jupiterhikes

Life of the Wanderlust

Page 3 of 5

Day 9 – An Easy 16

Leaving my new friends at L’Amarré was hard but it must be done! I have miles to make, and a trail to hike.

I was told the next mountain I woukd be hiking was going to be very beautiful and they sure weren’t kidding. One big climb up and over into the next town. Amazing views off the top and a really cool trail going down the side. Totally exposed with panoramic views of the valley, town, and ocean below.

On the top there were a couple strange platforms of wood built. Flat, right on the side of the clif, and leading to certain death. It didn’t dawn on me at first but while making my way down I realized those are for hang gliding! This town offers hang gliding services, and I’ve been told they have a sister company…. down in Florida!

I had accidentally walked away with the hotels room key, and was very fortunate to find someone in town I recognized to bring it back. For a little while I was considering how I could package and send it back via the postal service. Oops! Sorry guys, but I’m very happy I was able to return it.

I grabbed a quick soda from the grocery, and made my way down the trail. Immediately I was following a river through the valley and it was so very peaceful. Sharing the trail with mountain bikers for this small section I was happy to find the trail was extremely well groomed.

I leave the valley and start climbing up what is in the winter likely a snowmobile path. Up and up for maybe an hour and a half without stopping. The trail slims down from a road into a double wide track. For the next 20k the trail is like this, without much climbing, or descending. Occasional views of my surrounding I’m now on the top of the mountains.

On my way to Gaspesie National Park! Something good is a brewing, I’m not going down anymore. Just ever so slightly climbing. Seems as though I’ll stay at this elevation until I’m in park grounds. The next few days I’ll be going over some of the biggest, if not the biggest mountains in Quebec!

Then after that into Matane Wilderness Area for some more carnage. The National Parks spoil me.

Actually looking forward to seeing some people out hiking. The solitude is nice, but so is companionship!

I’m camped at a refuge up in the mountains. The guidebook says I’m supposed to have views of the valley, maybe that was true years ago, now where my view would be is obscured by trees that have grown big and strong.

One more day until I get my resupply box, the only one I sent to Canada. It has my tent stakes, bug spray, water purification, and other things among food for the next stretch. 6 days worth if I remember. One of the most remote sections out here is coming.

I have the woodstove burning in the refuge in hopes it will quiet the rodent living in the walls. Maybe he’s cold too?

In other news I’ve been filming a whole ton of video, and it’s been coming out great! I don’t know what yet I’ll do with it because I don’t exactly have the time to edit, or upload from the trail, but know eventually there will be pretty videos of what’s I’ve been going through out here. One day…. I’ll continue to film. We shall see.

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Day 7 – Feeling lucky

My alarm is set for 4am, I did this before I left for the trip. At least to wake me up, and hopefully to get me hiking early in the day, because as we know big miles means big smiles. That and the sunrise is beautiful or something.

Today I woke up at 3am for whatever reason instead. Went to the campgrounds rec room to grab my phone, which I left charging all night there, and decided to pack up and get out.

Grande Vallée to me didn’t feel like home. I planned 11 miles to the next shelter, but by the time I got there it was so early I decided to keep moving, and look for a real town to relax in for a day.

Once walking I didn’t stop, just keeping an easy pace. My trail paralleled the highway, and took me through the mountains next to it. The following town was also small, and with my soreness gone I continued forward hoping to come across something better. Although a beautiful view of the water, and another lighthouse with coffee, it wasn’t quite right, and the day was still young.

At times I was on the road, thrown back into the woods briefly, and again on the road. It was mostly easy walking. My sights set on a Gîte in the village of L’Anse-Pleureuse, 40 miles from where I started. What would be my longest day hiking ever. (I have done a couple 38s, and such under that but I seemed to be stuck at that number.)

I think a Gîte is like a bed & breakfast, or maybe just an extremely fancy hostel, I’ve yet to stay at one but it was all I could think about. Not getting to take my day off I was bent on getting there.

