We had just two full days dedicated to hiking in Gros Morne, so we took some time to consider our options. Fortunately, our second choice after the mountain was made easy: our hosts for the weekend all wanted to hike Green Gardens, and I was told it was one of those “not-to-be-missed” dealios.
Lunar landscape – Arctic tundra – surreal forest – beach. Nine kilometers, and four entirely different types of environment.
The Green Gardens hike starts out in the Tablelands, on a rocky, rusty surface. Like Gros Morne mountain, the barren land is a result of continents colliding. It’s like being in an alien world, the red rocks and orange boulders being contrasted next to the hills of balsam fir and boreal forest. You’re warned to not step off the path, otherwise you’ll crush tiny rare plants.
I didn’t really feel like we were getting anywhere until we reached the tundra, when we turned the corner and the world transformed. Here the landscape is more like the mountain: low shrubs and rocky terrain, and lots of marshland. It’s the Newfoundland I know, where you’re hopping over small puddles of black, soft mud and avoiding getting tangled in branches.
I made a comment to Natalie, the most upbeat, tireless girl I know, about how much easier the hike was compared to the mountain. She replied, “Oh yeah, just 9 kilometres, all downhill!” Then she added, “Except when you’re coming back up.”
We paused for pictures on a giant rock looking out over the forest and the ocean, then proceeded with a steep descent down a hill. We were almost immediately in the forest, where the trees block out the sun and squirrels chatter everywhere. Fallen logs block the route at points, and the floor is soft with moss.
But finally when we broke through the densest part of the forest and onto a yellow meadow lined with crooked tuckamore, we were met with sea stacks jutting up out of the ocean, and one hell of a long, deserted beach. We ate our trail mix and lunches with our backs against an oddly cone-shaped hill covered in grass in an attempt to block the wind, and then took the steep staircase to reach the beach at the bottom.
The beach was nothing like any other I have seen in Newfoundland: one entire cliff-face (shown above) is shaped with bubbles caused by volcanic activity from millions of years ago. The drop-off is so steep, we found not one but TWO moose carcasses rotting just below them, including a little calf. We poked at the bones until we feared moose would start raining from the sky, because surely there’s no worse death than being crushed by falling moose.
Then we scrambled over a hill, and found this waterfall.
My highlight of the trip? Retracing our steps along the beach, and finding tiny starfish dotting the rocks where the waves break. My first ever starfishies! Yes, really. I picked one up, ecstatic about my find, and showed Heather’s biologist friend.
“Ah,” she said. “It’s dead.”
She must have seen how devastated I was.
“I mean it’s ALIVE! It’s alive! Throw it back, SAVE ITS LIFE!”
And that’s how I, Candice Walsh, saved the day.
I need more than two days to do everything I had hoped to accomplish at Gros Morne. I still have to get up close with the Tablelands and search for Snug Harbour. How strange it is to have lived somewhere your whole life, to be as rooted to this place as the tuckamore bent by the wind, and find you hardly know anything about it.