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A Sign

Iceberg Publishing partnersThis past weekend, Peter, Kenneth and I arrived in Gros Morne, Newfoundland for what has become something of an annual retreat for the Iceberg partners. The first year we visited – 2011 – we were lured by the Newfoundland Tourism television commercials. As I explain to people who aren’t from this part of the world, the ads captured not just how I saw my home province, but how I felt about it. And every time they came on, no matter how often I’d seen them, I’d stop whatever I’m doing, un-mute the TV volume if necessary, and soak in every scene. Some of the locations I was very familiar with; others, not so much. Gros Morne fell into the latter category.

Despite living in St. John’s until I was in my mid-thirties (minus a year away to do my Master’s degree) I’d only been in the Gros Morne area once, on a family road trip to St. Anthony when I was six or seven year old. That would have been at least a decade before the area was named a national park, and I couldn’t remember anything of the trip anyway. But I wanted to see for myself the places in the commercial; we all did.

Kenneth did all the research necessary to determine the best travel arrangements and accommodations, settling on Seaside Suites in Woody Point. At the time there were two ‘seaside’ suites and one ‘lighthouse’ suite in what had originally been a boathouse. There are now two more ‘wharfside’ suites in a building across the road. We booked the seaside suites – the Gros Morne suite and the Tablelands suite – with private decks over the water and a view that appeared, from the Internet photos, to be just a tad more than adequate.

We approached our first trip with the attitude that we wouldn’t allow ourselves to be disappointed should the reality not live up to the images on the TV. But we were the opposite of disappointed. We realized very quickly that the commercials were just capturing a tiny slice. It seemed that everywhere we turned, there was something else to marvel at – the Tablelands, the fjord of Western Brook Pond, Trout River Beach, the view at the end of Green Gardens trail, Woody Point itself. Seaside Suites with its amazing views, beautiful beds, and space for everything a Gros Morne traveler may carry, proved to be so perfect as well that before we left that year, we’d booked our rooms for 2012.

Now back for a fourth year in a row, we’re still finding treasures we didn’t know existed, like Shallow Bay near Cow Head – a sandy beach just a few kilometres down the road from a favorite rocky beach – the Arches. And we’re learning that views – like the one at the top of the Lookout Trail – are equally stunning whether the sky is blue or the clouds are dark and threatening rain.

At the risk of being accused (again) of getting a cut from Newfoundland Tourism, I just have to say if you’ve never been here, you have to come to this magical place. You really really do. But plan well, because when you do you’ll find yourself compelled to take so many pictures you’ll fill your memory card, and not wanting to waste time driving into Corner Brook to buy a new one, you’ll be asking anyone you see if they have a spare one to sell you. (True story, and I hope the lady we met yesterday had some luck in that regard.) Also, in those plans, make time for a trip or two to the Tablelands.

The Tablelands, which I can conveniently see right now from the window of my suite, consist of the Earth’s mantle, thrust to the surface by the coming together of two ancient continents several million years ago. Walking across it, you’re touching the bones of our planet. Looking at it, you’re seeing the Earth’s very soul. And it feels like it. Indeed, when you walk on the red-gold-brown rocks of the Tablelands, it feels different than anywhere else you’ll ever walk. It’s as if there’s a connection, not just to the patch of land immediately beneath your feet, but to the entire planet.

Tablelands, blue sky with clouds
The Tablelands as seen from 400+ meters up at the top of Lookout Trail.

When we visited the Tablelands as a first stop to ease our legs into the week’s hiking, our intent was to stay on the Parks Canada trail. But about a kilometer in, Kenneth and Peter veered off ahead of me and I grinned as I stepped off behind them, because that had been where I was headed. We weren’t kitted out to make a run to the top as we did last year, but we had enough water… and the breeze was cooling enough on the hot, humid day… that we could spend some time ascending.

Two me on the Tablelands in Gros Morne National Park
Peter and Kenneth on the Tablelands

At one point, when Kenneth and I stopped for a moment to gaze out over Bonne Bay, we looked at our watches and realized that while we were standing there, in that remarkable spot, the re-enactors of the Dundee Diehards would be traversing a grassy hill called Talana in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa as part of Iceberg’s first inter-continental photo shoot. I don’t need to relay the details here; they can be found in the new feature story on Iceberg’s website. But it felt right, somehow, that if we couldn’t be in South Africa with the fine gentlemen who’d worked with us to put a shoot together in just six weeks, to be in a place that connected us to every other place on the planet.

Re-enactors posing on a rocky hill in South Africa
The Diehards pose on a rocky hill in South Africa

What I wouldn’t realize for another 12 hours or so, when the images photographer Pierre Janse van Vuuren was uploading started arriving on Iceberg’s server, was that the rocks of Talana Hill were actually quite similar to the rocks of the Tablelands. Not identical of course, they’re not part of the mantle. But similar enough that if you’ve never set foot on the Tablelands, you’d be forgiven for thinking them the same.

Iceberg Publishing’s story is peppered with example after example of things happening exactly when they’re supposed to, though often the reason isn’t clear until weeks or months or even years later. It’s also the story of a small group of people who happen to be family, business partners, and the best of friends all in one, who trust the signs that have always presented themselves to either guide a decision, or point to the fact that a decision taken was the correct one.

Perhaps sharing similar terrain with a group of men we hadn’t known existed eight weeks before but who had become instrumental in our plans going forward was just a coincidence, but I personally don’t think so. Based on past experience, I’m more inclined to see it as a sign… that both parties were exactly where they were supposed to be, doing exactly what they were supposed to be doing, on a sunny July 2014 day

Where it will all lead, I have no idea. But when the dots do connect, you can expect another Author Note.

We hope, one day, to be able to meet and thank the Dundee Diehards and Pierre in person. In the meantime let me just say: Thank you Dundee Diehards. It was a pleasure working with you. We just hope you enjoyed your Saturday as much as we did.