Date: June 9 2000
Trail Day: 9
Miles Today: 6.2
Location: La Galene - foot of Mt. Jacques Cartier
Section Mile: IAT 131.6
ECT Mile: 131.6
Well, the hike from Mt. St. Pierre to La Galene is the toughest hike I have done in my life. The trail is steep in portions, the snow collapses and I have no map. I also had to cross a stream by wading just before entering Parc de la Gaspesie. The water was upto my crotch and there were two brief instances where I thought I was going to be washed away. There was one instance on a hike near Lake Umbagog (Maine) where I got washed away. Once you lose your stability you are gone. I can still see the water gushing by on this one. The snow continues to slip and collapse. There were several instances where I went in knee deep and then I had to crawl out. In some of these I made about 1 km in two hours. Progress was not marked by km but by 20 feet increments - to the nearest tree, snow bank, level ground etc. Today was also a wet shoe and sock day right of the bat. The snow was melting fast as summer is approaching and the trail is covered with water in several places. There are little streams flowing all over the place.
To continue where I left off yesterday, the climb lasted another 0.5 km (about 1 hr) and then was fairly level. Then there was another climb that lasted perhaps 1.5 hours. My morale is now in the toilet. I am wet, cold and miserable. La Galene is situated in a valley and catches the wind squarely. So I cannot even stay outside my tent as my feet get numb. It had also rained last night, so everything was wet. I did manage to dry everything out except for the shoes.
The plan today was to do another 19 km to get to a campground. But I have decided to slow down and regroup. I will be taking the next two days easy and doing low miles. That should lighten things a bit.
Date: June 10 2000
Trail Day: 10
Miles Today: 11.7
Location: Porte de l'Enfer
Section Mile: IAT 143.3
ECT Mile: 143.3
Fairly easy day of hiking. The day was partly cloudy but very windy. It also has been a little colder as I am now in the mountains. I am now hiking route 14 to bypass Mt. Jacques Cartier. It is a forest road. I saw a moose or a caribou early in the day today. This area is known for caribou though I do not know what they look like. The place I am in now is more of a picnic spot where I have been permitted to camp overnight by Bermans Drouin, the director of Reserve of Faunique Des Chic-Chocs - Thank you very much. It is beside the river Saint Anne Nord Est. It is almost a white water.
The park ranger stopped by a while ago and checked my permit. He says there is lots of snow all the way to Mt. Logan and that the snow is firm in the morning but weak late in the day. Very few people out here yet. This peak is actually quite popular but as it is very early in the season almost no one is here. I saw only three vehicles during the entire day. Tomorrow to La Gite where I pick up my mail-drop of food. My pants have started to tear near the inner thigh area. I will have to sew it up at some point. Also forgot to mention - I weighed myself about three days ago. Came in at 195 pounds. About 5 of it should be water loss. So it could be 200 pounds. Still a loss of about 9 pounds over 6 days. Amazing. Today also marked the longest I have been hiking both in number of days and miles. Before this it was a ten day hike with Kumar over the Christmas break on the Florida trail. It was for 130 miles and we went from Port Mayaca to Desert Ranch.
Date: June 11 2000
Trail Day: 11
Miles Today: 2.5
Location: Le Faucon Refuge - foot of Mt. Albert
Section Mile: IAT 145.8
ECT Mile: 145.8
A light day of hiking. I was done by noon. Did about 4 km of non trail walks to find the shelter, foods, laundry etc. I was expecting to find the package I had mailed from Montreal but the front desk at La Gite said they had not received anything. I was evaluating my alternatives and having a beer at the bar when one of the other staff said that he knew of my package and brought it out. I was extremely relieved. Also had an interesting conversation with the waitress. I had lunch there. I have heard of the expression "Chicken that melts in your mouth", but this is the first time I have experienced it. I had a shower, did my laundry, mended my pants and mailed another set of journal entries to Suriyan. I had to sneak in and out of their bathrooms because I am not a registered guest. The people at the reception desk were however quite helpful. A very full day. Then I found my "refuge". Its a hut that I had booked in advance. When people think of their dream houses they might see a beach, ten bedrooms, four garages, pool etc. I see a rustic comfortable cabin - like this one. I need a place like this to live in. A bed in one corner to sleep in, a computer desk in another, and a small kitchen in yet another - a common bathroom should suffice.
I then got a ride from the guy who runs the place back to La Gite - very friendly guy, another trail angel. The dinner was fancy, I was not. I was in my shorts, T-shirt, hiking boots with no sox. Probably the best non- spicy food I have had. The service was excellent. Used knives and spoons would disappear and new ones would appear as if by magic. I had a glass of water I drank deeply from that never got empty. I was about to see the bottom of the bread basket and voila a new one. I am quite certain I broke numerous etiquette rules with knives and what not. There were nine of them on my table at one point. The place was expensive (lunch was reasonable) and cost me 50 Canadian dollars all included.
