Backcountry Snowshoeing in Gros Morne

Bakers Brook, Newfoundland (Map)

Winter 2013-14


One of the reasons I wish that I befriended more Newfoundlanders during my time here is because of the cabin culture, where knowing more natives would lead to more opportunities for snowshoeing and hiking to remote cabins. With this in mind, when my friend asked if I was up for snowshoeing 8.5km (5.2mi) to one of the backcountry huts at Gros Morne National Park, I was all for it. This was one way of getting around knowing someone with a cabin.

The only thing was that Ro asked me about 2 months in advance...and I only realized that it was Super Bowl Weekend about a month later. D'oh! Newfoundland was going to win again; taking away everything that's not Olympic Ice Hockey?

Pulling off the road just after Rocky Harbour, the first half of the trail is the same maintained pathway you would take to Bakers Brook Falls. I've hiked this portion of the trail before, but it's much easier when you aren't inundated with snow and overnight supplies.

(Though I say this while my friends were the ones carrying the 30-40lb gear sleds more often than not.)

Navigation grew trickier once we guessed where to leave the Bakers Brook Falls Trail, seeing as there was a tunnel in the trees, but also a lack of good signage.

We would come to a backcountry warming shack after about 6 kilometers (~4mi), where we'd then make a wrong turn and end up in a blow down of fallen trees, where the sled had to be pulled upwards every 30 seconds. This was certainly the wrong way.

Thankfully, with a bit of backtracking, the trail was then pretty easy to follow, even as Christian let me take a turn with the sled. As I moved forward and pulled the heavy rig over my own trees, I wondered how he had managed to so casually pull this for the first 7 km (4.5mi).

Regardless of only pulling the sled for 17% of the trail - and much of that was atop the smooth Bakers Brook Pond - I was more than happy to finally see the Bakers Brook Backcountry Inn breaking out of the fir and spruce trees along the shore of the lake.

By now all of us had worked up a sweat or had cooled down with the passing afternoon.

After briefly checking out the sweet digs, the next action item was to get a fire roaring.

A solid feed of spaghetti was served, washed down with a few drinks after a hard day's work. I found it amusing to crack a Colt 45, while feeling bad for adding said weight to Christian's sled for 83% of the hike. Then again, he is in better shape than me, so I'm sure he hardly noticed.

The next day I had aspirations of snowshoeing further into the backcountry, unencumbered by a sled or 70L backpack, up further into the Bakers Brook area than I'd likely ever be again.

Unfortunately we had been having some strange weather where parts of Bakers Brook Pond looked questionable as to whether they were frozen, and when we're talking about a deep lake surrounded by steep canyons, that isn't where I'd want to break through the ice.

So I walked along the pond for only a short while, cutting inland at the Shears Barrens, moving along quickly without having to dive into any of the trees. The only other area I could go around here would be the Rocky Harbour Hills, but after climbing only a small hill to gain a better view, I realized that the Rocky Harbour Hills would have been an all day trek. With the crummy weather and another 8km (5mi) snowshoe ahead of me tomorrow, I flopped down onto the ground in my snow pants accepting how far I would go today.

Three of my friends left for their own snowshoe while I was atop this hill (you can see them at centre).

Knowing that I would be missing the Super Bowl while on this trip, I had looked up Bell's internet coverage map and noticed that our cabin wouldn't get cell service, but this hill would. Sure enough, I looked at my phone & had one bar worth of cell service as I sat here.

I initially crunched plans involving cell signal amplifiers and Christian's tablet, as apparently you can watch video with 4G or something, but eventually decided against climbing up this hill at 8 o'clock at night, even later than the 'typical' 630pm start time since I live so far off into the Atlantic to be in another time zone.

Sitting atop this hill and thinking about working so hard & being so cold just to be bombarded with advertisements and billionaire owners, I grew more comfortable with my decision.

The rest of the day went great. Whereas the first time I went on one of these trips with full rest days, I thought I would be bored senseless and the hours would crawl; I've now realized that these days might be some of my favourite days of the year - slashing away hundreds of pages read, passing the time with great friends and generally being unable to worry about much since you're committed to this cabin far away from all the nonsense of everyday life.

We needed to get a somewhat early start the next day, but being tucked behind the Rocky Harbour Hills, we would only see the sun emerge once we were close to being ready to go.

In addition to the ease of now knowing how far the snowshoe was and our way back to the car, the weather of this 3rd day was incredible. I couldn't imagine how nice it would have been to have the sun shine like this on the first day, but then again, I'm glad we didn't have 3 days of that middle snow squall weather.

The sleds were also quite a bit easier to carry now that they weren't inundated with fluids and carbs. A few of us had a good laugh at how we didn't dehydrate our food and even managed to carry some heavy beer.

It was a good thing we had the three oxen with us.

I planned on DVR'ing the Super Bowl and watching it when I got back. Very few people here care about sports outside of Olympic Ice Hockey, so I knew I could avoid hearing the outcome of the game quite easily.

About halfway back to the car, my phone vibrated that I got a text as we reached a coverage area. Not thinking, I unlocked my phone to see a text from Roach saying "Oh! Can you believe the Seahawks! What a drubbing!"

God damn it.

I'd end up watching the game anyway, but realized that I had a much better and more memorable time doing this snowshoe. Wracking my brain, I can probably remember 2 or 3 of the past 10 Super Bowls because they're that inconsequential to my life, whereas I'll remember this snowshoe until I get Alzheimer's from not learning a second language or eating a heart-healthy diet.

I still enjoy doing the things that this island works to prevent me from doing - like enjoying the Super Bowl, wearing less than 15 clothing items in March, bike riding in November - but this is a case where maybe I shouldn't be so stubborn and take to simply envisioning which option will be a better time.

This was one Super Bowl I was happy to miss.


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