Went to Mount Tremblant National Park in Quebec over the weekend (mid June). Very beautiful area, big stone cliffs on the two hour drive north from Montreal. Many ski runs carved through the trees on the mountainsides as we drove north. The trip was a fairly last minute deal with three buddies, all friends since age five or so. One of us is a doctor, Spencer, and is in Montreal for the summer learning a new procedure. Wayne and I flew in to meet him, I met with a couple guys I do some work with in the city, then we were off to the woods and streams and mountains north of the city. We were late (for our 8pm shuttle to the wilderness) as always seems to be the case when travelling with Spencer, and also as usual things worked out great, we camped in a very nice spot Friday night and caught the shuttle the next morning, doing the exact same trip we would have done had we been more punctual. 20 miles or so down a river that periodically opened up into big lakes and then narrowed into rushing rapids, only one of which we portaged around, though several we should have as we nearly flipped in one and took on quite a bit of water and got very hung up on another, soaking my gear. An interesting side note – on the first night, we had our cooler and gear strewn about the campsite and were hanging out by the fire. We heard a noise that seemed close, like somebody rustling around in the woods. We shined our lights and it turned out to be closer, nearer, by the cooler. We got up and walked over and a big ol’ racoon had unzipped a pouch and made off with our powdered potatoes. Spencer gave chase, crashing through the woods for ten minutes, hot on his trail, sucker didn’t even let go of the potatoes even under the duress of an angry Spencer on his heels.
Saturday morning we managed to get all our gear onto a trailer behind a bus, and somehow figured out which bus and which canoe and kayak to pull off the racks and load up even though everybody was speaking french and the folks in charge barely knew english, we were a pretty lost but managed. They drove us about 90 minutes north to the put-in, where we loaded up the canoe and launched it and the kayak and we were off, paddling into the glorious weather and sunshine. We had brought gear for rain and forty degree weather but were greeted with smiling sun and wispy clouds, 70+ degrees during the days. We paddled our way through the lakes and rivers
then lakes then rapids, passing a number of well marked campsites and crosschecking them with our map. Stopped at one for a lunch of PB&J on mini-pitas. The place was jammed with insects, all wanting a piece of me so we would all walk and eat to try and get some peace. I noticed a few droplets of bright red blood on my arm and then legs. That was my introduction to the little buggers about 1/3 the size of mosquitoes that you cannot feel bite but who draw blood when they do. It’s crazy – bites on your face, blood on your forehead, welts all over my arms and legs. Red
dots in the middle of a large round red welt. Even now two days later I itch like crazy and have these all over my legs, arms, and waist. Looks like chicken pox and itches about as bad. That was only our intro to them, they would pester us the entirety of the next two days and then in our minds the third day even after leaving the woods. They eased up only after the sun was well down or we were in the middle of a lake, or swimming, or with a stiff breeze.
We made it to our campsite, unloaded gear, and Spence and I paddled upstream to fish while Wayne suffered the torment of the bugs, eventually escaping into the kayak and paddling in circles to maintain sanity. Repellant really didn’t do much after maybe thirty minutes or so, and we ran out before night fell. Fifteen or so Quebecois and French folks joined us, mostly work friends we were told. We had a great time around the campfire, communicating mostly with the better english-speakers, though I enjoyed pulling out my rusty french and using it. Wayne and Spencer got quite inebriated, Wayne polishing off a bottle of Jaeger with some help from his new Canadian friends. They were very entertaining, Wayne making fun of Spencer’s profession and it’s requirement of sticking scopes and fingers up peoples’ butts and getting the Canadians on board to joke about it, Spencer joking right along with us – “be careful or you’ll get the finger” he’d warn, waggling his index finger around. The whole crowd would crack up periodically at something Wayne or Spencer would say. At one point somebody said something in french that sounded like “fermez la bouche” which means shut your mouth in French. Wayne loudly started yelling “fermez la bouche! Fermez la bouche!” to the frenchy speakers’ dismay as that’s not what was said, and they tried hopelessly to explain they actually said something that meant “move that log” or whatever. Wayne wasn’t swayed. All had a blast. One fellow commented to me with a laugh “your friends are really putting on a show!” Lots of talk about Canada and the USA – international relations were probably strengthened that evening.
Next day we straggled out of our tents to a fresh onslaught of bugs and gorgeous weather, cooked up a round of pancakes and were back on the water. Managed to botch the last set of rapids, getting ricocheted off an underwater boulder straight into three rocks where we were wedged tightly with water flowing into the canoe for a good ten minutes before Wayne and I managed to get us free and bailed her out, then off we went down the remaining stretch of rapids. We waited at the bottom hoping for a good show as some random gear from other canoes floated down, but overall the others seemed to not have the problems we had navigating.
Caught the shuttle back to our car early, Rollo McFlurrys for everybody on the way back to Montreal, and caught our plane with no problem. Great weekend!