We eagerly hit the trails in the morning at 10am to start our explorations.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Gros Morne National Park is home to the eponymous Gros Morne mountain. Thus it was fitting that our hike be up the Gros Morne Mountain trail.
Also known as the James Callaghan Trail, named some 30 years ago for the then UK Prime Minister (Newfoundland was a British dominion until 1949), the trail naturally divided into two sections – the first 2 km leads from the parking lot to the base Gros Morne at elevation 320m. This is followed by a steep 1 km section leading up to the summit with an elevation gain of around 500m and a 6 km summit loop.
The trail starts off with an easy walk through the forest. This being on the cusp spring, leaves were just starting to bud on the trees.
A third of the way into the bottom trail, we reached a sweeping expanse with a great view looking back at the East Arm fjord flowing into Bonne Bay.
From here, the trail winds back into the forest and starts to become slightly steeper and we encountered more and more patches of packed snow. I inadvertently took a mis-step and found my foot sliding down into the snow up to my thighs.
Gaining the flat meadow pasture at the base of the Gros Morne, it is clear to see why the name given to the mountain fits so well.
Gros Morne Mountain means in French “large mountain standing alone,” or more literally “great sombre.”
The mountain – the second-highest peak in Newfoundland – looms as a great dark mass rising out of the flat land.
Right at the base, just before the steep ascent, lies thousands upon thousands of piled-up rock boulders, presumably fallen from the mountain’s cliffs.
Near alien-like, the scene is made more so by the presence of lime-green lichen growing on the barren rocks.
It being springtime, the summit trail was closed to hikers so wildlife, including rock ptarmigans, can nurse their young in relative peace, undisturbed by humans.
We thus headed back down the trail and made our way to Bonne Bay (on the eastern side of the fjord across from Norris Point) for lunch at The Old Loft Restaurant – a cute little place with simple local fare.
We had toutons (fried dough) with molasses, partridgeberry jam and toast, cod cakes (love the dill) and seafood lasagna.
Bellies full, we drove inland for about 8 minutes to the Discovery Centre to start the Lookout Trail.
A 5 km loop with an elevation gain of 330 m, the trail leads to the top of Partridgeberry Mountain for a breath-taking panorama.
As it was early in the season, part of the trail, especially towards the top of the summit, was still coated in a layer of icy snow.
Sadly, we didn’t get to stay for long at the top as the drizzle of rain at the base had solidified into droplets of hail, and the barren summit top provided no trees to shelter us from the icy winds.
We soaked in as much of magnificent expanse (and the cold) as we could, before heading back down.
With the sky still cloudy, we opted out of a planned hike of the Tableland Trail and headed instead to an early dinner at Java Jacks, listed among the top 10 restaurants in Newfoundland by many a travel and foodie sites.
Prices are a bit on the high side, but the food was wonderfully delicious! Of course, this being Newfoundland, cod dominated the menu and we feasted on cod tongues, seafood soup (with cod), and a cod dinner filet.
As with the previous night, we capped the evening with the Trails Tales Tunes Festival.
In a completed jam packed Norris Point Town Hall where fold-up chairs were stuffed like sardines, the Tales & Tunes Concert of the evening featured special guest and Newfoundland music legend Bud Davidge. As part of the duo SIMANI, he has been the cornerstone of traditional Newfoundland music since 1977, performing every year since 1986 on the CBC Television special “A Fortune Bay Christmas”.
Although we didn’t know any of the songs, it was great fun hearing everyone one in the room clap and sing along for many of the pieces.