Month: September 2016

Moving to Tadoussac & Whale Cruise

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60℉ at 4:00am

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

We decided to move to Tadoussac to take the whale cruise while we had some good weather. It is supposed to rain pretty hard Thursday. We love this campground and this area, so we hate to leave. The termite farm helped make the decision. It’s only an hour from Petit Saguenay to Tadoussac, but I drove slower to be more comfortable with the Airstream. Rolling hills is an inadequate description. All of these ancient mountains are straight up and straight down, so it’s tough on the truck’s engine going up and it’s brakes going down. 

All traffic going north and south travel 138, and there is no bridge over the Saguenay, so everyone takes the ferry. Two of them work day and night, and it’s free. Everything gets on – RV’s, motorcycles and tractor-trailers, and it only takes 10 minutes to cross. Beluga whales swam all over the river as we waited to cross. I almost took out a truck’s mirror as we pulled up in our lane on the ferry. A man guides you, and he really wants you to pay attention to him. Unloading two one lane from each side of the ferry, it goes pretty quick. OK, now where is that campground? Martha wasn’t paying full attention as she was looking at all the shops and restaurants. I had to bring her back into the moment. 

We found Camping Des Dunes, and they had a site. I had figured we didn’t need reservations as we headed north after Labor Day, but Tadoussac looked like a tourist beach town in summer. It was hopping! Martha told the lady we wanted to take a whale tour and they offered a 5% discount if they booked it. There was nothing open at 4:30, but we could get on at 1:00. It was 12:30. While Martha paid the bills, I went to park the trailer. I missed the spot and had to back up. By the time I got to it, Martha was there to direct me. We quickly unhooked, grabbed a few things and headed back to town, which is only 5 blocks away. The main attraction here is whale-watching, so the street was busy, and the dock was crowded. One man was directing traffic on the dock- tour busses, tractor trailers either delivering or picking up goods, and lots of touristas. We showed him our 1:00 ticket and he guided us into a parking spot, moving a traffic cone. The lady at the campground said they would hold us a spot. I tried to tip this nice man, but he would have nothing of it.

It was a 3-hour cruise, and once we got into the St. Lawrence it was chilly. We put on what clothes we had grabbed. In our haste I did not bring a camera strap, so I tied a strap to my backpack, which carried another lens. Our wildlife viewing luck hasn’t been too good and it continued. We didn’t see anything but seagulls and hundreds of Cormorants for an hour. All the boats talk to each other, and they are on the water all day, so they usually know where the whales are. We had to go all the way across the St. Lawrence to find them. The lady on the loud speaker of course spoke French mostly, but said a few things in English. We didn’t understand a lot. We ended up seeing maybe 5 different kinds of whales. All I could tell was the white ones were Belugas. Some others were big while others were medium-sized. They were feeding so hard, all you really saw was their backs as they came up for air and went right back down. It was fun and the scenery is pretty, but standing on the rail gets pretty cold. As the boat turned around and headed back to port, we went inside to warm up. Martha was enjoying people-watching and the fashion statements, mostly the men who mixed plaids with stripes.

Getting back to camp, we leveled the trailer and started a fire, cooking sweet potatoes, sausages and onions. Oh yea, and beets.

 

L’Anse Saint-Jean

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49℉ at 4:00, high 82

Monday, September 5, 2016

On a day of perfect weather, we went to Anse Saint-Jean. An Anse is a cove and a Baie is a big bay. Driving through town to the end we parked next to a Fjord National Park sign for a hike. While reading, a couple walked by heading up the trail. The lady stopped and gave us all kinds of information about the area, where to go, what the hikes were like as they had been here a few days. Speaking perfect English, they were from Montreal. The husband was obviously a seasoned hiker – very fit with legs that could walk for days. We took her excellent advice, heading across the covered bridge to the top of the hill for spectacular views. Then we took a short hike to a waterfall, but the real story is the houses of this town. They are so incredibly planted with flowers and plants. The style is so quaint, and I love the colors, the shutters and porches. Many have signs explaining the history or the style. You sometimes feel odd photographing someone’s home, but I could spend a lot more time taking pictures of them in this lovely little town. My favorite is the one that sort of looks like a small train station. I have always loved that design.

