Sunday, July 23, 2017

Green Gardens at Gros Morne

The Green Gardens at Gros Morne is best known for its  spectacular coastline of cliffs, sea stacks, and the lush meadows along the coastal headland. The trail is 9km long round trip. It is ranked number 2* on the trails we planned to hike at Gros Morne, only after Tablelands "off trail" exploration.

We went hiking on Green Garden trail late morning (11:00 am or so) on our fourth day at Gros Morne - which was foretasted to be Sunny in early morning and cloudy rest of the day.

The trail head of Green Gardens  trail is near the end of the scenic drive 431 by the road side.
The initial kilometer of the trail cut through an open barren land dotted with unique and colorful flowers, with a large pond to the far right. Then the trail descends to coast through dense forest, part of it is pretty steep, and small portion of the trail was pretty muddy due to frequent rains in early Summer. 

As we were approaching the coast, the cloudy sky started to break up, Sun peeked out. The Sun was shinning on the shoreline when we got there! A large meadow was in front of us, extending all the way to the edge of the coastline cliff, some portion is "fenced" by pine trees. Looking beyond the meadow, we saw the ocean - more accurately the Gulf of Lawrence, cliffs, sea stacks. It was gorgeous and we took them all in.

Then we asked the only other persons at Green Gardens, a young couple, who arrived shortly after us, took a picture of us on the ubiquitous red couple's chair at the park!! 

Lily and I followed Nicholas' lead, who was on the beach already, we went down the cliff to the beach via broken stairs - we strolled on the beach, had a close up look of the sea stacks, checked out the water fall near the far end of the beach

It was 1pm, wind was gaining speed, clouds moved back, and we left for the Green Gardens above the beach, found a picnic table in the trees, had our quick picnic lunch. 

The hiking back to trail head felt much quicker, we got back to our rental car before the rain arrived. Our total time for this hike was about 3 and half hours including strolls and picnic, total distance walked was over 10 km.

* Gros Morne Mountain Trail would have been the # 2 trail for us - but it was closed during spring and early summer until the last Weekend in June - which was one day after our planned departure from Gros Morne.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Gros Morne and Terra Nova Canadian National Parks - Trip Itinerary

Gros Morne and Terra Nova are two national parks situated in the eastern most part of Canada, in the Province of  Newfoundland and Labrador. Gros Morne is on the west coast of  island of Newfoundland, while Terra Nova is on east cost of the island.

While researching places to visit in Canada on its 150 year anniversary, we were attracted by the two parks for very different reasons:  stunning natural beauty and unique geology at Gros Morne, and Kayaking with whale and close up look of iceberg at Terra Nova.

The following is our trip itinerary which is quite different from our original trip plan. It rains a lot at Newfoundland Island so we had to adjust to the weather. We also needed to adjust the daily activities according our physical conditions.

Day 0 leave for Gros Morne

leave DFW in the afternoon, arrive Deer Lake airport at 1:35am local time (11:05pm CDT)

Stay at Deer Lake Motel,  which is 2 km from the airport, for the "night" - very good breakfast there.

Day 1 Gros Morne (cloudy to rain)

Visited Discovery Center and hiked on lookout trail. 

Canceled afternoon plan due to weather and physical fatigue

Checked in at Rocky Barbour Cabins where we stayed during our visit at Gros Morne

Dinner at Earle's restaurant - Moose meat related food not good. No decent grocery shopping at Rocky Harbor.

Day 2 Gros Morne, The Tableland (Sunny)

The Tableland is the crown jewel of Gros More, an ember colored rocky mountain formed half billion years ago due to tectonic collision.

Hiked on off-trail to the top of tableland, where the landscape is featureless - every direction you look, it looks the same! but far away scenery is magnificent. We came down along the Wallace Brook near the Bowl of the tableland.

7 hour 10 mile loop ( A - E on the park's "off-trail"  map for the tableland)

Dinner at Jungle Jim, great food, grocery shopping at foodland, both at Deer Lake.

Watch Sunset at Rocky Harbor 

Day 3 Gross Morne (Cloudy) 

Short hikes in the morning - Berry Hill, Berry Pond, Old Mail Road and West Brook
Boat tour at West brook pond in the afternoon - a 16 km fjord formed by glacier - amazing beauty in any weather! 

