Beautiful Gaspe

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Where I stayed
Forillon National Park of Canada
What I did
Whales, Lighthouses, Seals and Black Bear

Flag of Canada  , Quebec,
Saturday, August 25, 2012

August 23rd – Gaspe Peninsula, Land's End, Forillon National Park of Canada
We’re really enjoying these puttering driving days.  Today, we drove through Haute Gaspesie (the upper Gaspe) and east, on into Land’s End.  There are so many quaint, rugged coastal villages along this route.  We noticed that most of the villages were in a protected bay, often where a small river would spill into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. 

At Mont-St-Pierre where we camped last night, the cliffs go straight up and we noticed small landslides with lots of rubble at the bottom.  It is a glacial valley, with rock formations millions of years old.  Then on to Sainte-Madeleine-de-la-Riviere-Madeleine with its magnificent lighthouse.  We stopped at a Belvedere (I learned that it means lookout) in Grande-Vallee for pictures of another village nestled in a bay.  We visited an historic site where Marconi had established North America’s first maritime radio station in 1904.  The station and lighthouse were used as an important communications centre for the two World Wars.  Pretty neat to think of all the history that’s been going on here for centuries.  One cape even had been hit by a torpedo.  Makes us wonder how close the war really was to Canada’s shores!!

At Riviere-au-Renard (Fox River) we bought fresh turbot and fresh shrimp at a local fish market.   A little later in the afternoon, while in L’Anse-au-Griffon we watched dozens of fish plant workers, mainly women, going home after their shift.  It seems that the further east we travel, the more the locals rely on fish and fishing, rather than the tourist and artisan shops at the beginning of the Gaspe Peninsula.

Tonight we find ourselves camped in Forillon National Park of Canada (I add the words "of Canada" because if we go to a National Park here in Quebec, it means one of their provincial parks.  Another lesson learned!).  We are in the campground at Cap-des-Rosiers (Rosebush Cape) for 3 nights.  The cape got its name from the many wild roses that have grown here for hundreds of years.  Apparently sailors use this cape as the point that divides the St. Lawrence River and the Gulf.  There have been many shipwrecks here, which resulted in a lighthouse being built in 1858 – the highest lighthouse in Canada.  Anyway, it’s good to be settled here for a while, and gives us lots of time to explore this rich diverse area.

August 24th – Walk to Cap Gaspe
What a wonderful hiking day to Land’s End, Cap Gaspe (the easternmost point of land in the Gaspe) this has been.  We drove to the southern area of the Forillon National Park, signed up for a whale watching tour tomorrow morning, and had the most interesting talk with the tour operator about Gaspe Bay and his love of whales and kayaking.  He used to be a guide, taking tourists out kayaking among the whales.  Older now, he is still involved with the whales and the sea.  We talked about how precarious the balance of nature and the oil/gas business is.  One oil well he spoke of is in the middle of the migration path of all local species of whales and dolphins.  As the National Park pamphlet stresses “Harmony between man, land and sea”.  Talking at length with this gentleman reinforced to us how important it is for all of us to work to keep it this way.  So much is at stake!   

Then we headed further east and hiked along the last stretch of the International Appalachian Trail, ending up at Cap Gaspe.  We learned that the Appalachian Trail starts in Georgia and runs 3400 miles up the east coast to Maine.  The International Appalachian Trail picks up the trail in Maine and carries on through to New Brunswick and ends up here in Cap Gaspe, adding another 1000 km to the trail.  We hiked some of the beach areas of the trail (I found my blue sea glass, Helen) then walked uphill along a stream.  Coming out into a sloped area covered with raspberry canes, we startled a black bear which was filling up on berries.  It was no further than 30 feet from us!  Don’t know who was more surprised, us or the bear!  The bear ran uphill a few paces, then turned and sat down to observe us.  Once the heart stopped racing and we realized it meant us no harm, I was able to snap a picture.  Moving on slowly, we made sure to make noise so we wouldn’t startle any other bears who may not be as “relaxed” as this one!  We now recognize the distinct odour black bears have.  We had smelt it before while walking in the meadows of the Kootenay Park where we also encountered a bear.  I wonder if the bear thinks that we smell as bad??

Arriving at Cap Gaspe, we were in awe with the beauty of the land and seascapes.  It was windy up there, and gloriously sunny.  Far below, we could see whitecaps racing on the Atlantic Ocean.  We kept straining to see whales, our eyes deceived by the whitecaps.  However, we did see some large seals playing and sunbathing in the waters directly below the cliff.  It was our favourite kind of sparkly day! 

Walking back down the trail, we met a retired couple who had been just ahead of us.  Between my broken French and their broken English, we had a great conversation about bears, hiking, travelling the country, and retirement.  He explained that “L’Anse” means “cove”, but we couldn’t decipher what “La Grave” means.  These two words are everywhere 'round here.  Do any of you know?

August 25th – Whale Watching Day
What can we say other than “What an amazing day!”  We started out at 9am, back at noon and had a wonderful day on the water with humpback whales!  They are incredible creatures!
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