My pace quickened with darkness approaching, but by the time I arrived, I came to see the place had closed down. 40 miles for nothing, and rain had begun to fall. Now I had little choice. Still set on resting in a bed, I decided I’d push to the next town. 7pm with an hour left of daylight, and just over 4 miles to go, I wasn’t sure I could do it. What if I got there and everywhere was booked? To late now, I was going to try.

Up old rural roads into neighborhoods not many ever go, getting strange looks, and cars driving past extra slow, the trail takes me back into the woods. Past rusted broken cars, and old appliances in equally as bad of shape. This must be the make shift dump. Some ATV path high above the water, and the highway.

Plodding along, the markers designating I was still going the right way dissapear. Dissapointed, and not prepared to turn back wasting another 20 minutes I take a fork that is pointing the direction of the ocean and the main road. Without pause there the markers are again, but coming out from some other location. Not interested in repeating what just happened I aim for the road anyway.

Beautiful asphalt, easy motion, and the sea right beside me, I’m glad to be on way again.

The rain continues to fall, and being so close to my destination I choose just to use my umbrella, instead of wasting time looking for my poncho. Clothes getting wet, the village now in sight, it almost doesn’t matter anymore.

Walking past the RV campground, trying to read french signs in the rain, attempting to decipher whether any given building might house me or not. Comparing words in my guide to those I see it’s not much luck.

Tired of walking, and ready to lay down I see a party overflowing outside a cute pink home. I walk up and am greeted immediately by a nice man asking if I need to crash. It must have been clear in my face, my damp jacket, and my flimsy umbrella I was done for the day. Swiftly greeted by the co-owner and shown my room, life is good again.

44 miles, and finally I get what I want. A hotel. Not just any hotel, just my luck, this one only opened a few days ago, and I would be it’s 20th customer. Not yet online, not yet in guides, I somehow stumbled on what is likely the only place with rooms available for many many many miles around.

The party was pivate and mostly friends, a celebration for the new business, and they welcomed me with open arms. The desheveled english speaking tourist. I was fed, they gave me drinks, and it was all on the house.

Even one of the bartenders took time with me to help me learn some basic french, and get me up to speed on some Quebec history. I really had no idea how important knowing just a little bit of their language would be. From here on I will be sure to use her teachings to good use. I was so caught up in planning this 6 month trip I hadn’t taken the time, and that is my mistake.

I met just about everyone, and they were all so very kind and generous. Here I had just come out of the blue, and was met with the most wonderful people in the land.

The former mayer of the city over was there too. He’s a pretty good singer. Johnny Cash must have been on his mind.

Mont Louis is my home today and tomorrow. Sometimes things work out.

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Day 6 – Grande Vallée

Town day! With yesterday’s foolery behind me I’m ready to grab some food, and hit this trail with a fresh mind.

Still 10 or so miles away from the village I quickly learn some rumors I’ve heard are true. Some areas of this trail are so steep the trail organization has installed ropes to help folks like me get up or down. In this case it’s down. About 100 yards of rope strung down the mountain. More fun than it sounds! And surprisingly so much easier on my knees and ankles than just descending typically would have been.

I pass a couple beautiful lakes, which happened to have small boats with paddles, unnatended, with no signs telling me not to use them……….. but I was too stoked on town so I kept moving. I know I know, shoulda done it!! But I swear the second I step foot in one of those things I betcha the owner would have come by!!

As I approach my beach walking for the morning, a local comes out of his house, obviously aware of the trail I’m following. Apparently today I’m not so lucky and the tide is high. I’ll be walking road as the alternate. The beaches are hit or miss. Or well timed.

Passing a small town along the way I start to see signs for some festival that’s going on. I see nothing going on, but in such a tiny village could you even tell if there were a party?

Arriving in Grande Vallée, a larger town on the coast, but still probably under 1,000 residence. I start scoping out the hotels. That one is too small, probably no wifi, that one I’d have to camp at, and then all the way across town I see the perfect one. Fully booked. I should have called ahead and reserved a spot. Like a month ago. The festival apparently, along with now being tourist season. My hopes were because it’s the middle of the week I’d be solid. Hopes dashed and destroyed!

