Nomad and John O: AT Thru-Hikers

St. Yvon, Quebec
International Appalachian Trail

Week 2

Sunday, May 28, 2000
Trail Day: 5
Trail Mile: 77
Location: Motel La Maree Haute, Grande-Vallee, PQ Canada

After a most welcome night's rest John O and I are treated to a tank-stoking breakfast. We bid goodbye to our good friend Ubaldine Dae and are promptly greeted by another day of wind and cold, cold rain. Over the last two days the road has climbed from the sea to the mountains, only to return again to the sea, and then to repeat the entire process again and again. I recall many delightful vistas along this way in 1998, but the angry, swirling shroud will yield to none of that joy today.

But yet there is joy, as there always and inevitably seems to be, for it is as we are slogging along that a vehicle pulls to the shoulder and stops. The driver emerges, dons his rain jacket, and heads straight for John O and me. Oh my, it's Viateur DeChamplain from Matane, the Quebec director for the SIA/IAT. Viateur has a bag of goodies for us and some much welcome upbeat conversation!

This day has been a long, cold-soaking roadwalk and as we near Petite-Vallee we're both ready to call it a day, so into the little mom-and-pop grocery I go to look for my friend Jean (Jeff) Francoes LeBreux, who befriended me in 1998. Sure enough he's still here and after his face lights up in a beaming ear-to-ear smile comes the exclamation "Nimblewill Nomad!" Jeff had driven me to Grand-Vallee in 1998 so I could find a place for the night . . . and yup! After a short while, Jeff loads both John O and me and we head once more for Grand-Vallee.

Monday, May 29, 2000
Trail Day: 6
Trail Mile: 94
Location: DuRocher Motel, Madeleine Center, PQ Canada

What a blessing to see the morning dawn to clear skies. Five constant and steady days of cold rain tend to wear on a fellow. Patience is a great virtue when one can muster enough of it.

The restaurant at La Maree Haute is a fine establishment. The place has been totally remodeled since I came through back in 1998, all whizbang new. I went over last night for spaghetti and was treated royally, so it's back again for breakfast this morning.

The plan today is to hike from the motel here at Grande-Vallee toPetite-Vallee, going south to north on the trail, and once there to get a ride back again with Jeff to the motel here at Grande-Vallee. This plan works out just great and Jeff has us back and on our way south again before 11:00 a.m. Thanks, Jeff!

The road winds up and around through the mountains for the better part of the day to finally descend back to the sea and the little village of Riviere Madeleine. Here is located the Chez Mamie, Annie Langlois, proprietor. Her son Gilbert waits tables and as I enter I inquire about Gilbert. Annie calls her son, who comes right away to swell up into that familiar broad-beaming Canadian smile as he sees the old Nomad! John O comes in and we enjoy the most delicious spaghetti dinner served in grand fashion as we enjoy the evening searching the sea looking for whales.

After a pleasant short nap in the comfortable living room, we head back out into the evening for a short roadwalk past the old lighthouse to Madeleine Center and the DuRocher Motel. A most enjoyable day.

Tuesday, May 30, 2000
Trail Day: 7
Trail Mile: 106
Location: de l'Ance-Pleureuse Gite, Anse-Pleureuse, PQ Canada

We are greeted to another fine day weather-wise as we rise to another day on our roadwalk west following PQ123, this most scenic, picturesque byway along the St. Lawrence Sea. We no sooner get the old jitneys warmed up good than we arrive beside this gravel drive leading to a lovely home beside the sea. The sign reads:"Cafe Chez Diane, Repast Complet, Ouvert des 6hr. AM." Whipping out the little user-friendly and comprehensive "Bilingual Hiking Glossary," with cross references for most often used French and English words and terms, prepared for the SIA/IAT by Suzanne Bailey, Emma Jean Bailey, Jocelyne DeChamplain, and Francis R. Wihbey, I am able to determine that this lovely, well-kept home by the sea is actually a restaurant that serves all meals and is open in the morning at 6:00 a.m., so over we go.

A pleasant, clean, and tidy home it is, and indeed it is a home. We're seated in the dining room just off the kitchen and the bathroom is up the hall stairs just next to the bedroom on the second floor . . . no his and hers, no exit signs, no emergency lighting, no fire extinguishers, no hood over the grill, no "no shoes, no shirt, no service" signs, just good wholesome food served up by the lady of the house with that rosy, broad-beaming French-Canadian smile. Oh yes, folks, we're going back at least 4050 years in time here as we enjoy these quaint, faraway storybook lands along the St. Lawrence Sea, Canada.

