Monday, July 13, 2015

Rock bottom

Deer Lake, NL – The sun made an appearance today, much to our de-light after yesterday’s deluge. It hid behind great banks of cloud as the morning progressed, but finally decided to shine forth in earnest after lunch.

Today’s destination from our Deer Lake base point was the southern portion of Gros Morne Park that we hadn’t explored earlier. The road in to the Tablelands area was only a half-hour drive up from here and just inside the park entrance, and it took us past Bonne Bay Little Pond – really a substantially sized lake – and along the South Arm of Bonne Bay before climbing into the mountains.
We stopped in at the Discovery Centre first, where there were displays about the rocks, plants, animals and topography of the park as well as a 20-minute film about the park. It was only after the lights went out and the film started that we realized we’d seen it already when we were at Rocky Harbour, but it was good enough to watch again.

On we went toward the Tablelands proper, and the highway made a kind of dividing line between the sweeping, tan-coloured slopes on the left, devoid of vegetation, and the green densely forested mountains on our right. The barren rocks are actually the earth’s mantle, pushed upward half a billion years ago by the movement of tectonic plates, and so full of iron and magnesium that plant life can’t take hold. “See the Earth Naked” says the brochure blurb, and so it seems, except at the lower levels where a few grasses, stumped evergreens and wildflowers have managed to grow.
Our first look at this landscape was less than ideal because of a low cloud cover that curled mysteriously around the heights, so we continued on to the end of the road where a small fishing town, Trout River, beckoned with the promise of an excellent seafood restaurant. We were not disappointed, me with my scallops on a bed of greens, scattered with partridge berries, and Val with a freshly caught lobster.

A small museum in a wooden building by the shore held displays of fishing gear and mementos of the early times, such as school scribblers, faded photos and needlework. Young Kendrick, our host, explained how the now-illegal cod traps worked, allowing fishermen to haul entire boatloads of cod from the sea in one fell swoop. There were cod-drying racks on display as well. Kendrick told us about the morning last year when a huge blue whale washed up on the beach – an event so unusual that they printed up t-shirts and ball caps about it to sell at the restaurant gift shop.
By the time we were heading back toward the Tablelands, the sky had cleared and we had a much better view of the magnificent panorama before us. We pulled over at the trailhead and took the shorter of two trails to have a closer look at the rocky terrain. More ambitious hikers took to the higher path, a two-hour trek to the top, for what promised to be a breath-taking view.

On the way out, we took a gentle drive through Woody Point, on the banks of the South Arm of Bonne Bay. We’d seen it from the water when we took the boat tour from Norris Point on the other side a few days ago. It was just as charming from the land side, with neat little houses and gardens, a white-steepled church, and fishing boats bobbing by the dock.

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