Trail Journal

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.

Date: June 16 2000
Trail Day: 16
Miles Today: 13.7
Location: Le Nictale
Section Mile: IAT 187.5
ECT Mile: 187.5

Continued hiking along Rte 11. It is now a very rugged road. I am entering the farthest corner of the park. The hiking trail actually joins this road for the last 6 km to Mt. Logan. In that section it is a dirt road, hiking trail, skiing trail and a bicycle trail combined. Encountered only patches of snow till La Roulotte (a shelter near Lake des Iles). This is where the hiking trail joins the road. The road then did a sharp turn to west. I was dumbfounded by what I saw. It was covered fully with snow. No one had been on it - there were no foot prints or tire treads. The suddenness with which so much snow started was amazing. I hiked for a short while then decided to rest for a while. Ate something and collected my thoughts. If the road was unpassable I have to back track several days as there are no other alternate roads. Got worried, started hiking again. The snow was firm and hiking was possible although tiring. It was almost all snow till I reached the top of the hill - about 1 km. Then it started to break up.The snow is melting and has formed small streams on the side of the road. This section has no snow. I walked on those places whenever I could. My water proof boots paid for themselves today. About another 2 km of, on and off snow and I reached Le Nictale (a shelter). I decided to leave my back pack and explore with just a fanny pack with essential survival stuff.

The way the maps show it, there should be a T to this road to the left followed by the trail also to the left, followed by the peak of Mt. Logan. I could also see recent foot prints (perhaps 1-2 days old). This was a good sign as the people had accessed the shelter from the other side. That means in the worst case I can take the road and not have to back track - excellent news. I found the T for the road but not the trail continuation. I hiked to the peak of Mt. Logan. They have a hut and a radio tower there. I checked both of them out and took a photo. Near the peak I saw the IAT signs and they seemed to head north of the peak whereas the map shows to head south well before the peak. I explored the trail and it looks doable. I returned to La Nictale and looked at the map more closely. It looks like the map for the Reserve of Matane (which comes just after Mt. Logan) is badly screwed up. I have made an estimate based on the peaks I know the trail touches. I will just have to follow the signs and hope for the best. I will also have get an early start to get some firm snow. This has the potential for a frustrating hike, but currently I am feeling good and should be able to plough through a day of bad snow. After that the general trail altitude drops a little and I may be done with snow. I've got my fingers crossed.

Note of my walking stick. I had picked up one on my first day at Cap Bon Ami. It was somewhat slender and flexible. It broke in two when I was trying to get on top of Mt. Albert. At that place there were no other trees - only shrubs. It is quite unsafe to climb that area without a stick. I did what I could with the broken one. Once I was on top there were posts used for markers. I took one of them. Then on the way back I found an abandoned ski pole. I took it and left the marker. I have now hiked several days with the ski pole and like it. I think it will last for a good while.

I have also started stinking. You know they say you cannot smell yourself because you get used to it. Not true - thru hikers stink. When I reached La Pluvier, on three different occasions people spontaneously told me that the camp had a free shower !!

Today was a good day. I feel good. I hope from tomorrow I am on the trail instead of the road. I have also been sleeping on the lower bunks in all the shelters. Tonight I will try the upper bunk. Good night.

A View

Date: June 17 2000
Trail Day: 17
Miles Today: 14.3
Location: Entrance to Petit Sault
Section Mile: IAT 201.8
ECT Mile: 201.8

Did not get the early start I had planned on. The day was very windy. Got to the top of Mt. Albert. Then continued on the trail towards Reserve du Matane. Today I left Parc de la Gaspesie. It has taken me a while. I also caught a faint glimpse of the ocean. It is about 30 km to the north. Continued on to Mt. Fortin. The views were spectacular. The trail ran along the ridge. Distances are deceptive at this height. The whole forest looked like a lawn. Encountered only patches of snow - mostly firm. Between Mt. Fortin to Mt. Matawees there is a rather sharp valley. The trail turned on, descended into the valley and ascended Mt. Matawees. Things became tough here. This portion is covered with snow. I had a hard time determining the trail. The IAT/SIA folks have done a wonderful job marking all the turning points with the IAT tag. This made things some what easy. But, I would like to plead, even beg the trail maintainers to please, please blaze. It can make things easy for many a weary traveller.

I found my way to the top. Again splendid views. The trail ran along another ridge to Mt. Collins then started descending sharply. Here, I saw a caribou about 250 feet away looking at me. Ivy (the caribou researcher) had told me that they were curious animals and sometimes follow people. As I was on a steep section I did not want any close encounters with large animals. I shouted and waved my arms. It started coming towards me. Having no other choice I continued on the trail towards it. Then it started runing away and was followed by 2 young ones with much shinier coats. I was very happy. I had been disappointed that I had not seen any caribou so far. I had seen abundant droppings but no animal. Mt. Logan and its vicinity was my last chance to see one and I did. I continued to look for it as I climbed down but did not see it any more.

