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The END of TrekEast

Posted: Thu Nov 17, 2011 7:43 pm
by edfrank
TrekEast Blog 66 Exploring Forillon National Park, Quebec
Submitted by John Davis on Wed, 2011-11-16 12:54 ... ark-quebec

Wild Endings to New Beginnings

Mid-November, 2011

Most of the photos here, courtesy of Phil Lacinak (pictured in last photo), my companion and photographer for the TrekEast finale

At last, I made it! Forillon National Park was a fitting end for TrekEast, and would be a fitting start for an Eastern Wildway. Forillon has all the wildness and excitement of stormy shores, sea cliffs, craggy mountains, rushing rivers, and handsome creatures like lynx, bears, fishers, and marten on land and eiders, seals, dolphins, and whales off shore.

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As with most protected areas worldwide, Forillon Park is too small and isolated now to protect all its original inhabitants over time. Reconnected to other wildlands westward, however, and to protected ocean waters all around, it would be the sharp point of a stout anchor for a continental swath of health and naturalness. Parks Canada, the Nature Conservancy of Canada, International Appalachian Trail organizers and others are exploring how to renew those connections west to the Chic-Chocs and beyond.

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My journey here was poignant and moving. I was at the end of a central experience of my life, made possible and fruitful by the wisdom and guidance and support of many friends and family members, and while I was trekking merrily along, many loved ones had transformative experiences of their own. During the two-thirds of a year it took me to travel from Florida to Forillon, my mother and two other family members and one close friend passed away, and three friends had babies (before I even knew they were expecting!). Maybe it’s true, sadly, that you can never return to the same home.

Click on image to see its original size

The land and sea and wildlife therein made my final miles even more moving. As I strode toward Cape Gaspe, dramatic eastern end of this spectacular peninsula, I saw in the waters off shore eiders, loons, guillemots, ducks, gulls, cormorants, seals, dolphins, and even a few whales! To watch boreal birds and moose one day and dolphins and whales the next is a treat not available many places. I was also in the welcome company of fellow conservationists from the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Parks Canada, and International Appalachian Trail committee.

Fruity black bear scat piles along trails suggested that bears are doing fine here, though perhaps not getting all that many calories from the mountain-ash berries they devour in late autumn, when most of their preferred foods are resting for the winter. I walked past hundreds of bear scat piles in my few days of rambling about Forillon Park; and park literature estimates the bear population here to be a hundred. I also saw scat and tracks of coyotes, and heard some howling one night; and think I saw a faint set of lynx tracks, though I’m not a keen enough tracker to be sure.

Click on image to see its original size

An amazing amount of debarking happens here. Beavers, of course, have felled and/or eaten the bark off many small hardwoods along streams. Porcupines have chewed bark off various trees higher up. Moose have run their teeth up and down many small birches and mountain-ashes, for the nutrients in the cambium. The most frequent debarking, though, is of balsam fir; and I’m guessing the consumers are bears clawing and chewing off sections of bark to lick the sap. (Sue Morris of Keeping Track or any other biologists who know mammals better than I do, please correct any wrong guesses or assumptions I make.)

Forillon National Park is indeed rich in wildlife and scenery, but to be complete, it needs to be extended out into surrounding ocean waters. The need for marine protected areas is desperate throughout the two-thirds of our planet covered by oceans. The Gaspe Peninsula offers relatively easy and compelling cases for MPAs. Where land meets sea in Gaspe, protection is given only at a small provincial park called Bic on the north coast and at Forillon, and neither has an ocean buffer of more than a league. Still, much of Gaspe’s coast is sparsely settled and could be incorporated into fish-multiplying marine protected areas without inconveniencing anyone, and to the great gain of seals, dolphins, hard corals, fish, and so forth.

Forillon Park was a poignant geographic ending for TrekEast also for its shear drama. Grace is everywhere from atop a huge sea cliff, with whitecaps rolling into the rocky beaches while seabirds drop or plunge-dive into a school of small fish, and a whale or pair of dolphins breaches, as you step into another squishy pile of bear scat and curse like a sailor. This great melding of land and sea life makes Forillon especially worthy of renewing connections outward.

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Naturally, one must be prepared for real challenges here, too, not just the most florid dung heaps you’ve ever seen. I was fortunate to enjoy several days in Forillon with no precipitation, and even a few hours of bright sun; but Gaspe’s weather by November is apt to be growing cold and stormy. Just 15 miles shy of Cape Gaspe, I almost gave in to the elements and declared a full rain day. I was ahead of schedule, and happily camped in a skillfully built simple three-sided shelter on the International Appalachian Trail (thank you, IAT volunteers!) when I awoke to a cold rain that just got heavier as daylight dimly emerged. After an extra cup of coffee to brace myself, I decided to venture out, but not break camp. Rather than progressing toward Cape Gaspe (which I wanted to reach when able to see the ocean, and not shivering beneath historic rain gear, and in the company of other conservationists, who are too smart to hike in these conditions), I decided to walk back west on the IAT then follow the north-south valley trail through the park. I won’t claim any epiphanies here, no amazing grace this wet day. Most of the animals were under cover, sensibly; and in more than 15 miles of sodden hiking, I saw few animals other than ruffed grouse (which seem abundant in the young forests of the park) and chickadees (those ever-cheerful little darlings, who here chirp away at social boundaries, freely mixing boreal with black-capped). I did see some fine pond and meadow habitats created by beavers – keystone herbivore in this region.

Shortly thereafter, good fortune shone again, as a dozen of us (pictured right) took the final hike to Cape Gaspe in sunshine all the brighter for the cold rain a day before. Gray seals, white-sided dolphins, minke whales, eiders, guillemots, murres, gulls, cormorants, a peregrine falcon and a pair of harlequin ducks all made appearances this glorious day; and I think I even glimpsed the flukes of a humpback whale from the outermost point.

From Florida to Forillon, from manatees to moose, from crocodiles to crossbills … this has been a wonderful voyage, made safe and successful by the wisdom, generosity, and guidance of family and friends and Wildlands Network which has sheparded the vision for which I've trekked, for 20 years now. Let’s keep conspiring to weave back together the landscapes that make eastern North America worth a 7500 mile trek and infinitely more.

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May new dawns break and sunsets fade on better days for the Wild,

John Davis

Re: The END of TrekEast

Posted: Tue Nov 22, 2011 5:21 pm
by edfrank
TrekEast Home Video: Back Home!

Uploaded by wildlandsnetwork on Nov 22, 2011