I also saw a rabbit outside that would not run when approached. I took a picture of it. In the evening I saw several of them around. Also the animal I saw two days ago was a moose. Caribou look more deerish. I saw their stuffed heads (ugh !!) at the hotel.
Tomorrow starts an 8 to 10 day stretch where there will be no stores, civilization, etc. It will be back in the snow. Let's see how it goes. Signing off from this wonderful cabin.
Date: June 12 2000
Trail Day: 12
Miles Today: 0
Location: Between Le Pluvier and Mt. Albert
Section Mile: IAT 145.8
ECT Mile: 145.8
Got up early and started hiking. The snow is supposed to be firm early in the morning. Stopped by La Gite for breakfast - they were not open. It was 6 am. (Its bright here at about 4:30). The first couple of hours were good. It was uphill all the way but no snow. Came to the shelter - La Serpentine. Saw a good looking woman cleaning the place. Her name is Ivy. She and her husband David are here to perform research on the caribou. Caribou are peaceful, curious creatures who will on occasion follow man. They spend most of their time on ridge tops but were now down in the trees for calving. Ivy said they were missing a lot of them because of this. She also told me of trail conditions further up and to follow their footsteps in the snow they had made the previous day. I now entered the closed segment of the trail. Things were good for another half an hour. Then the trail seemed to run into a cul-de-sac about a mile wide that had sharp mountains on three of its side. The trail went straight up one of these sides and it was covered with snow. I went up about 5 feet and came back sliding down. I could see Ivy and David's footprints but it was dangerous for me with a heavy backpack. They are certainly courageous folks.
I then bushwhacked along the northern face to try and find an alternate route with little or no snow. I scouted without my backpack and found one on the very eastern corner, went back and got my backpack and got back up. I then bushwhacked about a mile back to the trail. The top of Mt. Albert is flat with no trees and has no snow. Progress was fast. Then the trail started decending into snow fills. I decided to hike along the top and to find the trail a little further on. A little later I decended and found snow all around me. I could not find the trail. I hiked back and forth for about 1.5 hours very frustrated. The snow was starting to collapse about every 10th step. I then decided to go back to the top to find the trail. Suddenly I heard voices and found two young guys about 1/2 a mile away. They are Luc and Vince. They were on a weeks vacation and were following my footsteps and were therefore also lost. If you have to be lost under trying conditions it is better to be with company. I was glad I found them. The three of us then decided to continue hiking along the top of Mt. Albert in hopes of seeing the lake towards which we were headed. We couldn't see it. We then decided to pass through a valley and back on top of a hill along which the trail was supposed to run. This turned out to be a miserable affair. It was now much later in the day and the snow would collapse about every fourth step. It was much worse than my hike from Mt. St. Pierre to La Galene but I wasn't so demoralised as I had company. Our shoes and sox were thoroughly wet and ice cold. A lot of ice had entered my shoes and my feet were getting numb. It was now starting to get dark. We reached a stream and made a guess as to where we were on the map. The trail was about a km north. We tried hiking some more but gave up when it was almost dark. We found a little area enough to set up one tent. I set up tent there. Luc and Vince put there's up in the snow. They had thermal pads. Luc started a fire. It was invigorating. We cooked supper, ate and crawled into the comfort of our sleeping bags. My feet started to thaw and it was painful for about an hour. My feet were ice cold. They warmed up as the night progressed and I slept well. It was an end to a very hard day.
Lost in Mt. Albert
Date: June 13 2000
Trail Day: 13
Miles Today: 0
Location: Cap Bon Ami Campground
Section Mile: IAT 145.8
ECT Mile: 145.8
We decided to return as the snow was too difficult. We continued to where the trail was supposed to be but could not find it. I think we actually crossed the trail but failed to see it as it was covered with snow. Progress continued to be difficult. The night had been warm and the snow was bad. I went down to my hips on several occasions and had to come crawling out. We reached the top of the hill which was sort of bald and hence had no snow. We now had one hill to cross to get to the top of Mount Albert. The hill turned out to be a little easier as there were sections with no snow. We made relatively good time and started climbing Mt. Albert. We then found the trail and headed back down. We decided to stay at La Serpentive where Ivy and David were staying. We pitched our tents outside and cooked supper. I talked to them about their research. They do this every year and do four trips a year each lasting 10 days - I envy them. David teaches at the University of Maine but lives across the border in New Brunswick. They are married and are very good people. Had a good warm sleep.
Trickling stream falls of melting snow.
