Moody Moments in Gros Morne

Gros Morne has an emotional weight reminiscent of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. The Morne would be an excellent setting for Twilight: NL, the east coast sequel to the Forks, WA blockbuster series. In the middle of the night, with the moon and stars blocked by thick rolling clouds, it is so dark that none of our familiar surroundings are visible. It is easy to imagine a creature moving silently through the pine forest investigating the tent. After three days of all of the ways rain can fall on you – in sheets, in mist, in drizzle, and in a steady shower – the clouds made way for a bright sunrise. Even though the temperature was in the high forties then low fifties, we shed layers of vinyl wind panels, then layers of clothes, and then layers of water logged moodiness. We had been here so long we felt like the camp host, yet it had only been a three dog night.

A common sight that inspired the name of the park.

Like Vikings, we needed a quest. We couldn’t huddle in our sod house day after day in a losing battle with the insects. We needed a real battle. We needed a battle we’d have a chance of winning. Our minds raced to the only battles we knew. Cooking shows. Hell’s Kitchen. Iron Chef. Chopped. Beat Bobby Flay. We would challenge Gros Morne to serve up the best fish and chips, in an epicurean contest against our signature camp dish, vegetarian chili. Game on! oh ye small towns of Gros Morne. Show us what you got. And also show us a laundromat please, because we have no clean clothes in which to battle. And we are also out of Molson XXX pints, just sayin’, as long as we’re out and about battling like Vikings.

Break out the art when the sun shines.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show also known by everyone but us as the town of Rocky Harbor was first up. Home to Earle’s famous Sunday Jiggs dinner, fish and chips was not their thing. They’ll serve it to you if you force them to, but they would much rather enter the ring with a plate of root vegetables and salted beef. While Sheri was mortgaging the condo for the not freshest five pound bag of potatoes and tricolor peppers at the Cottage convenience store, the woman in line behind her was buying 12 giant tubs of margarine. She owns the bakery down from the Cottage laundromat. Not fish ’n chips, but we’re willing to go up against a crumble – have you had our crumble?

A worthy contender, Donair and Partridgeberry. Very NL

The Sunset is a bakery, cafe, art, home goods and yarn shop rolled into one. Seeing Donair on all the Newfie menus but not knowing what it was, we ordered the wrap plus a partridgeberry crumble for the showdown. Donair is the Rock’s version of a gyro, but without the slathering of tzatziki, or the warming spices, or the soft pita. They’re trying it all on at The Sunset, but the winner goes to the laundromat, serving up suitcases stuffed with of clean clothes.

Surprisingly, our laundry was not as colorful.

Next up was the local’s top pick, Trout River. We were told to nab a campsite in Trout River by many a Newfie. Its remote location in the bowels of Gros Morne knocked it out of the running for camping, but for kitchen battle royale we made the drive across the Tablelands to the confluence of where the Trout River meets the Atlantic Ocean. The locals are a hard sell on Trout River. You simply cannot miss it. A drive through the one-street town made us question why. As we peered hard for any luncheon venue, the locals of Trout River peered hard back at us. Strains of dueling banjos and scenes from Deliverance danced in our head.

Fish and Chips. Found it.

A beat up F-150 missing a rear window tailed us, or was he just annoyed at our slow speed? A tough dude on the pier clad in fisherman bibs pointed at us as we rolled by. Had we left the tailgate down? The door slammed shut behind us at the only open store in town, like a gunshot, Bam! Regaining our composure, we put a can of Coke on the counter and asked the attendant where we could get fish and chips. Wordlessly, he pointed to a series of four freezers along the back wall. Just the Coke, thanks. We definitely took it as win just for getting out of town alive.

Imagination overload. Followed by the man in orange.

The sun still shining, a “must do” hike through the Tablelands called us on the only good day for outdoor adventure in a fortnight. These tables have no food; definitely not fish and chips. They mostly have informational signs explaining the tectonic plate dynamics that produced the Table Mountains some 400 million years ago. Not being geologists, we were not sure how to process concepts like that or time periods so long ago. Somehow the rocky Tableland cliffs reveal that continents move around like a hockey puck on ice. It was easier to understand the twenty-somethings posing for instagram moments at the end of the trail which only revealed how ignorant we all were. We were grateful that the Tablelands had stopped moving long enough for us to admire them on a rare sunny hiking and kitchen battle day.

The sun makes a dramatic appearance in the Tablelands.

The last contender to enter the fight was Woody Point. The 4.8 Yelp rated Marketplace 86 entered the ring. Its proximity next door to the 3-T’s fish packing plant on the waterfront gave it a competitive advantage. Marketplace 86 confusingly blends a retro 1950’s ice cream parlor up front with a swanky polished wood wine bar upstairs and a Jimmy Buffet themed bar and patio out back. The owner must be schizophrenic.

Woody’s Point Main Street. We found Young’s whale bone carvings and Jimmy Buffett.

The back deck was packed as Margaritaville played over the sound system. It may have been 2,500 miles and 40 degrees colder than the Florida Keys, but we felt the vibe. Jimmy (rest his soul) would have been astonished that his brand had reached the furthest north-east corner of the continent. The bobby socks ice cream bar and sommelier lounge were both dead empty. This was Newfie’s best chance. We placed an order for the fish and chips with two pints of the St. John’s local 1892 amber for good measure.

No matter how the meal fares, 65 and sunny on the water in pretty great.

We’d like to think Gros Morne had a chance, but come on, we’ve been perfecting this chili for ages. Was it fresh fish lightly battered and crisply fried as described, or was it cod out of the freezer dunked in the busy deep fryer in the kitchen? We think we knew the answer. The important thing is that the beer was cold, the air was warm, and Gros Morne basked in a rare sunny day. As we returned to our flimsy home in Lomond, a thick layer of clouds rolled in. The temperature dropped and the rain fell hard. Sore loser.

Vegetable chili made with what produce we could find.
Moody Moments in Gros Morne