Airstream Time

Exploring North America in an Airstream

Posts from the ‘Canadian National Parks’ category

Hike Le mont Ernest-Laforce

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29℉ at 6:00 and 60℉ at 3:00

It was a bit chilly when we started out hiking le mont Ernest Laforce, but soon after starting the climb, I started peeling off layers. It is all a graveled path, so it’s not so bad. At the top is a spectacular view of the surrounding mountains, two of which have snow on them. We talked with a young man, Guilliam, who has been hiking for a week, doing day hikes to see if he would like to take a long-distance hike. The longer hikes have huts with beds and mattresses and a wood stove. He was lucky to see eight Caribou on Mont Jaques Cartier, as there are only 80 on the south side of the St. Lawrence. He is a long distance truck driver and talked of the beauty west of Colorado. Today was an easy day for him – just an easy hike with no backpack. It was fun to exchange adventures with Guilliam.

After making our way back down, we visited the Gite du Mont Albert, a beautiful hotel with cute little cabins behind. Then we had a picnic lunch beside the beautiful Sainte-Anne’s River. We drove up Rt 14 through the Faunique, but it was a rough road, and some of it was washed out. It is also hunting season. 

We spent a nice evening by the fire listening to some James Taylor and grilling a steak. A gentleman stopped by and talked about camping here in the 70’s when there was no park. He hiked Mont Jaques Cartier with a man who would eventually turn this into a park. Once he fished for salmon for five days, finally catching two fish. 

It was still early when we climbed into bed with books. I thought of being young and hiking the Grand Traverse, a trail that goes across the park, carrying a big backpack. That would be quite a hike!

Drive to Parc National de la Gaspésie

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39℉ at 6:00 am, high 56

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

There was a beautiful sunrise over the bay at Bic National Park. After a few chores, we set out east on #132 to Parc National DE LA Gaspésie. This road is a good one, much better than I anticipated, and it often travels right on the coast of the St. Lawrence. Dotted with cute, little cottages overlooking the Fleuve. Some parts are flat while others are cliffs or rocky coast. It was a beautiful day and the water was clear and blue. There are many beautiful coastal drives in the world, but this one is one of the prettiest I have ever seen. Were we not pulling a trailer and trying to get somewhere, I might have stopped many times for pictures. 

We found a pretty park to stop for lunch in La Halte Cap-Chat. It was about 50℉ with the ever-present cool wind off the St. Lawrence, so we ate inside. On the other side of the highway, the Chic-Choc Mountains loomed in the distance. Stopping at Sainte-Anne-Des-Monts, we filled the truck with gas and picked up some groceries at the Metro. Good thing we did because it’s a pretty good drive into the park, which covers a huge area with two Fauniques on either end. This is a park for hiking the mountains. It is the end of the Appalachian Range and the International Appalachian Trail goes through the park, ending on the coast. I never knew it went this far. The Rivière Sainte-Anne runs through the park, where Atlantic salmon run, and it is a gorgeous river.

We checked in at the Discovery Center with a very nice lady, who once again, patiently advised us where to go and what to see while we are here. Mont Jaques-Cartier is the second highest in Quebec at 1270 m, from which there must be a great view. After getting settled, we opted for an easy hike to Lac Aux Americaines, which was very pretty, looking more like a lake in the Rockies. Returning to camp, we made a fire and grilled a salmon fillet and potatoes, onions and mushrooms in foil. 

Parc national du Lac-Témiscouata

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60℉ at 6:00 and a high of 75

Sunday, September 18, 2016

After a good night’s sleep, I felt a bit better. We went up to the very cool Visitor’s Center where we met Brigette, who had waited for us until 8:00 last night! Geez, I am so sorry! Like many Quebec people, she said she didn’t speak very good English, but she did great. She explained the park to us, where to go and what to do. We sat down to catch up on emails and book a flight to Baltimore and a place for Martha to stay in Quebec. They have a great WIFI:}

After lunch we opted for a canoe rental on Lac Touladi, putting in at the top, called Petit Lac Touladi. It takes 6 hours to paddle to the end of the lake, so we decided on going just to the top of the big lake and then going back, which turned out to be about a two-hour trip. It was a very pretty afternoon. I’m usually not too big on canoeing big lakes, but we really enjoyed this one. There is a lot of marsh around the lake, perfect for ducks, and we saw a lot with many different kinds. As the winds quieted in the afternoon, we couldn’t help staring at cloud reflections in the water. On the return trip, we went along the eastern shore of the lake, seeing big piles of mussel shells on the banks. There is a big story here about an indian, who once hunted beavers here, but then dedicated his life to protecting them. There are a lot of beaver houses, but there are also muskrats and raccoons. It was obvious there are a lot of mussels in the lake and a lot of whatever eats them. 

