Western Brook Pond at Gros Morne National Park in western NewFoundland is an inland fjord, magnificent for many reasons. Pristine waters, steep cliffs on both sides of the “pond” (we would call it a lake) and waterfalls at every turn wow visitors as the cascades thunder down the sides of the cliffs into the waterway.
What we didn’t learn till we arrived in NewFoundland was that this destination within Gros Morne National Park that we most wanted to see, which had wowed my husband that evening as we watched on our television, would involve a 4 mile hike, round trip.
Yes, I love to walk, but without our bike, 4 miles is more than my right foot, with substantial paralysis, can carry me. I urged my husband to go without me, but he was determined not to leave me out. We investigated the trail into the lake. A new road has been built, hard packed, crushed stone surface. Yup, it would have been so easy if we had our adaptive tandem bike. But we had flown there, leaving our wonderful tandem behind.
We heard that the Canadian National Park Service visitors center in Norris Point had a handicapped, all-terrain wheelchair available to borrow. Yes, it fit into our rental SUV, yes, the day was perfect, yes, there was room on the boat for us, so we headed out. We later learned that the park service is working to figure out a better system for allowing handicapped access. Perhaps next year they will have a more workable system in place.
My husband pushed and pulled me, seated in the wheeled chair, out to the shoreline. We figured if I could get there, I probably could walk myself out, which turned out to be true. We work hard not to create emergencies when we can! As we traveled through the muskeg, I felt myself transported to the Florida everglades, the sea of grass.
Broad, flat terrain, with small areas of shrubs on slightly raised ground, and water, lots of water throughout the muskeg. Small ponds, larger ponds, and saturated ground. And all the while, the cliffs of the fjord in the distance.
At the shoreline, we waited our turn with several hundred others, to board the boat for a 2 hour tour of the fjord. Everywhere we looked, waterfalls cascaded down the huge cliffs. Some stirred up mist as they fell, other waterfalls disappeared into the rock scree that spread below the cliffs.
An eagle soared overhead. Through hikers got off the boat half way through the trip at the head of the fjord, headed out on a several day hike across the mountains. Geology, so much geology, rocks crushed and altered by glaciers and other forces, are visible to be studied throughout this amazing national park.
As we cruised the length of the pond, we learned more about the geology of the area, the fact that this fjord had once been saltwater, open to the sea, but because of glacial rebound, is now fresh water, with only one river outlet, Western Brook, that empties into the ocean.
On another day’s travel, we found Western Brook, and discovered a fairly easy walk alongside the river out to the ocean.
There we encountered sand dunes in an area that is otherwise filled with so much glacially carved rock.
We particularly enjoyed sunsets on this trip, since the sun sets directly into the ocean (well, appears to), something we don’t get to see on the east coast of North America. As we followed the trail out to the sea, alongside Western Brook, we took in the changing landscape, the dunes, the rushing water, and the sunset.
And once again, I was brought back to the years of my childhood, the sand dunes of the barrier island I spent summers on, in Pensacola Beach, Florida. What a strange sense of connection, in lands situated so far apart, and seemingly so different. And yet, the forces of the sea, the wind, and the earth all work together, creating varieties of landscapes, features that are evocative of other places and times.
Yes, Easy Walks in Massachusetts has gone to NewFoundland, and while much of the landscape is quite rugged, we were able to find Easy Walks along the way. Would I go back? In a heartbeat, for sure. Was there more to see? For sure. But that is for another post.
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, and editor of Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed. Just out is her latest book, Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. She has been a freelance writer for numerous local, regional, and national publications for the past 20+ years, has helped numerous families to save their stories, and has recorded multiple veterans oral histories, now housed at the Library of Congress. She is a co-author of the recent community history, Bellingham Now and Then