Kristin Edge takes on a physical challenge in eastern Canada and discovers new meanings for 'pond' and 'hill'.

My fingers search the craggy grey mass of granite rock for a good hold. My boots are wedged into a crack below.

I propel my body upwards, as well as my backpack, weighing in close to 20kg. I'm what was described in the trek brochure as "rock scrambling" on day one of four, on the Long Range Traverse.

It's a 35km challenging trek but considered the premier backcountry route on Canada's east coast.


Sweat runs down my face. It's a physical assault up this steep bush-clad gorge.

As I stop to catch my breath, glimpses through the trees promise a spectacular view.

Hand over hand. Up 600m in about 2.5km.

There's no marked trail and I'm glad we have experienced local guides Steve and Andy to keep us moving in the right direction.

Bush gives way to flowing slabs of rocks carved by glaciers. A waterfall glides over the rocks and flows down into the bush below.

And as with anything that involves some effort, we are rewarded, standing on the edge of the Earth.

At the top, the iconic view over Western Brook Pond is better than what I've seen in the brochures — more breathtaking and rewarding than just turning glossy pages.

It took approximately 485 million years for Mother Nature to create Gros Morne National Park, a place unlike any other on Earth, so a couple of hours of hard yakka to summit pales in comparison. The lake, Western Brook Pond, looks like a sliver of silver between the towering rock cliffs.

Only a few hours earlier our trekking group of seven had enjoyed a 16km water taxi ride to the start of the trek.

On the boat it's impossible not to feel dwarfed by the natural skyscrapers that tower 700m high on the lake edges.

After the glaciers melted, the land rebounded and was cut off from the sea. Salty water was eventually flushed from the fjord, leaving it fresh.

Now waterfalls flow from the tops of the rocky cliffs and create a tumbling white plume of water. The lake waters below are pristine, with little human impact.

Stepping on to the dock at the end of the lake, we begin our hike and the first couple of kilometres are through lush bush very similar to New Zealand's, with plenty of undergrowth.

Kristin Edge soaking in the view from a
Kristin Edge soaking in the view from a "seat" in a cliff. Photo / Kristin Edge

At one point we meander through grass and plants level with our shoulders. Under the canopy of the bush we encounter boulders the size of houses.

We carefully step our way across a river numerous times — a river fed by the Pissing Horse Falls. Mist starts to fill the air thanks to a heavy thunder and lightning storm earlier in the morning. It's an amazing atmosphere.

Then we begin our challenging, steep ascent of the gorge.

Once we have soaked in the view of Western Brook Pond it's time to start looking for a campsite. Our guides are familiar with this track, having trekked it at least 30 times between them.

Steve, who spent time in Queenstown where he developed a love for trail-running, has run this very track in eight and a half hours. He plays down the remarkable achievement.

"You learn where the best track is and you keep well clear of the tuckamore ... that can really slow you down," he says.

Yes, tuckamore, a low-growing dense tree. It's vegetation that's almost impenetrable and definitely something to steer well clear of.

It is while searching for a suitable tent site I become acutely aware of how the terrain has changed.

From stone to bog.

The bog is everywhere. Even though we are 600m up, my tent-mate Sydney, a superfit mum of two from Toronto, and I find we are surrounded by giant puddles.

We pitch our tiny yellow tent in a spot we think is dry and, as a precaution, we use another layer of plastic on the tent floor as directed by the guides.

We squelch our way over to the bivvy where Steve and Andy have cooked up an impressive feed of curried rice and, for dessert, chocolate. About 9.30pm, we climb into our sleeping bags with the sun setting, knowing we have successfully completed the toughest day of the hike.

By day two I've learnt that when Canadians refer to a pond, they actually mean a lake in anyone else's terms. And at the mention of hill, it is more likely to resemble a small mountain.

On a stomach filled with strawberry and banana porridge and a cup of good coffee we start tramping.

It's a day of squelching through bogs, scrambling and rock-hopping across rivers.

We pick our way through a maze of giant puddles. It's like walking on a giant sponge and each step is punctuated by a squelch.

I'm not going to lie — it's no walk in the park, but the scenery is spectacular. The terrain opens up with more "ponds" and "hills".

After trekking 13km we make our campsite at a point known by our guides as "The Hole".

During the hike Andy, a keen hunter, tells us the area is well known for moose and regales us with his encounters.

He's a regular here in winter on his skidoo, seeking out extreme ski runs.

