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Trip Report Gros Morne National Park

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We are recently back from a six-day stay in Gros Morne National Park. I’d like to pass on a few observations that may help future travellers.

The bones of the journey

We live in Halifax. We flew from Halifax to Deer Lake on Air Canada Express and picked up an Avis rental at the airport. Norris Point, where we were staying, was an easy 60-minute drive from Deer Lake. We arrived on the afternoon of September 5th and returned to Halifax on the afternoon of the 11th.

Gros Morne National Park

Our aim was to hike every day. There are 20 marked trails in the park (www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/nl/grosmorne/activ/randonnee-hiking.aspx), from short easy strolls to the arduous ascent of Gros Morne Mountain. We managed to do seven of them.

There are a few highlights.

The Western Brook Pond trail leads from a parking lot on the main highway to the dock for the boat tours of the fiord. I recommend this outing; the trail itself was an easy 3 km each way, and the boat ride was extraordinary. Our onboard guide had a deft touch, balancing interesting commentary with significant periods of silence. The views were breathtaking. You can reserve seats by calling BonTours (http://bontours.ca/western_brook/index.htm); you can pick up your tickets at the Ocean View Motel in Rocky Harbour.

The Coastal trail (6 km round trip), the Baker’s Brook Falls trail (9.4 km round trip), and the Lookout trail (5 km round trip) were delightful. The first two were on easy terrain, the latter involved a 350-metre climb, but our reward was a spectacular view of the Tablelands and Bonne Bay.

The centrepiece of our visit was the Gros Morne trail, which begins with a 4 km walk through rising ground to a viewing platform at the base of Gros Morne Mountain. For those choosing to climb, the next section is 9 kms. The ascent is up a steep gully of scree leading eventually to the 806 metre summit. The trail across the top is well marked and leads from the summit marker to the northern lip of the mountain, overlooking Ten Mile Pond. A circuitous route over shattered rock ultimately delivers you to the south-east corner of the mountain, and there begins the long arduous decent through Ferry Gulch back to the base. Having conquered the mountain, you then have the 4 km walk from the viewing platform back to the trailhead.

Judging by the number of hikers who passed us, we suspect we were among the slow coaches the day we climbed. As a reference point, the two of us (in our late fifties and early sixties) walked for 6 hours and spent another two hours stopped for rests, lunch, and conversations with other climbers. So, we took exactly eight hours for the 17 km expedition. We arrived back at the parking lot tired, sore, and jubilant.

Parks Canada has a handy pamphlet at the Visitor Centre that provides some very good advice warnings, actually) about carrying layers of clothing, carrying 2 litres of water per person, and avoiding the climb if the top of the mountain is obscured by cloud or fog. (Having the vivid imagination that I do, I concluded that one could easily become lost in fog on the summit, despite the presence of green arrows marking the trail.) I would add that we, like a lot of other hikers, found the descent more physically demanding than the ascent; fatigue and uneven footing were the contributing factors.

Gros Morne National Park is stunningly beautiful. Park staff are helpful, and the trails are clean and well maintained. Information boards at each trailhead give you a good idea of how far you will walk and what you will see. (The Lookout trail included the encouraging note that a bear had been sighted around the trail; as it turned out, the only bear we saw was at a distance on Gros Morne Mountain. We did meet a moose on the highway, thankfully from far enough away that we were able to pull off the road and wait for him to stroll back into the forest.)

Weather

September is a usually a lovely month in Atlantic Canada. We had four straight days of perfect hiking weather: a mix of sun and cloud with highs of around 20°C. On our last day, however, we had heavy rain due to the marriage of a huge low and Hurricane Leslie.

Accommodation

We booked Neddies Harbour Inn (http://theinn.ca). It is a wonderful place, situated about 8 km south of Rocky Harbour in a small community overlooking Bonne Bay. The rooms are spotless, the staff are friendly and accommodating, and the amenities are comfortable and useful; we enjoyed the sauna after climbing Gros Morne and spent part of the rainy day in the cozy sun room overlooking the water. The dining room — the Black Spruce Restaurant — is excellent, truly excellent.

Final thoughts

If we were to do this again, we would probably break our stay into two parts. The first would be in the Woody Point area (the Red Mantle Lodge looks like a promising candidate www.redmantlelodge.ca), which would provide easy access to the trails between Wiltondale and Trout River. We’d then move north to Neddies Harbour Inn for the other trails in the park.

Air fares into Deer Lake seemed extortionate (the cheapest fares we could find were around $500 per person), but when we factored in the cost of driving (fuel, ferry, food, and en route accommodation), we found that the flying/car rental option was only slightly more expensive.

Anecdotally, one hears that it is best to reserve Deer Lake car rentals and Gros Morne accommodations as early as possible. We had no difficulty with either, but we were there after the rush and we did s

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