Thursday, August 18, 2011
oh Canada, oh my!
Some days just heap the rewards, one after another, boom boom boom! I'm going to say that this day was one such runneth over day.
Take the weather. Normally a ho hum subject, but when you have sloshed through wet terrain, you are dazzled when, upon waking, you find a perfect sky. A brilliant, stunning, crispy blue. One they haven't seen at the Gaspesie for a long while.
A good morning photo, taken across the road from the youth hostel, where we pitched our tent:
And one of the hostel itself:
Breakfast -- well, it's a hostel with food on its mind. Good eggs, toast, fruits. I'm looking around the room. Not surprisingly, a young crowd, though with some salt and pepper types as well. We need a ride to the point where we left the trail. That's some ten kilometers up the road from the hostel. Ed thinks I should announce in the dining room that we'll pay someone's entrance fees to the National Park in exchange for the ride to the park. Yes, sure! Graduate students from Montreal. They'll take a free anything. (Most everyone here is from Quebec, quite a number from Montreal.)
And so we pick up the trailhead where we jumped off the IAT yesterday. We're now close to the tip of the Gaspe Peninsula and not surprisingly, we have some day trippers here. It's the place to go if you're in search of the most stunning view this side of the Mississippi. And on this day, this clear and brilliant day, you are in for a heady trip if you follow the portion of the trail that leads up to the observation tower at Mont Saint Alban.
What a view. What a beautiful, beautiful view.
To the north, the wide gulf of the St Lawrence, with Newfoundland on the horizon.
To the east - the Cap Gaspe, our final destination and the end of the IAT. Beyond that, the ocean.
To the south, the coast of the Gaspesie.
To the west - the Appalachian chain that we had walked the past three days.
Most come for the view, then turn around and hike back to the parking lot and so as we continue up and down the IAT, we have the delicious pleasure of a few quiet kilometers. And yes, we see tracks again. As a commenter pointed out, the Gaspesie is uniquely fortunate to have both caribou and moose and I cannot say whose hoof prints we continue to pick up but they are fresh. And large.
(Just so you know, we never on this day run into either.)
As the peninsula grows thinner, the IAT jumps the road and hugs the shore for a bit. We pass an old Gaspe farmstead, recreated to show what life was like for the settlers who came here (from England, France, Italy and shockingly, Poland) to fish in the previous century.
And we continue along the trail. And we are rewarded with something I did not hope to see - a whale, breaching, hump and fin out for the world, or at least for us to see. I was not fast enough with the camera. But, here he is, retreating into the water.(Forgive me, I don't typically post failed shots, but this one has meaning for me.)
Still marveling at the incredible luck of a whale sighting, we continue along the lovely path, through a thicket of firs and meadows of flowers...
...except, something is there ahead of us, an obstacle of sorts...
Ed, that is a black bear!
We pause. He doesn't see us, he is busy eating. But he's advancing toward us.
Act big, Ed they say that you have to act big if they approach!
I am big. Stand quietly. Wait.
I stand quietly, but with arms out, hoping that I seem big to the bear even if he could nicely tear me up with one swipe of his paw.
But he doesn't do that. He looks at us, hesitates, turns around and goes back, veering off the path into the thicket of flowers, with one last soulful look in our direction. The Ferdinand of bears, lost in his world of flowers and berries.
We continue and now I'm just so psyched for wildlife. A whale, a bear, what next?
A porcupine. Retreating as we walk down the trail.
And now is the time to concentrate on the flowers, the cliffs, the deeply blue waters that are a constant presence on this portion of the IAT.
I never got tired of it. Each turn delivers a view that was exciting, fresh.
We've been hiking for some six hours and we cross the road again and start climbing for what is the final ascent. Up up the last of the Appalachian summits, with a pause on a beautifully positioned wooden bench, just before the last decent.
And then suddenly, there is the lighthouse. The end of the IAT.
And it catches me in the throat, in a really satisfying way. The end of a fifty kilometer journey, a breeze today, more like a hurricane the previous days. But always majestically beautiful.
There is a map of the entire trail -- the blue northern stretch is where the AT changes to the IAT.
As we look around the lighthouse and gaze out toward the waters of the choppy ocean, someone points to a dozen seals playing in the water, just to the right of the rocks.
They add a lovely closing moment. The sun is now mellow but still warm. We are surrounded on three sides by water. And the seals play and romp as if there is nothing particularly special about this moment or this day. It is just the way life is.
We have hiked for a long stretch today (without packs we cover twice the distance) and as we walk now along the road toward the park's parking lot, taking in the strong fragrance of golden rod and who knows what else...
...we're also hoping that we'll find someone to give us a ride back to the hostel. And we do! A lovely Italian couple who save us a few hours of walking along the shore road.
It's our last day at the hostel and in the Forillon Park. Thursday afternoon we take the bus half way down the northern shore of the peninsula. They say storms are moving into the region. Funny how inconsequential this is for me now. And how unsettling it was just two days ago.
We eat dinner at the hostel. Tomato soup, seafood, chocolate tarts.
After dinner I want to post, but I cannot stay awake. My thoughts stray. I think back to the bear and the look of indifference in his eyes. Preoccupied with his own food search. He did not know I had a nice trail mix of nuts and raisins and seeds in my bag. Likely he didn't care. Content with what he had before him. A meadow of plants, a breeze from the ocean.