Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Started out from Lexington, MA at 2:30 to begin the thousand-mile journey to Havre-St-Pierre on Quebec's Cote-Nord. Stopped at Newport, VT for surprisingly excellent lasagna at a sub shop by the bowling alley. Drove over the border and arrived at Sherbrooke at 7:30 pm. Checked in at l'Ermitage for the night. Sherbrooke looks to be a hopping town even on a Tuesday night.

This morning I was up and out at 5 a.m. and reached Quebec by the 7 a.m. rush hour. Experienced NASCAR-like speed of Quebecois drivers. Then, suddenly, the St. Lawrence opened out before me, glistening in the morning sun. The hours passed quickly, I was at Tadoussac by 10. On the ferry crossing, saw 2 minke whales. Off to a good start!

The plan had been to make it to Baie Comeau, a port town large enough to have hotels, by late afternoon. Got there at 1, too soon to stop for the day. Decided to forge on to Sept Iles, 250 km farther on.

This is the low-tide bay at Les Escoumins. Lots of people were digging around for shellfish.

I went through a very beautiful glacier-scoured fjord region, Baie Anglais (I think it was). Since the road trip is part of my vacation, I stopped at the observation area to hike up for the view.

View from observation platform. There are many hiking trails around and into this gorge. They looked quite challenging.

It was a long long slog to Sept-Iles through endless pine forest with occasional bursts of magnificent vistas. At 4:30 I stumbled into the Comfort Inn, willing to pay any price for a haven for the night. Then, across the street to Mike's, a chain restaurant which has franco-fied Italian food. Passed on the poutine, went with minestrone, bruschetta, and a glass of wine. Not bad! [There's a Subway across the street. Jim will be happy to hear that Subway is hugely popular here, to be found in every town greater than a few houses.]

It's important not to let the gas tank go below half full. There are long stretches (several hundred kilometers) with no gas stations. I was taken by surprise by the high cost of gas here, about twice what it is back home (which is bad enough). It cost about $80 to fill the tank.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Left Sept-Iles at 7. Magical light on the water at that hour. I pulled over almost immediately to shoot a few photos.

A few of the 7 islands that give Sept-Iles its name. This looks like inviting kayaking!

Here the peat bogs began, with dense stands of scrub spruce between. A half dozen times, stunning cascades tumbled down steep rock jumbles on the way to the Gulf. The kilometers flew by.

One of the more impressive cascades plunging from the plateau down to the St. Lawrence. This is a countryside writ large.


Wide open peat bog, stretching on to the distant mountains. This was very close to my destination.

A first glimpse of some of the islands of Mingan. These are tiny islands just offshore. The larger islands that form the horizon are some of the ones I would be visiting. While kayaking I was never close enough to the mainland to see these little islands. It was very exciting to catch this first glimpse after months of reading about it and studying charts. When I saw the islands, the doubts I had about being able to handle the kayaking fell away. I couldn't wait!

By 9 o'clock I had arrived at the park service office.

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