Hiked Steve's trail after the boat tour

Cooked dinner at Cabin - delicious "home" cooked food

Day 4 Gross Morne (Sunny in early morning, Cloudy rest of the day)

Allan got up early to revisit some vistas along the shoreline. 

Hiked on Green Gardens (9 km round trip), beautiful beach and sea stack   - totally worth the hike!

dinner at Java Jack at Rocky Harbor - tried cod tongue as appetizer, good food but small serving

Day 5 Gross Morne and Terra Nova (Sunny)

Visited Lobster Head Light House and Norris point in the morning.

Norris point is a good place to visit - one can see the mountain of Gros Morne and the Tableland at the same time, a great place to kayak as well (we did not do it due to weather and time constraint)

left for St. John's in a 18-seater tiny plane, 1 hour flight. Drove from St. John's to Terra Nova

Arrived at Terra Nova Visitor center near its closing, visited Marine Exhibit 

Stayed at d'Bay Cabin

Dinner at Uncle Li (a Chinese restaurant) - so-so food; grocery shopping at Wal-Mart both at Clareneville.

Day 6 Terra Nova (Cloudy) - Canada Day

Celebrated Canada day with Canadians at visitor center!

Hiked on Goowiddy trail in the morning (8km loop)

Guided sea kayaking in the afternoon from Happy Adventure (a place) 

Cooked dinner at Cabin 

Day 7 Terra Nova (Cloudy to Rainy)

Hiked at Sandy Lake, Climbed the tower at Orche Hill in the morning
lunch at visitor center
Hiked on coastal trail in the afternoon

Dinner at Clode Motel - food was OK.

Day 8 Terra Nova (Sunny)

Boat tour to see iceberg and puffin  - awesome iceberg,  skittish puffins and beautiful scenery 

Drove to St. John's after a late lunch, arrived at St. John's ~ 6:30om

Dinner at Pitto Pizzeria - great pizza, nice setting, St. John downtown area

Stayed at Motel 8

left for home early next morning.

Saturday, June 17, 2017


RICE is an approach that one can use to relieve pain, reduce swelling when an injury to muscles, knees, ankles etc, to minimize the impact of the injury, promote healing. It stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation, see information on WebMD for detailed discussion.

Last Sunday, I felt my right calf being pulled as I was slow down to conclude my 5 mile run. No real pain just calf tightness. So I did not pay too much attention to it.

I was OK on Monday. I did feel that the tightness in my right calf. One more night sleep, the tightness in the injured calf was almost gone. I had my usual after-lunch jogging - no pain. Another night rest, I did not feel the tightness on my right calf, and I decided to continue my routine runs - instead of 5 mile run, I ran 5K, and ran much slower that usual. At the end of the run I felt right calf tightness again - but I could walk home without much discomfort.

When I stepped out of my car that morning at the parking lot at work, after about 30 minute drive, I really felt discomfort and tightness in my right calf as my weight shifted from left foot to right. I limped to my office!

My colleagues notice my limping, and they introduced me to R.I.C.E.

Upon reading, it is obvious that my symptom is really mild: no pain, no obvious swelling  - so I do not need ice, I do apply compression or massage the right calf - which reduce the tightness there, I elevate my right leg a bit.

The most important part of RICE for me is REST, preventing stretching the muscle again before it fully heals. I learned the lesson the hard way - I restarted my running too soon, and my symptom worsened.

The recommended rest period for a mild calf strain (pulled calf) is 2 ~ 3 weeks. The real criterion to return to exercise is pain free, discomfort free with the the injured calf. The return to full strength schedule should be gradual  - a calf workout may help, which include foot pump, seated calf raises and standing calf raise.  Any exercise that cause pain should be stopped immediately.

 After learning my lesson, I decided not to run,  not to walk for extended time or distance, for a week or two. Instead I started cycling. In fact I biked with Lily in about 1 hour for 16 km this morning - since cycling barely uses calf - I experienced no calf tightness, discomfort.

Consistent running provides tremendous  benefits, but got to RICE when any injuries occur.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Benefits of Regular Running

I have been in near perfect health conditions for quite sometime, slim/perfect BMI, energetic. One blemish was low HDL (high density lipoprotein) Cholesterol, a.k.a. the good cholesterol,  due to lack of high intensity exercise.

