Gaspésie National Park is located south of where we are camped in Sainte Anne des Monts on the Gaspé Peninsula. The park contains the highest peak of the Appalachian Mountains in the province of Quebec -- Mount Jacques-Cartier. The park contains the only population of caribou found south of the Saint Lawrence River in Canada, in addition to moose, beaver, deer and many other types of wildlife. Now a destination for hikers, the park was created in April 1937 to protect the Gaspésie caribou and the beauty of Mount Albert and the McGerrigle Mountains, as well as the salmon that migrate up the Sainte Anne River. There are two major and geologically distinct mountain ranges in the park: the Chic-Choc Mountain Range west of the St-Anne's River, which is 600 million years old and was mainly formed from underwater volcanic activity, and the McGerrigle Mountains, only 380 million years and formed by erosion around a large granite batholit formed from magma oozing through cracks in the Earth's crust.
We camped in Sainte Anne des Monts in order to chase after some agates that can be found above and beyond the park, but as we focused on the area, we realized that the park itself offers some interesting hikes and wildlife. So we decided to drive up to the park today with two purposes: to scout out a suitable hike in the park, and to check out whether there was any way to hunt for agates in the mountains above the park.
As we drove up to the park, we followed the Sainte Anne River, which offered spectacular mountain views, especially once we entered the park:
The river and its tributaries flow and burble through the mountains. Here is a view of the Sainte Anne River above where its northeast tributary joins it - which we spied as we drove up beyond the park visitor center:
Here is one of the older buildings at the park visitor center, with Mount Albert in the background:
We walked across from the visitor center to the trailhead for the hike we want to do later this week, and discovered this picturesque cabin perched on a promontory on the Sainte Anne River. We thought it would be a great place to stay while waiting for the salmon run later in the summer:
Above the cabin, the trail to Mount Albert boasts an unusual bridge with a sign denoting it as the "Passerelle aux Saumons," or "Salmon Bridge":
Further up the road, we encountered the Gîte du Mont-Albert (the Mount Albert Cottage). Seemed like more than a cottage to us - more like a lodge. It offers rooms in the lodge, but also a variety of other glamping options, including cabins, tents on platforms, with full dining services:
Further on, we discovered this beautiful spot where the Sainte Anne River flows down past the Champs du Mars:
We continued south out of the park in quest of our next quarry: la Mine d'Agates du Mont Lyall (the Agate Mine of Mount Lyall). We had to drive several kilometers beyond the park border, then up a gravel road --
-- until we found the mine sign at the base of their dirt road. Whoops! There's still snow on the road, and it hasn't been plowed. Oh...the mine doesn't open until June. Well, maybe Kathy will try to dig for agates right here:
We found gems of another sort, however, as we drove back down the mountains and the Sainte Anne River toward our campground. Our first strike was a beautiful pileated woodpecker, hanging out on this birch tree:
Not to be satisfied with that old bird, Kathy spotted a beaver dam. David trekked in and found that there was an active beaver lodge behind the dam on this little mountain pond:
Wait! We weren't done yet! All along our route, we were tortured by yellow highway signs warning us of moose. But we hadn't spotted any -- until this one popped up to our right as we drove past. S/he raised her/his head and looked at us over her/his rear flank, as if to ask why we were bothering her/him --
-- then, realizing that we were photo-happy tourists, s/he turned and slowly ambled up into the woods:
Although Le Parc National de la Gaspésie has no red chairs, we thought that, nevertheless, this was a pretty good haul for a day's drive up into a Canadian National Park.