In Gros Morne National park, there are many hiking trails that range in difficulty from wheelchair-accessible to remote unmarked backwoods trails. One of the major challenges for the average visitor is the climb of Gros Morne itself. I knew I was going to do it again (I did it in 1998), but I can’t exactly say I was looking forward to it. Molly the dog was not allowed on the mountain, so we were puzzled at first about how we would manage the climb, since we couldn’t leave her in a tent all day. In the end Bill’s older daughter J made the sacrifice of staying back at the campsite with Molly while the rest of us went for the climb.
The day we chose turned out be a perfect clear, sunny summer day. I was psyched and ready. The parking lot was overflowing when we got there around 11:00 a.m. and started off. Gros Morne trail consists of a 16 km loop. The first 4 km rise about 300 metres up through mixed forest to the base of the mountain itself.
Thar she blows!
“The Gully” comes next, and is the ascent up the mountain. It presents the most strenuous part of the hike (or so I remembered). This section is pretty much a 45 degree slope, consisting entirely of loose scree and small boulders. I am not in very good shape so that part took me probably close to 90 minutes to climb.
Bill and M were way ahead of me, and had plenty of time to kill once they got to the top, waiting for me.
I insisted they not wait with me. I just took my time and climbed at my own pace. I ended up having a lot of time alone, just me and the mountain. That surprised me a bit … I expected to have other climbers catching up and passing me now and then, but I ended up having a solitary climb which I enjoyed. I even got to see a little mouse scurrying among the rocks during one of my rest stops.
The Gully, about 3/4 of the way up
That black speck is me … Bill took this one from the top of The Gully.
The summit was beautiful, as I remembered. The day was sunny and overall quite warm, but on top of the mountain we were all glad we had brought another layer of clothing to put on in the chillier wind. The trail is stone on stone, hard to see at some points. We enjoyed a little picnic overlooking a fjord then carried on strolling along the flat trail, surrounded by spectacular panoramic views
The flat terrain was a relief, after the grueling climb up The Gully. We didn’t see any of the resident caribou or arctic hares, but we did see a mother ptarmigan with two chicks. Before long it was time for the descent. I found the descent pleasant at first, but it just seemed to go on and on and on. The footing was rocky and uneven for what seemed like hours; it must have been two or three kilometres. I didn’t take a photo during that stretch because I was so busy watching every foot placement on the way down, and I wasn’t really enjoying this part of the trail.
I was so glad to finally get back to the base of the mountain. After that, the 4 km return through the original forest trail was a piece of cake. Hikers are advised to plan for 6 to 8 hours to complete the 16 kilometre trail. We took seven hours, though without me Bill and M could have done it in six. Needless to say, I slept well that night.
The next day we were ready to leave Gros Morne and start making our way south toward the ferry home. We had one more night and hadn’t yet decided where to stay. Rain was coming, so we knew we wanted to be indoors again for our last night on The Rock. We wanted to rent another cabin so we could stretch out and reorganize our belongings, and just cook some of the food we had left. All the cabin places I called from the car had their answering machines on! So I called an inn even though Bill and I aren’t usually “inn” people. The folks at the Inn At The Cape out on Cape St George were actually answering their phone. The owner confirmed that they had a room for four people (the under-12-year-old was free), one small dog, with supper and breakfast included for $115 plus tax. Too good to be true? Sounded great to us. We headed for the Port-au-Port Peninsula, a part of western Newfoundland I had never been to before.
A beautiful scenic drive for a couple of hours brought us to the inn. We were warmly welcomed and had about half an hour to settle in before supper time. We had a little stroll and checked out the view of the ocean from the balcony. No whales … but we did see some the next morning.
We hadn’t had a proper lunch so we were more than ready for the incredible buffet set out, with half a dozen hot meat or seafood entrees, at least half a dozen delicious salads, and homemade wine that tasted just fine.
Our room was spacious, immaculately clean, and had homemade quilts on the beds.
Bill and I couldn’t get over how pleased we were to have found the place, and wished we were staying for three nights. I had one of those nights where I just didn’t get tired, and I stayed up knitting my Hedera lace sock until 1 a.m. while everyone else slept.
Next morning, we enjoyed a hearty buffet breakfast before we set off on the drive to Port Aux Basques.
If you ever go to Newfoundland, you really should stay at The Inn At The Cape. We will definitely be back there.
Our ferry wasn’t leaving until midnight, so we had a full day to explore. Did I mention that there is only one alpaca farm in Newfoundland, and it was right down the road from the Inn, in Felix Cove?
A rainbow of natural alpaca colours
“I’m a llama, thank you very much. Now where’s the food?”
We enjoyed a lengthy stop there to visit the alpacas and their guard llamas. I was disappointed that they didn’t have any yarn for sale from their own animals; they were only selling finished goods (knitted and woven).
But they had Scotsburn ice cream which made up for it a little tiny bit.
From fibre animals to folk art! Continuing our exploration of the peninsula, we saw this house, and I was impressed.
Then a few kilometres down the road, this one was even more amazing.
I could see someone touching up the paint, so I had to stop and let her know how much I admired her lawn. She said that the red and white place back down the road was her ” ‘usband’s fadder’s” place. She told me that her husband builds the structures, and she paints them. They add new ones each year. Notice the colour coordination with the shutters on the house. Later on I was wondering if they ever change the accent colour. It was clear that they paint them every year, because every single sculpture was brilliant glossy white and pink.
Click to enlarge. You know you want to.
While on the Port-au-Port peninsula, we also visited Picadilly Beach, a lovely sandy beach that does not match most people’s mental image of Newfoundland. We all enjoyed it, but Molly had the most fun. We could hardly get her out of the water when it was time to go.
Once we got Molly back in the car and drying off, it was time to say goodbye to the Port-au-Port peninsula and head south again.
We had heard that the road to Rose Blanche was a must-see, and we didn’t manage to head that way until nearly dusk. We had a take-out supper at the little restaurant at the Burnt Islands Hook & Line fishing museum. The museum featured this mural of old-style hand-line fishing.
The landscape along Route 470 was strikingly stark and beautiful, and that’s saying a lot after ten days in western Newfoundland. Unfortunately the light was fading and I could hardly get a decent photo.
At the very end of the road, the historic Rose Blanche lighthouse was a mysterious hulk glowing red in the dusky distance. The Parks Canada site was closed so we couldn’t get closer to it than this.
This tantalizing glimpse (photo by Bill) seemed like a fitting end to our trip, making sure that we left with the feeling that we must come back! Next time … the southern coast of Newfoundland, visiting the remote roadless outports by ferry?