Thursday, August 20, 2009

Return to Canada Part 3: Long Range Traverse (Newfoundland)

After completing the Green Gardens adventure, we first had a night of black fly molestation in camp at Lomond, then had a busy day during which the search for camp fuel continued (success finally in Rocky Harbour), returning the rental car to the airport, going through our Long Range Traverse "orientation" (which was really a map and compass test), and finally setting up camp at Green Point that night. We ate our delicious dinner (Natural High's Honey Lime Chicken ****) by the ocean, well, the Gulf of St Lawrence, and were amazed by how vast the horizon appeared considering how thin of a strip of water there was between us and the mainland.

Bright and early the next morning we ate our breakfast on the beach again, then packed up to catch our taxi up to the hike to the Western Brook Pond (a land-locked fjord) boat ride. On the boat we met a couple of other hikers who were to do the Traverse, and also heard of a troupe of boy scouts who had reportedly gotten somewhat lost on their first leg of the same expedition.

steep fjord edges of Western Brook Pond - with the uplift of the land post ice-age, the terminal moraines uplifted too and cut off the fjords from the ocean

Once we got off the boat at the eastern edge of the land-locked fjord, we had a brief bout of trail-following that lead us into some immensely tall weeds:

you can see BEG's backpack lid peering up through the weeds in front of me (sort of)

Not too much farther along we began following the creek bed and gradually ascended the 600m incline through bushwhacking, tree-swinging (yes, literally), rock climbing, and wild blueberry eating. In fact, it was through all these distractions that we were able to pop out on top without having been too distraught over the lack of trail or the flies, or really thinking about getting particularly lost on the way...


voila! atop and looking down from whence we came! a terrific reward it was, especially when we coupled it with some lunch...

the climb above the treeline was significantly more difficult it seemed, likely due to the lack of trees hindering our progress (just straight up granite gneiss here)... here's the last view of the fjord before we headed into tundra

Beyond the fjord climb, we began navigating bog and marshland dotted with irregularly shaped lakes - all the better for map reading with! We saw barely a cloud in the sky, and progress was good. There were frequent trails, which we followed with caution, and eventually - about an hour and a half before reaching camp, we met our first moose on one of them.

beginning of the bog-slog, and a beautiful view

BEG approaches Leonardo the one-antlered moose on one of the trails we encountered

We decided to name our first moose because he had only one antler and we felt like he must have been some kind of sorrowful reject moose. Then he pooped in front of us.

Eventually we made it to our planned destination of Mark's Pond only to find the place over run with the mythical lost boy scouts. We ate a buggy Backpacker's Pantry Pesto Pasta with Salmon for dinner and Ritter Sport in the tent for dessert. A game or two of cribbage and we called it a night with the following reports (in the field of awesomeness):
  • successful navigation up densely forested valley while eating blueberries (check)
  • doing so faster than everyone else heading up the valley that day (check)
  • getting called hard core by the young couple who caught up to us just as we were finishing our lunch break (check)
  • showing up at the boy scout camp and being accused of making amazing time as well as appearing "fresh and chipper" by a boy scout leader (check)
On the second day of our traverse we started shortly before the boy scouts and vetoed the mysterious trails for a cross-country map and compass route - success! We made our way easily to the next camp site, our hearty lunch spot, splashed around in the pond for a little while, and just as the wind and clouds came rolling in began the next leg of our day. We drifted between trailblazing with map and compass and following random trails. The trek often felt like a slog, a bog-slog in fact, but we ate the odd cloudberry (yuck) and blueberry (yum) and just after completing the 2nd of 3 hills, we caught up with the 2nd boy scout troupe. They had of course left two days before us, and were motivational by complimenting us on our excellent progress. From there we set off on the 3rd and final hill of the day, coupled with caribou, and made it into camp (passing a moose mama and baby) along with our first downpour.

caribou. dead center. for real

Of course in our zeal with the wildlife, and trying to eat the blueberries, and making a beeline for camp, we were somewhat damped by the sogginess and found ourselves among tuckamore (where you don't want to be) and on a steep-enough hillside that we had to start considering our haste at the end of the day... During a rain intermission we ate a dinner of Mountain House Teriaki Chicken with Rice followed by Backpacker's Pantry Cheesecake with freeze-dried strawberries on top. A divine conclusion to the day!

Unfortunately the night was remarkably cold and damp - brrrr - which resulted in a buggy morning and our first morning of 2 cups of coffee to shake the cold. We had a wettish departure from there with all kinds of things hanging off our packs to dry in the 98% humidity day.

me, eating my way along the trail of blueberries, as usual

With some map and compass traversing we made our way to a spectacular view of 10 mile pond, another land-locked fjord, and a great place to hunt for a breeze and have a quick snack.

BEG at 10 Mile Pond, Gros Morne Mountain to the left

Beyond 10 mile pond we had a view of Gros Morne Mountain, our destination, but it was difficult to keep in sight over the rolling topography and overcast skies. We eventually had a detour around a round lake that we had mistaken for a different round lake, but despite annoyance, sweat and slog, not much was lost besides time and a good trail was found again. This good trail was then followed by some hairy spots in tuckamore, and a ridiculous traverse down a steep endless gully, severly overgrown, slippery, and frustrating.

tuckamore... the dwarf forest, sometimes more dwarfed than others

Then, lo and behold, there was camp! We set it up, hung things up to dry, ate our lunch and were joined by two moose while pumping water and washing dishes at the nearby pond.

camp. moose.

moose. clean dishes. moose pee. good timing!

After lunch we went and hiked up Gros Morne Mountain, without our full packs, and felt the glorious freedom that was, along with a breeze too! From up top we saw familiar views from a different angle, relaxed, gave some day hikers our water, and set back down for camp dinner.


the mountain was all nasty quartzite rubble, but the view was terrific

the 2nd boy scout troupe, with whom we shared camp 2 nights of our traverse, cheers!

Our final camp dinner was Mountain House Mac & Cheese with Sea Bear salmon, it was delicious. We packed up slowly in the morning and set off for the Gros Morne Mountain trailhead, our end point. It was signficantly farther than we had bargained for, and really the descent was relatively arduous. More than likely this was because we were mentally prepared for a piece of cake, and that it was not. Considering all the hiking we had done already we were feeling a little wimpy.

Eventually we reached the bottom and called a taxi to get us to Norris Point, which was sort of pointless, and we were delivered to Rocky Harbour by a kind stranger where we set up camp at the local RV campground (they get ***** from us!). We had much needed showers and strolled into town for a genuine Newfoundland dinner at Earle's diner. We had a large plate of fries, Quiddi Vidi beers (Honey Brown, Eric's Red and 1892 Traditional), a moose burger, fish & brewis, toutins with molasses, and lemon meringue pie (thanks to a group of hikers who had just come off of the North Rim Traverse). As if that wasn't enough, after dinner we walked back along the shore and capped our evening off with an ice cream. The other group of hikers accused us of being hard core because we were camping (again) that night, but really... it was the cheapest option!


Missy said...

So no cloudberry pie when we have soba and knitting?

All kidding aside, the photos and stories of your adventure are great.

Kilometres said...

Man, those photos from the beginning of the trip are amazing. They really aren't done justice when they are the small size. It's worth clicking on them.

I really enjoy the bog view one. It's lovely!

Your blueberry eating makes it look like it's difficult to make real progress (and yet your photos and story would demonstrate otherwise).