Clearly, I can’t hang out with Guylaine for too long – I might get fit. She had a plan for a day vacation into the Parc nationale de la Mauricie, involving paddle boards and sightseeing. Now, anyone who knows me, is aware of my aversion to swimming in lakes as the water is usually too cold and I have to be pretty damn hot to go in. While dubious about my potential paddle boarding ability after being on a motorcycle for 2 months, I determined to at least try.
The weather cooperated by giving us a warm, sunny-ish day. The first stop on our little tour was a pretty covered bridge on a little side road along the way. It was the first one I have seen on this trip. Lots of steel bridges and wood bridges, but not a covered one until today. So neat and no traffic! I probably could have parked Fury on there for a picture.
Our next stop was at a natural amphitheatre in the park where events are held from time to time. There have been some seats built in and electricity brought in for shows, but the setting is beautiful and one has to wonder about the force of nature that created the deep crevice in the first place.
Along the way to our paddle board location, we stopped at a viewpoint with some story boards about the Laurentian Mountains. According to these, this region is the youngest portion of the Canadian shield. As with Manitoba and Ontario, Quebec is covered with lakes – large and small – at different elevations and of different characteristics. Absolutely beautiful.
We made our way to Wapizagonke Lake (say that 10 times fast!), where I was to be indoctrinated into the mysteries of paddle boarding. Needing to fuel up for this event, the first order of business was to have lunch. Guylaine’s camping hack for all you crazies that like to camp: use a twin-sized fitted sheet for a table-cloth! It works absolutely marvellously and is not disturbed by wind. Guylaine brought us a first-class lunch of salad with homemade smoked salmon, garden tomatoes, fresh strawberries and wine. Some rusks on the side completed this little luncheon and we had a fun visit involving all kinds of unsuitable topics and irreverent humour.
Finishing up our lunch, we went back and got her paddle boards. These are inflatable affairs, so we got our workout by pumping them up before facing the coordination challenge of carrying board, paddle and lifejackets down to the water. Wading in to push the board forward revealed that the water was actually quite warm and I chided myself for being a wimp.
Guylaine gave me a brief tutorial and waited for the comedy show. Miraculously, I did not fall off the board trying to get onto my feet. Nor did I fall off while paddling up the lake. Having a jolly good time, one forgets to pay attention to how far out one has paddled. The shore didn’t look that far away until the wind picked up against us on the way back. Keeping direction and making progress at the same time became a good deal harder. Had to sit on the board and rest for a bit. Paddling over to a sandy bit of shore, Guylaine tied my board to hers and we began to make our way back to the shore. Determined that she shouldn’t be towing me, I swapped between sitting and kneeling, which gave me better balance and more endurance on the paddle. We soon settled into a bit of a rhythm that kept us both going and mitigated the push and pull of wind and waves. Eventually, we made it back to shore. Though she refused to admit it, I’m sure Guylaine was secretly disappointed that I was so boring and didn’t end up in the drink at least once. I know I would have been….
Guylaine headed up to the vehicle to get the bags for the boards so we could carry them up more easily. She returned shortly after, empty-handed with the words “bad news”. Her keys, which had been secured in a pocket on her life jacket, were not in said pocket (which had come unzipped) but somewhere at the bottom of the lake. We looked all over the sand and lake and path but to no avail. So, I accepted the trying chore of laying on my board in the sun to be watch-dog while she went in search of a phone, both of ours being left in the locked car.
Fortunately, she had her spare set of keys in the car, so it was just a call to CAA and a bit of a wait for the truck to arrive. This gave us time to get the boards and paraphernalia back up the hill to the vehicle and deflate the boards. Finally, the truck arrived, the spare keys were retrieved and we were on our way.
We stopped at a location that was supposed to have a short hike to a viewpoint. I had to visit the biffy and change from my bathing suit. Finally got that done and was ready to go and Guylaine came back from the trailhead to say it was actually quite a bit of a hike. Strike deux, mon ami. 😊 Back into the car with us. The next viewpoint turned out to be much more successful – a short 250m walk down the Ile-aux-Pins trail to a beautiful view of the lake.
Last but not least, we made one more stop at the Shawenegan picnic area. This is a great spot for picnicking, having a long stretch of sandy beach for swimming, picnic tables and barbeque stoves. A bridge takes you over the lake, past a wetland and on to a waterfall. Along this path, I saw the different varieties of flowers that I had not yet seen since riding into Quebec. Can’t tell you what they are, but there are pictures! Guylaine warned me not to touch the little pinky-white ones that hang like little fluted bells. They are like poison ivy and will give you itches you would rather not have.
The waterfall is a long, tumbling falls over stepped rocks and is much cooler to see than the picture lets on. Being mid-summer, the water was lower and coming down only one side of the rocks. Guylaine said in the spring, it is much wider. We spent a few moments enjoying the falls before heading back to the car, thinking about dinner.
The plan was to go to a local brew pub with good burgers to use a gift certificate that Guylaine had. Both of us were ready for it after our day of exertion and adventure. Getting there, we found out that they don’t serve food on Mondays. And there was strike trois! So, we headed down the street and had a hot dog and poutine from a street vendor, and that was pretty good too. In spite of our little blips, I'm still giving my tour guide 10/10 for perserverance! After all, if everything goes right, you can't really call it an adventure!
Tired out and ready to sleep like a hibernating bear, it is time to prepare for tomorrow’s activities and get to bed. Jusqu’a la prochaine fois, mes amis (still no French keyboard for accents……)