Two months back I was dithering whether to turn east or west when my youngest daughter and I drive off the ferry onto the north shore of the St Lawrence River in July. We will be at the village of Godbout. Now I’ve decided on a bit of both. About an hour northeast of Godbout is Pointe-aux-Anglais, and near this village is a long public beach where you can camp and watch whales. It sounds good for a night. Pointe-aux-Anglais means Englishmen’s Point. Wikipedia explains why.
The next day we will drive 300 miles upstream (southwest) to Parc national des Grands-Jardins. I admit to choosing this park for its location rather than any knowledge of what is in it. It appears to be conveniently located for all kinds of excursions, and so I booked us for five nights. Lac Saint-Jean is two and a half hours away. I don’t know much about the region around this large lake either, except that it is the blueberry and tourtière capital of Quebec. A tourtière is a meat pie, and that is enough to make us want to go. (Picture courtesy of Victoria Edwards, Creative Commons.) Grands-Jardins is also convenient for Saguenay fjord and Quebec City.
The park itself is in the region called Charlevoix, and lies within a World Biosphere Reserve. This sounds impressive, but what does it mean? There are 621 such UNESCO-recognized reserves worldwide. The closest to home is the New Jersey Pinelands. I am not sure what kind of advertisement that is. UNESCO’s definition of a World Biosphere Reserve makes them sound a bit like guinea-pig areas for sustainable development. It reminds me too of national parks in Scotland – areas where conservation of nature coexists with managed, sustainable development.
Anyway, I am beginning to get excited about the park. At 120 square miles Grands-Jardins is more than half as big again as Acadia NP in Maine. It does look more oriented to canoeing and fishing than hiking, but there are still 20 miles of trail. And it looks as if the trails go to beautiful places. The picture (Spectroboy / Creative Commons) is the view from Le Mont-du-lac-des-Cygnes a few miles from our campsite. There is wildlife too – “black bears, moose, woodland caribous, grey wolves, red foxes, porcupines, Common Loons, lynx and Spruce Grouse”, according to the park website. Indeed, a “herd of woodland caribou and spruce lichen, unusual at our latitude, is the reason Parc national des Grands-Jardins exists”.
As if all this were not enough, there are parks north and south of Grands-Jardins. I particularly like the sound of the one to the north. It is a bit of a mouthful – Parc national des Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie – but promises the highest cliffs east of the Rockies. It may be hard to pull ourselves away from all this to look for blueberries and tourtières, but probably not.