Sunday, August 10, 2008

(M+M) Aug 7 - 9: A Short Gros Morne Tour

Canada is known for the beauty and diversity of its National Parks, and Gros Morne is one of the outstanding jewels in the entire system. Moreover, the Newfoundland and Labrador weather gods took pity on us and let us enjoy two action-packed days in the park in warm, sunny, clear weather.

On day 1 (Aug 7) we left Lomond River campground and rode over a twisty route down along side the Bonne Bay fjord. Roughly speaking, Bonne Bay cuts the park in two, with the north section containing the Western Brook Pond (famous for the huge granite cliffs coming down into an inky-black lake) and Gros Morne mountain. Rocky Harbour, the main town in the area, is also on the north side. The south side has an outstanding natural feature -- the Tablelands. This huge golden-orange chunk of mesa rises above all the other features on the south side. It is a chunk of the earth's mantle that has been thrust up above sea level. Exposed mantle like this is very rare, and it is this feature that gives Gros Morne its UNESCO World Heritage Site designation.

One of the bigger communities on the south side is Woody Point. We caught a water taxi here and ferried across the bay to Norris Point in the north of the Park. As an extra treat we saw whales on our crossing. The skipper slowed down and followed them for a few minutes. These were Minke whales, and are often found in these waters.

From Norris Pt. we stopped for 2nd breakfast (Pittman's -- highly recommended) and then hurried on to the Norris Pt. KOA. Here we set up the tent and proceeded to the 2nd part of the day, a hike up Gros Morne mountain. At 806 metres this is the 2nd highest point on the island. We rode to the trail head and spent six very enjoyable hours on the mountain. The trail itself is 16 km long and gives commanding views over almost the entire Park. The mountain is a huge, hulking chunk of granite with a rounded top that lets you wander pretty much as you like. Highlights of the hike were the Ptarmigan, Woodland Caribou, and moose we saw at the top. The Caribou, which are the symbol of Newfoundland, were particularly impressive with their huge racks of antlers.

Day 2 (Aug 8) saw us move camp from the Norris Pt. KOA to a B&B in Rocky Harbour. From here we breakfasted at the Treasure Box and bought tickets for the Western Brook Pond boat tour. The tour was set to go at 4:00 pm. The Pond is about 26 km north of Rocky Harbour, so we decided to ride out and have a look around at the coastal plain. We visited the Lobster Head lighthouse, and stopped at Green Point (Lisa Spellacy did her graduate work here -- what a fine spot to work!). Then it was on to the tour.

To get to the tour boat you have to cross about 3 km of bog on a wide and well maintained path. We rode our bikes along this path, viewing moose along the way, and arrived at the tour just in time to climb on the tour boat. The view of the huge granite cliffs as we motored under them was out of this world. I would like to go back and do the back-country hike along the North Rim of the Pond.

The tour finished and we jumped on the bikes and headed back to town. We arrived back around 8:00 pm and finished the day with fish cakes at the Sunset Cafe. These are a delicacy of the area and were very tasty -- salt cod, onions, and potatoes.

Day 3 (Aug 9) had us on the bikes and humping over some huge hills along the north shore of Bonne Bay. After some striking scenery wAdd Imagee made it to Wiltondale for moose burgers. From here the road got a bit easier and we retraced our steps to Deer Lake where we set up camp for the night. Our campground host, Gerard, was full of interesting stories and ideas. He showed us a few of his classic motorcycles and chatted with us about adventures all across the island and throughout North America. All in all, a fine detour off our route -- highly recommended!

1 comment:

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