When you paddle in the middle of the lake, you don’t feel like you are going anywhere, but when you are on the edge, you can see how fast you are going. It was my impression we could paddle the lake faster than we could walk it. In the old days, it was the only way to travel. Lakes and rivers were the highways of the times. 

They have great showers and bathrooms here, so we cleaned up, fixed dinner and enjoyed another Will Smith movie – “Focus”, which was very good. What a luxury, especially when you have a cold, to lie in bed and watch a movie! 

Sauntier La Pinèda at Petite Saguenay

49℉ at 4:00am and high 77, 49 at 8:30pm

Saturday, September 4, 2016

We drove to the mouth of the Quai (dock) Petite Sanguenay where the Petit Sanguenay meets the Sanguenay. It is a beautiful spot with a concrete pier, picnic tables and a place to launch a boat. When we got there at 9:00 the parking area was full. It is Labor Day weekend, so everyone is out, and the forecast is for a perfect day. A couple form Montreal asked us to take a picture of them, and we talked for a while. They said they took the whale tour yesterday and it was spectacular. 

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As we walked back to the car, we saw a man with a fly rod and a fishing basket walking with purpose along the beach. I couldn’t be sure, but I don’t think he had waders on. He walked around the cove to the other side then began wading out into the bay. Once he was waist deep, he began casting with a long fly rod. He didn’t let the fly sit but a second or two, then walked and cast again. Keeping this up for 25 casts, he caught a fish and put it in his basket. We watched a few more casts and went on.

Driving back through the cute town of Petit Saguenay, we drove 20 minutes to the Plage (beach) on the Sanguenay River to hike the Pinèda (pine forrest). This is in a little piece of Parc National du Fjord du Sanguenay. It’s a 3-hour intermediate hike. It was cool when we started, so I wore long pants and a long sleeve fishing shirt – big mistake, as it would get hot when we began the climb. The first part of the hike was a bit boring, and we couldn’t really be sure we were on the right hike, our maps being very basic, but it turned out to be the right one. It wanders along the coast through a beautiful forrest before climbing to the top for a spectacular view. On our way back down, we passed two ladies camped right across from us, and lots of others followed. The parking lot was full when we got back down. I changed my shirt and tied it to the kayak to dry on our drive back to town.

We had been eyeing Cafe Bistro Boutique Les’Arts since we got here, but no one was ever in the parking lot. We decided to give it a go. At 2:30 there was again no one there. A lady met us at the bar while a man was behind an overhang of glasses, pots and pans. We studied the menu, which was of course in French. She asked if we needed translation, and we were happy she spoke good English. I chose Salmon and an expresso, while Martha ordered creamed vegetable soup and a salad of hearts of Palm and Artichokes, and a beer. It is a local artist place, probably where they meet and talk and also show their work. There was a picture of the restaurant with snow covering half of the building. We sat outside on this perfect day and watched a few more people trickle in. Lots of motorcycles passed by, as it is a great route to ride and explore. Local ladies were walking their babies through town, which is about 5 blocks. Others were walking for exercise. There is a beautiful Promenade along the Petite Sanguenay with hanging flower pots. The Coop de consommation is across the street. I wish I owned it! It’s a gas station/grocery store where all the locals go as well as everyone who comes through town. Probably 30 motorcycle riders were taking a break there. Martha’s soup was so good she wanted to lick the bowl. My salmon arrived and it was sushi, which I don’t do. There was a salad, an orange wedge, a splotch of soft cheese and two pieces of some kind of toast. Gingerly tasting a bit while testing Martha’s salad, it grew on me. Actually, it was excellent, and Martha loved her healthy salad. 

We thought about doing something else, but decided to go back to camp, get some laundry and clean up a bit. Martha went to the Coop and bought a salmon steak, a sausage, corn on the cob, squash and a baguette. I got the fire going while we showered and did laundry. I did the tepee method of starting the fire and it did great until it all collapsed. Trying to add more wood, I smothered it. I could hear Kelly giving me grief now. I had the perfect smoke-producing fire ever. I was sure everyone in the campground was looking at all this smoke wondering what these gringos from Virginia in an Airstream were doing. I started on the wine as I added a couple of fire starters and paper underneath. More smoke! The area around the fire pit was loaded with termites, and they were all coming out! I’ve never seen anything like it. I had noticed a lot of what I thought were ant hills, but they turned out to be termite hills. I looked at the Airstream. We’ll probably have termites eating the floor. A pileated woodpecker loves our campground, totally unafraid of people. Now I know why. 

