Search This Blog

Friday, May 26, 2023

Into the Tablelands!

Friday, May 26, 2023

Head north up the Western Shore of Newfoundland.  When you reach Corner Brook, head East to Deer Lake.  When you reach Deer Lake, turn left and head up toward Gros Morne National Park.  So far so good.  When you are about halfway to Rocky Harbour, turn west on NL 431 toward the Tablelands and Trout River.  You climb quickly into the Tablelands.

The Tablelands, found between the towns of Trout River and Woody Point in south west of Gros Morne National Park, look more like a barren desert than traditional Newfoundland. This is due to the ultramafic rock – peridotite – which makes up the Tablelands. It is thought to originate in the Earth's mantle and was forced up from the depths during a plate collision several hundred million years ago. Peridotite lacks some of the usual nutrients required to sustain most plant life and has a toxic quality, hence its barren appearance. Peridotite is also high in iron, which accounts for its orange/brown color. Underneath this weathered zone, the rock is really a dark green color.

We've been here before.  We visited the Tablelands twice in 2018 - once, to hike a trail and route across the high section of the Tablelands - and, the second time, to hike the Green Gardens Trail down to the Bay of Labradour northeast of Trout River.

So, it was like reuniting with an old friend when we reached the top of the grade in the Tablelands.  We had seen from our vantage on Marble Mountain just two days ago that the Tablelands had received a new layer of snow in the system that passed through recently.  It laced the tops of the mountains as we drove through:

We are camping at Elephant Head RV Park in Trout River, an accommodation that had not been created yet when we drove into Trout River in 2018.  We are perched on the top of a height of land with the Tablelands in view beyond our RV:

Because it is a new park, it doesn't have many amenities.  However, it boasts a birdhouse --

-- which Ruby and David checked out as they explore the willows, grasses and other attractions of this hilltop:

In one direction, our campground looked out over one end of the town of Trout River and the western end of Trout River Pond (euphemistically named, because it is HUGE) --

-- and a stretch of Trout River linking Trout River Pond with the Gulf of St. Lawrence --

-- and a section of town at the mouth of Trout River where it curls into a sort of barachois:

 As soon as we got settled, Kathy took off to the beach beyond this section of town above to try her luck with sea glass.  She found a few pieces of well-smoothed glass, and even a piece of a mirror!

This was a good omen for our stay.  We'll have more to report in the next day or two.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Steady Brook Falls and Marble Mountain

Wednesday, May 24, 2023 

Marble Mountain is a major monument that looms over the Humber River and Corner Brook in Newfoundland.  It is the base for a Doppler Radar installation, and it is a well-loved local ski resort.  We learned that two of the area's most interesting hikes are to climb to Steady Brook Falls, which tumbles down a ravine on one side of Marble Mountain, and then climb the mountain itself to the top of the ski runs.  We decided to give it a try.  We found the trailhead:

Our trail clambered up some long staircases and the side of a slope, past a few zipline platforms, and then we burst out on this view of Steady Brook Falls:

Look at this video to see how much water was rushing over the falls. 

From the viewpoint for the falls, we moved steadily up the mountain until we reached "Country Road," a gravel road that climbs the mountain and doubles in the winter as one of the ski runs.  We heard that it is possible to find a trail out to the top of the falls, so we sought that out.  Finally, we found a break in the trees leading off Country Road in the direction of the roar of the water, and decided to try it, even though it looked as if it had not been maintained in some years.

Below, Kathy straddles a tree that was impertinent enough to fall over the trail.  Where is the trail maintenance crew when we need it?

Eventually, we reached a point where Kathy found an overlook with a view of the water as it spilled over the top of the falls --

-- and David found a lost Nike sandal, discarded on a steep trail down to the water's edge where the torrent threatened to pull any bystanders over the edge with it:

That was already enough adventure for one hike; but we still had a mountain to climb, so off we set in search of the top of Marble Mountain.
As we climbed, the air got colder and, in the shadows, larger and larger patches of snow remained.  Kathy decided to honor this snowy patch with its own snowy inuksuk or snowman (as you prefer):

By this time, we were walking up a steep gravel road.  Periodically, we encountered gushing, tumbling cascades that found their way through culverts under the road:

Beautiful spring flowers -- yellow as dandelions, but more resembling small daisies -- were springing up along the roadside, even as patches of snow hung on stubbornly:

 We approached the top and encountered our first signpost naming the ski runs descending from where we stood, which was the top of the chairlift:

There was still enough snow at the top of the chairlift that, looking down the slope, we might have thought it would be possible to ski down:

The road itself remained clear, and we walked it around to another junction of ski trails where, past the signboard, we could see the city of Corner Brook and the Humber Arm flowing out toward Bay of Islands in the distance:

Looking the other direction, to the East, upstream along the Humber River, we could see the Trans-Canada Highway following it in the direction we would take this Friday, toward Deer Lake, before turning northwest and heading toward Gros Morne National Park:

