| Food For Your
Soul on the Flavor Road of Charlevoix
Story & Photographs by Richard Frisbie
articles have been written recently about Charlevoix, in Quebec, Canada,
being an extraordinary culinary destination. The soon to be famous Food
Train, the many artisanal food producers on the Flavor
Road and the impressive vision of Daniel Gauthier's (of Le Cirque
du Soleil fame) destination resort, Le
Ferme all feed the culinary buzz.
But Charlevoix isn't only about food. It's a beautiful
region to visit. The serenity of the coastal communities and the architecture
of the pretty towns along the St.
Lawrence River compete for your attention with the natural beauty
of the many National Parks inland. One such, Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivere-Malbaie,
is an exceptional example of accessible wilderness only a few hours
from the urban charm of Quebec
A rural mountain road, twisting past lakes and forests,
ends at a ski lodge-style interpretive center. From there, people who
are not hiking in can take a shuttle bus along the river, with the gorge
walls rising high around them. The sheer cliffs look as if rock climbing
could be a sport here, but, for now, it is primarily the winter ice
that draws the climbers.
The shuttle delivers you to the site of an old logging
camp. A nearby dam, once used to hold back the water needed to float
the log booms downstream to market, now keeps the water high enough
for the sightseeing boat. The camp was replaced by a snack bar and gathering
place where canoes, kayaks and camping gear can be rented. Civilization
ends here; beyond lies wilderness.
In season, the park is a mostly motorless paradise for
hikers, campers and kayakers. Trails course along the North side of
the river with picnic and camping areas along the shore.
A sightseeing boat, Le Menaud, travels the navigatable
5 miles of the river in a one-and-a-half hour cruise, opening the dramatic
wilderness views to people of all ages and mobility. Waterfalls, wildlife
and pristine natural beauty surround you as the only motorized transport,
a Plexiglas-bubble riverboat, glides along the mirrored mountain waters.
From bend after bend in the river, new vistas appear
up the narrow gorge. On an isolated rocky point ancient inuksuk, or
Inuit stone cairns, reflect the delicate balance of mankind's presence
on these shores. Mountains scarred by glaciers and rock slides, others
covered in second growth forest, beckon the adventurer in us all. The
walls beg to be climbed, the ridges traversed and the river swum. Wildlife,
both feathered and furred, populate the various ecosystems along the
riverbanks, while those with fins swim the dark depths beneath the reflective
waters. The park offers the opportunity to commune with nature - to
You can imagine the passing scenery used in countless
action films, with the hero hanging from the cliffs or being tracked
through the rugged back country. Surprisingly, no films were made here.
Once the logging boom came to an end in the 1950s, the whole area became
an isolated, nearly forgotten, National Park.
Until now, that is. Hautes-Gorges is a gem of a wilderness
area easily reached by car or motorcycle. Its rugged beauty is worth
a detour off the Flavor
Road, if only as an excuse to burn the calories already consumed,
or the ones that will surely follow.
National des Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie is one of
the core zones of the Charlevoix World Biosphere Reserve. It was named
after a series of valleys cut deep into a range of high mountains. The
gorge walls are among the highest rock faces East of the Rockies.
Charlevoix Region Tourism
the Canadian Rockies; New
Brunswick Autumn; St.
Lawrence River Cruise; Nova
Scotia in 4 Days; Canada's
Queen Charlotte Islands; Towns
on the St. Lawrence River; Banff