Down the mountain, passing through land of Christmas trees it’s clear I’m the only one to be out here. Spider webs litter the trail, and within an hour of starting my day I look as though I belong in a Halloween exhibit.
Taking off my hat produces a sound much like peeling an orange. Maybe it’s a testimony to how dirty I am, but I think it’s due to the sticky webbing I’m covered in. Looking down at my shirt I realize it isn’t spiders, it’s caterpillars! And now they’re inching their way across my clothing instead of hanging from the trees. I imagine going to sleep later and waking up with butterflies fluttering out of my sleeping bag the next morning.
River crossings with wooden pallets lain across as a makeshift bridge oddly reminds me of the work I used to do. Easy walking, it’s bittersweet to be walking away from the coast of Quebec. I won’t see the ocean again until I am in Florida, but today is made special because I enter Gaspesie National Park! Well maintained trails, and people to talk to are what I look forward to now.
Met with a public bathroom to set things off I try and charge my phone until a park employee approaches me. Neither of us speak the same language, but I try to explain I’m hiking the SIA (Sentier International des Appalaches) and I’m going up those mountains over there shortly. He furiously taps his watch as if I’ll never make it in time. I smile and go back to my phone.
Instead of having a single track trail from the parking lot to the mountaintop, they have a shuttle that takes tourists 3km to the very base of the first big mountain so the hoards have an easier time. It’s the tallest in the park at 1,268m (Mont Jacques Cartier – 4,160ft) and I refuse a shuttle. Hopping the fence, and making my way up the graven road along a river something big is coming my way fast. A yellow school bus blows by me, easily going 50mph on this winding mountain road. Both beautiful and scary.
The climb was easy, and I make quick work. Nearing the top I go above treeline and the scree begins. No dirt, no grass, just small rocks that make up the trail. In the distance I can see people, a small tower at the summit, lakes below, and many other mountains in all directions.
Leaving the people behind, and their neatly organized trail. I descend the otherside. The rocks are far larger here, and I hop across them no longer following trail markers but instead cairns made by those that have come before me. Large stacks of rocks, like connecting dots. Hopping and climbing, treating myself to the views in the distance, and the beauty in my movements across this strange terrain.
Snow on many of the mountains ahead of me. Odd for July, even more odd for this southern boy. With great joy, the trail even crosses some of these snow fields! I slipped and slid a little but I suppose thats expected for someone without much experience with snow. Alls good, I learn more everyday! Happyness is learning, gaining experience, and forward progress.
Day one in Gaspesie and this trail continues to surprise me. This time not with bad conditions, but instead the most perfect trail ever. Ridge walking, above treeline, across small snowfields, and when I got lower in elevation the trail was still equally as fantastic. Cute meadows, healthy plants and animals, many boardwalks, and here I am feeling great in everyway to fully enjoy all of it.
I stand on a ledge looking back at a mountain I was just on, valley below with a waterfall crashing all the way down, and my day is almost over. Tomorrow I pick up the only package I’ve had sent to Canada. Full of food from home, my tent stakes, water purification, bug spray, soap, knife, and lighter. Yes, 10 full days without these things. I was worried they’d get taken away in the airport, and I don’t need that hassle. Goes to show how little gear you actually need to backpack. Much less than you’d think.
Full of joy I run down the last mountain. Swiftly passing a couple, and dissapearing into the trees. To my amusement there are three already camping where I end up. The real amusement comes when I’m told they’re vegans from New Brunswick, and they have way to much food, and insist that I have some. Vegetable Chili, rice, and flat bread.
Life is too short, not to be doing what you want.