Day Twenty-three: Rivière-du-Loup

Yesterday’s uphill hike in the strong cold wind took more out of us than we realized and we woke up rather tired today. So we scrapped plans for a hike today to a glacial lake and decided to meander slowly toward Rivière-du-Loup. It would normally be about a 3-hour drive…it took us almost eight because of all the stops we made along the way!

We spent a good half hour in Ste-Anne-des-Monts parked along the pier, identifying birds and ducks. A new one for us was the black guillemot.

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A little further along the road we spotted a large bird sitting on a pile of stones off shore. Initially we had high hopes it was a golden eagle since they have been seen nesting in nearby Gaspésie National Park but it was an immature bald eagle.

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Impressive nonetheless.

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Our next stop was in Cap Chat to see the world’s tallest vertical wind turbine (it makes the other “regular” wind turbines look tiny by comparison).  It was in operation from 1983-1992. The site is now open for guided tours.

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The tide was out as we drove along the coast today which made for a far different experience from yesterday. There was no wind, we explored tidal flats, and unusual rock formations.

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One of the biggest surprises happened in Matane. The river was covered in white birds…snow geese, as far as the eye could see. There must have been thousands of them. For birders like us, it was a big thrill!

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In Ste-Flavie, we discovered the stunning sculpture art of Marcel Gagnon. It’s a gallery plus a restaurant and guesthouse but you can’t drive by without noticing. Here’s why.

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We both kept seeing these odd rock shapes along the water’s edge. I tried to zero in with the binoculars but because we were driving I couldn’t get a good focus. The top of the rocks seemed to curve upward. I had a hunch but wasn’t sure until we found a spot to stop.

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My hunch was right! There were seals resting on the top of rocks at low tide.

We also saw quite a few whales today when we stopped for our daily picnic lunch. Always exciting!

The Pointe-au-Père lighthouse was a surprise (unusual design) as was the submarine (the first Canadian submarine open to the public).

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We learned at this stop that during WWII, German submarines came into the St. Lawrence. As a result, special radio transmission stations (Marconi once again) were set up along the shore and blackouts were established in all the coastal communities.

My favourite spot was definitely Bic National Park. We pulled into a small cove just off the highway and entered another world. Beauty in all directions, and so peaceful.

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Tonight we’re in Rivière-du-Loup and the forecast is for 100 km/hour winds and heavy rain overnight. Happy to be inside, dry and warm. Hopefully, the storm will have blown over by morning.

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Day Twenty-two: Ste-Anne-des-Monts

Looking back on today’s journey, I think I’d describe it as a rollercoaster ride. A lot of ups and downs, literally.

First we hiked up to Cap Gaspé.

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It’s a point of land in Forillon National Park that juts out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It’s a four km hike, mostly uphill, especially the last half km. The cliffs in the eastern side fall 700  feet to the ocean but where the lighthouse is located, it’s about 300 feet above the crashing waves. It’s also where the Appalachian Mountains meet the Atlantic Ocean and is the head of the Appalachian Trail.

The Mi’kmaq called it Gaspeg meaning Land’s End. From the lighthouse, we took a trail down the cliff through the woods to a lookout point.

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We saw a whale, seals, and many seabirds.

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In the distance, we even saw this.

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It was easy to imagine Jacques Cartier or Samuel de Champlain was sailing past, and we had slipped through a gap in time.

Hiking back down, the foliage was brilliant.

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Snuggled into the trees I spotted a sleeping porcupine.

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As we were driving out of the park, we saw something unusual crossing the road and so we stopped for a closer look.

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It was a lynx!

The rest of the day was spent driving up and down high mountain roads and deep valleys. I can’t count how many times I have said “Wow!” on this trip. Every turn offers a new feast for the eyes.

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One of our many detours was along a dirt road that climbed steeply upward.

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Suddenly the road took a sharp turn and head straight down toward the ocean. It took my breath away.

Our destination was yet another lighthouse (Pointe-à-la-Renommée) but of greater interest was the building where Marconi set up the first maritime radio station in 1904.

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The northern coast of the Gaspé Peninsula is far more dramatic than the south side. The mountains are steeper and more rugged, the wind blows harder, and the coastal villages seem to hug the shelter of the coves more tightly.

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In one community, we found a covered bridge.

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And in another, we came upon a 115 foot sailboat in the harbour.

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We chatted with the owner who is waiting for a break in the weather so he can sail it to Lake Ontario.

After that we had a long stretch of road with mountains on one side and crashing ocean on the other.

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We’re now officially on our way home, having turned west after leaving Cap Gaspé and Land’s End this morning. Still a few more days to go and places to discover!

Day Twenty-One: Cap-aux-Os

You never know what the day will offer.

This morning at breakfast, we were chatting with a couple from France. They told us about a boat tour around Percé Rock and Bonaventure Island. It was a beautiful morning – clear sky and sunshine – so we decided to do it.

It wasn’t until we had bought our tickets and were approaching the boat that I questioned my sanity. The boat was bouncing up and down at the wharf like Tigger having an exuberantly happy day. My stomach lurched and I reached for gravol (which I carry in my purse just in case!)

