For about the hundredth time I am reading the trail description of the Tablelands hike in Gros Morne National Park; One of the few places you can access exposed earth’s mantle . I stop reading and looking up from the traveller’s guide out at the view in front of me and say aloud to myself, “How frigging fantastic is this?” I highlighted those ten words in a fluorescent yellow over two months ago and since then I have circled it so much the blue ink is starting to bleed through the page. Today, I drew a big star instead.
I am just sitting here in the truck cab thinking, “If I could eat this view and absorb it- I would.” So far I can’t get enough of the tablelands valley of Gros Morne National Park. This morning it is still quiet. I am the only vehicle here- the view – all mine, “The early bird gets the worm” is applicable. I am just waiting to make sure the departing weather system, that rolled through the last few days, will have pushed out enough that I can see what I came here to see. The travel guide says this is a short 4km return hike so in twenty minutes I can be at the viewing platform. I tell myself there is no rush, savour the moment. Within a few minutes an SUV arrives and a young man and woman get out with their dog, He has a small day-pack, she holds onto a bottle of water in her left hand and the dog leash in her right. They head up the trail. I continue to wait just a bit longer.
Contrary to my previous night at J.T. Cheeseman Provincial Park, last night I was high and dry on my new air mattress and I smartly draped the tarp over the back of the truck cap, covering any spot that may have let the rain in the previous night. Trout River campground, where I stayed, is fifty km from the turn off at Wiltondale, but I chose it because it is the closest national park campground to the Tablelands hike. It was an excellent choice. On the way into the campground I passed a sign pointing to a lookout that I stored in my mind as the place I would watch the sunrise. And about 5:30 am I drove up to that point. While I allowed the coffee beans to awaken in the French Press, I took some photos of the morning light unfolding. This was my view, stunning and far bigger than I had imagined.
I slowly got out of the truck and stretched and brought my foot up onto the bumper of the truck to tie my hikers then collected my equipment. The clouds drifted eastward and tore apart. Blue sky was starting to be revealed. This clearing pattern set off an urgency in me. Time to go, the place will be crawling with people soon. My pack is weighted down with 2 Litres of water, a first aid kit, snacks and an extra sweater. I shrug it up over my rain jacket that I will probably peel off in a few minutes, because I can feel the temperature rising. With a hiking pole in each hand I set out. This is all a bit of overkill for this hike but I like to be prepared. About a hundred meters up the wide gravel trail, I pause to look back towards the valley. It is so damn pretty I have to share it again.
Along the path are interpretive plaques I snap some photos, they describe the rocks of the Tableland; Peridotite Serpentinite, Garbro and Basalt. Another board stating this is a UNESCO World Heritage Site on but I am so drawn towards the barren rock hills that I don’t stop for long to read the info, knowing I can read it on the way back down.
My friend Tracy, who accompanied me on other adventures (St. Martins Sea Caves, and Parlee Brook Amphitheatre, Sussex New Brunswick), said, “you’ll see a lot of pitcher plants.” I have an image in my mind of what a pitcher plant looks like, but all I can see is these red flowers that sort of look like poppies, No pitcher plants yet. Blue Harebells, Yarrow and a yellow Cinquefoil
There is a waterfall off to my right coming from the top, I wonder about its source – a lake perhaps. I come across one of the interpretive plaques that say there is snow on the top throughout the summer .
I do as the plaque suggests, picking up one of the rusty coloured rocks, it is heavier than its size would suggest it should be. The plaque says Serpentine soil is the worst soil on the planet- full of toxic heavy metals unsuitable for most plants, containing very little nitrogen, phosphorus or calcium. I drop the stones and carry on through this fascinating part of our earth.
The path turns and I begin to see the outline of a large round mountain, I suspect is the entrance of Winterhouse Canyon. A group of people close in on my position and, I step aside and let them pass. “Hello.” I get hellos back and “thank you.” I dawdle taking pictures and looking at the rocks and plants, I am in no rush. O
As soon as i take the turn, the wind starts blowing-channeled by the canyon walls, I can almost lean into it and be held up. More people are coming up the path and I hurry now. I don’t want to give up a chance at getting photos within the canyon, free of people. There is a stream running beside the trail and a boardwalk up to the viewing platform.
I have arrived in Winterhouse Canyon. I drop my pack down and stand there in awe. People are crowding in now, and I am feeling obligated to give them a chance at take their selfie but I am not finished yet. A man and two women are taking photos of each other. “Excuse me do you mind taking a picture of me please?” One of the ladies looks over at the man and says, “He is the photographer.” He takes my camera and moves the setting and starts taking photos of me. I thank him and they move off. I stand there just a little bit longer wanting to imprint this view in my mind. Like at the top of Mount Katahdin, Maine,
There is a line of people wanting to get their picture taken at this place. Grudgingly, I move off and head back down the path. Out of the way of the smiling people still hovering to get a photo. I tell people on the approach, “Enjoy!” as we pass each other. The scenery is equally beautiful on the return.
A steady stream of people file up the path. The man that took my photo is bent down on one knee with his phone tilted perpendicular at the waterfalls. I joke with the ladies as they wait for him, “Us photographers can turn a one hour hike into a five hour experience.” They nod and laugh. I move on.
There is a narrow path called the Serpentine trail that just veers off of the main trail. There is no one on it and I am debating if I should take it. I am not sure which direction it goes or how long a detour it is. A couple on the way up seem excited about something and the man asks me, “Did you see the moose?” He raises his hand and points, “It was just over there.” I turn and answer, “No.” With my hand up on top of my hat visor, I scour the green field on the other side of the road, “I don’t see him.”. hoping he will point him out. The man says, “Oh he was just there, it must have moved off.” I stare at him blank faced, wondering why he told me if he knew the animal was gone. I feel disappointed that I missed out on the sighting.
With that thought, I head off down the serpentine trail. I am not ready to give up my earth’s mantle experience just yet. It is a bouldery path and I have to cross a little stream. I pick up a few rocks and look them over. The trail is short and leads me back to the parking lots – now filled with vehicles and motorhomes. My parking space has become a hot commodity. I take my pack off and look back up the trail. I have mixed emotions, I absolutely loved it but a little part of me is saying there is more to this place and I am not convinced I got the full experience. In my heart of hearts I feel I need to go up there again and I will make that happen.
There is a white car, with its indicator on waiting for me to vacate my space. He can wait a few more seconds I think to myself. I pick up my travel guide and put a large check-mark beside the Tablelands Hike and trace over it several times. I have a full day ahead of me, I think I will go to the community of Trout River and see what is there, then tomorrow I plan to hike up The Look off- just behind the Discovery Center. I pull out of my space and the white car swings in. One more glance in my rearview mirror and i pull out onto the road.
Please Join me again on this Newfoundland journey. Happy travels from Maritimemac
No money, discounts or gifts were exchanged for writing this, it was my own experience.
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