Have you ever seen a picture of a place that put a permanent desire in your mind; an everlasting hope at the back of your mind to one day stumble upon this place? I have.
There’s a classic picture that anyone can find on Google if they search Gros Morne National Park. It’s a picture taken from the top of Gros Morne Mountain looking down onto the fjord of Ten Mile Pond. Years ago—back when I was in grade 7 or 8—I was cutting through a stack of old National Geographic magazines for art class. I saw this stunning image of deep water sheltered between cliffs, and the distant ocean lying placid under a sky. I had no idea where this was, what trail to take to get there, the name of the park. I would figure some of this out, but I certainly didn’t know what was involved to get this view. When I did learn where the picture was taken from, I felt sad. I didn’t see myself or my family travelling there. That image went to the back of my mind for many years.
A year and a half ago, when I was planning my route for this bike trip across Canada, I figured that I could stop in at Gros Morne on the drive back from St. John’s. It turned out that the ferry from Argentia was much more time and cost efficient. Argentia is close to St. John’s. It didn’t seem that I would be able to go to Gros Morne on this trip.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Linda, Martin, and Robert, long-time family friends, had flown out to join me for the last leg of the trip. They were planning on visiting Gros Morne during their stay on the Rock. I looked at my schedule, and realized that I could pull of a side trip to Gros Morne. I sacrificed a rest day and added distance another day. Voila! I was 2 days ahead of schedule.
Our first day in the park, I spent some time skipping stones from a pebbly beach into the ocean at Baker’s Brook. It was a clear day. The rugged mountain sides fell into the ocean off in the distance. Later in the day, my mom and I took a cruise along with our family friends to see the fjord of West Pond. It was quite spectacular. However, as I would learn the next day, you don’t realize the scale of size looking up from a boat as you do looking down from the top of the cliffs.
We were discussing our plans for the next day over dinner at a cute restaurant called Java Jack’s. It’s a renovated house converted into an art gallery, bakery, and restaurant. We were figuring out what hikes would be good. I was quite set on doing the 16km Lonely Mountain (Gros Morne) hike. Linda and my mom were interested, but the rest of the crew decided not to go for the long steep hike.
It sounds silly, but on my rest day, I ended up doing a 16km trail run up and down a mountain. People are supposed to allot 6-8 hours for the hike. There was other stuff we wanted to do in our little time at the park, I had blogs to write, and my mom and I had to drive back to Deer Lake so I could begin cycling early the next day. We didn’t want to drive back at night because of the moose risk. There are 4 moose for each square kilometre in the Gros Morne area! I wanted to see my place. I wanted to take my own picture. I didn’t want to live the image vicariously through Google Images. I was determined to make it happen.
I jogged most of the trail except for some gnarly sections where spraining my ankle would be a huge risk. The final 500 metres of the climb to the summit don’t really follow a path. It’s a steep valley of rock slide. There are small boulders and plenty of loose rock. You sort of make your own path up. I didn’t run up this. I stopped and talked to a couple fellow hikers on the way up. Eventually, I made it to the spot. I took the famous picture. I sat on a rock facing the view. I stayed there for about 10-15 minutes, ate my power bar, and sipped my water. I’ll never forget that view. I assure anyone considering the trek: it’s worth it. This was one of the most spectacular sights I’ve seen in my life.
On the way back down, I stopped and lounged next to a lake that was still quite high up. It looked over an ocean inlet and other mountains in the area although it was much lower than the summit of Gros Morne. Near this lake, I heard the rushing sound of a stream. A couple steps off the path on an overgrown path, was a little rock pond with water trickling in from a series of mini waterfalls that flowed from higher up the mountain. The water was clear. There was no soil or mud touching the water—just rock. I put some on my face. It was freezing. I cupped some water in my hand and took a sip. It was the cleanest, purest water I have ever drunk in my life.
I made it back down the mountain by 1:30pm after starting at 10am. I took a shower in the RV. Then I realized how stiff I was. I wasn’t looking forward to the long bike to Grand Falls-Windsor the next day. There are no regrets. An opportunity was begging me. I saw a spectacular sight. Finishing at Cape Spear wouldn’t feel the same if I didn’t get to see the view from the top of Gros Morne. The stiffness will go away, but my memories never will.
Those were two truly remarkable days. I’m touched and delighted that our friends whom I’ve known nearly my whole life, are going to be with me for this final stretch. I’ve got some long and tough days ahead of me to compensate for this detour, but that’s all part of the rewarding challenge.
I may be drunk in dreams, but I would love for my brother to see the sight from the top of Gros Morne one day. Kerr, take a look at the pictures. We’ll dream, and perhaps one day, we’ll stumble on an opportunity and make it a reality. Dreaming is never foolish.
July 29 and 30/11