On a perfect, clear, calm day, we sat on the rocks at Cap-de-Bon-Desire. They had seen a Blue and a Fin whale in the morning, so maybe that was it all we would see. I took a little nap on the warm rocks knowing everyone else was on the lookout. After about 30 minutes a whale was sighted. By the time we left for lunch, we had seen three whales. No tail wags, but seeing whales so close is very cool. Sightings are all by chance. We did catch a glimpse of a big one down toward our campground, but it never resurfaced where we could see it.
Martha read a story written by a young Innu who must have been on the river a lot fishing, and he had many stories about the whales. He got to know them well over the years and named each. Apparently their tails are like fingerprints, none being the same. Whales will lay on the surface when sleeping, and he would go up and pet them. He felt the whales could recognize his boat and they would come to him, often following him for long periods of time. Once he had people on board when two whales swimming together lifted his boat, scaring the passengers to death. He explained how man is the scary one as he had seen people shoot whales from shore. Some would harpoon them with big drums attached. The whales would swim until they tired out and they would sink to the bottom and die. It became his quest to stop these things, and through the years he was successful at stopping it.
Topo means story. This museum is situated at the ferry that crosses the St. Lawrence to Trois Pistoles, which by the way was named for a silver goblet that was lost in the river. It was worth three pistoles (Spanish gold coins). Walking in we met Martin, a man of French and Innu heritage, who has a great sense of humor. Surprised to have walked into a coffee shop/gift shop, I began looking at a couple of taxidermy displays. I read about the world-class taxidermy collection. Surely there was more than this. After Martin finished joking with me, we paid $5 each and followed him into a movie room. He sat on the table and for a while explained his heritage and the native heritage of the region. Although his English was pretty good, I had a hard time getting everything. Native Americans have been here since the Ice Age began its retreat, but there was no scientific evidence until Louis Gagnon devoted 20 years to researching the area. The museum tells his incredible story and houses many of his findings. It also tells the story of how difficult it was to travel and survive in the area, showing many of the ways plants and animals were used for medicines and foods. It is not a big museum, but we found we just could not absorb it all in one visit.
The next room is filled with incredible taxidermy displays of so many of the animals and fish of Cote-Nord. Brilliantly done!
You can click on any picture to see a larger view and/or to comment. I have never seen a mink, but these little rascals look soooo cute!
We had previewed a couple of campgrounds on our way to Les Escoumins and found a great one. It’s nice to be able to drive through a campground to preview it. Camping Bon Desir is one of the most beautiful campgrounds I have ever seen with tent and camper spots right on the St. Lawrence. It is setup on different levels of a hillside so each level has great views, like a giant ampitheater. It has several lakes in the campground and there are hiking and bike trails, so today, we packed up and left Tadoussac to move a whole 25km nord (north). Arriving at the campground, the office was closed and the sign on the door listed the taken spots. Just go and pick a spot and tell them when they open at 2:00. There are so many beautiful spots, it was hard to choose, but we settled into #30. The wind was blowing hard and it was still chilly.
We needed groceries, but Martha suggested walking a trail at the north end of the campground. All we had was the campground map, so we had no idea what we were doing except it said 3K. It turned out to be a National Park hike along the St. Lawrence. We had on Keens and a lot of layers that I soon started shedding. I stopped to look at a track that did not look like a person, unless they had a very flat and wide foot. There were no claw marks, but I suspected a small bear. There were beautiful views of the river along the way. Soon we started climbing to the top of a ridge, then winding our way around the cove. I had seen a lighthouse on top and suspected we were going there, but it was more than 3K. After walking for over an hour, we came to a park entry hut. Fortunately Martha had brought the park passes. Those things have really paid off! We bought two types of passes, the National Park passes, which are good for two years, and the Quebec passes, which are the only ones we have used so far. Although most of the parks we have visited are called National Parks, they only take the Quebec pass. You pay for it after eight visits or eight days any park. Then you get one free night of camping and 15% off purchases at their stores.
