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Monday, May 21, 2018

Eddie and George Stay Up for Céline and Jean-Paul

Our stay in Carleton-Sur-Mer is almost finished, and we hosted our friends Céline and Jean-Paul for some hearty gumbo in honor of Betty and our mutual RV friends in Abbeville, Louisiana.  The boys spent most of the evening trying to learn French.  Luckily, Jean-Paul and Céline are fluent in English.  The boys learned a lot about sailing, Acadiana and what awaits them in Newfoundland!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Around Carleton-Sur-Mer

Friday, May 18, 2018 was our first full day in Carleron-sur-Mer. To get a better look at our little town, we drove out to the municipal camping area way out on lighthouse point. This is what we saw when we looked back to town

There were a number of old building and boats lining the shore. This was our favorite.

After visiting the campground, we drove back around to the point, which gave us a great look back from whence we came.

The weather was cold and the wind brisk, but that didn't stop us from getting out and about. If only we had time to listened to the stories that these old boats could tell.

Down on the point, we could see up to the top of Mount St. Joseph. It looked like there was an observation deck up there. A quick Google search and off we went...up, up and away!

If you look way down there you can just make out the point from whence we came.

Just as we started walking around the summit, we noticed a film crew. The actors were standing with their backs to the camera. We figured it must have been some type of tourist video.

After our mourning tour, we returned to camp for a quick lunch. After lunch, we drove over to the Parc National de Miguasha.

This place rocks! Literally, it's all about the rocks that hold fossils from the Devonian Period. What's so important about this period. Well, scientists believe that this is the key period where fish first emerged from water to inhabit land. 

Here is an artist rendition of Eusthenopteron Foordi a/k/a The Prince of Miguasha. 

The Prince had four fins which contained bones very similar to our hands and feet.

While the Prince showed it could be possible for fish to walk on land, it wasn't until the discovery of the Elpistostege that a new king was crowned. This new kid on the evolutionary block had eyes on top of his head, two nostrils for breathing air and four feet for waddling about town.

After such import discoveries, it was certainly understandable why Miguasha was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The cliffs where the fossils were discoved are now protected and scientists continue their excavations each summer in hopes of discovering the next great leap in evolution.

On our way back from the National Park, we stopped to visit our friends, Jean Paul Dugas and Celine Belisle. We met them at Betty's RV Park in January. They helped us with our trip planning. So glad we had a chance to catch up with them.

Hiking the IAT in Matapedia

Today we had great weather, so we decided to drive the 34 miles or so from Carleton-Sur-Mer to Matapedia to hike a section of the International Appalachian Trail (IAT) that we had hiked in 2009 when we visited Quebec on a business trip.  The IAT runs from Mount Katahdin, in Maine, north through New Brunswick, and crosses into the Gaspe Peninsula of Quebec over the Restigouche River at Matapedia.  Historically, the Matapedia River, along with a large number of other Gaspe rivers, have been home to legendary Atlantic salmon runs.  Today, with Atlantic salmon fished out commercially, the runs have all but disappeared, and salmon fishing on these pristine rivers has all but died out.  Many of the towns such as Matapedia that had thrived on fishing tourism have floundered.  We could tell that Matapedia is not as healthy a community has it had been when we visited in 2009.  More on that later.
Here we are at the trailhead.
This was quite a different photo than our 2009 trailhead photo, which showed an elaborate trailhead sign marking the IAT and showing the distance to Gaspe destinations on the AIT.
We climbed steeply for perhaps a quarter mile.  The IAT shelter and pit toilet were still here, but they had also fallen into some disrepair.

We climbed Further to the Belvedere Des Deux Rivieres, an overlook from which we could see the two rivers:  the Matapedia, flowing into the Restigouche, which in turn flows east into the Baie des Chaleurs (Bay of Warm Waters), and on into the St. Lawrence Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.  From here, we had great views of the immediate area.

We climbed eagerly down from the belvedere to start up the main track of the IAT, where we found the wooden trail sign.  The only problem was that the portion of the sign indicating that this was the IAT (SIA in French) was broken and had fallen onto the ground, so David held the pieces up where that part of the sign belonged.

In contrast, when we had been here in 2009, the sign was in top-notch shape.  It made us sad to think that the trail hasn't been maintained much at all for these intervening nine years.

We climbed very steeply for nearly a mile.  Along the way, we enjoyed early leaves on lots of birch trees --

-- scarlet trillium -
- and burly trees that have begun to grow over the SIA-IAT trail markers:

We reached the top of the nearest mountain and it was time for lunch.  We gladly dropped pack and refueled:

Our hike back was just as steep as the hike up, but of course it was all downhill, so instead of puffing as we climbed, we held the brakes and tried to avoid slipping or tripping down the loose surface of the trail.  We finally made it back to the belvedere, where we took another look out the Restigouche River:

Speaking of the Restigouche River, on our drive home we made a stop at the Canadian national historic site of the Battle of the Restigouche, the place where, in 1760, the British sunk a fleet of French ships and drove the French out of Canada.  The visitor center was closed due to the early season, but we hiked down to the shore of the Restigouche and walked along, imagining the maneuvering of the ships, the roar of cannon.  Today, the scene was much quieter, with just one small fishing boat lounging on the gravel beach:

This was an interesting, but somewhat sad, trip down hiking memory lane.  We wonder why the IAT is so much less well maintained than it had been here.  We still have several more sections of the IAT to hikes we travel around the Maritimes, and we'll be interested to see how well other local communities have maintained their section of the trail.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Perdue en Percé

"Si la beaute pouvait etre nomme,
Elle s'appellerait peut-etre Percé"

"If beauty had a name,
Her name would perhaps be Percé"

So the Gaspesiens believe, as did Frederick James, the American painter born and trained  in Philadelphia and who moved to Percé, where he died.