Back the way I came, that one’s full, that one only speaks french but I think they’re full too, and then the RV park…. I’m camping I guess. Not exactly the town day I had in mind. I set up my tarp, spot a couple other tents, and hopes are high those are more SIA/IAT hikers. Off to shower and do laundry, charge my phone, and get food for my stomach and the next stretch of walking. I’ll check back on the tents later.

All Quebec towns wouldn’t be complete without a small roadside french frie restaurant. So fries, and salad for dinner it is.

Back at my campsite someone has set up their tent next to me so I say hello. He is a young Quebec man who is walking highway 132 from Quebec City to Gaspé. About 600km I think, and he has the beef on the other tenters staying here as well. They too, are also hiking the 132! How strange I think. You have this trail through the mountains yet all these people choose the busy highway with its infinite sixteen wheelers hauling trees. It’s a beautiful highway I must admit, but I feel this says something about the trail I’m walking. Maybe it’s not well enough known, or maybe it’s too difficult. Sadly, highway tramps, instead of dirtbag hikers like myself.

Having my tarp pitched is strange among all the RV’s, but it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve done it. However I’d like it to be the last time.

I’m setup down by the beach, and am informed it’s going to be a very cold night, about 5* Celsius. Which I guess translates to upper 30s in Fahrenheit. I had actually been aware that these temperatures were present at this time before I left for the trip, and was selecting gear. Although an unseasonably cold July for them, I had no idea. Despite being prepared I guess the flimsy 5×9 poncho tarp I use for shelter doesn’t give off a great impression. The campsite owner approaches trying to give me all sorts of warm gear to help. Naw I’m alright.

It was a cosy night for me, not once feeling like I was cold. Despite the winds whipping off the ocean in my direction.

Not exactly the town day I wanted. Not a comfortable town vibe for me in Grande Vallée, and certainly not the comfort of a hotel room with my feet kicked up resting sore bones. Dreaming of actually taking a rest elsewhere I fall asleep as the sun sets.

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Day 5 – It’s not supposed to be easy

Starting from camp, wondering where the two hikers ahead of me stayed, starting to question if there are even hikers ahead of me, or if I was told a farce. The trails tread tells a story, and it does seem to reflect that others have been here recently. The ground in places is desheveled in ways that doesn’t appear to be from animal activity. Some of the plants that extend up into the trail, are crooked, and crushed. My brain clearly wants to believe.

Leaving the trail for the beach, oh yeah! The coast! This trail takes you across the beach 4 times in total, if your timing is good, or if you’re lucky. So far I’ve been lucky, because the tides dictate your passing. High tide could mean swimming. Me being lucky means I didn’t ask.

Beach walking here is a lot of fun, and equally as technical due to the rocks and the strange footing to get across them. Really, I think the beaches have been my favorite walking of this trip so far. This beach was different from the last too. This beach had bigger rocks, the sea was calm, and there was no wind. On the last one the wind was so strong, all the flies eating the seaweed were being whisped away and pelting me in the face. To the point in which I actually put my glasses on as a shield.

I skip across the rocks, careful to avoid those that are wet, and likely slippery. Making my way, and enjoying my day. Everything looking as though I’m off to a good start. Walking closer to the waters edge to get a photo with my self timer, and I notice something in the water. Trash bobbing around? No, it’s seals! Maybe 30 yards off shore checking me out.

I walk on, and the seals follow for a while. Watching me, as I watch them. After a few miles of this, and enjoying the little ponds of water stuck on shore I approach another small village. In the cove it appears to be low tide, as there are two boats that look as though maybe they should have been anchored further out… totally bottomed out, and probably suffering damage.

With nothing in the village to do I move on, and the trail takes me up away from the coast on a logging road. Miles and miles up into the mountains, until I get to dart off into the woods again.

Here on the IAT it’s not uncommon to see very few trail blazes marking the path. At times I only see one every 15 minutes, or sometimes they’re everywhere. It’s hit or miss, and typically if I don’t see one, I don’t worry. 15 minutes goes by and I’m reassured by the white and blue sticker I’m still going in the right direction. Then another 15, 20, 25… climbing higher and higher. Eventually getting so far up, only to find the trail I was following impassible, and the last blaze I saw was a forgotten relic of the old route.

