Hiking

1. Torngat Mountains: eight days in the barrens

You have to had it to the Thule, they were one tough set of bastards. They actually lived here 6,500 years ago in a place no human beings should ever live. It’s a land of rock, wind, rain, and snow, a land with weather so fickle the Inuit called it “torngat” after their god of wind and storm.

But it’s also a land of beguiling beauty, stark and dramatic, that make this range of mountains the most memorable in Canada.

Hiking this country is superb and not for the faint at heart. Your first clue is the guide cradling a pump action Mossberg loaded with magnum slugs – 1,000 lb polar bears understand little else, so it would seem.

 

There are no trails in the Torngats. You just show up and start walking. Most expeditions, ours included, fly into nachvak fjord, 30 miles long from its stormy mouth to a quiet bay at its top. We basecamp on the gently sloped shores of the bay, day hiking along the coast to check out the marine life and icebergs floating by.

The enormity of the Thule’s achievement strikes home at the head of the Nachvak fjord where you can peer into the remains of ancient Thule winter dwellings – crude structures, built of loosely piled rocks, some with whalebone rafters that would have been thatched with caribou skins. Under July’s 20 hours of sunshine and average temperatures around the 60s, you can just about imagine it, but in winter?

Keep your eyes peeled for chert artifacts, a quartz-silica mineral the Thule used to make knives, tools, and spear points. And since you’ve got your eyes on the ground, keep wary eye open for the tracks of tundra wolves, caribou, bear and other fauna of these mountains.

After three days on the coast, the camp strikes inland for Bowl Glacier, the high country, and the expedition’s destination.

Among the glacial till, wildflowers are everywhere. With a growing season only 80 days long, about 900 plant species gut it out here. They’ve developed a few tricks along the way, such as growing hairs to retain heat, hugging the ground to bask in the sun’s reflected warmth, and sun tracking.

Like the thule, they chose a tough spot to make a living. They had the sense, however, to choose one of the planet’s most remote and untouched places to do it. You can, too.

Departure: Anytime for a groups of 4 or more; Skill Level: Intermediate

 


2. End of the world: Canada’s Appalachian Trail.

Backpacker magazine once described Gaspe Park as “a treasure hidden too long in the attic of the continent.”

Our three and five day treks into this continental treasure follow the International Appalachian Trail. Visualize a peninsula, its interior mountainous; split between two large massifs, the Chic-Chocs and the McGerrigle Range. Boreal forest covers this region except the highest peaks of the massif. Parc de la Gaspesie is situated close to the Northern edge of the peninsula and can take you from valley floor to mountain summit in one day, while passing through four types of forest: boreal, evergreen, subalpine and mossy tundra.

 

“The trip was everything the catalog said it would be. Laurent our guide was superb. The beauty and history of Gaspé were enthralling!
Robert Popchak, VA
Deer, moose and wood caribou all share the same environment. Yellow beech lead you up a vigorous trail of rocks and boulders and subalpine forest before you burst onto the wide open talus slopes that nudge heaven’s basement at 4, 159 feet. The view over a rolling sea of flat topped mountains takes your breath away, a good place to kick back, brew a cup of tea and reflect that treasure hunting is a sweaty, marvelous business.
PHOTO: Courtesy of Marc Lemieux

“Great hiking trip highlighting all the key spots in the Gaspé peninsula!”
Thomas Hoppe, Wisconsin

We offer 2 different itineraries.

1. Grand Appalachians

3 separate areas of the trail and visit of Gaspé and Forillon. All transportation and meals included.

2. Little Appalachian

Hiking in one area of the trail, unguided, maps, transportation and basic food supplies.

 

 

“The hiking and scenery were beyond words. Hiking was challenging at times but worth every minute. Our guide was excellent- very accommodating.”
Sandy Hoppe, Wisconsin

3. Saguenay fjord: hiking through life’s crossroads.

A six day hut-to-hut hike with a seventh day of whale watching. We’ll guide you along the startling Capes Trail through forest and along cliff-tops.

The views alone are worth the price of admission to Saguenay Park. Everything is on a giant scale: rugged, spellbinding scenics sweep across the 4,900 foot wide valley.

 

A freak of nature. Billions of years ago a fault fractured creating a rift, as the glaciers melted this rift became the meeting place of two hulking great rivers. One draining an inland freshwater sea and the other carrying the salty Atlantic ocean. Deep river beds nearly half a mile in places, soaring cliffs and steep slopes border the freshwater river, make Saguenay the southern-most fjord in the world.

 


PHOTO: Saguenay/Lac St.-Jean Tourism


PHOTO: Saguenay/Lac St.-Jean Tourism

 

Twice a day the ecological magic enfolds, as tides rise and fall, salt water mixes with fresh creating a nutrient stew and an explosion of marine life. Beluga make the river their home, birds abound. Whales feed at the mouth. C’mon, you’ve got to try one of the most dazzling hikes in Eastern North America.

Departures: groups of 4 or more, pick your date. Duration: 7 days


4. Eastern Townships Trail: Appalachians with an accent

No doubt you’ve heard of the Long Walk, the Vermont trail that links to the Appalachian Trail. Well, think of this adventure as the Longer Walk.

