I drive by a sign greeting me to Forillion National Park, a few minutes later you are now leaving Forillion, National Park. I brake but with nowhere to turn I keep going. A few minutes later I see another sign Welcome to Forillion. “What the heck?” Confused, I pull over to the side of the road and look at the map.
Pulling a U-turn, I backtrack, finding the welcome center I’d cruised by without seeing the first time. Upon entering I smell baked goods and coffee. It appears to be more of restaurant-slash-gift shop. I approach a lady and she speaks to me in English. “Keep going up the road, exit off to the right, drive for another five kilometers, you will come to the camping registration building.” I follow the road I had just been on, and follow her directions..
At the camping registration building I am asked,”Do you know what camp site you would like to stay in?” My eyes shift from lift to right as I think, “this is my first trip to this park I have no clue where I want to camp.”
“No, can you recommend a spot?” “What do you want to do while you are in the park?” answering my question with one of her own. “I want to hike to Land’s End tomorrow.” She nods her head and says, “Then you’ll want to camp at Petit-Gaspe campground.” She looks on the computer with her head tilted up and her glasses sliding down to the middle of her nose. Next she opens a visitor’s guide to the campground page, “B-40″ she says aloud, and circles the spot. ” If you don’t like it we can switch it.”
I drive forward slowly up the path look at the numbered posts. It is a narrow access but sheltered in the woods and within walking distance to washroom facilities and a potable water tap. I am happy with the site and return to pay the camping fee.
It is too late to go exploring this evening. I set up camp and pour a drop of the horrible wine I bought back in Carleton-Sur-Mer, and have it with my hummus and crackers while I wait for my vegetable couscous to finish cooking. The wine is terrible, so I dump it out, and crack a beer instead. I prep my backpack for tomorrow’s hike, then peruse the hiking guide, until my eyes start watering and a chill creeps into my bones. Into my sleeping bag I go.
The rising sun awakens me. I am excited to get the day going. A little more than 20 minutes later the truck coasts to a stop. I am the second vehicle to arrive at the L’Anse-aux-Amerindians parking lot. Double checking my pack: the water bladder is full, I have snacks, med-kit, extra socks, fleece … check, check, check. I have built a make-shift harness for my camera so it can hang off the straps of my pack and not my neck.
Goosebumps ripple down my spine and I shake off the chill of the overnight single-digit temperature. The sky is clear, a good day for a hike. Just as I make my way through the posts of the access road, A lady emerges from the trees, at a steady running cadence. The sign says be aware of bears and I am not so sure I would be out for a early morning run alone, yet here I am going for a hike.
About ten minutes up the gravel road, I see the sign for the Les Graves trail,
I follow it to a small look-off where it loops out and rejoins the gravel road again. A a barrier is placed across the trail and a sign stating Caution: Under construction prevents me from continuing up the path but I am just as happy to stay on the gravel road. It is shorter and I believe I will have less of a chance of bumping into a bear. Or so I think, until a black bear appears on the road 200 meters in front of me. As smooth as liquid he rolls across the road and disappears in to the woods, unaware of my presence. I don’t get a picture and I am disappointed but happy to have seen it from a distance.
I continue my walk, keeping an eye turned to the woods where the bear entered as I pass by the spot. A park ranger in a truck drives towards me in a cloud of dust. He pulls over and says, “Hello.”
“Hello,” I respond then add, “Have you see any bears?” His left hand is gripped onto the top of the steering wheel and his right elbow braced on the arm rest. “No, none yet this morning,” he replies. “Well, I just saw one,” I turn and point down the road. “What size was it?” he inquires.
“Looked like a full grown one to me, heavy body real dark coat, lumbered along sure-footed.”
“Good to know, stay alert,” he says and drives off, leaving me to cover my face against the dust.
The coastline opens up and the view is pretty spectacular.
A kayaker hugs the shoreline, making his way towards Land’s End. A sailboat is far offshore and I squint to watch it float between the trees. It looks like the jib and main have been let out to catch some breeze, which helps pull the boat forward.
A rather long hill is a grind to get up. I stop near the peak and take off my outer layer and drink some water, then keep going. Almost to the top a gatehouse and entrance to the lighthouse. I have made it and I have the place all to myself.
I see the trail at the tree line, it points down a narrow path promising to take me to Land’s End. I have to follow it.
Nervously I walk forward, careful of my steps. A fall here would be fatal. It winds and twists down the bank for 400 meters. Some signage warns visitors to stay on the marked path, the plants that grow here are fragile and sensitive to erosion. I finally drop from a set of stairs down to a platform. I have reached Land’s End.
Nothing but ocean as far as I can see. I search the horizon for spouts of water being released from blow holes, a tell-tale sign of whales. There are flocks of gulls and ducks bobbing on waves that sparkle with sunlight. The wind here is cool and I have to put another layer on but I stay on just looking so I will remember every detail.
I read the plaques reminiscing of how seafaring men have used this stretch of land for its identifiable markers to guide their way home.
The rocks butt with the sea creating a sharp meeting place. The sail boat has caught up to me and makes the turn. Its speed has increased measurably, as it crosses the chop and leaves me far behind.
I am hesitant to leave but make my way back up the trail. At the top I am greeted by a couple in their sixties, they met ten years ago in Spain, while doing the El Camino trail. I tell them my hope-to do the Inca trail, they say they did it five years ago, They had been to Scotland earlier this year and just finished their fourth trip to Newfoundland. She was Dutch born, he an American, they now call Canada home and are hoping to head out west to to hike on Haida Gwaii.
I make it back to the lighthouse and a couple are resting – they just finished hiking Grand Grave trail. We talk of the park, my journey around the Gaspe, and they are impressed I am doing it alone. They are visiting from Ontario, and have been here several times before. “Could you take my picture next to the plaque marking the end of the Appalachian Trail please?” “Sure” the man says and I hand over my camera. I smile and pose. “One more with the lighthouse?’ I turn and he backs up to get it centered in the view finder.” I think I got a good one.” Thank you so much. ” I wave good by and start back down the trail.
Please join me again for part two of Forillion National Park.
Happy travels from Maritimemac
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