Back the way I came, up to the fork in the path I had missed, only to have forgotten which way I had originally come. Bah. No real signs, and frustrated already I make a choice. The wrong choice. Overall wasting over an hour, and a lot of brain power.

Finally making it down to the valley below, and to a refuge. The trail register is old, the shelter although full of cool furniture and strange paintings… is void of life, and so I move on. Just 11 more miles to go in what will be a 22 mile day. Tomorrow I get to resupply on food in Grande Vallée and am already thinking about a zero milage day.

Leaving the shelter, the trail is overgrown and wild. It winds down to a small river in which I’m asked to follow, and cross once or twice. Into the woods I’m confronted by a wall of vegetation. Somewhere in there I think is where I need to go. It’s now lightly raining, and all the plants scraping at my clothes are acting to soak them through, and chill me to the bone.

My last big climb of the day, and at this point I’m certain I’ll be staying an extra night in the next town. All the way up my movement is slowed by years worth of plant growth. Finally at the top I’m greeted by a wind farm, and my trail has now become a sea of ferns up to my nipples that I’m now wading through, hoping not to trip.

Tired, frustrated, wet, and ready to go to bed, the wind farm manages to cheer me up, and the trail provides. Easier tread to walk on, a road. As if it knew I was having a hard time and needed something.

Lasting just long enough to get me back up to strength for the last few kilometers into camp. Naturally, walking along a log placed over a muddy area I manage to roll my ankle.

Only 22 miles but it sure felt longer. Only 10 more until I’m in town tomorrow, and it’s all on the beach. I couldn’t be more thankful.

The trail here is very new, as I’ve been reminded. Without decades of foot travel to let it maintain itself. The beauty of the IAT outweighs the momentary lapse in support. In time, this trail will easily be an amazing extension to the Appalachian Trail of the south, as if it already isnt.

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Day 4 – Hunting Hikers

At 1mph I’m not exactly moving very far, very fast. The wilderness is as it should be, kept wild. In this instance it means the trail isn’t as prominent as maybe I’d like. Although I’m not getting lost, or turned around like yesterday, so who am I to complain?

After not long my feet seem to know the way. Almost not even paying attention to the white SIA/IAT markings on the trees, my eyes, and my brain are picking up small cues in the land allowing me to press forward. No longer am I moving so slow.

I’ve been starting my days wearing most of the clothing I have with me. Wind pants, synthetic puffy, the works. Someone asked how cold it is at night, and I couldn’t tell you, I never have service but it is on the tipping point of comfort in regards to what I have for warmth. It’s no big deal, I could always wrap myself in the plastic groundsheet I have if things get real bad.

The last two days, leaving camp in my warm clothes has meant something else. The trail is overgrown. Lush. Beautiful. Not having the experience I’d like when it comes to recognizing poison sumac, I figure I’d rather be a little hot walking, than really itchy.

The trail is sometimes the most well groomed thing you’d ever seen. Then other times it’s like you’re blazing your own path. Not to much of one or the other. Not a super highway, and not a total bushwhack nightmare.

Sometimes I’m walking on cushy beds of pineneedles, and vibrant green moss. Other times I’m trying to decide if that’s a game trail or if that’s THE trail. Ultimately it hasn’t been a big issue, and surprisingly a very fun addition to my adventure.

Today was extra exciting. Not only have I come to terms with the law of the land, but I’ve also begun a new section. The Gaspé Coast. In my mind it started with this really awesome dam and waterfall in the middle of nowhere. Followed by a very large lake, and finally exciting the forest to see I am on the coast with a small town beneath me. Judging by the amount of houses, extremely likely there are less than 1,000 people here. If not well under that.

I see no stores, nothing. Except for the ocean, and a port with a few docked boats. I wonder what everyone does here for a living? Fishing, lobster, crab, I’m sure. I also wonder how much it might cost to live in such a wonderful place. Ocean at your front door, mountains in the back. A larger town to the north, and to the south of you, and you’re just sleepy in the middle. Then again, winter here must really be terrible.

