And finally, I’m wrapping up our road trip recaps. If you missed the others and happen to be interested, check out Part I (the scenery), Part II (the camping), and Part III (the whale watching). I really didn’t plan on dragging it out so long, but my computer access is limited on the weekend, and I was pretty wound up in the world of Harry Potter. Finally finished that series–it only took reading it in French to motivate me…onto the main subject!
The highlight, in my opinion, of our Charlevoix trip was our hike. The Acropole des Draveurs, or Logger’s Acropolis, is located in Parc national des Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie. Yeah, that’s a mouth full of French, I know. The park entrance is approximately a 50 minute drive from the La Malbaie area (just ignore the “the/La” redundancy okay). Unless you’re camping, when you get to the park, hang a left into the general parking area, head inside to the visitor’s center, and pay your daily access fees. Like all Québec national (provincial) parks, the cost for the day is $6.50 per person. From there, you can hop on the shuttle, which will take you to the trailhead. Be sure to be listening well, because most riders seemed to be continuing on, and if I hadn’t waved my hand saying we wanted to stop at for the trailhead, the shuttle driver would have driven on by.
If you’re in the mood for a person-less hike, this is not the trail for you. We crossed paths with other hikers on a regular basis, at least once every five minutes or so. This is, however, great for anyone working on the pronunciation of the French greetings Bonjour, âllo, or salut. You might also hear a few Voulez-vous dépasser? ‘s if you’re going fast enough.
The hike is hard work. It climbs steadily for three miles, with, quite honestly, not much to see most of the way. This is not a the-journey-is-as-important-as-the-destination kind of hike. If you don’t plan on making it to the top, it’s really not worth climbing halfway. There are a good number of switchbacks, rock staircases, and just a few peeks at the scenery to come. But don’t lose heart.
(He’s typically not included in the scenery.)
Your efforts are most definitely rewarded when you reach the summits. It took us about 2 hours to reach the first summit (there are three). We ate a late lunch here (it was around 2 PM when we reached the top), taking in the gorge below us. The gorge is approximately 1,080 meters deep, about 700 meters away from Grand Canyon status. I loved being able to see so much green from the vantage point. After finishing our lunches, we fell into a discussion about whether we should continue to the second and third summits.
I know, you’re thinking, Why wouldn’t you finish and hike to the other two summits (especially since the distance between them is minimal)? Well, one of us believes the other is irrationally not afraid enough of heights, and the other finds the other’s fear of heights to be irrational. Take a look at this photo of the second summit. The arrow points to a very tiny little spot toward the edge of the cliff. Squint if you want to. That’s a person at the top of the second summit.
Of course, the one of us who thinks the fear of heights is irrational pushed the other one to continue, arguing that no one forces you to walk that closely to the edge, and everyone’s going up there. You don’t want to come so close, not do it, and then regret it, do you?!
And so we continued. The trail between the summits is not bad at all if you’re someone with no fear of heights. You’re always given at least a two meter leeway between yourself and the edge. And in the two parts where it’s a bit tricky, hikers wait on one side or the other, so that two people aren’t crossing at the same time. On the other hand, if heights are a problem for you, I think your time might be better spent calmly taking in the view from the first summit. The views from the other two summits are great as well, but you probably won’t be able to enjoy them if your heart rate won’t drop.
One of us continued on, and lived to share the photos with the other one.
The trail’s not so bad here….
…but does look to be quite close to the edge here…
…and here…(notice the rope to keep people out of vegetation, not people from the edge, haha)
The view from the third summit in the other direction:
After spending about about 40 minutes around the summits (including the lunch, the photos, the coaxing, the decision to split, the rest of the climb to the second and third summit), we started heading back down. The way down was easy on the lungs, but hard on the joints. People of all ages pulled out their hiking poles on the descent. I think I’ll wait out the purchase for at least two more years until the big 3-0 comes my way.
In total, we spent about 4 hours and 15 minutes on the trail. We had previously planned to head farther into the park and hit up another mini hike for a different view of the park, but decided we were both tired, wanted water, and had seen the crown jewel of Parc national des Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie. There is a lot of the park that is not accessible on foot, so I would love to go back some day to rent a canoe or kayak to paddle to the northern end.
So, yes, there’s a lot to see, do, and eat in Charlevoix. If you’re in Montréal, or especially near Quebec City and wanting to add a little fresh air into your trip (without spending days of driving to get to the Gaspé Peninsula), I think you’d do well to swing into the Charlevoix region. If you’re a French learner, you’ll be pleased to find that if you begin a conversation in French, they will not switch to English because of your accent. I got so much more practice in in four days than I would in Montréal in two weeks (excluding conversation partners, of course!). However, if you’re simply a tourist with no-to-little French base, you’ll be happy to know that everyone seems quite friendly and will help you with whatever English they might know.
So, go, breathe in the fresh air, take in the scenery, and for heaven’s sake, eat some quality cheese.