I decided to stay another night at the B&B in Cap-Chat as it's a nice place and it allowed me to stay and hike the park some more.
I have further explanation from the woman at the B&B about the "National Park" thing. Apparently that happened about 20 years ago in one of Quebec's throws of Nationhood: they decided that they were a Nation, so the parks were National Parks. And that's how it is.
Waffles with blueberries and maple syrup at the B&B this morning, then off to the Park again. I started the day with the easier trail of the two I'd planned, Le Mont Ernest-Laforce. I don't know if the land was cleared by a burn or logging (both leave evidence that I didn't see), but it's growing back now and it's a lovely space. The beginning of the trail is through incredibly mossy and stream-laden territory with lots of spruce(?) trees, apparently ideal for moose as the trail is known for it. The trail had multiple warnings encouraging you to not stray from the path: the entertaining English translation was "Respect the Moose." But I remain the world's most reliable moose repellent, once again coming away without a sighting. Keep in mind that this was free day at the park: admission is usually $8.50 per person. The trail wasn't terribly busy, but neither was it so quiet as yesterday, which may have driven off the moose. Nice summit too. That trail is listed as 4.5km complete (a loop), 155m elevation change, "intermediate" rating. I'd say it barely qualified for that rating - it bordered on "easy."
photo: Along the Mont Ernest-Laforce trail
I had naively assumed that when the weather forecast predicted no rain in Cap-Chat that it also meant no rain in the park. So I left my umbrella and poncho at the B&B (where they'd be of least use). As I was returning to the car after the Ernest-Laforce trail, a light rain started. I drove to the Mont Xalibu trailhead and ate the sandwich I'd bought at a very nice little bakery in Ste-Anne-des-Monts while I waited for the clouds to clear. After a while I gave up the wait and started on the "Le lac aux Américains" trail (really - literally translated that's "the lake of the Americans," I have no idea why), which is a flat wide uphill gravel path, a very easy walk. The lake is quite small, but the setting - among big hills - is quite impressive - the screaming kids were an added bonus. But the real reason I was there was because this was the start of the Mont Xalibu trail. It's rated "difficult," 10.7km return, 540m of elevation change, and 5-6 hours. The guide yesterday re-rated it "difficult +" (which is an actual rating they use) but changed the time to 4-5 hours ... He was right on both counts. The trail immediately switches from the Américain's easy gravel to 10 degree grade over the lousy footing of mid-sized rocks. But that looks easy compared to the last kilometre and a half, which is over big rocks (awful footing) while going steadily uphill at a 20 degree grade. That last 1.5k probably took as much time as the rest of the trail. And, despite the difficulty rating, people were tromping past every minute or two: "Bonjour!" "Salut!" "Bonjour!" It was a genuinely busy trail. Also right about that turning point (the last 1.5km) you break out of the forest onto a ridge, with a view of a waterfall. Not just any waterfall: this one leaps and bumps down a 50 degree angle for ... I'd guess 150m. From a small lake above to a small lake below. Incredibly picturesque ... and surprisingly hard to photograph. The summit is loose scree rock and tundra fauna, very barren - by then the number of people had thinned out considerably. Good views. Somehow not as satisfying as Mont Olivine yesterday, but I suspect that was more because Olivine was my first hike in a long time - although it may be partly because the park guide set my expectations for this particular hike quite high. I was lucky with the weather: it did sprinkle a bit a couple more times, but very light.
photo: Nothing gives scale to these places like people - near the Xalibu peak
I was pretty exhausted after walking trails for most of seven hours. After quite a bit of thought I decided I wasn't going to enjoy any other local meal as much as the pizza I had last night, so I returned to Malbord to have the same thing again. So good! My drink of choice for the evening was a McKeown cider.
The plan for tomorrow is to drive to the town of Gaspé along the next stretch of particularly scenic north shore. To that end, I now need to book a room in Gaspé.