Our last full-fledged stop on Newfoundland was the Gros Morne National Park.
Many people have recommended this place to us, and we understood why from the first minute we were there. The park reflects a wide variety of ecosystems within a relatively small area. It is geologically interesting and diverse, not to mention drop dead gorgeous. Hiking trails are abundant…many of the half-day variety that we prefer. There are also a variety of Ranger-lead interpretive programs.
Our RV spot was in a little town called “Rocky Harbour.” Not technically “in”the park, but sort of like its navel – right in the middle with park North and South of us. And with a pub an easy walk away. So after a stop at the visitor center to pick up maps and other information, we set out to enjoy.
This included a variety of hikes, some forest-oriented, some coastal and a couple geological in nature. We also did a boat cruise in a SPECTACULAR “Fjord” (not actually a “fjord” since it is fresh water and no longer connected to the sea, but it once WAS connected and was formed by glaciation, too ).
We had consulted the weather to pick the seemingly best day for the abovementioned boat cruise. This was a wise choice – the weather was SPECTACULAR, making the West Brook Gorge even more so. And it made the walk in and out (6KM round trip) from the parking area to the boat landing very pleasant. The boat crew even played an impromptu concert as we returned to the dock.
One day was a bit rainy. Well, “a bit” might be an understatement – most days it rained a “bit,” this day was pretty continuous. Didn’t stop us from a 4-mile hike and from participating in a ranger lecture near Gros Morne’s “famous” (in geological circles) Green Point. There, a Quebecois Ranger explained to us the rock formations and fossils abundant there and waxed philosophic, entertainingly so, about the plainly visible (if you knew where to look and how to interpret) Ordovician/Cambrian Boundary.
Perhaps made moreso by the ranger’s theatrical manner of ‘splaining. I especially liked his use of visual aides…he pulled an “iPad V0.0” out of his bag, for example, (a dry-erase board) which he said is perfect for his lectures rock-side – batteries last forever and no internet required! Other props included nerf balls to demonstrate the compression of sediments into rock and layered, multicoloured camping mattresses to show how the vertical rock faces were actually folded sediments.
Another Ranger-led walk was through the “Tablelands” area of Gros Morne. Here is a HUGE hunk of the Earth’s Mantle – rock that looks out of place even to a non-geologist. It’s out-of-place-ness was critical evidence backing the recently proposed (in the 60’s) – and now fully accepted due to this evidence found here — theory of “Plate Tectonics.” Gros Morne was a spike in the heart of tectonics-deniers.
Again, the rangers were great in explaining what we were seeing; this time using PEOPLE as props. She called a couple up to represent former superContinents (“Gondwana…meet Laurasia…”) and the ocean in between (Iapeta). Their combining was almost an “R”-rated demonstration. But inevitably, good things (like relationships and Cod) don’t last, and Gros Morne, she said, shows us evidence of the less-than-amicable split after 125 million years or so. I might have some of the details wrong, but the show was entertaining!
Made me wish I HAD done a geology course or two back in the day!!
In fact, Gros Morne is a World UNESCO Heritage site in a large part BECAUSE of the geological significance of things that can be found here within close proximity. I never thought I would say this (are you listening, College Buddies Craig and Tillman, cuz I am only gonna say this once…) – the story told by the rocks, whether via our rock-whisperer/Quebecois friend or through interpretive displays and other materials readily available throughout the park was FASCINATING – making me actually wish I HAD done a geology course or two back in the day!!
Tired and wet, we discovered Gros Morne has a bit of culture – and indoor options — to go with the natural and decidedly outdoor splendor. The “Gros Morne Theatre Festival” was running, and a comedy called “Ed and Ed: Trapped” was playing. Online investigations showed ONE TICKET ONLY available, but a phone call found a couple (2nd row, center “stuck” in sold-but-not-paid-for-status). Gave them our card, and we had an evening’s entertainment!
A lot of the show was slapstick, and perhaps a little predictable. But in an absolutely ROLLING ON THE FLOOR, BUSTING A GUT, LAUGHING way. And, Liz and I understood only about ½ the humour, the rest involving roasting various Canadian Politicians from days gone by.
We knew that Newfie’s, if you even feign interest for a moment, will wistfully lament a way of life all but disappeared. And we knew that their humour, music and Joie de vivre revolves PROUDLY around telling and/or singing MANY stories and jokes at their own expense. This play turned out to be the distilled essence of all of that.
Ed and Ed told the story of the end of the fishery in 1992, where “Ed” was a fisherman left with nothing to do except be depressed about having nothing to do. The other “Ed” was a cocky, brash YOUNG Newfie trying to find his way in a fishing-less world. All of his role models (like “Ed”) were simply no longer relevant. Young “Ed” was kind of an idiot, too. Acting cosmopolitan (i.e “from the mainland”) without any idea about any of that.
The hi jinx that ensued involved (and poked fun at) politics, “rules” handed down by the new FEDERAL government (“We can’t do nuddin no more…not even drive ATVs on the railroad tracks where there aren’t railroad tracks no more,” laments Ed), do-gooder liberals, etc.
Newfoundlanders believe others think of them as friendly, but oafish, naïve and bumbling their way. Perhaps so, perhaps not – it’s thoroughly undeserved (except the friendly part), in our experience. Regardless, the play puts that forward as the very the BEST antidote for what ails us all — a healthy dose of not taking yourself too seriously; and NOT getting involved in “Political Correctness.” Say what you think, laugh at yourself and OWN IT.
I think the play was insightful and relevant to everyone, and ESPECIALLY folks from below the 49th who tend to think everyone with a differing opinion or orientation is an idiot. The truth is we are ALL idiots, and a bit of laughter AT OURSELVES can help bridge any gap!
