Day 14 |
Sep 10, 2009

Gros Morne National Park Newfoundland

By Chris Srigley, General Naturalist

Weather: Sunny, 12°C

Early this morning the Prince Albert II entered Bonne Bay on the south west coast of Newfoundland en route to our anchor point for the day’s activities at Gros Morne National Park.

As I clear the sleep from my eyes and peer from my porthole, I see the pink quartzite mountaintops and limestone cliffs that tower above us, and all I can do is smile. As a Canadian I have always wanted to visit Gros Morne, and today I am finally here.

Starting as the Gros Morne National Park Reserve in 1973, this Canadian jewel was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987 before its eventual status change in 2005 to a Canadian National Park. With its geological history and exceptional scenery it was only a matter of time before both of these occurred.

To this point in our voyage we have had little opportunity for a good extended hike, today this will change. This morning Nicki and I will join 16 of our guests along with our local guide Mark on a 5 km hike into the park in search of Northern Harriers, Moose and maybe even (with some luck) Black Bears.

Arriving at the Woody Point jetty, Nicki and I are introduced to Mark and discuss our morning. Quickly we find him to be a true professional and well versed in the natural history of Gros Morne and Newfoundland.

A short ride in a big yellow school bus and we are dropped at the Discovery Centre and the trailhead of the “Lookout” loop. We use the first few minutes for a run to the restrooms and to shed some layers. The temperature has already risen and we can be sure it will become warmer as we set off.

Entering the trail we find ourselves on a narrow single track amongst dense scrub. Mark and Nicki take the lead while I bring up the tail end. With such a small group we don’t expect anyone to fall behind but it is always best to have one of us bring up the rear just in case.

Shortly after we have started, the trail begins to show its described “steep terrain”. We climb over boardwalks, steps and push our way through switchback after switchback. 45 minutes later we exit the forest onto a long boardwalk where we are greeted by an amazing view of the Tablelands.

Stopping briefly for a spot of water and to snap a picture or two, we continue for our destination, a lookout point 350m (1148 ft) above Bonne Bay and the Prince Albert II. En route we find an amazing display of Newfoundland’s provincial flower, the carnivorous Picture Plant. Just past blooming it is still an interesting sighting.

Reaching the top we find the winds howling; the layers that we removed as we hiked are quickly being replaced.

Within moments Mark is pointing to a stand of trees in the distance. As we follow his directions we are able to spot a moose trying to blend in amongst the green. Unfortunately for this cow, she sticks out like a sore thumb. We spend a few moments enjoying the moose before turning our attention back to the view which we had come for.

During our decent we come across several couples making their way up the mountain. As they work their way through our group arriving at me they notice my uniform and radio. With this they stop me and begin to ask questions about whom we are, where we have come from etc. I gladly answer their questions and inform them where they can find out more about us before excusing myself.

By the time I have caught up with my group they are back at the Discovery Centre and ready to board the bus. It’s time to return to the Prince Albert II for lunch before making for the opposite side of Bonne Bay for our afternoon excursions. We have earned our lunch this morning!

With just enough time back onboard to inhale a slice of pizza, I am back in the Zodiacs and heading for Norris Point to check our landing sight. This afternoon I will shuttle the guests to shore before remaining behind to run a shuttle every half hour for the crew to get some time ashore. Being a national park there isn’t much around for them to do, however some time off of the ship is welcomed. They will enjoy the local restaurant and the warmth of the sun.

Some 30 crewmembers take full advantage of the shuttle before the guests return at 1700. From the smiles on their faces it is easy to tell they have enjoyed this afternoon as much as this morning.

With all back onboard, Captain Alexander Golubev lifts the anchor and the Prince Albert II sets course for the Magdalen Islands.

Having fulfilled a long time ambition to visit Gros Morne today, I sit back and enjoy the views of Bonne Bay one last time as we exit. I feel so truly blessed to have experienced such stunning beauty in my own country.

Tomorrow – another first for me in Canada!