As John O and I enjoy our breakfast we see a fellow pass by on the road. He's heading west the same as us. It isn't until later when John O crosses paths with him again in a hardware store in Mont Louis that we realize he is the fellow we had been hearing about who is hiking the Gaspe Peninsula collecting funds for "Dogs for the Blind." His name is Andrei Ducet from Ste-Foy, Quebec, a most gregarious and pleasant fellow. We first heard about him a couple of days ago. An auto speeding east screeched to a halt in the road, the passenger's hand came out, the kind lady quickly handed five dollars to John O, and the vehicle just as quickly sped away. We looked at each other and shrugged . . . the best I could manage was, "John, I've told you about the people of Canada." In the hardware store John O finally got the opportunity to deliver the lady's generous donation—plus a little extra—to where it rightfully belonged.

Today has been a most pleasant hiking day along the sea and into the Gite at Anse-Pleureuse.

Wednesday, May 31, 2000
Trail Day: 8
Trail Mile: 116
Location: Mont Saint-Pierre Motel, Charlotte Auclair and Raymond Boily,proprietors, Mont Saint-Pierre, PQ Canada

Today will be our final short day on the roadwalk west along the St.Lawrence Sea. As I hike along enjoying the cool, prevailing breeze from the sea and the soul-calming scenic beauty of these timeless mountains as they meet the restless waves I harken back to a day not unlike this very day, the day in 1998 when I completed this very roadwalk at its eastern extent at Fox River. This time, however, it seems the time has passed so fast. Perhaps it's because back then I had been on the trail so long by myself and this time I've had the luxury of pleasant company the whole way. Isn't it always more fun and doesn't the time go faster when one's joy is shared with others?

By early afternoon I arrive at the motel in Mont Saint-Pierre to be greeted enthusiastically by my dear friends Raymond and Charlotte. As Raymond and I relax, catching up on events o'er the past two years, from the comfortable sitting room at the Mont Saint-Pierre Motel Raymond points out an orca whale casually negotiating the harbor. As I sit here surrounded by all this natural beauty I wonder at the grandness of it all. The snowmelt is in full tilt now, creating the most remarkable waterfall erupting from the very brink of the western bay escarpment. This tumultuous cataract must be in total free flight for nearly 400 feet before careening from the angular rock face to plunge again to the rocks and boulders below. The unparalleled grandeur, the joy-filled, beautifully inspirational Canadian people with their romantic and fascinating language make this little niche by the corner of the sea in Quebec one of the most spellbinding places on Earth.

Tomorrow we will depart this place for Matapedia, PQ, to hike south fromthere on the SIA/IAT into New Brunswick. We will be unable to complete the grand traverse over the tundra of Jaques Cartier, Xalibu, Mont Albert, and Mont Logan until June 24 and we will return then once again to this magic place. Thank you Charlotte and Raymond for your love and hospitality . . . you're Canada to the core, the finest example of your country's kind and generous people.

What a whirlwind week this has been! John O and I have covered about 100 miles in our southbound 4,800-mile odyssey over the Appalachian Mountains Trail (AMT) and then ultimately the Eastern Continental Trail (ECT). We started from the Cliffs of Forillon, Cap Gaspe, PQ Canada, on May 24 the dramatic beginning/ending of the Appalachian Mountains as we know them . . . where they plunge to the sea. The first five days were in driving cold rain, and in the higher areas of Forillon we were confronted with two to seven feet of snowpack. We're headed for Matapedia, PQ, now where we'll hike south on the SIA/IAT until the last of June, when we'll return again to the sea near Mont Saint-Pierre to do the grand traverse across the tundra, over Mount Jacques Cartier, Xalibu, Mont Albert, and Mont Logan. There's still too much snow and ice there now. We're both doing fine, I've got bad shinsplints, which I half expected. Much swelling and discomfort but I'll walk it off. Another hiker, a young man from Florida, has also started his southbound hike to Key West. His name is Sridhar Ramasami. I think John O and I saw him today in Gaspe as we were entering by bus for the train ride to Matapedia.

What are they carrying? Check out John and Nimblewill's gear lists and pack weights

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