Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland

Gros Morne National Park

Gros Morne National Park... huge, green, and smack dab in the middle of nowhere. The scenery is breathtaking, the cod fishing is mind boggling (more on that later), and the shipwrecks are abundant. 

A whopping 413 miles from St. John's (on Newfoundland's East Coast), we had set aside two days to drive to Gros Morne (on Newfoundland's West Coast), cruising through some of the most amazing scenery as we traveled.  The terrain, a variety of crazy mountains, deep blue water and moon-landing-like craters, was dotted with tiny fishing villages and a plethora of food trucks.

It was trip that almost didn't happen, being that Mark had injured his shoulder the night before and was certain that he'd have to forgo adventure in favor of sitting for the rest of the summer.  Luckily, April's sister, Amy, a cracker-jack Ortho-expert PA, had held an early morning call with him to assess the situation, evaluate the injury, and inform him that he was going to be just fine.  The news came as a huge relief to April, who otherwise may have had to drive us home.  She is not the best driver, or stayer-awaker.  

Once again playing Newfoundland by ear, we arrived at the Gros Morne Visitor Centre, walked in, and basically asked "Soooooo... what do you recommend?" A map and a sharpie later, we had a plan. 

We began our Gros Morne adventure by fumbling through tourist rack cards until we came across one promoting Cod and Shark Fishing in Norris Point. We called and were immediately re-routed to their website, which indicated that availability was wide open.  Mark, having booked his share of fishing charters in the past, couldn't believe his luck. Last minute availability and only $230 for the entire family? Amazing! 

"Do you know how much it usually costs to book a fishing charter!?!?" he exclaimed.  "I mean, the fuel, the boat, the bait alone costs more than that... this is a steal for only $230! I can't wait." 

We arrived at the Norris Point wharf at 10am and readied ourselves for a day full of fishing delights. 

Sunscreen and water in hand, April pulled out the Children's Dramamine that she'd purchased for last week's 17 hour Nova Scotia to Newfoundland ferry. Though they hadn't needed it then, she recalled that the kids had looked pretty green before they finally fell asleep in their overnight cabin, and wondered if this charter was a good time to test out a smallllllll dose of the stuff on the kids in preparation for the ferry ride back to Nova Scotia.  

She gave each of the kids just one of the chewable cherry pills and hoped for the best. 

Moments later, our chariot arrived! A huge double-decker fishing boat all to ourselves, complete with a bar, a bathroom, and an awesome guide.  

The kids... whether it was the Dramamine, the lack of sleep, or the fact that they love to keep us on our toes, were suddenly crazy. Grumpy, then ecstatic. Tired, then very much awake and beating the crud out of each other. They could not keep their hands off of each other, anything sharp, or anything that resembled something that shouldn't be touched.  Mark scoured at April and mouthed "Dramamine. Never again." 

April hung her head in shame... but was still slightly happily since no one was puking.  

Once out in the bay, our super cool Captain informed us that we'd be jigging for our Cod.  No bait needed here, folks... the fish here are so plentiful that you need just drop a sharp hook 250 feet into the ice-cold water and pull... hard. Then let go. Then pull... then let go. Eventually, you'll snag something. It will be a fish... or maybe a shark. You'll pull your glorious bounty up by the skin of your bare hands, fishing line digging into you and the well-worn grooves in the side of the boat, and then you'll grasp your nearly-frozen Cod from the arctic waters, gut the sucker, and throw it on ice.
"We'll catch lots of fish this way," Super Cool Captain said. "You won't believe it." 

The boys were... as we said... insane/drugged... and wanted no part of feeding a string down into the water until it hit bottom, then pulling it back up. Mark and April enthusiastically took their places as the boys held the net and waited for us to snag a giant sea creature. They waited. And waited. Andrew took a few bathroom breaks. Max asked about the many bottles of rum at the bar.  We waited some more. 

We didn't catch a thing. Not a single bite. Not a nibble. Arms tired and fingers raw, we confronted the very real possibility that $230 was indeed not such a great deal after all. 

Our despair was instantly broken by the cry of "I've got one!" from Super Cool Captain's daughter, Super Quiet Sleepy Daughter.  Andrew rushed over with the net as Max cried "Lunch!" and insisted that we fry up the fish immediately.  Super Quiet Sleepy Daughter went back to her jigging. Super Cool Captain scratched his head... wondering how it was that this jigging nonsense had actually produced a fish.

