For our Beyond the Pines trip we (Andrew Phryuber, Lizzie Kenny, Daniel Zeller, and Stephen Ligtenberg) traveled to Gaspesie National Park in Quebec. The park is home to the Chic-Choc Mountains, as well as the highest peak of the Appalachian Mountains in Quebec. We spent 9 days skiing and snow shoeing around the park, spending most of our nights in huts and two backcountry camping.
Off we go!
Day 1: After a very cramped 10+ hour car ride, we arrived at Village Grande Nature. After some translational difficulties, we were able to explain that we wanted to park the car there for the next ten days, and sleep in the parking lot that night. Kudos to Daniel for his French skills!
Day 2: The next morning we set out into the park. We traveled on a snowmobiled path, which made things significantly easier, but it was still a hard climb up into the park. It became clear that skiing up all the hills was not an option, so we had to boot pack the steepest parts. We arrived at Le Huard just as the sun was setting (aka 3:30). With a wood stove, counters to cook on, and bunks with mattresses, it became clear we would be living in the good life in the huts.
First day of skiing
Day 3: With snow softly falling and the path looking like a winter wonderland, we headed out to the next hut. We traveled on the snowmobile path for a while, but then turned onto unbroken trail as we began to climb to the next hut. We quickly learned that breaking trail with sleds while going uphill is not an easy task, and it was slow progress, especially with sleds tipping over every few minutes. Thankfully, someone who worked in the park was also heading up to our hut on a snowmobile, and he passed us when we were about half way up, making the rest of the trek much easier. After arriving at Le Mesange, Stephen, Lizzie, and Andrew climbed to the windy top of Pic de l'Aube. Being pelted with ice blowing off the trees was a pretty good indication that a storm was on its way, just in time for Christmas.
Nearing the summit
Day 4: Merry Christmas! We woke up to freezing rain, but decided that it would not get any better and started heading to the next hut. Once again, the trail was unbroken and going was slow. We were making some progress until we came to a lake that we were supposed to cross, but it was not frozen enough to do so. After spending some time wandering around to see if there was a way around the lake, we decided to turn back and went back to the hut. It was a good decision as the rain continued and turned into snow later, but we were were able to enjoy watching it from the warmth of the hut, and had a great game of Settlers of Catan.
Day 5: After having to turn around, we had to adjust our schedule, and therefore went towards the western section of the park early, planning to find somewhere to backcountry camp along the way. Due to the rain the day before, the hill down was very slippery, so there were some spectacular wipeouts before we decided to walk down the steeper sections. We turned onto a side trail that said it led to the next hut, but were once again forced to bushwhack around a non-frozen lake. Not wanting to go much further on the unbroken trail, and finding a lovely flat area by the side of the lake, we decided to stay in this area for the next two nights. We built some awesome snow shelters/snow kitchen, and finished the night with Ramen Bombs.
Daniel's snow shelter
Day 6: With nowhere to go, it was a rest day/free to do whatever you want day. Andrew decided to go investigate the trail to the next hut. He found it to be impossible to follow and pull sleds on, but luckily discovered another way to go. Stephen, Lizzie, and Daniel decided to cross the lake, which had frozen more during the night, and explore the nearby saddle, which had spectacular views of the park and the nearby ocean.
Day 7: Thanks to Andrew's investigating the day before, we set out on the correct path. We had to bushwhack our way back to the main path, but then were able to follow it for quite some time. We saw our snowmobile friend again - luckily he was once again going to our hut (La Carouge) and plowed the way. The going was fairly easy and we arrived at the hut a little after noon, meaning a warm lunch was in order. The snow started really falling while Stephen went to check out if a creek was passable, or if we would have to go a super long way to the next hut. Luckily the creek was pretty frozen, and we figured with the amount of snow that was coming down that we should be fine.
Day 8: A ton of snow had fallen over night, and it was still coming in the morning. We turned onto a less traveled trail, and it soon became evident we would have a much harder day. The storm the night before had made giant snow drifts everywhere, and we sank in even with snow shoes. After a long climb up through the woods we reached a saddle, and then traversed along a slope for a little while. We stopped at a day shelter to warm up and have lunch, but were too cold to sit for very long. It was then another long climb, and the wind picked up dramatically while the temperature dropped. It was a very cold last kilometer, and we were extremely relieved when we arrived at La Chouette. It was our first night with other people – a French Canadian couple who were very confused about what Settlers was as we kept asking to trade sheep and wheat.
Day 9: Stephen and Andrew woke up early to summit Mt. Logan. It was still bitterly cold, and due to all the wind the day before, the path was hard to follow, so they were forced to turn around before reaching the summit. After they returned and warmed up with breakfast, we headed out in the direction of the cars. What had been a struggle in the blizzard the day before was a lovely ski down, and then we went along the snow mobile path for about 14 km before cutting across a lake to stay at Le Huard again. It was clear enough that we actually had our first kinda real sunset just as we arrived.
Day 10: We departed Le Huard and began to head for the cars. Luckily with fresh powder on the ground we were able to ski down the steepest section, and glided along for quite some time after. It was much easier going out of the park than it had been coming in. We reached the car around noon and did the fastest pack up ever, not wanting to stay in the cold any longer - the car read -2°F. We strapped the sleds to the roof this time so we had a bit more room. There was significantly more snow on the roads and ice floating in the ocean, showing how cold it had been. We stopped for some Poutine at a lovely gas station restaurant, had a great view of the Chic-Chocs as we drove back through the other side of the park, spent over an hour at border control, and then celebrated New Years at a rest stop before reaching Brunswick at around 2.
Back to a warm car!