Thursday, June 9, 2016
For our second day of hiking in Parc National de la Jacques-Cartier, we decided to walk down the park road (Chemin de la Vallee-de-la-Jacques-Cartier). The day before, we had learned that many of the park's trails were inaccessible during the winter season, and that most of the park road was closed to vehicles because it is not plowed during the winter. My first thought was "Well, why don't they just plow it so cars can reach the rest of the park?" But then I realized that Canadians actually prefer a snow-covered road for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. It hadn't even occurred to this cold-weather hating American that snow is an asset in Canada because it provides opportunities for winter recreation!
Anyway, the park road travels along the river, so we figured walking through the valley along the river would give us the best overview of the park we could get during the winter. We also thought it would be flatter than the up-and-down trail we had hiked the day before, so again, we decided not to rent crampons. Note to self: Just rent the damn crampons!!!
Once again the hike was icy. Extremely icy and extremely bumpy - one of the most difficult surfaces I've ever walked on. And it wasn't flat - the park road definitely had plenty of hills - so add a slope to the icy and bumpy road, and you've got a recipe for busting your face/ass. I didn't take many photos during this hike, because the actual hiking part required two hands on my trekking poles and all my concentration. (Of course the bridge where we did stop to take photos was clear of snow, but trust me, the rest of the road was covered with a couple of feet of ice.)
But we persevered and kept going. And going and going and going. We hiked 6 km up the road. We were getting tired from hiking over ice, but then saw a sign with an arrow for Les Loups overlook - the trail I had wanted to hike before we realized the trailhead was only accessible from the park road during the summer. Had we really walked all the way to Les Loups? I think the sign with the arrow said 2 km, which we decided was totally doable if we were that close. We headed up the trail, up the mountain and over a snowy hilly path, dodging obstacles, climbing over fallen trees, jumping over creeks, tripping over hidden rocks, up, up, up. We finally reached another sign and that was when we realized Les Loups was not 2 km away. Les Loups was actually a significant hike further up the mountain. We had to ditch the plan and head back down the mountain - more snow, more ice, more treacherous trails, moose tracks, and lots of gooey mud, which I finally slipped in, leaving a big gooey mud stain all over my backside. When we finally got back to the Les Loups sign, we realized it actually said Les Loups JCT 2 km. JCT = junction. Duh. So it was 2 km just to get to the trail from the road. A big fat F for these two dummies in sign-reading and navigation skills!
By this point we were really tired and we still had a 6 km return down the park road to get back to the visitor center. It was a long day. I estimate we ended up hiking about 15-16 km (9-10 miles) over ice. Our legs were done by the time we got back to the cabin.
Back at camp it was a cool 28 degrees F - perfect weather for a fire, roasted marshmallows, and some beers to celebrate our last night in Parc National de la Jacques-Cartier. The next day, we would pack up and drive to Quebec City.