I had thought the trail would take me up into the mountains from here again, but a local tells me it’s right along the coast. He also tells me there are two females ahead of me, large backpacks and everything. Maybe 2 hours ago he saw them. He smiles, and tells me I should hussle.

So I do. Rock hopping down the Canadian Atlantic coastline. Unlike the Atlantic I am so used to as a Floridian, this one has no sand, just large rocks, medium rocks, and very small rocks that have been pumped by the waves into smooth circles. This lasts for almost 3 miles. What a joy! I remember reading something about how I should ask about the tides first, so maybe I got lucky. In the next two days, I think it get to walk the beaches twice more. What kind of thru hike is this even?

In the distance I could see a lighthouse, and after some rediculous amount of stairs, I’ve made it. Truly beside myself even…. they have chips and coffee in the gift shop! The guy doesn’t speak english, but I do some pointing, and we get the job done! 3 bags of chips and a cup o coffee. Merci!

Other tourists at the lighthouse don’t quit seem so amused by me, but what do I care?

Trashing my trash, and rejuvenated by caffeine, it’s time to hunt down some hikers. 7km to the next campsite. The only one around. I’m sure to run into them there!

I wasnt, and they werent. A note in the shelter journal indicates maybe they moved on due to mosquitoes. Bah. Day 4 and still no hikers! Me, myself, and I.

Through the dense trees off in the distance, I can actually see the shimmering of fireworks. Forgot it was 4th of July.

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Day 8 – Zero @ Auberge L’Amarré

Skipping ahead a few days to give a shout out. L’Amarré, is a beautiful hotel in Mont Louis. To all hikers on the SIA, IAT, ECT, GRwhatever, Hwy 132…. this is the place to stay. Auberge L’Amarré.

I am taking a day off from the trail and have received so much love, hospitality, friendship, everything, at this small hotel. If you’re passing through the area or are in Quebec and traveling the coast and want a place to stay that is full of wonderful people who will treat you as one of their own, this is it. I could not recommend this place enough. They just opened, and if I weren’t in a position of needing to hike on I would certainly be staying longer.

Tell them James from Florida the SIA hiker sent you, and ask if they remember me from July of 2016. They’re worth your time, and the hotel is just in the most beautiful place overlooking the ocean, with the mountains behind you. There is no better place you can be. There is no better place I could have wound up staying at.

There’s a fine restaurant 2 doors down, you’re within walking distance to another, a convenience store, and a grocery store. The building is bright pink, you can’t miss it. Right in the middle of town, directly on the trail, and the main highway 132.

I came here after a very long 44 mile day and was instantly met with kindness.

Did I mention they have a restaurant down stairs? That they cook AMAZING food? They do!

Merci

– James

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Day 3 – Leaving Forillon National Park

I figured there would come a time when the trail got more difficult. Thus far it’s been extremely well maintained, easy to follow, signs everywhere. Today that seems to have ended.

Leaving Forillon National Park was a defining moment. At least for now. The trail could continue to get more difficult. That would be fine, and I would manage. After all I’ve only been walking for a few days now. Given a few weeks and I’ll have some real legs.

My day started with some of the best walking I had ever done. Gradual climbs, wild flowers everywhere, a frickin beaver sighting. I mean, it was great! Vista, after vista, after vista. All to enjoy, all to myself.

No pain, just forward motion. Perfection.

Leaving Forillon, I crossed a road, and followed an ATV track for a kilometer or so. Eventually bombarded with a bunch of small signs pointing me back into the woods. Immediately it was clear why they needed more than one. The trail was very different suddenly! No longer was it maintained, now there were jurassic like ferns in my path, and an entirely new environment. Little streams flowed down the mountain, and I slowly climbed up. Through what is now thick underbrush.

The markings were sparce so I looked for the path of least resistance, and followed, briefly halted by a blow down or two. Wondering when the last time anyone was up here. Likely a very long time.

Somewhere in there I did actually lose the trail, and wound up wasting an hour on what was the old trail, taking me right back to where I was. Full circle. Oh well! Life goes on.