The trail then did all kinds of turns. I tried to keep a track on my map but eventually got thoroughly confused. At one point the trail even went exactly in the opposite direction of desired travel for about 1 km before crossing a little stream and turning sharply around. I just followed the metal tags with fingers crossed. After what seemed like an eternity I came to a beautiful water fall. I made a guess as to where I was and continued on. Finally I reached Rte 1 (a good land mark) and then continued to the entrance to Petit Sault Chutes Beaulieu. Rt 1 runs along a valley besides river Cap Chat. The mosquitoes are horrendous. I ate inside my tent and am now writing the journal. About 50 ft away the river makes a 5 ft waterfall. I can even see it from my tent.

My impression of Park de la Gaspesie - I could not hike most of the trails. Whatever I did were well maintained. An ideal active vacation could be planned using La Gite as the base and making day hikes to Mt. Jacques Cartier and Mt. Albert. Hikes are also possible using the huts but will require a willingness to rough it out. Also wait for the snow to melt completely.

I may encounter some more snow on Mt. Blanc the highest peak in Reserve du Matane. But once I get past that I should see no more snow till I approach Georgia.

Date: June 18 2000
Trail Day: 18
Miles Today: 13.6
Location: Unidentified lake near Mt. Blanc
Section Mile: IAT 215.4
ECT Mile: 215.4

Today's trail ran beside a stream that had several water falls. The climb was steep and was a rock climb in places, though never dangerous. It then crossed the stream and followed a smaller stream that also had several water falls. There were places where one could possibly take a refreshing shower or a dip. This and the previous section lasted about 5 km. It was so beautiful that I did not notice the hard climb. I think that this section has a lot of potential. Some viewing areas, benches and bridges could be added to enhance the view. Currently, it is very undeveloped and one misses some good water falls especially of the bigger streams. I think this is the best section I have done in this hike.

The trail then crossed the little stream and headed to the top of Mt. Nicole Albert. What a view ! I could see the ocean and also Mt. Logan. Then it went down and back up to Mt. Bayfield. All this while all of it was sharp up or down. Then the trail became moderate for the rest of the way. I also met two maintenance men who had been cleaning the tree top blow downs. They said the trail was more difficult to follow on top but that the trail was flagged.

I am having a horrible time of keeping track of where I am. Both maps that were given to me by IAT and Sepaq are rubbish. The maps dont show many of the lakes that I saw and the trail runs by. The trails shown are also wrong. All I know now is that I am about 5 km from Mt. Blanc to the north. There have been patches of snow but not enough to be a problem. I should see more tomorrow. It has also been cold today so I am preparing for a cold night. I am also almost out of snacks but have about 5 days worth of food left. I should reach some stores in 3 days.

Note on food cravings. The deep hunger that I have heard about has not kicked in yet. I guess my body is still trying to get rid of the excess fat. However, I have already dreamt about food twice. In one I was in a store deciding to buy a loaf of bread and jam to eat immediately. In the second I was disappointed that I had missed a dinner organized at Pratt & Whitney but then someone came and told me that they were still serving dinner in another place.

I also saw a snake today. About 1 ft long slender, black with grey lengthwise stripes. I thought snakes couldn't live in these cold areas. I also realized that there are no birds such as eagles, vultures or kites circling the skies here.

Date: June 19 2000
Trail Day: 19
Miles Today: 9.3
Location: Lac de Gros Ruisseau
Section Mile: IAT 224.7
ECT Mile: 224.7

Yesterday I was not that far off from Mt. Blanc - about 3 km. It went up and down a small hill and then a steady climb upto Mt. Blanc. There is a shelter on top with a guest book. I signed the guest book, and took a photo. The rest of the day the trail was either going up or down, only rarely stayed level. It has run to the peak of every hill on the way.

Saw a moose today. It could not decide whether to run or not. Finally it decided to run away. I cant believe people hunt these things. You might as well start shooting cattle. I am now approaching the end of the mountain chain and the views towards the end were only OK. Nothing compared to Mt. Blanc and Mt. Logan. Tomorrow the trail joins with Rt 1 after a while and exits the park. Day after tomorrow I should see some civilization and stores.

I washed my T-shirt in a stream. Also washed myself above the waist. The pants that I had sewn tore after 3 days and I had to throw it out. I have only 1 now and even that one is losing its stitches. I need to buy 2 shorts. I also lost one sox in my adventure at Mt. Albert. I am now rotating the 3 I have.