After that, Super Cool Captain declared jigging a success and handed out fishing rods. Again... no bait. Again... no catch.  The boys didn't care, Super Cool Captain busied them with cleaning our lone cod and letting them examine the fish guts.  Hungry seagulls gobbled down smooshed fish parts as our boys slowly dissected and examined the innards.  The cod heart, still beating, was a real crowd pleaser for everyone 8 and under... and all gulls involved. 

Several hours later, we disembarked with one Cod on ice, several hours worth of Gros Morne knowledge, and two very smelly and sleepy kids.  At the recommendation of Super Cool Captain, we popped in to the Boone Bay Aquarium and signed the guest book, dead fish in hand. 

"Let this be a warning to the other fish in this Aquarium about what lurks out in the open sea! Death by jigging!" April joked as she held the icy garbage bag up for the clerk to see. The clerk and April laughed and laughed... Mark was horrified. We all left shortly after. 

We fried up our fresh catch, showered off the fish guts, and took a nap as rain began to pour down around us.  

As evening approached, we headed back into Norris Point for dinner at The Black Spruce.

For Newfoundland, this place was fancy. As in, wear your best moose sweater and matching Hunter boots... that kinda fancy.  

Our waiter was new. And not just to waiting tables... to eating in general, it seemed. Extremely nervous, he greeted us but just muttering "order" and placed our water glasses inside of the upright, unfolded menus.  April recalled some of her more embarrassing waitressing fails, and again took comfort in the idea that our kids weren't going to do anything more destructive than our waiter was already doing to himself.  

The food was amazing, and the homemade turmeric bread was tops. New Guy was staring down the barrel of a nice tip and a pat on the back.  

Then he poured an entire glass of ice water into April's lap. 

In an attempt to clear the table of all the ice and dripping linen, he grabbed all of the dishes at once. He then dropped them on the floor. He then fled. A nice girl from the hostess desk came to clean up the mess and apologize to the man seated in the path of the dozens of crashing plates. 

We were dying inside for New Guy.  And for his future unemployment.  

As the floors were swept and April's pants were dried, New Guy came over, spoke for the first time since he'd said "Order?" and asked "Soooooo, what are you guys up to tonight?" 

Oh, New Guy.... best of luck with life. 

The next day, fishing tours and fancy dinners behind us, we donned our sweatpants and rain gear and set out to see Gros Morne's beautiful coast. 

First up, breakfast at the Treasure Box. What New Guy had lacked in skill, the owner of the Treasure Box more than made up for in pure personality.  A cafe inside of a tchotchke shop, Owner Guy did it all: rattled off the menu, took the orders, served up the food and talked Newfoundland history. When he got busy, any of his dozen family members, sipping coffee at a table in the corner, would jump up to help.  When Max cried about... we don't remember... something.... Owner Guy's Niece came right over to cheer him up, along with her daughter.  Several breakfast sandwiches, a ship in a bottle, one plastic viking, a Gros Morne Christmas ornament, and some Moose boxers later... we were all thrilled and on our way! Nothing like starting the day with some souvs. 

Just down the road, we pulled in to Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse.

Daily Newfoundland lighthouse visit: check.  

It was time to head up to them most Northern portion of Gros Morne, Shallow Bay/Cow Head. Our attempt to hike Old Mail Road was rained out, but the boys enjoyed the beach for as long as they could until rain forced us in to a tiny and adorable shelter, great for drying socks and taking pictures.  Max pondered what it would be like to live here, and he and April agreed that they'd have to "knit some screens to keep all the bugs out." 

From Cow Head, it was on to the Broom Point Fishing Exhibit, which promised all sorts of cool old-fashioned fishing demonstrations. Upon arrival, we found that none of that was happening due to the downpour, but we did make sure to snap a few pics of the adorable town and it's two outhouses.  

Two outhouses diverged in a wood, and I - I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference. 

Our last stop in Gros Morne was Green Point, and we had certainly save the very best for last. This place, a fishing village of maybe 10 shacks, was gorgeous. Incredible rock formations complete with the bluest of seas... Beautiful! Our kids loved the listening cone, complete with an ear imprint to make an Audiologist proud. 

Gros Morne National Park, you are awesome! Time to leave Newfoundland and head back to Nova Scotia! Ferry, here we come again! 

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