“Oh my goodness,” I say looking at the mountains while peaking out of the door of our camper. I had no idea there were mountains here. Val and I arrived at camp around 2 am after disembarking from the 6-hour ferry ride from Nova Scotia. We parked at Wreckhouse, a large parking area off the side of Trans-Canada Highway 1. It was pitch black when we arrived in the middle of the night. I only saw a few vans and RVs parked nearby as we pulled in. But now in the light of day, there are mountains on one side and the ocean on the other. It’s beautiful. Welcome to Newfoundland.
We woke up early, partially because we don’t know how long we can stay parked here and partially to get ahead of the rain. It’s supposed to rain most of today so we want to try to get ahead of it if we can. And so we start driving towards Gros Morne National Park as the clouds gather to the east. A seemingly endless valley engulfs us which is crossed by frequent stony brooks and forested mountains, the end of the Appalachians. The clouds continue to form but are still behind us.
The clouds become darker and broody as we turn north from the Trans-Canada Highway 1 towards Gros Morne National Park. The road narrows and begins to twist and turn as we cross the mountains towards the coast. We descend toward Bonne Bay fjord. We drive through small working fishing towns along the water surrounded by steep forested mountains.
We stop at a visitors center to choose an adventure. We browse maps and check the printed forecast. We talk with a ranger about different hiking options. “What’s the trail like in the rain?” I ask about a few different hikes. We learn that the heaviest of the rain is not expected until the evening and also decide to check out the Tablelands hike as it’s mostly rock and should get too muddy. The rain is coming, it’s just a matter of when and how much.
The clouds are lowering towards the mountain tops and it’s foggy in the distance as we approach the trailhead. It feels cozy to me, more intimate as the distant views become clouds of white. We make lunch in the back of the camper. PB&J, chips, a pickle - a feast. I appreciate always having a pantry and kitchen with us. It’s a restaurant with ever-changing views.
It’s beginning to drizzle so we put on our rain jackets before donning packs and starting along the trail. Rain can be pretty enjoyable if you’re prepared for it and can eventually get dry again. We’re wearing synthetic clothing and Chaco sandals that feel ok when wet and dry quickly. Everything seems more alive to me in the rain. Plants and rocks glisten. Colors become more contrasty and vibrant. Small drainages come alive with water. And existing rivers and waterfalls grow in intensity. I even feel more alive like a kid playing in a puddle or a pool. In fact, I often prefer to hike in the rain.
Val and I hike up the trail as the rain ebbs and flows. We get a bit hot at one point, taking off our rain jackets and another layer. Later it starts raining pretty hard so we dig out rain jackets back out of our packs. We walk along the rocky trail, sometimes through puddles or small drainages. After about a mile we come to a beautiful vista of the Tablelands rising all around us with a rocky boulder-strewn valley in its bowl. We pause to take in what we see, hear and feel. My skin feels cool and wet from the rain and wind but warm from the effort of hiking. The sound of rain surrounds us, like a curtain along with the clouds and fog. I feel deeply alive and present. I take a photo with Val and look at it. We’re bundled up in our rain jackets and we’re wet, but we have huge smiles on our faces. We feel alive and grateful to be here right now.
Later that night we’re at camp. The rain has picked up and is now falling consistently. We enjoy the tiny box that is our rig, appreciating the small luxuries of dry space with a heater to drive away the cool dampness and everything we need for the rest of the evening. We lazily read, having dinner somewhere along the way before going to bed hours later. The rain is still steadily falling and will become a downpour at times through the night.
We awake to find there are still lots of clouds and fog but they appear to be clearing. How is it that I can tell they’re cleaning? I don’t know. It just seems like they are. We find the tops of our pillows are wet. After investigating the camper, we think the pillows wicked water from the windows from being in direct contact with the seams where the windows are stitched into the soft sides. Don’t touch the sides of a wet tent or they’ll wick water. Whoops. I start making coffee while periodically repositioning the pillows in front of the heater blower. The pillows are dry by the time I pour the coffee.
Later that day it’s sunny again. We’re on a boat touring Western Brook Pond among towering often vertical rocky mountains along the shores of the glacially carved fjord. As we move deeper into the valley, we are surrounded by waterfalls bursting over the mountain tops into deep plunges and falling towards the pond. Many of them were much drier the other day we learn, but are now torrents of water thanks to yesterday’s rain. But we’re also grateful for a dry sunny day after so much rain.
We check the forecast after the boat tour. It’s going to be sunny for the rest of the afternoon but it’s probably going to rain again in the evening and tomorrow. We’re supposed to camp nearby but decide to change our plans based on the current conditions and forecast. We really want to hike Green Gardens along the coast but think it would be a muddy hike in the rain. And so we drive towards the trailhead hoping the rain holds off for a bit. We’re dancing with the rain.
We arrive at the Green Gardens trailhead in the late afternoon as most other hikers are leaving. Along the hike, we’ll find ourselves being almost the only people we see aside from a few other hikers. We hike across a rocky tundra before descending steep rocky mud-packed switchbacks towards the coast. This would not be fun in the rain I think as I use my poles to reduce the severity of the descent and uneven ground. We are treated to beautiful coastal scenery hiking through grassy flower-filled meadows up our waits with sea stacks and beaches along the coast. At one point we even encounter a herd of sheep grazing along the meadow. We later learn these are kept by the nearby residents of Trout River.
Rain isn’t inherently good or bad. It’s really about how you perceive it and what you do when it happens. There are certainly some things I’d rather not do when it’s raining. But as much as I like snuggling up with a book and a warm drink on a rainy day, it can also be a great day to be outside flowing along with the water and energy of the rain dancing along with it.
See you out there,