Lew Coty Completes Second Circumtrek
In 2014 Appalachian Mountain Explorer Lew Coty from Vermont, U.S.A. returned to Western Newfoundland to hike the Long Range Appalachians, including his first circumtrek of Western Brook Pond in Gros Morne National Park. Having found the terrain "so varied and exciting", he returned again in 2015 to do it all over again!
In his own words, this is Lew's story.
After many summers of hiking the Appalachians of Western Newfoundland, in 2014 I decided on a circumtrek of the renowned Western Brook Pond. Having found the terrain so varied and exciting, I concluded I had only scratched the surface of what was to be seen, and so a sequel excursion was in order.
August 7/2015: Similar to last year, I planned to begin and end this trek at the gravel pit near Sally’s Cove. The hike up the North Rim Trail on the western end of the pond was made so much easier this year due to some long overdue trail maintenance work by a few park wardens. Once above tree line my plan was to hug the North Rim as close to the Pond as I could. I spent the afternoon scanning the South Rim where Western Brook Hill loomed over the entrance to the Pond,
and peering down into Snug Harbour and through intimidating, fissured ravines with spiny tops that plummeted down to the water.
It is odd this spectacular inland fjord would be called a pond but such is the Newfoundland dialect.
As I headed east up the canyon, my desire to stay on the rim’s edge faded as the vegetation became increasingly dense, and I found myself drifting north to the main North Rim Route. Occasionally I would need to skirt or barge through short stretches of tuckamore, but for the most part I could find grassy rock-strewn passages to follow. In this alpine environment I set camp on a barren hillock, enjoying calm winds and an array of stars
August 8: As I headed east towards the upper end of the pond, the terrain became more rumpled and lake-strewn.
Woody Pond, a prominent feature in this area, was soon in sight, and its relaxed, seducing ambience made me wish I had a canoe. The surrounding vegetation was more mature and open and I was soon passing its eastern shore heading south for the barrens near the canyon’s edge.
Here I had a clear view of the waterfalls spilling off the south rim.
Free-leaping Pissing Mare Falls (no, I didn’t make that name up) hangs over the ferry dock at the top of the canyon; its mist often blows sideways and upwards in the wind.
Continuing east I was afforded shots of rivers dropping over the cliffs at my feet,
and a clearing in the upper canyon’s floor looking like a putting green 2,000 feet below.
Rounding the upper end of this fjord opened the view west down its twisting towering chasm.
Once on the south rim I could stare into the depths at the hiking route up and out of the canyon from the ferry dock, and see human ants ascending the smooth ledges
The sun was getting low and I was determined to stand at the top of Pissing Mare Falls while it was still shining.
Getting there in my rush wasn’t easy, and struggling down the final pitch through tight alders and tuckamore over steep, slippery ledges wasn’t the smartest thing I’ve ever done.
However, I did manage to stand on the brim just as the sun was setting, and was calmed by my faithful companion, etched in the fading light on the streamside ledge.
August 9: I was now not far from a mammoth, gently curving mound rising to the southwest, appropriately called the Big Level, and I headed directly toward it. As the terrain transitioned from corrugated to smooth, my hiking pace accelerated.
Much of the Big Level is like traversing a huge cow meadow, although in places you must cross what look like bands of crushed boulders.
I was walking the divide between Western Brook Pond to the north, and Bakers Brook Pond to the south, and spring-fed trickles that were the birth of streams flowed off both sides of my path.
Heading west to the headwaters of Stag Brook, which I intended to be my exit off this high plateau, I descended from the Big Level toward Grassy Brook Pond. To the south I could see Gros Morne Mountain in the distance and the reddish Tableland plateau framed against the horizon. Straight ahead the Gulf of Saint Lawrence stretched out to the skyline.
Water pouring over numerous stone slabs produced an inky cast,
and this area seemed to be a stomping ground for ptarmigan, which are so well camouflaged against the rock that only in movement can you detect them.
The grass-lined gully of Upper Stag Brook made for pleasant hiking,
but as I progressed into its lower headwaters, the going became more frustrating.
The stream was somewhat swelled from recent rains and its channel in this section was narrow, closely lined with dense vegetation, and filled with large rocks. This was the most discouraging section of the whole trek; my pace regressed to a crawl, and my exclamations to profanity.
Fortunately as I descended to lower levels, the stream widened with friendly broad banks that even became sandy. Soon, Western Brook Hill appeared to the northeast, completing the circle.
The last kilometer, before Stag Brook emptied into the bottom end of Western Brook Pond, became clogged with alders and I exited to the marshy barrens that led back to Sally’s Cove.