Norris Point, I could have stayed there forever and I think some locals thought I was going to. One of the great parts of traveling is looking back and seeing how all the moments fit together to form an experience and how one little change would have changed the entire course of the trip. Being picked up by Bob and Julia while hitchhiking out of Deer Lake was one of those moments that shaped many days to come.
The wind was blowing pretty hard out of the north and the thought of riding the 50k or so, over the mountains and into a headwind, was not what appealed to me at the moment. My first stop in the Town of Deer Lake was at the local Salvation Army in search of a new shirt, with the hope that a collar and buttons would improve my chances of catching a ride. My second stop was at the Deer Lake visitor’s center to use the internet, fill my water bottles and borrow a Sharpie to make a cardboard sign indicating my desire for a ride to Gros Morne National Park. While debating my next move I met PJ Fernandez, a local from Deer Lake and hard core mountain biker.
We chatted for a while about bikes, computers and traveling, three subjects I always enjoy talking about.
Hitchhiking with a loaded touring bike is not an easy task and when you need a pickup truck in the land of cars, sometimes catching a ride can take a while. I headed out onto 430 North, the main travel route to Gros Morne and the Northern Peninsula, with my sign in hand and a fresh new look. I’ll admit, I’m an impatient hitchhiker, so when 20 minutes passed without a ride I started to reconsider my options. That is when Bob and Julia arrived.
They are the grandparents everyone dreams of and happen live in the town of Norris Point, a small town and tourist stop within the boundary of Gros Morne National Park. They had driven past me, but noticed my cardboard sign and Julia felt sorry for me, so she asked Bob to turn around and pick me up. With unmatched Newfoundland (and Labrador, where Bob and Julia are both originally from) hospitality they rearranged the cab of their pickup so I would have a comfortable spot to ride, then took me on a driving tour of the southern part of Gros Morne National Park. This was a tour that money could not buy; it came straight from the heart. They told me about their children, grandchildren, life on the island when they were younger, and pointed out the great hunting and fishing spots along the way. We stopped to enjoy the great scenery and photo opportunities.
They also insisted I stay in Norris Point and said they were taking me to the best camping spot in town. Traveling without a plan allows for opportunities such as this and I had no intent on questioning their judgment.
When we arrived in town they took me past their own house, a place they have lived for over 50 years, and mentioned most everyone in town “owns their own house”, as in built without a mortgage and not owned by the bank. Freedom and a simple lifestyle are hallmarks of Newfoundland life. After a quick trip down the main street, so I could see where the ferry to Woody Point left from, they delivered me to Wild Cove, my home for the next 4 nights.
I spent my first evening taking in ocean smell, the breathtaking view, and watching the sunset over the horizon, with Bob and Julia as my company.
I didn’t leave town the next day, and there was no reason to, everything I needed was right here from a small grocery store, to great hikes, to a great pub. I spent my time taking photos, hiking along the shore and enjoying some internet time with a few pints at The Cat Stop.
I also met Claudia, an amazing woman from Germany who was camping at the opposite end of Wild Cove. She is one of the most well traveled people I have ever met and is traveling across Canada, down the western States, up to Alaska, and eventually to the tip of South America. For this adventure she is driving a custom Toyota Land Cruiser that she had shipped over from Germany.
The next day had a wind out of the south, so it was a perfect day to travel north. With my bike stripped of it’s panniers and just a backpack in the front basket, I headed to Western Brook Pond to hike the Snug Harbor trail. I passed an old abandoned fun park along the way.
The wind that blew me so easily to the north, fought me mercilessly back south. Rather than fight back, I chose the one thumb alternative and hitched my way back to Norris Point. After a few pints at The Cat Stop with Claudia, I watched another beautiful sunset from comfort of my tent.
With some rain overnight and a grey start to the morning, it seemed like a perfect day to do……. practically nothing. I spent the morning and early afternoon at my new office on the back porch of The Cat Stop, went for a few short hikes, then it was back to The Cat Stop (there is a trend here, thank you Kane for the great hospitality) for an evening of open mike. Really, I hardly noticed the music and spent the evening consuming a few too many pints with Claudia and just enjoying the conversation instead.
The next day it was time to leave paradise. Claudia was traveling north and eventually taking the ferry over to Labrador and I needed to travel south and eventually back home to Vermont. With one last stop at The Cat Stop, I grabbed the ferry over to Woody Point and began my return trip to reality.