Gros Morne

August 20 to September 5, 2005

Cow Head

August 28, 2005, 6:30pm, Oceanview B & B, Cow Head NF

Hard core campers may want to skip to the photo page at this point.

Green Point was relatively quiet last night, but for the fact that we ran into "Cool Claire" who I know from the YCCC, and I discover Irene knows through some complex Canada World Youth Connection.

Claire's work brought her to Newfoundland so she found a way to tack a few vacation days onto the trip to hike and camp.

We broke camp this morning and headed north on the 430 to hike at Broom Point before hopping on the Western Brook Pond Boat Tour.

But we got pleasantly sidetracked by a tour of the Mudge family fishing station/homestead. Luke Payne, who's retired from fishing and now works as an interpreter for Parks Canada ("all dressed up like a candy bar, but there's nothing for it," he said) showed us how nets were made, how a parlour trap works and how the Mudges lived.

The place was their seasonal home. They'd arrive in late May and fish until July then they'd go back to their permanent home in Norris Point.

The Mudge sisters sold the place to the federal government when the park was created and the place has been maintained in its form ever since - same linoleum, battery powered radio, tins of food, etc etc.

It was a great lesson in human geography and history. A very hard life, I thought, as a hugely aggressive wind blew me back to the car.

We drove off to the Western Brook Pond parking lot, arriving around noon.

You have to walk a few kilometres to get to the boat dock - about 40 minutes they say, but it took us half that time.

Western Brook Pond is an amazing place. It's here that the Gros Morne "money shot" (the one that's on all the brochures, posters and promotional material) was taken. The boat tour is the only way you can see it. And if you're doing the Long Range traverse, this is your starting point.

The tour takes a couple of hours, and you ride a 30 foot (ish) long boat, with many other people. Ours was pretty full. If they have enough people, they put on a second boat. There's a guide, of sorts, who sprays you lightly with information, but there's not a lot said.

Western Brook Pond at one point was an inlet/fijord, carved out by a glacier ages ago. But as the glaciers retreated and the land rose, the inlet was cut off from the ocean. In its place, is a stretch of flat bog and "heath". Its cliffs rise 715m above sea level. The CN Tower, in contrast, is 553m high. Western Brook Pond is another one of the reasons Gros Morne has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site.

I filled my CF card taking pictures. It's stunning.

The tour (as are all the other boat tours in the park) are run by a private concession. Frankly I found the Parks Canada guides immesurably better informed and more informative. But it's not a case of contracting out. The company that runs the tours was running them before the park was created.

Our tour was populated mostly by RV-ers and blue-rinse bus tour clients. I now know how much gas someone's RV takes ("I had my first $100 fill up today," I overheard). I shudder. And I fear we may soon be joining them as we are ensconced in a B&B with satellite TV.

I must say, though, I'm liking this bed I'm lying on as I write.

Modern Newfoundland villages have replaced clapboard and pine siding with vinyl, it seems, but apart from that the basic architecture is the same. Small, squat bungalows with tiny windows.

This B&B is very clean, well-appointed, with new everything, it seems. It's a bit too much like a hotel, in my opinion. From the fireproof blankets made out of some spun plastic, to the paper-wrapped glasses, to the satellite TV in the bedroom it seems to have taken on most of the characteristics I dislike about hotels these days. Oh - and the massive TV screen in the living room.

I hasten to add, though, that the place was clean, (apart from the plastic bedding) very comfortable, organized, and its owners very friendly and kind.

Broom Point: The Mudge family boat house, Broom Point.

Broom Point: The Mudge family boat house, Broom Point.

Big: I hope the tour boat gives you a sense of the scale. The CN tower is about 550m tall. The tallest cliff here is 715m.

Big: I hope the tour boat gives you a sense of the scale. The CN tower is about 550m tall. The tallest cliff here is 715m.

Spray: The tour boat, Western Brook Pond.

Spray: The tour boat, Western Brook Pond.