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Hard days and soft nights - Metro US

Hard days and soft nights

Extremes make stay at Newfoundland spa worth the hike

Found Spa, left, near Corner Brook, N.L., offers a hike on Gros Morne Mountain, right, followed by relaxation at the spa, perhaps with a foot treatment and a glass of Pinot Grigio.

After a day of hiking the 16-kilometre (10-mile) trail up to Gros Morne Mountain — at 806 metres, it’s the second highest peak on the island of Newfoundland — I am almost melting into the treatment table.

It’s early morning when Ed English, expert guide and owner of Corner Brook-based Linkum Tours, picks me up from Humber Valley Resort (HVR), home of the newly-opened Found Spa. Embraced by Deer Lake and the Humber River and literally carved out of the bush, HVR is not your typical resort. It’s more like a community:

The 170 privately-owned, self-contained, four- and five-bedroom chalets, most of which are available for a two-night minimum stay, are sprinkled around a golf course, clubhouse, restaurant and activity centre.

From the resort, it’s a 60-minute drive to Gros Morne National Park, then another 30-minute drive to the base of the mountain. We park at the mountain base and set out along a forest trail dappled with sunlight and strewn with the odd rock and exposed tree roots. There are boardwalks and wooden bridges that stretch across babbling brooks. Just ahead is The Gully, raising to the summit at a 45-degree angle. No average mountain slope, The Gully is filled with scree — blocks and chunks of rock in various shapes, sizes and colours that have tumbled along the mountainside as if by avalanche. Hikers watch their footing as, with each cautious step, the scree rocks and rolls, making rattling, clomping and scraping sounds that are surprisingly quite melodic, nature’s own classic rock tunes.

Thankfully, there are plenty of larger rocks to allow hikers to sit and catch their breath while enjoying the view of Bonne Bay far below. The mountaintop is surprisingly flat — a combo of tundra and grassy meadows with low growing plants. The native bakeapple berries used for jams and pies are found here. The reward is a sense of accomplishment and the dramatic, singular view of 10 Mile Pond (a landlocked fjord), the verdant valley and coastal plain beyond. Pristine and unmarred, this is nature, inspirational and uninterrupted.

We stop for a light picnic and breathe in the surroundings. The descent brings more scattered scree but now mixed with wooden stairways on the steeper parts.

English quietly points out a moose half-hidden in a nearby clump of trees — a young male, he says. Further down, a mother and her calf quietly enjoy lunch.

“It’s relatively easy to spot moose here,” he says. “Gros Morne has one of the highest moose populations in the world.”

There are more boardwalks, bridges and stairs that take us past more great views on our way back through the forest trail to the parking lot. This is not an easy hike and may not be the best one for beginners, but luckily Gros Morne National Park offers trail options for all levels. English says the Green Garden

Trail is the most popular for those looking for something a little less strenuous. There is a sense of accomplishment that comes with climbing mountains and I am so ready to end the day with a spa reward. How nice for hikers that all treatments at Found begin with a foot soak.

Sitting here in my spa robe, overlooking thick forest-covered hills and the Humber River while sipping a chilled Pinot Grigio and nibbling on a fresh asparagus and goat cheese salad, I’m thinking just a few hours ago I was busting butt climbing scree. Hard days, soft nights … what a great way to experience Newfoundland.

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