Cali had me up early, so after we did a small survey of the campground, I put her back inside and went for a hike before anyone in camp began to stir. I walked along the river that leads to Lac Chat then across the road to follow the loup trail to the far shore of the lake where all of the canoes are parked. There’s probably close to two hundred lined up along the shore. Do they ever get that many people to come canoe this small lake, I asked myself.
I returned to the RV and everyone was still snug in their beds. I made some tea and sat outside enjoying it with a bowl of muesli. The ranger came by and wanted to know why we didn’t have the paperwork attached to the post on the campsite. We’d arrived after hours and there was no one around. She said when I got around to it that I should head over to the Discovery Center and check in. I grabbed my bike and hit the wide loup trail that wound four miles through the forest until it brought me to Lac Monroe where the discovery center was located.
Only, they don’t call it the Discovery Center, it is the Centre du Descouverte as everything is in French in the province of Quebec. Which is as it should be here, but there is zero translation anywhere for those who don’t have a grasp of the language. Everywhere in the English speaking provinces of Canada the people bend over backwards to accommodate the Francophone folks with every street sign, brochure and camping map prominently converted to French, but there is a vibe of touchiness here in Quebec. When I walked in to register, the woman behind the counter pretended as if I wasn’t there. I stood two feet away waiting for her to finish playing with her computer but she wouldn’t even say hello. I walked away and browsed in the souvenir shop for a few minutes and walked back and it was the same customer service as before. When I spoke first and made her engage she begrudgingly looked up my reservation and printed out the paperwork.
I looked around at the lake and pedaled over to the shed where they rent kayaks and asked the Johnny Depp look alike about paddling the river. He said it takes four hours and that today might not be a good day since there was a group of students taking 150 canoes down the river to be picked up below. So, I learned that the pig pile of canoes at Lac Chat really do get some serious usage. I excitedly jumped back on my bike and pedaled hard for two miles in the wrong direction before I figured it out and turned myself around. I had come on a meandering path in the woods that wove back and forth over steams and water then for the return I was on the surface street.
Anyway, I finally made it back and when I pulled up I could hear excited shouting and laughing wafting through the trees from the river below. I walked down the path and found PJ there checking out the hordes of students going sideways, backwards and bumping off of rocks as they filtered through the narrows heading downstream to reach the lake miles below. It was a lot of fun and they all seemed really into it. Beats algebra any day.
We packed up our gear and drove the few kilometers down to Lac Monroe and put in our boards to paddle around a while. There are a pair of pipes that connect the smaller half of the lake to the larger side. The wind came up as the day wore on. We were paddling over to the pipes and the wind was really bad on the other side creating a strong current pushing back into the smaller lake. We were paddling hard to push through the narrow slots and the top handle on my paddle snapped off leaving me paddling from the shaft. We made it through and worked upstream for a while, then turned and let ourselves be floated back down through the bridge.
I went over to the rental shop and Depp hooked me up with a paddle to use for free. Awesome hospitality, thanks mon ami. We paddled to the far end of the small lake where a string of barrels keeps you from winding up on the rocks in the shallow rapids at the end of the waterway. The sun came out to complement the lush forest and trees that are beginning to change colors. A foursome of oldies were foot pedaling a little rental boat around the dock area laughing as they went. PJ jammed past them doing one of her race paddling exhibitions and all heads turned to look. I passed a minute layer and gave a wave and they all waved back. I returned the paddle and my thanks to the hip bro at the kiosk and we went home to lounge around camp.
After resting a while with Cali, we drove down to the Centre du Descouvetre and used their internet for a while. We are on total radio silence up here, no phone no internet. Pretty nice, just the wind blowing the leaves off of the trees and the sound of the rushing river below. Back at camp, we took Cali out for a wander in the total blackness.