Who we are:
My brother and I, both well into the sunset years, did this trip together. Thank you kodi, irecommend, Anselm, Clousie, lavenderrye and the several other Fodorites who gave me assistance in my planning. You were very helpful!
Where we went:
We flew from Greensboro, NC to Deer Lake, Newfoundland. This was a very long day of travel, but the alternative would have been to fly to St. John's and drive from there. I opted to get as close to Gros Morne Park as possible our first night. We were cautioned against driving at night so we overnighted near the airport.
Lesson One: buy beer if you are going to want one before bed.
Holiday Inn Express has no bar.
Other Lesson One: if you are going to be using a US issued ATM card use it at Pearson or the first chance you get while in Canada. I found my ATM worked in only one machine and my brother's never worked.
The next day we drove to Gros Morne Park generally following the Viking Trail. It was raining rather hard and very windy so we toured the area around Woody Point and took some short walks including the Tablelands hike. Although it was raining, the hike, led by a Canada Parks ranger, was very informative and relatively easy to do. We ended up the day at our hotel in Norris Point. We found a very nice walk just across the street from our hotel at the Jenniex Heritage House. The trail took us through a beautiful woods and down to the harbor.
We were slated to take the Western Brook Pond boat ride the following day. The reception clerk at our hotel recommended we start out before the scheduled breakfast. She arranged for a cold cereal, fruit and bread buffet to be set out for us so we could grab a quick bite. I had not realized it would take as long as it did to get to the start of the 3km hike into the boat dock so was very happy I had gotten her recommendations.
Lesson Two: be prepared for bugs. There were swarms of small, invisible to the naked eye, meanspirited gnats who chewed my neck up. My brother was untouched. I had welts the size of my thumb all around my hairline. I found these gnats played favorites and many people were completely unbothered (why me?) but those who were bitten were brutalized. Despite ointments and benadryl the welts were with me for almost two weeks.
The hike in to the boat dock is gorgeous, it is also level and very well maintained and anyone of even moderate fitness should be able to do it. The boat trip was absolutely delightful. We saw a bear! The narration provided by the boat guides is very interesting and the views are splendid. Highly recommended.
After the boat trip we explored the area around Cowhead and drove back to our hotel. The sky cleared and we had a gorgeous sunny afternoon. It was to be the only sunny period during our stay and we relished it. We took a lot of side roads and one led us straight down to the water. There was a beautiful graveyard on one side of the pavement and on the other a fish processing operation. Seated in front of the fish processing building was a very large man in overalls. He had a boom box blasting Hank Williams Sr and was offering his cd's for sale. He called himself Boxcar Newfie. My brother and I were musing over the odds anyone would go out of their way to come and find this salesman when two young women drove up, jumped out of their car, apparently made several purchases and then took off.
Lesson Three: Never underestimate the power of Boxcar Newfie.
The next day we set out generally in the direction of Port Rexton. We had planned an overnight roughly midway in Great Falls-Windsor. It was pouring rain.
Lesson Four: The TCH is not designed to drain well in heavy rain.
Lots of potholes and pavement damage coupled with the pooling water made the drive a bit challenging. We wanted to do the Alexander Murray hike so we took a side road down towards the trailhead. The roads got worse. We took a shot at the trail but turned back after about four km because the rain was really coming down. We decided since we were already headed down to Green Bay we would drive a bit farther on to the Beachside water front. We stopped to take some photographs and discovered we had a flat. As we started to change the tire seemingly out of nowhere a friendly Newfoundlander (this may be redundant, if there are unfriendly Newfoundlanders we never met them) pulled up in a truck, hopped out and took over. What might have taken a good thirty minutes for us to do, he did in about five. We decided to just head on to Great Falls-Windson. Lesson Four: Do not arrive hungry in Great Falls on a Sunday night. There were virtually no options save fast food. More about that later. We did a couple of short "community" walks but the heavy rain seemed to get even heavier.
The next day we drove to Gander to talk to the rental car company about the tire we had changed. We were in luck, they had three cars at the airport, one rented, one a minivan and one dirty. We took the dirty one (her word was dirty, mine was "had one plastic bottle in the back seat"). Thirty or so minute delay and we were back on the road to Port Rexton. We were in no hurry and stopped several times during our transit of Terra Nova National Park. Nowhere near as dramatic as Gros Morne, but clearly a great place for a boating/hiking/camping holiday. We arrived in Port Rexton fairly late in the afternoon and decided to hike the Skerwink Trail. Good choice. It is simply one of the great hikes in the world. Beautifully maintained, very manageable for most levels of fitness, and spectacular views. For those of you who are my facebook fans, the photos are there as evidence, but they truly do not do it justice. This is a must do hike.
The next day we decided to do a whale watch with Sea of Whales company. The company was highly recommended by several people at our hotel and I would join them in the endorsement. Two cousins operate the business and they work very hard to assure the comfort of their guests and the success of the trips. We saw three species of whales, bald eagles, mink, river otter, dolphins during our three hours. The highlight was the discovery of a large school of blue fin tuna feeding. That was incredibly beautiful. No photos, you will just have to take my word for it. I think had we been there earlier in the season we might have enjoyed these sightings from shore but by the end of summer if you want to see the whales et al, take the boat trip.
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Who we are: