My name is Mark Goodfield. Welcome to The Blunt Bean Counter ™, a blog that shares my thoughts on income taxes, finance and the psychology of money. I am a tax partner and the managing partner of Cunningham LLP in Toronto. This blog is meant for everyone, but in particular for high net worth individuals and owners of private corporations. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not reflect the position of Cunningham LLP. My posts are blunt, opinionated and even have a twist of humor/sarcasm. You've been warned.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Gros Morne National Park

Last summer my wife and I traveled to Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland. We had a fantastic time! The variety of scenery, geological history, people we met and the seafood we ate made it an awesome week; even if the weather did not always cooperate. Today and Wednesday, I am going to recap our vacation, so if you are looking for my standard tax or money blog post and have no interest in Newfoundland, you may want to hit the escape button now. However, you may want to read on and learn about this very unique national park.

Newfoundland is a large province, so we made the conscious decision to just stay in Gros Morne National Park and hike its various trails. Do not let the word "park" fool you. The park is larger than some small countries.
View from top of Gros Morne Mountain

The park is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Under the UNESCO criteria, Gros Morne qualifies as an “outstanding example representing major stages of the earth’s history” and as an “area of exceptional beauty”. The historic criterion is met because the rocks of Gros Morne and Newfoundland demonstrate the theory of plate tectonics which describes how the surface of our planet is in constant change. As I understand it, Tuzo Wilson, a Canadian geologist, suggested the idea that the Atlantic Ocean closed and reopened and that an earlier ocean basin was crushed between two colliding continents raising the Appalachian Mountains – the western side being the rocks of ancient North America and the Eastern side being the rocks of Africa.

We selected Norris Point as our base and the Sugar Hill Inn for our accommodations. The four star inn is more upscale than most options in the area and you could certainly find cheaper alternatives. The inn has very nice rooms, an excellent restaurant and was centrally located, making it easy for us to travel to Rocky Harbour, Woody Point and various other points of interest in the park.
               
For those interested in travelling to Newfoundland and Gros Morne in particular, I will provide a brief summary of what we did, where we hiked, what we saw and some of the places where we ate. Just a word of warning: if Rogers is your cellphone carrier, you may not have use of your phone (which was actually a blessing in disguise).

Day 1


We flew into Deer Lake, picked up our rental car and drove about an hour to Norris Point. As we started our drive, a sign quickly caught our attention, noting that there had been four moose/car accidents this year. We were careful not to collide with a moose in the dark.

Day 2


We woke to a rainy, misty day, with low visibility. We had read that a good rainy day activity was to visit the Discovery Centre in Woody Point and that’s where we headed. The centre has exhibits on the natural and cultural history of the area and a great lookout on the Verdana when there is visibility. In retrospect, I would suggest the Discovery Centre is better visited later in your trip, after you have hiked the area and the geological information has greater context. 

The Discovery Centre parking lot is also where you pick up the Big Lookout trail. The hike has some excellent views; unfortunately our views were limited because of the weather. The hike is uphill and we decided to use the trek as a warm-up for our future hikes, despite the rain. The hike took about  1.5 hours (after a few hikes we realized we were always at the lower end of the hike estimates provided at the beginning of the trails – so if you want a gauge, 50 year olds in fairly good shape can do most hikes in good time).

After our hike we drove to the Old Loft restaurant in Woody Point. We had lunch outside on the deck. My wife and I both had the cod, which was very fresh and pan fried. The accompanying salad and fries were also very good. By the end of the trip, we considered this restaurant one of the best restaurants we had dined at when you consider quality and price. 

The Tablelands
Following lunch we went to the nearby Tablelands. To say the Tablelands have a unique terrain is an understatement. You are essentially walking on the ocean floor. The rain and fog made for poor visibility and our view of the Tableland Mountains was impaired. However, the walk was a very easy, flat walk that can take from 1.5 to 2 hours depending on how often you veer off the main track. (I will discuss the Tablelands in greater detail in my day 7 summary.)

After returning to our car, we drove back to Norris Point, about an hour drive and checked out Neddies Harbour Inn which was our other consideration when booking our accommodations. Neddies has a beautiful view of Norris Point, however, we did not get a chance to see any of the rooms.

Day 3


The weather on day 3 was very similar to day 2 a misty, cloudy day. We decided we would hike Bakers Brook Falls, a fairly easy 2 to 2.5 hour walk and is not dependent on clear views. The walk is not very interesting, but the prize at the end is some very nice waterfalls. This was a perfect hike for a misty day.