Back at camp Martha assigned me to cooking beats in a fire. It takes a long time to cook beets in a fire!! Just stick them in the hottest part of the fire and turn them every half hour for two to three hours! Thankfully the local termites stayed in their house. We had bought some things at a tiny shop on the way to the plage (beach), so we had an appetizer of red deer patè on baguette and a great salad with salmon, three kinds of sprouts and mushrooms. Yum!

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Zodiac Cruise in Parc National Fjord-du-Saguenay

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It was a cool, overcast day for a trip on the Saguenay in a rubber boat, so we dressed warmly. It was also sprinkling rain. Arriving at the visitor’s center at 1:30 we filled out our paperwork, relieving anyone of any responsibility. A young man introduced himself as our guide, asking where we were from as we walked down to the boat. He lives just the other side of Mont Valin. So here we are in Quebec with a very nice guy who lives nearby, and what’s his name? Rafael! I meant to get the rest of the story, but never did. He did an outstanding job of explaining all the intricacies of the Saguenay and the St. Lawrence that makes this place so special. It is difficult to comprehend all of the water in Quebec – all those lakes and big rivers, but add to that the Great Lakes. All of this water drains into the St. Lawrence River! It is 25% of all the fresh water on Earth. As the glaciers formed this area, they cut what would become the river as deep a the mountains are high, and it is pretty much a vertical drop off. As all of this formed, there was a huge pile up of rock, like a huge bull dozer might make an underwater dam in the Saguenay. The Atlantic and Arctic Oceans are flowing into the Gulf of St. Lawrence and into the river, bringing huge amounts of plankton, krill and other foods that whales and other mammals like to eat, but this food source can’t move past that pile-up in the Saguenay. Therefore, the whales and dolphins don’t come either. Most of this water is also fresh water, with some sea water staying on the bottom layer. But past that pile-up where all that fresh water meets that huge flow of seawater filled with food is a very special place. We can’t wait to take that whale cruise!

There is a story about a man driving a wagon on the Saguenay in the winter where the river freezes 12 deep. He broke through the ice. Praying to the Virgin Mary to save him, he managed to escape. So indebted, he had a huge statue of the Mother Mary carved from pine. It was shipped in pieces up the river, then cut further into 14 pieces so it could be hauled by hand to it’s resting place on the Saguenay where it has survived through sometimes brutal conditions for over 100 years!

As Rafael took the very quiet and smooth -running Yamaha around the bay, he stopped to look at a big vertical rock where climbers were working their way to the top. Apparently it takes about three days for them to make the climb, sleeping on the cliff. I thought walking that ledge was crazy enough! Then along to what looked like a very deep cut in the mountain, Rafael pointed to the other side of the river where there was an identical one. This is a fault where two tectonic plates meet. I couldn’t help but think of one of my favorite quotes by Will Durant in the book Krakatoa, “Civilizations exists by geologic consent, subject to change without notice”.

 

Camping Petit Saguenay

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50℉ at 5:30 am, high of 62 and cloudy

Saturday, September 3, 2016

This is a great campground, spread out nicely with grass, two services, WIFI, very clean bathrooms and a nice office. There is an area across the street with the cutest cabins, right on the river. For $100/night you can sleep four. It has the feel of a very nice fishing camp, which it really is. The big draw is salmon fishing, which of course is all over now. July is the big month when 90cm salmon are caught. That’s a three-foot salmon! You can only hook two for the day and you have to turn them loose. Every pool is named, and I’m sure someone is fishing every one. I’m not sure what kind they are, but they happily don’t die, but go back to sea. It looks like it will cost a non-resident about $100/day for the privilege. Just down the road toward town is a spring where you can fill your water bottles.

Driving to Petit Saguenay

50℉ at 5:30 am, high 67

Friday, September 2, 2016

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Moving from Camping Lac Jolly, we stopped for roadwork and who happens by coming the other way from playing cards in Chicoutimi, but  Paul and Diane Tremblay! We chatted a few minutes in the middle of the road. I commented that there are a lot of Tremblays in Quebec. Paul said he has written a book on the Tremblays of just this area. It is 97 pages long. What a nice couple! It wasn’t bad driving through Saguenay. You just have to be so alert so you don’t take a wrong turn. Driving a trailer, you have to stay in the right lane, but it is always the bumpiest, and we got caught in a right turn lane, but I went straight anyway, cutting off a couple of motorcycle riders – sorry!