Today was a short day. I also had to get into my tent due to the insects. They are little flies and seem to be attracted to the brightness of the tent. They keep smashing into the tent. It sounds like it is drizzling. The weather has started to warm up considerably. I was hiking without a shirt for a good portion.

Date: June 20 2000
Trail Day: 20
Miles Today: 17.4
Location: Rte 1 at Chalet 1
Section Mile: IAT 242.1
ECT Mile: 242.1

It rained overnight. Kind of surprising as the sky was clear when I went to bed. Did about 8 km on the trail with the remaining on Rte 1 where the trail joins it. Spent the morning portion cursing the trail designers. There isn't a hill or lake that they miss. Even lakes, they touch it at several points, many times climbing a little hill and then coming back down. The meanderings are also outrageous. Near Lake Matane it was on a series of 3 hills which had a ridge running along them. They used the ridge between the first two then brought it down almost half way and then went back up. I had to check my map and compass to make sure I was headed in the right direction. In one section I missed a turning point, continued on a side trail and reached the edge of a lake. Saw two, 5 inch fish swimming. I think they were trout. They were pinkish, had spots on them and were top feeders. They were swimming in water about 2-3 inches deep. Every once in a while they would gulp something from the surface - insects probably. It was a very peaceful and serene to watch.

Also saw a deer - or so I think. I only saw the hind portion. It was too yellowish to be a moose. Also saw 2 moose on the road walk. Looks like the smaller ones come to the road. Both of them would run only reluctantly. On the road walk two friendly guys stopped to chat. They were out to see wild life. They had seen me walking from Lake Matane (about 18 km) and said they were impressed. I impressed them more by saying I had walked from Cap de Gaspe !

Weather has decidedly turned hot. No T-shirt day today also. Water is also becoming warmer and harder to find.

Also saw a grouse play injured (or so I think). It made a squeaky noise and shuffled as though injured. I think it was trying to lead me away from its nest. I played along and then it flew into the bushes.

They have something called Chalets in the park. I thought it would be like a shelter in Parc de la Gaspesie. But, its a more elaborate affair. Its like a cottage that you can rent. There is even a fridge inside - that's living in style in this wilderness. Anyway there was no care taker or anyone. So, I cooked my food on a picnic table in front of it and then pitched my tent near by. Now I am hoping nobody comes by at night and throws me out ! Good night.

Date: June 21 2000
Trail Day: 21
Miles Today: 17.3
Location: About 6 km SW of St. Vienney
Section Mile: IAT 259.4
ECT Mile: 259.4

The night went OK. Got up early to avoid Ranger check if any. Cold morning. My hands were numb. I hummed a parody to Pink Floyd's "Comfortably numb" - Uncomfortably numb. Left Reserve du Matane and continued on to the town of River Matane. There was a camp there not yet open. The lady served me sausages, crackers, candy bars and cheese sticks anyway. I have now entered the Valley of Matapedia section. I had one heck of a time finding the beginning of the trail. Finally found a sign almost lying on the ground saying SIA. Followed it. The term trail is very loosely applied here. It was essentially a bush whack with very poor signs. Ribbons of all colors were going every which way - no help. Did considerable detective work and followed it. All of a sudden, after about 1 km of this it dropped into a dirt road. From here the signs were good.

Got to St. Vienney. Called Kumar - not there. Talked to Karen - Suriyan's wife. She was nice to talk to and some encouraging words. Looks like they were worried that I may dropped out. The last entry I had mailed them was after the hard snow hike when I was thoroughly demoralized. Mailed another set of journal entries and a roll of films. Also mailed my winter clothes to Vivek. I am now 2 lbs lighter as a result but my pack is much emptier. They sure are bulky. Had lunch in a restaurant - good. Here's a food craving on a long hike - Salad. Tomato, cucumber, lettuce with some dressing - Ummm.

Continued hiking but could not find the road it took off on. Knocked at someone's door for directions. They were extremely helpful. I am sorry now that I did not get there names and a photo. The mom took out a more detailed map and started searching. She then called some people and was able to find the road. They were really nice and helpful - Thank you. Some more trail angels. I spent almost an hour talking and figuring out the maps with them.

Continued on the trail. After a lot of turns and quirks during which I was sure I was lost, I suddenly saw an SIA sign. I had been on track all along! The signs need to be improved a lot. I am now about a days hike from Amqui. It rained today. Had to cook sitting in the tent and the stove in the vestibule. Almost bedtime.

My review of Reserve du Matane. It is quite remote, rugged and undeveloped - more suited for experienced back packers. The folks there also need to do a better job at presentation and developing picnic spots, trails, views etc. The full potential of nature there has not been captured. Give it the shine of Parc de la Gaspesie and you have a promising place here.

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