Day 5: We’re in the midst of our backpacking trip around the North Rim traverse of Gros Morne National Park. We’ve awoken to a bit of fog and a slight hint of sunlight. As we pack up, Matt and I reminisce and unknowingly recreate an old photo. Today would be the day we realized the full extent of the difficult travel for the rest of the backpacking trip. Our travels for half the day would be over barrens, but the last part of the day was through tuckamore, a pseudonym for five foot high, intertwined, thick and virtually
impenetrable spruce trees. These old and weather stunted trees grow in the low parts between the high and rocky barrens of Newfoundland. In order to travel, you must find either a way around it, a moose path through it or other terrain that tends to give relief from the trees including old rocky streams, lake shores, boggy hill tops.
If a person travels through it, such as on a moose path, expect your actual travel time to be 1 kilometre per hour or less. At some points in our travel on this trip, it was easier to wade through knee deep water by a lake shore, trudge through deep mud or climb narrow fields of endless rocks rather than traveling through the ‘tuck’. Navigating is also a challenge as landmarks disappear when you’re in the midst of it, as well as straight line navigation. Moose don’t travel in straight lines! During the day and as the weather cleared, we also saw an abundance of snow in the horizon, which was a surprise for July. Our campsite was breezy which gave us welcome relief from the bugs. The guys also had fun redoing yet another photo.
Day 6 began early that night with typical Gros Morne weather: heavy rain. As a matter of fact, it rained so steadily, we were lucky that our tents were perched on platforms because the boggy ground surrounding them was well drenched by morning. With heavy wind and rain, we broke camp quickly with concerns of keeping our sleeping bags dry. Unfortunately for Matt, his self-encapsulated bivvy was a bit sopping on the inside as he had no choice but to crawl out of it in the downpour.
This day had the majority of travel through tuckamore with little possibility of avoiding it. For our long trek to the high point cairn marking our descent, there were quite a few sections where we were mired in the bush. At one point, about 3 kilometres west of camp 2 and after a long swamp, we desperately looked for a high point to resume our travel and give us some relief from struggling through the tuckamore. Once we found the high point, it was relatively easier to navigate our way to the cairn, which is where things went somewhat awry. We knew that we had to descend from the plateau and that it was marked with rock markers, but we missed the third marker and traveled down a section off route. This lead to a 3 hour onslaught of thick brush, tuckamore and steep terrain. We eventually reached Snug Harbour, somewhat wet and cold from the day’s rain. We took a break to contemplate an attempt at heading out to the road today, rather than camping in a literal wind and rain storm. Matt had his own contemplations as well on this video. After some talk, we ended up hiking out the last 8
kilometres and finished the trip a day early. Especially fun (!) in the last hour was the waist deep Western Brook river crossing. Luckily, Sheena and Karen were ready to pick us up in time for a warm meal at a local restaurant.
The following day, Kris, Matt and I were fairly wiped out and took most of the day to relax, play some Settlers of Catan and also try to clean our gear. Sheena, Karen and I went to see Southeast Brook Falls and Middle Brook Falls in the south areas of the park. The rocks around Middle Brook Falls were very unique and interesting to see.
After our day of hiking rest, the next day was one of redemption for Matt and I. Ten years ago on our visit, we didn’t get the chance to do Gros Morne
mountain for a couple of reasons, but mostly due to the memorably wet and cold experience we had while on the Long Range backpacking trip (sound familiar?). This time, we would have perfect weather and more than enough energy to hike the 16 kilometre trip, enjoy some views of Ten Mile Pond and even see some backpackers on their own final descent from the plateau. We took the reverse route ascending the back side of Gros Morne, which created quite the talk with other hikers on the trail. The descent gully reminded me of the Rockies a little bit, I only wish the scree was a bit smaller. While we were on Gros Morne, Sheena and Karen went kayaking in the Norris Point area. They both seemed to have lots of fun, despite returning virtually ravenous from their afternoon on the water.
In a bid to keep up with Sheena and Karen who had already hiked all but 3 trails in the park while we were backpacking, the last hiking day of our trip to
Newfoundland brought us to the Tablelands area. This area is completely unique to the surrounding park and looks as if someone shaved the mountains of their trees, bogs and water. Apparently, the Tablelands consist of rock brought from the earth’s core during a millennium old geological upheaval. The material in the rocks prevents normal growth of vegetation. Now, the mountains stand apart with their distinct brown coloured rocks, devoid of the vegetation that grows lushly elsewhere. When we visited the Tablelands, I saw with it a destination that I will certainly explore on a return trip to the area. Also, according to the park information, there is a short backpacking trail that has been created in the area.
After 10 days of outdoors, leaving us full of our adventure and somewhat damp from
7 days from periodic rain, we packed up the hobo camp and started the long trip back to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. After dropping off our airplane bound friends, Kris, Sheena and I met with our ferry — the Vision, a new acquisition for Marine Atlantic. With a 1 1/2hr shorter crossing and a games room, the ferry was a good denouement for a long vacation.
(Thanks again to Kris and Matt for some of their photos used in this post.)