The Traversee de Charelvoix
In my last blog I shared my story of falling in the water at the end of the Sentier L’Orignac and my good fortune in meeting the angel of Charlevoix, Johanne Leduc. As it turned out, Johanne is also the Directrice generale of the 110km Traversee de Charlevoix, the longest of the five trails I had to hike next in the Charlevoix region. Meeting her was incredibly good fortune as there was much to know about this trail that I did not know. The first being that one really should hike the trail from west to east, not east to west as I was about to do. The second, one should register with their office in Saint Urbain before hand so you can get good maps and more importantly, the key to the 6 log cabins built along the trail for hikers to stay in.
Johanne also introduced me to Mr. Fortin, the man with the vision to build the Traversee de Charlevoix. It is always an honour to meet the people with the vision and passion to build the trails I travel.
Originally he conceived of the 110km trail and log cabins as a winter trail for backcountry skiers but now folks hike it in spring, summer and fall as well. About 500 people a year hike or ski the trail and it is a beautiful example of how a community can preserve their environment and still bring money to their local economy, forever. The cool thing about the cabins is if you want to pay, you can hike carrying nothing and arrangements can be made to have your food and gear moved daily from cabin to cabin. Or for a lesser fee you can carry your own gear and just sleep at the cabins as I did. You can find more info here
After our visit we went to the office and Johanne kindly suggested I lighten my backpack by leaving some things behind, like my tent, and kitchen kit as the cabins had propane stoves, which I did. Then she drove me to the beginning of the trail. We laughed a lot, like old friends, and took a selfie together and then she left and I started hiking down the trail only to realize that I did not have maps or the key to the cabins. I quickly ran hoping to catch her but she had driven away. So now I was on a trail with no tent, no stove, no maps and no cabins. At this point I could have walked back to the road and hitch hiked back to the office or I could proceed and have faith that things would work out. I opted for the second option and continued to hike. A while later I saw a small sign pointing down a single track trail to an old log cabin. I figured it must be one of the cabins. I climbed up the stairs to a funky wood porch and peered through the windows to see a wood stove and a wooden table with hand made chairs.
For two hours I just sat on that porch, looking out towards a lake and a large rock escarpment and considered sleeping on the porch. At least I would be off the ground and under some cover in the event of rain. But then the mosquitos started arriving. The door to the cabin was locked but I decided to try and open a window. I had already tried once to no avail. But to my amazement, on my second try, I managed to find one I could slide open about a foot. So I slid my backpack in first, then sucked in my gut and slid my body through. Once inside I looked around and noticed there was no propane stove or mats for sleeping bags and I thought it was strange that Joanne had told me not to bring the stove and thermarest. But then I shrugged it off and found a bench that I would sleep on, lit the wood stove, dug out my charleovix cheese and baguette, lit a candle and marvelled at how different it felt to be in a cabin where everything was hand built, where there was no power or running water or wifi, where time seemed oddly to stand still.
The next morning I ventured back to the trail, and saw a moose, only the second one I had seen in almost a year. For a few sweet minutes we stood still looking at each other and then I slowly moved to get my camera and she bolted. Got a few seconds though on my camera phone before she disappeared altogether.
The trail is mostly single track with some dirt road sections woven in and there is a lot of climbing up and down the Charlevoix mountains, which average 4000-5000 feet. It is a challenging hike. Cell service is sparse but I was able to send Ann a text asking her to let Johanne know I had no key or maps. I learned later Johanne sat up panicked in bed that first night as she realized I had no maps and key. So when Ann contacted her she had already sent the key and maps out with a couple who were heading for the same cabin I was hiking towards on day 2. When I finally got the maps I realized the cabin I had stayed in the night before was not one of the Charelvoix cabins. And for some reason this still makes me laugh.
Day four I came around a corner on the trail and almost walked into a porcupine. Spent a half hour looking at each other with equal amounts of curiosity. And later that night a spectacular sunset.
After six days on the trail I had hiked to the place I had stopped a week earlier and Ann picked me up and we reconnected with Johanne and her partner Charles at their off the grid home in the mountains. Charles was the one who had initiated the UNESCO designation for the area and both of them have played important roles in helping Mr Fortin in building and maintaining the Traversee de Charlevoix. I am so glad I fell in that water to meet them all. Sometimes things go wrong so that things can go right. They are the spirits of the Charlevoix region.
The next day I returned to the trail to hike five more trails to Baie Saint Paul. They varied in distance and are all great day hikes for those interested in a mellower hiking experience. When I reached Baie Saint Paul we were offered accommodation at the beautiful Gite TerreCiel B&B by a kind man and film supporter David Mancini. Home made waffles, fresh local maple syrup, local cheese and a super cool town filled with art galleries and restaurants. I will return.
From Baie Saint Paul I mountain biked to Beaupré, Quebec then slipped onto a beautiful bike trail that continues right through Quebec City to Montreal. This section is like a five star trip through the Riviera after the strenuousness of the Charlevoix, and for those not wanting rugged, you can ride the tctrail from Quebec City to Montreal staying in funky towns like Warwick which has a B& B right on the trail and the town is a wonderland for cyclists.
I am now in Montreal prepping to leave again tomorrow to follow the tctrail into the Laurentians. Yesterday I hooked up with the lovely folks at the Trans Canada Trail office in Old Montreal which sits right across the street from the trail and they filmed this interview.
Until next time, à bientôt