LOOK OUT, WE’RE CLIMBING A MOUNTAIN (Lookout Trail, Gros Morne National Park)

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Several trails snake through the landscape within a short driving distance from where we camped at Trout River in Gros Morne National Park. I was interested in one that would award outstanding scenery, yet would not be too severe on our untrained muscles. A park ranger informed me that on the Lookout Trail, there is a spectacular view of the Tableland Mountains from a section of boardwalk along the way. On the map, the route appeared to travel one way then loop to return to itself. I overlooked most of the details including the 350 m (over 1100 ft) elevation. I only noticed that its 2-3 hour hike seemed more my style than the much longer Green Garden hike. As is typical in parks, the dogs had to be leashed. I was agreeable to following the rule, considering we would be heading through forested sections where unseen wildlife, including bears, exist. (If Tessi chased a bear, eventually she'd run back to me, likely with the bear following.) A Steep Trail and a Hot Sun The Lookout Trail starts on the backside of the Discovery Centre, heads into the forest right away and climbs up Partridgeberry Hill, which seemed like a mountain to me. I anxiously looked forward to the appearance of the boardwalk and its view. The steep trail just kept ascending. Occasionally, we rested under the leafy canopy. When we stopped in an unsheltered area, I turned around only to be startled by the lovely vision of Bonne Bay below us. Another open area revealed a short boardwalk and the view of the orange-brown terrain of the Tableland Mountains I had been looking forward to. When a man and woman appeared behind us, we encouraged them to pass. Noticing how muscular the guy was, I realized they'd easily leave us behind. By this time it occurred to me that we must be on our way to the summit, especially when the route continued after the boardwalk. For some reason, I thought maybe the trail looped there. In the open, the sun radiated its heat, making me uncomfortably hot. It would be the only time on this island I would feel the warmth to that extent. A sign at the trailhead suggests taking a jacket, as the temperature is usually chillier at the top. An extra layer of clothing proved unnecessary that day. Though I quit smoking over 20 years ago, upward climbing still stresses my lungs. Watching little Missy scale the incline herself, without Helen carrying her at all, inspired me to trudge on. When I eventually spotted an expanse of blue sky on the elevated horizon, I was relieved. Hurray, we were almost there! At one point, in an effort to cool myself off, I stepped down off the trail to wet my head from a tea-coloured creek we crossed over. While there, Helen handed Missy to me to see if she needed refreshment. We laughed as she splayed her legs out and laid her belly in the water. The Meadow When we finally reached the skyline, I was disappointed to see another section to traverse. In my sourness, I underappreciated the new scenery's beauty - until a glimpse at my first pitcher plant, which is Newfoundland's official flower. A few of the burgundy blooms were growing amid lush foliage on a plateau of wet meadow. The widened view of the bay fringed by mountains and blue sky served as a backdrop. A trio of women passed us. I felt somewhat shamed when I found out they were "taking a break" from their provincial bicycling trip to climb this "hill." They were to return to their bikes and the road afterwards. We followed the boardwalk, which crossed over the meadow, before reaching a short, steep scramble to a lookout platform marking the hill's crest. Panorama A gorgeous 360 degree panorama opened up from the vistas revealed during our ascent. We reveled in the excellent views of Bonne Bay against the backdrop of the Long Range Mountains and Gros Morne Mountain in one direction, and the Tablelands in the other. Helen spotted a moose and calf far below us on the grassy slope. After attempting to take pictures of the pair, which were too far away for a decent photo, I happily relaxed on the platform's bleacher-like seats and breathed the fresh, cool and comfortable air. We chatted with others as they arrived and then moved on. The exception was one young couple exuding an aura of distain. They looked well organized in their properly fitted backpacks and expensive looking outdoor apparel. Silence answered our greetings. We looked like slobs compared to them; yet, we were amiable - a more important trait in my opinion. A Quick Descent From the platform, we spotted another trail, which I assumed must be the mysterious loop. We didn't bother exploring it, since my empty water bottle suggested it was time to head down. Though descending is typically easier, I just wanted to be finished. Tessi took my eagerness as a cue to switch to high gear. She practically dragged me along. I wanted to blame her for a couple of minor falls I suffered; however, they came from muddy patches I encountered too quickly. Once back in driving mode, my leg shook whenever I moved it between gas pedal and brake. The view had been amazing though and well worth the effort. Yes, I would make the climb again without hesitation. For More Info

(c) Cheryl Smyth, 2011

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