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Report 1901: A Month on the Rock

By Eleanor from UK, Fall 2010

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Page 16 of 31: Gros Morne - Tablelands and Woody Point

photo by Michael

Serpentine on peridote

Next morning the weather forecast was for a dry morning but wet afternoon and wet the following day. We have visited Norway several times and having seen and sailed on fjords, the boat trip on Western Brook Pond wasnít on our list of priorities.

We decided that Tablelands was our top priority and we would do that in the morning.

It was a nice drive from Wiltondale through the mountains with mainly coniferous forest but some deciduous in places. Glenburnie is a small scattered settlement. Birchy Head, Shoal Brook and Winterhouse Brook all run into each other and are in a lovely setting at the base of substantial mountains. We took the road which climbs up past the Discovery Centre with wooded hills to the right and the orange hillside of Tablelands to the left.

Tablelands is unique as it is one of the few places you can actually see the rocks which make up the earthís mantle. It is made up of peridotite which was forced up from the depths of the earth when the continents of Africa and America collided 450 millions of years ago.

Serpentine can be found in places where water has reacted with the peridotite and precipitated calcium. These rocks appear greenish with a white snakeskin pattern on the surface.

Peridotite is naturally dark in colour but contains a high percentage of iron which oxides on exposure to air giving the rocks an orange red colour, which means they pick up all available light and really do glow in sunlight.

The rock contains high levels of heavy metals like chromium and nickel as well as magnesium which are toxic to most plants. It is also low in essential minerals like nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, as well as calcium.

Very few plants can grow on the bare rock. Where soil collects in hollows plants begin to appear. There were clumps of small trees in damper places where more depth of soil had accumulated.

There is a large parking area off the side of the road with information boards.

It is an easy walk following an old trackway until the path swings away into Winter Brook Canyon, a large open area at the base of the mountains. The sides rise steeply to the flat plateau. There are boardwalks over the wetter areas which end at a viewing platform.

At the start of the trail there is a short 'Serpentine Loop'. This is shown on the map in the car park but is not clearly marked from the main trail. It is a narrow path which meanders through the low vegetation and across small rock fragments.

We saw asters, small Michaelmas daisies, Canadian burnett and sneezewort. There were lots of pitcher plants in the wetter areas and also cinnamon fern.

We really enjoyed the walk. There was so much to stop and look at. This is one of the few walks in Newfoundland where you are guaranteed good views as there are no trees to get in the way!

The sun had kept trying to appear earlier but by the time we got back to the car it was beginning to turn dull and cloudy.

We drove to Trout River along the bottom of Tablelands. There were two steep valleys gouged out of the hillside with waterfalls tumbling down them.

When we got to Trout River it brightened and the sun kept trying to come out. We parked up and followed the boardwalk along the shore to the fishing harbour at the mouth of the river, where there were some old wooden houses. We came back along the main street where two houses had hand made knitted items pegged out for sale on a line in front of the house. After a cup of tea in the Seaside Restaurant we drove to Trout River Pond (a long gash in the mountains) for the views.

We drove back to Woody Point, a pretty settlement with lots of old houses. Most are well maintained although many now have UPVC cladding. The Town of Woody Point has a Heritage Walk and I had been sent a copy of the leaflet before we left home. We started to follow this, stopping to read about the different buildings.

We stopped to talk to the person rebuilding Buttís Store, which had burnt down twice. This had belonged to his great grandfather who had been a fish merchant and the store, attached to his house, sold everything. The person now lives across the road in the house which had belonged to his Great Aunt Jane and is now a B&B.

By now the rain clouds were building up over Winterbrook so we headed to the cafe attached to Seaside Souvenirs for a bowl of seafood chowder (too much dried sage masked the taste of the fish) to warm us up.

When we came out it was raining steadily so we headed back to the Discovery Centre. This is a huge building but to be honest, we didnít think there was a lot in it. There was a huge display all about global warming. We are skeptics. Other displays about the Park were superficial and there was little solid information. We were far from impressed and I would only rank it two stars. It did however, have a good selection of postcards, the best we had seen so far with a lot of views.

We liked Woody Point. It had a lot of character and didnít have the pressure of tourists found in Rocky Harbour. If planning the journey again, I would stop here rather than Rocky Harbour.

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