PHOTOS AT BOTTOM
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If Cape Cod and the Rocky Mountains had a one-night stand, the bastard child would surely be Newfoundland, with her majestic shoreline, salty fishing community, timbered mountains, and abundant wildlife—all mixed up in a gritty human culture.
I'm not sure how Newfoundlanders would feel about that, but that's how I felt by the end of today.
My hunt doesn’t not start until tomorrow, so today I rented a car and explored Gros Morne National Park, only to fall in love with Newfoundland. The park is named for Newfoundland’s second highest mountain, which is 2,644 ft tall. In French Gros Morne means “large mountain standing alone.” Interestingly, the chain of mountains that contains Gros Morne is considered an outlying range of the Appalachians, which I left behind in New York.
I didn’t really have a plan. The only thing I knew for certain was that I needed some woods time after spending all of the previous day in airports and planes. After driving about 45 minutes, I found the trailhead for Gros Morne mountain (I realize that is redundant!). The sign said to bring plenty of food and water because the hike to the top and back could take as long as eight hours. I realize that 2,644 feet doesn’t sound like much, but keep in mind that you are starting at sea level, so it’s 100% up. I loaded two bottles of water and some local sausage and cheese in my pack and took off.
It was fantastic! The air was thick with the scent of balsam fir and there was a nearly a constant roar from a nearby brook tumbling fast for the Gulf of St Lawrence below. The American Mountain Ash were dripping with ripe red fruit and I saw bunchberry, pearly everlasting, and lots of moose tracks!
At one point, I topped out on a bench that rolled off to each side. The wind was steady from the south, so I decided to break from the trail in that direction to see if could see anything in the creek bottom or adjoining slope. After about 150 yards, I dropped to my knees and peaked over the edge. There, 50 yards below, I was startled to see a mamma black bear and two cubs. I managed to get one quick photo before the threesome disappeared into the tuckamore.
After 3 hours of climbing and taking photos, I was at the rocky base of Gros Morne. I wanted to make the summit, but Mother Nature had other ideas. The air had been changing throughout my hike and now it was getting nasty, with blowing mist and wind gusts up to 20 mph. I did an about face and headed down. By the time I reached the trailhead, it was a full on gale with gusts that must have hit near 50 mph.
I jumped in the rental and headed for the coast, where the Gulf of St. Lawrence meets rock and a tangle of fir. There, Mother Nature was whipping up a froth. I made my way north, stopping now and then to take pictures, but at times it was difficult to remain on two feet in the gusting winds. Eventually, I found a little pub that was all but closed for the season. The place had port-hole type windows and one perfectly framed a neighboring shed that sported several years worth of moose antlers. The pub had stopped serving food for the season, so I had a local beer and then headed south for my hotel.
Thoughts for the day.
I ran into a handful of hikers on the trail to Gros Morne. Each was dressed in high-performance type hiking gear and all were single-mindedly pursuing the summit. One guy almost walked into me because he was so intently focused on his foot falls. I admire anyone who spends time outdoors, as it’s vastly better than being rooted in front of the TV. That said, I wish folks would slow down and appreciate what’s around them. The forest leading to Gros Morne was full of sights that I’ll bet most missed. I’m reasonably certain that in a natural history trivia quiz, avid hunters would beat most other outdoor types. There is a renewed, high-level interest in encouraging non-hunting, outdoor enthusiasts to buy state habitat stamps and federal ducks stamps as a means of supporting conservation. There is also talk of placing a tax, similar to the Pittman-Robertson tax, on outdoor equipment, such as camping gear, binoculars, etc. I think this is a good idea, as it would greatly boost conservation dollars and give other outdoor users some context for the hunter’s legacy.
Today I was reminded about the importance of public lands to hunters, not just in the U.S., where they are in jeopardy, but across North America. Checkout Whit Fosburgh of TRCP on the Canadian podcast, Beyond the Kill.
Near Gros Morne, I encountered the following sign. I’m glad to see that Parks Canada is doing such a favorable job of managing their public lands and engaging hunters to do it!
Keep the Traditional Spirit Alive!
I’m Ron Rohrbaugh, a professional conservation biologist, author, and long-time traditional bowhunter. For the next year, I’ll be hunting exclusively with vintage archery gear in what I’m calling The Classic Year. We’ll explore natural history and travel, geography and culture, and of course archery and hunting. The adventures and stories will be steeped in conservation, both past and present.
|Hunting for Conservation||
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