Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Hey! My feet hurt!

Yes. Tis' the cry of the aging hiker: "My feet hurt!" But what a great time I'm having doing it. 

Last weekend, our hike was 10.5 km (6.5 mi) return and one of the most popular hikes in Gros Morne National Park because of it's variety and beauty. We began across from The Tablelands, a majestic flat-topped mountain range where you are actually walking on the earth's mantle (normally found under the earth's crust)! (Haven't done that one yet as they recommend a guide. $$$) But we were walking towards the ocean; so our walk progressed quickly from the earth's mantle to scrubland. 

We were walking on a steady descent, through scrubland to forest, over barrens, down wooden "steps" and footpaths full of tree roots, with the occasional break of flat surface.

Finally, we could see the water! Through more forest, down more "steps", and then we reached our destination at Green Gardens  overlooking the Gulf of St Lawrence.  The sea was full of wonderful rock formation. There was also a motorized dory in the water which we were all curious about as there are no fish that close to shore.

We had to walk down that staircase (75 steps total) to reach the beach below where we had lunch. It had warmed up considerably by then; and the sound of the surf was magnificant!

This is the reason the hike is called Green Gardens. At the top of the cliff beyond the beach area there are several connected fields, green and lush. We were told that farmers still graze sheep here in the summer; and indeed, the evidence was underfoot!

Remember that dory we saw in the Gulf? Well, while we were in the last field, we heard the tinkle of little bells and 2 young men came through the back of the field with half a dozen sheep. They herded the sheep to the steps ..... led those sheep down those 75 steps!!! ...... then along the beach to the very end where they carried the sheep into the dory and off they went .... out to sea and onto (I assume) the farm where they belong! What a sight to see! 

That last green field was the end of the path unfortunately. What is actually an 18 km hike is cut in half because of erosion which has happened on the seaside trail. So, being now fed, watered and rested, it was time to begin our uphill return journey.

These are the "steps" I mentioned: 4x4s filled with dirt and rocks; and you really need to high-step it to get from one to the other. The foliage is beginning to change already here in NL; and you can see the amazing orange colors from the dying ferns. 

The Pitcher Plant is a
carnarvous plant
As we walked, we passed lots of mushrooms, ate juniper berries right off the branch (bitter with a peppery-medicinal taste but very beneficial to one's immune system), saw bunnies (but no moose), went through clouds of black flies and saw lots of NLs provincial flower, the Pitcher Plant.

The return trip required lots of rests and water breaks. But we finally made it back to our cars; and then continued to enjoy one another's company at dinner in Rocky Harbour again. 

While the rest of Canada and the U.S. are enjoying very high temperatures, the weather here in Newfoundland is seasonal. And as we have a very short summer season, the leaves are changing already and mornings and nights are actually cold. The group hopes to hike at least until the end of October. And if the weather cooperates, that will make for some spectacular hikes.

Let me at those mountains!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Was this your last summer "Hurrah" Newfoundland?

Last week, my friends and I took a mid-week day off work and drove the 6 hr return trip to one of the ONLY sandy beaches on the west coast of Newfoundland. We have miles and miles and miles of rocky coastline; my childhood swims always included wearing a pair of worn sneakers to walk into the water. So sandy beaches are much revered.  

We travelled to Burgeo. First you're on the highway, then you're driving through the forest; but the last third of the trip takes you through the barrens which are quite beautiful; every corner brought a new, magnificant vista --- mountains and hills, fjords and ponds, boulders and meadows; and so many shades of green!

When we reached the village of Burgeo, we headed straight for the beach which is part of Sandbanks Provincial Park. The map showed 6 separate beaches divided by rocks, dunes and an interwoven 7 km trail: we visited 3 of these beaches. 

It was a lovely day; sunny, with temps around the 22 C (72 F) mark. I was reminded of beach walks in Nova Scotia with my international students. I didn't realize how much I missed that until I saw the long expanse of sand and heard the waves. I must confess, I did tear up a little. I miss my second home. :( 

Off came our sandals and into the cold north Atlantic went our feet as we waded through the waves.  We walked and walked and walked. At one point, I just lay down on the sand and let the warmth of the sun and the sound of the ocean envelop me. Heaven! 

Up and over dunes; climbing the rocks was a little more difficult, especially coming down. But we did it rather than climb the wooden stairs. I felt like a kid again. The bay was full of rocks and islands; you can actually take a ferry to one of the larger islands, Ramea, where people still live. And because it was a mid-week September, the area was almost entirely ours. 

We drove around this pretty little village and found a steep, high set of steps leading to a lookoff where you can get a 360 view of Burgeo. Spectacular view!

By this time, the day was getting late. We found a little restaurant and ate a relaxing dinner of fish 'n' chips (local cod, so fresh, I almost slapped it!) Yum yum!

Then we headed back to Corner Brook, tired and satiated.  On the return trip, we saw a moose eating dinner in one of the bogs; we saw an eagle in flight; then we met this little guy. 
We slowed the car and pulled over. Mr Fox walked to our car and said (Yes, I'm sure I heard him): "Please sir! I want more!" 

So, I gave him the leftover pieces of fish to take home to his family as I'm sure they needed it much more than I did. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

A View from the Top

Saturday was another wonderful hike with my group when we hiked South Head Lighthouse, a 7 km return hike which ascends 330 meters into the mountain range behind Lark Harbour. 

We started the hike at the parking lot by the beach and began a gradual climb through the forest. It was cool and fragrant in the shade of the trees; we stopped for pictures at the waterfall. But shortly after that, we came to the real killer ...
... this meadow!

By the time we reached the meadow, the sun was directly overhead and at it's hottest; and there was nowhere to hide for the rest of the climb. We followed a zig zag line up between the 2 mountains with occasional stops to rest our weary legs and lungs and to let other hikers pass.

Here's the view looking down. You can see the parking lot and the beach in the far, far distance. Wow! And luckily, I found a great walking stick to help me. 

The dogberry trees were once again heavily laden with berries. And once we reached the top of the meadow and began the last leg of our journey over the mountain top, there were blueberries everwhere! They were small and a little tart. (Kind of like me as a teenager!)

What a spectacular view at the top! We sat and ate lunch together and enjoyed the beautiful sunshine and the ocean/island(s) view. 

Corner Brook is at the end of a very long bay known as the Bay of Islands. Wee Ball (which you see here) is one of the largest islands therein.

Here's a panoramic view of where we all dined:

On my left is a slightly different way to meet up with the return path. And directly in front of me was, of course, WeeBall and the Atlantic.

If I turned my head to the right, I follow this mountain top to the valley below where we spotted 3 moose also eating lunch. Everyone was hungry, I guess! 

This has been my favorite hike to date. The view at the top is just so magnificant! The area around Lark Harbour has 6+ trails of all sizes and range of difficulty. I hope we do more before the cold temperatures set in. 

Into the vehicles and just a short jaunt down the road to our next hiking stop, Marlene's Tidewater Cafe and Crafts. What a joy it was to sit outside with a coffee and lemon square, resting my feet in front of this view.

I live in a beautiful province. 

(And when I'm buried in snow and ice from December to May, I shall repeat this mantra!)


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