Carefree in Gros Morne National Park

One of the great things I have come to enjoy about Gros Morne National Park is given its popularity, it does not feel overly crowded.  It’s a treat to stop at the Visitor Center and ask the staff “What are the most scenic hikes here?” without the fear of encountering a human highway on the trail.

Of course, the Tablelands, or walking on the earth’s mantle, is considered the park’s “premier park experience,” along with the boat ride to Western Brook Pond.   But coming in a close second and third are the hikes to Green Gardens and Baker’s Brook Falls.   I plan to do both of these, though they are on opposite ends of the park.

Who knew there were bears in Gros Morne? I can't even find one out of 5,000 moose, so I am not worried about a bear. Though I do encounter a couple hiking with bear bells. ;-)

Who knew there were bears in Gros Morne? I can’t even find one out of 5,000 moose, so I am not worried about a bear. Though I do encounter a couple hiking with bear bells, and one woman carrying a full sized can of wasp spray. ;-)

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This is gonna hurt coming back up...

This is gonna hurt coming back up…

Green Gardens trail (“10 km return,” or about 6 miles round trip) goes through quite varied terrain.  It starts out in the periodite rust-red rocks on the outskirts of Tablelands, then traverses some boreal forest, marsh wetlands, crests a few small peaks, then breaks out over a trail following the shoreline.  Along the way, the trail overlooks sea stacks and swooping wildflower-filled meadows, with alternating aromas between the sweet and resinous fir trees above, and the salty seaweed from the beach below.  It would really be just about the perfect hike, were it not for one reason.  It’s three miles of solid “down hill.”  Which of course, means a return of three miles of relentless, thigh burning, lung busting uphill, much of it uneven stair climbing on what is my warmest day in Newfoundland yet.  BUT!  Who am I to complain? The vistas are worth it.

This is the payoff at the end of all those stairs.

This is the payoff at the end of all those stairs.

Nature has an interesting pruning pattern.

Nature has an interesting pruning pattern.

Unlike National Parks in the US, most trails in Gros Morne are dog friendly.  Once I reach the beautiful overlooks, I am shocked at the amount of poop on the trail!  I hold back my righteous judgement as I pass dog owners, wondering if they are the ones who didn’t pick up after their dog, and how could they be so insensitive to the environment.  Until I hear “baaaaaahhhhh!”  SHEEP!  I later learn that residents of Trout River use these meadows as grazing areas for their sheep.  I wonder if they can appreciate their view?

I think the sheep are taking their view for granted.

I think the sheep are taking their view for granted.

Hey, guys! You're looking the wrong way!

Hey, guys! You’re looking the wrong way!

It's low tide, but you don't see the marine life in tide pools here like you do in the PNW. Too cold, maybe?

It’s low tide, but you don’t see the marine life in tide pools here like you do in the PNW. Too cold, maybe? (Note staircase on right as size comparison to that big rock!)

Small waterfall along the beach.

Small waterfall along the beach.

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A few scenes from Woody Point before I drive around to the other side of the park.

A few scenes from Woody Point before I drive around to the other side of the park. Note the flat tops of Tablelands in the distance.

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The evening drive back around to the other side of the park is lovely.

I wait until late to drive back around, because there is lots of road construction in the park, so I want to wait until they are done for the day. The evening light is lovely.

The Green Gardens trail head is near Trout River Campground, where I had no trouble securing a nice level spot near the park’s wifi without reservations.   I figure the Berry Hill NP CG on the opposite side of the park should be just as easy. I’ve been on a good run now with finding places to boondock, but I don’t want to push it inside the national parks.

I pull up to the kiosk near dark, surprised to find it staffed this late with a security guard.   No iron ranger here.  This doesn’t bode well.

Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse, first a signal station (signal flags) in 1898, then 5th order lens, now automated and part of the Gros Morne NPS.

Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse, first a signal station (signal flags) in 1898, then 5th order lens, now automated and part of the Gros Morne NPS.

It's funny how we become so conditioned, as I almost gasp when i see this "forbidden fruit" for sale.

It’s funny how we become so conditioned, as I almost gasp when I see this “forbidden fruit” for sale.

Toys, shoes, gloves, hats made from seal skin are not banned in Canada.

Toys, shoes, gloves, hats made from seal skin are not banned in Canada like they are in the US.

As I pull up to the kiosk window, the security guard says “As soon as you pull into this spot, I’m going to make all your cares melt away.”  I reply, “That’s music to my ears!  So you have space then?” feeling hopeful.  But then he gets that furrowed-brow look, “Oh.  You don’t have a reservation?”  (gulp!)

He goes on to tell me that this is Gros Morne’s “premier park,” due to its central location.  It even offers hookups, but all are reserved.   Even his group section is filled.  I tell him I don’t need hookups.  All I need is a “legal” place to park, and also hoping to get a shower.  (I have been trying not to fill my fresh water tank at provincial or national parks after seeing the “boil first” signs on the spigots.)  He hems and haws for a while, muttering “Let’s see….where could I put you…which way are you headed tomorrow?”   I tell him “I’m just here to hike Baker’s Brooke Falls, and then I am headed on to Deer Lake.”  The Baker’s Brook Falls trail head is 50 yards behind me.  He says, “Well, I reckon if you was to park there for an early start in the morning, I wouldn’t run you out.”

