Navigating the Landscape

Happy Equinox,

Hard to believe that summer is over and we’re heading for the darker part of the year.  I’ve always wanted the longest day of the year to be in August, not June.  That way, the loss of light would begin at the end of summer rather than in its midst.  But given the calendar was set long before I showed up, I’ll just have to cope.

Last Saturday morning, we awoke in a lovely campsite about 30 metres above waters of the St. Lawrence Seaway in Gros Morne National Park.  We finished our Long Range Traverse a few days early so we decided to add a hike to the Green Gardens to our agenda.   We also awoke to gunshots.  Very strange for any morning in the backcountry but even more strange for a national park.  Two guys in a dory were shooting towards the headland from their small boat.  Curious.  Then we noticed that there were white dots on the hillside.  Sheep!  We’d seen their tracks the days before (as well as their poop) and now we saw them scurrying for their lives down the way.  (Locals grazed their sheep there for centuries before the park existed).  The hunters/herders didn’t seem to hit any of them with their 20 odd shots but we wondering if they were just trying to harass or herd them.  Later in the day, the wardens thought it was as equally strange as we did but could offer no explanation.


Sunset over the St. Lawrence Seaway from Green Gardens in Gros Morne National Park

The evening before we had a driftwood campfire on the beach.  It looked at first like an “ordinary” sunset of great ball of fire easing into the ocean would be served up but then with just minutes to go, clouds seemed to roar into place.  With their sculpture like shapes adorning the horizon, the sky was soon ablaze in a wash of deep orange and red.  It was probably one of the top five sunsets I’ve seen in my life.  We felt so lucky to be sitting on the beach basking in the glow of our fire and then to have our entire existence painted in the dancing light of that fire was incredible.

After waiting fourteen years to make it happen, the Long Range Traverse was incredible.  The hike out of the back of the gorge was a bit like a rock version of the Khumbu Icefall.  We surmounting the waterfall we had to haul ourselves up using branches to leverage ourselves up the very steep slope.  Up, over, around, with a few tight squeezes through some fallen boulders delivered us to one of the most photographed iconic views of Gros Morne National Park.  You can check out this view and other pictures from our trip here:  Gros Morne Picture Album

Camping in Gros Morne

Our new MEC Gemini tent pitched in one of the most scenic locations I have ever seen...looking over Western Brook Pond

We camped at the top of the waterfall and wonder at the visual splendor that surrounded us.  The wind was cold and cutting so we cooked up dinner and tucked ourselves into our new MEC Gemini ES tent.  On my trip to Ontario earlier in the summer, we’d discovered that our old tent was leaky and not a strong enough shelter for the potential conditions of the Long Range.  It turned out to be a fine tent except for the door zippers, which drive me crazy and it sure looked good nestled above the waterfall in a rocky nook.

The next day brought more clear weather and we headed up for the top of the gorge.  The navigation was easier than expected and we moved along quite quickly and ended the day at Hardings Pond.  That part of the Long Range houses the source of the Humber River so I’m currently enthralled with the possibility of traveling the Humber from source to sea.  A moose came with the new neighbourhood and we enjoyed watching him graze through the early evening.

The third day brought the toughest navigation because it required the crossing of two barren plateaus where it was hard to pick out the shapes of individual ponds.  Other than that, I was surprised that the navigation wasn’t more challenging.  We’d prepped well by bringing maps of different scales and kept a close tab on where we were and where we had to head to not be led astray but the multitude of game trails.  We didn’t even have to bash through much tuckamore.  The last day began with a river crossing to ford the creek that drains Green Island Pond.  It was a cold start to the day, our only grey, rainy and cold one, but I love the picture of Marian halfway across the stream.  I had fun calling her my “Hardcore Mountain Woman.”

Marian crossing the river in Gros Morne National Park on the Long Range Traverse

Marian crossing the creek that drains Green Island Pond

It was a foggy, low cloud day but we could still move by following the footpath left by others.  It’s startling the impact that our collective footsteps can have.  The Traverse in open from July through September and by September, there really is a “trail” of sorts.  We’d brought along a GPS but were proud that we never needed to use it to fix our location.  I think of off-trail/backcountry navigation as moving from moments where you absolutely know where you are through times where you don’t know exactly where you are (some might define this as lost) to times where you know exactly again.  It takes some experience to be tolerant with that state of unknowing.

