the occasional moose, there is very little roadkill on Newfoundland roads. There are no porcupines, racoons, snakes or gophers. Campsites therefore remain relatively unmolested by wildlife. Even bears tend to keep themselves scarce.

The hiking at Gros Morne is, I was told by global hikers, world class. There will be a separate blog describing some of the trails. Suffice to say, there are nineteen trails that explore unique aspects of this part of the world. There are many guided walks and some really excellent interpretive centres. You must get out and move around in Newfoundland to truly meet her. Luckily, when you get there, the land calls to you and you can’t wait to get your walking shoes on. Having said that, be prepared. Newfoundland is rugged and the weather changeable.

Tabletop mountains

Tabletop mountains

Many journeys culminate in Gros Morne National Park. Salmon make their epic voyage home to Gros Morne from their travels in oceanic parts unknown. You are able to fly fish in the Park, an activity that Carl says would beat any kind of meditation, yoga and mindfulness practice in terms of total body-mind relaxation. There are several companies that offer boat tours, kayaking tours and ocean fishing. Rocky Harbour is a tiny town inside the park which has certainly grown since we honeymooned in Gros Morne. You can find just about anything you may need there.  It has a fish store where you can get the world’s most delicious scallops and lobsters, often brought in that very day. If you prefer a cooked meal there are several restaurants.

We were told last summer about a really good fish-and-chip place in Rocky Harbour so we dropped by at about noon. Usually if a restaurant is good, there will be lots of people in it. I was one of two customers so I wondered if we were in the wrong place. I looked at the waitress and asked, “Where is everybody? There’s no one here.” She put down her cloth, looked over her glasses and said, “They strikes about 12:30.” It took me a moment to realize she meant that’s when the customers come. Newfoundland has a famously unique dialect. Often phrases or words refer back to fishing.  I remembered that when lots of fish start biting the fishing lines they are said to have “struck.” Also, on that note, most Newfoundlanders expect a real lake to be gigantic (by Mainlander standards). Most bodies of fresh water tend to be called “ponds.” When we first moved to Nova Scotia from Newfoundland thirty-three years ago, we saw Dollar Lake, shook our heads and Carl said, “I scoffs at dat. It’s a pond, b’y.” With that in mind, to explore Western Brook Pond requires a substantial trip in a large boat, which is well worth doing.

Explore local culture in Rocky Brook and other nearby towns. Newfoundlanders are some of the friendliest people you will ever meet.

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Anishinaabe artist Rebecca Belmore created this piece of art that invites people to listen to the land. You can find it at the edge of Green Point.

 

 Contact Information for Gros Morne National Park

http://www.pc.gc.ca/grosmorne

email: grosmorne.info@pc.gc.ca

Mail: Gros Morne National Park of Canada, P.O. Box 130, Rocky Harbour, NL, A0K 4N0

Phone: (709) 458-2417

Reservations: http://www.reservations.parkscanada.gc.ca, 1-877-737-3783

 

Dollar Lake Park: blue water and blue language

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A warm welcome

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Just 30 minutes from Halifax

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Rain, rain, go away

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Pax looks wistfully into the cab of the truck.

As we might say in the Maritimes, we got the bugs out of ‘er on the Canada Day weekend. It was our first use of the truck camper. We were prevented from using it last year because of structural problems with the camper itself.

Carl talks to himself. He is an off the scale extravert so he processes his thoughts externally. Some days almost all of them, it would seem. He is a brilliant and kind man so clearly this works for him. It used to be a problem when we were first married. I come from a home in which people are silent a great deal of the time. When anyone looked up from a book or television screen to say something, it was very important to listen. It could be a momentous, even life-changing announcement. Not so much in Carl’s family. Carl’s day often takes the form of a running external narrative which I felt I had to listen to and respond to at all times. It was exhausting and, in the beginning, very aggravating. After a time, we worked out a system whereby he would tell me when he wanted to converse, after which I look up from my book or computer screen, listen and respond.

The rain poured on this first inaugural trip to Dollar Lake.  We hope someday this camper will be our home for a year or so. There is a lot at stake in it being comfortable and serviceable enough to house us all.  Nova Scotia can have some pretty substantial deluges, but this was a sustained tempted-to-build-an-ark kind of rain. There was water pooling everywhere. Unwanted, pooling water, it would turn out, was a theme for our Canada Day weekend adventure.

On Friday night Carl was making his final evening campsite rounds with the rain-phobic dogs. He was talking to himself, which was not unusual. I presumed the self-conversation concerned the puzzling problem of the intermittent but continuous running of the water pump. Then the language turned blue. That made me sit up and take notice. He doesn’t often do that. Let me just say at this point, that no one can creatively curse as flamboyantly and enthusiastically as a Newfoundlander. There were the usual words everyone is familiar with and then appeared the ancient Newfoundland Elizabethan English curse words. The problem must be substantial, I thought. There was some jiggling of outer kinds of gear and more cursing.   When he came in he revealed that the camper outdoor shower hot water faucet was seriously leaking. This is a disappointment since we could not camp all last summer because of a construction error. It also meant we had to shut the whole hot water system down.

Carl removed some panels below the sink. No blue language was involved, perhaps because indoor problem-solving external narrative is different. He rummaged around with tools and various things and managed to shut off some valves. The camper will go back, yet again, to the dealer for repairs before we take off for the Gaspe. We went old-school by heating up the water on the stove. We had heat, food, drinking water, dogs and each other. Camping is all about getting away from computers, cell-phone screens and getting back to basics. I guess running hot water is not a basic need after all. We had a fine time.

Next post: About Dollar Lake Campground