He then tells me I am welcome to use the campground showers, and in fact, if I go down and get settled, he’ll come down in 10 minutes in the Park Security SUV to pick me up and drive me up to the shower house so I don’t get lost.  Then, he loans me his flashlight for the walk back.  When’s the last time you had a park ranger tell you it was okay to park illegally, okay to use the shower without paying, and he’ll offer a shuttle service there?    Not exactly what I expected when he promised to “make all my cares go away,” but he surely did it!  “Only in Newfoundland.”

This photo is what Baker's Brook Falls should look like on a clear, sunny day.

This photo is what Baker’s Brook Falls should look like on a clear, sunny day.

This is what it looks like the morning I do the hike. Unfortunately, fog is obscuring the upper falls, and trees are obscuring the lower falls.

This is what it looks like the morning I do the hike. Unfortunately, fog is obscuring the upper falls, and trees are obscuring the lower falls.

Even in the fog, the sights, sounds, and scents are beautiful.

Even in the fog, the sights, sounds, and scents are beautiful.

Unfortunately, I awake the next morning to constant drizzle.  But I’ve been told by the interpreter at the Visitor Center that there are “Showy Lady-slipper orchids,” somewhat rare and fleeting along the Baker’s Brook Falls trail (Baker’s Brook Falls Trail:  “9.2km return,” a little under 6 miles.)  So I figure that’s why I paid extra for Gortex boots, right?  I soon find out they do an excellent job at holding water in, as the rain runs down my chins and soaks my socks.   But at least my feet are warm.

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This is a popular “moose browsing area,” which is why the trees are more sparse. Still, they illude me. Looks a bit dreamy with all the lacy flowers and fog.

By the time I am nearing the falls, it begins a downpour.  I am soaked to the gills.  I consider turning around, then ponder the ridiculousness of that notion.  It’s an hour walk back to the Winnie.  How much wetter can I get?   There’s a little river running down the trail ruts.  Since my shoes and socks are already soaked, it’s liberating to just march on through like a defiant kid splashing in the muddy puddles.

Would love to see this place in winter...but only for a little while. ;-)

Would love to see this place in winter…but only for a little while. ;-)

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Sadly, it wasn’t the best day for photographing the falls, but the Showy Lady-slippers didn’t seem to mind…

Showy Lady Slipper orchids (Cypripedium reginae) considered somewhat rare.

Showy Lady Slipper orchids (Cypripedium reginae) considered somewhat rare.

Their "cups" are about the size of a golf ball.

Their “cups” are about the size of a golf ball.

They are so beautiful covered in raindrops. Makes my soggy feet worth it!

They are so beautiful covered in raindrops. Makes my soggy feet worth it!

I still can't figure out how to get this camera to focus on close-ups. It won't "lock in" on the macro setting.

I still can’t figure out how to get this camera to focus on close-ups. It won’t “lock in” on focus from the macro setting.

Purple Pitcher Plant

Purple Pitcher Plant

Look at all those hungry mouths to feed!

Look at all those hungry mouths to feed!

Bearded Iris

Bearded Iris

Not sure about this one. Some kind of laurel? It's everywhere.

Not sure about this one. Some kind of laurel? It’s everywhere.

Wild roses are also prolific.

Wild roses are also prolific.

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Hooded Lady’s-tresses with their tight, spiraling flowers.

Hooded Lady’s-tresses are more unique orchids, due to their tight, spiraling flowers.

7 thoughts on “Carefree in Gros Morne National Park

  1. Thank you for taking me on a fabulous trip. With your pictures and narrative I have gone to more places than I could have ever imagined. Just a wonderful post!

    • Thanks, John. It’s delightful to know that others are following along and enjoying the beauty as much as I am!

  2. Oh, the STAIRS! But you’re right, the views were worth it!

    It seems like there are an awful lot of nice and friendly folks up in the maritimes! Your luck is holding!

    I don’t mind a gray day hike, it makes for some interesting moody shots…but the rain is a bit of a downer! Glad you made the most of it with all those lovely flowers and the beautiful falls.

  3. Have you ever tried gaters? They go over the leg and are kept up with elastic which keeps the water out and then they attach to your boots. We used them when be backpacked the Weimenuche Wilderness a few years ago and they really kept the water off the socks.
    Flower photos on a rainey day really are the best. Love the drops of water.

    • Hi, Ami — I do have a pair of gaiters, but have only used them for snow, therefore they are back in my storage shed in Texas. If I had worn long pants, that might have also helped. 😉 Thanks for the comment.

    • Thanks, Diana. I have the Canon G7X. Whenever I try to get close, I get the yellow “caution” frame with the exclamation point, saying the picture is not in focus. I get it with zoom, without zoom, with macro, etc. I took a dozen shots of those lady slippers, all with different settings, but never could get a clear, crisp shot. Frustrating! Hope you are enjoying Idaho!

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