After that nice dip in the lake, I think we all slept pretty well that night - complete with serenading loons. It rained heavily overnight and we woke up to a light drizzle. While we had a little break in the rain, we quickly packed up the tent to make sure we kept everything as dry as possible. Even in the fog and mist this morning, the place just has indescribable beauty. After a quick breakfast, we were off!
Turns out this was my most memorable day of the trip for quite a few reasons. Here's the first. As Colin was leading the group through some tuckamore, he flushed a few decent sized birds - a species I was really hoping to see - Rock Ptarmigan! Unfortunately I only caught them fleeing. Enough to ID them and add to my life list, but not the looks I had hoped for. Well, that wouldn't be the end of that. A little further down the trail, we run into a breeding pair! They were cooing back and forth to each other, all while keeping an eye on us. They didn't fly away. We were able to get fantastic looks and some ok/ID pictures. Highlight #1 of this day.
The dreary morning weather cleared to amazingly blue skies. The temperature was rising again. Another day of completely unexpected, fantastic weather. You have to remind yourself to keep drinking but it never seems to be enough. The water here is so fresh that you can just drink out of most streams. Except for one. We came across a typical water filling spot, complete with recent beaver activity. We had to move on to the next spot for water. No taking changes with giardia.
Our lunch break was on top of a high plateau. Gros Morne Mountain was now in view and so was the ocean. It was the perfect spot for lunch. What a view! What an accomplishment so far! Highlight #2.
Colin, our leader was pushing the group a bit today, in a good way. The weather was perfect and he knew that THE VIEW of the trip would be in reach and would be clear of fog. We trudged on. He didn't lie. Once we got to our late afternoon break spot, the view was incredible. I'm so glad everyone was able to push on today because Colin mentioned that every other time he'd been up on the Traverse, it had been foggy so this was his first view of this. The picture does not do it justice. Highlight #3 for those that are counting.
After a lengthy and well-deserved break at the lookout, we decided to continue on and push for Ferry Gultch tonight. This would mean that we get to climb Gros Morne Mountain. An unexpected plus. Along the way to the Gultch, we pass 'Caribou Rock.' No caribou. Which was the story for the trip. Oh well. It just means we have to go back! We did get a quick look at an Arctic Hare - they're huge and fast! Hightlight #4
This was the longest day of hiking that we'd done so far. I felt great. I was tired but I just looked up to the top of the Gultch and was kinda proud at what we'd accomplished. We've read about many people who had to make the decision not to finish for one reason or another. We were almost done. Bitter sweet to say the least.
But the day wasn't over yet. The evening entertainment was just about to walk past us. Moose. Two of them. They knew we were there but they didn't seem to mind. At first. Everyone was turning in for the night at about 9:30pm (I think - no watch) so Sarah and I were watching the moose that was not too far from our tent. It saw us looking at him. He didn't like that. He made a little charge toward us. A false charge none the less but still it's a huge beast. I told Sarah to point her headlamp down and the moose settled back down. Maybe it was just the light he didn't like. He went back to eating a little further away so we got in the tent and fell asleep. I woke up in the middle of the night to some rustling outside the tent. Moose. Again. And man was it close. I could hear it eating the grass right near our tent. It was so close I could hear it breathe. I just thought. Oh I hope Sarah doesn't wake up or roll over right now and freak that moose out. I sat up for a bit, hoping it would just walk on by without walking through our tent. Well I'm typing this so it turned out ok. In the morning I told Sarah about what happened. She had earplugs in so she didn't hear a thing. I found the footprints - they were less than 5 feet from the tent. Highlight #5.
Day 4 - Gros Morne & Done
It was a weird feeling hiking without the pack on. We climbed up the back side of the mountain where most people would be coming down the mountain. Most day-hikers climb up the front side of the mountain and go down the back. We would be going up from the back and returning down the back. The back had over 100 stairs to climb that the park had put in to make it easier. Sarah counted but I can't remember what the number was. We started the hike off in the fog but it didn't matter. Sarah and I had thought about climbing the mountain on our own after the Traverse hike so this was a bonus to get it all in in one go.
Gros Morne Mountain is made up of mostly loose rock but there are clearly marked trails. We hiked to the highest point and we all got our pictures taken with the sign. Still foggy but it seemed to be thinning out a bit so we hiked over to the lookout. Just as we got there, the fog cleared. Another outstanding vista. We could look back and see where we were standing on the other side just the day before. It seemed so far away.
After taking countless pictures and looking at more moose up on the ridge, we pushed on to return to the Gultch, pick up our gear and start our hike out. Colin assured us that the trail out was very easy. Remember - easy is a relative term in Gros Morne.
The trail out skirts along the side of the mountain. Sometimes you are walking over scree slides and jagged rocks but we trudged on. I just kept thinking, wow, we're almost done. Those last few kilometres seemed to take a long time. I think we were all just really tired at that point. The sun definitely drains you as well. Again - not complaining! Colin called out "Last kilometre". Part me wanted to sprint just to say I did it and part of me wanted to turn around and hike more. Another bittersweet moment.
By that point you could hear traffic and civilization. Sure, we'd seen a lot of dayhikers on the Gros Morne Mountain trail, but you don't really think of civilization until you hear the sound of cars on the highway. The hike is done. We did it. All of us. High-fives and the ceremonious "end of the trail" group picture was taken. What a fantastic group! Thank you everyone for making this a truly memorable experience.
We hiked over 45kms as the crow flys, not accounting for any increase or decreases in elevation. The longest backpacking trip that I've done. And definitely not the last. A trip to remember is an understatement - a true accomplishment.