Green Gardens, Newfoundland
22.8.2016, Norris Point Wharf, 9 a.m. over water
Waiting for the vendor at the boat station to heat up my spring rolls, I organized the mess in the car. That by itself improved my feeling and cleared my head. Maps on one wall of the plastic box, cosmetics on the second, chargers and batteries on the third.
The water below is dark grey, the sun sparkling in small wavelets. Mountains and cliffs.
On every trip one naturally takes multiple decisions. By choosing option A, you necessarily reject option B. I give up on the idea of a boat tour of Bonne Bay, and decide to drive to the Green Gardens after all. That entails driving the same long route I drove yesterday, but I made up my mind. This hike is a must-do for me before the rain resumes.
I also reserved a place on the ferry back to Nova Scotia for tomorrow night. It is expected to rain non-stop for two weeks in a row. I have no more energy left for wet tents and downpours. There is still danger that a shower tonight will wet the tent significantly. I bought important equipment – black garbage bags for a quick packing up.
Driving is a nightmarish experience of non-stop uphills followed by downhills, typical for the island. At least it doesn’t rain and the views are pretty.
I knew the trek will be a huge downhill, followed by the predictable uphill. Still, I was surprised by the difficulty.
For safety, I attached myself to a nice local couple, asking them to keep an eye on me once in a while. I walked a constant distance behind them for most of the hike, but eventually we got together and had a lively conversation. L. told me her husband had recently got a job as a teacher. It was harder than expected, since in remote, unpopulated areas, classes K- 12th are all in one room… She herself teaches business in a community college, but there are problems with the government funding. It is possible they might leave the island. I wondered if they’d go to Alberta. Keep hearing about that one over and over.
I met another local couple previously, where the husband was working as an electrician in the oil industry. The company paid him the flights from Newfoundland to Alberta. He would work two-weeks, then get a week off at home with his family. I suppose for a community used to its men spending 80% of their time at sea, this lifestyle is normal. I found it interesting that Alberta needed to import electricians from Newfoundland. On the other hand, it is wonderful they want to stay on the island.
Green Gardens trail can be done as a return or as a loop. The name refers to the algal pools observed from the high cliffs. When done as a loop, you walk over the cliffs for several kilometers, and then take an alternative way back to the parking. L&L were doing the full 16 -km loop. I did the 9-km “short trail”.
The beginning was fairly flat and kind of boring. Then there was a confusing junction, where the walk down through the forest started. Much of the trail consisted of wooden steps, giant-size, difficult to stride.
Every step I took while walking down, I knew I would have to climb on the way back up… I estimated, erronously, that it would take me hours to do the return. I was so focused on putting one foot in front of the other, I had no time to take pictures…
In retrospect, I don’t know why I was that nervous. I guess it’s natural when you are 60+, have bad knees, do not know the terrain, and travel alone.
In truth, the cliffs were not as impressive as I expected them to be, having memories of Ireland in mind. If I had continued with L&L along the cliffs, I would for sure have seen the more spectacular views. But I had to study my own abilities the slow way, do things to my comfortable limit.
When we reached the bottom of the trail, I took leave of the nice friendly couple. Parking my body on a small knoll, I leaned my walking stick against one of the ubiquitous red chairs overlooking the sea, took some pictures, and immediately started my way back up. I did not even bother to reach the beach. Very uncharacteristic…
The Way Back
Even though I wasn’t ready for the longer haul, I did better than I thought. I told myself I would do the way back turtle-paced if needed, stopping every ten steps. Expecting the climb to last hours, I surprsied myself it took only an hour and a half, not much worse than most other climbers…
I wasn’t the only one having a hard time. A group of young Chinese were in a rush to cram this walk into their itinerary before a flight. Clearly, they were even less well planned and informed than I was. As I’ve seen on another occasion, the women did not have proper walking shoes, some came with moccasins. After doing the first part of the walk down, most turned back up without ever reaching the cliffs…
A little higher up ,where the forest gave way to sunnier zones, a woman greeted me happily: “Orit…”. Once her sunglasses were down I recognized D. from Berry Head Pond. It was nice to meet them again. They were going down and I was going up, a good excuse for all three of us to take a lengthy chit-chat rest. Sitting on the rocks by the trailside, sipping some water, she told me more about their trip to New Zealand. They bought a Toyota car on location, then sold it two months later with only $500 devaluation. No technical problems! Food for thought…
Reaching the stone pile at the head of the road, I added some rocks of my own to the stack, then sent blessings to the four directions.
After the 4-hour walk, I rewarded myself with another meal at the Old Loft. This time I ordered a salad , chowder and berry juice. My appetite was lower than usual due to the arduous walk. A nice lady took a picture of me on the balcony.