By the third glass of wine, the fire got started and quickly built up embers for cooking. Happily, the termites went to back to their homes. 

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.

Leaving Parc du National Mauricie

58℉ this morning with a high of 86.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

I prefer staying in a provincial or national park, but Rouillard Campground has grown on me. They gave us a nice, quiet spot, and they work very hard to make you comfortable and provide everything you need. Maybe a little early, but they are decorating for Halloween. Some people live here and go to every day jobs. Some are retired, while some come and stay all summer. Others, like us, are passing through. It is interesting to see the variety.

It rained very hard last night. I got up in the night to see if it was coming in the windows I had left open and closed one. Getting back in bed, I thought of those poor people camping along the lakes in Moricie. Having done it plenty of times in the old pup tents, there is nothing more miserable. Everything gets wet. If not in the tent, around the tent, and what if you have to go out to go to the bathroom? Sleeping in the Airstream in pouring down rain is such a luxury and even a pleasure, much like being in a house with a tin roof. When we got up, the sky was clear and it was a beautiful day. 

Mauricie is a beautiful park, but for me, La Faunique de la Mauricie is very special. I would love to come back!

 I have never worked so hard to find a campsite. For hours Martha and I sat at the WIFI cafe searching for something near Quebec City, but everything is full. It is the end of August and the kids will be back in school soon…..and it is hot! I asked if it was a holiday, but the answer was no. A nice lady at one of the campgrounds said many Canadians were traveling. They come to just vacation. They come to see Quebec City, and like us, they come to see Parc National du Jaques Cartier. You can get a site in the park in September! We had just about given up when we found a spot right next to the bathroom at Stoneham Campground, which is between Jaques Cartier and Quebec City. We booked it for three days, which was all we could get. We are hoping to get into Jaques Cartier after that. Maybe someone will cancel.

We drove south on Rt. 55 to Rt. 40 heading east to Quebec City, which is supposed to be 2 hours. The drive along Rt. 40 is beautiful with beautiful farmland, trees and glimpses of the St. Lawrence. Stopping once for gas and running to a big traffic jam in Quebec City, we made it three and a half. Of course there is road construction, and then people drive like crazy in the cities, so there was an accident. It is nerve-wracking enough driving a car in that stuff, but driving a truck pulling an Airstream will really try your nerves. We were fortunate to make all the right turns heading north of the city on Rt. 73, and then, poof, you are in the country and trees and forrest. Stoneham Campground is right off the road, and it is better than Disneyland for kids. They are happily floating tubes down one of the two streams surrounding the campground. There are playgrounds and a great swimming pool. Kids are riding bikes all over. Almost clipping the Airstream coming into the site, we backed into a shaded , tight area, but it was pretty. We took a walking tour around the campground before dinner – a big salad with chicken. 

They are the first idiots I have run into! I think they arrived late right across from us, where our heads were pointed. At 1:30 in the night, I was awakened by loud talking with no regard for their neighbors. They must have thought they were in their own homes. Surely they were not accustomed to a campground. After a while I got up, got dressed and looked out the window to spot the culprits. I knew Martha wouldn’t want me to go out there, and I didn’t know how to cuss them out in French, so I stuffed some Kleenex in my ears and turned on the Fantastic Fan on low, which did the trick. If I could make the truck backfire in the morning in front of their tent, I would!

Parc National du Mauricie

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

55℉ at 5:00 and high of 72℉

We decided on a hike today after getting off to a slow start. Martha picked a hike to Lac Waber, but you have to access it by canoe, so we tried another at the top of Lac Wapizagonke called View Brulis.  There is an iconic overlook on the other side of the parking lot where you see about half of the lake, which is a narrow lake that flows like a river. You could see canoe paddlers along the lake where there are eleven campsites you could sign up for. There are also canoe trails that connect different lakes and streams. This is really what defines the park. We groaned as we walked back uphill to the parking lot as we have hiked and biked a lot. The hike is about 7 hours, but our plan was to hike a while and turn around. We have brought rain to Canada, so there were wet, boggy areas where mosquitoes were hungry. Fortunately we had used a repellent lotion, which helped all the areas where we applied it, but the mosquitoes found all the areas where we had not. We decided to go to an scenic spot and then turn around, so the hike ended up being about an hour and 15 minutes, and that was enough for both of us. The temperature is great, but the humidity in the woods is high, so I was soaking wet when we got back. Carrying our lunch to the overlook, it was fun to watch people as they came and went. A nice 14 year-old boy smiled and said the usual Bonjour with a singing tone. His family was obviously a veteran outdoor group with good hiking clothes and backpacks that were well-worn. The boy had shorts on, and he looked like he had Chicken Pox from all the mosquito bites. This was the first time it had been bad, and it really wasn’t bad. I would say moderate. I am not taking another hike without my “Bub Pants”. 

