A 48hours at Grands-Jardins
I was recently asked by la SEPAQ to pick a National Park I always wanted to go, and document the park for a couple of days. These kinds of contracts are always the funnest because you have no, or barely any strings attached when coming to create. It’s stimulating, and they want you to document the area with your own creativity.
I was pretty stoked and it was a very hard decision because there’s a lot of parks I haven’t been yet that I really want to go, so picking only one might of been the hardest thing to do in preparation to the actual assignment.
However, I decided to go with Grands-Jardins National park. I have always seen so many beautiful imagery coming from that area and have also herd so much about it. But the final decision came because I knew there was a herd of Woodland Caribou, my favorite animal. Now, I am going to stop you right here - I did not see any, they are a critically endangered species, but being in their habitat was just as rewarding.
So here I was, on my way up in my little corolla excited to discover a new park. The drive was approximately 5hours and brought me on scenic roads once we passed Quebec city. I definitely felt the shift of being higher in Altitude and especially when it came to reaching the parks main road. The bold mountains welcoming me on each side, I finally made it to the main building just in time for check in.
I am so used to being in a tent, that it was a real treat when I arrived to my cabin. There was a shower, fire place, cozy mattress with sheets, kitchen, ELECTRICITY AND RUNNING WATER! The list goes on, but my favorite part was the view. My cabin looked on to one of the bold mountains that welcomed me into the park and it was quite a show to just sit and stare.
It was late afternoon, and as much as I would of wanted to stay and fiddle with all the little gadgets, I wanted to stretch out my legs and do a small hiking trail before settling down for the night.
Sentier Le Gros-Pin was the trail of choice, at KM19. A small 2km walk through the forest where I was able to follow a soothing river. The perfect trail for anyone who needs some fresh air, and calmness without having to work your muscles too hard.
It was raining, but I was well dressed and being under the trees kept me a bit more dry. I love these kinds of walks because they’re very calming. Sort of like a meditation. Not going to lie I was a bit nervous about the whole adventure thanks to my mental health issues but at that specific moment my whole body was completely relaxed. I noticed a lot of beautiful birch trees and it reminded me to a conversation I had with a Native from Ontario telling me that Birch has calming effects on humans and that he was always told that when feeling a bit down, to sit by a Birch and your spirits would lift.
After the walk, I head back to my cabin. Pulled out my cooking skills (totally just kidding, if you know me personally you know that I am a very basic chef hahaha!) and made myself a bowl of pasta and stared into the little fire until it was time to hit the bed for a good nights rest.
The wind really started to pick up, to the point where I couldn’t fall back to sleep with the fear of a tree hitting the cabin or my car. Laying in bed, being too dark to actually see what was happening outside, to only listen to what seemed the storm of the century was pretty intense. I grabbed my head phones and put on a sleep story that helped me get through a big part of the night.
My biological clock made me get up at 6:30am, one hour before sunrise. My original plan was to hike up La Chouenne (5km) to shoot the sun waking up over the mountains, however the winds were so strong I was drinking my coffee in bed wondering if it was even safe to go.
7am came and I noticed the sun was slowly starting to rise and decided to go anyways. If I didn’t make it to the top, at least I was out and would not have any regrets.
La Chouenne is about 5km and it is a nice hike for intermediates who want a little challenge. The elevation is enough to keep you pumping and working for it, but not too intense to the point you want to give out. The distance is perfect and the view at the top is quite rewarding.
However this time, I did not make it to the top.
Let me rewind a bit and explain hahaha. So I started the trail, the wind was ridiculously strong, but being in the trees made it not so bad. It was also my first snow of the season, as I watched the light snow being carried in this some what blizzard. The trees were sugared as well as the path. The sun was trying to shimmer it’s way through the clouds and storm, but managed to peak out every once in a while, and when it happened the green of the Nordic trees would pop out making it feel enchanted.
Arriving at the before last look out, the wind was a lot more aggressive. I was able to pull out my camera and at least try to get one shot but the light, wind and everything else made it incredibly difficult. Difficulty led to frustration of making it this far and literally seeing the top but not being able to make it.
Going a few steps higher, I lowered onto the cold ground and just stared sitting down. A part from the high winds, the view was incredible. Amongst the chaos, it was comforting. Strange, I know and it’s quite difficult to explain, but I then calmed right down, took a few gulps of water and turned around to calmer grounds.