One of our objectives on the climb was to see the Doppler Radar installation on the top of Marble Mountain.  We imagined that it would be near the high end of the chairlift, but we discovered it was yet more than another half mile of climbing to get to it, and we were hungry for lunch and had plans for after the hike.  So we decided to pause in the chairlift area and simply gaze on the radar equipment from afar:

At this elevation, the temperature had gotten significantly colder and the winds were brisk, so we had to layer up and look for a sheltered spot to eat our lunch.  Dave found a large rock in the lee of a rock ledge, where he had the company of a snowdrift as he munched his peanut butter and jelly sandwich (on sourdough, he points out):

We rested a bit, rehydrated, digested our lunch a mite, and then stretched our stiff legs to start the 2 mile hike straight downhill.  The total mileage for the hike was 5 miles (2 miles up and 2 miles down, with side trips), and our elevation gain over 1200 feet, which made for steep walking, although the road was less strenuous than a trail would have been.

Nevertheless, by the time we reached our Jeep, we had built up a powerful thirst, and repaired to Broomstick Brewing in downtown Corner Brook to sample some of their locally brewed beers.  Kathy added a little protein from salmon skewers and curried chick peas to her meal; David merely sampled small bites of Kathy's dish.

With that, we headed back to Ruby the Adventure Cat, some chores around the RV, and a scrumptious dinner of Poached Halibut and Stir-Fried Garlic Scapes à la Kathleen, which filled our bellies and put us in the mood for a restful sleep.

Tomorrow is mainly logistics, and the next day we move on to our next campground, so we may not have another blog entry for you for a few days.

Blow Me Down Got Blown Away - On to Bottle Cove

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Hi Blog!

On Monday, we moved north to Corner Brook located at the mouth of the Humber River. The Humber River empties into a fjord known as the Humber Arm, which is part of the Bay of Islands, an extensive sub-basin of the Gulf of St. Lawrence consisting of many inlets such as Humber Arm and Goose Arm. The southern side of the Humber Arm is over 35 miles long.

We have a few days here to explore and get provisions before moving further north. The weather is supposed to be pleasant the next two days, so we are hoping to get out and explore. Today, we planned to do a hike in the Blow Me Down Provincial Park at the southwestern edge of Humber Arm. Even though their own web page, Google Maps, the Newfoundland Labrador Traveller's Guide and Trip Advisor all said the park opens in May, when we arrived, we found the gate locked! 

Disappointed we drove on to Lark Harbor, the nearest town,  and stopped at the mini-mart. We learned from the local folks at the mini-mart that the park is not going to open until June 1st. It would have been nice if someone updated their web page and Facebook Page! But, you know what they say, when life hands you lemons...

At the mini-mart, Dave talked up the store clerk and she suggested if we wanted to hike and find sea glass, we should drive out to Bottle Cove. However, before we could leave, Dave had to sign the guest register in the mini-mart. They were excited that folks from States had come all the way out the Arm to visit!

Newfoundlanders are pretty good about signs leading to their trails. It's just that sometimes, the wind blows the signs around and you start down the wrong road before you realize it. We did, and, after making an about face, we were well on our way to the trailhead. Here we are at the start of the Bottle Cove Boardwalk.

Located on the west coast of Newfoundland, Bottle Cove opens directly onto the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The cove was believed to have been used as a French fishing station from the early 16th century. The name of the cove is an Anglicization of "bateau" which is French for "boat." However, "Bottle" also fits the cove well, due to its almost perfect circular shape and narrowly separated headlands opening to the Gulf. 

Pictured is the 'bottle neck" of Bottle Cove.

There were a number of old boat ramps and batches along the shore line. Most of them were unoccupied, due to the migration from outports caused by the collapse of cod fishing in Newfoundland in 1992.

Before hiking up to the headlands, we decided to scan the beach for sea glass. While rocks are still Kathy's favorite, sea glass comes a close second. Once we move into the forever-and-ever house, there will lots of time for sea glass crafty projects.

Bottle Cove is also renowned for its geological richness. The cliffs surrounding the cove are part of the oldest Appalachian Mountains. Much of the rock formations visible in the Cove are part of a layer of ancient rock pushed up and over sedimentary rocks during tectonic plate movement.  The old rocks included volcanic rock and schist.

Dave found a convenient glacial erratic where he could rest and contemplate the geologic forces in Bottle Cove.

Having reached the southern end of the beach, we decided it was time to make our way back and check out the boardwalk. During recent years, the Outer Bay of Islands Enhancement Committee (or OBIEC) has overseen the construction of numerous walking trails and facilities in the Bay of Islands region. The trails are well-defined and include long stretches of wooden boardwalk as well as trails cut through brush land of varying degrees of length and difficulty. They range from short strolls on fairly level ground to half day hikes.