We drove through the park to the other entrance, getting glimpses of other beautiful lakes and moose bogs. This is the park you want to come to if you like paved roads, a great visitors center at the east entrance, coffee shops and a food pavilion, and you want to put your canoe or kayak on one of probably a hundred lakes. There are guided trips and tours. I love those Huttopia and Hekipia tents, where you can stay for $120/night. We drove through the campground and it too is very nice, and they have electric! We stayed in Shawinigan at a campground called Rouillard because we needed a lot of laundry done and grocery shopping. Although I prefer staying in the parks, this is a nice campground with a different flavor. The owners are very nice. There is a very cute, little golf course that would have been fun to play. The problem with staying outside the park is you spend half the day traveling!  45 minutes to get there, 45 minutes to get back, and then a stop to get groceries and half the day is gone, but you just need to do it every now and then. 

It started to rain as we got back to the campground. We took showers and did another load of laundry. As we were on the road again tomorrow, It took me an hour to fix the broken closet door. Part of the plastic latch had been torn, so I couldn’t line it up quite right. Where the heck is Kelly! He’s the best fixer!

Lac Du Bois Franc and Pie Irons

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

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Beautiful campsites in the woods with no hookups

Beautiful campsites in the woods with no hookups

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45 at 5:00 AM, high of 86

After breakfast we decided to hike to Chute au Rats. The hike starts at the office and is really a bike path – again they are wonderful bike paths, really a small pebbled road. Figuring we would bike this path in the afternoon, we drove up to the falls. Its a very nice waterfall coming out of Lac au Rats and is the origin of another pretty stream that wanders its way to the St. Lawrence. Martha was quite happy to find a flush toilet there. 

Since that didn’t take long, we drove up Rt 2 and turned on Rt 28 (please see the photo) and turned again to a very small road to Lac Du Bois Franc. Coming to the end of the road, we parked and walked down to the lake. There was a tiny dock with a very large and heavy rowboat. You can rent these for $30/half day, which is $22 American. You have to pay at the office and either they take to oars up there or give them to you. I’m not sure which. That’s pretty nice. You would likely have this lake to yourself for the day, except for the two loons. I fished for 45 minutes, wading around the edge up to my waist with no luck. This was the shallow end of the lake, so the water was fairly warm. Any trout would likely be deeper where the water is cooler. Anyway it is a very pretty spot, and for the first time, we really felt we were in the wilds. Martha remarked that the dragon flies were huge, like small hummingbirds and they were all over the place. 

We returned to camp for lunch and quite hour, then took the bikes out of the truck and just leisurely rode around to explore. Stopping by the edge or our lake (Lac Lajoie), we talked to a nice couple who had rented bikes. He said something in French that we couldn’t understand, so we asked for English. It turns out they were from New York and gladly spoke in English. He works at Olana (?), a house designed by an artist of the same name. Maybe he needs to speak different languages for his job, but his French was perfect. They were headed for a kayak trip on Riviere de Diable tomorrow, so we assured them they would love it.

Cooking over a campfire is not so easy. How hot is the fire? How long will it take? Where do you put different things to cook? Martha wrapped corn on the cob in foil and waxed yellow beans in another. Then she grilled salmon, and it was all excellent. I don’t know what it is cooking over a fire, but it is always good. Partly I am surprised how well it can come out and partly it is the atmosphere of being outside, by a beautiful lake with the sun setting. 

Reading about camp cooking, I had bought three pie irons, for which Martha gave me endless grief. To her credit, tonight she suggested cooking desert in the pie irons. There are many recipes, but we had peaches and blueberries, so we decided on a pie. Using Pillsbury Crescent Rolls, she wrapped the fruit, sweetening with brown sugar and honey. Putting them in two pie irons, I put them right in the coals. The recommendation is to cook for two minutes a side, but it just didn’t seem like enough, so I went for three a side. Slightly overcooked in the smaller, round iron, but perfect in the other. We split one pie and saved the other for breakfast. It was excellent, and the irons cleaned up easily. I can see why people rave about these.