The landscape is covered in nearly 4m (13ft) of snow and is a huge undulating blanket of white. Reliable GPS systems are a must in these conditions. I keep my eyes peeled for the gangly moose.

And there are plenty of signs, with footprints in the mud and loads of dung. Andy tells us there is a moose problem on the island and locals regularly hunt the leggy beasts and fill their freezers with the tasty meat.

For us, he has dehydrated some back straps, making it into jerky.

It's tasty and a great source of protein on our hikoi. Andy says the island of Newfoundland has the highest concentration of moose in the world. Between 500 and 600 moose-vehicle crashes are reported annually there, with five to 10 serious injuries each year and an average of one human death.

He explains Newfoundland's moose are descended from a handful of mainland animals introduced about a century ago to provide food and sport.

"And now they are everywhere," he says.

Because there are no primary predators and the island's boreal forest provides ideal habitat, the population has exploded. There are areas where the moose have eaten entire forests, permanently altering the ecosystem.

After another day of tramping I have a great night's sleep on my 3cm-thick inflatable mattress.

On day three we are treated to a wildlife encounter and the most spectacular cliff-top view and campsite. It's Andy who lets us know there is a young caribou buck on the brow of the hill ahead by pointing silently with his hiking stick.

The striking silver-grey and black animal, with just a small set of antlers, lopes off down the hill.

He drops in below us, allowing us to get a closer look.

His legs look too long for his body but they probably come in handy climbing through the snow that smothers this landscape during the winter months.

He trots past us within about 20m and then disappears over the hill. We tramp on. Slosh, slosh, slosh.

By mid-afternoon we reach a magic viewpoint high above 10 Mile Pond. Cautiously I position myself in a naturally occurring lounge chair made of a tightly matted, small-leaved plant.

Snuggling comfortably into my leafy seat, my feet rest on top of the cliff that drops 700m below. I'm on the edge of the world, looking down on a lake that stretches out into the distance.

This is why we hike, why we push through tough physical challenges, for these moments and experiences.

Tramping these non-congested trails, dealing with digital detox, means you become more connected to the real world around you.

By tramping you become an active participant in life rather than a passive observer.

Wet socks and tramping boots, the wind on your face and the earthy smell of the bogs make you well aware of just how in touch with the world you are. There's nothing like feeling pushed outside your comfort zone and achieving a personal goal or going further than you thought you could.

We tramp to a spectacular campsite that gives us a view of the lake from a different angle.

A crazy Australian and an American in our group go skinny-dipping in the lake and, after a delicious meal of spicy pasta casserole, we are treated to one of the longest sunsets I have ever seen.

Shards of light stretch through the sky, highlighting the rolling cliff tops on the other side of the steep valley.

Eventually the sun dips below the horizon on the Atlantic Ocean.

With an area of 108,860sq km, Newfoundland is the world's 16th-largest island, Canada's fourth-largest. Gros Morne National Park was designated a World Heritage site by Unesco's World Heritage Committee as an area of exceptional natural beauty in 1987.
Soaking in the vista, I can see why. A cool morning breeze keeps the notorious black flies at bay as we begin our final day.

I'm up a few cuts and bruises and a small blister has started to form on the outside of my left heel. After a few hours of comfortable walking, the infamous Gros Morne Mountain comes into sight.

The name Gros Morne recalls a time when the French fished along the coast. Gros means big. Morne is a Creole word for small, rounded mountain standing alone. In French, morne also means dismal or gloomy.

It's an apt description, from what I can see.

We are not summiting this 807m high mountain but instead make a steep descent to the base and skirt along the side. The soggy conditions underfoot give way to a loose scree track.

As we descend the terrain changes and soon we are on a marked track among trees that keep increasing in size and density. I'm still on the lookout for a moose but as we get closer to our finish point there are more people around, decreasing the chances of a sighting.

It's a mix of emotions seeing the white van in the car park. A cold lager, made from water directly sourced from local icebergs that are up to 20,000 years old, is a delicious reward.

But I feel I want to continue to discover this amazing landscape. Another trip to this island in the winter months, when icebergs drift off the coastline and lakes freeze, is on the cards.

And — for the record — I spot a moose on the road on the way to the airport at 4am.



World Expeditions

has July to August departures available to take on the Long Range Traverse, a six-day moderate to challenging trip, with prices from $3050 per person. International airfares additional.