Day 1 – Cap Gaspé

Woke up, ate an entire bag of granola, and checked my watch. It’s 3am, and light as day outside. I personally didn’t witness it, but as far as I can tell, sunrises here in the summer are much different from Florida.

For that matter, sunset here isn’t until 8:30. In other words I have about 17 hours of daylight. It’s unfortunate I’m so lazy so early on in this trip, or else I could be making some distance.

I stayed at a hostel last night. A combination of 23 miles of road walking, and no where *legal* to camp. Apparently I made the right choice, this is a place one of my personal hero’s has stayed twice before! Nimblewill Nomad, the man who gave this long and lonesome route from Quebec to the Keys a name, the Eastern Continental Trail. The man who popularized it through his book 10 Million Steps. He was here, however many years ago.

So I move on with the breeze. Just ~11 more miles of road until I can start this thing.

At the entrance of Forillon National Park I see a great long line of cars, and then a second line with nobody in it! Must be for me, a walker! Sure enough, lady there ready to grant me admission. Money in hand, and wouldn’t you know it? Today is Canada Day! I get the thumbs up, a free park pass, and waved through. It couldn’t be a more perfect day. Not a single cloud in the sky, the Gulf of St Lawrence to my right, the Canadian Appalachians to my left, and here I am in the middle standing atop rocky cliffs over the water. Ducks here, ducks there. They know it. Today’s a damn good day to be in Canada.

Being a national holiday at a beautiful park, you can imagine, I am but one of many tourists lurching about. I say hello, they say bonjour. It’s almost tiresome after a while, but really I should have known better, and learned some french.

Eventually I find an SIA/IAT marker, deciding to skip the crowed I dip off that way. Getting a taste for what this trail is like, after all this is my new home for the next month until I reach Maine. I’m greeted with beautiful single track, many small wildflowers, and an almost constant view of the water. I am not dissapointed. One extremely steep uphill, and I know that’s just a tease at my future.

It’s now 2pm and I have the final climb in sight, one very long gravel road, going straight up, leading to the red and white lighthouse that marks the beginning of my hike. Excited, I press forward faster. A moment I’ve dreamt about, and planned for a long time.

From the top you can look in almost any direction and your view is of an endless horizon. I’m not sure of the elevation, but from up here its very surreal. This is where the Appalachian Mountains disappear into the sea. Starting in Alabama, ending here. There are two plaques, one commemorating the Appalachian Trail, the other is for its international extention, what I am now on. This is the ending location of many fantastic journeys, and I can see why. I can’t imagine a better place to start my own. A lighthouse on a clif, with an endless view of the ocean.

Since I won’t be here again anytime soon, I take a few photos, and then I go around to every other person to see which one of them takes the best one. It’s got to be perfect! None of them will do. I snap one more with my self timer, and it’s everything I ever wanted.

The wind is blowing very strong, I am losing daylight hours, and am beginning to get cold. So I leave. Every step forward now, is a step I don’t have to take back. Every step forward is progress to the bigger picture. No matter how slow. Only 4,800 miles to go.

On my way down, I meet two very lovely ladies near the water. As if my day wasnt already wonderful, they speak english! (And german, and french!) It’s very refreshing to talk to them!! Even just for a brief moment. I curse myself, but I move on. I need water.

Stopped at a river ahead, gathering myself. Yesterday I did 23 miles or so with a little less than a liter of water. Why, I don’t know. Today I wasn’t trying to repeat that. While I check my maps, up the trail comes my two new friends! They stop to chat, and I get up off the floor to join them. We walk together for maybe 6km, and I very much so enjoyed their company. Two Germans working as nannies in Canada, now traveling, and seeing the world. They’re doing life right. If only they too were hiking the whole IAT! I think I would be beside myself. Sadly, eventually I had to go in a different direction.

Their names are Elena, and Anna. Maybe our paths will cross again. Small world you know.

Now left to myself. Now left to the mountains. No more roads, finally I am on the trail. Very technical walking, extremely steep climbs, and as far as I know, this is just a taste of what is to come. The path is everything I dreamed of. Thick woods surround me, the sound of the ocean water crashing ashore down below me, and a well maintained trail ahead of me!

Elena had mentioned earlier she had seen a moose and it’s two babies around here, so I was somewhat on edge. Then comes a group of 4 day hikers frazled, telling me about a bear in the direction I am headed. “That’s fine.”

These animals don’t want to deal with us, as much as we don’t want to deal with them. I figure talking to myself allowed would suffice, as close encounters with a bear or a moose on day 1 isn’t exactly something I’m looking forward to. Instead of talking, I put on some good ol Bob Marley…. That’ll scare away the animals I think. Unless of course they enjoy his music as much as I.

The trail goes up and down mountains, no word of a switchback anywhere. Over small bridges and mountain streams. Through dense forest, and eventually I’ve listened to all the tracks on Bob Marley’s best of…….. only 2.5km from camp.

The sun is setting and im unsure how long I’ve got. Certainly not wishing to spend time night hiking so early on in my trip I power forward. Coming up to a welcoming sign that says there is a view 1km from here. I quickly learn that the only reason they have a sign, is because that distance is straight up the side of a mountain. The sign is just letting you know, it’s not all for nothing. At the very top, on both sides of the trail they’ve built small wooden platforms with benches. The sky is a deep purple, and on one side you have the Atlantic, on the other side the Gulf of St Lawrence. A nice way to end my day.

After a steep desent, I finally see what I’ve been waiting for. A shelter.

Turns out I walked 25 miles today. Time to stetch, hang my food, and go to bed. Today was a good day.

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4 thoughts on “Day 1 – Cap Gaspé

  1. Hi James,
    While dreaming and then planning your hikes did you per chance explore hiking anywhere in the UK? I’d like to fly to Dublin or London/Heathrow, hike four days early September and stay in B&B’s or castles (!) rather than hauling a pack…and then rush back to work.
    BTW I am in the decrepit capital island of Majuro, in the Marshall Islands. Highly doubtful if I will ever return. Envious of all the clean wilderness in your photos!

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    • I’m most certain a hike you’re looking for can be arranged!! Maybe when I get back I can look into it for you? If you can’t wait, that sounds like a nice topic of research to take your mind off this decrepit capital. Hope you are doing well! And I do hope you return… unless it is of your choosing to stay!

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  2. Following you James on your great adventure. I hiked with you on the otl trail with Fred. I am in key largo 95 awaiting for you to pass my house

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