Then driving along the Saguenay is lovely with beautiful farmland and cute little towns. We wanted to stop in one, but there was nowhere to park with the trailer. You can drive the entire length of the Saguenay River in an hour though, so it’s easy enough to drive back. We drove into Parc National du Fjord du Saguenay. It’s a very narrow road leading to the Information Center and follows the most beautiful trout stream, with places to park and fish. We learned at the Information Center that it was now closed for the season as the limits had been met. We signed up for a Fjord zodiac tour tomorrow at 2:00, choosing the warmer part of the day. 

Then we walked down to the bay and took a few pictures. Behind us was a huge rock face, and Martha spotted people on it. They were just dots. We talked with a nice gentleman whose daughter was doing the 6-hour climb up the trail, up a ladder, across the first rock face, across a swinging bridge and on to the other rock face. This is a very popular thing in several parks, and they are always booked. It’s only $77. If someone paid me a million, I might give it a go. The gentleman said he would go, but he was too heavy, so he was proudly watching his daughter. 

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We felt fortunate to have any campsite for four nights since it is a big holiday weekend, but now driving to Petit Saguenay, we were apprehensive. Four days in a campground you don’t like is not good. Making the turn to Riviere Petite Saguenay, we got a look at the beautiful river. The water is pretty low. We stopped at what we hoped was the office and went in. There was a big salmon mounted on the wall, and there was a case with flies for sale. Upstairs there were rods for sale. I began to smile. The pleasant lady didn’t speak much English, but with our poor French, we worked it out. Yes, we were booked four nights – whew! Yes, there are two services – tres bien! There is WIFI – yippee. There were people waiting, so I didn’t ask about fishing, but I read a sheet on the wall similar to La Faunique that lists fishermen, what they caught and how much they weighed. I went out to look at the campground as Martha paid the bill. It is nicely-set in grassy, shades sites with plenty of room. I couldn’t stop smiling. 

It took a bit of wrangling to get around the trees and get the trailer straight, but it was worth it. This will be a great spot to spend four days. Maybe we should stay longer. As we studied the brochures, we saw a salmon chute and decided to take a drive to it. A beautiful spot with a fall and a fish ladder, we walked up and down looking for salmon, but saw nothing. Martha said the campground closes in two weeks, so I think the run is over. The scenery driving back is really pretty, with farmland, little mountains and deep valleys gouged out by glaciers thousands of years ago. Back at camp we studied the area over a beer and glass of wine. There is a lot to see and do in this area.

Parc National Des Mont-Valin

49℉ at 4:30 and a light rain, high of 65℉

Thursday, September 1, 2016

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Our first view of the Saguenay in this area

It was raining lightly in the morning, but the forecast said it would pass, so we headed to Mont-Valin. The entry road is steep and rough, so we were happy we didn’t bring the Airstream. Then it turns to a dirt and gravel road leading to a very nice visitor’s center. I don’t know how they do it, but again there was a super and patient young lady to tell us where to go and what kind of hike we might like. There were clouds and fog covering the mountains, but we were sure it would burn off. She told us there was a covered hut where we could eat lunch or escape the rain. She said a gravel road leads to the hike and follows a stream the whole way. I bought a fishing license just in case. We only had a day here, which really isn’t fair to a national park, but Labor Day is coming and we wanted to get on the south side of the Saguenay for the long weekend. Two cars went up this mountain, gravel road along a beautiful stream, but I was quite happy to have the Nissan. It’s nice to put it in 4-wheel drive on the steep, corrugated sections. 

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The stream, Bras du Canots, is a gorgeous stream, and could be a great trout stream, but it was running at a torrid pace. We parked and took a fairly easy hike to Pic-de-la-Hutte, although it was a pretty steep uphill climb to the top, and it started to rain. By the time we got to the top, there was a wood walkway and an overlook with a picnic table. Socked in with rain and fog, we couldn’t see a thing. We walked back down a bit to the “Hutte”. Our timing was excellent as it started to rain hard. Our friends in the campground would later tell us that this park is incredible in the winter. People come to ski, cross-country ski and snowshoe. This beautiful hut, with no doubt another great view, has tables and a wood stove, places to hang and dry wet clothing. The porch has metal grates so you can scrape the snow off your feet. I guess these mountains get a lot of snow and are very pretty when everything is covered. I think there are tracked vehicles to take you to trailheads, and there are cabins to rent. 

