Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Whales, Trails and Mussels in Gros Morne National Park

   by Keith and Heather Nicol
   On June 24 we decided to head to Gros Morne National Park on a spur of the moment trip to do some of our favourite activities before the summer throngs descend on the Park. We started out with a boat tour of Bonne Bay aboard the Emm Cat.  Bontours ( runs this popular 2 hour boat tour starting from the wharf in Norris Point. It was a windy afternoon for our 2:00 pm sailing and this prevented the boat from getting out in the open Gulf of St. Lawrence. However, this didn’t really matter since we saw a couple of eagles along the steep sides of Bonne Bay as well as a minke whale feeding near the surface. The whale cooperated and even swam toward the Emm Cat on one occasion! The crew does a great job of entertaining the passengers with a lively and informative commentary along the way . They even performed a few toe tapping songs as we steamed back to the dock. 
We saw a Minke Whale feeding near the surface.
Next we checked into one of our favourite places to stay in Rocky Harbour, the Oceanview Hotel (, which is centrally located and as the name suggests overlooks the water. We love their well appointed rooms with large windows facing the ocean.
The Ocean View Hotel is a favourite place to stay in Rocky Harbour
      That evening we ate at the Justin Thyme Bean and Bistro ( in Norris Point which we had discovered shortly after they opened in May, 2013. They quickly became one of  “the places to eat” in Gros Morne Park and we were keen to see how they were doing. On our first visit we ordered the best mussels we have ever eaten and noticed that they were still on the menu under the name-Just Incredible Mussels, and they are incredible.  Lynn Daley, wife of the chef and a co-owner  told us that their mussel recipe includes pesto, cream, a balsamic reduction and a special secret ingredient.  As well we ordered another appetizer, Sweet Chili Thai Shrimp which were also delicious and we had apricot glazed duck and black angus rib steak for our mains. We barely had room for a piece of apple pie with ice cream for dessert. Yum, yum!  Lynn told us that they are very busy (reservations are recommended) and now are even offering a late night pick up menu for the summer months. 
Check out the  Justin Thyme Bean and Bistro in Norris Point
Heather at the top of the Rocky Hills Trail
Visit the Glass Gallery in Rocky Harbour
  Taking in all those calories we decided we needed to get some exercise and then watch the sunset. Thank goodness for the long daylight hours of late June! We headed to Rocky Hills Lookout trail , enroute to Lobster Cove Lighthouse which is one of our favourite places to watch the sunset. The Rocky Hills Lookout trail is just 350 meters one way but offers fine views of Rocky Harbour and the Lookout Hills.  It was a lovely short hike but our plans for a sunset were short lived as a large bank of clouds obscured the sun almost as soon as we reached the Lobster Cove. We did walk some of the trails near the lighthouse and then decided to visit the Glass Gallery which has Even though it was 9:15 pm, Urve Manuel ( ) welcomed us in and told us about the gallery. She has created some amazing works of art and the Glass Gallery is a great addition to the art scene in Gros Morne National Park. It has
just opened for business this spring.

The sunset at scenic Lobster Cove

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Checking out the Humber River Golf Club in Deer Lake, Newfoundland

by Keith and Heather Nicol
      In mid June, 2014 we had a chance to play the Humber River Golf Course which is located just outside of Deer Lake next to the airport. They have 9 holes, a driving range, and practice green as well as a club house. The course is located adjacent to the Humber River and you get good views of the river on holes 3 and 4 in particular. The course is relatively flat and short and so is a good course for people who like to walk (the course is 2810 yards for men and 2400 yards for women).  The Humber River Golf Course demands straight shots off the tee since it is fairly narrow and the forest on either side means that any shot hit into the trees will likely stay there. There is not much water to be concerned with but there are sand traps that will definitely catch a poorly hit ball. We know since we were in a couple of them.   
The par 5 fourth hole parallels the Humber River
 There are 2 par fives, 2 par threes and the remainder are par 4 many of which are fairly short. We had a sunny day with light winds and it was a perfect day for golf. My favourite holes are the par 5 fourth hole which parallels the Humber River and the final hole which is also a par 5 and has the club house as a backdrop. This course will also be of interest for anyone interested in playing the nearby courses in Corner Brook, Stephenville and at Humber Valley Resort since they are all within 1.5 hours of each other. The Humber River Golf Club welcomes visitors for a round of golf and for more information or to book a tee time phone: 709-635-5955.  We plan to check out some of other golf courses in Western Newfoundland and will post information on those as we play them.

Teeing off on the 9th hole


Sunday, 1 June 2014

Exploring Grouse Mountain near Vancouver, B.C.

by Keith and Heather Nicol    
The View of Vancouver from the top of Grouse
      On our recent trip to Vancouver we decided to head up to Grouse to try the famous “Grouse  Grind”. While Heather took the aerial tram to the top I decided to hike the popular Grouse Grind with our daughter Kristie. This hike starts near the base of Grouse Mountain and gains about 850 meters in 3 km which makes for a very steep climb. Over 150,000 people do the uphill trek each year and then most take the tram down to the bottom. Many people use the “Grind” as a fitness routine and we were passed by many people dressed light trail running gear and some were literally flying up the mountain. The hike has been done in an amazing 25 minutes but we took a more leisurely 1 hour and 20 minutes. The hike is mostly through the tall trees so you get few views except at the top when you reach the Grouse Mountain Peak Chalet which houses a gift store, restaurant, movie theatre and has other visitor services. Grouse Mountain has many other activities to do once you reach the top but by the time we hiked up it had started to rain so we missed out on their large range of outdoor offerings. That will have to wait until our next visit when we hope to see the grizzly bears and the raptor show. You can also ride a chairlift, go on a zipline, take in a lumberjack show and even go to the top of large wind turbine which has been built at the top of Grouse Mountain.  For more information on Grouse Mountain check out:
Kristie hiking up the "Grouse Grind"

Keith taking the final steps to the Peak Chalet at the top of Grouse