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Epic Journey: Newfoundland

Epic Journey: Newfoundland

As part of an "Epic Journey" story featured in the fall 2018 issue of LOCALadk Mag, here's a recap of our Newfoundland adventure.

From the craggy coastal shorelines to the northern Appalachian Mountains, Newfoundland aptly earned its nickname of “The Rock”.  When we would tell people that our next adventure was trekking around Newfoundland, so many of them would either ask “where is that again?” or “why Newfoundland?”  Before the trip, our best answer was something along the lines of “well, we’ve seen some pretty amazing photos”. Upon return, we can now wholeheartedly say that Newfoundland is a place to discover natural wonders, explore rugged coastal trails, meet some of the nicest people you’ll ever encounter in your travels, and wrap yourself up in a culture with a fun Irish influence and a history that includes the early Vikings.

Our 10-day journey around Newfoundland, a large Canadian island off the east coast of the mainland, began on May 25th in the capital city of St. John’s.  Arriving to some cool weather, we decided to set up our tent at Pippy Park Campground then head into town to enjoy poutine, seafood chowder, and a few brews at Yellowbelly Brewery – a great way to kick off our Canadian adventure!

Bonavista Peninsula

The next morning, we woke up to a slushy snow on the tent.  Having left temperatures in the 80’s back home in New York, snow was a bit of a rude awakening, but we were prepared for all varieties of weather.  The day started with brunch at Mallard Cottage – a highly raved about spot in Quidi Vidi. The brunch menu was extensive, but we finally settled on breakfast sandwiches, accompanied by excellent coffee and a sampling from the dessert table full of delectable goodies to-go.

We then started heading out from St. John’s toward Trinity and Port Rexton, where a tiny house would be our home base for the next two nights.  Later that evening, we hiked the Skerwink Trail, one of the most talked about coastal trails in Newfoundland. The Skerwink Trail loop skirts Skerwink Head, a rocky peninsula that separates Trinity’s harbor from Port Rexton’s.  Along the trail, sights included sea stacks, arches, lighthouses, and some pleasant pebble beaches. Evan may have also had his first moose sighting here – but we’ll never know if his eyes were just playing tricks on him.

After a dry and warm night in the little yellow tiny house, our first stop the following morning was Elliston, the “root cellar capital of the world”.  We scoped out a few root cellars and then made our way to the puffin viewing site. A quick trail leads to the edge of a cliff that overlooks a little island where there are hundreds of nesting puffins.  We spent a good hour just sitting cliffside and watching the puffins pop in and out of their burrows or fly off to go fishing. We continued the drive around the peninsula, stopping at the Bonavista Lighthouse and Dungeon Provincial Park where we had an iceberg sighting!  

Another reason we wanted to visit Newfoundland was to experience the icebergs from Greenland floating in the waters surrounding The Rock, so when we spotted this one in the distance, we were excited to know that they had started drifting into the area. When we finally made it back to the tiny house that evening, we walked down to the Port Rexton Brewery to get a flight and sample some of the great options they had on tap, including the T-Rex porter which was definitely a favorite.

Twillingate

With a weather system moving in across the northern and eastern coast of Newfoundland, we knew that we would have some decision making ahead of us – try to make the most out of rain and fog in Twillingate (the “iceberg capital of the world”) or keep moving west.  We headed out to the Fox Island coastal trail near Port Rexton to take a hike and do some thinking before the rain hit. We kept watching the weather, and ultimately decided to head up to Twillingate to see what we could because we had read such great things about the region.  Unfortunately, we encountered rainy weather and fog the whole drive, and while what we could see looked beautiful, we ended up just grabbing some dinner, briefly checking out the lighthouse, and then moving on to Notre Dame Provincial Park. Considering the attendant knew our names when we pulled in, we were probably the only ones at the campground that night – the only ones crazy enough to be tenting in the incessant rain.

Gros Morne

The next morning, we packed up the tent in the rain, grabbed a hot shower in the nice heated campground bathrooms, and began heading toward the west coast, where we saw the weather forecast was much better for the next couple of days.  On the way to Deer Lake, we saw our first moose crossing the road right in front of us.  With a population estimated at well over a 100,000 moose, we had to see one eventually!

We continued through Deer Lake and Corner Brook, making our way to Lark Harbour to check out the Blow Me Down Provincial Park area.  When we arrived, the park was still closed for the season (the only downfall of traveling in the shoulder season), so we drove a little further to Lark Harbor and the Cedar Cove trailhead.  Cedar Cove ended up being a great surprise find. It was super windy, but the sun was out, and the trail led us to a driftwood-laden beach that made for great beach combing. We made a stop at a grocery store in Corner Brook to restock, and then we were on our way to the KOA in Gros Morne.