We also found some local music in the form of a Pub in nearby Norris Point. One night was “Open Mic” night. Now, the Blues Clubs in Chicago have these, and they are hit and miss – mostly miss – doses of something approximating entertainment. NOT SO in Newfoundland. We got there a bit early (8-ish for a 9:00 start). There were 4 people in the pub. The kitchen was closed. The Beer was cold, though.
Then, the music started.
And something remarkable also happened: The Place went from “Sparse” to JAM-PACKED in a blink. Now, you could argue, there is not a lot to do in Norris Point, NL on a week night, AND YOU WOULD BE CORRECT. But this was a phenomenon! The pub was JAM PACKED with a crowd that was probably 50% locals and 50% tourists. But even the tourists were mainly Newfies…just not from Norris Point.
And the music was AWESOME. The ringleader or “Open Mic Coordinator” played a couple of tunes in a sort of “Island” theme. Reggae, and Jimmy Buffet. With the ocean lapping just outside the pub, you could almost feel it. Except you would freeze to death in 5 minutes in THAT ocean. But, the locals WERE complaining about the HEAT WAVE – it had been 22c each day for a week!!! Perhaps we “Southerners” (first time someone from Chicago has been called that, I’ll wager) should cut the Newfies some slack on the whole heat warning thing??
After The Coordinator played a few tunes – I would have to characterize his skill level as “extraordinary” — he asked if anyone else wanted to play. In short order there were several others entertaining the crowd…all excellent. Ranging from Newfie standards and Irish Pub fare to Bob Dylan and, yes, more Bob Marley and Peter Tosh.
The evening was SO THOROUGHLY ENTERTAINING that we went back the following night. This time, there was only one musician, and SHE WAS AWESOME. She played 2 sets and more than covered artists from Stevie Nicks to Janis Joplin to Bob Dylan – with a bunch of Newfie Standards in the middle. Whereas the previous night had been a raucaous free-for-all, she was a fantastic player and vocalist on her own. All of this, both nights, for NO COVER (just a note or Loonie and Twonie in the tip jar).
And, along the way, as we wandered around Gros Morne, we gathered another piece of anecdotal evidence that Newfies are the NICEST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD, in addition to living in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
It seems Liz needed a particular size knitting needle. There were a couple of places that sold some notions, but none had what she needed. At one point, Liz lamented the fact that EVERYONE here knits and sews (and fishes and hunts, too), but there is no place to purchase the necessary implements FOR such past times…how could this be? I suggested perhaps they make their own knitting needles out of moose bones…but liz was not amused.
In the last and final place we went to where such things MIGHT have been available (but were not), Liz must have looked sad. Or disappointed. And, there being an unwritten law in Newfoundland that NO ONE IS ALLOWED TO BE SAD (wistful, perhaps…longing for the Cod, but NOT sad), the proprietor asked what size she needed. Liz said #9.
“It’s what we do…”
The woman said…come back tomorrow I WILL GIVE YOU A SET OF MINE. No amount of refusal or discussion of price would persuade NOT to meet liz’s need…she was simply insisting on giving them to Liz. “It’s what we do…” I got the distinct impression that if we DIDN’T come to her shop the next day, she would hunt us down at the RV Park.
And, one of the evenings when we were watching music, we discussed our experiences in Newfoundland with new friends crammed at our table. We lamented the fact…just in casual conversation…that Moose Meat seems to be a staple, yet cannot be purchased by curious visitors. Our table mates confirmed that people eat little beef here, since moose is free for the taking and better for you.
At one point, Ben (who had yet to even introduce himself formally) disappeared for a moment. I assumed the bathroom…we were all drinking a wee bit. But NO! He showed up about 15 minutes later with two mason jars full of Moose Meat he and his wife had “acquired” (i.e. shot), cooked and bottled. He had excused himself, gone home and come back with two bottles.
Not only that, Tom, a younger fella (who also had yet to introduce himself), said we should be sure to call him when we pass through Corner Brook on the way to the ferry … he would meet us and give us several kilos of ground moose – suitable for moose burgers.
OK, that was two pieces or anecdotal evidence. I actually have many more, but who is counting? I think the number of pieces you find to support the aforementioned conclusion will approximate the number of days you stay on The Rock!
And, speaking of moose, we are FINALLY starting to see moose. Not gazillions as we have been told, but some. I have a theory related to being Screeched In. Several theories, actually. Further research is required. Here are my theories:
- Moose reveal themselves ONLY to Newfoundlanders. Which due to being screeched in, we now are. This seems most likely , to me.
HOWEVER, I confided this theory to a couple of our new Newfie friends and they thought it was totally WITHOUT MERIT. You see, they said, “If the moose actually knew we were Newfies, they would STAY INVISIBLE, afraid we might shoot, then eat them!”
- Moose reveal themselves ONLY after drinking Screech Rum.
(Our Newfie friends thot this was quite plausible)
- There are no moose, in actuality, but drinking Screech helps with these and other visions.
These two seem less likely to me, since we have seen moose in the morning, and normally have not had Screech yet, by then. Of course, we do not know for sure how long the hallucinations last from a nite of screeching…. All I can say is, if we start seeing PINK MOOSE, we need to STOP drinking Screech.
Finally, and MOST likely:
- The Moose that get eaten are the ones seen by Newfies, near roads! So there is a natural selection process that keeps Moose in the backwoods. Also, the bush has been cut back away from the roads a bit in many areas to keep cars safer.
As a gesture of sincerity, Tom gave me his phone number to call when we get to Corner Brook; to arrange the Moose Connection. Well, A phone number anyways, and there is a good bet that whatever Newfie answers will be glad to fulfill Tom’s promise!