Sunday, July 9, 2017

Newfoundland "bathing" (7/9/2017)

Back from vacation already for about three weeks and Newfoundland feels worlds away.  It was such a different world.  I’m not sure if it was the news blackout we gave ourselves, the relaxed atmosphere, the constant supply of seafood, the great people, the cool temperatures, nature, or what it was.  Life had slowed down, I felt so relaxed. 

I took this picture at sunset along the west coast of the island just outside Rocky Harbor
I want to bet it was a combination of a lot of these things. But one thing I am for sure, I was constantly reminded about some of the things I wrote in my posts about “forest bathing”; the smell of the balsam fir in the forest was overwhelming. As I mentioned in that post, Japanese researchers found that the smell, fragrance or volatile substances called phytoncides that these and many conifers give off have a property of reducing stress levels and increasing killer cells, cells that kill tumor cells, in your body. They also lower your blood pressure. This effect seems to last a couple of weeks. Well darn it, it must have worn off in me by now, especially after being confronted by our life back here in the U.S.A., including nasty tweets!

The woods of Gros Morne National Park, a mixture of peat lands with balsam fir, larches, black fir, pitcher plants, and some other really cool plants.  It is especially the fragrance of the balsam fir trees that is so good for you! 
Nature in Newfoundland was amazing.  From some of the historical photographs and documents we saw, the island was quite forested and loggers cleared it over the years.  It looks like nature has not yet recovered from all that logging.  Newfoundland has a harsh environment, say the least, but wonderful.  I was amazed that on parts of the island, the deciduous trees had not yet broken bud and the larches had had just started in early June.  The ferns were in their fiddle stage.  Even the evergreens appeared to have just started their annual growth spurt.  This means that the growing season in these parts of the island is not more than about 4 or five months each year, and those cleared forests have a difficult time growing back.  Combine that with moose browsing and you know the results in some areas.  Still it kind of looks like what I would expect (tundra like).

This and many of the ferns in this area were finally sticking their head above the sphagnum moss.  Other plants that were growing here included pitcher plants and alder. 
Then there is this amazing variety in a small area. I am referring to an area called the “Table Lands” from which you can hike the Green Gardens Trail in Gros Morne National Park. In that area you go from a region that literally looks like Mars in a few miles to the Garden of Eden. It is a 8 mile hike (4 miles each way) but a crazy experience.

While not exactly the "Table Lands", this is an extension or the bottom of it.  There is little plant growth because of certain toxicities.  This is where the "Green Gardens" hike starts, and there is not much green here.  Actually the story goes that the Mars Rover was tested near here on the Table Lands.  How appropriate.

But then you come over the ridge and after a gorgeous hike you get in the "Green Garden."  Wild sheep graze here and there is some amazing scenery.  This hike will stay with me for a long time, because it was so beautiful, but also because my phone was stolen here (my only bad experience on the island ... see my previous post <here>).

Being out there in the Atlantic Ocean, close to Greenland and Iceland; right there where the cold Labrador Current runs into the Gulf Stream, near the Grand Banks one of the richest fishing grounds in the world, you can expect that Newfoundland is a seabird paradise.  It is therefore also a birdwatcher's paradise.  There are some colonies of birds that you only find here in North America.  One of themy are the puffins.  Other colonies we visited were those of the Cape St. Mary's Ecological Reserve, which were just absolutely unbelievable.  

Suffice it to say, we need to go back!  We did not get to see it all.  We need to hike more, go whale watching, see more moose, caribou, and visit areas we did not have the time for.

Puffin rock near Elliston.  During our visit is was around 38 degrees Fahrenheit (4 C), the wind was whipping (more than 20 mph) and it was drizzling.  When we got off the rock someone told us that last year a lady was blown off the rock to her death under very similar climatic conditions.  

The Murres of Cape St. Mary's Ecological Reserve.  These guys are sitting on eggs.

Gannets, gannets and gannets everywhere at Cape St. Mary's.  From a distance it looked like the rocks were snow covered, but they were brooding gannets.  And it smelled like their food ... fish.  

More gannets.

Need I say more?

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