After a much warmer and drier night in the tent, we started the day by stopping at the visitor’s center to pick up our Gros Morne National Park Pass.  The Tablelands Trail was our first walk for the day. The geology in the Tablelands marks a time when the continents of Africa and North America collided, pushing the reddish-orange rocks, which were originally beneath the ocean, to their present visible position.  The next hike that day was the Green Gardens Trail, a longer trail that provides a mix of scenery - coastal sea stacks, volcanic rocks, secluded coves with waterfalls, and beautiful forests with lots of moose scat and tracks. We topped off the day with moose burgers in Rocky Harbour at the Fisherman’s Landing Restaurant.  When in Rome, right?

The next day, Evan and I made our way north toward Western Brook Pond for one of the most anticipated parts of our trip.  The weather was fantastic – warm and sunny – perfect for a boat trip through an incredible old fjord! After about a 2 mile walk over coastal bogs and low limestone ridges, we arrived at the lakefront where BonTours offers 2-hour interpretive boat tour through Western Brook Pond.  The waters of the “pond” (which is more like a huge lake at 10 miles long and just over 50 ft deep) are pristine, having had very little impact from human activities. The interpretive tour also included entertainment with traditional Newfie music and interactive wooden spoon playing – guests included!

Feeling hot for the first time on the trip, we continued further north to The Arches Provincial Park and then circled back to Shallow Bay - a big beach with shallow water that warms up for swimming in the summer (definitely not warm enough when we were there!).  It was in the parking lot at Shallow Bay that we had our best moose encounter! Evan and I had just pulled into the lot and opened the rear hatch when Evan hushed me and said “moose!”. A lone female moose wandered through the field next to the playground, crossing the road, and ended up in a meadow next to the tree line.  We approached slowly, watching the moose to see if she felt comfortable, and she just kept munching away at the greens. Evan and I watched her for around 20 minutes, until she wandered into the trees.

After we ate dinner on the beach, we stopped at a pair of red Adirondack chairs sitting alongside the coast to catch the sunset.  Parks Canada has strategically placed Adirondack chairs throughout the province, in spots where they encourage you to sit down and just take in the scenery.

Making the most of the limited good weather the following morning, we packed up our campsite and then went to Green Point, a geologist’s dream come true.  The cliffs at Green Point were approved as the Global Stratotype Section and Point for the base of the Ordovician system (which doesn’t mean a whole lot to me, but some of my coworkers were quite excited!).  Later that morning we made our way to Deer Lake where we decided to give ourselves a bit of a rest day, heading to the Holiday Inn to relax and watch some playoff hockey.

St. John’s

On Day 9 of our trip (June 3rd) we woke up to snow on the ground!  Since we decided to ultimately end up back in St. Johns that evening to catch some live music at O’Reilly’s Pub, the day was full of driving.  We hit rain and/or snow most of the morning, until we reached Terra Nova National Park, then the rain let up a bit. After a quick hike at Cupid’s Haven on the Dildo peninsula to get our legs moving, we continued to St. John’s.  We went to O’Reilly’s as planned, but unfortunately, the scheduled entertainment – Fergus O'Byrne, a founding member of the popular Irish-Newfoundland band trio, Ryan's Fancy – called in sick. While we were bummed to miss out on some authentic Newfie music, the pub was still a fun experience.

Our last full day in Newfoundland was iceberg hunting day!  We fueled up with some breakfast from Tim Horton’s (a must when in Canada), and journeyed north to Pouch Cove, where we had heard that there was an iceberg hanging out.  We walked along a very windy part of the East Coast Trail, but didn’t see anything, so we moved on to try our second location, La Manche Provincial Park. South of St. John’s, we tried another section of the East Coast Trail near the park.  We met another hiker on the trail who told us he that had just seen a big iceberg - we finally were in the right spot! The excitement was building as we found the LaManche Suspension Bridge. Following the trail to Money Cove, we could see the iceberg floating offshore.  We kept hiking toward the peninsula it was sitting next to, and as we made it to the edge, we looked over the cliff and there it was! We nestled ourselves in on the cliffside and watched. The iceberg slowly drifted, and the crashing waves worked their erosive magic on the ice.  At some point, the erosion was enough to cause part of the iceberg to calve. It was incredible to hear and watch - the crack of the ice and then the slow re-equilibration of the massive chunk of ice. Eventually, we pulled ourselves away from the show and started heading back up the trail.

We drove back to St. John’s where we checked into our AirBnB, a cozy and bright place close to the downtown.  For dinner, we went to Ches's Fish and Chips, a traditional spot for locals and tourists alike. Before flying out the next day, we wandered back into town to check out some of the shops, including the Newfoundland Chocolate Co., where we taste-tested some chocolate and picked up a few bars to bring home for our family (and ourselves, of course).  To get one last sweeping view of St. John’s and the Atlantic Ocean before leaving, we drove up to Signal Hill to sit and breathe in the salty air. Our time on The Rock had come to an end, but Newfoundland carved itself a nice little spot among our favorite travel adventures.

To see a short video from our experience, check out the YouTube video below:

To check out more of our adventures beyond the Blue Line, you can see more of our posts here.




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