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

 

Forillon National Park of Canada: a variety of ways of getting there

A couple of years ago I presided at a wedding in New Richmond, QC.  (more about that in a later post). We were gobsmacked by the beauty of the land and the spirited hospitality of the peoples. Due to the short travel deadline due to the wedding, we did not have much opportunity to explore the area, so we vowed to return. This summer was the year of return. We dedicated the better part of a week to exploring Forillon National Park.

We travelled through Campbellton and made our way along the eastern shore of the Gaspe (Québec Coté Mer) on the 132 East. With the ocean to the right of us and lovely, distinctive Québecois houses, farms and fishing villages to the left of us, we thoroughly enjoyed the travel. However, it was slow. The highway moves right through working communities that are filled with tourists at this time of year. Children, dogs and the like dash onto the road and the camper does not stop very quickly. We had to creep at times. There were some impressive rock formations such as Percé Rock, a mini-Gibraltar that kind of rises out of the ocean with a colour and

 

textural distinction all of its own (see image). It is one of the world’s largest naturally occurring arches in water. The touristy nature of that particular area meant that the entire length of coast-line with the best view of the giant outcrop was taken up with cottages, hotels, restaurants, food stands, tourist shops and so on. It was difficult to meditate upon the wonder of this remarkable geological formation while trying not to run over the pedestrians staring at their phones as they meandered the road. It was also problematic to stop to view the magnificent hunk of limestone, as parking was at a premium.

We expected as we moved northward that the houses and settlements would become less frequent. We were wrong. The area is well populated. Do we sound cranky? We were not. The view, the drive and the people watching all had their inspirational moments. It is a well-known fishing area so you might want to stop to pick up some seafood. Lobsters are usually reasonably priced if you can get them in season. Stores sometimes carry delicacies like pickled fiddlehead ferns, pickled clams, whelks and cohaugs. Of course, anywhere in Québec you may come across a Fromagerie (cheese store). Do stop if you like cheese. The fresh curds are to die for. At the risk of annoying my own home province of Nova Scotia I must declare that no one makes cheese like Québec cheese-makers. As I am addicted to cheese, I am not to be trusted in one of these stores.

If you exclusively speak English, don’t worry about the language differential. At all of our stops we struggled to use our high school French, but were usually rescued from our butchery of that beautiful language by anyone we spoke to as they took mercy upon us and replied to us in English.  There was a fairly hilarious incident at a Canadian Tire which I will blog about later. In essence, an entire line-up of French speaking people at the cash register got together to help the sales clerk understand what I wanted.

We took the 132 West when we left the Park this year to go to Montréal. It was surprising how different the geology is. The tail end of the Appalachian Mountain Range creates craggy shorelines. You would be forgiven if you thought some giant race of tricksters had taken colossal buckets of white paint and just sloshed it randomly all over the various sizes of beach rocks. He-who-knows-geological-things says these are quartz veins. There were many tiny communities to be driven through who had seen better tourist days, shuttered motels and so on. Most of these small communities had a welcoming sign and a picnic area. Take a hoodie though, the temperature is often quite cool with prevailing winds a little brisk. We noticed that no one swam on the beaches due to both the chill and the lofty waves. We had real worries about some of the people venturing out in small, seemingly- perilously bobbing tourist boats. The volunteer medical responder in me found it difficult to look away!

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photo by Mathieu Dupuis (tourisme-gaspesie.com)

We were determined to see the valley area of Gaspé Peninsula so on our way back from Montreal we turned south at Mont-Joli and took the 132 South. (I guess this could be called our 132 trip). We had driven quickly through this area in our previous trip and wanted to really take our time to let the exquisiteness of the area sink in. The area is part of the Appalachian mountain range. Following mountain ascents there were sometimes descents into verdant, green valleys sculpted, with some struggle no doubt, into farmland. We felt there was something around virtually every corner to admire. Close to the Campbellton area the mountain vegetation begins to change with the steepness and the road follows a rocky-bottomed river that is frequented by salmon fisherman. Carl, a skilled salmon fisherman himself, was driving and would slow to count them and to see if anyone had caught anything. My nerves. I should have driven through that part. If you are coming from Montreal to go to Forillon you might want to take this route and then take the 132 East at Campbellton. It is well worth the effort and time if you like mountains, valleys, rivers and quaint towns. Toward Campbellton there are several fishing and outback kinds of tour possibilities.

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Enjoy some of the world’s best lobster. So good you should, in the words of his people (Newfoundland) “Get your face and hands into it!”

 

Québec has an excellent website outlining all of the possible ways you can explore the Gaspé Peninsula www.quebecmaritime.ca Check it out before you go to Forillon Park.

 

Next post: Forillon National Park – The Park