Our outdoor year in review

Keith &
Keith & Heather Nicol
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Seeing caribou along the road near Cow Head was a highlight of a winter trip to Gros Morne National Park in March 2013.

December is a time of year when many people often reflect on their experiences of the past year. When we think of the various trips and outdoor activities we have been fortunate to take part in while exploring Newfoundland over the past 12 months, a number of highlights come to mind.

In the winter we did many avalanche awareness sessions for schools and other groups. While driving to a school in Cow Head we were treated with the sight of a large group of caribou grazing near the road. We were told they often visit this area in the winter since the wind blows the snow off the coastal plain.

In April we did many great backcountry-skiing trips on the Blow-Me-Down Mountains and on the Tablelands. On one epic trip with Andrew Stokes we skied a run into Winterhouse Brook that was very challenging since it was steep and narrow with rocks lining the sides.

During the summer we travelled to Gros Morne National Park and St. Anthony with my brother Bruce and his wife Mary Ellen, who’s goals were to see whales, icebergs and moose and we lucked out by seeing all three.

On other trips to Gros Morne we went kayaking with Gros Morne Adventures in Norris Point and had an absolutely perfect day on the water. We also got to try out the park’s new Otentiks, which made camping easy. Otentiks are large roomy “tents” which are already set and all you need to do is bring your food and bedding.

In the fall we sampled many of the community hiking trails in Rocky Harbour, Norris Point, Trout River and Woody Point and thoroughly enjoyed exploring these short, but scenic walks. We discussed many of these trails in an earlier Destinations column published in The Western Star.

Another highlight was visiting Shawn Majumder’s The Gathering in Burlington on the Baie Verte Peninsula. We had never been to this part of Newfoundland and really enjoyed the friendly atmosphere of this star-studded festival. It is a great event and we fully recommend it. Be sure to take in one of the chef hikes since they allow you to explore a nearby trail and then enjoy a feast at the trail’s end.

We also had a chance to visit southern Labrador and adjacent Quebec in late August. Red Bay had been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status earlier in the summer and so we spent a couple of days learning about this Basques whaling site. Cindy Gibbons, the site supervisor at the Red Bay Historic Site, told us that Red Bay was the largest and most important whaling station in the world through the 16th century. While were in the area we also visited the Point Amour Lighthouse and had a great visit to the Aqua Labadie scallop farm in nearby Quebec. Here we went on a fabulous boat tour and got to sample fresh scallops paired with fine wine. Yum, yum. Even though we have been exploring western Newfoundland for over 30 years, it is still gratifying to be able to find so many new trips to do.

If readers know of some new adventures that they think we should check out, let us know at knicol@grenfell.mun.ca.

Contributors Keith and Heather Nicol live in Corner Brook and are avid explorers of Newfoundland. Keith can be reached at knicol@swgc.mun.ca

Organizations: The Gathering, UNESCO, Red Bay Historic Site

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Norris Point, Cow Head Down Mountains Winterhouse Brook Gros Morne National Park St. Anthony Quebec Red Bay Rocky Harbour Trout River Woody Point Burlington Southern Labrador Corner Brook

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