Monday, June 15, 2009

Huffin' and PUFFIN

At last, I can say that I have set foot in every province of Canada. A CHHA (Canadian Hard of Hearing Association) conference in Saint John’s, Newfoundland brought me to the beautiful rugged, and varied terrain of this province.

Upon my arrival; in the Sheraton hotel lobby, I unexpectedly came face-to-face with someone whom I had been in touch with over the past seven years via the internet; related to cochlear implants. Despite the fact we had never met in person, Monique and I got along like we had been good friends for years!

After roaming among the colourful multi-story houses of Saint John’s, a relaxing massage, sipping mint hot chocolate in a corner cafe with a friend from Nova Scotia, listening to and meeting famous inspirational speakers at the conference, watching clumsy puffins take off and land from the world’s largest puffin colony and whales spouting among icebergs in the Atlantic Ocean, shooting Screeches and eating cod tongues (both specialties of the province by the way), bar-hopping during a pub crawl on George Street under the surveillance of mounted RCMP officers, a late-night hike up the historic Signal Hill to watch dawn break, it was time to leave my old and newly found CHHA friends and carry on to the opposite end of the province.

A flight to Deer Lake, Newfoundland and an hour’s drive with two moose sightings along the way, brought my mom and I to Norris Point, located on Bonne Bay in Gros Morne National Park. This was one of the several small seaside towns we stayed at during our visit in the Park. All of which of course, specialize in seafood. A word of advice for those who plan to visit such towns in the future – a four star is not like a four star in the city, and it is best to stick with the seafood options on the menus!

A special treat and intro to the park included an evening of a gourmet dinner at a restaurant we had by chance all to ourselves, with a view of the calm bay and snow-capped mountains. Evening entertainment followed at the local town meeting place, with a humourous Parks Canada interpreter’s recap of the diverse geology of the park, and a live jazz band.

Our first hike, along the Baker’s Brook Falls trail took us to a lovely waterfall, overshadowed by sub-alpine flora and the Long Range Mountains. We stayed the night in a popular town further North, called Rocky Harbour. It had rugged cliff faces and the picturesque Lobster Cove lighthouse.

First thing the next morning, we walked the Western Brook Pond, which had a landscape that changed from plains to forest and finally to tall mountains. Along the way, we encountered a moose cow and her calf, in the middle of the path. Making sure her calf was safe, the mother blocked our progress and even allowed us to approach her within a few metres before ambling back into the bush. That was exciting! That trail ended at the Western Brook Gorge; sheer cliff faces that tower over a pristine mountain spring fed lake, interestingly enough free of fish and vegetation due to its newness as far as glacial timeframe goes.

The next two nights we spent in Cow Head, which had everything from sandy and rocky beaches with seals sunbathing nearby, to mixed and coniferous forests, plains and mountains all within view. The Old Mail Road trek took us along a duned beach littered with sand dollars and broken shells, and onto the serene overgrown dirt path that mail carriers used to ride along, whether it was by horse, or dog sled. The Cow Head Lighthouse trail took us past a current fishing village and into a climb through a mossy forested path, with a steep drop next to it, down to a rocky shoreline. The view from the look-out at the top of the trail was spectacular.

Our last day in the Park was completed with our longest journey; the Trout River Pond. This meditative and introspective hike (what a way to clear your head!) took my mom and I through a forest, onto a cobblestone beach, past thinning larch and juniper and onto the dry desert-like trail, with sparse alpine tundra flora. The last part of the trail was sided by rock, to keep us on our path, and ended with a pile of rocks. The most interesting part of the walk was that the other side of the Trout River Pond hosted a completely different ecosystem! While we were sitting on the baked orange rock eating our lunch, we were looking across the ravine to the other side that was dense with spruce trees and grey rock. After that refreshing yet wearying hike, we drove past the barren faces of the Tableland Mountains, through the forests of Woody Point, and out of the Park back to Deer Lake, in time for our flight back to Toronto the next day, despite the encounter my mom had with airport security, which involved tasting a bottle of Newfoundland Screech!

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