Bob and I had been told that the Green Gardens Trail was one of the most popular hikes in Gros Morne National Park largely because it highlights the contrasting landscapes of the Park. Although we had already hiked the Gros Morne Mountain Trail and explored the Tablelands, we were keen to see the “green gardens” that stretch to the coast of Newfoundland near Bonne Bay.
The forecast for the day was like so many others before. The morning sky was heavy with threatening clouds, and north winds were to hold the daytime high near 10 Celsius. Wearing several layers of clothing was now routine.
To reach Green Gardens Trail from our lodgings in Rocky Harbour, Bob and I faced a drive inland around East Arm and South Arm, inlets of Bonne Bay, before turning west again to the Tablelands (seen in the distance) near Trout River. This photo was taken the evening before.
As we climbed into the upper reaches of the Long Range Mountains to reach the trailhead, the clouds came down around us. Having gotten an early start to the day, ours was the only car in the parking lot when we arrived.
Green Gardens Trail begins on the open barrens of the Tablelands opposite the canyons and plateau that we explored a couple of days earlier.
Our visibility was limited to a mere 100 feet in front of us as Bob and I set off across the windswept, rock-strewn barrens. With hoods pulled up over our toques and our hands in warm mittens, we were well insulated against the chilly and damp morning air.
Our decision had already been made to hike the 9-kilometre leg of the Green Gardens Trail. With an elevation gain of 1,345 feet (410 metres), the first section traverses the rugged Tablelands to the edge of a valley on the far side of the plateau.
Bob and I looked forward to descending into the valley in hopes that the wind would be curbed by the density of the boreal forest.
The trail was of good quality although recent rains had rendered the soil viscous and the rocks slippery. Consideration was given for runoff, so simple bridges were put in place across modest streams. It also helped that wooden steps are provided at the worst/steepest sections to alleviate stress on hikers’ knees.
Bob and I navigated our way along the sides of the valley, upwards and downwards alternately. The forest closed in around us while thick fog amplified the sense of mystery.
Suddenly, when the fog shifted, a bull Moose came into view in a clearing on the opposite side of the valley. A chap that we met on the trail, Charlie Cracker of Gros Morne Parks Department, said that we might spot some Caribou since they had been hanging around that valley for the previous two weeks. Scat was evident everywhere, but they eluded us.
As the fog swirled about the Moose, Bob and I were provided with glimpses of the huge animal staring at us as we photographed it. We had almost reached the bottom of the valley 250 feet below the trailhead.
As we scaled the far side of the valley, there were moments when the Gulf of St. Lawrence could be seen in the distance.
Bob and I knew we were nearing the coast when the sound of pounding surf reached our ears. The reward for our endeavours was seen soon after when the forest suddenly opened to reveal our position high above Old Man Cove on the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Not for the feint of heart, Bob and I ventured closer to the edge of the cliffs for a view of the rocky shoreline.
With all vestiges of the morning fog borne away by the blast of northerlies, the fertile volcanic seacoast was visible, but overcast conditions denied us sunlit views of the emerald slopes sheltering the cove.
From the first lookout, interesting sea stacks carved from the lava by centuries of wave action stood defiant with their feet rooted in the sand.
As we moseyed onward, the full scope of the “green gardens” was not yet evident. A small area of flat, grassy land had been designated as a good spot for campers, and one tent was pitched on a wooden platform. For Bob and me, the incessant wind tearing at the canvas would have prevented any chance of sleep.
A little further on, a set of 100 rickety wooden steps makes it possible for hikers to descend to the cobble beach. There at the water’s edge, we had an intimate look at the cliffs. They are pocked with pillow lava, solidified remnants of molten rock.
The sea was angry that day with waves cresting near 9 feet. Adding to that, the tide was in making the sea caves inaccessible. Bob and I could not extend our hike by joining the Wallace Brook Trail further up the coast because it had been washed out by recent storms. Instead, it was back up the wooden steps to the clifftop for us.
Standing again on the clifftops, the ferocity of the wind gusting onshore almost knocked me over.
Still, it was all worth it when the sprawling green meadows came into view ahead of us.
Stretching from the forest edge to where the cliffs meet the sea, a vibrant green carpet of long grass rippled like sunlit waves. Sturdy spruce trees dotted the grassy meadow seeming to thrive in the ocean air.
These lush cliff-top meadows at one time were used by farmers from Trout River to graze their livestock during the summer months. Occasionally, sheep can still be seen grazing there on the one-time grassy pastures. For now, the wildflowers were free to bloom without interference.
By 2:30 p.m., hunger pangs had us seeking shelter from the wind. A tiny crevice at the brink of the cliff provided a small reprieve from the gale-force gusts while we indulged in a light snack. One misstep, however, could have you falling 100 feet onto the rocks below.
Because we had reservations that evening at the Gros Morne Theater Festival in Cow Head, Bob and I made hasty tracks retracing the trail. The endless climbing was exhausting, but we were glad for calmer conditions. Low-lying clouds once again engulfed us, and a light mist dampened our faces.
We reached the car by 4:45 p.m. satisfied with our experience on the trail. Although the conditions were less than perfect, it had been invigorating. We could certainly imagine lolling in the green gardens on a warm, sunny day. Alas, that would have to wait for another visit to Newfoundland.
Frame To Frame – Bob and Jean