When I researched the Bucket List, it was with the gratitude and awareness that these were truly one-of-a-kind experiences, and I would likely only experience them once in my lifetime. So I experienced a sense of deja vu when I found myself retracing my steps on the Viking Trail on the west coast of Newfoundland, heading south towards Deer Lake. Even the weather duplicated itself – a crisp sunny day with the waters of the St Lawrence unnaturally calm. The Viking Trail is one of the most beautiful drives in Canada, if not the world. Even before you get into Gros Morne National Park, there’s no shortage of places to pull off and explore, like the Arches above, or trails along the coast. Forests switch up with peaty bogs, the cliffs of Gros Morne shadow in the distance. After a week in Labrador, I’d forgot just how busy this part of the world can be. Struggled to find accommodation, everywhere was full. “You’re the 12th person who’s called today,” said one B&B owner, a verbal No Vacancy sign flashing between the lines. One B&B owner just laughed at me. Even so, it was a stroke of luck to be passengers 93 and 94 on the 99-seater boat ride up the Western Brook Pond. The 45-minute boardwalk hike is worth it even if you don’t make the boat, but sailing up this freshwater fjord is an experience well worth repeating. We stood at the bow, feeling the spray of the water as the boat chugged between the tall glacier-cut cliffs and cascades. As inspirational a Bucket List experience as always, even if this time I noticed that it is significantly pricey.
Parks Canada’s interpretation centres are more than information centres – they have free phones and internet to help you plan ahead. Eventually we found a roadside cabin with a bed and pull-out couch. Expensive but options were limited. Good thing I checked it out before handing over the credit card. The pull-out couch looked like Back Death, springs ready to assault the spinal cord like vikings on a pillage. We pressed on to Deer Lake, where hotels and B&B’s were full too. So while we did intend to hike the Tablelands before dropping off the car in Corner Brook today, we ended up staying in Corner Brook for the night, using the extra day to catch up on some work instead. With a CAA discount, our hotel, the Greenwood Inn and Suites, is only $10 more than Pull-Out Couch Hell cabin. I appreciated the pillow-top mattress a little more than usual.