We then went for lunch at Java Jacks which was highly rated online. The restaurant is very quaint and we had nice salads and very light fish cakes. We also tried the mussels which were fresh and large, but the broth was watery. IMHO, when preparing a broth for mussels, the water from the mussels must be drained first and the broth should be tasty enough to dip your bread. This is a nice restaurant that many people rave about, but the watery broth took the restaurant down a notch in our opinion. 

We then drove to Lobster Cove to a scenic lighthouse. I guess it is a make work project, but there were two Park Canada employees in what seemed like a 20 square foot space in the lighthouse. Anyways, I digress, the view was awesome at the lighthouse and many people bring a picnic lunch. We also loved the two red Muskoka chairs placed at the end of the little trail where we could sit and admire the view. We later learned that these signature chairs were placed strategically on many trails and scenic spots. On our subsequent hikes we would look for these two red chairs. 


View from Jenniex house in Norris Point
On our way back to the Inn we stopped at a tea house called the Jenniex house in Norris Point. The view of Bonne Bay and the Tablelands is just spectacular from this vantage point. This is a must-see picture destination.



For dinner we ate at Justin Thyme Bean and Bistro, a new restaurant that was opened only two months earlier by a husband (Justin the chef) and wife (Lynne) team. We ended up eating at this restaurant several times, since the menu is imaginative and changes daily.

We started our meal with the aptly named Justincredible mussels. Where Java Jacks’ broth was waterlogged, this broth was a taste sensation. The mussels were large and fresh and the pesto cream sauce (the water from the mussels was drained) was excellent. We soaked up all the sauce we could with Justin’s homemade bread. My wife had read online about Justin’s butter poached lobster and had called ahead asking if he could prepare lobsters. We were pleasantly surprised that not only had Justin got the lobsters as per our request, but later found out he had made a special trip to get live lobsters at the fishery given the supply is limited post lobster season. All this for two people who might not show up for their reservation. The poached lobsters were outstanding - two of the best lobsters we have ever eaten anywhere in our travels. Overall just an awesome meal, if not a cholesterol nightmare.

Day 4



Western Brooke Pond
The travel gods were finally with us. We needed a clear, sunny, beautiful day for our pre-booked boat tour of Western Brooke Pond and got that day. This tour was a must according to any review we had read about Gros Morne and it did not disappoint.  

To get to the tour you had to walk 45 minutes (this is a very long walk and many of the elderly people we passed where struggling and later told us they had not expected such a long walk) to a dock. Once your reach the dock you set-off on a two hour boat tour; which more than lived up to its billing. Don't miss this tour if you go to Gros Morne. 

The fjords of Western Brooke Pond are what caught my attention on the “Come to Newfoundland” TV advertisements that got me interested in taking this trip. I remembered thinking to myself, this place looks like Norway. As I understand it, the pond actually started as a true fjord (which is saltwater) but as the glaziers moved and the land closed, it became a fresh water pond and is technically not a true fjord anymore. The scenery and fjords are spectacular.

After the tour we planned to hike Snug Harbour in the Western Brooke Pond area. However, at the start of the hike there was a water crossing which ran about 4 feet deep. To forge the water passage you needed a bathing suit, boots or water shoes, none of which we had.

As we were returning to the parking lot we saw a moose about 50 yards away in a field. Two minutes after we pulled out of the parking lot towards Cow Head, we saw three caribou. We had lunch and then headed back to undertake the Coastal Trail hike. It was very windy and while there was a nice ocean view, the scenery was mostly scattered driftwood. Not one of our favourite hikes, but supposedly it has a great view at sunset. One cool thing on this hike was the Costal Tuckamore, where coastal trees grow only on the protected side of the water so that they seem to lean away from the sea as they grow.  The mini forests have openings and you could walk under these contorted trees if you wished, however, they are pretty eerie and you would almost expect to be attacked by bats or witches :)

We had a light meal as we got psychologically ready for our penultimate hike of Gros Morne Mountain the next morning.

On Wednesday, I will conclude my Gros Morne travel recap. Hopefully, I have you sufficiently interested in Gros Morne and Newfoundland to read my conclusion. If not, you may want to at least read my Day 5 summary to see if I survived my trek up Gros Morne Mountain in one piece.

4 comments:

  1. Simply beautiful.
    And I'm glad you saw the moose safely while afoot and not looming out of the darkness on a highway!

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    1. Thx Bet, but what is simply beautiful. The headshot of me on my blog, the post or Gros Morne National Park ? :)

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  2. I'm glad to see that you enjoyed your travels in our beautiful province. I moved back here to NL last year after more than 25 years of living on the mainland and missing the ocean. I'm reading your travel diary with great interest :)

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    1. Thx Lynne-- as detailed we had a great time and the people were awesome.

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