August 2012: Gros Morne National Park
For our first “motorcycle vacation” we decided to ride to the other side of the island, as the only other time I had been to the west coast I was making a beeline for the ferry in Port Aux Basques, and didn’t have the time to sight-see along the way.
If you find yourself on the west coast of Newfoundland, you MUST visit Gros Morne National Park. A UNESCO world heritage sight, the park takes its name from the second-highest mountain in the province. The natural scenery in the area is truly spectacular. Riding through the park with no roof over me to interrupt the view is an experience I will never forget. As Mark puts it: “I was so overwhelmed by the view that when I finally looked down at my speedo was doing 60″.
To get to Gros Morne you take the TCH to Deer Lake, and then take Route 430 north. Pretty simple, right? Unfortunately for us, by the time we got to Deer Lake we were hungry and exited the highway in search of a bite to eat. Also unfortunately for us, it started to rain while we were having lunch and we had to struggle into our rain gear in the porch of the little restaurant before we hit the road again. When we tried to get back on the highway, we faced a labyrinth of ramps the like of which I’ve never seen in this province, and which I STILL don’t quite understand. The rain just added to our frustration at trying to get out of Deer Lake in the right direction, and after a couple of wrong turns we finally ended up heading north.
The rain made for cautious riding for the 50km or so to the park, but then the rain stopped and the clouds parted, and we stopped by the shore of Bonne Bay to take off our rain gear, totally enchanted with the view.
We proceeded to the community of Rocky Harbour, which is pretty much surrounded by the Park. With a population of roughly 1000, the town’s economy depends on tourism and it shows. It’s very neat and clean with many restaurants, shops and B&B’s.
After spending the night in a modest motel, we got up early with the intention of hiking the mountain. We were told the trail was about 16km long, and takes about 7-8 hours to complete. Quite a lofty ambition for two people who have never hiked before, but “he who knows nothing fears nothing”. Off we went with a couple of granola bars and a small bottle of water each.
It was turning out to be a beautiful morning, and we started off on the hike in shorts and t-shirts. Bring a jacket? “Nah…it’ll just weigh you down.” When we reached the bottom of the mountain, we saw that the top was shrouded in fog. We sat and discussed whether or not we should continue. “It’ll burn off” we predicted, and set off for the top.
I’m a distance runner and consider myself to be in pretty good shape, and that climb was hard…I admit it. What made it difficult was the terrain…rocks upon rocks upon rocks. It was hard to keep balance, and at some points we were on our hands and knees. It was also “t’ick a fog”, as we say, so we couldn’t really tell how high up we were. After climbing for probably an hour or so, we reached the summit of Gros Morne, very wet and very cold!
I had seen photos from the top of Gros Morne, and the view is stunning. Unfortunately for us, the fog had NOT burned off as predicted and our pictures might as well have been taken on St. Shott’s Road. We met a couple of Asian tourists at the top, stopped for a snack. The woman looked at us, spread out her arm into the white abyss, and asked “Is this it?”
The thing about Gros Morne that I didn’t realize is that it takes a lot longer to get DOWN the mountain than it takes to get up. You can’t go down the way you came up, because the loose rocks make it too dangerous. You have to pretty much walk around the mountain and come down the other side. We had many moments of “I think we’re almost there”, then realize that no, we’re not even close. That being said, we completed the trail in 5 hours. I think we accomplished this amazingly fast time because we didn’t stop to take many pictures…it was too foggy. Of course when we got back to the base of the mountain the fog HAD burned off and it was a beautifully clear day. Such is life.
We got back to the motel, got cleaned up and decided to splurge a little on supper to reward ourselves with conquering the mountain. We headed to Java Jack’s, a casual fine-dining restaurant in the heart of Rocky Harbour. The fantastic food (they call it a “deep-fryer-free zone”) and great atmosphere made for a wonderful dining experience!
My only regret about our trip to Gros Morne is that it wasn’t long enough. There is just SO MUCH to see and do here that you need to give yourself ample time to experience it. That’s why we’re planning to head back there in the summer of 2014. Maybe we’ll be able to see something from the top of the mountain next time.
Posted on December 22, 2013, in Roads of Newfoundland and tagged Bonne Bay, Gros Morne, Gros Morne National Park, harley -davidson sportster, hiking, java jack's, Kawasaki Versys, motorcycle touring, mountain, Newfoundland, Newfoundland and Labrador, rocky harbour, World Heritage Site. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.