GRAND EXPEDITION WINTER 2019 (19-29) – DAY 3 – First Prints

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What a pleasant surprise this morning to wake up on a brand-new snow coat. We will have a chance to hike in the beautiful, freshly fallen powdered snow. It is about -3 degrees under an overcast sky with a few rays of sunlight occasionally piercing through the clouds. We are truly privileged to be here, in this beautiful park with the mildest of temperature.

This morning, Chef Charles, and his assistants Angel and Catherine, prepared pancakes with blackberry jam and maple syrup. A delight!

We are getting ready for our first full-day hike. We will leave for Mount Ernest-Laforce, have lunch along the way and return to our camp in the late afternoon. Before leaving, Korinne outlined the plan for the day, and asked us to figure out how we can stay together while respecting each other’s rhythms and physical abilities.

We begin our ascent and can soon walk through the forest. The calm surrounds us, the snow-covered trees and the surrounding mountains amaze us. What a pleasure it is to discover the backcountry and to trace our own path. There is always something magical about being the first to walk in fresh snow. Charles began by opening the way and later Jayden, Serena and Ceorgi alternated to the trail opener position.

We are walking in single line on this dreamy path. Winter landscapes are beautiful. We take the time to admire them and play in the snow. Some draw men in the snow, while discussions on a wide variety of topics are heard. There is harmony and joy.

Halfway through, it is time for a well-deserved lunch break. Under the timid sunrays, soup and sandwiches taste so good. Afterwards, the trek continues in good humour and laughter. Sometimes, the snow is so soft that we sink in it, despite the snowshoes. Adam, Jayden and Catherine even had to get help to get out. There is a lot of laughter.

As we reach our destination, we pause for a moment. It is important to stop sometimes: To think about how far we have come, to realize the efforts we have just made, to be proud of ourselves. Jessica offers us a moment of mindfulness. So, it is in a circle, with closed eyes, that we feel the gentle snow falling on our faces and the fresh wind blowing. Three deep breaths. Listening to the silence of the forest, the falling flakes on our coats. Enjoying this moment of peace, be here and now.

We slowly start heading back to the camp, and we go back on our steps until the group’s most adventurous move off the beaten path, trying the off-track, running, jumping and doing various dance steps.

On the way back, Catherine and Marie-Michelle prepared a surprise activity for us: ski-Hok trials on the slope near our shelters. These skis are equipped with “skins” underneath, preventing them from sliding backwards. This allows you to climb a slope much like cross-country skiing, and then slide down to alpine skiing. Jayden, Audrey, Georgi, Antoine, Serena and Gerald are the adventurers who will try it. The rest of the group prefers to go relax before dinner.

It was unanimous, we had a wonderful day of hiking! Five kilometres with an elevation of about 300 metres.

Tonight, we are preparing our bags because tomorrow, we will be leaving for the second camp. The next three nights will be in prospector tents. Adventure goes up a notch!

Chantale Lecours, Photographer and Blogger for On the Tip of the Toes Foundation.