Today is special because I’m heading to a refuge, which is much like the wooden shelters on the Appalachian Trail, yet so much more awesome. 4 walls, roof, wood stove, bunks, windows. Everything! I would be happy to live in these things, and they’re scattered up and down the Quebec portion of the IAT.

A trail register too, apparently! Among all the French who have been here I look for names I recognize. My good friend Sycamore, and also someone else I’ll have to look into later. Chizzlin Cheswick. An ECT thru hiker who at this point, only had a couple days left until he finished.

Judging from the very few people to sign the journal, assumptions are correct. Not many people come out here at all.

Things I’m excited for:
*My first resupply box(which has my tent stakes, lighter, water purification, and other things in it…)
*Trail legs.
*The Appalachian Trail.

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Day 2 – Walking is hard enough

Up and over roots, rocks, steep inclines, and even steeper declines. Today and yesterday ik following mountain bike tracks in the dirt. Clearly not just any mountain biker, because to be doing this he must be one of the most badass mountain bikers ever. Walking it is hard enough. To bike? To run? Some other level of athleticism. Not short distances between trailheads either. This guy was in it to let it kill him.

I move on with the tracks of his bike, moose, and bear. Likely the animals use these trails far more than us humans.

I sit at an overlook, stuck in the clouds, no view, just a place to sit, progressively getting colder, munching on some peanut butter pretzels. The wind continues to pick up, I could get a move on but I’m lazy. I get out my poncho and huddle under that. Like some space age hobo with an erect anywhere dome tent, and pretzels. Naturally, at this moment of pride, an ultra runner swiftly passes by muttering a “bonjour” in my direction.

Continuing on the opposite direction as her I see what she had just done. Maybe 2km of straight down, or in her case straight up, with all the fixings for a difficult time. Walking it is hard enough.

The trail is lined with small yellow and blue flowers half the time. Seemingly an ATV path, which is what I think they use for maintenance here. I revel in the ease of walking, until the rocks begin.

Both beautiful, and treacherous. The trail is just getting started.

Today is a short day. The winds, fog, rain, and an attempt at shelter hopping means I get to take it easy. So here I am, sitting in a wooden shelter, fog so thick I can’t even see out the front door. 50 yards from what I assume is a beautiful lake. Of now, just white.

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Day 1 – Cap Gaspé

Woke up, ate an entire bag of granola, and checked my watch. It’s 3am, and light as day outside. I personally didn’t witness it, but as far as I can tell, sunrises here in the summer are much different from Florida.

For that matter, sunset here isn’t until 8:30. In other words I have about 17 hours of daylight. It’s unfortunate I’m so lazy so early on in this trip, or else I could be making some distance.

I stayed at a hostel last night. A combination of 23 miles of road walking, and no where *legal* to camp. Apparently I made the right choice, this is a place one of my personal hero’s has stayed twice before! Nimblewill Nomad, the man who gave this long and lonesome route from Quebec to the Keys a name, the Eastern Continental Trail. The man who popularized it through his book 10 Million Steps. He was here, however many years ago.

So I move on with the breeze. Just ~11 more miles of road until I can start this thing.

At the entrance of Forillon National Park I see a great long line of cars, and then a second line with nobody in it! Must be for me, a walker! Sure enough, lady there ready to grant me admission. Money in hand, and wouldn’t you know it? Today is Canada Day! I get the thumbs up, a free park pass, and waved through. It couldn’t be a more perfect day. Not a single cloud in the sky, the Gulf of St Lawrence to my right, the Canadian Appalachians to my left, and here I am in the middle standing atop rocky cliffs over the water. Ducks here, ducks there. They know it. Today’s a damn good day to be in Canada.

Being a national holiday at a beautiful park, you can imagine, I am but one of many tourists lurching about. I say hello, they say bonjour. It’s almost tiresome after a while, but really I should have known better, and learned some french.

Eventually I find an SIA/IAT marker, deciding to skip the crowed I dip off that way. Getting a taste for what this trail is like, after all this is my new home for the next month until I reach Maine. I’m greeted with beautiful single track, many small wildflowers, and an almost constant view of the water. I am not dissapointed. One extremely steep uphill, and I know that’s just a tease at my future.

