Ferrying across the Cabot Strait to Newfoundland

On Friday, October 27, 2017, we woke up to a cloudy morning with light showers at Ingonish Beach Campgrounds in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Considering it was the last week of the camping season, were were surprised to see another vehicle parked on site. After a quick breakfast, I hopped into the washroom and took a nice warm shower. By the time I was done, the light rain turned to a heavy down pour. We sought refuge inside one of the kitchen huts, and wondered if we should wait out the rain to do some more hiking in the area. The weather app said the rain will be continuing for at least another day, so we decided to drive to North Sydney to catch the 11:45 am ferry to Newfoundland, the most easterly province of Canada.

The drive from Cape Breton to North Sydney was very foggy and we had little visibility. We had to drive with our blinkers on but luckily, a truck lead us safely through some heavy construction areas. We made it to North Sydney Ferry Terminal just in time to catch the boat, and we were one of the last vehicles to board the ferry which runs twice a day.

View port on the Marine Atlantic Ferry. It’s a 7 hour journey between North Sydney, NS to Port aux Basques, NL. I felt very sea sick halfway through the journey and tried my best to sleep it off. Be sure to bring everything you need for the ride as you cannot access your car until the ship docks.

We arrived in Port aux Basques, NL close to 7 pm and grabbed a quick dinner at Tim Horton’s. We tried to find a local restaurant but most businesses that cater to tourists are closed during off season. Surprisingly, the clam chowder at Tim Horton’s was very good but I could not find it again after leaving the province. We drove to Walmart Corner Brook and settled in for the evening. No other RV campers in sight.

The next morning, we did some grocery shopping at Walmart and Sobey’s and visited the Wonderful Fine Market Coop, a sort of indoors farmers’ market. We got coffee from Gros Morne Coffee Roasters, a new business venture by a well traveled couple trying to introduce locals to lighter and more flavourful roasts of coffee. We also bought a jar of homemade ketchup from The Saucy Newfoundland Co, another local startup that was born out of a weekend event. It’s a fun story to read and we met the founders who gave us amazing tips on what to eat while in NL (cod tongues and cod cheeks) and the lesser known hikes at Gros Morne National Park. Their enthusiasm for their business and thick newfie accents were very memorable. They also thought we were cookoo for camping at this time of the year.

The gloomy weather seemed to have carried over from Nova Scotia. After a quick lunch, we left Corner Brooke and drove to the Gros Morne Visitor Centre which was just about to close up entirely for the season. We were informed that Green Point was the only campsite open but the hot water, flush toilets and showers were closed for the season. It’s a very new campsite (or maybe newly renovated) with a few sites that have an ocean front view. We seemed to be the only campers who happily took up one of these attractive sites.

We spent the afternoon walking the Coastal Trail, an easy 6 km (3.7 miles) return hike that connects the Green Point campgrounds we stayed at to Bakers Brook, both previously fishermen settlements.
I found many of these critters crossing our path during our hike. Their brown and black stripped furry coat make them so distinct.
Here’s a view from the end of Steve’s Trail at Broom Point. At the beginning of the video, you can see the Long Range Mountains in the distance, then out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Along the hike, we came across dense coastal forests called tuckamore. These short wind blown spruce trees have a cavernous interior, and people have carved out small entrances that you could duck into. This seems like a great spot for secret cult meetings.
We watched the sunset at the end of Steve’s Trail in Broom Point. At low tide, we were able to see the layered rock formations that were once part of the ocean floor 500 million years ago.

Gros Morne Mountain/James Callaghan trail

On October 29, 2017, we woke up to the sounds of waves breaking on the shore below us. We cooked a huge pot of oatmeal for breakfast, made three bagel sandwiches, prepared a bag of carrot sticks and set off for the Gros Morne Mountain Trail. It’s a difficult 16 km (10 mile) return trail that takes you through changing landscape views of boreal forests, tablelands, long range mountains, and Arctic-alpine habitat. This hike brings you to the highest point of the park and is listed in World’s Best Hikes: 15 Classic Trails by National Geographic.

We begin our hike through the dense boreal forest on well carved trails. It was a quiet morning as we were the only people on the trail so far it seemed. The forest looked like it came out of a fairy tale.
Top Left: In the first few km of the trail, you’ll find many boardwalks laid out for hikers. It makes for an easy trail at the start but there is another reason for it. It’s raised from the soil so that young vegetation can have a chance to grow and be protected. Top Right: Currently there is an overpopulation of moose in the park, they were introduced to the region just a century ago. This has caused a disruption to the regeneration cycle of the forest, and consequently affected the population of the birds and other species that live in it. We heard loud sounds of deep moo-ing during our hike, which we later realized were bull moose calls. Bottom Left: The base of Gros Morne Mountain is scattered with little still ponds like this one. There are signs at this point that warn hikers of the strenuous 8 km hike and 500m vertical scramble ahead. Make sure to plan for enough time to descend before dark. You don’t want to be trapped on a mountain that’s overpopulated with moose. Bottom Right: From the base, we began our accent up the steep boulder gully.

The entire region was nearly silent as the fog rolled in and dampened the sound of our boots hitting the rock. It seemed as though we were the only two humans on the mountain, so we were acutely aware of any other noise that came from the distance. I had high hopes that we would get to see a moose or a caribou along the hike, and I even saw sets of hoof prints in the mud along the trail. By the time were at the summit, another quick footed hiker caught up to us and we all took a break from the climb. She introduced herself as Katrin, and she told us about her hitchhiking adventures that started all the way in Alaska, and she’s been working her way through Canada before she continues to South America.

As you ascend the mountain, you are rewarded with amazing views of the Ravin Ferry Gulch and Crow Cliff. The wind and dense fog came through sporadically and made the climb chilly at times. At this point, we were about 20 minutes from the base of the mountain.
Top Left: The scramble uphill seemed to never end. Giant boulders the size of small cars dotted the path to give you a mental cue that you were making progress. Top Right: The view near the summit looks like we’re on another planet. The ground is littered with sharp rocks, the air is dense with fog, and there isn’t another human in sight for miles. Bottom Left: We were treated with some clear blue skies (and a rainbow) when we reached the summit. Unfortunately, the grand fjord-like views we were supposed to see are still covered by dense cloud. Bottom Right: Small families of rock ptarmigan roam the top of Gros Morne. Their furry legs look protected from the chill of the coming winter months.

The rock ptarmigan’s feathers have a seasonal camouflage that keep them safe from predators. That said, their lack of predators in the area make them bold and they even decided to come in our path knowing they would be in our way.
A view from the base and from the summit of Gros Mountain.

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