There is a lot of history of the lighthouse and how they powered their foghorns. Today with all the navigational technology, there is no longer a need for foghorns. They even have a coffee shop. We walked down the trail to a viewing area, which is very cool. It is a rocky outcropping on a point jutting into the St. Lawrence. The wind was still blowing off the water making it chilly, but there is also a glassed-in shelter with a porch on the front where people were gathered. Martha was soon talking to a handsome park ranger whose mission was educating people about the whales and the area. He said it was 300 meters deep right off the point! I asked him if we were at the end of the whale season. Happily, he said no, we are right in the middle. Soon he pointed out a Minke whale about a half mile away. Of course they go down to feed, then surface for air. The ranger said they could surface anywhere, but soon he breached closer to us, and Martha saw him in her binoculars as the crowd in concert said,”Ahhhhh”.
I held the camera at the ready for quite a while, but nothing happened. We happened to be looking straight ahead when he breached right in front of the rocks. Fortunately he gave a big blow to attract everyone’s attention to a concert of “Ohhhhhh”! It was very cool. We will have to make regular trips here – maybe driving up. Walking back toward camp, I heard bells as Martha shoved me off the path. A very professional-looking biker came past saying, “Excusez-moi”. He was riding fast in his official outfit. I was struck by his massive thighs. It wasn’t long before he rode back toward us and stopped, saying he saw a big, black bear and decided to turn around. He was nice enough to warn us and we chatted a bit before he rode on. He rides in competitions and had just done a training event at Massanutten close to where we live. A very nice man, he pilots ships on the St. Lawrence and exercises regularly on the trails along the river. Martha let me walk in front as we continued down the trail. Now we noticed the side trails. I looked for more tracks, but kept my eyes up mostly. Just as we got to camp there was a big trail crossing a boggy creek and going up to a tent site. I noticed it when we started the hike and wondered if people really would walk through that water. Now I realized they wouldn’t.
With boulangerie Pizza and a salad for dinner, we sat in front of a nice fire and marveled at the view. The wind had died down and it was a perfect evening to watch the stars come out. What a spot!
It rained hard all day and night. The internet at this campground has been very spotty, and if you want more than an hour you have to pay $10/device. It’s a very nice campground, well-maintained, clean with nice hiking trails and close to Tadoussac. They just need to improve the WIFI. I continue to have trouble with my Mac connecting to some WIFI’s. There is something a few networks do that my Mac doesn’t like. I have looked at all the settings and read on the net, but I can’t figure it out.
It was a good day to watch one of the movies we bought in Dolbeau, “Dark Places “ with Charlize Theron. It’s a captivating movie, but we only watched half, saving the other half for later. By 10:30 I was stir crazy, so we decided to drive north to Les Escoumins and have lunch at the restaurant Lillian drives out of her way to go to, Pecherie Manicouagan. How truckers drive these roads in good conditions is a wonder to me, but in fog and heavy rain, they just keep zooming along. Even without the trailer, I was driving slow. Of course the scenery makes you slow down on this stretch. Beautiful lake followed beautiful lake. Martha was drooling to kayak any one of them, but Lac Jimmy seemed the prettiest. The clouds were so low, they hung across the mountains. I love that look.
First stop was a Boulangerie (bakery) by the airport in Grandes-Bergeronnes the “chatty guy” had told Martha about. He also said there was a great whale-watching area behind the airport. The Boulangerie was cute and the lady was very nice, speaking good English. We loaded up with a small pizza with bacon, caramelized onion and sharp Canadian cheddar, some sweet rolls for breakfast and a loaf of bread, shaped like a butt (pain d’fesses). Then we drove behind the airport to a beautiful park with picnic tables lining the water’s edge, surely a great place to watch whales, but we didn’t see anything.
We took a turn too soon into Les Escoumins and ended up exploring the town down to the Ferry that takes will take you across the St. Lawrence to Trois-Pistoles. This part of town is native Innu, and we need to come back and explore. Finally arriving at the restaurant, we ordered a glass of wine while studying the extensive seafood menu. So hard to choose! I chose a seafood lasagne with a Ceasar’s salad while Martha ordered clam chowder and smoked salmon. It was reasonably busy for a rainy day, just a bit past tourist season. The service was good and the food was excellent. With windows all around, we enjoyed looking across the bay at the small town. Rt. 138 goes right through town. There is a pretty good-sized Marche (market), so we would have to come back tomorrow.
