Tent Sch’ment: The Pros and Cons of Car-Camping in Newfoundland

Some notes from Heather we asked her to write after living out of her car for a week in Gros Morne National Park

Below are some notes from Heather we asked her to write after living out of her car for a week in Gros Morne National Park

Pro: None of the cons affect you very much, because you’re in the heart of Gros Morne. You open up the back hatch in the morning to the view that you strategically parked on a weird angle last night for. You stumble out of your car to have a stretch and set up the camp stove to boil some water for coffee, burning yourself a little because you can’t take your eyes off the mountains in front of you.

Con: Frost on your sleeping bag woke you up at dawn, and as it turns out you are quite a bit taller than your Toyota Matrix. There are only so many nights you can sleep in fetal position without some weird back spasms happening. That view, though!

Pro: You start to feel like a wild thing. There is a strange smell coming from your car but also from yourself, because you and the car have become one. A mixture of damp sleeping bag, sand, marshmallows, and beans. And yes, this is on the pros list. You’re a wild thing! You swear there is deodorant in your car somewhere. You’re just not really sure where.

Con: You think about hot showers all the time, actually.

Pro: You spot a poster for a killer show at the Bonne Bay Cottage Hospital in Norris Point. Kat McLevey and Hillsburn! So on your afternoon hike in the Tablelands, you stop and wash your face in the river, and you put on your fanciest flannel and venture into public. Joanie, who runs the venue, looks a little concerned and tries to offer you a bed. Then she hands you some wine. The golden gospel-esque harmonies of Hillsburn are far superior to your lone campfire singalong.

Con: You’re hovering near the back trying not to let anyone smell you, but the kind folks of Norris Point want to chat.

Pro: You are paranoid about running out of emergency flashlight batteries, so when the sun goes down, you go down. The real pro here is in waking up at dawn, watching the sun rise, and having the park to yourself for a few quiet, bright hours. Western Brook Pond, still and calm, watching the sun rise behind Gros Morne Mountain while dawn mist drifts across the lake before you. Astounding nature is best taken with solitude.

Con: “Is this legal? Are those headlights? Are they going to yell at me? If I pretend I’m asleep will they leave me alone? This is totally legal. I’m like a Winnebago, just smaller and less cool. Play it cool, kid.”
(Side con: you probably actually did say that out loud.)

Things to note:

  • It’s illegal to car camp (ie: sleep in your car) within National Park boundaries. The exception? Towns are not technically part of the park. It is perfectly legal to park within the boundaries of Cow Head, Saint Paul’s, Sally’s Cove, Rocky Harbour, Norris Point, the whole South shore of Bonne Bay as far as Woody Point, and Trout River. Anywhere not coloured green on Google Maps.
  • The Pecan Pie at Old Shoppe Café in Norris Point makes a wonderful post-hike treat. Also a great place to snag some wifi and a power outlet.
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