The OBIEC was established in March of 2008 with representatives from the two Town Councils of Lark Harbour and York Harbour, business people and interested citizens. The non-profit committee felt the best way to generate tourism and economic activity was to give first priority to hiking trail development and trail enhancement in our areas. 
Having a sense of humor also helps, which you can witness as Dave stands watch on the bow of the Grenville:

For each summer season of Captain James Cook's command, Grenville sailed from Deptford to Newfoundland and Labrador to survey the coastal waters. Much of the area that he covered had not been surveyed in any way beforehand. In 1766, Cook was able to make an exact fix of longitude from observations of a solar eclipse. At the end of the 1767 surveying season, Grenville ran aground near England's Nore lighthouse in a severe storm. The crew were taken off and the ship left while the storm took two days to blow itself out. The ship got off on the next high tide. Hopefully, Dave won't suffer the same fate!

After the boardwalk, it was time to climb the headlands.

The monument to Captain James Cook marks the end of the Bottle Cove Trail. Cook's maps of Newfoundland were used well into the 20th century, with copies being referenced by those sailing Newfoundland's waters for over 200 years. Newfoundland isn't the only country to admire Captain Cook, there are monuments to him in Australia, Austria, Canada, France, French Polynesia, Germany, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Norfolk Island, Russia, Tonga, United Kingdom and United States (including Dave's home state of Oregon, where Captain Cook discovered the mighty Columbia River).

It was a beautiful calm day on the Gulf of St. Lawrence. We stopped and scanned for whales, but didn't see any. We were assured that between May and October, several species of whales are found in the salty waters of the St. Lawrence, including blue whales. Just not today.

Right in the middle of the opening to Bottle Cove is a submerged rock. The incoming and outgoing tide swirl around it making it look like a whirlpool.

We already talked about that layer of rock that was pushed up and over some sedimentary rock. Well, the constant pounding from the sea loosened that sedimentary rock and washed it away making a cool sea cave in the basement rock. Makes you think of pirates and buried treasure!

After reaching the view point at the opening of the cove, we decided to go a little higher.

The ropes and wooden ladders made it much easier to reach the top, which is known as Sunset Rock.

The view of the Blow Me Down Mountains were breathtaking. Or, was it the ladders we had to climb to get there that took our breath away?  All kidding aside, it was an impressive view.

We carefully made our way back down to the picnic area. Somehow, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches just taste better with breathtaking views.

After lunch, we made our way further down to the beach. By now, the day had warmed up quite a bit. There were other beachcombers and hikers about. We wished them well and started our drive back to Corner Brook.

The snow atop the Blow Me Down Mountains is melting fast. The waterfall in the center of this photo was roaring down the side of the mountain; we could hear its roar even from a few kilometers away.

We made a quick stop in Frenchman's Cove to snag a photo of this cute little lighthouse, with a group of active fishing boats in the background.

Looking out the Humber Arm toward the Gulf of St. Lawrence:

Kathy has been following Beachcombers of Newfoundland Facebook Page in order to find the best beaches for hunting sea glass. We didn't have much luck on the first two beaches, but Bottle Cove delivered.

Tomorrow, we hope to hike up Marble Mountain and visit Steady Brook Falls. Until then, stay thirsty my friends.

Monday, May 22, 2023

Pirate's Haven Epiblogue: The Trans-Canada Trail

Monday, May 22, 2023

We thought we were done with Robinsons, Newfoundland.  But, at the meet-and-greet we attended at our campground Saturday night, we learned that a walk back along the ATV trail in our campground would bring us to the Trans-Canada Trail (also part of the International Appalachian Trail) -- otherwise known as "The Great Trail."  Well, we had to walk it.

So, despite having run out of days to hike, we decided to walk the route with our coffees this morning before breakfast.  Anything that led us to The Great Trail had to be good:

We walked up to the height of land, near some chalets built by the campground on the cliff above the Robinsons River, and looked down.  We could see the old railroad trestle that now carries the Trans-Canada Trail across the river:

The campground property extended much further than we expected.  It was well-signed and, as we looked back, we saw signs that would lead us back to our RV campsite:

This campground is fairly remote -- located in the small community known variously as "Robinsons" (see our last blog entry for origins of the name) or "Red Brook" ("Ruisseau Rouge" in French), but with lots of forest around it.  David and Ruby encountered a moose in their morning forest walk, and, as we strolled down toward the river, we spotted this snowshoe hare watching us warily as we passed:

Before long, we reached the trail and the trestle across the Robinson River:

Looking back up from where we walked, we could see three of the little chalets, or cabins, maintained by the campground up on the cliff:

The Robinsons River empties into the Gulf of Labrador, and the beach where we walk next to its mouth was just downstream of us in the photo below: 

Looking upstream, we saw gorgeous riffles which might be productive of trout, or might display Atlantic Salmon working their way up the river toward their spawning grounds:


We turned back at the far end of the trestle.  As we started back across, we were treated to the sight of two merganser ducks, plying their way up and down the stream, looking for food:


All in all, the walk was a fitting epilogue to our stay in Robinsons.  We worked our way back to the RV and started packing up for our move to Corner Brook, Newfoundland, our next stop.