Forillon National Park & Perce

Quebec Road Trip Day 8 

We were up early again on Day 8 of our road trip. We snuck quietly down to the beach to watch the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean. Technically the Gulf of the St. Lawrence, I suppose. It was the perfect morning. The sun took the chill from the air, the cliffs and pebbles were glowing in the morning sun's first rays and the seals were back! They just swam back and forth along the beach drawn closer and closer to shore by their curiosity of us. Thank goodness we're weird looking!

For our last hike in the park we hiked 'Mont-Saint-Alban' up to the observation tower high on top of the cliff. We started at Cap Bon Ami and huffed uphill for almost an hour to reach the tower. About half way up are a couple more of the park's red Muskoka chairs overlooking Cap Gaspe and the Gulf. Breathtaking. So much so, in fact, that while we sat there racers on a long distance trail run would dash out of the bush and, despite being mid-race, stop to comment on the stunning view or even take a picture!

The tower is at 283m of elevation! And the 360 panorama is exceptional, even in a place where almost every view is stunning. The height made J nervous, which is fair because we were very, very high up, above all the tree tops looking a very, very long way down onto the cliff. Even he would agree (while clinging to the guardrails) that the views were worth it! The surrounding hills were dotted with autumn colours, the sparkling water of Gaspe Bay and gulf of St. Lawrence wrapped around us and spits of land stretched out into them, red lighthouses dropped at the tip. Wow.

Climbing back down to the parking lot went quickly (although not as quickly as the racing trail runners).

We said goodbye to Forillion and were on the move to our furthest point-Percé to see its famous limestone rock for ourselves.

Our first glimpse of the massive rocky cliff  was from far across the bay, and I couldn't help but be impressed. It was so big! And the arch the pierced through it was so perfect, even from a considerable distance.

As we rounded the last corner and came down a hill towards town and the water with rock filled our entire vision. It loomed up behind what appeared to be minuscule buildings and glowed a beautiful fire-y orange in the afternoon light. I was skeptical that I would be impressed by a rock hanging out in the ocean, but I had been one over. According to Wikipedia Percé Rock is one of the biggest natural arches in water in the world!  The imposing slab of limestone was named 'Percé'  (pierced rock) by Samuel Champlain way back in 1607 in reference to all its holes.. so those are cool facts that I now know to be true. Hopefully these tidbits of knowledge come back to help in a trivia game when the stakes are high....

We strolled the charming boardwalk and ducked into a delightful chocolate shop for some handmade chocolate that definitely hit the spot. Sea salt and maple pieces smothered in rich, dark chocolate.. Yes, all those words belong in the same sentence!

We drove up a rough dirt road to viewpoint for a bit of perceptive. You can also hike up, if you are so inclined. It looks like the town is building a huge viewing platform up there too, so that's something to look forward to!

Back down in town we stopped in for a flight of beer a the local microbrewery Pit Caribou. Housed in an old atmospheric building that could have easily been Percé's original general store, Pit Caribou Pub is on tap with microbrew marketing. Walking in you feel like you've stepping into the town's warm local pub. As you're sipping your way through a bartender-selected flight you can easily picture the salty pipe-smoking fisherman who is the face of Pit Caribou put there in the Gulf hauling in the day's catch before stopping in at the pub for a pint.

Our thirst quenched we drove up the road to our campground, Camping Côté Surprise. Commanding a cliff overlooking town Cote Surprise got our vote for its magical views and friendly owner. Below us the town snaked around the bay and the wharf stretched out into the Gulf. Percé Rock rose stately out of the water, its mood and colour changing with the shifting light of the sun. I'd be hard pressed to think of a more ambient place to watch the sun set. The town lit up the bay like a wall of fireflies. The only bad thing about the waning light was that we could no longer see the whales spouting out in the bay. There was practically no one else at the campground that night, which exacerbated the feeling of being out on a cliff, all alone watching the sun fade behind the horizon. Our campfire warmed our fingertips  and we marvelled about how wonderfully calm it was. Being right on the open water I excepted a little more wind and was pleasantly surprised that the evening was so tranquil.

After a healthy number of roasted marshmallows (now there's an oxymoron) we climbed into our truck tent for a nights rest. Almost immediately after we were snuggled under our fleece blankets, the wind picked up with a fury. The tent flapped relentlessly in the forceful wind, slapping against the side of the truck, the fly straps straining under the pressure. It was not conducive to sleeping. We moved truck around to try and block the wind, or have it assault the tent from a different angle, but to no avail. It was a restless night, needless to say.

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Waking up to a beautiful sunrise over the ocean complete with spouting whales kind of had an energizing effect thankfully! The warm, early morning sun took the edge off the wind and we ate breakfast with our impressive view, soaking in our last moments with Champlain's pierced rock.