Pasadena mayor celebrates 100th hike up Gros Morne Mountain
When Otto Goulding first started making the six-hour trek over Gros Morne Mountain in 1981, he probably didn't think 34 years later he'd be talking about his 100th cllimb.
"This is a celebration day I guess," Pasadena's mayor said Tuesday by phone from the James Callaghan trail, which leads up the 806 metre high summit of Newfoundland's second highest mountain.
"I think it's gotten easier because I know what to expect, but you still have to be in a certain condition to do it and enjoy it."
Goulding said both the challenge and the beauty of the 16-kilometre hike in Gros Morne National Park has kept him coming back again and again through four decades.
"When you get up to the top, the view is fantastic. And every time I go up I enjoy it just as much," he said.
"Also, it's a bit of an international site. You find people from all over the world — Canada, the U.S. and Europe."
"Many people don't understand the drawing card that the mountain and the park itself of Gros Morne is."
Goulding, now 65, said he never intended to make the hike such a long-lasting tradition.
"I used to come up maybe a couple of times a year, and started to realize the number of times I was coming up here, and I thought, 'When I'm 50 years of age, I'll do it for 50 times,'" he said.
"I blew past 50 easily, and I set then my new goal for 100 — so that's today."
Changes to the mountain for better and for worse
There have been some noticeable changes to the Gros Morne Mountain trail over the years, including the number of local hikers that Goulding has seen making the journey.
"Back in the early 80's when I first started to do it, it was very seldom I would meet anybody from Newfoundland and Labrador," he said.
"Now it's not so rare. I think it reflects that there's more people hiking in Newfoundland and Labrador."
While more people from his own province enjoying Gros Morne is a welcome sight, Goulding said years of people exploring the mountain has sadly caused some destruction.
"Unfortunately at the top there is some damage done where people walk off the trail and start their own path," he said.
"I've learned to respect the mountain itself and not walk all over the place."
Now 100 hikes later, Goulding said he plans to focus a little more on exploring other trails around western Newfoundland.
However, he said he will still continue to occasionally revisit the mountain that has provided him with a beautiful escape for over 30 years — and more than 500 hours of hiking time.
"I will continue to come up. It's my favourite trail on the west coast.," Goulding said.
"When you're out hiking for four or five hours, it gives you a time to think and reflect. And getting off the mountain is your main problem, so you forget all the others."