The metaphor is chosen because the country Les Sentiers de L’Estrie, Canada’s 93-mile extension to the Long Walk, passes through, bears more than a casual resemblance to the Green Mountains, a spur of the Appalachians.

 

 

L’Estrie, aka the Eastern Townships, also lies in the foothills of the Appalachians. The rolling wooded uplands, lake and river-filled valleys give this rural backwater its charm and eerie similarity to New England.
You’ll see a covered bridge or two, an old grist mill-cum-museum, hipped roofs, and board and batten siding on small brightly painted farmhouses.

L’Estrie is the home to deer and nearly 200 species of birds and other woodland creatures. Total elevation gain is 1,814 feet. The summit of Mt-Orford is truly one of those “oooh, aaah” moments.

Departures: Groups of 4 or more, pick your date. Duration: 3 days Skill Level: Beginner/Intermediate

 


5. Charlevoix: hiking a biosphere

Just what makes a World Biosphere Reserve, anyway? Well. UNESCO makes the call but most of all, Mother Nature makes the place like no other on earth.


PHOTO: Tourism Quebec

Mother Nature has always been a notorious overachiever but she truly excelled herself when she made Charlevoix.

Specifically, we’re going to take you from Montreal to the Charlevoix region to a provincial park called Grand Jardins. This 120 square mile oddity corrals the southern-most extent of the taiga which is indeed how the park got its name. The taiga part of Grand Jardins, about a third of it, is a carpet of lichen, northern flowers, dwarf birch and pine no taller than your waist. It’s like being in a giant’s garden, the literal translation of Grand Jardins.

 


PHOTO: Tourism Quebec


PHOTO:Alain Dumas

 

Our guide/naturalist will lead you on a six mile hike through the flat lands pointing out the subarctic flora and fauna and various geographic phenomenon left by the last ice age. The grand finale of this trip is a hike up Mont du lac des Cygnes. The trail is less than two miles but it goes up like an elevator- 1,574 feet in vertical gain. The view from the top of this 3,200 ft mountain is mesmerizing. Charlevoix is laid out at your feet all the way to the St. Lawrence River.

Departures: Groups of four or more, choose your date. Duration: 6 days Skill Level: Beginner/Intermediate


6. Mt. Otish:Civilization’s antidote. .
To understand the Otish mountains you first have to understand the Canadian Shield. This isn’t some Star Wars defense system, this is about character.
 

To the East is the North Atlantic; to the West an immense inland of plain called the prairies. Everything else in between is a gargantuan slab of ancient precambrian rock, bigger than most countries in the world and much older, 950 million years old to be exact.

 

Once upon a time, this rock was crenellated into spire-like mountains ringing the James and Hudson Bays like a crown. Then came the ice ages, five of them, their glaciated tentacles spreading south from the arctic, crushing whatever they touched under two-mile thick wedges of ice. Like God wielding a cosmic machete, the ring of mountains were scraped bare and smooth, tilting and fracturing as the ice melted.

 

A floatplane will fly you into the heart of the Otish (takes a whole day to get there) to a base camp-large cabin with kitchen, living area and dorm. There you’ll spend your days day-hiking out from camp into the surrounding hills, black spruce and caribou. Incredible fishing.

Departures: Anytime for a groups of 4 or more, Duration: 6 days Skill Level: Beginner/Intermediate

 

7. Baffin Island.
OK, we know Baffin Island isn’t in Quebec. It is, however, one of planet’s most extraordinary hikes, the kind you plan once in a decade.

 

The Inuit call Baffin, “the land that never melts,” or Auyuittuq (pronounced Eye-you-ee-tuk). In late summer, bare, river rock ridges and snow-capped mountains radiate out from the Island’s central highlands, forming panoramic fjords on the coast. A vista landscape, it alternately dazzles hikers with mountain peaks laced by iridescent blue glaciers or twists them with punishingly cold meltwater streams that need to be forded.

 

 

Towering statues of jagged, gray brown rock hunker under classic arctic skies – one day brilliantly blue, the next foggy and grey Underfoot, your boots find purchase in lichen-covered rock and gravel outwash from the glaciers, occasionally a pocket of wind-blown sand supporting heroically lonely dwarf willows, fireweed and tussocked “thufor” grass.
Only ermine, lemmings, arctic hare and fox can hack it. The odd polar bear gambols through in summer, but they’re so irascible, solitary, and just plain damn anti-social its no wonder they wound up here. mammals do better – seals and bowhead whales flourish. And, surprisingly, birds, the most delicate of creatures, tough it out here. The park is home to some 35 species, including gyrfalcons, Canada geese, and eider ducks.

 

Under a sun that never sets, we’re going to follow a 60-mile route through the ice-free Pangnirtung Pass, a broad, unshaped trench with walls 7,000 feet high in places. We’ll travel first by boat up the Pangnirtung fjord and then eight days overland by foot. We’ll walk on Turner Glacier, follow the banks of the Weasel River, gape at smooth-sided obelisk-like Mt. Thor and Mt. Odin as they brush the clouds. We’ll dance with the perfect moment at Summit Lake, wander to Schartzenbach Falls, gaze heavenward to the top of this 2,100 feet high cascade. At our feet, we’ll see tiny arctic poppies, their heads straining to meet the sun. Most of all, you will experience a hike like no other on this planet.
PHOTO: Courtesy of Charles Frobisher