I saw a connection to my life with this idea…there are times when I know that I am exactly on track–that my beliefs, actions, and passions are all in alignment and other times where I’m not sure what my path is.  I’ve gotten better at hanging out in the less grounded state and trusting that clarity about path and purpose will eventually reveal themselves and I don’t have the push the timing/decision-making along.  Though with the passing of my birthday this year, I seem to be more aware than ever that the life list might not all fit in so I want to choose carefully what I direct my life force/energy towards.  I feeling like I’m in one of those “between knowing” spaces right now.

TA striking a familiar pose in front of Gros Morne Mountain

TA striking a familiar pose in front of Gros Morne Mountain

The fog and clouds rose just as we were getting close to Gros Morne mountain and I got to experience somewhat of the view that I missed out last September when Marian and I climbed it in a driving rain.  We descended the steep gully that led to Ferry Gulch, lunched, and headed down.  We stopped by the Visitor’s Centre and got stoked about heading fro Green Gardens the next day.

Both before and after the trip, we enjoyed the hospitality of our Gros Morne “base camp”, The Ocean View Hotel.  Once again Todd Wight and his staff succeeded in making us feel welcome and the luxury of packing in and packing out in such luxury was delightful.  Todd even bailed me out when I’d screwed up the dates in our reservation!  Thanks Todd!

I’ve entered a video in the MEC Video contest called “Cinnamon Roll Meditation.”  It’s about baking cinnamon rolls in the backcountry.  The video needs to finish in the top five in its category to go onto the final round.  The grand prize is $2500 worth of MEC gear…that would go along way towards equipping several upcoming expeditions (whatever they turn out to be).  Please vote for my video here: MEC promises not to abuse your email and voting closes October 6th.  You can watch it below but you have to visit the URL above to actually vote.

Thanks in advance and have a good week,


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4 Responses to Navigating the Landscape

  1. Mack Hops says:

    Hey I am going out to gros morne end of August 2012 and was wondering if you could give me a bit of advice.
    I understand there is an entrance fee of 9.80 and for every night you stay there (wild camping) it is 9.80. But you also have to make a reservation? is that correct?

    I am planning on spending 3-4 days there and 2-3 nights.
    Which spots do you suggest I check out/stay.

    I will be cycling there from Montreal, but will ship my bike back in deer lake and keep camping stuff with me for Gros Morne. Any tips would be appreciated!

    By the way, great photos. It is getting me pumped up even more..



    • TA Loeffler says:

      Hi Mac,
      When I visited Gros Morne, I had the annual pass which covered part of my entrance fee, reduced my camping fees, and such. To do the Gros Morne traverse, you do need to make a reservation because the spots fill up and they limit the number of people in the backcountry. Some of the other spots are quite popular as well so you might want to give the park a call to ask about which ones would best be reserved. I loved Green Gardens-we only spent one night down there but you could easily spend two and make a loop out of it. If you didn’t want to do the entire traverse to Gros Morne, it is possible to camp at the back of Western Brook Pond and then day hike to the top. You get the boat trip plus camping in the backcountry. You could climb Gros Morne on a different day. I had a car so I’m not sure about the possibilities for getting around without one. We did use a taxi to get to the trailhead for the boat trip while leaving our car at the end by Gros Morne. Gros Morne is so beautiful you can’t really go wrong. Enjoy!

      • Mack Hops says:

        Thanks for the reply!

        I will be taking a combination of 2 busses from port aux basques to rocky harbour. I understand the entrace to Gros Morne traverse is 5 km or so west of rocky harbour.
        Although i will have my bike i’ll probably ship it back in port aux basque. Camping in western brook pond sounds nice. How early do you think i should reserve? does making a reservation cost money?

        Any suggestions on clothing? How geared up do you need to be? I will be there around September 10. I doubt the park will be that busy then either.



      • TA Loeffler says:

        Things should be quieting down in September though I know the traverse is popular. There is a fee associated with making the reservation $24 or something. I’d suggest giving the park a call to get their opinion about when you might need to reserve by. I’d suggest being prepared for full on weather. Up high in Gros Morne NP you can get snow that that time of the year as well as deep soaking rains. So a good layering system with a waterproof breathable shell is imperative.

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