Getting on the boat involved two men pushing a passenger on board in perfect timing as the edge of the boat rose with the swell to meet the wharf…and two other men catching the passenger on the other side.

The swells increased as we headed out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence but the photo opportunities were worth it (although we nearly froze even with all our warmest layers on). Thankfully, the gravol helped!

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The view of Percé was extraordinary and as we passed Bonaventure Island, we saw grey seals and a huge gannet nesting area. All the photos are on my good camera though and I haven’t had a chance to download them yet.

We dawdled around Percé all morning, checking out historical buildings, and wandering along the shore.

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Then we continued our drive along the coast. Once again, the view was awe-inspiring – mountains in every direction and more hues of orange, yellow, red and green than I dreamed possible. We certainly lucked out with our timing for this trip in terms of seeing the peak of the fall foliage.

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As we came around the other side of the bay, I was able to capture one more shot of Percé Rock with an abandoned house in the foreground.

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The City of Gaspé is nestled into a mountainside on the Bay of Gaspé. It’s a picturesque spot with great views in all directions including these tidal flats.

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Tonight we’re staying in a former school in Cap-aux-Os, about 20 minutes east of the city of Gaspé. The bedroom appears to have been a classroom with the original wooden cupboard doors in one corner, and big windows overlooking the playground. Funny how schools always feel like schools no matter how they are repurposed.

Tomorrow we get to explore Forillon National Park. And it looks like another nice day.

Day Twenty: Percé, Québec

We started and ended today in the fog. The drive began in Bathurst, New Brunswick which I am sure is beautiful in the sunshine and the summer.

As we drove to Campbellton, the colours in the trees were stunning in spite of the foggy conditions.

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We crossed the bridge at Campbellton and arrived in a new province and a new time zone.

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As the day progressed, we travelled through history once again. This mural, in the shape of a Canada goose, captures the life of people in the Carleton-sur-mer region and celebrates the 250th anniversary of the community.

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The fog finally lifted for a while and we were able to get some spectacular views of the surrounding countryside as we headed east along the Gaspe Peninsula.

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We climbed Mont Saint-Joseph in the hope of getting a better view. Instead, we found snow and entered an even thicker fog bank.

 

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In Bonaventure, we stopped at the Quebec Acadian Museum to see a display of work by two local rughooking artists. Unfortunately the museum was closed for lunch. So I took this photo instead.

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A little further along the coast in Paspébiac, we came upon a series of buildings that had been built between 1783 and 1900 by fishing companies from Jersey.

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Paspébiac was Quebec’s first cod fishing port. It has Basque roots and the residents’ accent is different from the rest of the region.

In Chandler, we took a walk along the beach to stretch our legs and enjoy the crashing of the waves along the shore.

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And tonight we’re in Percé. Although we can’t actually see the Rock because of the fog. Since it’s past the tourist season, very few restaurants are open. We went to one that was recommended but we were turned away because it was fully booked by a large group. We went to a pub that only offered drinks, no food (although we were told we could go to the grocery store next door and bring some food back to the pub).

We ended up at a small bistro where we were the only customers. The menu was limited to four items (end of season) but it was just what we needed.

Here’s hoping for clear skies tomorrow!

 

Day Nineteen: Bathurst, New Brunswick

Today it rained. And rained. And snowed. And rained.

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We crossed the border into New Brunswick first thing and stopped to buy a map. At the roadside stop, there were three larger-than-life semi-palmated plovers with some facsinating information about these and other shore birds.

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After breeding in the Arctic, they spend the summer months in the mudflats along the Bay of Fundy eating shrimp-like creatures. They eat until they have doubled in size and then fly 4300 km non-stop to South America.

We were lucky enough to see some semipalmated plovers on our travels.

Although the weather wasn’t great, we did identify a few more birds today. We found some Dunlin, Greater Yellowlegs, Hooded Mergansers and Black Ducks. I did try to take some photos but they didn’t turn out that well.

We stopped for our picnic lunch on Hay Island near Neguac. We were in the heart of the Acadian Peninsula, and the lighthouse was painted in the colours of the Acadian flag.

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For those unfamiliar with the tragic history of the Acadians, they were of French descent and settled in the Maritimes in the 17th and 18th century. Between 1755 and 1764, the British forcibly removed the Acadians and deported them to France, Britain and the Thirteen Colonies (which later became the U.S.). Approximately 11,500 of the 14,000 Acadians were deported.

As we drove along the coast of the Acadian Peninsula and out to the Islands of Lameque and Miscou, the Acadian flag was proudly waving in front of homes and businesses, painted at the base of telephone poles, on boats and even on buildings.

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Fortunately the rain lifted when we reached Miscou Island. It was one of the first areas explored by Jacques Cartier in 1534. It was a fishing base for Basque fishermen, fishermen from the Isle of Jersey and for Acadians. Indigenous people had seasonal hunting camps there.

Today, the majority of residents speak French and fishing is still the major industry (lobster and herring).

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Most of the island’s peat moss has not been harvested and there are boardwalks through the area.

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Miscou Island’s lighthouse was built in 1856 and is still in use.

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We were able to go inside for a tour right up to the top.

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Sheltered from the wind beside the replica of the lighthouse keeper’s house, we could see the coast of Gaspe (our destination tomorrow).

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