Gros Morne

August 20 to September 5, 2005

Green Point

5:30pm, Friday August 26, Green Point "primitive" camping

Primitive camping means they keep all the annoying bits of car camping and lose the good bits but charge you $9 less per night.

Good bits missing:

Bad bits still around

In truth, our site is quite nice. We have an annex of sorts that looks out onto the ocean, yet our tent is shielded from the blast by a tuckamore hedge.

And so far, no one with a generator has shown up. The blackflies have, however.

We woke early and were on the road by 8:30. Not because we parcticularly had somewhere to go, but because buddy fired up his generator at 7:30 and we were so pissed off we wanted to leave.

We drove all the way out to Wiltondale and up the other side of Bonne Bay toward Rocky Harbour. It immediately struck us how much more tourist infested the north side of Wiltondale is.

The visitor centre (as opposed to the Discovery Centre) had just been inundated by a tour bus full of visitors, for example. Rocky Harbour is, it seems, half house, half bed and breakfast community with a smattering of guest cottages. All full or with only "dregs" remaining.

We went to Rocky Harbour thinking a bed might be just the tonic for Irene's pregnancy-sensitized hips. But after looking at what was on offer and at what price, we left, deciding to camp anyway. B&Bs were all between $55 and $65 per night while cottages were $75 to $85. Cabins usually include cooking facilities and a TV. All very modest. Small windows, linoleum floor, cheap carpet, low ceilings.

We spent half the morning deciding that Rocky Harbour wasn't for us. Then we provisionned for two more night's camping and drove out to Green Point.

The park doesn't take reservations for their primitive car camping, but judging by the number of empty spots, that's not a problem in late August.

We set up the tent, ate lunch, read on the rocky beach for a while and 2.5km trail along the shore. Very flat, the trail began its life as the route the letter carrier took, delivering mail to the fishing communities along the shore.

It was the first entirely sunny day we'd experienced. Of course, as I write, it's clouding over.

The only drawback to this place is the lack of drinking water. We brought a lot with us, but we don't have a filter.

There's a tap that gives fresh water, but there's a big sign saying you have to boil it for ten minutes before you can drink it. (It's easy to see why. The water is the colour of earl grey tea). Good thing we have loads of stove fuel.

Saturday, August 27, 4:52pm, Green Point

Feeling Fried. Good fried, but a bit embarassed at how dopey I feel in comparison to Irene's alert self.

Did I mention that I saw an arctic hare yesterday? The teensiest thing - a round ball of fluff with two tiny ears pointing up, head barely differentiated from its body.

Last night we ate dahl and grilled cheese sandwiches. Yum.

Green Point was party central last night. Some people showed up late and had music blaring and much whooping and hollering until lord knows when. This is why I hate car camping. Oh well.

But enough about last night. Today I hiked Gros Morne Mountain. Irene and I set out just before 8am. It's a quick drive to the trail head.

Irene wasn't planning on going all the way to the top, but she very thoughtfully put my pack together with

to which I added

Irene was concerned about me. You might have guessed that. And with the various write-ups about the Gros Morne Mountain trail, who can blame her? "Gruelling descent," "treacherous weather," "extremely arduous," "seven to eight hours to complete." Yike. I half expected to find Jon Krakauer dangling from a rope researching his next book.

And in truth, people have died on Gros Morne Mountain. But really, it isn't so bad.

Irene didn't want to hike right to the top, but we agreed that we'd both go part way then she'd head back down, and come get me later. But how much later, was the question.

The literature suggests anywhere from six to eight hours to do the 16km loop. So we settled on around seven and a half hours.

We were on the trail by around 8am and had reached the decision point - where you decide if you want to commit to the rest of the hike - by about 9am. It was cloudy and the top of Gros Morne mountain was shrouded in cloud. "The literature" explicitly tells you not to climb if you can't see the top. But it was meant to be a sunny day, so I decided to go ahead anyway.

If I got down earlier, I would walk back to the Visitor Center where Irene would go if I wasn't at the parking lot by 4:30.

So I started climbing. The first stretch of the real hike up the mountain is through a steep scree gully. The scramble seemed to take me about 40 heart pounding minutes. It's not technically challenging climbing, nor is it exposed. It's just physically demanding. You're leaning forward the entire time but you use your hands only for steadying yourself and even then only about ten per cent of the time.

There are yellow signs indicating the recommended line to the top. It's a fast way to gain a lot of elevation. But yes, it is arduous. And turning around really isn't an option, so the decision point is real.

Past the scree gully, the mountain flattens out dramatically, the trail marked by rock and mortar cairns with fluourescent orange markers. It's easy to see why. What isn't rock is moss and low-lying scrub. I imagine tundra looks like this. "The literature" refers to it as "heath".

You can wander off in any direction, over a cliff, or so far off that you can't find your way back. If the cloud was really heavy and you weren't prepared for cold and wind, being lost could be fatal.

I took a few more pictures and moved along again. It looked like the cloud was getting thicker. I didn't want to get fogged in. The way down circles around to the north and east side of the mountain and back down through Ferry Gulch. It's a rougher trail than you'll find elsewhere in Gros Morne, but it's still eminently manageable.

And as I headed down, the sun spread through the cloud, at first in patches and then the mountain and its surroundings were bathed in midday sunlight. I saw more ptarmigan, the top of a moose's antlers, and possibly an eagle but certainly some predatorial bird, but the arctic hare and caribou eluded me.

There's a campsite tucked in behind the mountain, on the shore of a (truly) small pond. The campers I ran into there say the bugs weren't too bad, but the water, to me, looked fairly stagnant. I dawdled on my way down, coming close to filling my memory card and chatting at length with all I encountered. I spent an hour at the decision point, hanging out, comparing notes with people and all, but I still made it back to the parking lot by 2:30pm.

So... six to eight hours? More like four. Dawdle and relax. Give yourself five hours. There's too much to stare at.

I hiked along the road to the Visitor's Centre and waited by the side of the road for my sweetie to arrive. I wanted to catch her before she went to the parking lot. She happened by maybe fifteen minutes after I got there. We headed back to Green Point. Maybe I can convince her to climb Gros Morne on one of our "spare" days?

Population 12. The community of Green Point. This is a permanent settlement.

Population 12: The community of Green Point. This is a permanent settlement.

Detail: Jetsam, Green Point

Detail: Jetsam, Green Point

Fog clearing, marker cairn, Gros Morne Mountain.

Fog clearing: Marker cairn, Gros Morne Mountain.

Scree gully in sunshine: See if you can spot the hikers.

Scree gully in sunshine: See if you can spot the hikers.