It’s now 2pm and I have the final climb in sight, one very long gravel road, going straight up, leading to the red and white lighthouse that marks the beginning of my hike. Excited, I press forward faster. A moment I’ve dreamt about, and planned for a long time.

From the top you can look in almost any direction and your view is of an endless horizon. I’m not sure of the elevation, but from up here its very surreal. This is where the Appalachian Mountains disappear into the sea. Starting in Alabama, ending here. There are two plaques, one commemorating the Appalachian Trail, the other is for its international extention, what I am now on. This is the ending location of many fantastic journeys, and I can see why. I can’t imagine a better place to start my own. A lighthouse on a clif, with an endless view of the ocean.

Since I won’t be here again anytime soon, I take a few photos, and then I go around to every other person to see which one of them takes the best one. It’s got to be perfect! None of them will do. I snap one more with my self timer, and it’s everything I ever wanted.

The wind is blowing very strong, I am losing daylight hours, and am beginning to get cold. So I leave. Every step forward now, is a step I don’t have to take back. Every step forward is progress to the bigger picture. No matter how slow. Only 4,800 miles to go.

On my way down, I meet two very lovely ladies near the water. As if my day wasnt already wonderful, they speak english! (And german, and french!) It’s very refreshing to talk to them!! Even just for a brief moment. I curse myself, but I move on. I need water.

Stopped at a river ahead, gathering myself. Yesterday I did 23 miles or so with a little less than a liter of water. Why, I don’t know. Today I wasn’t trying to repeat that. While I check my maps, up the trail comes my two new friends! They stop to chat, and I get up off the floor to join them. We walk together for maybe 6km, and I very much so enjoyed their company. Two Germans working as nannies in Canada, now traveling, and seeing the world. They’re doing life right. If only they too were hiking the whole IAT! I think I would be beside myself. Sadly, eventually I had to go in a different direction.

Their names are Elena, and Anna. Maybe our paths will cross again. Small world you know.

Now left to myself. Now left to the mountains. No more roads, finally I am on the trail. Very technical walking, extremely steep climbs, and as far as I know, this is just a taste of what is to come. The path is everything I dreamed of. Thick woods surround me, the sound of the ocean water crashing ashore down below me, and a well maintained trail ahead of me!

Elena had mentioned earlier she had seen a moose and it’s two babies around here, so I was somewhat on edge. Then comes a group of 4 day hikers frazled, telling me about a bear in the direction I am headed. “That’s fine.”

These animals don’t want to deal with us, as much as we don’t want to deal with them. I figure talking to myself allowed would suffice, as close encounters with a bear or a moose on day 1 isn’t exactly something I’m looking forward to. Instead of talking, I put on some good ol Bob Marley…. That’ll scare away the animals I think. Unless of course they enjoy his music as much as I.

The trail goes up and down mountains, no word of a switchback anywhere. Over small bridges and mountain streams. Through dense forest, and eventually I’ve listened to all the tracks on Bob Marley’s best of…….. only 2.5km from camp.

The sun is setting and im unsure how long I’ve got. Certainly not wishing to spend time night hiking so early on in my trip I power forward. Coming up to a welcoming sign that says there is a view 1km from here. I quickly learn that the only reason they have a sign, is because that distance is straight up the side of a mountain. The sign is just letting you know, it’s not all for nothing. At the very top, on both sides of the trail they’ve built small wooden platforms with benches. The sky is a deep purple, and on one side you have the Atlantic, on the other side the Gulf of St Lawrence. A nice way to end my day.

After a steep desent, I finally see what I’ve been waiting for. A shelter.

Turns out I walked 25 miles today. Time to stetch, hang my food, and go to bed. Today was a good day.

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Day 0 – The long road to the start

Waking up in a cold Quebec airport at 3am isn’t exactly my idea of fun, but that’s when the United lady said they’d open again, so there I was. As if I had a choice. The flight had long been payed for, they just wish to run me through security again. I don’t blame them.

