Quebec road trip, day 3
Day 3 of our road trip started out a little sad as we really wanted to do the l'Acropole-des-Draveurs in Hautes-Gorges National Park, but woke up to rain. The clouds hung so low that we couldn't see the top of the mountains. Figuring it wouldn't be worth the 6 hours to hike up into the fog and not see the views that we had heard so much about, we packed up and headed south. By the time we drove back down to the St Lawrence the clouds had a lifted high enough that we could see white cap out on the river. What an impressive body of water. Every time we were on the St.Lawrence I was fascinated by this diverse brackish river. Its hard to believe its the same river runs all the way from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean! I could (technically) get from our cottage on Georgian Bay to the whales in the Atlantic ocean! Crazy. Anyways, we drove alongside the river headed towards Saint Simeon and then pick up Hwy 170 north towards L'Anse St Jean.
We stopped in the town of Little Saguenay (Petit-Saguenay) for our first glimpse of the fjord. The very nice lady at the tourist Information pointed out many hikes around town that we would like to go on one day. If we had more time and it wasn't raining there would be a few days worth of entertainment in Little Saguenay. Most of the hikes aren't even part of the official provincial park which means they're free! She suggested we drive down to the fjord lookout before leaving town. Driving along the narrow road we came upon The 'Window to the Fjord.' A wooden window prop made for perfect pictures and fun posing was set up in front a spectacular view. It was a delightful surprise and the best way to see the fjord for the first time.I was super excited to see more. At the end of the road was a parking lot and pier also with gorgeous views. The weather was dramatic and wild which, although not perfect for outdoor activities really leant to the rough, rustic ...
Further down the road along the south side of the fjord was L'Anse St-Jean, the first town to settle on the Saguenay Fjord. L'Anse St -Jean comes with a very interesting story from the 1990s when it succeeded from Quebec and became it's own principality. It brings back good memories of visiting the Hutt River Principality in Western Australia. Not that I can't see why one might want to separate from the Nation of Quebec, but I'm happy they're reunited. I love stories like that! Literature states that the L'Anse-de-Tabatiere Lookout in L'Anse St-Jean is the only fjord lookout that you can drive to, but I would argue that the views from Little Sagueny are as beautiful as other lookouts AND you can drive there as well. The difference would be that maybe you aren't looking down on the fjord..
L'Anse St-Jean was small and sleepy although I can imagine it's quite bustling in the summer. We had a picnic down on the jetty and watched the locals clean their newly de-watered sailboats. It would most certainly be a spectacular setting to start a boat adventure. We crossed the covered bridge in town (so cool!) and headed down the dirt road to our first stop in the Saguenay Fjord National Park. The much touted L'Anse-de-Tabatiere lookout. As this is a part of the Saguenay National Park it requires the $8.50pp entrance fee (see beow for details). There are 3 lookout platforms linked by a short trail all with undeniably breath-taking views.
Back on the main road we continued up Hwy 170 to Riviere Éternité where the Saguenay National Park campsites on the south shore of the fjord are located. We were forced to pay for an expensive site with services even though we only had a tent as the park only had one campsite loop open. This was pretty annoying but on the bright side, the park is exceptionally beautiful. Being too late in the day for the parks most popular (and amazing souding) hike (Sentier de la Statue) we opted for a shorter, easy walk (Sentier des Meandres-a-Falaises) which was perfect not only because it combined shoreline boardwalks and misty mountain vistas, but also because it started the pour 5 minutes into a walk. It really poured down on us. Lke, a lot. I'm glad it wasn;t muddy, long or uphill. We finished the walk and scurried, dripping into the visitor center to wait out the downpour. It was disappointing because it was the kind of place that I jsut knew was hiding spectacular vistas behind all the thick grey clouds and relentless rain. I was definitely missing out and I'm (some say) unreasonably cranky about such things. With a short break in the rain we raced back to the campsite to try to set up our tent before the rain started again. It rained pretty much all evening. It made the fact that we were paying for a serviced site even more painful because the thought of whiling away the evening in a plugged-in camper was very appealing.... or even having an electric blanket to cuddle under would have been an acceptable consolation prize. Angry fist to the Saguenay National Park campsite. Thankfully we were harbouring some local craft beers in the cooler that were exceptionally delicious to drink away my sorrows. Plus, who knows, tomorrow could be a particularly sunny and warm day and there was that hike to the famous statue to look forward to!