On my way to my cabin, I stopped into the main lodge to get information on a few things. As I entered a lady came up to apologize due to the fact that during my hike, we all lost electricity due to… well the now infamous blizzard. She reassured me the power should be back on soon, and then I had to reassure her that I was fine, and honestly it really was not a big deal. I would most likely be gone most of the day anyways.
Fire started, I sat down to look at the map and see what my next moves were for the day. It was definitely too windy to go on any mountainscape hikes, and I wasn’t going to sit around and do nothing either.
The lady at the main lodge previously suggested to perhaps go for a drive to the Arthabaska center. The road to get into the area has been shut down for the season, but you can still do it on foot. I also remembered reading about how the woodland Caribou have a tendency to hang out in that area so why not going to check it out?!
Just the drive to arrive to the road closure was breathtaking. Huge mountains hugging each side of the road, the lakes in between looking fresh and clear. I am quite amazed about the territory. A mixture of the boreal forests and the Northern regions all into one. Lichen (Caribous main food source) scattered everywhere kind of reminding me from the trip to Eeyou Istche I did earlier in the summer.
I arrived at the road block, parked the car and went to the map to see the distances.
It was an easy 6km walk on this road (one way) before even arriving at the hiking trails. I knew right then I would do the whole way, but had to at least walk a distance in the hopes of spotting perhaps some wildlife along the way.
A lot of poop, I examined it using two sticks to try and identify which animal it could be. I have to admit I am not super good at detecting and tracking animals yet, but it’s a subject I find so intriguing and if you don’t try you can’t learn.
About 20 years ago, the park underwent a pretty big forest fire. You can still see the damages that occurred in certain areas and it makes you realize how fragile our planet is. Of course forest fires are actually a good thing (as long as they are stabilized) for any ecosystem. I think it was a very enriching view because it made you think about everything we are doing to the planet giving us clearance to want to improve our ways.
My muscles were starting to cramp up and knew it was time to do a U turn and walk back. The slightest thought of having to do the whole road again back, with the same view kind of drove me crazy but then again, I just started zoning out as if I was meditating.
Officially back at the cabin, and still no power, I chilled on my bed for a while until two SEPAQ workers show up with more wood and water. I thanked them and threw another log in and took a minute to relax. In these down times, I like to stretch and do a couple of yoga postures to help soothe the muscles. I also drenched my body in AIM cream, an all natural muscle cream to ease the inflammation.
It was late afternoon again, and the winds finally started to calm down. Feeling defeated by mother nature, I decided to rehike La Chouenne and actually make it to the top this time.
The wind definitely felt calmer, but the cold quickly came in and I was very thankful for bringing warm clothes. It was nice being able to redo the same path, this time actually being able to see a little clearer and take in the scenic views.
Before you knew it, I was on top and the view was completely insane. I was stoked, thanking mother nature endlessly. There was no sunset, the grey clouds were dense and covering the whole sky, but that was okay. It was really just nice to be at the top, looking down at the region.
Back at the cabin, still no electricity, I was happy to have brought my little camping burner and made the other half of the pasta. It wasn’t long after I passed out, looking forward to tomorrows adventure.
I woke up bright and early the following day, perhaps because I fell asleep at 8pm… It was well needed, my muscles were still hurting but I was eager to shoot. The electricity went back on in the middle of the night, I took advantage of it and took a hot shower to warm up. Coffee in hand I stepped outside to fall in love with the blue light kissing the mountains with the fog slowly wandering around. I took my coat, coffee and camera and went for a small walk and drive to shoot before the day even started.
It started snowing again, which made a little excited. I always get super stoked during the first snow fall, it makes me all happy and ready for the next coming months.
The last day I wanted to finish writing, and finalize a few content images of the adventure. Admittingly, the weather was a challenge this time, making it frustrating at times to get the right images. As an artist, you also get harder on yourself during these situations and it’s important to remind ourselves that it’s okay. Yeah sure, the weather sucked, but that’s part of the game and even tho it was frustrating at times, it made the adventure so much better. Sometimes we tend to forget that if there weren’t any hicks along the road, it wouldn’t be called an adventure.
Special thanks to la SEPAQ for making this a memorable assignment and partnership, couldn’t be more stoked.