Riviere de Diable

Monday, August 8, 2016

Martha wanted me to float the Riviere de Diable and see how I liked her kayak, so she dropped me off at 8:30. There was no one on the river and it was quite pleasant. I saw ducks and woodpeckers and an osprey. Paddling closer to get a picture of the osprey, I just about had a heart attack as my phone rang in the chest pocket of my fleece. We haven’t gotten reception for days! Fumbling around  to get to a good spot to answer, I missed the call. It was a Charlottesville number, so I called, but it was busy. Having left a message, “who is this?”, Danis, my next door neighbor, called me back. He is getting our mail and wanted to know what was important. Of all the places to get reception, floating a river at the base of a mountain. I guess I wasn’t too far from the camp office, so maybe they have a cell tower there. 

It was a pleasant float, and I did like Martha’s kayak. It’s a sit-on-top, so it is somewhere between a canoe and a kayak, so call it a hybrid. There are deep grooves and holes on the bottom to keep it straight, which would make it more difficult in white water, but we’re probably not doing white water. It would be fine in class I or II rapids.

After lunch we hooked up and headed for the eastern part of the park in the Pimbina Sector. A better road than I expected, we arrived at 2:00. A very pretty young lady helped us. She spoke English and there was no one else waiting! I bought a Quebec fishing license for the year, but since this is Canada, you can’t just buy a park fishing license, but you have to tell them what lake you are fishing in. Then you get a one or three-day permit. I couldn’t really get a handle on the streams. They also give you a report to turn in with the number of fish you caught, released, what size and what kind they were. It is their way of managing the fishery. You don’t see many people fishing, and maybe this is good. It is, however, very frustrating.

We needed a few groceries, so after setting up camp, we drove into Saint Donat. What a cute little town with outside restaurants, pubs and shops along the main street. We found a little Bistro with outdoor seating where the people seemed to be having a good time, and they had WIFI! Martha ordered a sangria and I had a glass of wine. OK, it may not be a good idea to post for the world to see late in the day while you are drinking! Some pictures went to the wrong place. 

Hiking and Driving Mont Tremblant

 

Sunday August 7, 2016

Waking at 5:00, the temperature was 55 degrees and it looks like we got a little bit of rain. You can pick up a weather forecast for the week at the Discovery Center, and it called for a perfect 76 with passing clouds. Our adventures of the day were to hike to Lake Poisson and see a waterfall. This is rated a moderate hike of 7.2K round trip – sounds good. Then in the afternoon we would just drive north through the park to see more before we move to the eastern part of the park tomorrow. The hike started with a gravel road, straight uphill for what may have been a mile. It finally leveled out and became a trail opening into a beautiful meadow with a small lake. We continued on to a divide and a sign that said falls in 1K and followed it to a very pretty lake. The hike around the lake to the falls was strenuous. Being August, there was only a trickle of water coming over the falls, but it was pretty. We rested and had a granola bar before starting the trip back. Obviously not in good enough shape, we were spent when we got back. After lunch, Martha read while I went to the Discovery Center to post. I could connect on my phone, but not on my computer. Asking several people, I finally resolved that they probably set it up this way so the WIFI doesn’t get bogged down with people like me uploading tons of pictures, movies and other things. I will need to find another place outside the park, maybe a Timmy Horton’s or Mickey D’s.

We took a drive north to try to see more of the park and found a beautiful waterfall, and only a 750 meter walk to it along the Diable River. This river is really special! It is so beautiful and flows in and out of lakes through the entire park. It has many personalities as it travels, but this waterfall is probably where it got its name. If you were happily traveling along in your canoe, it could be very difficult to stop before going over the waterfall and it is all rocks below. Otherwise this is an incredible river. I have only seen three fishermen on it. 

Driving further north, the road turns to gravel, reminding me of our previous fishing trip across Canada and the hundreds of miles we traveled on gravel roads. It does a number on your shocks and tires, but it is very pretty. The drives through Mont Tremblant are listed in National Geographic’s 500 best drives in the world, especially in fall colors. There are tons of maples and others I don’t know, but it would be spectacular.

There are 48 miles of bike trails in this section of the park, some being perfectly manicured roads really. Others are trails through the woods. This park gets heavy use being only a short distance north of Montreal, but somehow they keep it so nice. They use a variety of “adventures” to help pay their expenses.