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We had our lunch while we imagined being here in the 1800’s in winter. As the rain let up, we headed back down, stopping at one semi-quiet pool to fish. Not taking the time to put on waders, I was surprised the water was not freezing. The water must come off the top of the lake, where the water is warmer. So many of our “tailwater streams” take water off the bottom of a lake, so the water is very cold. It’s hard to imagine this stream ever running slow enough to fish, but if it would be a beauty if it did. 

Arriving back at the visitor’s center, I looked at the Riviere Valin that wanders through the valley. On a nicer day, this would be wonderful to float……and fish! We drove west along the valley, gravel road, crossing another beautiful river as we exited the park, and it’s another beauty. There was a gorgeous pool below the bridge, and Martha suggested I fish it. I quickly added up the time in my mind to get geared up, get down there, maybe change flies a few times and hopefully get into some action. The nice girl at the Visitor’s Center said below the two bridges was my best chance. I decided not to burn Martha’s generosity today. She had already been patient enough.

Street Golf

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While setting up camp, I noticed two guys in the middle of the road putting golf balls around. I thought boy, these guys are avid! Later a group of four came around putting and laughing with lots of chatter in French. Then I saw them putt into a hole made from metal or plastic imbedded in the road, so we went over to see what was going on. They were really friendly, and one of the guys spoke English. They play golf every day, and there are serious tournaments. An 18-hole course winding through the streets of the campground, people came through all evening, most commenting to us in French. Little did I realize we had a prime spot overlooking the 11th hole! We talked with our friendly foursome for 15 minutes. One of the guys, Rene (?), is a retired auto mechanic teacher, who trained in Troy, Ohio and had traveled in the States. They wanted to know where we came from and why, and they admired our Airstream. We told them where we had been and that we would be Quebec three more months, which got some oos and aahs.  Rene said he was just up at Lac Saint Jean to get blueberries, saying he bought 15 pounds! His wife, Diane, makes blueberry pies, and Rene eats them three times a day. We let them go on with their game, and settled in for dinner at the picnic table.  Later we saw them walking across the open area. Diane was carrying a pie! I had some coffee cups made for special people, and I scrambled inside to find the last one. They wanted to look inside the Airstream and got a big kick out of it. After hugs and thank you’s, they headed home. After dinner we had a piece of wonderful, not-too-sweet blueberry pie. Four boys came out to play after their dinner. They were having a ball, waving to us as they went by. I wish I could understand what they were saying.

Zoo Sauvage de St-Félicien

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56℉ at 4:00 am and a high of 74

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Fred told us about a great Zoo near Saint Feliciene, this was our destination today, but first we stopped at a boulangerie, La Maison Gourmande,  to buy some bread. Of course we then bought some bruschetta and muffins. Then off to the zoo. I cannot capture the beauty of the miles and miles of farmland we see when driving. Fields of wheat, oats, barley, potatoes in full bloom, blueberries and canola go on forever. They are perfect fields, uninterrupted by rocks or dips. All are ready for harvest now. Stopping by a wheat field to take some pictures, I knew I was pushing my luck with Martha. We had passed an incredibly beautiful farm several times, and this time she suggested we stop and get some pictures. The barns and the buildings are so pretty and well-kept, I can only imagine the expense. Their fields stretch to the horizon, and a beautiful river wanders along it’s border. There are so many blueberry fields, it seems they could supply the world. The colors of the crops are wonderful when the sun hits them just right rival trees in the fall. Many of the fields have perfect lines of trees, perhaps serving as wind breaks.

The zoo is a great one, built in a beautiful setting along a river and countryside. Walkways lead you around viewing areas, telling you about the animals, the trees and plants. Then you can board a little train on wheels that takes you around the grounds. There are too many deer, but we also saw virtually everything that lives in Canada – Elk, Moose, black bears, Musk Ox, buffalo, geese and ducks. You would drive right through buildings representing they way frontier life was, and drive by farmer and trapper’s cabins. There is an indian settlement and a fort. It gives you a good feel for how it was in those days. 

Not far from the zoo is a fromegerie, Chez Perron,, one of the last family-owned fromageries in Quebec. The girl in the shop spoke some English, but translations were difficult. We ended up buying three cheeses which turned out to be excellent. Once there were about 2,000 family fromageries in Quebec, but commercial operations have closed most of them. 

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