Stopping back in Tadoussac, we found a beautiful view of the harbor from the top of the mountain. We decided on desert at the Gelateria. A very nice young lady named Majorie helped us. There was no one else in the shop, so we struck up a conversation as she asked where we were traveling and where we were from. We said we couldn’t decide on where to go next – to continue northeast, to cross the St. Lawrence or to go back to pick up Haute Gorge National Park. She used to work at Haute-Gorge and she loves the park. Otherwise she said she hadn’t traveled northeast much, or across the St. Lawrence. Really! I was thinking she just lives in this little town and never leaves. Many people are like that and are perfectly happy with it. It certainly is a beautiful place. Then she told us about going to Chiapas, Mexico and spending two months in the mountains, going to California and New York State and planning a trip now to Peru! We had a great conversation about all these places until more customers came in and we said our goodbyes.
Exploring Tadoussac was the adventure of the day, so we started at the Visitor’s Center where a very nice lady told us where to go and what to see. Martha commented about her ability to write upside down so we could read as she talked. We walked a wooded path to the Marine Environment Discovery Center and Escoumins (lookout point). For $11 each we took the tour. The best thing about the center are the lookout rocks outside, where we saw more Belugas and one big whale. Then Martha hit the shops while I sat outside. An hour later, we had covered the town. While sitting outside one shop, I noticed a local girl leaving a small quick food shack with a paper cone of what looked like fried shrimp. Later we would sample what turned out to be calamari fritters, and they were excellent. Right behind it is a gelateria (gellato) that also serves expresso. We just peeked in for a look, and it looked just like ones we saw in Italy. We decided to return after dinner.
Driving north past our campground, we found the Dunes de Sable that the Visitor’s Center lady suggested. This was a happening! I felt like we were in California or maybe the Baja Peninsula, or maybe a drive-in movie. People were parked along the edge of high, steep cliffs of sand overlooking a beautiful cove. The tide was out, and there was a steady flight of what seemed like thousands of seagulls or terns flying into the beach. We were up so high, they were dots below us. The wind was blowing hard, but people didn’t seem to mind. Some backed their cars in and then put the trunk up. Then they set up chairs behind and had their lunch with the car and trunk lid acting as a wind break. Others parked sideways and took out their chairs. Campers were parked along a tree line, and people were walking down the steep hill to the beach. I put on all the layers I had and walked to the edge of the cliff. I decided I could make it down to the beach, but I would need a chairlift to get me back up the long, steep climb. We ate our lunch in the car and people-watched half the time and beach-watched the other half. Apparently, this is a huge bird-watching area – seabirds, ducks, geese, forrest birds and migrating hawks. At the far end, we took a trail that wound its way to the beach. It wasn’t too bad getting back up.
We returned to the Visitor’s Center to get better WIFI and take care of some business. We decided to return to the Dunes for cocktail hour. By then, the tide was back in and it was raining, giving it a much different look. Still, people came and went. We watched a young family come up from the beach. They were huffing, but they made it. At the far end, a fellow had a small fire going. People came and went, but some were there for the night, one building up sand in front and back of his tires, I guess so the wind wouldn’t blow him off the cliff. It is an incredible spot.
There was a hike with a view in our campground, so after breakfast we set out for a nice stroll and a view. At the beginning of the trail was a rock with the unfamiliar word, Hèbertisme, written on it. After walking up the side of the mountain, we came upon a beautifully mulched trail with a series of challenges built from logs and rope. Kids of all ages would love this. Whoever built this is very talented, and they put a huge amount of work into it. There are also signs explaining the challenges and why they might be useful. For instance in pioneer or native american days, they might be used to cross rivers, creeks or canyons. There are also many signs to educate about plants and trees and their uses. Don’t miss this if you are in Tadoussac!