Date: June 14 2000
Trail Day: 14
Miles Today: 15.6
Location: La Pluvier
Section Mile: IAT 161.4
ECT Mile: 161.4
I walked about 30 km although only about 25 km were trail miles, the other 5 were completing the back track. Came down Mt. Albert to La Gite. Ivy and David were also leaving that day. I decided to hike the forest roads to Lake Cascapedia with its shelter called La Pluvier. I started walking along Rt. 299. David and Ivy stopped by in their car. Ivy misses her little dog. We talked a little. I got some information on what ski trails are. I may have to use some of them instead of hiking trails. Some ski trails actually run on top of frozen lakes and bogs and are thus not good for hiking. We said our good byes and I continued on.
I looked at the map and it looked as though I could cut out about 4 km if I waded a river and walked a ski trail to Rte. 11. I found a suitable place called Grand Fosse where the river is very broad and hence not that deep. I surveyed the river and found a route that would only get me thigh deep in the water. Got another stick and started crossing. I ended getting up to my hip in water. I was going too deep in some points. I could see craw fish becoming agitated due to my thrusting the stick. Crossed the river with no problem. Squeezed out the water from my socks, dried my feet (my sleeping bag managed to stay dry) and continued along the ski trail. It was well maintained and good. Reached Rt. 11 and continued towards Lac Cascapedia.
Got to La Pluvier and met Marcel and Paul. Its a small world. They work at Pratt & Whitney, Montreal. (I worked at Pratt & Whitney, Florida before the hike). They are here on a week's vacation to scope out the area to return on a ski vacation in winter. They had gone cross country at Mines Madeline that day. They are a couple of fun outdoor guys. They gave me beer, food and white gas - Thanks, some more trail angels.
Date: June 15 2000
Trail Day: 15
Miles Today: 12.4
Location: Le Huard
Section Mile: IAT 173.8
ECT Mile: 173.8
Had some coffee in the morning, thanks to Marcel and Paul. I took a photograph of them and me. They were posing with their skies. Last evening I had talked to the caretaker of the shelter and he had said that two people were trying to hike from Lake Thibault (to which I am now headed) and should be arriving any time if successful. He said he would let me know if they did. I did not see him that night. Today morning I talked to him on the way out and confirmed that they had indeed not arrived. He had also met the hiker the folks at Mt. Saint Pierre had met in 1985. It looks like he was a black botanist. He was also big and tall and it appeared as though he was doing it in sections over a period of 3 years. The care taker also told me that the bird that I had encountered back in Park Forillion (and that I had seen several time since) was a spruce grouse. It is now nesting time and they are thus somewhat territorial. There is also a ruffed grouse which I may also have encountered.
I started hiking Rte. 11 towards Lake Thibault with its shelter called La Huard. Half way into the hike a car with 2 guys stopped to chat. They were the hikers attempting to cross to Lake Cascapedia. They told me they had also got lost and had to return due to snow. I think the trails here should be blazed just like other places, so that it is easier to find the trail. Here the reliance is on the actual tread with few sign posts. Once it gets covered with snow it is very difficult to find it. Even in good weather there seems to be other treaded trails that seem to cross it and can be quite confusing. In short - the trail needs to be blazed. The guys gave me some bottled water and GORP (mixture of Granola, Oats, Raisin, Peanuts. However the term is now generically used for any trail food).
A car wth 2 rude people also stopped to ask for directions. I have not mentioned this so far. But this is pure white territory. (Unfortunately, I know decent number of people who would like to live in just such a world). Most are quite comfortable with other races or at least attempt to be so. However there is a significant section of the people who are uncomfortable and the hostility shows right through. They have also been so isolated that I can tell them I am an American Indian, Asian Indian, Egyptian, Kenyan, Arab and it would make no difference. Most people here have just heard vaguely of India and think it is somewhere near Egypt. Anyway, just wanted to pass on the social element along.
I got to Le Huard and decided to explore the trail from there. About 4 kms into it I found a stream that was crossable with effort. That combined with the probability of finding snow further on made me turn back. This entire section is supposed to be closed due to snow. I thus ended up doing an aditional 8 km of non trail mileage. I was eager to get back to Le Huard before dark and slipped and stumbled in several places. This is a shelter with 16 beds. No one is here, so I have the place to myself. I started a fire, cooked, ate and went to bed. The first half hour was a medley of my childhood memories with Mom and Dad. I could hear my Dad's voice almost continuously. It was very strange. After that I went downstairs to check on what sounded like light foot steps - nothing. If you have an over active imagination and you are alone, the place has the potential to drive you nuts - think of an axe murderer horror movie in a camp in the wilderness and you have the setting. After that I fell asleep.