Into the wilds of Quebec

Quebec City, Day Four

We woke early (6:30 is early!) and walked down the road to the Hilton to collect the hire car from Avis. Decked out in our new boots and carrying our backpacks and rain jackets, we got to the hotel a little early. Avis’s offices are right next to the restaurant and, as we hadn’t yet had breakfast, we went and had their buffet breakfast. Not the greatest really but it was enough to line our stomachs before our two hour car ride into Quebec’s wilderness.

We were given the keys to a Dodge Dash and a parking ticket for downstairs. When we got down there and drove the car to the boom gates and stuck the ticket in, we were informed we had to pay $10. Hmmm, something not right there. However, I was willing to pay it to get out of there. Glen wasn’t so he won the short straw and got to go back upstairs to Avis and find out what the hell was going on. Turns out you put the ticket in, press the phone button and a lady comes out and lets you out if you saw you’ve just hired the car. Handy instructions to be given when first picking up the car, yes? Maybe he’d had a late night. It was the day after a public holiday after all.

The sat-nav was handy as it meant we didn’t have to chew through the data on our phones finding out how to get to La Mauricie National Park. As it was, it was pretty direct and there wasn’t much traffic getting out of the city at 8am. Soon we were on the open road, zooming along doing 110kmh into the beautiful countryside. It rained for part of the way and stayed cloudy for the rest but it didn’t rain hard so that was fine, just added to the adventure.

We stopped in Shewarnagan at a supermarket to get some picnic lunch stuff then drove a little further to enter the national park. Very handy to stop in at the visitors’ centre as the guy there gave us a booklet with a map and he highlighted the key viewing points along the 67km road through the national park. I thought we might do a bit of hiking but Glen seemed surprised, and with the threat of rain, being out too long probably wasn’t wise. Plus we weren’t really prepared for it. We also wanted to go canoeing but that didn’t seem possible either. Instead, we were given six of the best spots along the way from one end to the other, with views across the lakes. You can also do bigger walking trails that last upwards of seven hours or head into the far reaches of the park, going by canoe, to camp up north.

At our first stop, my left foot started to hurt from the new shoes. The pain on my ankle bone didn’t subside the whole day and now, at 8:30 at night, it still aches. I think it’s bruised. Hopefully I’ll adjust over time and just need to wear them a bit more. If not, does anyone want some shoes?

We had a variety of views along the way, from down at water level to up at peaks looking down at the valley and the forest.

Stop 1: Baie-à-la-pêche

We walked about twenty metres to a little lookout along Rivière Saint-Maurice.

Grey day to start with.
Grey day to start with.

Stop 2: Lac-du-fou

Our first little trek along a trail, about half a kilometre long. The forest here is Laurentian Forest. There’s moss over everything, lots of greenery (autumn colours not yet taken over), and fungi everywhere you look. I had hoped to see animals during our visit to La Mauricie but had to make do with fungi. So many different varieties in a multitude of colours, shapes and sizes. Absolutely stunning! At the end of this trail we looked out over Lac du Fou. The clouds were low and dark and the water still. So peaceful.

And here’s the fungi (just some of the photos I took around the park)…

Stop 3: Lac Èdouard

Missed the turn off for this because the sign said Lac Ètienne instead. Saw some ducks and trees that had their white bark torn off in strips to reveal smooth red below (like roll-ups). We then walked the track in vain hope of seeing a beaver. We saw a dam but no beaver.

Stop 4: Le Passage

One of the highest points to stop in the park, giving you a good view of the valley below. Marred only by seeing the road just beneath you.

View from le passage
View from le passage

Stop 5: Wapizagonke look-out (first down the hill)

Not a planned stop but we went anyway to see another view across the lake (the sun had come out by then so we got a different impression of the park) and we walked around a bit. As at many of the stops, we were the only ones there and the place was so serene, so beautiful, just the sound of the lake and the sight of these impressive forests.

Stop 6: Ile-aux-pins

Panoramic view. (Not exactly correct but close enough and you get the idea).
Panoramic view. (Not exactly correct but close enough and you get the idea).

By far my favourite stop. We walked through the little bit of forest to a look-out that gave us a magnificent view over Lac Wapizagonke as it wound in between the forests and stretched as far as the eye could see. There were also two people canoeing on the lake. Definitely going to do that next time. We stayed here for a while just drinking in the sight.

Stop 7: Shewenegan

Our last stop and probably the longest walk we did. Even though it was only a couple of kilometres, that was about all my ankle could take. Stupid shoes. We stopped here to check out Les Cascades, walking along the dry rocks beside the water as it descended down the hill. Along the track we saw our first mammal, a squirrel that had been sitting by the path and I disturbed as I walked by. Incredibly cute, much smaller and redder than the ones I’ve seen in Toronto, which are large and quite black. This one was almost chipmunk like. It scampered into the undergrowth and circled around behind us before disappearing. YAY!

Then we almost stepped on the remains of a reptile, possibly a small snake.

After our loop around the cascades, we headed back to the car and began our two hour journey home, this time with Glen driving.

So our trip to La Mauricie was a wonderful success. Being during the week, just after the summer and on a slightly rainy day, we had a great time exploring this beautiful forest without a huge presence of tourists. Definitely a perfect time to visit. My one disappointment is not seeing many animals. We were in Black Bear country after all, yet I didn’t see any sign of bears. Or beavers. Or otters. Or moose. Sigh. Maybe elsewhere.

Glen’s keen to canoe and go camping so we might come back here another time or work towards taking some time to explore the Algonquins which are closer to home.

I’m so glad we took the time to hire a car and drive out there. It’s definitely been a highlight of our stay here.

We dropped the car off and handed the keys in to the guy. We had booked the car until 7am tomorrow morning but we don’t really have any need of it so it was good to give it back and not have to worry about it further.

For dinner we went down Rue St-Louis and settled on a restaurant that I think was a mix of Italian and French. Glen ordered a mixed grill and I had chicken and tarragon. I had asked about the tortellini but it had veal in it so I didn’t get it. The waiter brought me tortellini. I sent it back and I’m glad it didn’t appear on the bill. Our mains arrived. They were nice and filling. Our water glasses weren’t refilled the whole time. It’s not like they were busy. There were three waiters and three full tables of two people each. Hardly run off their feet. I ordered fruit salad for dessert. It came from a tin. We waited about ten minutes after finishing for the check. Terrible, terrible service. Ugh. At least the mains were nice.

Our last day in Quebec City tomorrow. Kind of wish we had an earlier flight as we’ve done most of the things there are to do in the city. Never mind though. Lunch at Parliament tomorrow and a visit to the Musee de Civilisation.

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