Percé has a long history of occupation, first by the Mi'qmak who migrated periodically into the area to fish. Once the Gaspe was discovered by Jacques Cartier, the eastern tip of the Gaspe Peninsula became a fishing ground for the French. In the late 1600's permanent residences were built by the French in the area, but no more than 30 people ever resided permanently in the Perce area. The French were ousted and this area conquered in 1690 by two English frigates headed for Quebec city. Thereafter, fishermen from the Island of Jersey lived in the area, joined by Irish and by Loyalists from the future United States who took refuge here because of the Revolutionary War. In 1777, this area was estimated to have a population of 250. By the end of the 19th Century, Percé had become the capital of Canada's cod fishing industry. As cod fishing declined into the 20th Century, tourism began to increase, and the Gaspe generally became an attractive location for tourists from Canada, the U.S. and Europe. Painters and other artists, including Frederick James, came here because of the spectacular scenery. Today, Percé has a vibrant tourist economy and is still the center of artistic activity on the Gaspe.

Today was our day to learn all about Percé. We started with the Lighthouse next to our campground, Camping Phare du Percé, which is on Cap Blanc just south of Percé:

The point is quintessentially Gaspe, with views of lobster boats, seagulls, gannets, and, in our case, Bonaventure Island, shown behind Kathy below, which, along with Roche Percé (Pierced Rock), is it's own national park.

The gannets we're riding the thermals this morning just off our point.  In the photo below, you can also see a white bird perched on a buoy marking some local lobster pots:

Looking south along the peninsula, we could see some of the characteristic red rocks of the cliffs in this area:

After checking out our lighthouse, we hunted down a local moose ("original" in French), who was so gentle he ate out of Kathy's hand!

We drove up to Mont Sainte Anne to get a view of Percé from above.  We we're lucky we had the Jeep, because only 4x4 vehicles were allowed up the road:

Wow!  We found an observation point with expansive views of Roche Percé and the town of Percé itself:

This was our favorite view of the town and the Rock:

Looking a little closer, we could also see the historic buildings sprinkled on the headland near the Rock:

Driving on from the belvedere, we headed toward La Grotte where a beautiful fresh Cascade tumbles down the mountain toward the Saint Lawrence Bay:

We drove back down into town and out to the point to get a closer look at Roche Percé.  Looking back, we could see Mont Sainte Anne, where we had been, behind the historic buildings of Percé:

To the north we spotted Highway 132 as it climbed it's 17 percent (!) grade up Cap Barre toward Gaspe two capes northward.  Kathy still marvel's that she navigated down that grade with the motorhome as we arrived in Percé.

Here, at the headland above the town, we got a closer look at Roche Percé.  At low tide, you can walk across to it, but be alert to the rising tide.

The Rock has the largest maritime arch in the world.  It used to have two complete arches, but the second arch collapsed in 1845.  There is one extant drawing of the Rock with it's second arch preceding the collapse:
...And here is how it looks today, from (ahem) our humble campsite:

After our excursion, we had lunch at a wonderful local restaurant, Biard.  Kathy had a luscious lobster club sandwich (again) and David had tasty bouillabaisse (again), and we retired to our RV to shelter from the rain and make homemade bouef bourgignon and bake homemade maple oatmeal bread (with our extra dark, strong Vermont Maple syrup), which was a hearty and tasty supper.

À la vôtre!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Quest for the Forillon Red Chairs!

Hi Blog!

Today we explored Parc National Forillon. We love Canadian National Parks! We especially love the fact that they put red chairs in the most scenic parts of the park and challenge you to find them. It's like a Geocache with a comfy seat and scenic view. 

Before bagging our Red Chairs we decided to first visit a lighthouse.  The Cap-des-Rosiers Lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse in Canada, standing 112 feet tall. It is situated on the south shore of the Saint Lawrence River at the top of a steep cliff. It is located at the mouth of the river, where it flows into the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Our first stop in the park was the North Area entrance station. From here we ventured out along a boardwalk. From there we got our first look at the Cape of Gaspe.

On our way back around the boardwalk, we encountered this little guy.  He was the first of three porcupines we saw today!

Our next stop was the La Chute Trail. The trail descends a thousand steps to the foot of a waterfall.

The trail was still snow covered.

The red chair was placed in the perfect spot to view the falls.

As we hiked back up, we crossed over the upper part of the waterfall.

We drove out as far as we could on the Cape of Gaspe, but had to hoof it the last two miles.

Our efforts were rewarded with amazing views and another lighthouse - the Cape Gaspe Lighthouse.

Oh, did we mention more Red Chairs!

The International Appalachian Trails runs though Gaspe. The map at the same trailhead was the best we've seen.

On the way back down, we decided to follow a portion of the IAT. The trail meanders it's way along the coast.

We had great views of lots of secret coves.

Just before we got back to the Jeep, we encountered another ptarmigan. We made sure to give this bird a wide birth. We are still wary after the last ptarmigan attack!

Spring is still a ways away up here, but you can start to things color up.  The red you see is from swaths of wild rose bushes.  No buds yet, but the thorny stems have gotten brilliant scarlet!

Our last couple chairs were easy peasy. These were just next to the picnic area at Saint George's Cove.

The last chairs were high up the hill overlooking Grande-Grave. Once a hotbed of the cod fishing industry, Grande-Grave is now a heritage site, complete with re-enactors. Unfortunately, the shows don't start until June. At least we got to enjoy the views!