Emerging lazily from out tents, we were overcome by incredible thirst. Our faces were bright red from the wind hindering our every step the day before. Gulping down fresh, sweet mountain water, we slaked our thirst while we lounged about camp, stretching our stiff legs. Despite arriving by car at dusk, it took little imagination to conceive of the beauty of the Chic Choc mountains. The dense trees sheltered us from other campers, but granite topped mountains peeked from behind the clearing morning fog.
The Chic Chocs are a part of the Appalachian mountain range which extends from Georgia to the tip of Gaspe, where we had stood just days before. The Appalachians pick up again in Scotland, scaling the western coast of Norway. Notably, we hiked several sections of the International Appalachian Trail. They receive significant precipitation year-round, likely due to their geography on a slim peninsula surrounded by two frigid and large bodies of water. The materials were in French, so it's an educated guess. The important details? Snow positively dumps on these stunning mountains come winter, and the Gaspesie National Park meticulously grooms the hiking trails for cross country skiing. No snowmobiles, as far as I could tell, are allowed in the park. Should the snow bird in me take wing, I know exactly where to fly!
Feeling the toll of yesterday's bike ride (we were akin to the chicken I had desiccated in the dehydrator last week beyond the point of resuscitation), we chose lazy hikes. Though we were driven to explore, discover the caribou hidden amongst the high tundra, or meet a bull moose in the dark forest, we chose something that would likely offer more bang for our buck. "Lac aux Americains". That's right, American lake. Aptly named, we suggested to another traveler, due to the easy 1 mile walk with a 50 meter elevation gain. The name gained credence with newfound friends. Don't feel too sorry for America. It really was the most beautiful lake in the park. It resembled Chimney Pond, except it almost felt like cheating since our reward was practically next to the parking lot.
Sneaking in one more hike, wary of the darkening thunder heads forming, we scampered up a rocky 3-mile trail which afforded a 360 degree view of the park - and of Mont Albert, the mountain we would have climbed any other day.
Every 30 feet along the trail, a smaller secondary trail wandered into the bush. Signs in French warned visitors at each intersection to maintain course on the marked trail. I took the observation for granted until Sarah pointed out the frequency of each trail. "Moose highways." Indeed she was correct. This place was practically crawling with moose. While we did not encounter more then a startled bunny at the bathhouse, or a leery porcupine along side the road, it truly felt like moose country.
As the clouds gathered, we returned to our tent site, relaxed in the hot shower, and luxuriated in the glory of clean clothing. Retreating indoors for the oncoming rain, we seated ourselves at the resort bar (the only establishment in 50 miles) and ordered drinks. The local brew was fantastic, but cringing at the $10/pint bill, we decided to go for cocktails - at $7 - for our second round. I was dubious if any alcohol was actually in my drink (and wishing for a shot of insulin to help it go down). Okay, so Gaspe National Park isn't exactly famous for its booze. I can live with that. Besides, they let us smelly gypsies use their microwave to make dinner. We've taken to bumming hot water where we can find it, rather than cooking in the rain. Last night was cous cous in the Subway parking lot at sunset (Oh la la, romantique!) and tonight was wild rice with tofu and cheese in the lodge.
Overall, our trip was fabulous. The sun shined when we wanted it. The rain came when we needed it. Our bellies were satisfied and our days were full, and wild, and fun. I would do it again, it a heartbeat.
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for my trip with Will to the Cascades in Washington as we do a section hike of the Pacific Crest Trail.