Since started full time job, I sit in front a computer almost all day long daily and quickly my HDL became low. Despite years regular exercise - primarily walking/jogging, my HDL number did not improve because my exercise intensity was not high enough. My doctor suggested me to take medicine to increase my HDL cholesterol. I did not take the suggestion because I knew I could improve my HDL without medicine, and that the medicine has side effect on liver. My HDL turned to normal during the years when I was the coach to Nicholas' youth soccer team - running and playing soccer with kids weekly.  Unfortunately my HDL quickly went back to below normal after I stopped soccer coaching. 

I started running twice a week last October, one during the weekday, one on weekend.

I run when it was really cold - I just put on gloves, hat and heavier sports wear.

I run when it is hot - get up a bit earlier and try to stay in the shade.

I reschedule my run time when it rains, but I run twice a week.

Started recently,  I run when I go on business trip - bring my running shoes and sports wear.
I run when we are on vacation.

There has been no exception unless I am sick.

Running once or twice is easy, running regularly is hard to most people. How to keep running - start slow with easy to reach goal such as running one mile once a week, when comfortable gradually raise the bar; find incentives other than exercise, such as fresh air, beautiful sunrise or sunset ...set a long term goal - mine initially was 5K run, and now it changes to 5 mile run at Colony green dragon 5 miler in October. My 5 mile run will help me to climb Mt Whitney later this year as well!!

In addition to better health, stronger legs, higher energy, two recent events demonstrated the significant benefits of the regular running  - 1) I had no obvious sour muscles after my first full day hiking for 16 miles on Cross Timber Hiking Trail, 2500 ft elevation change; 2) My HDL cholesterol is tested to rise from below minimum requirement to substantially above it. My doctor was amazed and I am very pleased!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Cross Timber Hiking Trail

It rained yesterday and foretasted to be Sunny on Memorial day, so Yong and I decided to go to Cross Timber Hiking Trail by Lake Texoma for a long distance hiking on Memorial day, in preparation for climbing Mt Whitney. The trail is mostly shaded by trees but it is a hilly trail - per North Texas standard. We hiked 16 miles with total of 2500 ft elevation gain. The hiking poles are extremely helpful for hiking on this hilly trail - I could not imagine what could happen today without it.

trail head

portion of the trail is densely bushed 
I learnt quit a few things from  hiking of such a long distance in one stretch of time for the first time.

We were incredulous when Yong told me  the day before that the average speed to hike this trail is 2.5 miles/hour. Come on! We can walk 3 miles/hour in casual walking, I thought. But we completed the 16 mile hilly trail in 8 hours including breaks with our best efforts, almost exactly what he told me. The lesson learnt is that we should not extrapolate a conclusion when conditions are different.

Each of us brought 2 bottles of water and 2 bottles of Gatorade for this 8 hour hike. We barely had enough - we both finished our bottles shortly before we got back to the car. We should have brought more water.

Since the trail has dense bushes, we wore long pants, applied plenty of bug spray in addition to Sunscreen. Despite walking into Spider webs twice on the hiking trail, we got no bug bites on the whole trail.

A cove of Lake Texoma 
Cross Timber trail has beautiful scenes along the shoreline of Lake Texoma but it could become boring since it kind of repeats itself many times - same tress, same bugs, similar coves, and similar bird chirping .....after a few turns we felt we just passed a similar place a few minutes ago.

To me there were many variations - I heard the chirping of cardinals, mocking birds and heard the pecking sound from woodpeckers a couple times among other chirping I am not familiar with, I whistled with them!  The changing clouds and rock formation along the shoreline changed the seemingly same shoreline views; paying a little bit attention to the surroundings - I saw a well camouflaged dragon fly on a dead tree branch, tried to got a closer view of a camouflaged lizard on my camera, I saw different colors of flowers and I saw butterflies.

More fundamentally hiking in the wild for me is to exercise for a better body, to breath fresh air, and to forget about daily life and to have a total mental relaxation of mind. It is like a sign along the trail states - A Stairway to heaven  .... for both body and soul.

Our trail

Texas Sky

A well camouflaged dragon fly
A lizard

A stairway to heaven

Sunday, May 28, 2017

A Spring with Many Firsts

It has been a beautiful Spring in North Texas - the trees budded earlier, and landscape is greener than usual due to the alternating rain and shine. It is also a special Spring for me because it is a Spring with many firsts!