This place had been empty the past 10 hours. Now, long before daylight, hundreds of french speaking Canadians have swarmed what was my quiet space. I gathered that they were all leaving in an hour for Toronto. I on the other hand still had yet another 6 hours to walk around the very small airport before my flight to Gaspe would arrive. Mostly trying to not look suspicious, in reality stumbling to different seats and tables, falling asleep. A 22hr lay over, and a glass of beer was 10$. I had no choice but to sleep.

A lady goes on about how her son has a 2 story house, a wife, and a steady lobstering job at the age of 24, she follows up with how she would slap me if I were her son, for doing what I’m doing. She’s seemingly the only person here that doesn’t speak french, unfortunately. Lived in Quebec all her life. I can’t imagine, never picking up the dominant language. Seriously everyone here speaks french, and seemingly most don’t know english. How could you live?

From one incredibly small airport to another. I am reminded yet again how amazing it is to fly. Looking down on clear blue lakes, and meandering rivers. Canadian country roads that appear so haphazardly placed it could be a puzzle. Soaring above the clouds free to observe the light hues our atmosphere creates when there’s nothing left but dust.

My last flight before I begin walking. 2 days travel at 450mph to do what will take me the next 6 months to reverse on foot. It’s off to a good start, I’m in some special seating, no one next to me, no one in front of me, and I’m able to kick my legs up and really stretch, while the sardines behind stare on at the stupid American up front.

This particular airport doesn’t get many commercial flight. Only 2 a day at most, and only via propeller plane. The building is smaller than my parents home. Me and maybe 5 others get off here.

I made it! Freedom! Finally! No longer couped up in an airport, no longer with anything to do other than to walk. Given my shit understanding of kilometers j had previously gathered I have about 34 miles to walk from the airport, to the official start of my journey.

Immediately cursing myself for printing such poor directions for this first step. Why do none of the roads have signs? I’ve only walked 200 ft and it’s already unclear where to go. Note for next time. If before you leave on a trip, you’re already calling your map crude, it’s going to be especially crude once you’re trying to rely on it. Come to think of it, I’ll likely be cursing myself once again 400 miles from now in New Brunswick.

Walking to Gaspé is exciting, and wonderful, and why are there beautiful women everywhere riding bikes? I don’t know, but this place is great, and i love it here. Greeted by wide open waters, and a view of the city in the distance. Walking through valley roads, now for the next 20 miles to be walking along the coast.

Everyone has prime real estate here. From the ice cream place to one of a hundred car mechanics. They’re all overlooking the water, up in the mountains, and just a skip away from a national park. I quickly create the game “I would live there,” where I point out every home that I would happily reside. It’s truly never ending.

Quebec is beautiful in so many ways. If only I spoke french, I probably would take much longer getting through these areas. I still wonder how to pronounce Bonjor properly. I do enjoy the back and forth of it though. They say Bonjor, I say hello. They say Merci, I say you’re welcome.

Although today has been exclusively a roadwalk, I have no complaints, it’s an area you really have to see for yourself. It’s incredible here. I almost feel like I’m going to see a moose before I even enter the mountains. Wild, yet inhabited.

Today I walked 23 miles on asphalt, and I have 11 more to go tomorrow before the journey truly begins. Which brings me to the question, if you yourself were to wish to hike the International Appalachian Trail…. should you too, do this walk, or get a ride (I think there are buses.) I want you to consider it, but i wouldn’t recommend it. Along the way there has been multiple options for lodging, lots of amazing views, but the obvious downside, you’re walking a thin line next cars. I personally would do it again.

Well my dear reader, tomorrow is the big day. Tomorrow I begin the Eastern Continental Trail, and arrive at Cap Gaspé. The first steps in the long journey home. It’ll be nice to be off this road, and up in the mountains I’ve been looking at. For now, I’m at a really amazing hostel for the night in the very small town of Cap-Aux-Os (I tink.) It’s a pretty good stopping point, only 11.5 miles away from where I want to be.

Tomorrow will likely be another 20miles total. The first 400 miles of this trip, I will do what feels best, but am trying to keep that pace. Slow and steady, honestly.

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Gaspé

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I would live there.

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