In February Lily and I went to our first political rally due to curiosity and I came out moved. We had our first yard sign to support a candidate for an election, and we had our first precinct walk together, and I walked precinct two more times. I  talked  a few voters into having our candidate's sign placed in their yards. Engaging is so much different from mere participating - we learned a lot about political process, appreciate the difficulty of running for an office.

precinct walk
Despite years working in oil/gas industry, an opportunity came for the first time for me to work on a rig this Spring. I was curious and excited at the same time. My team members took quite a few pictures of me working on a task as souvenir. In addition to curiosity and excitement, I appreciated the danger and risk associated with working on a rig.

a test Rig
I reviewed many papers for national/international technical journals, and listened to many PhD thesis seminars, I was invited to server as a member on PhD exam committee for the first time this spring. Though I was not particularly excited because it was no difference from review a peer's paper submitted to journals, I treated just like any other technical seminars, asking questions; what is different this time was that I also probed the candidate's understanding, and contribution.

A university campus
We become a member of Dallas Arboretum for the first time after so many years living in DFW. We used to think that becoming a member or buying a pass was not economical because we typically could not use up the embedded value. We changed our mind set now, we treat it as enjoying the membership while supporting the organization or cause.

Dallas Arboretum
When traveling, we usually eat the food we are familiar with, American, Italian, Mexican or Chinese. When we went to Austin for the Easter weekend, we ate Peruvian food for the first time just for the sake of trying something new and different!

A Peruvian Resturant 

To keep my weekly running routine started last October going, I brought running shoes and sports wears with me on my most recently business trip to Chicago. I jogged twice and ran once  ( a total of ~ 14 miles) - first time I intentionally exercised on a business trip.

Lake Front trail at Chicago Downtown

 A first can come with procession of time, it may come with opportunity, it can come with curiosity, change of mindset ...... there are many many more firsts to come ....

Explore nature, society, human nature  ..... it is exciting, thrilling .... and fun!!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Lake Front at Chicago Downtown

I went to Chicago for a conference this week. The first thing I did after I checked in at Hyatt at McCormick Place on Sunday was to walk to the shoreline of lake Michigan. 

It was a cool Sunny afternoon, and I followed the trail map from the hotel to walk toward the lake front, and was pleasantly surprised to walk by the soldier field stadium (Chicago Bears' home). Despite steady cool breeze, the water in the first marina I passed by was as flat as a mirror - reflecting the blue sky and white yachts. Walking around the Marina I walked toward Adler Planetarium to view the silhouette of the Chicago skyline from this small peninsula.

A Marina
A paved trail
Chicago Skyline in the afternoon
Lake Michigan
The next morning I woke up around 6:30am and decided to run for 5K  and cool down in my usual pace. I brought everything needed for a morning run, running shoes, shorts, T shirt, sunscreen and baseball cap! Getting out of the hotel, I ran north through an area of apartment buildings, turn right through an underpass to cross highways and then an zig-zag overpass to cross rail ways, trying to follow the lake front trail earlier than previous day, I made a wrong turn before reaching 2 km distance, and quickly realized it since the soldier field - my reference point, was in the wrong direction. Corrected course, I turned around when I reach 3km. Instead of a silhouette, the downtown high rises were in the bright morning Sun.

I encountered runners or bikers every 1 ~2  minutes on the  lakefront trail - not too many and not too few. The portion of the trail from hotel to Planetarium is mostly tree lined for a pleasant 5K run and I walked 1 km additional back to hotel. After showering and breakfast, I still had plenty time before the conference kick-off at 9am.

My running trail
Chicago Skyscrapers in the morning Sun
The conference ended at 2:45pm on its last day. I had a short nap and decided to have a 10K walk to the navy pier directly, bypassing the Alder Planetarium.

It was a good extension of my previous trail: different views, close up of high rises, there are steel art work, and concrete art work along the way, and a big fountain in the park surrounded by the high rises. There were a lot more locals and tourists along the lakefront, on the lawn, on the pedestrian walk way, and bike way between the aquarium and navy piers.The long walk produces a new tourist attraction - touring lake front on Segway. In the end I walked 7 miles, i.e. 11+km for the round trip.

The Lake Front at Chicago Downtown is a perfect place for hiking, running or just wandering.